18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation tell me what amounts have been paid by the major airlines for air route charges to the Department of Civil Aviation since the charges were established? If there are amounts outstanding, what are they and what is being done to recover them?
– I cannot state the total amounts paid because the payments extend over a number of years. However, I can inform the honorable member that Trans-Australia Airlines has been charged approximately £295,000, of which about £281,000 has been paid. About £159,000 of the charges has been debited in the commission’s accounts for the year ended the 30th June, 1849. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has been charged approximately £343,000, of which nothing has been paid. Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited has been charged approximately £33,000, of which nothing has been paid. The right of the Department of Civil Aviation to levy air route charges or airport landingfees has been challenged by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and some other aviation companies. In the case of companies in receipt of government subsidies, air route charges are included in. the subsidies received, because the purpose of the subsidies is to enable the companies to make a profit of7 per cent. on the capital invested. Trans-Australia Airlines has paid, or is in process of paying, all the charges levied by the commission, whereas Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited, the other two major airlines, have refused to pay. I make no comment on the validity of the argument which they advanced in support of their objections, because the matter is more or less sub judice. I could offer some explanation for the delay, but I have not been asked for information on that point.
– I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel to evidence given before the Coal Industry Tribunal that 75 per cent. of the coalminers employed at the Burwood mine were selling on the black market the coal issued to them free for household purposes; that carters were making up to £20 a week each as the result of this practice; and that the Joint Coal Board was aware of what was going on. Did the Joint Coal Board exercise the wide powers conferred upon it by the Coal Industry Act to control the distribution of all coal in New South Wales by taking action to ensure that, if coal provided for the miners was not wanted by them, it was diverted to where it was urgently needed ? If the board took no such action, did it connive at the practice- of the coal-miners in selling free household coa) on the black market? For how long have miners been thus disposing of their free coal issue? Has the Government issued a direction to the Joint Coal Board under section 18 (2.) of the Coal Industry Act, which makes the board subject to Government direction on matters of policy, in regard to the selling of coal by miners on the black market? If not, is it the policy of the Government to allow one section of the working community to profit at the expense of other sections by selling on the black market a commodity that is acutely scarce?
– I understand that the honorable member for Wentworth has referred to evidence that has been tendered to the Coal Industry Tribunal, which’ is dealing with certain claims by the miners’ federation and certain other unions connected with the coal industry, to the effect that some coal-miners divert to other purposes their monthly free issue of coal. The arrangement under which they receive a free issue of coal from the coal-owners has existed, to my knowledge, for a quarter of a century. I think that the arrangement is traditional in the coal industry, not only in Australia .but also in the United Kingdom. It is one of th« privileges given by the owners to the miners. What is happening now is’ precisely what has happened, to my knowledge, for the last 25 years, and I represent a constituency in which coal-mining is carried on. During those years, the honorable member had the opportunity to direct’ the attention of the government of which he was a member to the custom. I make no ‘ comment on the merits or demerits of the custom. Perhaps, some miners sell the coal, or divert it to other uses than their own personal domestic use. A single miner who lives at a boarding house is still entitled to a free monthly issue of coal. I make no comment on the evidence given before theCoal Industry Tribunal. We have just finished a fight to preserve the standing and impartiality of the tribunal and it has full- authority to reach its own decision on the claims that it is now considering.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen the report in the Brisbane Courier-Mail of .yesterday that the Northern Queensland Tobacco Growers Association is pressing for the nationalization of the tobacco-growing industry? Has any consideration bees given to acceding to the desire of the north Queensland tobacco-growers? In any case, what is the Department of Commerce and Agriculture prepared to do to stabilize the tobacco-growing industry in north Queensland, having full regard to its importance in the economy of Australia and to the fact that if tobacco were grown in sufficient quantities, as ‘it can be in this country, Australia would save about 750,000 dollars a year ?
– I have not seen any press reports which indicate that the tobacco-growers of north Queensland are in favour of the socialization of tobacco growing, or manufacturing, for that matter ; but I do know that the tobaccogrowers of north Queensland are practising and are very keen on co-operation. They have my ardent support in that respect. They are practising a degree of co-operation in relation to the growing, marketing and the manufacturing of their product, and the Government is prepared to give them any assistance or encouragement possible in the conduct of these activities. I have, however, seen a press report to the effect that this week north Queensland tobacco leaf realized about 124d. per lb. I am delighted to learn that, because I have never doubted that tobacco of a very high quality could be successfully grown in north Queensland. .As far as -.the latter portion of the honorable member’s question is concerned, I point out that as a result of a decision reached at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers last August, a committee comprising representatives of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and of the States, has been established to investigate the whole of the ramifications of the tobacco-growing industry in Australia. I point out also that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, in co-operation with the Queensland Government, has arranged for the orderly and scientific development of the tobacco-growing industry in, if I recollect aright, the Burdekin Valley, under soldier settlement conditions designed to ensure that the development will be along scientific and economic lines. Land and eventually water will be made available to the tobacco-growers. Water is a very essential requirement for the growing of tobacco.
– Has the Prime Minister received a telegram from the Queensland Cotton Marketing Board expressing the indignation felt in the cotton growing districts over the adverse report of the Tariff Board? Can the right honorable gentleman indicate whether the Government intends to implement the Tariff Board’s recommendation that the Queensland Cotton Marketing Board be relieved of its liability to the Commonwealth Bank ? In view of the national value of this industry if properly developed, and the Tariff Board’s admission that its recommendations are based solely on economic consideration, will the Government be prepared to override the board’s findings and grant the guaranteed price at the level requested by the industry?
– I did not have an opportunity until last night to read the Tariff Board’s report, and I have not yet read all the evidence that accompanied it. I have no recollection of any telegram from the Queensland Cotton Marketing Board having been received this morning, but I have been attending meetings all the morning and may not have seen such a telegram had it arrived. It is possible that such a telegram may have arrived this morning. I have not had an opportunity to consider the only really essential recommendation contained in the Tariff Board’s report which is, that the growers should be relieved of liability for the overdraft held by, I believe, the Commonwealth Bank, and totalling about £66,000. I discussed that matter, however, very briefly this morning with the Minister for Trade and Customs, but the Cabinet has not yet had an opportunity to consider it. All Cabinet members have not yet had an opportunity to peruse the Tariff Board’s report.
