18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Accident at Bilinga Aerodrome - Alternative Overseas Terminals.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation give the House any information about the air accident which occurred to-day at Bilinga aerodrome in Queensland ? Can the honorable gentleman say to which company the plane concerned was under charter, whether 21 persons were killed in the accident, whether the plane was overloaded, and whether it had a certificate of airworthiness?
– by leave- I regret to have to inform the House of an air Accident at Bilinga aerodrome, near Coolangatta, which took place at approximately 11.15 a.m. to-day. The plane, VH-BAG, was a Lockheed Lodestar operated by Queensland Airlines. It was fitted with sixteen seats, and it was on its return journey to Brisbane from Coff’s Harbour on a normal schedule, calling at Casino and Coolangatta en route. It reached Coolangatta and took off at 11.15 a.m. on the last stage of its journey. The weather conditions were good. The aircraft, on take-off, appeared to climb rather steeply to about 200 feet. It then levelled off and went into a dive, hitting the ground and bursting into flames. The crew included a pilot and co-pilot. The passengers carried were sixteen adults and two children. So far as is known at present, all persons who were in the aircraft were killed. The aircraft surveyor from Brisbane has gone to the scene of the accident. Three inspectors of the Air Accidents Investigation Section of the Department of Civil Aviation are going from Melbourne this afternoon in a departmental aircraft. That is the quickest way to get to Coolangatta, because the main civil airlines do not call there. It is understood that a list of the names of the passengers and crew has been issued by Queensland Airlines, but the details have not yet reached me. Any further information that may come to hand will be made available to the House.
On behalf of the Government and myself, I desire to express deep sympathy with the relatives of those who were killed in the disaster. I have ascertained from the Department of Civil Aviation that the load carried by the aircraft was well within the authorized weight limit.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question about the Bilinga aerodrome, where the tragedy took place to-day. I remind the honorable gentleman that in June, 1948, following’ protracted negotiations with me, he advised me as follows: -
The departmental proposals envisage the development of this aerodrome to the standard required for20-30 type passenger aircraft such as the DC3.
The honorable gentleman informed me that it was hoped to proceed with the initial work during the financial year 1948-49. He indicated further that the proposals included levelling and grading the three landing strips of 5,200 feet, 4,200 feet and 3,600 feet in length respectively, the construction of a gravel apron area and the gravelling of access roads and parking areas.
– Order ! Will the honorable member ask his question ?
– It was proposed to make financial provision for that work in the Estimates for the current financial year but during the discussion of those Estimates, the Minister indicated to me that because of the shortage of manpower and materials, the Minister for Works and Housing was unable to proceed with the project. In view of the tragedy that has occurred at Bilinga to-day, will the Minister discuss with the Minister for Works and Housing the importance of improving that aerodrome, seeing that last year the Government was prepared to make the necessary financial provision for it? Will he also invite the Premier of Queensland and the local governing authorities in that area to co-operate with the Department of Civil
Aviation and the Department of “Works and Housing in order that the work may be undertaken without delay?
– On more than one occasion last year, prior to the discussion of the Estimates, the honorable member asked me questions relative to improving the Bilinga aerodrome, and I gave him the facts. He seems now to have also given the facts. Even when provision is made in the Estimates for certain works, they can be proceeded with only if labour and materials are available. It has happened in more than one instance that work has been held up for lack of labour and materials. The works programme is so heavy that we cannot do as much as we would like to do. I do not know whether the honorable member is associating the accident at Bilinga with the fact that this work has been held up, but I can assure him that it has connexion with the matter.
– Will the Minister approach the Premier of Queensland?
– I shall consider doing so. although I cannot see just what is to be achieved by it, unless the idea is that he might be able to assist in obtaining labour and equipment.
– In view of the fact that Dubbo Aerodrome is used as the alternative airport to the Kingsford Smith Aerodrome at Mascot for overseas planes arriving in Australia, can the Minister for Civil Aviation say whether suitable accommodation is available at Dubbo when overseas air passengers when overseas aircraft are diverted from Mascot? What customs facilities are provided at Dubbo to enable speedy handling of overseas visitors on their arrival there? Are the present facilities considered by the Minister to be adequate for such traffic? Are the necessary transport arrangements available to enable passengers to proceed to Sydney without any undue delay? If the Dubbo airfield is not completely adequate for such traffic, will the Government give early consideration to the representations made by the town of Parkes that the alternative overseas landing terminal should be at that centre?
– The occasions on which aircraft from overseas have to be diverted to Dubbo are very rare. In the very unusual conditions that have prevailed recently more than ordinary delay has occurred. It has not been found necessary, so far, to station customs officials at Dubbo. I have not yet had time to consult the Minister for Trade and Customs, but from a press report that I read to-day, it would appear that that Minister has already indicated that he has given consideration during the last few days to the advisability of having customs officials available at that aerodrome in case of emergency. The choice of Dubbo as the alternative airport for overseas aircraft was made only after full investigations to discover thu most suitable location. Unfortunately, two overseas aircraft which were diverted there recently apparently absorbed most of the petrol available. The petrol waggon that was sent to replenish the supplies was held up by floods and consequently the delay was much greater than was expected. Regarding the honorable member’s suggestion that Parkes aerodrome might be made an alternative overseas airport, I should say that there is very little possibility of that being done, because, as I have explained, the choice of Dubbo as the alternative airport was made only after considerable deliberation and complete investigation of other airports in the vicinity.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to this week’s edition of Smith’s Weekly, in which two pages of photographs appear under the heading “Reds who Would Rule Us”. Will the right honorable gentleman examine this newspaper and study the photographs and references to Sharkey, Thornton, Moran, Healy, Elliott, Wright,. J. R. Hughes and others, and give special attention to the photograph of Thornton, which was apparently taken in the flowerstrewn garden of his Sydney home? As the Government apparently lacks official information on which it can act against these traitors, will the Prime Minister bring the photographs to the notice of the security organization so that its officers may be better informed about the identity of these gentlemen?
– I have not seen the newspaper article to which the honorable member has referred. I do not know what particular relation it has to the subject of communism. Some of the names mentioned by the honorable member are familiar to me. As it is well known that the people concerned are avowed Communists, it is not necessary to make an investigation to ascertain that fact. Some comment may have been published with the photographs which may need examination. I shall ask the Acting Attorney-General to give attention to the matter.
– Is the Minister for Immigration able to say when the first section of the migrants camp at Brighton, Tasmania, will be ready for occupation by Balt migrants? How many migrants will be housed at the camp at the commencement of its occupation?
– I think that the camp willbe ready by the end of this month, or, at the latest, very early in April. Our proposal is to send 200 married couples to the camp. I understand that the camp, which is in the electorate of the honorable member, is located between 20 and 30 miles from Hobart. Those who will reside at the camp will be brought to Hobart by buses for employment by private enterprise and by Commonwealth and State agencies in and around Hobart.
– Will the Minister for Immigration state whether an approach has been made to him by the Joint Coal Board or any other authority seeking the migration of British coal-miners to Australia as a means of meeting the extreme shortage of coal-mine workers? If such an approach has been made, has the British Government been asked to consent to the migration of British miners to this country, because it is well known that there is also a shortage of coalminers in Great Britain?
Mr.CALWELL. - No approach has been made to the Government by the Joint Coal Board for the transfer of
British miners to Australian mines; As a matter of fact, no approach has been made by anybody for the purpose of trying to entice British miners to leave their mines and come to work in Australian mines. Any British miners who come here will be very welcome. Ifwe can get thousands of them, we shall give them an even greater welcome than we give to other people from the United Kingdom, because the economy of this country is so largely dependent upon ever-increasing supplies of coal. The British Government does not offer any objection to individual miners migrating, but I am sure that it would take the strongest possible objection to any attempt to organize a mass migration of people from the British mining areas. There is not a sufficient number of miners in Great Britain to-day to produce the quantity of coal that that country requires, and former German prisoners of war, Polish ex-servicemen and other foreign nationals are now being employed in great numbers in the British mines.
” Report to the Nation.”
– For some weeks past the Prime Minister has broadcast on Sunday evenings over the Macquarie network a session aptly entitled “Report to the Nation “. Will the Prime Minister state with whom a contract was made under which air time is used by him ? What are the weekly charges made for such time, and who pays those charges?
– It is true that a short broadcast entitled “Report to the Nation “ is made by me onSunday evenings over the Macquarie network. The broadcasts are made by the courtesy of the Macquarie network. No payment is made for the time used and no contract exists in relation to the broadcasts.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. According to reports in the Sydney press to-day, the strike in the wool trade, in which members of the Storemen and Packers Union have been engaged, is likely to end soon. The reports stated that the Minister had conferred in Canberra yesterday with representatives of the Storemen and Packers Union from Goulburn, and Mr. P. J. Clarey, the- federal secretary of that organization.. Will the Minister inform, the House whether those newspaper reports are correct? Will he also say whether the strike’ is likely to, end soon? What is the position at the present moment,?
– There is some truth in the press reports to which the honorable member has referred but they are not wholly accurate. No conferences were held in Canberra yesterday in connexion with the dispute, but deputations were received and talks took place among sections interested in the matter. However, the real parties handling, the dispute were not. in Canberra yesterday. As the result of negotiations which have been proceeding, and of the efforts of the Prime Minister, myself and other persons, the conciliation commissioner is meeting representatives of the union in Sydney to-day at 3 p.m. It would not be safe for me to say that I think the dispute will end soon, but I hope that that will be, so.
– Now that women are to be admitted to the clerical and professional branches of the Commonwealth Public Service, can the Prime Minister say whether we may shortly expect that women who enter the third division will be paid the same salaries as are paid to men? If in this division a university graduate, being a woman over 21, should take her degree with honours, will she receive a lower salary than the £430 per annum which may be paid to a man who graduated in a lower class?
– The honorable member’s question involves the issue of equal pay for men and women in the Public Service. It is proposed, as an experiment, to admit 200 women to the clerical and professional divisions of the Public Service. There has always been some differentiation between the salaries paid to men and women in the Service. I shall obtain the details from the Public
Service Board, and supply them to the honorable member, who may then, if she likes,, base a further question on the information.
– On Saturday last, at the request of the- Gladstone and Rockhampton City Councils, I asked the Prime- Minister to help- the Queensland Government to provide relief to those who had suffered property losses in the recent cyclone, and the Prime Minister said that he was waiting to be supplied by the Queensland Government with an estimate of the total damage. I am still receiving information about the widespread damage that has been caused to roads and bridges, as well as to buildings, in that area. Has the Prime Minister yet, received from the Premier of Queensland the information he wants, and can he now announce the policy of hia Government in thi9 matter ?
– I have received a number of requests for assistance in connexion with the damage caused in Queensland by cyclonic disturbances. Last week, the honorable member for Herbert asked a question in the House on this subject, and later showed me a telegram that he had received from the Premier of Queensland regarding damage at Gladstone. The honorable member for Capricornia saw me on Saturday, and discussed the damage which had been done in the Gladstone and Rockhampton districts. The honorable member for Moreton has also asked me whether the Commonwealth would provide air transport for the carriage of supplies to various places. Prior to this morning I have not received any communication from the Premier of Queensland, but this morning I sent him a telegram asking for particulars of damage. I informed him of the representations that had been made by various honorable members and asked him to supply, if possible, an overall picture of the position. A telegram has now been received from Mr. Hanlon, but I have not had time to study it in detail. I think in that telegram he has included certain particulars of damage, hut I was otherwise engaged this morning and have not had time to study the telegram in detail, though I shall try to do so this afternoon. Regarding a question that was asked, I think by the honorable member for Maranoa, who is not present in the chamber at the moment, about the possibility of providing a weekly air service to the “Windorah district, I consulted the Minister for Civil Aviation on that matter and this morning sent a telegram to Mr. Hanlon asking him to furnish us with any details and also stating that if he required any assistance regarding weekly air services to isolated areas we would endeavour to provide them, if at all possible, on the same terms as we provided similar services during a previous flood. I inform the honorable member :for Capricornia that I shall try to ascertain this afternoon or to-night whether anything can be done by the Government.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the new security organization will be responsible for screening aliens after their arrival in Australia? What will be the position if they are found to be engaging in Communist activities? Will the final decision regarding their deportation rest with the security service or with the Minister who authorized their admission in the first place? Will such cases be referred to the Prime Minister for final determination?
– I assure the honorable member for Reid at once that I will not dismiss in detail in this House the proposed activities of the new security organization. It is not the practice in any country to reveal such matters. I do not propose to answer questions about the organization unless they involve matters of great public interest. I certainly will not answer questions asked about the organization merely for political party propaganda purposes. The Director-General of Security, Mr. Justice Reid, will take up duty within six or seven days. The service will function under the administrative control of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, but the head of the service will have direct access to me on all matters of moment affecting security that he thinks should be considered by the Government, or on behalf of the Government. The honorable member for Reid has asked who will finally decide whether persons shall be deported or not. That decision will be made by me or in consultation with me. Action will be taken against persons who engage in subversive or seditious activities whether they are Communists or not.. Persons who come to this country and engage in subversive or seditious activities will be sent back to where they came from.
– In view of the recent press statement that a director is to be appointed to control Northern Territory affairs, I ask the Minister for the Interior whether he is prepared to make a statement that will give the House and Northern Territory residents positive information on the matter? If a director is to be appointed, what will his functions be from a developmental point of view? If the Government has no intention of appointing a liaison, or developmental officer, will the Minister recommend to the Cabinet the carrying out of the suggestion that I made in the House last year that a new portfolio for the Northern Territory be created?
– The Government has decided to appoint a director of Northern Territory affairs at Canberra. The position is advertised for the first time in the Commonwealth Gazette published to-day. Further advertisements will be inserted in the various newspapers. The honorable member for the Northern Territory did suggest the appointment of a full-time Minister for the Northern Territory. The Legislative Council for the Northern Territory recently did likewise. That is a matter of high Government policy. The policy will be determined when the report of the proceedings of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory comes to hand.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Repatriation, concerns a complaint that has been made to me by a constituent. The constituent, who is in ill health, was a prisoner of war in the hands of the
Japanese. He was sent to the Repatriation Office in Grace Building, Sydney, to obtain a certificate to enable him to be X-rayed at Randwick Military Hospital. He has told me that he telephoned the doctor at Grace Building and was told to attend at 2 p.m. He did so, and between that time and 4.35 p.m. be and the doctor filled in fifteen to twenty pages of forms. Is the Minister aware of the existence of this orgy of red tape? Is he aware, further, that it is causing great discontent among ex-servicemen? Will the honorable gentleman say what he is prepared to do to simplify the procedure so as to give ex-servicemen a fair deal?
– Everything that it is humanly possible to do to give returned servicemen a fair deal is being done by this Government. The policy of the Government has created general satisfaction among returned servicemen. This is the first occasion during the time since I have been Minister for Repatriation that I have received a complaint regarding the filling in of forms. Until to-day I have not had a complaint made to me about this matter by any individual or organization. I suspect that the question has been asked for propaganda purposes and not for the purpose of obtaining a reply to the points raised in it. However, if the honorable member will supply me with tha name of the returned serviceman concerned and provide me with other particulars, I shall attempt to deal with the points which he has raised. If he does not do so, I shall regard the question as having been asked purely for propaganda purposes.
– I desire to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) claim that he has been misrepresented ?
– I claim that I have been misrepresented by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard). The honorable gentleman said, referring to a question that I had asked, that I had asked it for political propaganda purposes. I wish to inform the House that the matter to which I referred was brought to my attention before I left Sydney a day or two ago by a man who was captured by the Japanese and who returned to Australia in bad health. I am prepared to give his name to the Minister. He is a personal friend of mine, and I can vouch for the accuracy of what he has said. Political propaganda had nothing to do with the question. I was concerned only to eliminate, as far as possible, a state of affairs that is causing great bitterness in Sydney.
REPORT of PUBLIC Works Committee.
– I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject: -
Extensions to the City West telephone exchange, Melbourne.
Ordered to be printed.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that during the week which ended on the 5th March only fourteen of the 37 coal mines in NewSouth Wales worked a full five-day week? le he aware, further, that strikes occurred in six of the mines without any approach having been made to the management and that other strikes were caused by domestic disputes in miners’ lodges, by the refusal of shiftmen to perform normal tasks and by the refusal of colliery owners to pay wage rates which were not in accordance with awards? I understand that another strike arising from a domestic dispute is likely to occur. Does the right honorable gentleman consider that such stoppages arc justified? If he does not, will he inquire from the Coal Industry Tribunal whether any further powers are needed to enforce penalties for unjustified stoppages? If further powers are not needed by the tribunal, can the Prime Minister say why already authorized penalties have not been enforced, having regard to the importance of coal production to Australia? Will he consider the calling of a conference of all those who are interested in coal production, with a view to initiating incentive payments and dealing with the activities of Communist agents, who do not desire that work in the coal mines shall proceed?
– I am aware of the details of a number of the disputes that have occurred in New South Wales last week and this week, and which have resulted in a loss of coal production. I have stated in this chamber previously that some of the strikes in the coal mines have been completely unjustified. I was then thinking in terms of the miners’ organizations, .but it is not only those organizations which have been responsible for strikes. I could tell the House of many intolerable actions of owners which have caused strikes, but I do not propose to go into that matter in detail now. A famous philosopher once said that one never finds all the right on one side, and I think that is true. The Government is anxious to secure continuity of work in the coal mines and to increase coal production. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel spends almost a half of his time in engaging in consultations to see whether production can be increased. The imposition of penalties is a matter for the Coal Industry Tribunal. I assure the honorable gentleman that nobody is more anxious than I am to prevent these disputes, if it is possible to do so, and to secure increased coal production.
– I direct the attention of the Treasurer to the comment of the Auditor-General in his last report that the need for a more detailed and continuous parliamentary non-party survey of expenditure is much greater to-day than it was between 1913 and 1932, when the Public Accounts Committee was functioning. Will the right honorable gentleman give immediate consideration t,o the re-establishment of the committee, which is a course that the AuditorGeneral has declared to be a most desirable one?
– There is a considerable body of opinion which takes the view that the Public Accounts Committee should be re-established. I was a member of the committee for some time, and I think that it was of considerable service to the Parliament. For the committee to be of real value, the members must be persons who have had training in accountancy or who have devoted themselves closely to the examination of accounts. I do not think it would be of much use to revive this committee unless the members had special qualifications for the work that they would be required to do.
– That applies to all com1 mittees.
– My experience of the work of the Public Accounts Committee is that it had to consider some complex problems. The right honorable gentleman, because of his technical knowledge, would make an excellent member of the committee. No consideration has been given recently to the suggestion that the committee should be revived, but, as the right honorable gentleman has now suggested that that course should be adopted and as many arguments can be adduced in favour of it, I shall cause the question to be examined.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether, having regard to the fact that many small dairymen are engaging in other occupations, the production of butter has yet reached a level which will enable the ban on the sale of cream to.be removed. If it has not, can the Minister say when the ban is likely to be removed?
– The removal of the ban on the sale of cream is a matter of government policy. In those circumstances, I cannot at this stage give any indication of when it is likely to be removed.
– by leave - On Tuesday last, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) drew my attention to an announcement in the Sydney press last week that Mr. F. L. Weaver may prepare a petition to support his request to the Government that he beallowed to return to Japan. I then stated that I would ask for the leave of the House later in the week to make a statement in order to let the people of Australia know what sort of a man Weaver is. For some months past, representations have been made to me on behalf of this ex-soldier. There is an impression among many people that he has been harshly treated. Honorable members will be aware of the sympathetic treatment that I have always givento representations made to me on behalf of soldiers. Weaver’scase, however, comes into an entirely different category, and I have been unable to find any extenuating circumstances which would justify me in giving it sympathetic consideration.
For the information of honorable member’s, I furnish the following particulars that have been taken from Weaver’s official army record. He enlisted on the 17th February, 1942, at Claremont, Western Australia. He served in Australia from the 17th February, 1942, to the 13th January, 1944. He served overseas from the 14th January, 1944, to the 25th March, 1945, at Finschhafen, Jacquinot Bay and Lae. He served in Australia from the 26th March, 1945, to the 29th March, 1946, on which date he embarked for Kure. He served in Japan from the 13th April, 1946, to the 18th November, 1947. He served in Australia from the 19th November 1947, until his discharge on the 4th February, 1948.
During his service he was charged and found guilty of the following military offences : - 16th November, 1943. - Absence without leave. 19th November, 1943. - Conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline. 12th April, 1945. - Failing to appear at a place of parade. 1st August, 1945: - Before district courtmartial -
During his military service he committed the following civil offences : - ‘ 28th July, 1945. - Two charges of speeding, Perth, Western Australia. 8th September, 1945. - Five charges - unlawful control of motor car, Perth, Western Australia.
Prior to his enlistment in the Australian Military Forces and while under the age of eighteen years, he was convicted on 23 charges for unlawfully assuming control of motor vehicles and breaking and entering. Following are the details of alleged offences for which Weaver was brought before a courtmartial in Japan on the 16th October, 1947 : -
First charge - Stealing property belonging to a person subject to military law - photographs and stamps.
Second charge - Committing a civil offence that is to say, stealing - a sum of money.
Third charge - Conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline - improperly in possession of military documents.
Fourth charge - Conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline - Japanese female in sleeping quarters without lawful authority or excuse.
Fifth charge - Committing a civil offence - Arson, contrary to section 3 of the Malicious Damage Act 1861 - Firing the office of the camp adjutant.
Sixth charge - Committing a civil offence - Arson, contrary to section6 of the Malicious Damage Act 1861 - Firing other ranks’ quarters.
In July, 1948, in the Sydney Court of Petty Sessions, Weaver was charged with - (i) Stealing Commonwealth property; and (ii) Forging documents. He was found guilty on both charges and was sentenced to imprisonment. In passing sentence on him, the Stipendiary Magistrate, Mr. Isles, said -
I say his actions are not those of a man with a deficient mental capacity, but they denote a man with a very keen and clever mind. If the facts were such that he made an attempt to get back to Japan simply in a desperate hope to rejoin his wife and there was nothing more to it, then there might have been some basis for the granting of a bond, but even in those circumstances I would have required a substantial bond and of course a surety, but the facts of these cases with so many stealings, and so much clever acting, clever deceit coupled with this man’s very bad background give me no option but to deal with, him as a man who has had many previous chances. It seems to me that he has not benefited at all by the leniency showed to him in the past. It appears on the contrary that such leniency has been more in the way of an inducement for him to go on and commit other crimes. Mentionhas been made of his record as a soldier but on the facts before me his record as a soldier was a very bad one indeed, in respect of each of these charges defendant will be sentenced to six months imprisonment with hard labour.
Weaver has stated on a number of occasions that he desires to return to his wife in Japan. The Army authorities in Japan advised me in October last, however, in the following terms: -
No marriage ceremony of any kind has been performed. The girl, now only sixteen years of age, has been questioned. She states Weaver had promised to return and marry her Japanese mother objected to their relationship.
During his service in Japan, Weaver was on more than one occasion admitted to hospital suffering from venereal disease that he had contracted as the result of his own misconduct. In ordinary circumstances, a soldier’s record would notbe publicly disclosed, but in view of Weaver’s contemplated action, I believe that it is necessary to make the particulars of his record available. I suggest that those persons who are interesting themselves in his case should give careful consideration to what I have said before they support his cause.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 9th March (vide page 1227).
Clauses 1 to 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Constitution of board).