-When will the Cabinet meet?
– It will meet next week. In answer to the latter portion of the honorable member’s question about whether the Government will be prepared to override the Tariff Board’s report relating to the economic factors of the industry, I consider that that was a rather peculiar suggestion to come from the Opposition in view of what honorable members opposite have said in this chamber about the conduct of public utilities. It is strange to hear a suggestion from an honorable member of the Opposition, that irrespective of any economic factors, and no matter what economic considerations were involved, the cotton-growing industry should be supported. The Tariff Board’s report seemed to me to indicate that no matter what economic support was given to the industry it could not, in the Board’s opinion, on present evidence result at this stage in the establishment of a flourishing cotton industry. I can assure the honorable member that the board’s report will be considered by the Cabinet as early as possible. As I have already said, I received a copy of it only last night. I can also assure the honorable member that the particular points that he has raised, especially that regarding the Queensland Cotton Marketing Board’s overdraft, will be examined.
– Can the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture furnish any further information with respect to the handling of next year’s apple and pear crop in Western Australia? In view of the uncertainty of the Tasmanian growers of apples and pears with respect to the marketing of what would appear to be a heavy crop during the coming season, is the Minister in a position yet to say whether the Government has a definite proposal to offer to the leaders of the Tasmanian growers and to the Tasmanian Government, because they wish to finalize their marketing arrangements as soon as possible ?
– Yes; the Government has made a decision in respect of the marketing of the Western Australian and Tasmanian fruit crop for the 1949-50 season. Some time ago the Government intimated that it would give consideration to any proposals submitted by the Governments of Western Australia and Tasmania, but it has delayed making a decision up to date because it has not been able to negotiate or to receive a firm order from the United Kingdom Government for fruit from Australia from the forthcoming crop. We have not been able to ascertain the price factor for any order that may come. The Government realized that the season is advancing, and that it is necessary for the apple and pear growers of Western Australia to know ahead what their position will be. In view of the fact that the Western Australian Parliament has already enacted legislation to acquire the Western Australian crop and has submitted to the Australian Government the terms of an agreement to be entered into between the two governments, the Australian Government decided yesterday that it would underwrite the scheme in Western Australia for the 1949-50 season on a similar basis to that which operated last year, with the variation that notwithstanding that neither the growers of Western Australia nor the Government of that State had asked for an additional basic payment, it would increase the initial payment to Western Australian growers by 6d. a bushel. The Tasmanian Government has asked the Commonwealth under what conditions it would be prepared to give a basic guarantee for the marketing of Tasmanian apples and pears during the coming season. Yesterday a decision was taken that, if the Tasmanian Government so desired we would continue the system which operated last year, under which the State Government made contracts with not fewer than the number of growers who represented SO per cent, of the total crop to deliver their crop to the State. We agreed to make available to the Tasmanian Government the services of the Australian Apple and Pear Marketing Board and to underwrite the scheme to the extent of the advances which operated last year, plus 6d. a bushel unit payment. I regret that it has not been possible to place the whole of the Australian apple and pear industry on a basis which would enable these temporary schemes to be eliminated. However, we hope that after another year of assistance to the industry in Tasmania and Western Australian the overseas marketing position will be so clarified that it will be possible to discontinue these schemes in the future.
– My question to the Minister for Immigration arises out of an item that was broadcast recently in the Australian . Broadcasting Commission news service to the effect that the Royal Australian Air Force will shortly be moving out of Bradfield Park, near Lindfield, in my electorate, and that the huts now occupied there by the Royal Australian Air Force will become the domicile of a large number of new Australians. Is the Minister aware that about one-half of the hutments in that settlement are at present occupied as the result of the New South Wales Housing Commission having taken them over from the Royal Australian Air Force, and that approximately 430 families, or about 2,400 persons, including about 1,300 children, are living there? Is he also aware that approximately 200 displaced persons, apparently single males, are also living there at present, and that complaints have been received about the association of some of them with some of the occupants in the Housing Commission area? Can the Minister say how many migrants will be accommodated in this area ? Will they be married or single persons? What control will be exercised over them? What recreational and other facilities will be available to them?
– I am aware of all the. facts of this matter, as I am of the facts of all matters that affect the Department of Immigration. A considerable time ago a part of Bradfield Park was made available by the Minister for Air to the Government of New South Wales for the purpose of housing people who needed emergency accommodation owing to the shortage of houses in the capital city of New South Wales. The Minister has been very helpful in regard to immigration also. When the transfer of the headquarters of the Eastern Command of the Royal Australian Air Force to Lapstone Hotel is effected, other accommodation will become available in Bradfield Park and it will be utilized by the Department of Immigration. A portion of it is already being utilized. I advise the honorable member for Parramatta to disregard gossip about single new Australian migrants being a danger, a menace or a nuisance to the residents of this area. I. do not believe that to he true for one moment.
– The complaint has been made by the local progress association.
– I do not believe that the progress association has any justification for its observation, if it has made such anobservation. All Australians should welcome these new Australians. They should try to make them feel at home and not treat them as pariahs. If that is the basis of the honorable gentler man’s question, I do not propose to give it further countenance. I assure him and those who have been agitating through him that the best interests of the Commonwealth are at all times safeguarded by very competent officers of Commonwealth departments under the regime of a very excellent government.
– There are certain schemes in operation to induce British people to migrate to Australia, for instance, free passages, assisted passages, and the returned soldiers’ scheme. Would the Minister for Immigration consider ways and means of inducing Australian citizens to bring their relatives and friends from Great Britain to Australia? As one suggestion, I ask the Minister to consider whether it would not be possible to make the money paid by Australian citi zens, for passages for their relatives or friends from England to Australia rebatable under the Income Tax. Assessment Act. I suggest that the Minister consult the Treasurer on that matter.
– I do not think the proposal has any great merit, with all due respect to the honorable member, because the amount of money that an Australian person has to pay, under the assisted passages scheme, to bring a relative or friend to Australia, if he desires to make the payment, is only £10 sterling, or £12 10s. in Australian currency, which is not a large sum of money on which to secure some tax. benefit.. Persons who come to Australia under the free passages scheme come at no expense whatever to themselves or to their Australian relatives or friends. British people who migrate to Australia under the assisted passages scheme and who make their own contribution to their passage money pay £10 each, if they are adults, and £5 if they are children.I am speaking in terms of sterling. That money may be paid by the Australian relative or friend or by the immigrant himself. I should be glad to hear of any other scheme that the honorable gentleman has in mind to increase the flow of British migrants to Australia. Two f actors operate to retard that flow. One is scarcity of shipping, and that is a diminishing factor as time passes. The other is the lack of housing to enable British immigrants to enjoy the same opportunities of living as are enjoyed by their Australian relatives or friends.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs any statement to make to the House regarding Mr. Vishinsky’s attack upon the Australian delegation at Lake Success?
– I assume that the honorable gentleman’s question relates to an attack upon Australia of a rather old pattern which was brought forward because of the raising of the issue of religious persecution in Eastern Europe, especially in Roumania, Hungary and Bulgaria. The answer of Mr. Vishinsky, speaking on behalf of the Soviet group, has been that the Australian Government has something to be ashamed of in connexion with its treatment of the aboriginal population of this country. Whatever may have happened in relation to the treatment of aborigines in the early days of Australia’s history, the fact is that for many years there has been substantially a new deal for the aboriginal population of this country. The Minister for the Interior has done an excellent job in that connexion, and Australia has nothing to be ashamed of. The treatment of Australian aborigines has very little to do with religious persecution in Eastern Europe. It may be compared with the flowers that bloom in the spring. It has nothing to do with the case. These are tactics to which the Australian delegation is accustomed. Mr. Vishinsky is an experienced advocate in certain types of cases. Australia has defended religious freedom, and its efforts have been supported by Catholic and Protestant churches throughout the world. Doubtless the instructions that Mr. Vishinsky has received from his government are, “ We have no case. Abuse the other side “.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether it is a fact that the nationalization of banking, as provided for in the Banking Act 1947, can be made effective in accordance with the Government’s proclaimed intentions by only two means, either by an alteration of the Constitution to confer upon the Government the power that it seeks, or the reversal of the decision of the High Court ? To place the issue beyond doubt, will the Prime Minister submit this issue to the people of Australia by way of a referendum at the forthcoming general election, so that the matter may be determined finally?
– Some of the questions that I am asked are really amazing. The honorable member has suggested that the Government should submit the banking issue to the people by way of referendum at the forthcoming general election. Every honorable member who has any knowledge of the Constitution at all knows that it would be physically impossible to hold a referendum on any subject at the next election, because the necessary legislation would have to be passed by the Parliament, receive the
Royal Assent, and be proclaimed sometime before the date of the election. The honorable member for Richmond knows as well as I do that all those processes could not be undertaken before the10th December, and I do not understand his purpose in asking such a needless and sillyquestion. I dealt on a previous occasion with the other matters that the honorable member has raised. The Government is now awaiting the Privy Council’s reasons for its decision in the recent banking case, and I do not know when they will be available. I made it clear, on behalf of the Government, although it was not necessary for me to do so, that whatever the Government proposed to do, it would proceed by entirely constitutional means. Of course, reckless statements have been made by certain members of the Opposition about the matter.
– One of those means would be by packing the High Court Bench.
– The Government has always abided by the provisions of the Constitution. It has accepted the decision of the Privy Council in the banking case, and is now awaiting the reasons for that decision. During the eight years that the Government has been in office, it has made only one appointment to the High Court Bench, and that appointee was Sir William Webb, who, at the time, was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland. The other judges were appointed by previous conservative governments. I resent the suggestions which have been made about these particular matters and I consider that the honorable member has asked his question purely for propaganda purposes.
– I have been asking similar questions for months.
– The honorable member knows that, because of the constitutional position, the Government could not provide at this stage for a referendum to be held concurrently with the forthcoming general election.
H.M.A.S. “ Sydney “-Stoker A. W. Gosling
– According to reports, the aircraft carrier H.M.A.S. Sydney is exercising off the coast of New South Wales. Has the Minister for the Navy any information to give to the House and the country about the aircraft carrier’s activities, and will he say whether the recent criticisms of its performances are based on true or false premises?
– It is obvious from this question and from the speech that the honorable member for Boothby made last night that, as an ex-naval man, he is keenly interested in the performances of H.M.A.S. Sydney. It is also evident that his question has been prompted by statements in a certain section of the press yesterday. As a matter of fact, I read those reports in the Brisbane CourierMail and the Melbourne Sun NewsPictorial. Those reports not only refuted very forcefully the charges which certain sections of the press had made against H.M.A.S. Sydney but also indicated that the criticism which had been levelled at H.M.A.S. Sydney since it came into commission in Australian waters ‘ was unwarranted and unjustified. While steaming at two-thirds of its full speed, that is, at approximately 16 knots, the aircraft carrier put planes into the air under conditions of dead calm by means of its catapult, and, in addition, while the ship was steaming at full speed of 25 knots, still under conditions of dead calm, all the planes landed on the flight deck without mishap. I say to that section of the press which has levelled unjustifiable criticism against H.M.A.S. Sydney that the least it can do is to apologize not only to those who advised the Government about the purchase of the carrier but also to the officers and ratings who man the ship.
– Has the Minister for the Navy seen a statement in the Sydney Daily Telegraph by Stoker A. W. Gosling that he signed a contract in Great Britain to come to Australia in order to serve with the Royal Australian Navy; that he was discharged as medically unfit; that his wife’s allotment has been stopped, and that he has lost 40 days’ leave? If those statements are correct, will the Minister consider repatriating him to Britain with full pay and allowances so that he may be discharged there?
– I saw the newspaper report mentioned by the honorable member, and I was questioned about the matter last evening by a press representative. This rating was recruited in the United Kingdom on the 8th September, 1948, and signed on for a period of six years. He arrived in Australia on the 18th October, 194S. On the 19th August, 1949, he applied for his discharge on the ground that his wife refused to come to Australia. The Naval Board was unable to approve of his discharge, but his name was noted for appropriation to the next ship proceeding to the United Kingdom, and he was told that he could resubmit his request for discharge in six months’ time should no improvement in his domestic affairs occur. In the meantime, it was found that he was suffering from thrombophlebitis of the right leg, and on the 7th October, approval was given for his discharge as physically unfit for naval service. He was discharged on the 10th October, 1949. Ex-Royal Navy ratings who join the Royal Australian Navy in the United Kingdom are entitled to free passages for their families to Australia under the Commonwealth immigration scheme, but return passages to the United Kingdom are not permissible. These conditions are well known to personnel before they sign on for service in the Royal Australian Navy. Allotments of pay declared by a member are payable only during their service, and payments cease when he is discharged. Personnel invalided from the Royal Australian Navy are ineligible for any leave which may have accrued. However, they receive full pay until finally invalided, including the period from the date of the final medical survey. As Gosling has been invalided, he will be entitled to certain financial benefits under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act, dependent on the extent of his civil disability. The question of his transport to the United Kingdom is receiving consideration.