.– I should like to know whether the Government has in mind the appointment of any particular persons to the Australian Shipping Board. I ask for that information because people are fearful of the kind of board that this Government may establish. We know that the Government has appointed to the Maritime Industry Commission a man named Elliott, who is a well-known Communist, and that it has appointed to the Stevedoring Industry Commission another well-known Communist named Healy. I should like the Minister for Defence to tell us the names of the Communists he proposes to appoint to the Australian Shipping Board.
– At this stage, it is not possible for me to give any information to the committee about the personnel of the board.
– Has not the Minister consulted Sharkey about the matter ?
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) may rest assured that first-class persons will be appointed to the board.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 (Powers of board).
.- This clause provides that the board shall have power to establish and operate shipping services for the carriage of passengers, goods and mails, to carry on the general business of a shipowner, to design ships to be built in Australia and to advise the Minister about the action necessary to maintain and develop the shipping industry and the shipbuilding industry in Australia. This division of the bill, which deals with the powers, functions and duties of the board, is the most important part of the measure. As honorable members on this side of the chamber have shown in the secondreading debate, the Government’s purpose in introducing this legislation is to establish a Commonwealth shipping line, limit the operations of private shipping companies, and enforce the construction of ships in this country to a design approved by the Australian Shipping Board. I did not take part in the second-reading debate, but I cannot allow to pass, without making a. protest, the Government’s proposal for placing an embargo upon the purchase by Australian shipping companies of ships constructed in Great Britain. Honorable members would be well advised to give serious consideration to the implications of the proposal. The United Kingdom is Australia’s most important market.
– Order! The honorable member must relate his remarks to the clause under consideration, which deals with the powers of the Australian Shipping Board.
– As I have stated, the board will have power to place an embargo ofl the purchase by Australian shipping companies of vessels constructed in the United Kingdom. By adopting such a policy, the Government will strike a deadly blow at Australia’s best customer. I have no objection to any provision for encouraging shipbuilding in Australia. Honorable members on f.his side of the chamber believe that the shipbuilding industry is not only desirable but also necessary to this country, but we are opposed to the Government’s policy of placing an embargo upon the purchase by Australian shipping companies of vessels built in Great Britain. The shipbuilding industry in the United Kingdom provides employment for tens of thousands of British workmen who, in turn, are the consumers of Australian butter, dried fruits, wheat and other primary produce. Australia at present is living to a substantial degree on the money derived from the sale of its wool, meat, wheat and butter’ to the United Kingdom. If the Government refuses to permit Australian shipping companies to purchase ships constructed in Great Britain, we shall reduce the ability of the United Kingdom to buy our primary products. Shipbuilding is one of the most important industries in Great Britain. Honorable members opposite should not forget that that country is still the greatest shipbuilding nation in the world. It constructs more than onehalf of the world’s tonnage. If the Government extends this policy of exclusion to other British industries, the time will come when the capacity of the United Kingdom to purchase Australian exports will diminish. For those reasons, the Government should give serious consideration to the implications of this clause.
I also direct attention to the fact that the decisions of the board will be subject to the approval of the Minister. A thorough analysis of this clause shows
I bat the hoard will be merely a gathering of five individuals who will discuss shipping matters, and refer their views to the Minister for his approval.
– The purpose of that provision is to ensure that the Parliament shall have a voice in the control of shipping.
– The real purpose of the provision is to ensure that the Government will have in its grip another major Australian industry. It already has a complete grip on the wheat industry and broadcasting. This legislation may be regarded as the coping stone in the Government’s policy to concentrate all power in its hands at Can’berra. I realize that members of the Opposition have little or no prospect of persuading the Minister to accept amendments that they may submit, but we hope that we shall ultimately impress upon the public the dire harm that is being done to Great Britain and Australia by such measures as this bill. In that belief, we shall continue our efforts, and stress our objections to the Government’s policy. If the Minister can reconcile this clause, which will prohibit the purchase by Australian shipping companies of vessels constructed in Great Britain, with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade which he presented to the House some time ago, he is a most agile-minded person indeed, and is capable of being in two places or in two completely opposite camps simultaneously. The Minister must stand accused of insincerity either when he advocated the breaking down of trade barriers, or when he proposes placing an embargo upon the purchase of ships constructed in Great Britain. Therefore, I hope that as the powers of the board are now being considered, very careful attention will be given to the claims of the United Kingdom. We owea great deal to British shipping companies. Had they not maintained their services to Australia during the war, and replenished their fleets as they suffered damage from the enemy, we could not have exported those foodstuffs which were so necessary to the people of Britain, or maintained the trade which is so necessary to Australia’s economy. The Government is now asking that we become isolationists. We condemn the isolationists of the United States of America, Colonel McCormack and the others, who argue that the United Statesof America should be self-contained. No- country can be self-contained economically, a fact which was stressed by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) when he asked the Parliament to ratify the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. This bill represents an attempt by the Government to give effect to its policy of socialization at the expense of Australian primary producers, and of the British consumers who buy our primary products, just at the time when the people of Great Britain are making a herculean effort to recover their world trade.
– This clause does not deal with shipbuilding or with the imposition of an embargo on overseas ships. It has to do with the establishment of a board to control shipping, something which many people have been asking for. During the waT, the Government built some ships and chartered others, which were run by private shipping firms acting as agents for the Commonwealth. I have often been asked when the Commonwealth was going to run it3 own ships. We know that a strike occurred at Port Adelaide because the agents for Commonwealth ships deliberately withheld labour for the working of those ships, while supplying labour for ships by private companies.
– Is the honorable member justifying that strike?
– I do not justify any strike.
– Did the honorable member verify the facts?
– I placed thu facts before the Government in .sm effort to .have the position rectified. The men at Port Adelaide refused to leave one of the “River” class ships to work a ship run by a private company. I do not wish to mention the name of the company concerned. The men contended that there was a deliberate attempt to withhold labour needed to work Commonwealth ships. I am not one of those who condemn the private shipping companies. I know that they have some very fine ships. I have had too much to do with shipping not to appreciate something of what the private shipping companies have done for Australia. However, the time has come when we must consider whether, in the interests of Australia, it would be wise for the Government to appoint a board to control shipping.
This clause provides that the Australian Shipping Board may charter and arrange shipping services between various Australian ports. I agree with the honorable -member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) that this is really the governing clause of the bill. Honorable member? opposite may claim that I have admitted that the Minister will control the board. It is true that under this and other clauses? the Minister will be clothed with much power. I do not know whether honorable members opposite still believe thai government ownership of public utilities is harmful. The .great bulk of our primary and secondary products arc transported by rail and sea. In the States, instrumentalities have .been set up to control road transport which, competes with the railways. It is generally agreed that railways should be a .State undertaking.
– That is generally accepted.
– In the United States of America, where the railways are privately owned, the service is much better .than in Australia.
– That may be true, of a few luxury trains, but when we take into consideration the relative population and development of the two countries. I think it may be fairly claimed that our railway services compare favorably with those of the United States of America. Transport services that must be conducted for the (benefit of the community as a whole, and not merely for profit, should properly be under government control. That has been the practice throughout Australia and was the practice long before the Labour party had succeeded in having even one member elected to Parliament The position regarding shipping is exactly the same. We believe that the Government should control shipping so that the Australian shipping industry can be conducted for the good of the country and not entirely for private profit as it is now. I do not believe that any honorable member opposite would state that any one would desire to operate a shipping company, or any other company, just for the benefit of the country. Those who operate private companies do so as a means of meeting the needs of the people and of making a profit for themselves. I believe that we should have a government-controlled line of shipping that would meet the needs of the people.
– Why not nationalize the manufacture of bricks?
– Some States have had to make bricks, and some people like to throw bricks. There are parts, of Australia to which it may not be profitable to operate shipping services that must nevertheless rely entirely on shipping. Complaints were made recently by farmers in the Port Lincoln area in South Australia about the shipping service from Adelaide to Port Lincoln. The farmers said that when a ship had to put into one of the smaller ports on the route they had to pay a much higher rate of freight because of the small amount of cargo that required unloading at that port, even though the freight was carried only a few miles. In reply to their complaints, the company operating the service advanced the logical argument that because of the smaller amount of freight destined for the small port, it was necessary to charge a higher rate of freight. Such practices have been eliminated on Australia’s railway systems. When a goods train pulls into a small siding to leave only a few tons of goods the freight rate charged is based on the distance of the siding from the despatch point. The railways do not increase the rate because only a small quantity of freight is involved.
– The taxpayer foots the bill.
– I agree. When the honorable member speaks of the “ taxpayer” he is referring to the man who works on the land or in industry. He and his kind are the producers who make the wealth that yields taxation. Sub-clause 2 of clause 15 will give the Minister power to direct that where he considers the inauguration of a shipping service desirable he may direct the board to institute that service. When deciding whether
a shipping service is desirable the Minister would not take into consideration the possibility of the service not earning a profit. Only the needs of the area to be served would be taken into consideration. In such circumstances, it is more than likely that some services established would run at a loss that the taxpayers would have to bear. Certain industries in Australia should be owned and operated by the Government. This bill does not provide for the nationalization of the shipping industry, although shipping is one of the industries that might well be nationalized. T know very well that the Government is unable, because of constitutional provisions, to nationalize the shipping industry. If we were able to do so it is quite likely that we would go ahead and do the job. I desire to say to all honorable members that we are doing the job now as far as we can in what we believe to be the best interests of the people. There is no doubt that the people generally would reap the benefit in the reduced freights that would flow from competition between a governmentcontrolled service and a privately owned service. Honorable members opposite have always argued that prices and rates are kept down by the law of supply and demand, and by competition between vying interests. No honorable member opposite will argue that freight rates are fixed by competition between various interests. Honorable members opposite know that for many years freight rates have been fixed in conformity with an honorable understanding between competing interests.
– As long as it is an honorable understanding.
– Such honorable understandings often may depend on what is’ summed up in the phrase “honour among thieves”. I do not say that that phrase applies to the fixing of freight rates, because 1 do not regard the interests supplying freight services as thieves, but I do say that it is possible to have an honorable agreement about freight charges that is not necessarily in the interests of the public. The board to be established by the provisions of the bill will have power not only to acquire ships and hand them over to private companies to operate, as agents for the board, but it will also be able to itself operate ships on behalf of the people. I consider that that is a step in the right direction which, while leaving private firms the opportunity to carry on their businesses, at the same time will also give power to the board to enter into competition with the private companies and be, as I have stated, the means of keeping freights down.
– I am always impressed with the naivety of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson). He always approaches hie subject with a simplicity that rather astounds me.
– Honesty is very often simple.
– I agree. But the honorable member is too apt to be led away by others who may not be quite so honest as he is, and he fails to observe hidden traps. Indeed, so naive was he that he said a few moments ago that if the Government had the power to nationalize the shipping lines it would do so, but under this bill it was doing the best it could for the people. Does he mean that, if the Government nationalized the shipping lines, that action would not be in the best interests of the people? He said the bill was not a nationalization project. The Minister in charge of the bill also made the same statement. Let us examine the bill, because it will bear some very close analysis. Clause 15 deals with the powers, functions, and duties of the board that is to be established. It is a most important clause, and is presented in a number of sub-clauses and paragraphs. If one reads it very carefully one. can only come to the conclusion that the same theme that proceeds from the opening clauses, indeed, from the opening words of the Minister in his second-reading speech, continues right through the whole bill. The bill is a subtle attempt to force the present shipowning interests out of business. The honorable member for Hindmarsh said that the bill does not intend to nationalize the shipping industry. He is a man who has possibly had many honest dealings and honest understandings with people in industry and I put it to him that if a big industrial concern forced out of business all its small competitors it would have thereby established itself as a monopoly. That is also true when the big concern which squeezes out its competitors, is the government of the country. The Government intends to squeeze out all its competitors from the shipping industry. What is all this poppycock spoken by the Minister about competition? Let us examine sub-clause 1 (a) of clause 15. It reads - (1.) The Board shall have power -
– That is whatthe board will be there for.
– Of course, that is what it will be there for. The honorable member must realize that the government shipping line will need offices, executive officers and rank and file staff. What pool is there in Australia from which it will be able to draw its accommodation and staff needs? The only trained shipping office staff and seamen in Australia are now employed by the existing shipping lines. The first necessary step will be to draw from existing sources the needed staff. It will take time before the Commonwealth line will be able to get under way. In the interim, chaos will be created in the existing shipping companies by the withdrawal of their trained staffs. Let us not hoodwink ourselves. The Government intends to hamstring the private shipping companies. When they have been weakened, the Government will take the next step in its programme, whichis to provide for the establishment of shipping services. Will the Government establish its own buildings in capital cities to house the board and its staffs or will it confiscate the buildings of the shipping companies, which it will have weakened by the withdrawal from them of their staffs? We know that an accompaniment of the inflation of the Public Service has been the acquisition by the Commonwealth of privately owned buildings in the capital cities. The first step will be the slow strangulation of the private shipping companies. Then the noose will suddenly be tightened. The honorable member for Hindmarsh claimed that his approach to the measure was honest. All I can say is that he has fallen under the spell of the blandishments of men not so honest as he is.
– Many governmental industries have been established in recent years. Where did their boards come from?
– The Government prides itself, ad nauseam, on the fact that there is no unemployment in Australia. So where is the labour pool that will enable the establishment of the Commonwealth shipping line? Staff can come from only the employees of the existing shipping companies and the only effect of that can be the weakening of those companies. The Commonwealth line will not be able to get moving immediately. Chaos must, therefore, result in the existing lines. The clause is most interesting. I advise the honorable member for Hindmarsh to study the following provision : - (1.) The Board shall have power -
The honorable member for Hindmarsh said, in his opening remarks, that the clause contained no provision for the building of the ships and that the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) had, therefore, introduced a subject entirely foreign to the clause. I ask the honorable member, who is surprisingly naive, to read clause 15 in conjunction with clauses 29 and 30-
– I said that the building of ships was provided for in a later clause.
– Does the honorable member think that ships can be built unless they are first designed? So the clause must be read in conjunction with clauses 29 and 30, which make it clear that the Government proposes to establish a standardized line of ships in Australia. Most honorable members know sufficient about shipping to realize that the design of ships varies as does the design of every other mode of transport from year to year and in accordance with the purposes for which the ships are needed. The designs of motor vehicles change from year to year, and so do the designs of ships. Does the honorable member tell me that in 25 years a marked improvement has not occurred in the design of both cargo and passenger ships?
– There has been a big improvement.
– Of course, there has been. But this bill proposes that the design of ships shall be standardized for a period of 25 years. Does that mean that the designs will be for such coffin ships that they will last only 25 years,?
– Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the clause.
– I am speaking on the design of ships, and I submit that my remarks are perfectly in order. Will ships be designed to last for 25 years and will they then be consigned to the scrapheap as the only place they will be fit for ? If the Government desires to be honest about this matter, let the Minister for Defence state the reason for limiting the period of service of a ship to 25 years. Does the Minister mean that the ships will be so designed that, in 25 years or less, they will fall to pieces? Are they to be like the “ Dedman ‘’ shirt? Let us examine the result of some of the Government’s action? in relation to designing. Consider for instance, “ D “ class ships, the 2,500 tonners. The boilers installed in those ships were designed by the chief engineer of the Commonwealth Shinning Board. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) spoke of the vessels that have to stop to whistle. One of the “ D “ class ships took three months to go from Newcastle to Wyndham. It cost the Government £30,000 to pull out the boilers and substitute boilers made by Babcock and Wilcox Limited.
– There is nothing wrong with the honorable member’s boiler.
– No; but there is something definitely wrong with the Government’s boiler. Mine is a Babcock and Wilcox boiler and the Government’s is a McNeil boiler. The £30,000 that it cost to replace the boiler in that ship will be multiplied into millions of pounds before the design of the “D” class vessels can be modified to satisfy the people of Australia. The next question I ask, which is pertinent to the clause, is whether, if the Minister approves of the designs submitted to him by the. board, he will be satisfied that the shipyards of Australia are capable of building ships to that design ? Shipyards throughout the world are assembly points for all the necessary accessories that so to make a real live ship. Have we those accessories in Australia or are we to import them? Are we to have such a shipbuilding programme as will enable us to bring into existence in Australia the specialized’ industries that produce the various accessories needed in shipbuilding ?
– Then we shall have to import the accessories and use the shipyards as assembly points. Is the Minister certain that our shipyards will be able to cope with the various designs of ships that are necessary for the Australian coastal trade and the overseas trade? The Minister must remember that ships are specially designed to carry different cargoes. A ship capable of carrying one cargo may not be suitable for a different cargo. It is important to know whether it is proposed to build ships to carry the various cargoes that ships are called upon to carry. In my opinion, the Government has a half-baked plan. Its supporters talk about competition and say that this is not a bill to nationalize shipping. What nonsense! Nationalization is the central theme of the bill. The shipping companies are to be slowly strangled and forced out of business. There is no background upon which we can base a government-controlled shipping line in Australia at the moment. Sub-clause 2 provides -
Where, in the opinion of the Minister, a shipping service is necessary to meet the requirements of a particular area and it is desirable in the public interest that a shipping service should be provided for that area, the Minister may direct the board to establish, maintain and. operate, or to continue to maintain and operate, a shipping service for the purpose of meeting those requirements.
If the board informs the Minister that itis desirable to establish a shipping service to meet certain requirements, the Minister may cause it to be established. If any losses are incurred in the operation ofthe service, the board will be entitled to be reimbursed by the Commonwealth to the extent of the losses. Reference is made to that matter in paragraphs b and c of sub-clause 5-,
– - Order! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has stated that there is a sinister motive behind the introduction of this: measure. In his second-reading speech, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman-) outlined clearly the reasons for the introduction of the bill. They are the desirability of the establishment of a government shipping line, and the necessity, in order to provide for the defence of Australia, to establish an Australian shipbuilding industry in time of peace. The honorable member for Wentworth has claimed that the Government’s real intention in introducing the bill is to force the private shipping companies out of business by a process of slow strangulation. Honorable gentlemen opposite have said repeatedly that competition is the lifeblood of industry, because it stimulates efficiency. In those circumstances, I fail to understand why they are now objecting to the Government’s action in proposing a measure of competition between a government undertaking and private companies in an industry which is very important to Australia. They say in one breath that competition is good for business and, in the next breath, they condemn the Government for the introduction of this measure because the private shipping companies will be forced out of business by a government competitor. Private shipping companies which cannot deliver the goods better than a government-owned shipping line will be able to deliver them deserve to go out of business. The Government is proposing to break down a monopoly that was at one time condemned by the right honorable member for North
Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and other honorable gentlemen opposite. The operation of the bill should be of great benefit to the Australian people by stimulating competition in the shipping industry and thus causing freight rates to be reduced.
It has been said that the Government will have to draw the men that it needs for this enterprise from the trained men who are now employed by existing companies. That may or may not be so. When a new industry is established in this or any other country it does not necessarily follow that all of the employees who are required by the new industry will come from established firms. There are many skilled men in other countries who could be made available to assist in the establishment and working of the government line, and I assume that the board will take due cognizance of that fact when it commences to operate. However, there are probably many men in Australia who have a wide knowledge of the shipping industry and who are not at present employed by shipping companies, tn those circumstances, I believe that we shall be able to find within Australia the staff that will be required, as was done in the case of Trans-Australia Airlines, and so we shall be able to assemble a fine organization. If the establishment of a government line means that the skilled men who are now employed by the private shipping companies will be tempted to join the government line because in it they will find greater opportunity for promotion and for serving their country, it will he necessary for the private shipping companies to offer greater incentives to their employees to stay with them. The honorable member for Wentworth should support this measure if for no other reason than that it will stimulate competition in the shipping industry. The Government is laying the foundation for an organization that will serve the people well in peace and war.
.- Lt occurred to me when I was listening to this debate that bills similar to this one must have been introduced into the legislatures of other countries by men who held opinions similar to those which are held by the members of this Government. I have discovered that in the United States-
– Order! The clause deals with the powers, functions and duties of the Australian Shipping Board.
– I am proposing to refer to the purchase of ships. Subclause 1(d) provides that the board shall have power, subject to the approval of the Minister, to purchase ships required for carrying on the business of the board. I propose to quote the remarks of a great American, Justice George Sutherland, regarding the Ship Purchase Act of the United States of America.
– I remind the honorable gentleman that the clause before the committee deals with the powers of the hoard.
– One of the powers of the board is to purchase ships. Justice George Sutherland said-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I rule that the Ship Purchase Act of the United States of America cannot be discussed in the debate on this clause.
– May I ask you a question, Mr. Temporary Chairman? Am I allowed to refer to a statement that was made in another country regarding a bill which is similar to this one in that it concerns the purchase of ships by a government ?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN The honorable member must proceed with his speech. I shall inform him if his remarks are irrelevant to the clause.
– Justice George Sutherland said -
The Ship Purchase Act in one aspect presents the evil of government ownership in its worst form, for it does not propose that the government shall completely occupy the field, but that it shall partially occupy it in competition with its own citizens.
That is exactly what will happen under this bill.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I have ruled that the Ship Purchase Act of the United States of America cannot be discussed in relation to this clause. If the honorable gentleman does not obey the ruling of the Chair, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– Justice George Sutherland went on tosay-
– Order ! Is the honorable gentleman proposing again to quote from a statement regarding the Ship Purchase Act of the United States of America?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I have already ruled that that cannot be done in the debate on this clause. The committee is considering the powers of the board that is to be constituted under this bill.
-I must bow to your ruling, Mr. Temporary Chairman. One of the powers of the Australian Shipping Board will be the purchase of ships. The board will be able to purchase vessels and to operate them in competition with those which are being operated by private shipping companies. I contend that that should not be permitted. The Government is proposing to enter into competition with its citizens, but it is conceded that the Government undertaking will probably be run at a loss. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) has not said that there will be a profit. He has said that the board will probably operate at a loss, but that that will be in the best interests of the country. When a loss is incurred, it has to be recovered from somewhere. The loss in this instance will be recovered by the Government from the shipping companies with which the government line will be in competition and from the Australian taxpayers. If the Government were bound to observe the rules of conduct which its citizens are required to follow in regard to fair trading, it might be forbidden to act in the way in which it is proposing to act because it would be engaging in unfair competition.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) referred to the building of roads and railways. The building of a highway may be said to facilitate the commerce of the country, but the building of a highway and the carrying of passengers on it are two different things. as are the giving of assistance to the shipping industry by the provision of government docks, piers and jetties and the carriage of passengers and freight by sea. One form of activity has always been regarded as being for private enterprise and the other has always been regarded as being for the Government. The Government would be justified in building wharfs and jetties to be used by Australian ships, but if it entered into the shipping industry by carrying passengers and freight in its own vessels it would be doing something that those who framed the Constitution did not think an Australian government would do and which if they had thought of it, would have caused them to draft the Constitution in such a way as to forbid it. The Americans had the same trouble, but they overcame it. I am not, however, allowed to elaborate that point by quoting from the remarks of an American authority.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) has agreed with other honorable members that clause15 is the operative clause of the measure. What the honorable gentleman has failed to notice is that the clause not only defines the powers of the board, but also its limitations. He has overlooked in particular, one of the limitations that is inherent in the clause. If one provision more than another in this clause is likely to meet with approval in areas not particularly well served with shipping at present, it is that provision which empowers the board to establish such shipping services as the board deems necessary. The hope of a great many people living in areas which are at present badly served with shipping will, however, be destroyed by the provisions relating to the powers of the board. The clause now before the committee reads-
– (1.) The Boardshall have power -
Obviously, the board will not have power to operate an intra-state shipping service. The honorable member for Hindmarsh spoke of the possibility of the establishment of a service to Eyre Peninsula.
– I mentioned Eyre Peninsula only for the purpose of illustration.
– The pointI make is that in this clause no power is given to the board to operate such a service. Tasmania has been rather badly served with shipping for several years. The Bass Strait islands are particularly badly served. At present, the shipping service to these islands is not sufficient to carry the necessary supplies to the islanders and to take from them the products which they wish to send away. In the past, a shipping service to the islands of Bass Strait was operated satisfactorily under a subsidy paid by the Tasmanian Government. Unfortunately, the Government is no longer in a position to pay the subsidy, and the Australian Government has refused to accept responsibility. Under the provision of this clause the board will not have power to operate a service between Tasmania and King Island. Power is to be given to the board to operate a service from, say, Melbourne to King Island. It may be said that King Island may be served by a shipping service operating from Launceston to Melbourne via King Island since such a service could be regarded as an interstate service.
– The honorable member wishes that such a service could be established ?
– I suggest that in order to overcome the constitutional difficulty, it would be necessary to prove that cargoes landed at King Island would later be sent on to Victoria. At present large quantities of timber are lying on the wharfs at Devonport and Launceston awaiting shipment to King Island. No power is given to the board by this bill to ship that timber from Devonport and Launceston to King Island because it can not be regarded as interstate freight.
– Unless the calling in at King Island was regarded as incidental to a voyage from Tasmania to the mainland.
– Surely the essential factor is the destination of the cargo . Similar difficulties arise at present in relation to air transport. An air service is now in operation between Melbourne and Hobart with Launceston as an intermediate stopping place, but passengers are not permitted to travel from Launceston to Hobart. If tickets are issued for such a journey they are issued in contravention of the provisions of the Constitution. Sub-clauses 2, 3 and 4 read as follows : - (2.) Where, in the opinion of the Minister, a shipping service is necessary to meet the requirements of a particular area and it is desirable in the public interest that a shipping service should be provided for that area, the Minister may direct the Board to establish, maintain and operate, or to continue to maintain and operate, a shipping service for the purpose of meeting those requirements. (3.) The Board shall comply with any direction so given and, so long as the direction remains in force, shall continue to maintain and operate a shipping service in accordance with the direction. (4.) Nothing in either of the last two preceding sub-sections shall authorize the Minister to give a direction for the establishment, maintenance or operation of, or require the Board to establish, maintain or operate, a shipping service which it is not within the power of the Board to establish, maintain or operate under sub-section (1.) of this section.
Sub-section 1 referred to in sub-clause 4 prevents the Government from operating an intra-state shipping service. The Government should clearly state the position in regard to this matter.
– The honorable member is well aware of it.
– As I see the position, the Government has no constitutional power to operate an intra-state shipping service, notwithstanding that it has been represented on many occasions to the people of King Island that the
Government proposes to operate a shipping service to that island. Rightly or wrongly, the residents of the island have been counting on the provision of such a service in the event of a bill such aa that now before us being passed by the Parliament. It is important that the people should not be misled. In States where settlement is fairly advanced complaints about shipping services are made principally in connexion with services to and between outlying porta within those States. That complaint applies particularly in respect of the Bas3 Strait islands.
. - I should like to comment on some criticism that has been directed against this clause by honorable members opposite. They have again taken the opportunity to repeat the cry that this bill constitutes an attempt on the part of the Government to nationalize the shipping industry. In rebuttal, I can only repeat what the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) said in replying to the second-reading debate last night. If this bill constituted an attempt on the part of the Government to nationalize the shipping industry the Government would have said so. There is no intention on the part of the Government to nationalize the shipping industry. The Government has introduced this measure in its present form in an attempt to establish the shipping industry in this country on a permanent basis. Honorable members opposite have complained that ‘ the board will be empowered to place an embargo on the utilization of overseas ships in the Australian coastal trade. Such an embargo is necessary for the safeguarding of the Australian shipbuilding industry. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) said that the provisions of this clause would exclude from our coastal trade ships from the United Kingdom.
– That is true.
– To what extent will that restriction affect ships from the United Kingdom? No information has been furnished by honorable members opposite about the extent to which United Kingdom ships now operate on the Australian coast.
– The honorable member has misunderstood my point.
– The honorable member for Richmond said that the provisions of this clause will prevent oversea? ships, particularly ships from the United Kingdom, from trading on our coast.
– What I said was thai if the clause is passed in its present form Australian shipping companies would noi be permitted to purchase ships from tha United Kingdom for use in the Australian coastal trade.
– That matter is not dealt with in the clause before the Chair. The Australian shipping companies have shown no desire to purchase vessels from the United Kingdom.
– They have applied fo’ permits to do so.
– The two mosmodern vessels trading on our coast ai present, Barrigun and Balarr, which are operated by private shipping companies, were built in Australian shipyards. K the private shipping companies had desired to purchase ships from oversea? they could have done so. They showed no inclination to do so because shipbuild-ing costs are tending towards stability ii. Australia whereas in overseas countries they are ever increasing. Honorable members opposite also complain that tinGovernment line will operate in opposition to the private companies. What is wrong with that? They have also said that when the Government line is established it will attract personnel from the private shipping lines. Whether or not that will be so will he a matter for the private shipping companies themselves to determine. If .they wish to hold their employees, they will have to improve work ing conditions if they can. If they can not hold their staff it will be because of the better opportunities and the mortlucrative positions offered by the Commonwealth line.
– At the expense of the tax payers.
– The same position applies in the aviation industry. When Trans-Australia Airlines was established there was an exodus of employees from Australian National Airways Limited to the new government airline. Employees were tempted to leave the private company because of the better conditions and salary prospects offered by the government airline.
– That is how losses are made.
– Not at all. The Government is not only maintaining its own airline but is also spending large sums of money in subsidizing the private airlines to enable them to continue in operation. It is understandable that some shipping services must be operated at a loss. A loss must be expected on services for which only a small volume of traffic is offering. That also applies to many of the State railway services which are run solely in the interests of the people and without the expectation of a profit. Areas are served by the railway systems of the State which private enterprise could not afford to serve. A great deal of criticism has been levelled against government enterprises, particularly the railways. Many of the losses sustained by the railways are due to the fact that it is necessary for developmental purposes, to construct uneconomic lines.
– The Canadian Pacific Railway manages to make a profit.
– That enterprise may make a profit, but it is not doing anything to develop that country.
– If the honorable member forWakefield (Mr. McBride) can prove that the Canadian Pacific Railway maintains uneconomic lines, I shall accept his correction. However, I am endeavouring to point out that people in many distant places - . -
– Order! I ask the honorable member to relate his remarks to the clause under consideration.
– I was led astray by interjections. Members of the Opposition have claimed that the Government is attempting to nationalize the shipping industry. In an effort to strengthen their arguments, they have stated that other government enterprises have made substantial losses. I have been pointing out, in reply, that many services are now conducted in the country, through government enterprise and initiative, because they are essential to national development. The Government is the only authority that can undertake such enterprises. If the work were left to private enterprise, stagnation would follow. Honorable members opposite have complained that the proposed Commonwealth shipping line will compete with private shipping companies. What have those companies to fear if they are conducting an efficient and economic service? Between 1920 and 1940, the private companies placed with overseas firms all their orders for ships, with the possible exception of the two instances that I have already cited. That record, in itself, answers the contention of honorable members opposite that the shipping and shipbuilding industries should be left to private enterprise. I emphasize that between 1920 and 1940 the private shipping companies made no contribution to the shipbuilding industry in Australia. That is tantamount to stagnation. Because private enterprise has preferred to purchase its vessels abroad, the Australian Government now finds it necessary to protect our shipbuilding industry. The proposals in this bill are not original. Every country which has sea-borne traffic and is dependent upon its mercantile marine for its existence, economically, politically and socially, realizes the importance of fostering its shipping and shipbuilding industry. If the policy enunciated inthis bill is to be successful in the national interest, the Government must exercise some measure of control of the industry. The bill makes the necessary provision in that respect. It will ensure that the shipping and shipbuilding industries will not languish, and that their development will not be handicapped. As the result of this legislation, those industries will never relapse into the condition into which private enterprise allowed them to decline after World War I.
– That the opposition to this measure is completely synthetic is demonstrated clearly by the fact that one by one, honorable members opposite have raised matters relative to this clause, and, as soon as they have concluded their speeches, they have walked out of the chamber. The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons), who is absent at the moment, raised a most interesting point about intra-state trade.
– Why did not the Minister reply to her speech ?
– The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) also raised certain points, but, as soon as they had done so, they immediately walked out of the chamber and did not wait ‘ to hear an explanation. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), who was continually interjecting earlier, has also left the chamber.
I shall now proceed to deal with matters that various honorable members have raised in this debate. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), who is present, dealt with a subject that was completely irrelevant to this clause. He complained that under this legislation the Government would place an embargo upon the purchase by Australian shipping companies of vessels constructed in the United Kingdom. If the honorable member will raise that point at the appropriate stage, I shall explain the position. I know that you, Mr. Lazzarini, are such an excellent chairman that you will not permit me to deal with the question at this stage.
The clause under consideration relates to the powers of the Australian Shipping Board, which will be established under this legislation. An Australian Shipping Board is in existence at the present time, but it was established under national security regulations, and if the Government does not take the requisite action, those regulations will, in due course, expire, and the board will cease to exist.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I draw attention to the state of the committee.
– Ring the bells.
Mr. Fuller proceeding to leave the
– I rise to order. I submit that an honorable member is not permitted to leave the chamber when a quorum has been called.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! A party Whip may leave the chamber in order to secure the attendance of honorable members.
– -I submit that your decision is incorrect, sir. No honorable member is entitled to leave the chamber at such a time.
– The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) left the chamber before the bells began to ring.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The Chair has already disposed of that point of order. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) must withdraw the remark, “ Rafferty’s rules “. which he has just made, and apologize to the Chair for having made it.
– I did not say anything.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I distinctly heard you say “ Rafferty’s rules “.
– I did not.
– I rise to order. I direct attention to Standing Order 34, which reads as follows : -
When the attention of the Speaker, or of th, Chairman of Committees, has been called to the fact that there is not a Quorum of Members present, no Member shall leave the Chamber until the House has been counted bv the Speaker.
After the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) had directed attention to the state of the committee, the honorable member for Hume left the chamber.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The Chair has already ruled that the Whip had the right to leave the chamber. He left the chamber immediately I ordered the bells to be rung.
– Standing Order 34 is specific on the matter.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Chair has given its ruling, and the incident is closed.
– Then I take objection to your ruling.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.That must be he done in writing.
Mr. Holt having submitted in writing his objection to th-e ruling,
– I have received from the honorable memberfor Fawkner the following intimation : -
I dissent from the ruling of the Temporary Chairman when he claims that the Whip is entitled to leave the chamber after a quorum has been called. [Quorum formed.]
Question put -
That the ruling be dissented from..
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. H. P. Lazzabini.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
The Commonwealth has chartered the following ships from overseas companies : - if the new board decides to operate the ships itself there will he no withdrawal of staff or equipment from private companies, so the- argument of the honorable member for Wentworth falls to the ground. [Quorum formed.’] The honorable member for Warringah, by interjection, raised a point which, has been discussed by other honorable members during this debate. He alleged that, because the Government was not prepared to nationalize the shipping industry by a direct method, it had chosen an indirect method of doing so. The honorable member, who is supposed to be a distinguished lawyer, said that, since the Government had no power to nationalize the industry directly, it was attempting to do so indirectly. Does any one imagine that if the High Court would declare invalid any direct attempt to nationalize an industry, it would not also declare invalid any indirect attempt to do so? No one with any common sense, let alone a person who is supposed to be a lawyer possessing some qualifications, ought to put forward such an argument. The fact that the argument was used shows how futile is the claim of the Opposition that the Government is trying to do indirectly what it lacks the constitutional power to do in a direct fashion.
The honorable member for Darwin raised an interesting point, when she drew attention to the fact that, under the bill, the Australian Shipping Board would have power to operate interstate shipping services, but could not operate intra-state services. The fact is, of course, that under the Constitution, the Commonwealth hano power to engage in intra-state trade.
The honorable member for Wentworth asked where Australian shipbuilder* were to obtain accessories. He claimed that shipbuilding was an assembling industry, and in this he was merely repeating parrot-fashion a phrase used by his leader.
At least 90 per cent of materials necessary for shipbuilding can now be manufactured locally and be supplied at from 20 to 30 per cent less than the price of British materials.
So that what the honorable gentleman has said about accessories not being available in Australia is without any foundation at all. Of course, he was only repeating the remarks made by his leader, which indicates that that right honorable gentleman also showed himself to be ignorant of the true position.
.- There is one thing that I like about the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman), and that is his facility to over-state the truth. It is remarkable that when he speaks in debates in the Parliament he usually places his own interpretation upon what has been said by other speakers. Unfortunately for him, at the committee stage of a debate, honorable members are given a second opportunity to speak, and are thereby able to reply to a Minister’s misinterpretations. The Minister made great play upon the fact that I had said that this bill was an attempt on the part of the Government, by the subtle method of squeeze, to drive out of the shipping industry the privately owned shipping companies. Honorable members have only to look at the bill to see that my statement was correct and factual. But before I go any further into that matter I shall answer what the Minister said. He asserted that I had made great play upon the fact that the Australian Shipping Board would draw the executive officers and staff it would require from their present employment in the shipping companies. He said that the fact was that the Australian Shipping Board already had staff and executive officers and was engaged in the control of its own shipping line. The Minister knows that that is alie.
– I ask for the withdrawal of the honorable member’s statement that I have told a lie.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.It does not matter whether the Minister asks for a withdrawal or not, because the Chair objects to the honorable member’s statement, which was unparliamentary, and it asks for an unqualified withdrawal.
– I withdraw the statement. But I shall explain the position and honorable members may place their own interpretation upon the facts. The shipping companies at the present moment act as agents for the Australian Shipping Board. The board does not control, under any circumstances, the handling of its own cargo. The private shipping companies, acting as the board’? agents, handle the cargo. Does the Minister deny that? If he does not, let him stand convicted before the House of what I have said regarding his handling of the truth. The fact is that the Australian Shipping Board will draw its executive staff and officers from the present depleted pool of employees available for such work and from the pool of rank and file workers associated with the shipping industry. By doing so the board will cause a certain amount of chaos that is not existent at the present moment. There is not a pool of surplus labour in existence at present.
– There is.
– If there is a pool of surplus labour the Vice President of the Executive Council stands convicted upon his statement that there is full employment, in Australia. There is no pool of trained personnel that can be drawn upon by the board to carry out all its activities. The attraction of available labour from the privately owned shipping companies and the sabotaging of their staff position is, I say, the first necessary step in the strangulation of the private companies. Having taken that step the next thing that the board will do will be to take over the buildings occupied by the private companies, since the board must find administrative offices for itself. To obtain these offices it will have to take over the offices of the shipping companies or the offices used by other interests. Such offices are at present in short supply in every capital city in Australia.
– Where were the employees of the private shipping companies engaged before the Government chartered ships to the companies ?
– I am not referring to administrative staff. The Minister has again misconstrued what I have said. The board will inevitably draw more and more upon the staffs employed by the private companies as the amount of cargo handled by government ships increases with the strangulation of private companies. Can the Minister say that that is not an attempt, by subtle methods on r,he part of the Government, to achieve the nationalization of the shipping industry. It intends to achieve its ends, of course, by squeezing out of existence the private companies at present engaged in the industry. There is no argument about that. Let us examine clauses 29 and 30, which deal with the issue of licences to shipping companies. The bill provides that the term of a licence issued for a ship shall not exceed four years. Shipping firms may desire to spend £300,000 on the construction of a ship. As the licence will be operative for only four years, is it likely that a shipping company would be willing to finance the construction of a ship which it wanted to be sure of using for at least the 24 years provided under the measure? The bill is a blatant attempt at nationalization. It lacks cunning. The first step that will be taken by the board will be, as I have said, to deplete the private companies of staff and executive officers. The next step will be to take over the buildings occupied by the companies. I say that all the poppycock that has come from the Government side of the committee to the effect that the bill does not provide for the nationalization of the industry, is deliberately evasive. Everybody knows that in between the lines of this bill-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman can not make a second-reading speech at this stage.
– I am talking to the clause under debate, which deals with the powers and functions of the board. Between every line of the clauses in this part of the bill runs the theme of nationalization. Nationalization of the industry is to be achieved by methods that are quite obvious to honorable members on this side of the committee and also to the people of Australia. But the Government, for one reason or another, is hoodwinking itself. It does not want to face up to the true nature of its own designs. Why does it not be honest? It should say straightforwardly, “ Of course we are going to nationalize the shipping industry. The Constitution prevents us from including nationalization in the hill, but we are going to. use the bill to force the private shipping companies out of business, and having done so, we shall have a monopoly which will be the equivalent of nationalization “. The Minister has talked a lot of poppycock about agents. I consider that J have proved conclusively that his remark? were a mis-statement of facts, because at the present time the shipping companies are agents, and contrary to what the Minister has said, the Australian Shipping Board does not handle any cargo.
– Neither do the shipowners.
– The shipping companies are agents for the owners. I hope that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) does not buy into this argument. This is not a Christ-like thing. It does not concern communism. But if the Minister for Labour and National Service wants to defend the Minister for Defence, he may come into the argument.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member must address the Chair.
– Then I ask you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, ‘ not to permit the Minister for Labour and National Service to interrupt. I am prepared to listen while a Minister attacks me if there is some semblance of truth in what he says, but when a Minister makes a statement that is being broadcast through the radio it is not proper for another Minister on the Government side to defend him by way of interjection while I am answering the attack. I desire only to repeat what I have said earlier, which is that, running through the whole of this clause is the theme of nationalization. The Minister stated that I had something to say regarding the shipbuilding industry in Australia, and that we could not manufacture all the accessories in Australia. I notice that the report that he read dealt with materials for shipbuilding, but not with the manufacture of accessories. He specifically mentioned materials. I do not know anywhere in Australia where, at the present moment, there exist the modern facilities needed for the manufacture of accessories for shipbuilding. Australia has not reached the stage in shipbuilding where it can establish industries for the manufacture of such accessories. It is certain that we are. not, at the present moment, able to manufacture accessories for vessels of the tonnage contemplated in the bill. We have had some experience of the manufacture of accessories for government vessels. I have mentioned the “ D “ class 2,500-ton vessels, and the fact that it took one of those vessels three months to go from Newcastle to Wyndham, and also that it cost about £30,000 to pull the McNeil boilers out and replace them with Babcock and Wilcox boilers. Those are losses that had to be borne by the Australian taxpayer. Imagine a ship taking three months to go from Newcastle to Wyndham ! It was an Australian-built “ D “ class steamer with a special Australian designed boiler. I do not desire it to be thought that I decry Australian workmanship. On the contrary, as an employer of labour, I have a wholesome regard for Australian workmanship. One has only to look at such great modern constructions as the Sydney Harbour Bridge and other great building achievements of the war period to know that there are no finer designers and builders than Australians. But there must be a market for the product of the builders and the designers or they will have no urge to give their best work.
– What . about saying something on the clause?
– If the minister for the “gag” would read the bill he would know that I am speaking to the clause under debate. If the government vessels are to have included in their design, provision for the
McNeil boilers that were put into the “ D “ class steamers, the loss that will be incurred will be terrific, and the poor unfortunate taxpayer will have to pay for what is only a crazy government experiment. I rose to speak for a second time only to prove that the Minister’s interpretation of what I had said was wrong, and I consider that I have succeeded in doing so.
– The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) stated that he intended to prove that th Minister for Defence had attempted to mislead the House. The honorable member proved nothing. All he did was to indulge in blustering nonsense. He proved that he had a fine pair of lungs, a good voice, and an excellent appearance and that he is capable of putting up a show. Beyond that he did nothing. Let us look at the facts. At the present time the Australian Shipping Board has an executive staff of 125.
– Too many!
– Of course, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) would not have any one on the government payroll if he had his way, and there are individuals in his party who would hand over the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to private industry. The decision of the last council meeting of the Liberal party proved that. We have 125 officers on the executive staff of the Australian Shipping Board at the moment, and, when the bill has been passed, naturally, more will have to be employed, if we are to build ships of the tonnage and number we need. Perhaps we shall take people from the established shipping companies, but that possibility should not weigh in our consideration of the bill. People have the right to transfer to the government pay-roll if they desire to do. so. Honorable gentlemen opposite want to force people to stay in their present low-paid positions in the employ of the private shipping companies. They object to the board establishing standards that will attract men properly anxious to advance their interests. The Commonwealth Bank was started with Mr. Denison Miller and a clerk. Seven or eight people were on the staff at the end of the first week. The Commonwealth Bank now employs about 5,000 officers. Honorable gentlemen opposite, in their hostility to legislation of this sort, are opposed to working men - both in the wage class and the salary class, if there is any such distinction, and I make none, although honorable gentlemen opposite do - being able to obtain more remunerative employment and possibly to do better work for the people of Australia in the employ of the Shipping Board.
The honorable member for “Wentworth talked about accessories being imported. He kept repeating his remarks because he has the idea that shipbuilding is merely an assembling work. He has probably read something about the Kaiser shipyards on the west coast of America during the war when “Liberty” and “ Victory “ ships were mass-produced. They were serviceable for a period and useful for the class of work that they were designed to do,- but many of them are now tied up in the port9 of the United States of America. They are useless to that country and not wanted by any other country. Shipbuilding, as we plan it, is not assembling work at all. It is creative work. Most of the components of the ships will be manufactured from materials that will come from somewhere in Australia. I instance iron ore from Yampi Sound, or Iron Knob, which may be fabricated at “Wyalla, Newcastle or Port Kembla.
– Do not forget Brisbane!
– And Brisbane, too. I hope that the Queensland ports will get their fair share of the orders. We will not concentrate merely on the dockyards of New South Wales and South Australia. We do not import the components or accessories that we need for our major industries to-day. We have passed the time when we depended on the Old World or America for what we need to build ships. When World War II. broke out, we were able to sell steel in London and Pittsburgh. We could land it in those places and undercut the local products, British and American. We are making diesel engines in Australia. We made Merlin engines for aircraft during the war. The honorable member for Wentworth talks about accessories to try to create the impression in the minds of honorable members and the hundreds of thousands of listeners throughout Australia that we are to import nuts and bolts and things like that to build our ships. Our shipbuilding industry will not be an assembling industry, or a Kaiser war-time mushroom industry. The industry will be designed to serve the needs of Australia, and most of the articles required for our ships will be made in Australia. The ships will not all be of the same tonnage. They will not be standardized. Their tonnage and class will vary according to requirements. Of course, that is important too.
The honorable member also said thai we depend on the shipping companies to manage our ships, book passages and cargo and do that sort of work. The existing shipping companies, as the Minister for Labour and Industry (Mr. Holloway), who represents a maritime port, said, depend on stevedoring firms to do much of their work, and the Australian Shipping Board at present goes to the same stevedoring firms to do much of its work. But the Australian Shipping Board does all its own management, and that includes the handling of ships, and it does it very well. This bill is more or less identical with the original legislation introduced by the Fisher Labour Government in 1914 except that we propose to take greater powers. That legislation established the ill-starred but very successful first Australian government shipping line. That legislation did not provide for nationalization, and does not differ in any essential respect from that now being enacted. The establishment of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers did not drive the ships of private enterprise off the seas. It competed very successfully with them. In spite of what the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has said, it did keep freights down. It did a tremendous service to the Australian people. The new Australian Shipping Board will do equal service.