” RESEARCH SERVICE.”
– In various partsof Australia, publications termed News Letters, allegedly issued by citizens’ committees, are -being distributed free, and they contain statistics allegedly prepared: by an organization which calls itself “Research Service”, Has the attention of the Minister for Information been drawn to this organization? Can he state whether the organization is sponsored by the Government, or is it sponsored by the Liberal party or the employers’ federation? Is there any reason for accepting as accurate the statistics which the organization issues?
– I know for certain that the body is not sponsored by the Government or by any government authority. The honorable member is justified in having some doubts about the authenticity of the matter published by the organization. I believe that the employers’ federation is responsible for “ Research Service “. Why the federation does not admit the fact I do not know. I think that the organization functions in the interests of the Liberal party, and I believe that it handles the truth very carelessly.
Development of Channel Country
– Can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction say whether anything definite has been done to further the plan for the development of the Channel Country in order to increase the production of beef? Has a committee been appointed to conduct investigations ? Having regard to certain criticisms voiced by residents of the district, will the Government consider seeking the views of experienced men on the best methods to follow?
– The whole question was very thoroughly investigated by this Government, in conjunction with the Queensland Government, and it has been decided that certain roads shall be constructed in the area. Discussions are taking place with the Department of Works and Housing about the type of road to be constructed, but beyond that there is nothing to hold up the progress of the work.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction about full employment, on which he is recognized as an authority. Has the Minister seen or read statements attributed to members of the Opposition, and published in advertisements, that the Opposition, if returned to power after the forthcoming general election, will guarantee maximum employment ? What is the definition of “ maximum employment “, and how does it differ from “ full employment “, as advocated by the Labour Government? Does maximum employment mean the degree of employment decided upon by private enterprise for the purpose of maintaining profits: or is it similar to the policy of antiLabour Governments before the war when 290,000 persons were unemployed? Is it part of the Hytten plan to keep 200,000 people in the Commonwealth constantly unemployed ?
– Full employment is the term used to describe the situation in which there are more jobs offering than there are applicants to fill them. When Opposition members speak of maximum employment, I assume that they are thinking of maximum employment in relation to the kind of society to which they were accustomed in years gone by, when there was always a pool of unemployed from which employers could obtain labour on conditions advantageous to themselves. The truth of that assumption is borne out by the fact that many persons associated with Opposition parties, including Professor Hytten, who recently attended a conference in Tasmania, have stated that it is impossible to maintain full employment in the community, whilst at the same time achieving maximum production and efficiency. This Government does not subscribe to that view. We believe that it is possible to have full employment and maximum production at the same time.
– My question arises from the news that almost 1,000,000 oz. of gold was produced in New Guinea last year - a production which, if repeated in the current financial year, would be worth about £15,000,000 in Australian currency. I ask the Minister for External Territories whether any taxation is imposed on the industry for the express purpose of financing the administration of the territory. Is any levy charged on the industry to establish a native welfare fund? If so, upon what type of welfare activities is such revenue spent? If the industry does not contribute to the financing of native welfare, will the Minister consider adopting a policy under which it will do so?
– The industry does pay tax. The question whether the tax levied on it is adequate, having regard to its returns, has been under consideration for some time. I shall have prepared for the honorable gentleman a statement setting out the exact present position. I hope at an early date to indicate the intentions of the Government in regard to the taxation of the industry.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether it is a fact that Grazcos Co-operative Limited, a New South Wales co-operative society engaged in classing and pooling wool on behalf of wool-growers, pooled 160,000 bales of wool during the appraisement scheme, which wool was sent to various brokers for sale under the society’s “ Grazcos “ brand ? Is it a fact that Grazcos Co-operative Limited is not a wool dealer, as defined by the act, in that it had no financial interest in the wool, but merely acted as trustee for the growers whose wool it had classed and pooled? Was the wool of 7,500 farmers and graziers dealt with in this manner, representing over £2,400,000? Is this wool being excluded from participation in the distribution of profits on the 30th November? Will the Minister ensure that all growers whose wool was so pooled and sold under the “ Grazcos “ brand receive their distribution of profits from Grazcos Co-operative Limited in the same way and at the same time as do those who submitted their wool direct through brokers ?
– I believe that Grazcos Co-operative Limited did put the quantity of wool mentioned by the honorable member into the common pool. I believe that it was appraised under the scheme. I am having examined the question whether the company will be able to. participate in the interim dividend proposed by the Government. Every endeavour will be made to ensure its inclusion. There may be some administrative difficulties, but if they can be overcome they will be overcome.
Question negatived -
That Mr. Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair, and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Ways and Means.
In Committee of Supply: Considera tion resumed from the. 12th October (vide page 1328).
Proposed vote, £2,277,000.
Proposed vote, £38,338,000.
Proposed vote, £2,915,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– I propose to show how the increased cost of the Postmaster-General’s Department discourages decentralization and primary production. The Government has always pointed to the department as a glowing instance of socialism. When most men and women in Australia heard about the increased cost of the department and that they would have to pay 1s. 6d. for a telegram of fourteen words, compared with1s. previously, which is a rise of 50 per cent., and that a 3-minute trunk line telephone conversation from, say, Mildura, as an instance of decentralization, to Melbourne would cost an extra 1s., they were greatly alarmed. Now, investigations disclose that those extra charges on the people are only mild compared with the load that will be imposed on them by the extra cost of administering the department. That is borne out by an examination of the increased cost that will be involved in the administration of public departments in increased expenditure on “ postage, telegrams and telephone services “. Such administrative costs will be increased as follows : -
Those increases resulted from the increased charges for “ postage, telegraph and telephone services “. Of course, some postage rates were not increased. The increased rates, however, do not only affect important government departments to such a great degree. They also affect the cost of conducting every other enterprise in the country, whether it he a government or a private enterprise. In the limited time available to me in this debate I cannot mention all the enterprises the costs of which will be seriously affected by the increases of telegraph and telephone rates, but I shall cite as examples the Victorian Railways, the Commonwealth Railways, all hospitals and many other government departments than those that I have mentioned. The increased cost of running all those enterprises, whether government or private, eventually falls upon the taxpayer, and the extra burden that the taxpayer will have to bear is colossal.