If any one thinks the bill is the thin edge of the wedge of nationalization, he has only to state a case to the High Court and get a judgment from it. The High Court is the authority that interprets the Australian Constitution. In the opinion of jurists of quality, the Court “would immediately reject as ultra vires the Constitution any legislation that savoured of nationalization. For the honorable member for Wentworth to say that he sees nationalization running, all through this legislation and that therefore it must provide for nationalization is only to hurl insults at the intelligence of honorable gentlemen. Can any one imagine a lawyer in the High Court saying “ This legislation provides for nationalization because the honorable member of “Wentworth said in the National Parliament that he could see nationalization running through it “ ? Would any judge take any notice of such a contention? Either legislation provides for nationalization or it does not. If we were attempting to nationalize the shipping industry, would we draft such provisions as those of clause 15, wherein we precisely define the powers of the hoard? We would not. We would draft a clause providing that, after a certain date, the private shipping companies would go out of business as we provided, in the Banking Act, that, after a certain time and in certain circumstances, the private banks would go out of existence and that compensation would he paid to them because the Government had taken them over. This hill does not provide for compensation. Therefore, it is not designed to nationalize the shipping industry. If we did want to nationalize the shipping industry and if it were competent for the Parliament to pass legislation to nationalize it, the High Court would demand that we pay fair compensation for the assets that we took over. The Constitution provides that property may not be acquired, except on just terms, and the High Court could prescribe what are just terms in any case that comes before it. The honorable member is ashamed of what he has said. He has merely put up a stunt for some purpose. [ have the idea that he wants to prolong the discussion until about 6 o’clock so that at 8 o’clock when there is a bigger listening public than there is at present, his leader may talk on some other more important legislation.
– Why should we let him ?
– We are not going to. We are going to knock over the false ideas of honorable gentlemen opposite and expose the fallacies of their arguments to the Parliament and the people or Australia. The Minister for Defence faithfully and fairly presented the facts. He tells the truth, as does every one elston this side, and we take the consequences. The Minister is a very intelligent man and his able explanation of this legislation, both in introducing the bill and in closing the second-reading debate, is something of which he can be proud, because he went to a great deal of trouble to tell honorable members, as he has done also in committee, all that should he told about it. Honorable gentlemen opposite are only malevolent in persisting in their misrepresentation of the situation.
.- The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has declared in impassioned terms that the bill and particularly this clause have nothing to do with nationalization of the shipping industry. I suppose he says this because the Australian people have indicated clearly their opposition to direct attempts to nationalize industries in Australia. Nevertheless, when one reads this clause in conjunction with clause 30, one realizes that the bill is an attempt to do illicitly and by stealth what the Australian people would not tolerate if it was done directly. All the protestations of the Minister are designed to lull the anxiety of the people. If the Government establishes the Australian shipping board with the enormous powers that it will have under this clause to compete in all phases of interstate shipping and then establishes the licensing system, under clause 30, whereby ships may be licensed only with the consent of the Minister, it will have all the machinery needed for indirect nationalization. Then what will it do? There are more ways of killing a cat than by choking it with cream. The direct method of choking a cat has been pronounced upon by the people who will not have it at all. So the Government proposes to use the indirect methods contained in clauses 15 and 30. Once the Government gets its shipping industry going with the great number of ships that it has, it will be able to regulate freights, high or low, as it likes. Once the licensing system operates, the Government will be able to end the existence of every other shipping line. Surely, then, it will not be long before private industry in the shipping field will have to beg for mercy or go out of existence on the Government’s own terms. If the Government has the machinery by which it can do indirectly what it cannot do directly, so much the better from its point of view and so much the worse from the point of view of the shipping industry. Honorable gentlemen opposite say in effect, “ If we attempted to nationalize the shipping industry, the High Court of Australia would throw us out of court “. But that would depend on the methods used. Whether the methods proposed to be used will be successful remains to be seen, but L hope that every one opposed to the nationalization of industry will fight this attempt at indirect nationalization of the shipping industry tooth and nail and to the last ditch. If the Government makes the conduct of a shipping business by private interests intolerable, as it could be made under this legislation; if it engages in unfair trading by the manipulation of a licencing system and smothers the private shipping companies with its own mass of ships, as it could do, sooner or later the private interstate shipping interests will fold up and die. That is what the Government desires to achieve. It may be said that the private companies should fold up and die if they cannot withstand competition, but does not this depend upon whether the nature of the competition is fair and just? I was amazed to hear several honorable members opposite defend the virtues of competition probably for the first time in their lives. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly), having spoken on that subject, immediately sat down and read a newspaper. Newspapers are, of course, instruments of private enterprise and parts of the wicked capitalistic press that all supporters of the Government condemn. The honorable gentleman spoke in favour of competition, but there will be no genuine and honest competition under the provisions of this bill. The Government will hold all the cards and private interests will have either to go out of business or accept the Government’s terms. If the methods that are now being used by Trans-Australia Airlines are continued, the private airlines in Australia will fold up and die. If there is to be competition, it must be fair competition. Unfair competition is nationalization by indirect means, .and it is very difficult to stop ii even by legal action. I have no doubt that some of the victims will try to stop the nationalization of the shipping industry by these indirect means, and I hope that they will be successful in doing so, but if the Government is cunning enough, as it will be, and unscrupulous enough, as it will be, this clause will provide it with the paraphernalia and the mechanism with which to wreak its will upon private industry and destroy it step by step. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) made a statement which should be repeated in case there is any uncertainty in the mind of the public about what the Government intends to do. The honorable gentleman said that there were certain industries which the Government ought to own and run, and that shipping was one of them. Does that not mean that he thinks that the Australian shipping industry should be 8 nationalized industry? Of course it does. But for the fact that the only power in the Constitution under which the Government can legislate in respect of shipping is the trade and commerce power the bill would have been submitted in terms similar to those of the ill-starred Banking Act. The Government has no direct power to nationalize this industry and therefore it is trying to do it indirectly.
In the thrust and parry of the debate, many speakers have got away from the terms of the clause.
– Including the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony).
– I could also include myself. The clause begins with tb* words -
The Board shall have power . . .
When I first read those words I wondered who would be the members of the board. Will they be persons without administrative or shipping experience, government nominees, or persons who really know something about shipping? The present Australian Shipping Board is composed of representatives of the Department of Shipping and Fuel, the Treasury and the Prices Branch, Mr. Hetherington, the Director of Shipping - I do not know what practical knowledge he has of shipping, but he may have a wide experience - a representative of the Australian Shipbuilding Board, which was established under the National Security Regulations, two representatives of the shipowners and one representative of the marine unions. I do not suggest that any one of those gentlemen is not a highly estimable citizen in his private life, but I suggest that the board is not composed of persons who have great experience of shipping and the shipbuilding industry. If the new board is composed of government servants who are experienced in their own narrow spheres but have no general experience, the enterprise will suffer the fate of many other government ventures and lose a large sum of money. Will some members of the board be deadbeat ex-politicians, as has been the case with many other government instrumentalities? Members of the Labour party who have fallen by the wayside have immediately been pushed into lucrative jobs. Will persons of that kind comprise the board? We are entitled to ask those questions. The board will certainly be established, because the Government has sufficient supporters in the Parliament to ensure that the bill is passed, but the Australian people are entitled to know what kind of board it will be. I view the prospect with a good deal of anxiety. One can judge these matters in the same way as people who pick winners on race-courses judge horses. I understand that they judge them on form. If the form of the Government in regard to choosing members of the board is a guide, it is apparent that its horse will be last in the race, even if it finishes the course. Sub-clause 1 (a) provides that the board shall have wide powers to establish, maintain and operate shipping services. Those powers will be exercised in the overseas and interstate trade, because the Constitution does not give the Government any power in respect of intra-state trade. Subclause 1 (b) provides that the board shall have power to carry on any shipping service incidental to any shipping service established, maintained or operatedby it under paragraph a. I wonder how far the Government will seek to use that provision to encroach upon the rights of State Parliaments with respect to intra-state trade.
– The honorable gentleman knows perfectly well that no provision of this bill can encroach upon the constitutional rights of the States.
– That is a glorious example of begging the question. The Australian Parliament cannot decide the legality of these provisions. The barrier against the Government’s ambitions in that respect is the High Court of Australia. Our perambulating AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) once proposed an amendment of the Constitution to remove that barrier. The Government cannot determine the legality of these provisions, but it will try to do so. I warn the people that, sooner or later, if this government remains at the helm, which God forbid an attempt will be made to encroach upon State powers by the use of the provisions of sub-clause 1 (b). The remainder of the clause provides that the board shall have a collection of powers which would enable the Government, if it could do it constitutionally, to do virtually anything in regard to shipping. Sub-clause 2 states -
Where, in the opinion of the Minister, a shipping service is necessary to meet the requirements of a particular area and it is desirable in the public interest that a shipping service should be provided for that area, the Minister may direct the board to establish maintain and operate … a shipping service for the purpose of meeting those requirements.
The Minister will be able to override the discretion of the board. Let us make the fanciful assumption that the Government will establish a decent sort of board, composed of men of good-will and with shipping experience. If the board attempted to operate a shipping line upon sound economic principles it could be overridden by the Minister, who will have power to direct it to establish a shipping service in a particular area. If such a service were established and a loss were incurred, the Australian taxpayers under the provisions of sub-clause 5 would have to pay the bill. It is quite clear that the government line is not intended to he managed in accordance with business principles and to make a profit. The Minister may direct that a service be established in any area, and the taxpayer will he called upon to make good any losses that may be incurred thereby. Having regard to past experience, it is not without significance that this Minister, having a complete and untrammelled discretion, and being guided by nothing except his own opinion, would be able, if he so desired, to strangle a private shipping company by making use of the provisions of sub-clause 2. All that he would have to do would be to direct the board to establish a shipping service in a particular area so that it could compete with and drive out of existence in the most ruthless and unscrupulous manner any private shipping line that was operating in that area. Honorable members on this side of the committee have never objected to competition or to the disciplining of private enterprise if that were necessary in the public interests.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- In a typically extravagant manner, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) referred to sub-clause 1 (m), which provides that the board shall have power to design ships and to advise the Minister on the design of the ships to be built in Australia. He made a reference to Dorrego. He said that it was a “ D “ class vessel of 2,500 tons, which is correct, and that it took three months to travel from Newcastle to Wyndham. The honorable gentleman used that fact as an excuse to categorize all of the “ D “ class vessels as faulty. He made a wild and sweeping statement. I have made inquiries of the Minister for Supply and Development and have discovered some facts about Dorrego. It was thought at first that the fault was caused by boiler trouble, but upon examination it wa* discovered that it was caused by the main condenser.
– I rise to order. Has a condenser anything to do with the powers of the Australian Shipping Board?
– Order ! The honorable member for Wilmot is quite in order in replying, to statements that were made by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) regarding the design of ships.
– The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) obviously does not know that condenser; have something to do with the design of ships. It was discovered that the defect was caused by the main condenser. Two other “ D “ class vessels suffered from the same trouble. In the early stages of their lives, the “D” class ships were subject to teething troubles. The latest reports from the shipping companies show that the “ D “ class ships on the coast are not suffering from this trouble any longer. It has been completely rectified. The charges that were made by the honorable member for Wentworth are completely unfounded. Dorrego may have suffered from this trouble, but it has been rectified in it and other ships that were similarly affected. The “D” class vessels are the best vessels for the Tasmanian trade that have ever put into Tasmanian ports. A 2,500-ton ship is the most suitable sized ship for Tasmanian ports. The eight “D” class vessels are, in my opinion, the best vessels on the Tasmanian run and the Australian coast at the present time. The McNeil boilers, which were criticized, have proved their worth during the last two or three years.
I shall now refer to the criticism that was made by the honorable member for Wentworth of the design and fittings of the Commonwealth ships. It is obvious that he has not been on board any Australian ships, or eaten with the crews or looked round the vessels to see their design and fittings. I was privileged to inspect Dalby, one of the “ D “ class vessels, the design of which has been accepted as standard for all government ships. I was amazed at the adequacy of the fittings provided in that vessel. The crews of “ River “ and “ D “ class vessels say that their quarters are better than those provided on any other vessels on the Australian coast. Indeed, their quarters and their conditions of employment are so good that there is always a scramble for vacant positions. On “ D “ class vessels the crew sleep two men to each cabin. Provision is made* in the new “ B “ class vessels for the accommodation of three members of the crew in each cabin. The appointments of the cabins set a new standard in comfort. The fittings of the cabins are of a very high order. The cabins are of the bedroom-dining room type. The men take great pride in keeping them neat and tidy. At one time members of the crew were housed in the bows of the vessel. They slept in bunks and lived under very primitive conditions. “ D “ class vessels, which are of 2,500 tons gross register, are manned by a crew of approximately 40. The new “ River “ class vessels are of 9,000 tons gross register and carry a crew of 53 persons. On vessels of both types two sets of cargo handling gear have been provided for quick loading and unloading at each hatch. The wharf labourers at Devonport and other Tasmanian ports regard the “ D “ class vessels as the best vessels that they have handled. The “ River “ class vessels carry approximately 10,000 tons of cargo, but, because of their greater carrying capacity, are slower in loading and unloading than are the “ B “ and “ D “ class vessels. All the government ships have a speed of not less than 12 knots. A government vessel may leave Melbourne twelve hours after and arrive in Hobart five hours before a privately owned ship. The speed of the government ships is attributed to the excellence of their design. Criticism was offered to the installation of McNeil boilers in government ships. Those boilers have been quite satisfactory and are largely responsible for the ability of the vessels to maintain their scheduled speed. That, I think, completely answers the sneers cast by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) at the government vessels. The morale of the crews of government vessels has improved considerably as the result of the good conditions which they enjoy. A new order has undoubtedly arrived in the Australian coastal shipping industry as the result of the government shipbuilding programme. “ Doxford ‘” diesel engines are to be made in Australia and fitted to “B” class vessels. Previously Australian production of these engines had been limited to the lower horse-power types suitable for vessels of 500 tons gross register. When “ B “ class vessels are fitted with “ Doxford “ diesel engines their power will be greatly increased. One cannot but be proud of the design of, and the fittings and the gear installed in the government ships. They are the best vessels now operating on the Australian coast.
– I have specially waited to address the committee until the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) had returned to the chamber. With his usual lack of grace, the honorable gentleman took it upon himself to mention by name those honorable members on this side of the chamber who happened to be absent when he addressed the committee.
– All honorable members opposite who spoke to this clause left the chamber immediately they had completed their remarks.
– Those who spoke on the clause had sat in their placet throughout the greater part of the afternoon. Having addressed the committee, I felt, as do most honorable members after having been present in this chamber for two hours, that I was in need of a little refreshment. I left the chamber to obtain it. I, at least, try to observe the courtesies to which Ministers and other honorable members are entitled. I resent the attack made upon me by the Minister during my temporary absence from ‘ the chamber. When I returned and heard of his reply to my remarks, I desired to say something more on the subject, but found that the Minister himself had then left the chamber. As I was not in a position to reply to him then, I take the opportunity to do so now that he has returned. As honorable members will recall, I raised the possibility of the Government establishing an intra-state shipping service. I particularly instanced an intra-state service which is at present linked with an interstate service and which cannot be superseded by a government service if this legislation is passed, f said that, in my opinion, no power was given by this bill to allow that to be done, and that the provisions of the bill were limited by the requirements of the Constitution. Replying to my remarks by interjection, the Minister for Defence specifically agreed that the Commonwealth was prevented by the Constitution from operating an intra-state service.
– Except as an incidental fo an interstate service.
– It is true that r,he honorable gentleman hedged a little.
– The honorable member knows very well that I never hedge.
– We are diverging to an extremely controversial matter that is outside the scope of the clause. I do not intend to pursue the hare that the Minister raised. I assure him that if we all gave chase it would have a pretty good run - i -
– I could not better the record of the honorable member in that direction.
– What, precisely, does the Minister mean by that?
– The honorable member will be told. She may rest assured that I shall pursue that one, too.
– The Minister said that there was an exception to the limitation of the power of the Government to conduct an intra-state shipping service. He said that it would be possible to engage in an intra-state service if such service were incidental to the running of an interstate service. An examination of the bill shows that that was very prominently in the Minister’s mind when the legislation was drafted. In spite of the protestations made by the honorable gentleman to-day, he evidently hoped, by some means or other, to override the provisions of the Constitution relating to intra-state trade. I said that, according to information that had been given to me, large quantities of timber were lying on the wharfs at Launceston and Devonport awaiting shipment to King Island. I understand that quantities of timber on order for King Island are also lying on the wharfs at other Tasmanian ports.
I said that if a ship owned by the Government and engaged in an interstate service carried that timber to King Island, the action would constitute a violation of the Constitution.
– I replied that I thought that such an action would not constitute a violation of the Constitution.
– I was about to deal with the Minister’s reply. If the honorable gentleman will be good enough to refrain from interjecting I shall proceed with my argument in my own way and in my own time. He replied in effect. “I tell the people of King Island that if there is timber at Devonport and Launceston awaiting shipment to King Island I should be prepared to take a risk and transport it to King Island “. The honorable gentleman’s words amounted to political bravado. At best they were a little cheap. There is a very simple method by which the residents of King Island can be given the excellent shipping service that they enjoyed for many years. It is within the capacity of the Minister to institute such a service if he wishes to do so. I refer to a service provided by a private shipping company operating under subsidy from the Government. A subsidized shipping service provided in the past was satisfactory-
– To the private shipping companies.
– The Minister, however, preferred to follow his usual method of establishing a service under government auspices. He said that he would be prepared to take a chance. He was prepared to extend help of a very doubtful validity, because if a Commonwealth ship engaged in such a service its action would be subjected to challenge. The residents of King Island have a very strong claim on the Government for an efficient shipping service. The land settlement scheme for ex-servicemen now being implemented on King Island cannot succeed unless the existing shipping service is considerably augmented. I give the Minister credit for hoping that it will succeed, and accordingly I trust that he will take steps to augment the existing service.
.- The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) made some references to this clause that proved once again that he is the bright particular star of the Parramatta Repertory Society. He alleged that the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) had defended private enterprise as having played an important part in the development of Australia. The remarks that he purported to quote were not a true representation of what the honorable member for Martin had said. The honorable gentleman himself made a rather ragged defence of private enterprise. In putting his appeal to us to uphold private enterprise at all costs, he apparently failed to realize that there are such things as cartels associated with private enterprise. Perhaps he may not have heard of them. At any rate he swept such things airily aside and declared that solid support for the system had come from this side of the chamber, which was exactly what he had expected. However, the honorable member’s remarks were just feathers upon the water of this debate. The subject that intrigued me was the attitude of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), who, as we know, lives in the salubrious suburb of Vaucluse, where nothing is allowed to pollute the hay which his flat overlooks, and where luxury schooners and launches of 50 and 60 tons burden ride the waves undisturbed. The honorable gentleman discussed the accessories of shipbuilding and missed the whole point of the clause, which is the enabling provision for a Commonwealth line of ships and carries the whole machinery of the hill. It will restore to the people of Australia the shipping line that was stolen from them years ago. The honorable gentleman’s contribution was most entertaining indeed, but he strayed very far from the subject of the clause. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), in contrast, spoke with much more sobriety and understanding of the position. The honorable member for Wilmot lives in an island State, which depends for its continued existence upon its shipping communications. His defence of the vessel Dorrego, which carried equipment of an experimental nature, disclosed his wide knowledge of the subject. Residents of Tasmania at least have some appreciation of our shipping needs. Some honorable members opposite appear to be inclined to treat this subject with levity, but they should make an effort to realize that this is a very serious discussion. This clause provides many of the processes necessary for the creation of a Commonwealth line of ships to replace the one that was stolen from- the people years ago. If privately owned shipping services are so much more efficient than a service organized and operated by the Government, as honorable members opposite proclaim, perhaps one of them will tell me why private enterprise still owes to th, Commonwealth £250,000 for the shipping line that disappeared, to the detriment of the nation, in 1927.
.- At the outset, I reply to the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who. in praising the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), said that he had a wide knowledge of shipping. The honorable member certainly did not reveal any knowledge of the subject when he made his contribution to this discussion. He said that he had a brother-in-law who was an able seaman on a certain ship, and throughout his speech he referred to what his brother-in-law had told him. The honorable member for Parkes must have a vivid imagination if he consider? that that disclosed a wide knowledge of the shipping industry. My chief purpose in rising at this juncture is to reply to the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), who came into the chamber this afternoon, waved his hands violently and became very heated, as is his custom. Some of the statements that he made merit scrupulous investigation. He criticized the Opposition because it had declared that Australia would have to import certain parts needed for the building of ships. He said that the Government would not need to import anything. He praised Australian workmen, and I agree that they are good workmen, but I want to know where the Government will obtain the material for the workmen to use. The honorable member for Parkes has said that the Government has planned for greater production. I have asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) whether that is so, and he has told me the same story. But, although ! have asked tor the details of the Government’s plan, the right honorable gentleman has not yet supplied them to me. We have seen no indications of any plan for increased production up to date, and it appears to me that production is losing in the race against demand. I shall refer to some, of the things that are needed for shipbuilding. I shall ensure that my remarks will be relevant to the clause because I was called to order rather sharply this afternoon-
– Order! The honorable member was put on the right track.
– I do not deny for 1 moment that I was put on the right track, but the fact is that I was called to order rather sharply. Coal is one of the things needed in shipbuilding.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! Coal cannot be discussed at this 4age.
– Steel is also required in the industry, and, of course, we must have plenty of cement. The latest authentic statistics show that the present shortage of cement for home-building alone is 150,000 tons. Our supplies of ingot steel last year fell 34,SS7 tons short of the 1941 level. Yet the Minister for Information declares that we need not import any of the materials required for the building of ships! The honorable gentleman’s information is not correct on this occasion. Anybody who took his remarks seriously would think that Australia was producing more than it needed at present, but that is not the case. All that honorable members on this side of the chamber said was that, if the Government bought some ships overseas, it would relieve, to some degree, the lack of production in Australia. That is a plain fact, and I cannot allow the misleading statements made by the Minister for Information to pass unchallenged. Everybody in Australia must know the truth, and it is very strange that the Minister should attempt to lead us astray. His attitude reminds me of a man who once was persuaded to address a gathering on the subject of New Guinea. Before he began to speak, he asked whether the audience knew anything about New Guinea. When the answer was in the negative, he said, “ Now I can speak freely”! But the Australian people know only too well the lack of production in the Commonwealth. Everybody knows that the statements made by the Minister were incorrect. When honorable members perused this clause the first time, they must have been amazed by the constant repetition of the words “ subject to the approval of the Minister “. The Australian Shipping Board will not be able to give effect to many decisions that it. makes until it receives the approval of the Minister. Members of the Opposition claim that the management of any undertaking whatsover makes it prosperous or otherwise. Members of the board will probably receive substantial salaries, and they should possess a thorough knowledge of shipping. I assume that even thu Government would insist upon that qualification when it makes the appointments. However, under this legislation, the qualifications of members of the board will not be of great importance, because the policy of the board will be decided, not on economic but on political grounds. If the board desires to reduce freights and operating costs, the Minister may make a political decision that may not necessarily be in the best interests of Australia and in that event the taxpayer will’ have to meet the loss. On many occasions, in relation to other boards, we have complained that Ministers are becoming too dictatorial. The position would not be so unsatisfactory if Ministers would co-operate with the boards that they administer, but our experience of this government has shown us that Ministers are not co-operative in that respect. I can cite many instances toprove that Ministers have absolutely disregarded the advice of boards. When I make that statement, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture need not look so shocked, because I will not mention his name. However, honorable, members are well aware that his policy hascost the taxpayer millions of pounds. So long as the Government can put its socialist policy into operation, Ministers will not worry unduly if undertakings incur heavy losses. That is why members of the Opposition object so strongly to the words “ subject to the approval of the Minister “. We contend that a Minister should co-operate with the government enterprise that he administers, in order that the best interests of Australia may be served. Without such co-operation, the people will not receive a fair deal. £ am afraid that the people will never get a fair deal from the Labour party, which is prepared to go to any lengths to carry out its principal objective of socialization.
– The main complaint that members of the Opposition have voiced against this clause is its allegedly socialist character. I onlywish that the Parliament of the Commonwealth, and the Government had sufficient power under the Constitution to enable us to make the bill a really socialist measure.
– I bet the Minister does.
– -I make no apologies for that, either. While members of the Opposition have beenranting about socialist policies andthe evils of socialism, I have been recalling some of the political and economic history of this country. It is strange, but nevertheless true, that nearly all the socialist enterprises in Victoria have been established by anti-Labour administrations.One outstanding example is the great electricity undertaking at Yallourn.The legislation to authorize that work was introduced bya distinguished Liberal politician, Sir Harry Lawson, whoat different periods, in a long public life, was Premier of Victoria, a senator and a Minister in an anti-Labour government inthe Commonwealth Parliament.
– I riseto order. I should like to know, Mr. Temporary Chairman, whether the Minister is in order in discussing theelectricity undertaking at Yallourn. Idistinctly heard yourefuse to permit the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) to discuss coal, and, therefore, I contend that if that honorable member wasnot entitled todiscuss coal, black, white or brown, the Minister should not be entitled to discuss brown coal.
– Order! The Minister was replying to an earlier statement and was making only a passing reference to the subject.
– Iknow that the historical facts which I am recalling are unpalatable to members of the Opposition. However, I was about to point out, when I was so rudely interrupted, that the great instrumentality at Yallourn, which was established by an anti-Labour and antisocialist administration, to-day spreads its beneficent power throughout the length and breadth of Victoria. Previously, every municipality was proud-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I ask the Minister to relate his remarks to the clause under consideration.
– I am making a passing reference to State enterprises in Victoria in order to prove that anti-Labour administrations have been responsible for the introduction of socialism. Other such instrumentalities include the great metropolitan tramway undertaking and the State Accident Insurance Office. Although those enterprises were established by anti-Labour administrations, they are definitely of a socialist character. I refer also tothe Maffra sugar beet-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The Minister must connect his remarks with the clause.
– The honorable mem- ber for Wimmera devoted his entire speech to discussing the evils of socialism and did not mention a ship or shipbuilding. No anti-Labour administration in Victoria would dare to interfere with or dispose oftheState undertakingsto which I have referred.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN,Order !
Mr.TURNBULL - Is it not a fact thatI referred to the dictatorial attitude of the Minister? The cap fitted him andhe wore it.
– I shall now deal specifically with ships and something pertainingtoshipping. During the debate on this bill, members of the Opposition havemade aparticular point of ref erring to the slowturn-roundofships. They have repeatedly reflected upon the waterside workers, and caustically criticized the so-called failure of the Stevedoring Industry Commission to deal with the problem. At least one honorable member referred to slowness in loading wheat. I. have obtained an expression of opinion from a prominent person in the shipping industry, who has stated that the delays in loading ships in Sydney harbour are not in any way related to the activities of the Stevedoring Industry Commission or caused by the Waterside Workers Federation and waterfront labour. To prove my statement conclusively, I shall read a statement that has been prepared on the subject. I have confirmed the information contained therein. It reads as follows : -
There are always plenty of critics, but, in this instance, it is practically impossible for any one to lay a charge against the Australian Wheat Board, or, for example, against the waterside workers. The reasons for the incurring of the demurrage are many, and the following are some, and which are not neces sarily in their order of priority: -
Wet weather occurred at frequent intervals, and from January onward Sydney experienced the longest run of wet weather for many years. Ships have to be chartered many months ahead, and, in dealing with an export- able surplus from this State of probably around 50 million bushels, obviously, an exacting and continuous programme had to be arranged. Ships loading wheat will not load in wet weather as the Master is responsible for the condition of the cargo, and itmust be obvious the chaos which would occur with the frequent a nd, at periods, almost continuous hold-ups on account of wet weather and which, of course, delayed many vessels after their arrival in Port.
Owing to the difficulties in relation to world tonnage, the majority of the ships arriving here were not suitable for the carriage of bulk wheat. By this I mean that a good bulk carrier has wide, open hatches, and comparatively little trimming is necessary in the wings of the ship. The majority of the ships tendered for the first six or seven months of the season were either Liberty or Victory ships, vessels with a large number of holds, small hatches, and lengthy trims, all of which resulted in slow loading. These vessels also could not take their full cargo in bulk wheat, and in many cases required over one thousand tons of bagged wheat to put them down to their marks, which still further slowed things up. I think it possible that the Wheat Board had little or no knowledge of the type of the ships until they were almost here.
The ships are provided by the United Kingdom, and, in some instances, by the
Indian Government. The statement continues -
The absence of a mechanical bulk wheat trimmer in Sydney meant that the wharf labourers had to go down into the holds of ships and shovel the wheat into the wings so that all holds were packed to capacity, there were no vacant spaces, which would cause a list when the vessel was at sea. . . .
– I rise to order. The document from which the Minister is quoting is apparently an extensive defence of the waterside workers, and I submit that it has nothing whatever to do with any part of the clause which the committee should he discussing. No doubt, the Minister will claim that he is replying to something that has already been said in this debate, but I contend that the fact that somebody else has made an irrelevant statement is no justification for the Minister’s irrelevancy. In not one line of this clause is there any reference whatever to the matter with which the Minister is now dealing specifically.
The clause provides - (1.) The Board shall have power -
I rule that as the Minister is dealing with the sea transport of goods, his remarks are in order.
– I ask the Minister whether the document from which he is quoting is a public document. If so, I call for it to be tabled.
– It is a private document compiled for my own information. It continues -
At both Fremantle and Geelong mechanical trimmers reduced the loading time considerably, but, in this connexion, it might be noted that it is hoped to have a mechanical trimmer in operation in Sydney shortly. The wet weather previously referred to delayed other cargo ships, resulting ultimately in a shortage of labour which affected wheat loading.
During the winter months, there was an acute shortage of coal.
– The Minister cannot mention coal. If he does, he will be out of order.
– The honorable member for Wimmera has had a good run, as have other Opposition members, but he seems to resent my saying things that are unpalatable to him. I intend to continue, despite his interruption. The statement goes on -
During the winter months, there was an acute shortage of coal on account of the need of supplying other States, and this reduced the volume of wheat brought to the seaboard for shipment. Obviously, it was something that the Wheat Board could not legislate for; it was unexpected, and it caused a further banking up of ships in the harbour.
That has nothing” to do with the waterside workers. It relates specifically to ships. The statement proceeds -
From time to time, there was a shortage of railway trucks which resulted through rollingstock being worn out on account of lack of repairs during the war years. Other reasons, ill eh as the use of trucks for coal, 4 c, reduced the availability of trucks, and, of course, wheat. The policy of the New South Wales Department of Agriculture in controlling bulk wheat trucks very seriously delayed the loading of ships in the latter months last year. With the advent of deliveries of new season’s grain to country wheat elevators, the New South Wales Department of Agriculture gradually reduced the number of bulk wheat trucks available for the transport of old season’s wheat to the port to a minimum in order to keep faith with wheat-growers and to ensure that as much new season’s wheat was received in bulk as was possible. Thi* caused a position which gradually deteriorated is more and more trucks were transferred over to new wheat traffic, so much so that, whereas previously, when ample trucks were available, one to two vessels were being loaded each week, which meant that, with the shortage of supplies, it was taking up to a fortnight to load one ship with bulk wheat, and which, of course, was a problem and condition of affairs quite unexpected so far as the head office of the Australian Wheat Board was concerned.
Around about July and subsequently it would appear that vessels were arriving in Sydney in excess of the weekly loading capacity of the port.
Surely the waterside workers cannot be blamed for that.
– I rise to order. This clause refers to powers which a board, not yet constituted, may exercise. 1 maintain that the committee is entitled to debate only what the board may do when it is constituted. So far, the whole of the Minister’s time has been devoted to a discussion of certain things that were done by various people and authorities in days gone by, and which obviously cannot in any way affect the powers of the proposed board.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I think that the Minister’s remarks are a little wide of the clause.
– I shall endeavour to bring the matter into more direct relationship with the clause under discussion. The statement continues - and this if directly related to ships -
From July onward it was very noticeable and assumed considerable proportions, with much publicity in the press, as all available anchorages in the harbour were in use by ships waiting for berths. I believe the sudden cutting out of exports in the other Statesmay be related to the diverting of those vessels to Sydney.
The low quality wheat is perhaps one of th, outstanding causes for the slowness of wheal loading in New South Wales. To the uninitated it is difficult to understand this, but wheat men know that it takes a greater volum* of low quality wheat to send the vessel down to her marks as compared with f.a.q. wheat.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
In speaking to this clause, which deal.with the functions, powers and duties of the board, the Minister for Commere and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) embarked upon a lengthy defence of the waterside workers. 1 do not think that it would be fair to the committee to re-open that matter by replying to what the Minister has said. However, the Minister will have great difficulty in convincing anybody who visits the various wharf? throughout Australia or who knows anything about the loading or unloading of ships-
– I rise to order. “While the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture was speaking, the honorable member for Parramatta, taking a point of order, submitted that the Minister should no. be permitted to speak about the waterside workers. Now the honorable member himself is dealing with the waterside workers. If the Minister was out of order, I submit that the honorable member for Parramatta, too, is out of order.
– I take it that the honorable member for Parramatta is making a passing reference to the Minister’s remarks.
– I undertake that it will be a passing reference only. It would be hard to convince the public that the delays which take place on the waterfront are due entirely to the factors mentioned in the statement read by the Minister.
Any one who knows about the slow turnround of ships, and any one who has been on the wharfs and observed the scandalous waste of time there, or who reads in the newspapers about the wanton stoppages that occur in the loading of ships, must know that the responsibility for the delays rests principally upon the Communist trade union leaders and their henchmen. However, enough of that.
Previously, I drew a distinction between discipline and extermination. “We
Hill agree that it is necessary in the public interest that private firms which serve cbe public should be subject to a degree of discipline. No one now supports the principle of laisser-faire - every man for himself , and the devil takes; the hindmost. The modern trend, which is irresistible, is in the direction of a measure of control, but there1 is a. vast difference between chat policy, which is subscribed to- by all political parties, and the- policy which she- -Government is seeking to put into effect- The Government proposes to appoint a board, clothed with great power, to- act under a. Minister who himself is to> hame absolute- power. The Minister, through the board, will issue- licences for the building; of ships and the carrying on of shipping services in Australian, waters. With some- minor and trivial exceptions, a© will have power to ban completely adi; ships that, are not Australian-built, From the fiat of the Minister there is vo be no. appeal, whatsoever.. He will issue a licence or he will not, and that .v.ill be the end. of the matter. This bill v.ill provide the mechanism to destroy ; 110Se private, interests which are now carrying- on. shipping services,, or which may attempt to provide such services- in ~he future.. If it is asked” whether the Government, having the power to destroy private shipping interests, will in fact io. so,, the answer is to Be found in the political history of the last few years, lt is- well ‘known that the Government tried’- to destroy the- private airlines. It vas challenged ih the- courts- by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, ;md was partly, though not: wholly, defeated. The Government: tried to destroy private- banking interests^, and nhat issue is.now. bef ore the Privy Council. Cfr m because; the Government burnt- its fingers! over its attempt at direct nationalization that it is now attempting to achieve the same end by indirect means The Constitution specifically invests the Commonwealth with certain powers in regard to banking, and under those powers the Government sought to nationalize banking. As I have said, the issue is still in doubt. However, there is no corresponding power in the Constitution in regard to shipping. The Constitution gives the Commonwealth. Parliament power to legislate in regard to trade and commerce overseas, and the Government, relying partly on that power, and partly on the defence power, is endeavouring to nationalize the shipping industry by providing for the issue of licences to build and operate ships. Tinder that provision, it would be possible to exterminate the private shipping, lines by making it impossible for them to carry on. “We object strongly to what the Government proposes to do; Competition is good, but in competition between the Government and private interests there should be fair play.. Under this legislation, however, the Government will be in the box seat. The Minister will have the final word, and a doctrinaire Minister, supported by a doctrinaire government, will give- little enough of justice to the- private shipping companies. Indeed, the Minister for Commerce .and Agriculture has said that the> Government would nationalize shipping if it had power to do so. He let the cat out of the bag by declaring that the Government would make no bones about nationalizing the shipping industry. If the Government is successful-, there is no doubt that within two or three years the private shipping companies will bc forced out of business, and Australia- will be so much the worse. Competition is’ just as necessary for- government enterprise as for private enterprise. A government monopoly is no less vicious than a- private monopoly, particularly when the government monopoly is conducted by a doctrinaire government. Let there be no mistake, therefore. This bill is just as much a measure designed1 to nationalize the shipping- industry as; the Banking. Rill was a< measure designed to nationalize banking:
.. - “Wa have, just listened to a tirade, about the nationalization of shipping and. the abolition of private shipping companies. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) has been zealous in taking points of order, but he himself has tried to make a second-reading speech on practically every occasion he has risen to speak. In saying that, I make no reflection on the Chair, but I do condemn the honorable member for Parramatta. Honorable members opposite invoke the aid of the Chair when they are seeking protection for themselves, hut they do not scruple to infringe the Standing Orders when it suits them. Honorable members opposite have charged the Government with attempting to ruin the private shipping companies. I maintain that in recent years the Government, by guaranteeing the companies against loss, and by paying them big fees to act as agents, has fed and fattened them. This afternoon, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) referred to that part of the clause before the Chair which authorizes the Australian Shipping Board to design ships, and to advise the Minister about the designing of ships to be built in Australia. The honorable member spoke about designing coffin ships. In the past, coffin ships have been designed, not by government agencies, but by those wonderful private institutions which honorable members opposite defend. The Government has been accused of seeking to prevent private enterprise from constructing ships, but I remind members of the Opposition that many >’( the vessels that are now in course of construction in Australia are being built by private enterprise. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) wanted to know where the Government was going to obtain the steel to build ships. If he visited Whyalla he would observe that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is using plenty of steel in the construction of vessels. That company, I remind honorable members, not only produces steel, but also uses it. The answer to the honorable member’s contention that we have not sufficient steel to embark on a national shipbuilding enterprise is supplied by the fact that all the ships that have been built in Australia to date have been constructed from Australian steel. The cry is frequently raised in this chamber that we must do something for the industries of Great Britain. Honorable members on both sides of the chamber have been agitating for some time for the construction of a modern vessel for the whaling trade. J remind them that inquiries made in Great Britain have revealed that the British shipbuilding industry is so busy that it cannot construct such a vessel for some years. So much for the contention that the construction of ships in Australia will injure the economic recovery of Great Britain.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) criticized the proposal to prevent ships 25 year* old from trading on the Australian coast. He also criticized the Government’s proposal to introduce new designs in ship construction. Any one who has had any practical experience of shipping knows that we need vessels of new design. For one thing, the accommodation for crews on vessels of obsolete design is a constant source of industrial trouble. I take the opportunity to remind honorable members opposite who are so critical of ships that have bees constructed by government instrumentalities that almost all the obsolete vessels, which have caused so much industrial trouble in Australia, were built by private enterprise to the design of private shipping companies. Questions are frequently asked in this chamber about the wretched accommodation provided on the ships which bring migrants to this country. I remind members of the Opposition that those vessels were also designed by private enterprise without government supervision. Does any honorable member seriously suggest that we do not require to establish an authority to ensure that the vessels constructed in this country will be of proper standard? The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) has pointed out that the unsuitable design of many -overseas vessels, which were fitted with small hatches and large holds, has prevented the expeditious loading of hulk wheat. Those vessels were designed not toy government instrumentalities hut by private shipping interests. The desire to obtain the most for the least is, generally speaking, typical of the type of construction employed by private enterprise. The present measure aims at ensuring that only vessels of proper design shall he constructed in this country. Furthermore, in view of the necessity to he prepared in the event of war, it is essential that ships shall he readily convertible to war-time use. In making that statement I emphasize that neither the Government nor any one else desires war, but the lessons of the last war have taught us that we must be prepared. It is well known that the greatest difficulty, delay and expense were encountered even in mounting guns on many Australian coastal vessels during the recent war. In many instances major structural alterations had to be made before they could be fitted with guns. Does that not justify the determination of the Government and its supporters that ships designed in the future shall be capable of all uses in emergency? It has been suggested by some members of the Opposition that the Government proposes to over-indulge the comfort of the crews who will man the vessels that are to be constructed in Australia. Whilst [ do not agree that the Government will do anything of the kind, I remind those critics that it is idle for the occupants of luxurious flats and the owners of hyper-modern cars to adopt the attitude that the men who work the ships are not entitled to some improvement of their accommodation. The Government certainly intends to improve the accommodation provided for Australian seamen. After all, they are the men who work the ships, and they spend the best part of their lives at sea. Surely they are entitled to reasonable amenities?
It has been suggested that one result of government intervention in shipping will be that we shall not get the proper turn-round of vessels. Would any one contend that the present rate of turnround is satisfactory? Do members of the Opposition suggest that that is the fault of private companies who are at present operating the ships?
– I say “ No “, also. By improving the conditions of the seamen we shall certainly not do anything to delay the handling of cargo and the turn-round of ships. Honorable members must realize that working men, like other sections of the community, do not easily forget the bitter lessons of the past. Working men have just as good memories as have any other section of the community, and they cannot forget the bad treatment meted out to them in so many instances by the private shipowners. By providing reasonable accommodation for crews on board the Commonwealth ships the Government will be giving a lead to the private companies, which will be forced to follow suit.
It is easy to obtain a distorted view of any measure if we view it, not objectively and on its merits, but through the narrow viewpoint of our particular political ideology. Members of the political parties on both sides of the chamber have been guilty of taking a distorted view of proposed legislation, and in this instance member* of the Opposition are obviously viewing the measure through the eyes of prejudice. Apparently, nothing that the present Government does can be good. Their narrow criticisms of the measure might be likened to the scriptural question, “ Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Because the Government proposes to operate a shipping line they foresee all kinds of difficulties and attribute to the venture every conceivable fault. The wood-pile is full of niggers.
– The trouble is that the honorable member cannot see them.
– The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) sees niggers in every wood-pile. In fact, he sees not only niggers, but on occasion, plenty of rabbits, and other things. The measure is intended to place our shipping industry on a broad-based control to ensure that our ships will be modern and well constructed, and will he utilized to the maximum advantage. When the proposed line comes into existence I hope for the sake, not only of that line but also of the community generally, that members of the Opposition will forsake their hitter criticism and assist to make it a success. The entire trend of modern economy is towards the rationalization of transport, and to that end it has been found necessary in most countries to impose governmental controls. Because of Australia’s vast distances and farflung settlement it is particularly necessary that our transportation should be properly co-ordinated. I remind honorable members that the development of our remote areas could never have taken place but for the operation of the governmentowned railway systems. If the governments of Australia, Commonwealth and State, had adopted the policy of the Opposition of not intervening in business enterprise this country could not have been opened for settlement. Much of the development accomplished by the government railways was achieved by the expenditure of public money, but no one to-day would contend that that money was not well spent. Just as the pioneers, when they went outback, wanted a railway brought to them, so the people of this country to-day want the Government to see that they have a Government controlled shipping line that will be operated in the interests, and for the development of Australia, and not primarily for private profit. The difference between a government-owned shipping line and a privately owned one is that the former works for the benefit of the country and the people, whereas the latter is operated for the purpose of making profits for those who provide the capital to operate it. By establishing u government line of ships we hope to obtain the best type of ships and the best possible conditions for seamen.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I have always subscribed to the view that it is necessary to have a shipbuilding industry in Australia. Such an industry is beneficial for this country. It is pleasing to know that under this bill further opportunities are to be given to the already established shipbuilding industry that has done so much for Australia in both peace and war.
– Hear, hear!
– I strongly object at this stage, however, to the provisions in the bill that debar the immediate purchase of ships from overseas.’ At the present time we are in dire straits in the matter of material supplies because of a succession of unfortunate industrial troubles in the coal-mining industry, which have held up production of iron and steel and have thereby assisted our potential enemies by giving them a greater lead in such production and manufacture. We know the value of steel in the defence and development of a nation, and our potential enemies also know its value in aggression. Britain has exceeded all expectations by its recovery from the ravages of the war and the damage done to its production potential. Britain if again providing 56 per cent, of the shipping requirements of the world. Australia’s production of iron and steel meetonly 60 per cent, of our requirements, and is probably only 50 per cent, of the production that could be achieved by out plants. Our primary producers have been waiting for a long time for equipment made from steel, and are suffering under great disabilities because of the lag in steel production. The manufacture of iron and steel for essential wire netting to control the rabbit menace, and for farming implements has been held up because of industrial trouble. Manufacturers are always telling honorable members of this Parliament that they wish that they could obtain materials to provide the equipment and replacements required by primary industry. Yet with all these shortages of goods made from steel, the Government intends to engage in the building of ships in Australia, thus eating further into available steel supplies and aggravating the already desperate shortage. As I stated in my speech during the debate on the second reading, we face the great steel consumption that will be occasioned by the Snowy River scheme and also by the determination of the Government to standardize the gauge of railway systems throughout Australia in addition to the requirements of steel for the shipbuilding industry. The necessity to provide steel for those ventures will cause further delay in the provision of equipment for our primary industries.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable gentleman must confine his remarks to the clause under discussion.
– The bill provides that no ship shall be purchased abroad for service on the Australian coast. But steel to build a ship here may be bought abroad from the United States of America thus creating further dollar shortages. The Government proposes to put the present measure into operation although the joint capacity of all the shipyards in Australia is only three 6,000-ton vessels a year. I support the provisions of sub-clauses 2 and 3 of this clause. I appreciate the disabilities that have been suffered by districts on the Queensland coast, and no doubt also on the “Western Australian coast, owing to the shortage of shipping. The existing companies have not provided those districts with an adequate service and perhaps the bill will assist in that direction. Sub-clause 2 reads -
Where, in the opinion of the Minister, a shipping service is necessary to meet the requirements of a particular area and it is desirable in the public interest that a shipping service should be provided for that area, the Minister may direct the Board to establish, maintain and operate, or to continue to maintain and operate, a shipping service for the purpose of meeting those requirements.
The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr; Davidson) and I, along with other honorable members on the Opposition side, know that shipping deficiencies in many parts of Australia have led to great inconvenience to the public and to unemployment because of the non-arrival of raw materials. In one instance the arrival of supplies of coke for “Walters Limited, and steel for Bundaberg was held up because ship cooks demanded an increase in the numbers of cooks. Such industrial troubles have had a serious effect on production in many areas and, as I have: said, have caused unemployment and great in convenience. Households have had to go. without essentials’ and women and children have suffered as a result. I hope, that this bill will make it possible for shipping companies to buy from the Government the ships that they require to augment their services..