The Postmaster-General’s Department operated at a gigantic profit for many years, but as soon as it made a loss it transferred it to the people by means of increases of rates which, in effect, constitute additional taxation upon the people. The great profits that the department made in former years were absorbed into Consolidated Revenue. Some of the profits were used to finance the department’s building programme. I consider, however, that as most of the profits were absorbed into Consolidated Revenue it was only just that the Government should have financed the department’s losses for at least a few years from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. But the Government was not pre- pared to take such a course. Instead, it immediately raised service charges, and now the people have to pay more for those essential services. It is true that the rate of 2d. for a public telephone call, which has been in force for many years, has not been increased, but the main benefit in that respect is derived by people in the metropolitan areas. It is common for people who use public telephone boxes in the capital cities to speak for as long as fifteen minutes for the flat rate of 2d. while, very often, a queue of people is waiting outside to use the telephone. Suggestions have been made to the Postmaster-General’s Department, and I make a similar suggestion now, that there should be a time limit on calls from public telephone boxes. I consider that it is essential that some form of time apparatus should be installed on public telephones in the cities so that when a period of three minutes has elapsed the caller will have to pay another 2d. or terminate the call. But in my opinion the Government is afraid of upsetting the metropolitan electors on whose votes it so largely relies, and therefore it has done nothing about altering the unlimited permissible duration of telephone conversations that cost only 2d. In contrast to the service enjoyed by metropolitan dwellers is that suffered by people in the country districts. “When a telephone subscriber in a country district in, for instance, Victoria, rings up the capital city of the State in the course of his business, the call is interrupted at the end of three minutes with the query from the operator at the exchange, “Are you extending?” Unless the caller is prepared to pay for another three minutes the connexion is broken. It does not take long for three minutes to run out, and in many places far away from metropolitan areas, even in a small State like Victoria, it might cost a primary producer as much as 15s. for a call if he has, say, two three-minute extensions of a call. So the effect of the increased charges is that they are mainly being levied upon country dwellers and primary producers because it is a wellknown fact that it does not matter whether a country call originates in the country ot the city, eventually the primary producer has to pay for it. That is the kind of treatment meted out by this Government, which- seems to desire to promote centralization and not decentralization. I should have thought that any government that desired to ^increase primary production and to promote decentralization would have used the media of the telephone and the telegraph services to assist in that respect.
This Government controls other socialized, enterprises in addition to the Postal Department. One of them is Trans- Australia Airlines which makes losses year after year without apparently causing the Government any worry, for the simple reason that if Trans-Australia Airlines attempted to offset its losses by increasing its charges, the public would «ease to use its services and would use only privately owned air services. But when the Postal Department, which has no competitors, makes a small loss the people have to pay for it immediately. The reason for that fact is that, because the department has a monopoly of telephone and telegraph services, the people just have to “ take it “, because the Victorian Government has its hands on the throttle and can decide whether those services shall be dear or cheap.
– The honorable member spoke about the Victorian Government. I presume that he does not know what he is talking about.
– If I referred to the Victorian Government I meant the Australian Government. I have known the Minister for Information to become very mixed up at times. He was so mixed up recently that he interjected “thirteen times during my speech in the budget debate, as the Hansard, record shows. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) was not much better. I think he interjected about eight “times so it was not a photo finish between “him and the Minister. However, I cannot allow interjectors to put me off the subject, because honorable members will notice that whenever I rise to speak members on the Government side make very valiant attempts to put me off. The Minister for Information, who represents the Postmaster-General in this chamber, sometimes rises and fumes and makes all
L’4(il sorts of statements, but he cannot alter the facts. The people o£ Australia know what they are paying for telephone services because they can see how their accounts have increased in amount.
The Government has great surpluses of money. “Why can it not meet some of the costs of this great utility, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, which the people of Australia must use ? Why does it not aid decentralization and increase primary production by reducing telephone and telegraph charges? By doing so it would be spending money in a way that would produce great benefits for Australia. I have pointed to the way in which on many occasions in this chamber this Government squanders money. It would only require a small proportion of the money that it squanders to sustain the finances of the Postmaster-General’s Department so that cheaper services would be available to the public. The Government, however, takes the view that any losses incurred by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department must be met by increased charges. The Prime Minister told the Victorian Government that the Victorian Railways must pay their own way and the Government decided also that the Postmaster-General’s Department must pay its own way. It did not decide, however, that other government enterprises must pay their own way. When the Prime Minister returned from the United Kingdom and landed at the Kingsford Smith airport in Sydney he said that the country required increased production. Despite that statement, however,- the Government has adopted the procedure of imposing extra charges for telephone and telegraph services which can only have the effect in the long run of retarding primary production. The man who uses the telephone and the telegraph to a very great extent is usually a progressive man. Unenterprising people do not usually make much use of the telephone or the telegraph.
– Hear, hear !
– The Minister says, “ Hear, hear ! “ He knows that the progressive and enterprising man is the target for the Government’s high charges. The enterprising person is hit hardest by the Government in order to finance its socialistic aims and objectives about which the Minister has had so much to say in this chamber. The enterprising man who goes out into the backblocks and is the real pioneer of this country is invariably hit hardest by this Government, notwithstanding the fact that he, above all, should be helped by the Government, in every possible way. If a farmer breaks a part of an implement during harvesting, fallowing, or shearing operations he usually has to telephone a city supplier in order to obtain a replacement part because such parts are often not obtainable locally. Such a farmer will be hit most by increased telephone and telegraph charges. I ask honorable members to contrast his position with that of a city dweller. The call fee for the use of public telephones in the city areas is to remain at 2d. The man of enterprise who contributes most to the economy of this country will have to bear a disproportionate share of these additional charges. The farmer or the outback settler who may be regarded as being in the same category as the pioneers of this country is always the target at which this Government aims its misjudged legislation. I have already unsuccessfully endeavoured to influence the Government to re-consider its decision to impose increased telephone and telegraph charges and I realize that any further plea that I may make in that connexion is much too late. The Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral will no doubt soon rise in his place and talk about socialism, and the need for more of it, and all the rot that we bear from honorable members opposite on that subject.