, - I shall bring the committee back to the clause that it is supposed to be considering. I remind honor able members opposite, who apparently do not know the story of their own administration or have forgotten all about it, having been so long out of office and having become reconciled to the cold shades of opposition, that the Menzies Government established the Shipping Control Board by authority of a regulation passed under the National Security Act. The same Government also established the Australian Shipbuilding Board by means of another regulation under the same act-
– Hear, hear!
– Although the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) was not here at the time, he says, “ hear, hear ! “ The Australian Shipbuilding Board is still functioning under National Security regulations, but before the end of this year it would probably be necessary to pass legislation to give the board statutory authority, or else let it go out of existence. The Australian Shipping Board took over the functions of several boards, including those of the Shipping Control Board. The Australian Shipping Board is in existence at the p resent time and the clause now before the committee seeks to make it permanent. Although other clause* of the bill give it existence, this is the clause which makes its establishment a certainty. The Australian Shipping Board, as I have said before, has. a staff of 125 operating under its authority. They constitute the executive staff and operate the largest single fleet of steamers and freighters travelling around the Australian coast. One would imagine from the speeches of honorable members opposite, and particularly those of the shellbacked tories and inveterate reactionaries, that the board has no staff, that it has merely anominal existence, andthat a great deal of time would be occupied stealing staff from other establishments. The truth of the matter is that the board is the biggest shipping organization operating in this country at the present time. It trades to Tasmanian, Western Australian and Queensland ports. It is a very large, active, and effective organization. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) spoke wisely when he mid -that he was not going to wipe out small .shipbuilding yards in iris electorate.
– They are .big shipbuilding yards.
– They are comparatively small.
– Although only small ships are built the .yards are .big.
Mar. CALWELL. - All ‘things are relative. The yards are not as big as the shipbuilding yards at Cockatoo or Williamstown, .although they are important yards. What the ‘honorable member for Wide Bay :has said to-night conflicts completely with what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said in the course of his speech during the second-reading debate. That right honorable ‘gentleman said -that it was doubtful whether (the building -of ships, which was essentially .and assembling industry, could -ever be carried out economically ‘.by -a number of small yards hundreds of yards apart. <Qf course, what the right honorable ‘gentleman desires is that these shall be no shipbuilding in Australia, .and that we shall ‘import ships from England. It is considered by this Government that if the Australian market is (reserved entirely .for the Australian yards, that will ,be sufficient .to enable them to operate economically.. Whether our yards be .situated in Queensland, South -Australia, Western Australia, or .in Tasmania, ‘.they can do very useful work. I -cannot see why (there should he so much discussion -about this clause.
The bogy of nationalization has been dragged into this discussion. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull,) spoke about socialization. Whilst he does not want .socialization of shipping, he .believes in socialized water conservation .schemes for the farmers of his -electorate. If he were to say -that he did not believe in .government controlled water conservation schemes he would not “be a member of the Parliament for much longer; he may not be here for very Jong anyway. The argument against socialization is very weak. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said in a speech -as long ago as 1927, that it is very late in the day to declaim against govern- ment-owned enterprise .or government ownership pf any .sort. All the older conservatives ,in this Parliament, the hillbillys, and the honorable gentlemen who would be too reactionary to -be admitted even into -the Dixie-crat party in the United States pf America, have attacked this clause because it -empowers the board to ‘do something effective. The fact .that an enterprise is conducted under national ownership, does not make it bad from the point of view of administration. From my point -of view, and from the point of view of every Labour man, Government control of shipping is important. With the profit motive removed, there will be a very fair .chance of the whole scheme .succeeding. If this line succeeds as well as the one that was destroyed by the infamous Bruce-Page Government, it will be very successful. I challenge the Opposition * now to .get the -right honorable member for North Sydney to participate in this debate. He is in this building; lie was here this afternoon. T. told him the other day-
– Why does not the Minister .bring the honorable member for East. Sydney ,(Mr,. Ward) into the -debate?
– I invite honorable members opposite to bring into this debate the man who protested against the destruction of the- former Australian Shipping Board, and who too’k Iris opposition to the point of the vote. Let the right honorable gentleman come into this chamber to offer opposition to this clause’! Honora’ble members -opposite could not get him into the House to vote against the second reading of this bill, -or to speak in favour of it. He would not sink -as low as they have sunk in their attempt to discredit this bill. The clause before the committee is a vital one. If the Opposition cannot induce the right honorable member for North Sydney to join in the de’bate, it must stand ashamed :by his refusal ibo identify himself .with its ‘deliberate effort at sabotage.
.- At the outset the Minister for Information ;(Mr. Calwell) told us that he was going to bring us back to the clause before .the committee. Having heard him speak, I am sure that honorable members will agree that he gave us only the kind of information that we expect to get from him and his department. Having rightly said that the clause is one of the vital clauses of the bill, he ignored it during the remainder of his remarks. Therefore it becomes necessary to say a word or two about it. The clause sets out the powers, functions and duties of the Australian Shipping Board. It is a clause of considerable detail. The salient feature, a* one examines it, is the great weight of responsibility that it will throw upon the Minister for Shipping and Fuel. If honorable members will have a look at the clause they will find that the board is to have power to purchase, lease, or charter ships or to dispose of any ship that it owns, subject in each instance to the approval of the Minister. If the board wishes to expend an amount in excess of £5,000 on the purchase of land, buildings or wharfs, or if it wishes to dispose of any plant, equipment, stocks or other gods acquired by it, it must secure the approval of the Minister. If it wants to take a lease for a period exceeding five years; if it wants to purchase plant, equipment, stock, or other goods that are necessary for the carrying on of its business, to a value of more than £20,000, it must also secure the approval of the Minister. It must advise the Minister on the design of ships to be built in Australia, and of the action necessary to maintain and develop the shipping industry and the shipbuilding industry in Australia. Although the Australian Shipping Board will have a very wide range of duties thrust upon it by this vital clause, it is easy to see that the Minister himself is to be kept extremely busy in considering decisions which cannot be translated into action until he has approved of them. As honorable members opposite have stressed, the shipbuilding industry is vital to Australia. The economic and efficient conduct of shipping lines is also vital to Australia. The building of ships in Australia is essential to our defence and to the continuance in employment of several thousand persons. The great responsibilities that are to be exercised by the Australian Shipping Board in relation to the shipbuilding industry and shipping are to be subject to the approval of the
Minister. That paragon of administrative efficiency is to be none other than our old friend, the Leader of the Senate, Senator Ashley. He is to be the man to make the lightning decisions and translate into efficiently conducted industries our shipbuilding and shipping. It is no reflection on him to say that he has passed by many years the age at which public servants are compulsorily retired. It is no reflection on him to say also that, whatever useful services he has given to Australia over many years, it is doubtful whether he had any knowledge of shipbuilding or shipping, as a part of his work, before he joined the Ministry. Yet this man, well beyond the Public Service retiring age, with many weighty political duties as Leader of the Senate, is to have thrust upon him the tremendous burden of the administrative responsibilities set out in the clause. It does not require much imagination to see how this kind of political management will work out. Only a year or two ago Mr. A. B. Corbett, who had retired from the Commonwealth Public Service after having devoted nearly a lifetime to the service of Australia, gave a warning to u? when we were contemplating the management of another vital industry, theairlines industry. He said -
Nothing can prevent political interferenceand disorganization in any industry owned by the Government in which untrained and inexperienced Ministers assume the role of managing directors, and override the advice of trained executives.
That is precisely what the Government proposes in this clause. If the Parliament is prepared to ignore the sound advice of a man experienced in administration, may I quote a man whose authority and warnings have taken a high place in theEnglishspeaking world. I quote from a speech made by Mr. Winston Churchill on this very point. Dealing with political management, he said -
Management by whom? Is it to be management by business men under all the inducements of profit and all the penalties of bankruptcy, or is it to be management by politiciansinterested in their careers or prejudiced by their party doctrines, who are assisted in their task by officials themselves impartial in the sense that it makes no difference tothem whether the industry shows a profit or a loss?
Those remarks are as pertinent to the conduct hy the Australian Government of shipbuilding and shipping as they were to the steel industry of Great Britain, to which Mr. Churchill addressed himself.
I do not think our experience of the membership of other boards associated with shipping can inspire the confidence of either the Parliament or the country in the membership of the Australian Shipping Board when it has been appointed. One of the most active Communists in Australia, Mr. J. Healy, was appointed by the Government to the Stevedoring Industry Commission. The Government also appointed another leading Australian Communist, the secretary of the Seamen’s Union. Mr. E. V. Elliott, to the Maritime Industry Commission. If that example is followed by the Government, leading Communists will be appointed to the Australian Shipping Board.
I turn to another extraordinary provision inserted in legislation that deals with an industry that is to be conducted by the Government. I refer to subclause 5 of clause 15. It is extraordinary, because it sets out in advance to make provision for the losses that the board will incur in its operations. We are to have a board with supreme authority and sweeping powers to fix freights. The Australian Shipping Board, as at present constituted, under National .Security Regulations, recently fixed freights much in excess of those to which we were accustomed. Between 1939 and 1948, the freight between Sydney and Melbourne rose from. 22s. to 67s. a ton. The greater part of the increase occurred when the Australian Shipping Board was in control of the Australian coastal ships. Despite the high freights, which are almost ruinous to Australian industries, the Australian Shipping Board has incurred high losses in each year of its operations. It has “lost £10,000,000 in the last three year». So the Government proposes an overall indemnity against future losses. That is a surrender of the normal parliamentary process, whereby, when provision has to “be made for public utilities out of public funds, the Government justifies the provision year by year, either in the Esti mates or in special appropriations. In this instance, the Government confesses to the losses of the past and, assuming that they will be incurred in the future, asks the Parliament to give a blanket indemnity to cover future losses. That gives us little hope for success from the new Australian Shipping Board.
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has criticized the provision that the Australian Shipping Board must have the approval of the Minister before it does certain things. Provisions of that sort are common to all measures establishing boards. The provision is made because the Australian Shipping Board will he expending public money and, if the expenditure of public money is to be properly controlled, the Minister responsible to the Parliament ought to have the last say in its expenditure. Quite obviously, the honorable member for Fawkner desires to see a position arise where the board can expend money without first obtaining the approval of the Minister; and then, should that happen, honorable members opposite would be able to blame the Minister and the Government for having allowed expenditure to be incurred without ministerial approval. When honorable members opposite cannot get it one way they want to get it another way. I imagine that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) will not support the remarks just made by the honorable member for Fawkner, because the honorable member for Barker on one occasion crossed the floor of the chamber and voted with the Government on a similar issue. He recognizes clearly that the Minister must have complete control over all matters coming within the jurisdiction of has department. On this occasion the honorable member for Fawkner cannot claim that he has the undivided support of his colleagues in the Opposition parties.
The honorable member for Fawkner proceeded to criticize the provision which he claimed indicated that the Government already faced a position where the Australian Shipping Board would make losses. I relate that provision to sub-clause1 2 of the clause: before the Chain: That sub-clause, which, the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr: Beale) also mentioned, reads - (2. ) Where, in. the’ opinion of the Minister, a. shipping service is necessary to meet the requirements of a particular area and it is desirable in the public interest that a shipping service should be provided for that area, the Minister may direct the Board to establish, maintain and operate, or to continue to maintain and operate, a shipping service for- the purpose of meeting those requirements.
All honorable members know perfectly well that a shipping service, if it is to be run at cost, cannot be provided to certain isolated parts of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons), who talks about the. shipping requirements of Tasmania in season and out of season in this chamber, knows perfectly well that the shipping, requirements of that State cannot be met unless- certain services are. run at a loss. Yet’, her colleague the honorable member for Fawkner suggests that the Government is not justified’ in making provision under this measure for services to certain ports in Tasmania which inevitably must be run at. a loss.. What’ does she think about the contention of her colleague that all shipping services provided by the board should necessarily be run at a profit, or, at least, at cost? If she accepts that argument she. must eat the words which she’ has uttered on many occasions in this chamber in relation to the shipping requirements of Tasmania.
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) and the honorable member for Parramatta criticized the installation of McNeil instead of Babcock and Wilcox boilers in certain vessels which operated’ on the north coast of Australia.
– Eventually those boilers were replaced, by Babcock and Wilcox boilers.
– That is. not quite true. However,, for a period during the,war the Government- could, not-, obtain Babcock and Wilcox boilers for all itevessels and Engineer Rear-Admiral P. C. McNeil designed) ai boiler to- meet that emergency. When honorable members! opposite criticize; those boilers; they do. am injustice, to at very gallant member of Australia’s naval forces.. In the early stages1,, some- of those boilers: broke down, owing to faults in design, but those> faults were overcome and, subsequently, McNeil boilers- were- installed and they operated satisfactorily in many vessels.. F. repeat, that in. the, emergency with which we were faced, during the war, w.e- had to obtain boilers- other, than Babcock and Wilcox, boilers, and Engineer. RearAdmiral. McNeil was entrusted, with the.work of designing a. substitute, boiler. He did the best he could, and it ill becomes, the honorable member for Wentworth to criticize the work of that expert in the. circumstances I have- indicated.
The honorable- member foi- Darwin dealt with sub-clause 1 of the clause- now before the Chair, which’ empowers the Australian Shipping.- Board’ to operate shipping services between, certain places. She’ made it’ quite clear that the boa-ni was- not- being’ given power to. operate shipping services between two places- in the one- State.. The reason for that i? perfectly obvious: The Government has not the power under the. Constitution to operate: intra-state shipping services. Then she asked, what the position would, be. with respect to. shipping services- to King. Island. She- proceeded to explain that timber was.- waiting shipment from the mainland of Tasmania to. that island, and then asked, whether- the Constitution permitted a vessel operated by. the, Australian. Government to take that timber from the mainland of Tasmania and land it on King Island when the vessel was en route to a mainland State. The honorable, member expressed, the opinion that since the vessel would be providing a service between, two ports in the one State such action, would not- be constitutional. In this instance the wish was father to the thought. The honorable, member was not justified in coming to that conclusion because the courts havenever given a decision on such an issue. I am- not a lawyer, but I consider that the landing of freight on King- Island insuch, circumstances would be but an incident on the- voyage of the vessel from the mainland of Tasmania, to the mainland, of Australia..
– Why has the Government failed: to make provision, in. this clause for such circumstances?
– Because it is not necessary to do so. I am now dealing with a vessel which operates from a place in one State to a place in another State and incidentally calls at another place in the State from which it departs. There is no need to insert a provision of the kind suggested by the honorable member for Barker. The honorable member for Darwin says that if a Commonwealth line is to be set up none of its vessels would be permitted to unload timber from the mainland of Tasmania at King Island. The implication of her argument is that whatever profit is to he made by providing such a service must be made by private shipping companies which are not bound by any such rules as, evidently, she believes will bind vessels controlled by the Australian Government. The honorable member has departed a long way from the principles which she espoused 20 years ago, and to which she owes the place she occupies in the public life of Australia to-day.
– The Minister has wobbled a bit since the old United Australia partyAustralian Country party days.
– I was never a member of the United Australia party. I did not change my political allegiance for personal advantage. In my opinion, if the Commonwealth ran a line of steamers from the island of Tasmania to the main.land of Australia and a Commonwealthowned vessel on that service called at King Island en route, it would be able to take timber from Tasmania to King Island. Nobody can say whether it would be constitutional or unconstitutional to do so, but I am prepared to chance my arm. That applies not only to King Island but also to other ports in Tasmania. There are vessels operating now between the mainland of Australia and the island of Tasmania, some of which go to Launceston, from there to Devonport and from Devonport to Burnie. The interpretation of the Constitution that has been put forward by the honorable member for Darwin would, if it were correct, mean that no vessel which left Victoria could, if it called first at Launceston, deliver the rest of its cargo at Burnie or Devonport.
My interpretation of the Constitution - and it yet remains to be proved to ‘be wrong-
– That is the point. I expressed my opinion of the constitutional position and the Minister is now expressing his opinion.
– That is true. The point I make is that the honorable member’s interpretation suits the interests of the .private shipping companies.
– This is not a family brawl.
– The honorable gentleman should keep out of it. I desire to make my view of the position quite clear. If a Commonwealth line of steamers were operating between the mainland of Australia and the island of Tasmania its vessels would, in my opinion, be entitled to take cargo from the port on the mainland from which they departed to their first port of call in Tasmania and to other ports in Tasmania at which they might call subsequently. The calls at the various ports would be mere incidents, the main operation being the transfer of cargo from one State to another. I have dealt with this matter in some detail because I want it to be perfectly clear that, in my opinion, the Constitution allows that to be done.
.- The Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) has, as usual, twisted the arguments of members of the Opposition, put words into their mouths that they have not used, and credited them with thoughts which they do not entertain. The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) spoke earlier in the debate on this clause and thoroughly thrashed the Minister, but he waited until the honorable member had, under the Standing Orders, no right to speak further on the clause before attempting to reply. The gallant gentleman made his reply at a time when he could not be answered by the honorable member whom he challenged. The honorable member for Darwin said that if the Australian Shipping Board established a service to King Island from Tasmania it would be unconstitutional for its vessels to call at King Island if they had called previously at other Tasmanian ports. The Minister has said repeatedly that he is no lawyer, but to-night he gave us a dissertation on constitutional law and said that he was prepared to chance his arm. I do not think that he is prepared to chance it very far. He certainly will not chance his own money to test the legality of this provision, although he will chance the money of the Australian taxpayers by employing legal men to do so. I suggest that if the Minister really believed what he has said about this clause, and was certain that what the honorable member for Darwin has said to-night was incorrect, he would have come into the chamber after the suspension of the sitting this evening armed with an opinion from the Attorney-General’s Department. The honorable gentleman has said that he is prepared to chance his arm, but apparently he is not prepared to chance the opinion of his legal advisers. The whole of his speech in reply to the honorable member for Darwin reeked of insincerity.
In connexion with the bill generally, but particularly in connexion with this clause-
– The honorable gentleman cannot deal with the bill generally.
– I do not propose to do so. The clause makes provision for the establishment of a Commonwealth shipping line. If I thought that the establishment of such a line would result in better services being provided for the people of Australia than could be provided by the private shipping companies
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The clause deals with the powers of the board.
– It deals with the establishment of a Commonwealth shipping line. Sub-clause 1 (n) provides that the board shall have power to advise the Minister as to the action necessary to maintain and develop the shipping industry and the shipbuilding industry in Australia. I am dealing specifically with that. I should support this bill if I thought that it would result in a better, cheaper, more modern and more polite service being provided for the public, but the history of governmental enterprises and experiments is such that the Australian taxpayers can have no confidence that that will be so. Their experience shows that the reverse of that is likely to happen. The coal mines and other enterprises that have been taken over by the Government have incurred huge losses. In 1927 “the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers incurred a loss of £595,000 and in 1928 a loss of over £500,000. During the period that it was in existence its losses were more than £2,000,000. Money that is lost by a government instrumentality has to come from somewhere; ultimately it comes from the pockets of the Australian people in the form of higher costs of living. The extravagances of governments must be paid for. They are paid for, unfortunately, by the working men, the housewives and all who contribute to the Consolidated Revenue. Minister after Minister, in speaking to this clause, proclaimed that this is not a socialization measure. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) said that the Opposition was parading a socialization bogy. The Minister for Defence said that this was not a measure to nationalize the shipping industry and that nothing was further from the Government’s mind than that. If that be so, it is remarkable that the objectives of the Labour party, as amended on the 1st February, 1949: only six weeks ago, called for the n ationalization
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable gentleman is getting away from the clause.
– I am coming on to it.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable gentleman had better come on to it quickly.
– The objectives of the Labour party call for the nationalization and socialization of shipping.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.This clause does not deal with the nationalization and socialization of shipping.
– It does deal with that. It provides for the establishment of a Commonwealth shipping line.
– I am talking of the clause.
– I also am talking of the clause. If you read it, Mr. Temporary Chairman, you will see that that is exactly what it does.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The Chair has informed the honorable gentleman that the clause does not deal with the nationalization and socialization of shipping.
– If it does not deal with the socialization of shipping, it deals with the taking over of shipping by the Government and the elimination of private enterprise from the industry. Perhaps I may put it that way. If the aim of the Government as expressed in this clause is not to bring about the socialization of the shipping industry it is at least to give the Government a monopoly in the shipping industry. The Government proposes to eliminate private shipping lines, not by the payment of compensation, as is to be the case with the banks if the banking legislation survives the test in the Privy Council, but by n process of squeeze. First a snipping company will have to obtain a licence to construct or purchase a ship. Then it will have to obtain a licence to operate the ship for a period of four years. Finally, it will have to dispose of its vessels after they are 24 years old. If those provisions do not constitute an attempt to bring about the nationalization of the shipping industry, I do not know what the word “ nationalization “ means. Much has been said during this debate about the slow turn-round of ships. If it were possible to persuade the waterside workers to return to their 1939 standards of loading, one ship could do the work of almost three ships. Here are some interesting figures that were supplied to me in connexion with the cargoes carried by the vessel Nairana from Burnie and Devonport to Melbourne. In February, 1939, the vessel carried 512 tons on each trip. In February, 1949, it carried from those ports an average of only 202 tons on each trip. Thus, the average tonnage carried from those ports to-day is only two-fifths of that carried in 1939. The position, however, is a little worse than is indicated by those figures. In 1939, the vessel made two trips weekly between those ports; now, on an average it makes only one trip a week. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) said to-night that the government shipping line will be successful because the profit motive will be eliminated and because the crews will work for the good of the State instead of for the benefit of private enterprise. Every individual in the community, the working man, the farmer, the shopkeeper, the solicitor, the professional man, and even a member of Parliament, to some degree is actuated by the profit motive. Private members of Parliament aim to become Ministers, Ministers aim to become Prime Ministers, and so the incentive to profit runs right through every avocation in the community.
– Order! The honorable member must discuss the clause.
– Some honorable members even aspire to become temporary chairman of committees.
– The Prime Minister might do well to watch those around him and see how far the profit motive is likely to lead them. The proposals contained in this bill represent a gesture of honesty on the part of the Prime Minister who has proclaimed himself to be wedded to socialist ideals. This bill is the closest approach to the implementation of Labour’s policy of nationalizing the shipping industry that the Government dares to make.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member has already made his second-reading speech. He must confine his remarks to the clause.
– I am not departing from the clause.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Chair does not agree with the honorable member.
– This clause deals with the establishment of Commonwealth shipping services for which the taxpayers must ultimately pay, first, in inferior services because almost every service operated by a government instrumentality is inferior to that provided by private enterprise, and secondly, in higher costs because it is a noteworthy fact that where governments enter the field of private enterprise, costs rise considerably, let us consider the history of Trans-Australia Airlines. I am well aware that the Minister for Defence will reply that the fares charged by TransAustralia Airlines are the same as those charged by the competitive private airlines. That is true; hut it is also true that to the 30th June last the operations of Trans-Australia Airlines resulted in a loss of £808,000 of the taxpayers’ money. If the fares charged by the government airline had been based on its operating expenses, excluding profits, they would be 50 per cent, higher than they are to-day.
– What losses have been incurred by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited?