– I wish that the honorable member would give me a “ go “.
– I know of nothing that would prevent the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) from participating in this debate, except, perhaps, his limited capacity.
– Order ! Irrespective of what capacity the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) may possess, he may not continue to discuss every subject under this item.
– The honorable member is nothing but a ratbag.
– I rise to order to protest against an interjection that was made by the honorable member for Hume. While you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, or for that matter any other honorable member is addressing the committee, is it in order for the honorable member for Hume to bawl across the chamber that an honorable member is “ nothing but a ratbag “ ?
– To whom did the honorable member for Hume refer?
– Unfortunately he did not refer to the Minister, though, had he done so, his statement would have been perfectly true.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Chair did not hear the words to which exception has been taken and it has only the word of the honorable member for Parramatta on the point.
– I give you my word, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the honorable member for Hume used such an expression.
– The honorable member for Parramatta cannot be relied on.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN Order! The Chair must hear an interjection to which objection is taken in order to determine whether or not it is unparliamentary. The honorable member for Wimmera will continue his speech.
– The reason for the increase in the administrative costs of the Postal Department is more deeprooted than most people think. I observe that the Minister is pointing to the clock. He is a bit restive because he obviously wants to occupy most of the time that is left for the consideration of Estimates before the Chair.
– Not at all. The honorable member for Wimmera is merely wasting time.
– The Postal Department pays large sums of money to Trans-Australia Airlines for the carriage of airmails. Indeed, the deficit incurred each year by Trans-Australia Airlines would have been much greater had not such huge sums been paid to it by the Postal Department. The drain on the finances of the Postal Department to meet the heavy charges of TransAustralia Airlines for the carriage of airmails is responsible in part for the increased cost of administration of the department. The logic of that statement cannot be challenged. Before the balancesheet of Trans-Australia Airlines was recently drawn up, the Postal Department made a further contribution of approximately £75,000 to Trans- Australia Airlines, which increased the subsidy for the carriage of airmails to no less than £400,000.
– The honorable member would have preferred that that money went to private enterprise.
– I ask you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, to protect me from the Minister’s interjections.
– If the honorable member for Wimmera wants the Chair to take disciplinary action on the basis of a single interjection, it will do so; but I remind him that if that rule were generally applied, he would be one of the first to go out. It is the practice of the Chair to take action only when it is obvious that interruptions to the debate are concerted.
– It is not to a single interjection, but to the multitude of interjections on the part of the Minister, that I object.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order !
– The payment of £400,000 to Trans-Australia Airlines to which I have referred, increased the deficit on the transaction of the Postmaster Gereneral’s Department above what it would normally have been. The balance-sheet issued by TransAustralia Airlines shows the number of pounds of airmail carried. If the number of pounds is divided into the £400,000 paid by the Postal Department by way of subsidy to Trans-Australia Airlines, it will be ascertained that the charge for the conveyance of airmails by Trans- Australia Airlines was approximately 3s. per lb., which is exorbitantly high compared with the 4d. per lb. paid to Oceanic Airways, a private concern, during the period of the recent floods in New South Wales. The money that is being poured out by the Postal Department into the coffers of TransAustralia Airlines has had some effect on the Government’s decision to increase telephone and telegraph charges and has also reduced the loss that Trans- Australia Airlines would otherwise have sustained on its operations.
– The whole arrangement is a racket.
– That is so. I conclude by again protesting strongly against the action of the Government in increasing telephone and telegraph charges, thus placing a still heavier burden on enterprising people living in the outback, at a time when it makes heavy contributions from the revenue of the Postal Department to enable TransAustralia Airlines to cover up its operational losses. The Government has no thought for the interests of the nation. It has no intention to foster decentralization, and increase production, and above all it has no conception of fair play either in politics or in administration.
.- An examination of the Estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department reveals that, under the regime of this Government, things have changed. There was a time when the Postmaster-General’s Department earned a handsome annual profit, but during the years that this Government has been in office that annual profit has steadily decreased and now the department is faced with a serious deficit. Consequently, postal and telegraph charges have been increased considerably. I have received, as doubtless have many other honorable members,m any complaints about those increases. The principal reason given for the deficit is that the costs of material used and labour employed have increased. An increase of expenditure upon materials and wages is quite understandable, hut there are other increases that do not appear to be justified. It is estimated that in 1949-50 a sum of £1,525,300 will be expended upon airmail services. That is approximately £200,000 more than was expended upon those services in 1948-49. The estimate of £1,525,300 obviously relates to both internal and overseas airmail services. I have no means of ascertaining how that sum is to be divided, but it is quite clear that the Postal Department is being used to subsidize TransAustralia Airlines. When Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited carried the airmails for the Postal Department, it made a charge of .025d. a pound-mile. The annual cost to the Postal Department of the carriage of airmail then was approximately £100,000. When Trans- Australia Airlines began to carry airmail for the Postal Department, for some reason the Postmaster-General agreed, probably at the instance of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) or the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford), to increase the annual payment to £325,000, and airmail has been carried on that basis for over two years. I estimate that Trans-Australia Airlines has been receiving from £50,000 to £75,000 a year more than would have been paid to it if the mail had been carried on the old pound-mile basis.
– Does the honorable gentleman suggest that the Government is paying Trans-Australia Airlines a higher rate for the carriage of airmail than it has paid to other companies?
– It works out at a much higher rate a pound-mile than is justified. The amount that is now being paid is certainly greater than that which would have been paid under the terms of the old contract. The Government, not being satisfied with paying the subsidy of £325,000 a year to Trans-Australia Airlines from Postal Department revenue, increased the subsidy this year by £75,000. It is now paying no less than £400,000 a year to Trans-Australia Airlines for the carriage of airmail. That may be very good business for TransAustralia Airlines, but it is extremely bad business for the Postal Department. I cannot understand why the PostmasterGeneral and the officers of the Postal Department do not protest very vigorously at this robbery of the department. Every one believes that the Postal Department should pay its way.
– - No.
– The Minister says “ No “.
– I mean that the honorable gentleman does not believe that.