– The Minister’s interjection reveals the state of mind of Government members in relation to private enterprises. He knows perfectly well that no private company that is challenged by the Government can survive in the long run. In time the private airlines of Australia will be eliminated, just as the private shipping companies will be squeezed out of business if this bill becomes law. The elimination of private enterprise from the fields invaded by the Government will follow as surely as night follows day. The Government will squeeze the private shipping companies out of business by refusing to issue permits, by making it difficult for them to operate their services, and by compelling them to sell ships that have not passed their useful period of life. They will be eliminated by economic pressure. The same fate awaits private enterprise in any activity in which the Government decides to engage. Recently the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said that he did not propose to nationalize every ice-cream stall and every hot pie shop throughout Australia. It is pleasing to know that the right honorable gentleman’s nationalization plans would at least fall short of that.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I propose to reply to some statements that have been made by honor able members opposite, particularly the criticism of the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). The Minister for Shipping and Fuel is a conscientious, able, and tactful administrator. Indeed, the manner in which he has carried out his duties entitles him to rank as one of the most outstanding Ministers in this Government. Unfortunately he cannot reply to the criticism levelled against him in this chamber. The attitude adopted by honorable members opposite towards this bill is, to say the least, paradoxical. In their attempt to defend the private shipping interests they have completely overlooked the interests of the private shipbuilding firms in Australia which are of far more importance. In Australia there are six major shipbuilding yards, five of them being under the control of private enterprise. The shipyards are located in four States, and extend from Whyalla, in South Australia, to Maryborough, in Queensland. In introducing a bill to give an impetus te the shipbuilding industry the Government is therefore doing a good service to private enterprise. Honorable members opposite cannot have it both ways. If this bill were rejected the Australian shipbuilding industry would be retarded and eventually reduced to stagnation. This problem is a vital one, which is closely associated with our defence policy. It is impossible to talk about shipbuilding without our discussions having some relation to the defence needs of Australia. Any progressive policy that foresees and provides for the future is deserving of some support and consideration. The bill provides not only for the future protection of Australia, but also for the stabilization of our economy by the provision of continued employment in the shipbuilding industry. Although the Opposition generally has taken advantage of the occasion to attack and criticize the Government on this issue, only one of its members, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser), has seen fit to make some modified contribution to the debate. * Shipbuilding does not affect members of the Government and their supporters alone; it also affects members of the Opposition. Therefore, this should not be merely an occasion for slashing and bashing the Government for the sake of some parochial advantage. The fact is that this is one of the most important bills that has been debated in this Parliament in recent weeks. Its significance and its implications are such that they cannot be overstated. I think that it is generally recognized that the shipbuilding industry in Australia is of major importance. The Government, by pursuing its policy, is making a great contribution to the development of the industry. In conclusion, I refer to the situation at Cockatoo Island dockyard. In 1933 an agreement was concluded lo lease the island to private enterprise for a period of 21 years. I hope that it will return to the control of the Government when the lease expires. The sorry record of the Opposition parties in relation to such matters cannot inspire confidence. First, they disposed of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers and then, in 1933, they handed over to private enterprise a major unit of the shipbuilding industry at Cockatoo Island. They leased it under terms that were most unfavorable to the Government, but most favorable to the company. I hope that this country will never again witness a repetition of those two incidents. The bill will give an impetus to the shipbuilding industry in Australia, and I believe that the Government’s policy will have the wholehearted support and co-operation of people throughout the Commonwealth. I am confident that, notwithstanding the slogans that the Opposition has thrown into this debate, the people really appreciate the importance of the industry and will applaud and support the Government for the action that it has taken in introducing the measure.
– As I did not take part in the second-reading debate, I may be pardoned for speaking on this clause, which is the real kernel of the bill in that it contains, with the exception of a few items, all the powers that the Government may exercise under the bill when it becomes law. This evening we have had the pleasure of listening to three Ministers of his Majesty’s Government - the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), the Minister for Information (Mt. Calwell), and the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman), who is in charge of the bill. In addition, we have heard from two private members on the Government side of the chamber who represent sea-ports - the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. O’Connor). The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture had a great deal to say that was irrelevant to the clause. His relevant comments dealt with conditions on the wharfs. In relation to that subject, I shall cite statistics to show what has happened at the Glebe Island conveyors in Sydney, where wheat, one of our chief export commodities, is loaded in bulk into ships. The figures cover a period from 1938 to 1946, inclusive, and show the hourly rate of loading wheat. They are as follows: -
Taking the first of those figures, which is not the highest, and taking the last of the figures, which is not the lowest, wc discover a general downward trend in the rate of loading of wheat from the elevators to the ships. The figures that I have cited show a reduction of 40 per cent, in the hourly rate of loading. It stands to reason that, if that rate of decrease continues, loading will be discontinued altogether twelve years hence. I have other illuminating figures dealing with the discharging and loading of cargoes. During the three years 1937, 193S and 1939, SO vessels spent 701 days in port. They discharged cargo at the rate of 804 tons daily for each ship. During the three postwar years, 1945, 1946 and 1947. 63 ships spent 1,406 days in port, more than twice the number of days listed in the previous example. The rate of discharge of cargo was 355 tons daily for each ship, less than half the rate of unloading maintained during 1937. 193S and 1939. The figures dealing with the rate of loading of cargoes are equally interesting. In the three years 1937, 1938 and 1939, 105 ships spent 1,969 days in port and the rate of loading for each vessel was 434 tons daily. During the three years 1945, 1946 and 1947, 86 ships spent 1,685 days in port and the rate of loading for each ship was 321 tons daily. To summarize the situation, interstate shipping tonnage has increased hy 42 per cent, since 1939, hut the volume of cargo carried has decreased by 7.2 per cent. There must he an explanation for that state of affairs. One explanation is that the great State of New South Wales is not producing the steel and other products that are needed in other States and therefore the interstate cargoes which should be offering are not offering. One of the commodities that are not being produced in sufficient quantity is coal. In Queensland, sugar is not being shipped, and therefore, while we are rationed for sugar and can usually get only brown sugar in the southern States, sugar is going to waste in northern Queensland. Another interesting fact that has a bearing on the Government shipbuilding proposals was revealed by official figures released last year, which showed that the quantity of crude pig iron produced in New South Wales in 1947 represented only 60 per cent, of the quantity that was produced in 1939. Last year, according to figures that I saw recently, the output fell by a further 1 per cent. While the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture talks about engaging in a great shipbuilding effort, companies situated in my electorate are unable to get steel to manufacture plowshares and harrows, which are essential if ships are to have cargoes. Only to-night I received a letter from the Minister in regard to the inability of a factory at Mount Gambier to get steel for the manufacture of fumigators for the destruction of rabbits. The Minister dwelt at some length upon a paper dealing with union matters. The unions have something to explain in relation to the present condition of interstate and international sea traffic. Nobody can convince me that there is any justification for a 40 per cent, reduction of the rate of handling wheat from grain elevators into ships. The men engaged on that work do not have to lump the wheat. I have done some wheat lumping in my time and I know what work is involved in it. The men employed at the Glebe Island conveyors are not engaged in heavy physical work. I have watched ships being loaded with wheat in bulk, and I know that the job does not require a great deal of bullocking. Most of the work is done by machinery. Therefore, the 50-year old story about four bushel bags and lifting wool by hand is not applicable to present-day conditions.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh has referred to the conditions under which seamen live and work. As the honorable gentleman knows the waterfront much better than I do, he is perfectly well aware that every ship on the Australian register has had to comply with Australian conditions ever since the Navigation Act was passed. Having been a trade union official and a member of parliament for twenty years, he also knows that the conditions of seamen are governed by arbitration court awards. In those circumstances, it is futile for the honorable gentleman to say that the shipowners are responsible for the existing conditions. I understand that the crews of some coastal vessels now have two berth cabins, and are demanding single berth cabins. Why does not the honorable gentleman take the matter to the logical conclusion, and suggest that the passengers go into the forecastle and allow the crew to occupy the first-class accommodation? Let us go to extremes, perhaps, and have a special ship accompanying every ship trading on the Australian coast so that proper accommodation may be provided for the crew. The seamen may then transfer from one ship to the other as they finish a watch. We need to cite a ridiculous case in order to show the position in its true light.
During this debate, some honorable members opposite have referred to “ coffin ships I am well aware that, in by-gone days, ships that were not seaworthy were sent to sea. Similar ships are still going to sea. under some flags. Worn out vessels in Great Britain, the United States of America, the Scandinavian countries and Australia always find a ready market in Panama, Japan and certain other places. But every ship on our own register must undergo every three years a Lloyd’s survey the like of which is not made in some countries. Those ships cannot be insured unless the survey is undertaken. If private enterprise is the niggardly institution that some honorable members opposite would have us believe, it will at least keep its ships in such a state of repair that insurance companies will accept the risk. Selfishness dictates that.
Earlier, the Minister referred to intrastate shipping. I point out to the honorable gentleman, who is responsible for piloting this bill through the House of Representatives, that sub-clause 1 of clause 15 enumerates the places between which Commonwealth-owned vessels may run. But the clause does not give the Minister authority to send the Commonwealth’s ships from one port in a State to another port in the same State. That omission is significant. The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) has already told the committee about the difficulties in respect of King Island. In my electorate, certain difficulties arise regarding Kangaroo Island. Listening to the speech of the Minister to-night, one would think that every port in the Commonwealth would be catered for by the government-owned line. I tell him that certain ports in the Commonwealth cannot be catered for by the Commonwealth ships unless the bill is amended, or he is prepared to come to an agreement with State governments. Whether he will be prepared to do that, I do not know. My own feeling is that if he should, unfortunately for the country, remain in office for another three years, he, or somebody else, who is responsible for the Commonwealth shipping line, will be watching the Auditor-General’s report with considerable interest. Debates will take place in this chamber about the conduct of the line. These matters are of vital concern to some ports in the Commonwealth. South Australia probably has more active outports than has any other State with the possible exception of Queensland. Among them are Ceduna, which is a long way around on the west coast, Port Lincoln, Port Augusta, Port Pirie, Port Victoria, and Wallaroo, in addition to Port Adelaide, which is the main port of the State. Kangaroo Island has two ports, and I understand that, in the near future, a new port will be made at Cape Jaffa. Under this bill, the Government will not be able to do anything for the ports of South Australia. The Commonwealth shipping line will not serve them. The Minister may talk about the Commonwealth line’s right to ship timber from Tasmania to King Island, if one of its vessels happens to be making a voyage between Tasmania and Victoria, but an important constitutional point is involved. As the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has explained, it is not the Minister’s money that will be risked in solving that constitutional point. The poor old taxpayer will again pay the bill. This clause is chock-full of constitutional points. One of the questions that I should like to have settled - and I have no doubt that it will be settled in the High Court or perhaps the Privy Council - is whether the Government has a right to issue a licence in respect of interstate shipping. I do not believe that it has that authority. In my opinion, that issue was -settled in the James case, and I do not think that the Government has any more right to issue licences in respect of ships trading between one State and another than it had to issue licences for the transference of dried fruits between one State and another. Therefore, the foundation upon< which this bill is supposed to be built is false. It is time that the Parliamentexamined this matter. I do not think that all the previous governments in the history of the Commonwealth incurred legal costs comparable with those that ‘the Chifley Government has incurred in resolving constitutional issues. It is high time that the law was altered in regard to happy-go-lucky trips to London when the Privy Council is hearing a constitutional case. If Ministers who introduce legislation that becomes the subject of litigation had to bear a. portion of the financial responsibility for the costs that they foist upon the public, they would be less eager to bring before the Parliament controversial legislation that raises constitutional points. Such legislation is introduced in the first instance, not to- assist the community as a whole, but to carry out the policy in which the Government believes. Some Ministers believe in it sincerely, but others are like the old fellow who prayed - “ Let us have socialism, 0 Lord, but not in my time “. Some Ministers should be brought up to the mark, because they are attempting to put into operation a policy upon which the electors have never had an opportunity to pronounce judgment. The Government’s principal endeavour is to ensure that legislation relating to that policy shall become law, although it has not complied with the normal democratic procedure of obtaining the approval of the country for vital changes of policy.
The Minister has endeavoured to sow some seeds of dissension among honorable members on this side of the chamber. He rather excels at that past-time, but the harvest is meagre indeed. I have always supported the principle of ministerial responsibility. In my opinion, no democratic community can function successfully unless Ministers of State are responsible to ‘the Parliament for the actions of the departments and boards that they control. However, I consider that when it is necessary to subsidize any activities such as shipping services, the responsible Minister should inform the Parliament of the amount of subsidy that will be paid, and, in accordance with proper constitutional and democratic procedure, ask it to vote the money for that particular purpose. “What the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has objected to is that, under this clause, it will be possible for the Minister to agree to pay certain subsidies in respect of Commonwealth ships and various activities without obtaining the approval of the Parliament.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. O’Connor) made a temperate speech, to which I listened with considerable interest. He stated that an anti-Labour government had sold the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. The same government sold the Australian Commonwealth Line of steamers after that enterprise had incurred heavy losses. The
British shipping company which purchased those steamers later became insolvent. The shipping line and the dock had been controlled by a shipping board. When the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was sold, there was no longer any need for the Australian Commonwealth Shipping Board, which was costing £70,000 a year. The abolition of the board led naturally to the disposal of the dock which it had controlled. That, I submit, was a business-like proposition. The sale of the dock was not a foolish act, but a sound business transaction.
The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has said on two occasions that the shipbuilding yards at Maryborough was the smallest unit in the shipbuilding industry in this country. He created the impression that the Maryborough yards themselves were quite small and he added that they cannot be compared with the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. This, however, is a graving dock, not a shipbuilding yard. In any event, the area of the Walkers Brothers Limited yards at Maryborough far exceeds that of the Cockatoo Island dock. I emphasize, however, that there is no real basis of comparison between the two undertakings. Ships are not built at graving docks, except in special circumstances. A graving dock is primarily for repairs. During World War I. the only two steel ships built in Australia were constructed at Maryborough.’ Just because, during World War II., Walkers Limited was engaged mainly on the construction of small vessels, it is not to be assumed that their yards are of minor importance. There is unlimited room on the Mary River for extensive shipbuilding operations. At a Canadian shipbuilding yard, I saw fourteen 10,000-ton vessels being built side by side. As they were completed they were launched from the one central slipway, and, as each vessel ran down the slipway on a launching cradle, the others were moved closer to the centre on a marine railway. A similar method could be employed on the Mary River. Walkers Limited has established an excellent record over the years, and the ships that the company has built have rendered valuable service to Australia in peace and war .’and have .been a credit to the firm *and the men employed .there.
– I agree with the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that this clause could create constitutional difficulties, but that is no reason why we should not go on with the bill, which is designed to improve shipping services around the Australian coast. If the Constitution does not permit the Commonwealth to do certain things that will benefit the people of this country, there is something wrong with the Constitution, and it should be altered. It can be altered in only one way, “and that is the democratic way - !by means of a referendum “Mr. Archie Cameron .–‘The Government has not had very much luck with referendums so far.
-I know that, but sooner or .later the people will realize the benefits that will now from a widening of the Constitution to permit the Commonwealth to engage in intra-state shipping. We have had the same difficulty with Trans-Australia Airlines, and it is no use shutting our eyes to the-f act ; but that does not mean .that a ‘Commonwealth shipping Tine would not be justified. Even if the Commonwealth vessels cannot engage in intra-state trade, there will ba ample scope for them in interstate ‘services. Both ‘the honorable member f or Barker and the honorable member for Wake’field (Mr. McBride) have alleged that ‘ship’s on the Australian coast to-day are spending -much more time in port than they ‘did in -1930. That does not mean anything.
– Not to the honorable member, perhaps.
– And not to any intelligent person who understands shipping. Before the war there were so many ships plying on the Australian coast that they were able to run to schedule. They left port on time, whether they were full or half empty. It is time honorable members opposite had a chat to men who work on the wharfs and learned something about their work. The honorable member for Wakefield has been talking through a hole in his hat. It is quite correct to say that ships spend more time in port now than they did before the war, but ‘the reason is that they are -all being loaded practically to Capacity. It :is alleged that the ‘wharf labourers are -almost entirely responsible foi- the slow turn-round of ships. The honorable-member for Wakefield said that strikes and stoppages on the water-front, had increased every year since the war, but I have before me ^figures which prove that statement to be entirely untrue. A statement published by the Stevedoring Industry Commission -last year show’s that whereas -1,700,000 .manhours were lost oh the “wharfs in this country in 1947, last y ear ‘ that ^figure had ‘been reduced to 734,000, or -“a reduction ‘. nearly 1,000,000. There has ‘been considerable criticism of ‘the types of ‘ships th-aft the Government is ‘building. Earlier to-day I spoke of the improved loading gear and ‘crews’ quarters which are features of Commonwealth-built vessels. The crews’ quarters are amidships instead of -in -the -forecastle. It is all very -well. for the-honor able member for Bar-ker -to -make -ironical -remarks about the crew requiring a -separate passenger ship -alongside -their -vessel to -accommodate -them .between shifts or paying pakisengers being -herded into the -forecastle while the .crew ‘enjoys luxurious accommodation in a more desirable part of the vessel. That -is ‘all sheer bunkum. -None of the seamen -with ‘whom I have, talked have any such extravagant -ideas-. Surely, a% the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. -Thompson) said, we who have a comfort’able home and perhaps motor cars, -should be the last to begrudge reasonable living standards to mda who -serve on ships. ‘Certainly seamen deserve better treatment than they received before the war-. They should be given comfortable quarters, and so -be ‘encouraged to make seafaring their career-. I am convinced from many talks that I have had recently with the -crews of Commonwealth ships, that they are entirely satisfied with their conditions. M-a-ny of them remember only too well what they endured while sailing on privatelyowned vessels. Sometimes they were not treated as well as were the cattle that their craft carried. For instance, passengers and crews on ships carrying cattle from King Island to Launceston and Melbourne fared little better than the stock. Such conditions prevailed on privately owned vessels until comparatively recently. It is time that the seamen had a better deal. Since 1942, we have built eight “ D “ class vessels of 2,500 tons, thirteen “ River “ class vessels of 9,000 tons, two “E” class vessels of 500 tons, unci two “ B “ class vessels of 6,500 tons, both of which have been sold to private enterprise. We have built a total of 25 ships since 1942. The honorable member for Wimmera. (Mr. Turnbull) asked where the steel for the shipbuilding programme was obtained. There is a certain allocation of steel for shipbuilding, just as there is an allocation of steel for the construction of railway engines, railway tracks, and so on.
– Is there not a shortage of steel?
– We have been able to build those ships in spite of the shortage, and we shall continue building operations. Honorable members opposite frequently criticize the Government’s activities, but the fact remains that Commonwealthbuilt ships are now on the water, and are carrying thousands of tons of cargo each week. There are nine ships under construction. The allocation of steel is adequate to enable the Commonwealth to continue its programme. The speed of government-built vessels is 12 knots, compared with 8 knots for ships built by private enterprise. Take, for instance, the ship built in England for the Union Steam Navigation Company Limited. When it arrived in Australia, the quarters for the crew had to be completely reconditioned in order to conform to Australian standards. Australian shipbuilders have set a very high standard, and it ill becomes any one to ridicule our shipbuilders, our designers, or, for that matter, the crews who work the ships, and the men on the wharfs who handle the cargo. For the most part, the ships belonging to private companies are old, and plug along at a speed of about 8 knots only. Although the quarters for the crews have been improved because of the efforts of the Seamen’s Union, they are still not up to the standard of the accommodation on Commonwealth ships. This is particularly true of the smaller vessels.
There has been much discussion about shipping services to Tasmania, and r ightly so, because Tasmania depends so much upon shipping. Timber is one of Tasmania’s principal exports. Since the end of the war, the trade has greatly increased because of the demand from the building trade in Victoria. However, new shippers are experiencing great difficulty in getting shipping space to take their timber to the mainland. Recent price increases have been responsible for raising the price of timber by11s. a 100 super feet, which represents an increase of £2,750 on 500,000 super feet. Because of the shortage of shipping space, millions of super feet of timber are lying on the wharfs in Tasmania awaiting shipment. The difficulty in obtaining shipping, and the increased price of timber, have forced Victorian buyers to rely largely upon Victorian supplies, and the millers are going back farther and farther into the Victorian bush. They are now cutting in areas which, ordinarily, would not be touched. I have received deputations from timber interests in Tasmania which have explained to me that, if shippers could be assured of a fixed amount of space each week for the carriage of timber, they would have a better chance of retaining the Victorian trade.
– Yet the Government refused to permit a ship of 1,000 tons to be brought here to engage in the Tasmanian trade.
– The honorable member does not want to be reminded of that.
– I supported the application.
– But not with much effect.
– At any rate, I supported it with all the energy at my command. Currie harbour, in King Island, cannot be worked by ships of more than 500 to 600 tons, drawing 6 feet of water. The ideal ship for this port would be a steel vessel of about 500 tons, with a 6-ft. draught. The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) is interested in this matter, because King Island is in her electorate. The residents are entitled to a better shipping service than they have received from private shipping companies. Many of the farmers on King Island fatten cattle, and it often ha ppens that fat stock which are ready for market have to stay in the paddocks for considerable periods awaiting shipmeat. Timber and other supplies from the mainland have been delayed because of the irregularity of the shipping company’s schedule. Altogether, the people have “ had “ the shipping monopoly, which operated Tambar, Narrabeen and Naracoopa. They want modern ships that are fast, clean and run to schedule. I lived on King Island in 1938-39 and .1 know the conditions there at first-hand. The honorable member for Darwin and my colleagues from Tasmania on this side of the chamber are all determined to improve the service to King Island.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- 1 did not intend to speak in the committee stage of the measure, but, after listening carefully to the speeches made by members of the Government and their supporters, I have come to the conclusion that they have a very bad case indeed. The misrepresentation indulged in by honorable senators, who should know better, has impelled me to rise in order to point out a few facts. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), who claims to possess a great knowledge of the shipping industry, which I certainly do not, informed the committee that the reason for the slow turn-round of ships now compared with the pre-war period was that the vessels are now filled to capacity, whereas, he alleged, before the war they were only half filled. That is a complete misstatement of the position. In 1938, 400,000 deadweight tons of shipping carried 8,952,000 tons of cargo. At the present time 586,000 tons of deadweight shipping, which is an increase of 42 per cent, on the 1938 tonnage, carried 1 per cent, less cargo.
– I challenge the correctness of those figures.
– The honorable member may challenge them, but I noticed that he did not cite any figures during the course of his speech to contradict them. The honorable member made certain generalizations, the basis of which, he said, was information ob tained from certain men on the waterfront. How those individuals would know the over-all position of the sea freight of. this country I do not pretend to know. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) read a lot. of flapdoodle about what happened on the Sydney waterfront last year, in an attempt to prove that adverse weather conditions were responsible for the delay that occurred in the loading of wheat. Of course, weather conditions vary, and some adverse weather must be experienced every year. Certainly, there may be more wet weather in some years than in others, but the simple fact is that the loading rate for wheat is calculated over a number of years, and the quantity of wheat loaded in - 1.948 is not included in the calculation. What happened in 1948 has. therefore, nothing to do with the figures given to the House. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) quoted appropriate statistics to-night, and I do not intend to repeat them. The point is that they indicate that the loading rate has been declining steadily during the last few years. The Minister tried to explain away that decline by quoting information that he had obtained from some unknown source but his remarks were nothing more than an attempt to mislead the House. The efficiency with which ships are loaded determines the use which we can make of our coastal vessels.