– I believe that all government enterprises should pay their way and that they should make profits, if they can do so. However, with the exception of the Postal Department during the regime of a government other than this one, they have not been able to do so.
– The Postal Department made a profit then by sweating its labour.
– This Government sweated the employees of the Postal Department until they could stand it no, longer. It was not until they had protested for months, if not for years, at the inadequacy of their wages, that increases, were granted. It was only because pressure was applied to the Government that some action was taken to increase the wages of Postal Department employees1 and unofficial postmasters. There is nojustification at all for a great department of State such as the Postmaster-General’s, Department subsidizing Trans- Australia Airlines, another government .enterprise- I protest against that. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department should be conducted on businesslike lines and should not be used as a. milch cow by other departments.
.- The system of broadcasting, that we enjoy in Australia, or that we used to enjoy, differs from the systems that are in operation in some other countries. We have what may be described as a compromise broadcasting system. We have national stations, which are conducted under the aegis of the Government, and commercial stations, which are conducted by private enterprise as profit-making institutions. It may be said that, like most compromises, that system contains the worst features of two systems and, therefore, that it is a bad one. I should not like to see the American broadcasting system in force in Australia. In the United States of America there are only commercial broadcasting stations. I rather think I should prefer the British system, properly operated. I emphasize thewords “ properly operated “ because I know that if broadcasting in this country were under the control of the Minister who represents the Postmaster=General inthis chamber, the system would not be properly operated. Broadcasting would immediately become the instrument of propaganda by him and by the Government. E am prepared to support the compromisesystem that is in operation in Australis because it gives us the benefit of a degree of competition and affords the public access to broadcasting from stations other than those operated by .the Australian Broadcasting Commission. We have now reached the stage when the shadow is over the commercial stations. If events follow the course that the Minister and the Government desire them to follow, I have no doubt that in due course those stations will be destroyed.
– Will the honorable gentleman be precise?
– If events follow the course that the Minister desires them to follow, the commercial stations will be utterly destroyed. I know that the Minister wishes broadcasting in Australia to be a government monopoly. At the present time the commercial stations are feeling the draught, if I may put it in that way. Recently I read in this chamber a letter from the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations which indicated that the attitude of the commercial stations towards the Government was very timid and even slightly fawning.
– That is not fair to the commercial stations.
– I think that it is an understatement. The commercial stations should have known better. I should have though that unlike Little Red Riding Hood they would have recognized the wolf, dressed up though it is. Perhaps they know better now. I was shocked to notice, ou that occasion, that they were prepared to concede frequency modulation to the Government. On the short term view, .that might leave the existing wave band in such a state that no new stations could compete with the present ones, but that seemed to me to be a short-sighted view. There is no doubt now that the commercial stations are on the way out. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) pointed out a few nights ago that, with television a government monopoly and denied to the commercial stations as a means of radio expression, it would not be long before all of them were completely out of business.
– Do not believe it.
– I suppose that the Minister saw a television programme in his brief peripatetic exercise overseas a few months ago.
– I have been televised.
– Good God, have we come to that? Things have come to a peculiar pass indeed. That might offer a setback to this scientific device. However that may be, there is no doubt that anybody who has seen television must be driven immediately to the conclusion that it will displace any other form of radio broadcasting immediately it -is introduced into this country. All other forms of broadcasting will rapidly become obsolete, and since the Government has taken television to its own exclusive use and denied it to the commercial stations, the compromise system, which we have adopted, which works reasonably well, and which I, for one, approve for reasons that I have indicated will go, and thereafter, we shall have a Government monopoly of broadcasting. That is contingent, of course, upon the Labour Government being returned to office.
– That is certain.
– In my view, it is a little better than a hypothesis.
– We are odds on favorites.
– I take leave to doubt it. However, if this Government is re-elected, the commercial stations may regard themselves as on the way out. It is just as well that they should be told that they are on the way out, if they have not already awakened to that fact. The private banks and the insurance companies have awakened up. The managing authorities of many private institutions thought, “Oh, it is all right. The Government will not touch us. We are O.K. We can play along with the Government “. However, they have wakened up at last. I hope that the commercial broadcasting stations will similarly wake up to the danger, and fight the Government, which intends to gobble them up, as the wolf tried to gobble up dear Little Red Riding Hood.
– Why does not the honorable member wake up?
– I am endeavouring to stay awake, but it is very difficult to do so when I am vis-a-vis the Minister. 1 direct attention, not only to the menace which faces us, but also to the more subtle danger with which we are confronted, of the infiltration of Government propaganda into the ears and minds of the people through the medium ofthe Australian Broadcasting Commission. All honorable members on this side of the chamber, and some honorable members opposite who are still capable of a little objective thinking - I do not include the Minister in that statement - will agree that listeners hear government propaganda to a nauseating degree over the Australian Broadcasting Commission at the present time.
– That is absolute nonsense.
– Is it? We shall see. A few weeks ago, I listened to the broadcast of a production by a man named Norman Robb, which was a rather subtle eulogium of the Government’s social services. It was put into a pseudodramatic form, and was the same sort of thing as we have read in the expensive booklet that has been sent to all parts of the Commonwealth at the taxpapers’ expense, praising the social services of this precious Government.
– Is the honorable member opposed to social services?
– I listened to that particular broadcast with more than a little annoyance, and all honorable members, including the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Fraser), know that I am a most amiable and placid person.
– I agree; but apparently the honorable member is opposed to social services.
– I took the trouble to get a copy of the script. It was a subtle piece of government propaganda.
– Why not read it now?
– I shall present the Minister with a copy of it later. I have not a copy in front of me now, but he will take my word, if he will take the word of any one, when I say that I read it again and again.
– I shall give the honorable member my comments on it.
– Heaven forbid that the Minister should do that! I say that it was a subtle piece of propaganda. It is a poor state of affairs when the Government’s station is putting out that kind of stuff, which is not objective.
– Why does the honorable member make that statement against Mr. Robb, without producing a tittle of evidence in support of his views? It is most unfair.
– I make that statement because I listened to the broadcast and read the script.
– Why does not the honorable member produce some evidence to support his remarks?
– If the honorable member for Eden-Monaro is interested, be may, as the Scriptures say, “ read, mark, learn and inwardly digest “ the script. I shall lend him a copy of it.
– The honorable member should not have made that statement against Mr. Robb without producing evidence.
– Rubbish !