I have no doubt that the people of Australia will be interested to learn that the bill is designed to improve our coastal shipping services and to expedite the transportation of goods. If the Government is sincere in its desire to expedite the carriage of freight it could turn its attention to a number of matters that require rectification. A great deal has been said about the specifications of the vessels at present in use in the coastal trade and a lot of unwarranted criticism of private shipping companies has been made. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture attributed the shortcomings of many of the vessels that loaded wheat in this country for overseas during the war to the fact that they were designed by private enterprise. He also mentioned that many of those vessels were “ Liberty ships “. Apparently he did not know. or’ completely ignored She fac!,- that fife* “‘Liberty’ ships- “’ were constructed by the; Government of the United States’ of America. I shou’ld’ also’ like She honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson-), who indulged in ai great deal of criticism of ships built by private enterprise,, to bear tha* fact m mind.- In an> attempt to> expedite Cbe1 loading.’ rate: mi to quickenthe’ turn-round of vessels the Stevedoring Industry Commission1 has been given very wide” powers, aird stevedoring companies which realize the necessity for speeding up the’ work, brave’ undertaken’ to supply’ additional’ and more modern’ equipment. What reception was* given to’ the introduction of new cargo-handling equipment on wharfs? The wharf labourer’s have either resisted1 the introduction of new equipment or have deliberately stultified its utility” By adopting’ obstructionist tactics-. In the speech which I delivered* on the second reading, of the measure I mentioned! the use- made by waterside workers of fork-lift trucks. Those trucks are put to only half their legitimate use,, and in many instances they are’ not- used outside the wharf shed’s.Any person of ordinary common sen’s”© would realize th’a’t once cargo is planet in a fork-lift truck- it should b© taken straight out and loaded into a sling. However, the’ “ wharfies “ allow this’ equipment to shift cargo from’ on’ side *&l the shed to the other, and then load it’ into the sling, by hand. A great deal of fuss was made by their union, and all sorts of obstructionist tactics were employed when they were required- to load cargo- directly from the fork-lift truck into the sling. Whilst I believe that the great majority of waterside workers are prepared to do their work efficiently and to put the new equipment to the best rase, the union managers dominate them and compel them to resort to all kinds 01 irresponsible obstructionist tactics. It is of bo use, therefore, for the Minister, the honorable member for Wilmot or the honorable member for Hindmarsh to endeavour to convince themselves and the committee that the slow turn-round of ships is due to the lack of modern facilities. As members of the committee are aware, I was connected with the establishment of the Australian
Ship’ Building- Board’ during the) war,, and I- realize that it is just’- as’ important to foster- the’ shipbuilding mdustry in. peace- as it’ was” in war. lt> Wascurious that the’ Minister’ for’ Defence’ (Mw. Dedman!)., who introduced the measure1,- should- say that one1 of the” strongest Stimuli to1 enterprise’ and progress te competition, because the’ present Government certainly does not favour competition in shipbuilding: It proposes to impose a! complete” embargo on theimportation1 of ships’ Under” such- cond itions it” is not likely that the shipbuilding industry’ will expand an’d1 become efficient’. Whi’l’st it is- essential’, in order’ to encourage the development of an efficient industry im this country, that Australian shipyards shall be given preference, 1 suggest that the imposition, of a blanket embargo on vessel’s from outside Australia will do Australian shipping much more harm than good. In any event, the Government is not anxious to continue into the realm of shipbuilding the doctrine of competition that it so strenuously advocates in shipping. It is an unfortunate fact that many industries’ which Were established to- meet the demands” of- war have had to changeto some other type of production to meet the demands of peace. Consequent’ly, if is probable that some of the less efficient or less suitable yards will have to change over to other types of production. But to say that honorable members on this side of the House desire to kill the shipbuilding industry of this country is” to make a completely false statement. The” Opposition believes that industries’ should be established on an efficient basis so that they can not only produce the requirements of the country but also be able to compete with similar industries in other parts- of the world. This country has an enormous advantage in that respect at the present time. Our shipbuilders can obtain their steel at half the cost that British shipbuilders have to pay and less than, half the cost that shipbuilders in the United States of America have to pay. With that very great initial advantage the various yards of this” country could, of their own volition and given reasonable support and protection, develop Australia’s shipbuilding industry so that it could build ship’s not only for Australia but also for other1 countries. But the industry will not so’ develop because under this bill we shall have an. industry that is completely artificial- iff its1 basis’ and in its- production” and that will undoubtedly be inefficient.. The- very fact that the steel industry of this country, which in its initial stages required only » small degree of protection, has now developed to the point where it: can supply not only oik own requirements but also- compete in overseas markets, is an. example of how great industries can develop’ without Government control. The- steel industry was not developed by a. complete embargo on imports of steel, but was- gradually developed by being given- protection when-, it needed it in its initial’ stages and then being allowed to develop on am efficient basis. I desire to make it- quite clear to the House and to the country that there has1 never been, any desire on this side: of the House to crush the Australian shipbuilding industry, or to prevent- an expansion of the coastal trade of Australia. The simple fact is that we desire to have the most efficient sea transport, because we know very well that the cost of freight is a very important factor in the cost of commodities. To a greater degree than ever before, increasing costs and prices affect the people of this country. As I have pointed out, there has been an extraordinary increase of freight rates during the last three or four years. I have also pointed out that a very substantial part of that increase has been caused by the ever-increasing cost of handling freight between the wharfs and the ships and the ships and the wharfs. The Opposition’s complaint is not that the Government is endeavouring to develop the shipbuilding industry of this country or to improve coastal shipping. Our complaint is that the method that the Government is adopting is not likely to achieve the objectives that it has in mind.
– Order! The honorable gentleman has exhausted his time.,
.- Practically all honorable members opposite who have spoken have criticized the measure of control given to the Minister by this clause. The honorable memberfor Fawkner (Mr. Holt) said that theMinister who will administer this- legislation has passed the retiring ageusually associated with toprankingpublic servants and others. Although I make’ itf quite clear- that a-n advanced age is nothing- to be ashamed of, the Minister is quite a young- man compared withthe right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr: Hughes). At a conservative estimate I should say that he is about twenty years younger than- the right honorable gentleman. At one time the honorable member for Fawkner was Minister for Labour and National Service;, and my research has led me to believe that hia only knowledge of the portfolio was what he had read. He- had very little practical knowledge- of his department.
– The department that I instituted has been carried on in the same form ever since.
– The Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley), who will administer this legislation, can be expected to administer it efficiently. I have the greatest confidence in him. He has a great measure of administrative ability and the capacity to deal with shipping problems. When the honorable member for Fawkner had a portfolio he had little practical knowledge of his duties, yet to the best of my knowledge, he carried them out satisfactorily. We are constantly told that too many government departments and government activities are run by bureaucrats who are outside governmental control, and that in many instances no authority can be exercised by the Minister. Yet, as the Minister has pointed out, under this measure we intend to give very important controls to the Minister. I support in its entirety the principle of not establishing commissions or boards that are not under direct ministerial control. Once such a body has been established with no ministerial control over it, we set up a bureaucratic control. Consequently the provision in this measure for ministerial control will act as a brake on the activities of individuals who might otherwise go beyond their authority. The bill places the Minister in the position of being able to give over-all consideration to problems, and, more or less, to adjudicate on the activities of the board. If the Minister is not competent to do that, then he is not competent to carry out the high duties that have been entrusted to him. I was interested in the statements by honorable members opposite about supporting foreign shipyards. They said that we should build ships overseas and that this bill would undermine Great Britain’s shipbuilding industry. I make no apology for saying that Australia should, wherever possible, establish its own industries, particularly the important one of shipbuilding. In that way we shall in peace and war, the ships that we require, as well as employment for our people. Members opposite who have advocated that we should place orders for ships overseas, will find it difficult to explain their attitude when the people realize that the adoption of such a course would deprive our own workers of employment. It has never been the policy of the present Government, or of any one who believes in developing Australian industry, to build up foreign industries at the expense of our own workers. We have been told by honorable members opposite that the bill is a back-door attempt to achieve nationalization of the shipping industry. There is no need for any one to fear that the present Government will resort to back-door methods. Our actions in relation to the Commonwealth Bank and the nationalization of banking show that once we make up’ our minds about any matter we will carry out our decision, irrespective of the magnitude of the task, and submit it to the people. The Government has said that this bill does not constitute nationalization, and consequently there is no need to apologize for it. I have yet to learn that the people of this country are against the nationalization of our major industries. In Great Britain a government that has carried out that nationalization of the major utilities of that country on an extensive scale has not lost a by-electionin the last four or five years. If nationalization means the development of the shipbuilding industry and other major industries in this country, the full employ ment of the people, and the provision of the ordinary amenities of life for them, I consider that the people of this country will support it. Consequently, whilst this issue may appear to savour of nationalization - although it certainly is not - I shall not apologize for it. During this debate we have heard criticism of government enterprises. It has been said that they never function efficiently, that they have always to be written down, and that this industry is to be built up at the expense of the taxpayers. I could nor help smiling when the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) said that the Government would pour down the drain thousands of pounds of the taxpayers’ money to develop this industry. Paragraph 22 of the Auditor-General’s report for the year ended the 30th June, 1948, refers to the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers that was disposed of by a previous non-Labour government. The final clause of that paragraph reads -
Finality has now been reached in respect of the sale of the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers and the ascertained loss on the proved debt of £766,584 (stg.) is £279,302.
– I rise to order. The previous Commonwealth line of steamers has nothing to do with this clause, which relates solely to the establishment of a shipping board, and the conferring on that board of certain powers. The contents of the Auditor-General’s report can be discussed at another time. I submit that in strict conformity with the Standing Orders, it cannot be discussed while the committee is considering this clause.
– The honorable member is getting too wide of the clause.
– I was just making passing reference to the fact that we had lost over £279,000 on that transaction, which proves that when members of the Opposition were in office they were prepared to give away a shipping line belonging to the people of this country. Yet they criticize this Governm ent for its efforts to rebuild an industry which they cast into discard when in office. Unlike the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale), the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) occasionally makes a good speech. Although honorable members on the Government side of the committee do not always admire the speeches of the right honorable gentleman, I shall refer to what he said in the course of his speech in November, 1927, relating to the decision of the then government to dispose of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. The speech delivered by the right honorable gentleman on that occasion would bear repetition by any supporter of the Australian Labour party. The right honorable member for North Sydney said -
Furthermore, whenever anyone in this country, however he may have denounced Government enterprise, strikes a bad patch, he arranges a deputation to ask for Government a ssi stance.
Does that not sum up the position? During the course of this debate there have been references to socialization, nationalization, and various “ isms “. This is what the right honorable member for North Sydney said in that connexion -
I deprecate altogether the talk about Government trading, socialism and various other “ isms” which have nothing to do with the subject. It is late in theday for Australians, especially in this building, to declaim against Government enterprise.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member should return to the clause under consideration.
– I am merely endeavouring to answer a few of the propositions that have been advanced by the Opposition, by quoting some of the statements that have been made by one of their number, and which support the attitude of this Government to this measure. However, I shall not proceed further along those lines. The honorable member for Parramatta has interjected naively during this debate. His interjections remind me that Mr. Spooner, of the New South Wales Liberal party, once said that there were toomany lawyers in that party. This clause seeks to lay the foundation of the shipbuilding industry in this country. It gives extensive powers to the board, under the control of the Minister. We on the Government side of the committee fully endorse the provisions. The remarks of the Opposition count for little when its attitude in regard to the previous shipping line is remembered.
– We are discussing clause 15 of a bill relating to shipping. Specifically this clause makes provision with relation to the powers, functions and duties of the board. The clause provides that - (1.) The Board shall have power -
to establish, maintain and operate, or to provide for the establishment, maintenance and operation of, shipping services for the carriage of passengers, goods and mails -
Sub-clause 2 reads -
Where, in the opinion of the Minister, a shipping service is necessary to meet the requirements of a particular area and it is desirable in the public interest that a shipping service should be provided for that area, the Minister may direct the Board to establish, maintain and operate, or to continue to mainin and operate, a shipping service for the purpose of meeting those requirements.
I propose to deal with the clause specifically under the headings that I have read. I am surprised that the Opposition has not approached this bill in a spirit of compromise, and assisted the Government. I am afraid that the “hear, hears” of Government members may not be continued when I indicate to them just how foolish I think they are in introducing a sweeping shipping bill. I am amazed that the Australian Liberal Party and the Australian Country party have not compromised. They could have brought about a checkmate. Unless something of that kind is done, Australia will soon find itself overtaken by a collectivist revolution. By almost every major piece of legislation that this Government introduces it is .aiding that revolution. Our individualism is being gradually whittled away. I submit that this very moment is the time that the Opposition should have a stocktaking of itself. If this collectivist revolution is not stopped, if it comes upon us unawares from the safe ambush of this socialist Government’s ruthless majority, or if the Opposition fails to submit to the people of Australia a compromise policy, or to indicate to them the freedoms that it is desirable should be retained by the individual, we may be in sore danger of losing all of those freedoms. We should depend upon individualism, and indicate the freedoms that may safely be entrusted to the collective whole. It is in that attitude that I approach this subject. The Government has made much out of the debate on this measure, and has used as a false analogy the River Murray waters scheme. The Government must know that it will suffer many headaches trying to make the venture provided for in the bill profitable. Surely, there are sufficient honorable members from Queensland supporting the Government to warn it of the fate of the State enterprises instituted in that State by a former Premier, Mr. McCormack. He was a very able man. After he, with the connivance of his Treasurer, Mr. Theodore, had set up State enterprises in almost every field of commerce and industry, he was forced to dispose of them. He expressed disappointment that the people of Queensland, who had elected his Government, had let him down and had failed to do their job which was to support those State enterprises. He expressed his disgust with the people. I forsee the day when this Government will be expressing its disgust at being let down by the people in relation to the establishment of State shipbuilding and shipping industries. There as a chance for the Government and the Opposition to reach a compromise on a modified proposal under which ships of small tonnage would be built for and operated by the Government in outlying areas. I refer to Tasmania, the north-eastern coast of Australia, Darwin and the archipelago of islands from Borneo to New Guinea, in which we are so vitally interested.
Another opportunity is presented to the Government to engage in shipbuilding and shipping by building tankers and operating them in conjunction with Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. For ten years, I have been advocating that the Government should operate a fleet of tankers to distribute petrol distilled by Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, principally in Sydney, from crude oil imported from abroad. The petrol is now railed to its destination on the eastern seaboard of Australia. As the rival petrol companies base their costs on the distribution of petrol by rail the people of Sydney pay almost as much for their petrol as do people in outlying parts of Australia, and the companies make undue profits as the result. ‘The Government knows that when Avar broke out and efforts were made to ascertain the distribution costs of the petrol companies, it was almost impossible to obtain a true picture from their books. The construction and operation of tankers would enable the price of petrol to be reduced.
The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) have adequately dealt with the shipping needs of Tasmania and King Island. They know their local needs better than I do. I can, however, speak authoritatively of the shipping needs of north Queensland ports and the port of Darwin. The Government could construct and operate small ships to satisfy those needs. Evans Deakin Limited, in Brisbane, and Walkers Limited, in Maryborough, are both competent shipbuilders that could build ships ranging from a. few hundred tons to about 6,500 tons to meet the requirments of the north. I refer particularly to the need for ships of low draft needed to reach ports in the silted-up northern rivers. If the policy that I advocate were given effect the Government could honour its promise to supply Darwin with at least a monthly shipping service instead of a ship about every three months. It is customary for people in the south to sneer at the Darwin wharf labourers as “ goslowmerchants “, but I have seen the wharf labourers at work on the Darwin wharf and have wandered incognito amongst the wharf labourers in the port of Sydney. By comparison with the Sydney wharf labourers, those at Darwin are speedsters. I do not object to the Sydney wharf labourers getting their just dues in “ dirt money “ for handling such cargoes as soda ash from overseas, because, although I have done almost all other menial jobs in my life, I” should shudder to tackle the unloading of soda ash, but Darwin wharf labourers would scorn to ask for “ dirt money “ for the unloading of some of the cargoes for which Sydney wharf labourers claim and are paid “ dirt money”. I repeat that the Darwin “ wharfies “ compare more than favorably with those in Sydney. I assure honorable gentlemen that when a ship does arrive at Darwin, the wharf labourers are most anxious to unload it, because generally for about a month before the arrival of the ship, they and their wives and children have had to go short of food or pay the high freight charges involved in its transport overland from Adelaide. This includes £25 overland freight from Alice Springs, a distance of 1,000 miles, in addition to the 1,000 miles rail charge from Adelaide to Alice Springs. Therefore, I urge that the Government modify the bill in such a way as to meet my wishes. No need exists for it to engage in the shipbuilding and shipping industries on the scale obviously contemplated by it. No government can hope to achieve the success in such ventures that is achieved by private enterprise. The job requires the personal touch that is present in private concerns, but lacking in public concerns. Great irrigation projects like the Snowy River waters scheme are not analogous to shipbuilding and shipping. Another direction in which the Government could, profitably to Australia, engage in shipping is in the shipment of timber logs from Borneo, the Celebes, Dutch New Guinea and our own New Guinea to Australia. Any one who has passed through those areas, as I has done, even under conditions that do not permit of a complete examination of the timber resources available there, knows that they contain an enormous wealth of timber. Australia stands in dire need of timber. Ships of 6,500 tons capacity as suggested by the honorable member for Wilmot could carry logs as deck cargo from the islands to Darwin for milling there by Australian workers to meet the Northern Territory’s timber needs and to Brisbane and other southern ports to meet the needs farther south. My belief is that first things should come first. The housing shortage in Darwin must be alleviated. Greater supplies of timber would help in the building of homes. On many occasions I have drawn attention to the serious shortage of timber in this country. The developmental scheme which I now place before the Government is patently practical and I urge the Government to apply its energies to this problem. The timber resources of the territories of Papua and New Guinea should be tapped, not only to utilize that great wealth, but also to offset the serious depletion of our own forests.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member has exhausted his time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Chifley) read a first time.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act - Finance - Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for year 1947-48, accompanied by theReport of the Auditor-General.
Ordered to be printed.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1949 -
No. 18 - Hospital Employees’ Federation of Australasia.
No. 19 - Australian Journalists’ Association.
No. 20 - Hospital Employees’ Federation of Australasia.
No. 21 - Association of Architects. Engineers, Surveyors and Draughtsmen of Australia.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of Defence - M. C. McLaren, H. W. Rushen.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land’ acquired for Postal purposes- -Mt. Evelyn, Victoria.
House adjourned at 11.12 p.m.
The following answers to questions vere circulated: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– -The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. In making advances for the purchase of homes the Commonwealth Bank does not include in the mortgage the financing of such appliances as refrigerators, vacuum cleaners and washing machines. The terms of a mortgage for home purchase is almost invariably for a much longer period than would he justified for the financing of such articles which could lose a substantial proportion of their value in a relatively short time. It is considered that at present reasonable facilities are available for financing the purchase of household appliances of this kind.
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– -The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Acting Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The Acting AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following information: -
n. - On the 15th February, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) asked a question concerning a stop-work meeting of waterside workers in Brisbane on the 4th February, 1949. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel has supplied the following information : -
An unauthorized stop-work meeting of waterside workers did take place in Brisbane en the 4th February. The meeting was addressed by Mr. J. Healy, who is a member of the Stevedoring Industry Commission. The matter has been reported to the Stevedoring Industry Commission. The absence in Perth of Mr. Healy did not prevent the Stevedoring Industry Commission from meeting as no meeting has been arranged for the period during which Mr. Healy was away. Th« absence of any member would not interfere with the functions of the commission as each member has a deputy who is available to attend meetings if required. Mr. Healy has been nominated by the Waterside Workers
Federation to represent it on the commission «nd as the facts as stated by the honorable member were not entirely accurate it is nol proposed to take the action suggested by the honorable member in the latter part of his question.
Taxis and Hire Gabb.
n. - On the 4th March, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked a question concerning the number of taxis and hire-cars in Melbourne compared, with Sydney. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel has supplied the following information: -
When replying to a question on 2nd March, 1040, 1 stated that the total number of vehicles licensed for hire work in Brisbane is 879, in Melbourne 1,175, and in Sydney 2,057. In each city the appropriate licensing authority differentiates between hire-cars ana taxi-cabs. In Brisbane there are 77 hire-cars, in Melbourne 525 hire-cars and in Sydney 479 hirecars. As indicated in my original statement, the hire-curs are not in addition to but are Included in the figures given showing the total number of vehicles licensed for hire. Figures of vehicles licensed in Melbourne and other cities have been misquoted by the chairman of the Licensed Vehicles Committee of the Melbourne City Council and a section of the Melbourne press. The Melbourne City Council has been advised by the Victorian Liquid Fuel Control Board of the limitation on the issue of liquid fuel licences and also of a recent increase in the ration which will increase the availability of taxis and hire-cars in Melbourne metropoltan area by approximately 30 per cent. I have not been approached by the chairman of the Licensed Vehicles Committee, but I have no objection to him interviewing the Controller of Liquid Fuel on the matter. It is pertinent to state that while the Melbourne City Council rightly endeavours to increase facilities for its citizens, the Controller of Liquid Fuel and the State Liquid Fuel Con trol Board have to ensure that available petrol supplies are equitably shared by all users.
n. - On the 2nd March, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked a question concerning the use of motor vehicles and transport for the Trades and Labour Council picnic- at the Cotter River, Canberra. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel has supplied the following information : -
Wednesday, the 2nd March, 1949, was a general industrial holiday in the Australian Capital Territory, and approximately 7,500 people attended the Trades and Labour Council picnic at the Cotter River. The city bus service meets the major part of transport requirements in the Australian Capital Territory but on this occasion because of the number of picnickers, and because the city bus. service had to maintain its normal mid-week bus service authority was given to the use of liquid fuel by temporarily fitted trucks as supplementary to the city bus service. In addition 62 government-owned lorries were used. The city bus service and the government lorries obtain petrol from the Transport Department pool and the special petrol, issue to other vehicles did not exceed 80 gallons. The Trades and Labour Council were charged hiring rotes for use of government vehicles by the Department of the Interior. A similar procedure has been approved in the previous two years.
– On the 1st March, the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) asked a question concerning the use of large quantities of petrol by the Liberal party in connexion with political meetings in Victoria. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel has supplied the following information ; -
No special allocation of petrol was made available by the Liquid Fuel Control Board to the Liberal party in connexion with recent political meetings. In common with other organizations, the Liberal party of Victoria receives a regular petrol ration, and it may be assumed that portion of this was used in connexion with the meetings referred to by the honorable member. There is no evidence that any petrol was obtained on the black market. The Liberal party of Victoria has for the last two years or more been receiving a ration of 600 gallons per month. This is for organizing and includes the separate groups such as youth and women’s organizations. With the exception of one for the secretary, the party does not own care, but gives the tickets to executives’ organizers and occasionally speakers. The party is on the imprest system and renders a full statement to the board each month showing how the tickets were used. The Country party has six or eight organizers with cars who are given a country allowance of 71 gallons per car. Actually it would appear that the Liberal party in Victoria is being treated extremely well by the board. The party has applied for an increase of 1,000 gallons monthly, and I have instructed it i» not to be given.
s asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 to 5. As previously announced, the Government intends to institute a medal to be known as “ The Australia Service Medal 1939-45 “ in recognition of war service between the 3rd September, 1939, and the 2nd September, 1045. The conditions of the award have required considerable detailed examination by the Government’s advisers and discussion with the United Kingdom authorities. It is expected that all of the outstanding points will be finalized soon and the proposal will then be submitted for approval by His Majesty the King. The honorable member will appreciate that, in these circumstances, the Government cannot yet make an announcement, but he may be assured that a statement will be made as soon as it is possible to do so.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 March 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19490310_reps_18_201/>.