– That is the honorable member’s standard.
– It was a piece of Government propaganda on social services. That broadcast is not the only example. Again and again, through the medium of the national stations, we have pieces of information and other items in the news services, and elsewhere in the programmes, with an iteration and reiteration of names of Ministers in a quite unnecessary way, and certainly in a way that one does not hear when listening to the news services of the British Broadcasting Corporation. We in Australia do not seem .to have learned to apply objectivity, detachment and impartiality in our news broadcasts. I say publicly, because this is not only my comment but also the comment of many Australians, that we are irritated by the fact that, again and again, items from the Australian Broadcasting Commission reveal a slant which is not so impartial as the national stations should be. We hear reports of tinpot and minor activities that have no real news value, but merely relate to some Minister. We have the story of how the “ standover committee “ - the Broadcasting Committee - seeks to influence the actions of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. We have the celebrated incident some years ago when the Australian Broadcasting Commission sought on Trafalgar Day, which is the 21st October, to make a broadcast about Admiral Nelson, and a Minister interfered and said, “ ‘Aven’t you got any Australian admirals you Gan talk about? “
– When was that?
– A, few years ago.
– It was on account of Lady Hamilton.
– The Minister, of course, would be familiar with that aspect of the famous seaman’s life. When a Labour member heard of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s proposal for Trafalgar Day, all he could say was, “ ‘Aven’t you got an Australian admiral you can talk about ? “ The Australian Broadcasting Commission managed to laugh that one off, but we all have noticed from time to time, this subtle influence in the broadcasts of news and other items, which give quite a Government slant. I do not blame .the Australian Broadcasting Commission, as such. Itis an institution that is trying to do its best, but I do blame the Government and members of the Labour party who are trying to destroy the impartiality of that organization. We must develop in our national news broadcasts a tradition of complete impartiality and objectivity, which, to date, we have failed to do. If we allow our national broadcasting system to become a vehicle of political propaganda for the government of the day, and in making this statement I disregard the political views of that government, we shall sooner or later completely destroy democracy as an instrument in thi3 country. I have wanted to say this for a long time. I know that the Minister does not agree with me. He wants the Australian Broadcasting Commission to be the mouthpiece of the Government.
– I do not.
– If he continues to apply his present policy, and permits the Australian Broadcasting Commission to become a propaganda agent for the Govern ment, he will destroy the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and democracy itself.
.- A tremendous amount of money is being expended by the Postmaster-General’s Department in the capital cities. I know that expenditure is necessary in order to provide facilities such as the Batman automatic telephone exchange, and the St. Kilda telephone exchange, but I do not think that the department is allocating the available money and materials fairly as between the cities and the country. People living in the country twenty miles away from the nearest town find it extremely difficult to obtain telephones. Some of them have young families, and often need to be able to get in touch with a doctor at short notice. Others are secretaries of political groups, and need telephones in order to perform their duties. In many instances, their applications for telephones have been approved, and they have paid the first instalments required by the department, but the telephones have not been installed, even though they have been waiting for years. I admit that the department must try to meet the demand from the cities for telephones, but a proper relation should be preserved between the needs of the country and the cities. Some time ago, we were promised that rural automatic telephone exchanges would be installed in large numbers. Very few have been installed yet, although I do not claim that the fault lies with the Postmaster-General’s Department. In many places, the present telephone exchange service is very unsatisfactory. The exchange may be installed in a shop, which is vacated from noon on Saturday until 9 o’clock on the following Monday, so that no telephone service is available over the week-end. I know of one case in which an injured man died from loss of blood because it was impossible to call a doctor in time, and- those who were with him did not know how to stop the bleeding. I maintain that insufficient attention has been paid to the more remote country areas. I am a member of the Public Works Committee, which has investigated many proposals for improved facilities in the cities, and I, together with other members of the committee, have approved the proposals, hut I believe that the country should get a fair deal, too.
I am glad that the department has improved the conditions of employment for those in charge of part-time post offices. Previously, their remuneration was scandalously small, having regard to what they were expected to do. Although they are now being treated better, I believe that there is still room for improvement.
I agree with other members of the Opposition, who have spoken on the subject, that the Postmaster-General’s Department should not be required to make up losses incurred by Trans-Australia Airlines. The Government should not require the customers of the Postal Department to bear the cost of its socialization experiments. Because Trans-Australia Airlines is competing with private enterprise, it has to provide a reasonable service, but its losses should not be charged against any other government undertaking.
– I agree with the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) that the allocation of expenditure ‘by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department between the cities and the country is not equitable. In support of my contention, let me refer to the treatment of country residents who are seeking to obtain a new telephone service. The procedure is that, say, six persons apply for a service, the route is surveyed by departmental engineers, and an estimate of the cost prepared. The department then offers to pay towards the cost of installing the service £100 for each subscriber, making £600 in this instance. Any additional cost must be borne by the subscribers themselves, who must either put up cash, or supply poles or do the work of clearing the line. Until 1945, the amount which the department would pay in respect of each subscriber was £50. It was then increased to £100, and I am now asking that it be increased to £200.
– Do the subscribers receive a refund of what they put in ?
– No, and they are required to pay ordinary telephone charges as well, although they are charged on a different basis from city subscribers. The amount of £100 for each subscriber, which was probably reasonable in 1945, is not enough now, because of the increased cost of labour and materials. Thus, the proportion which the department contributes towards the cost of new services of this kind is steadily declining. The department is doing less and less, and the subscribers are required to do more and more. The result is that the installation of many services is being held up because the cost would be beyond the financial capacity of residents. I know for a fact that the offices of the telephone engineers in the capital cities are cluttered up with applications for services, some of which date back eighteen months or two years. Construction has been delayed because the conditions are too onerous for the people. The department has recognized that costs and wages have increased generally, and it should take that fact into account in fixing the amount which it is prepared to contribute towards the cost of installing country telephone services. I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to give this matter serious consideration. I understand that the regulations also provide that the department shall contribute only £5 towards the cost of carrying a telephone line over private property. Under present conditions, £5 is hardly enough to pay for the erection of one pole. That is another matter to which the Minister might give his attention.
– I do not agree with Opposition members that the Postmaster-General’s Department does not treat country districts fairly, compared with the cities, in the provision of telephone services. City people are finding it just as hard to get telephones as are those in the country.
– City people can go to a public telephone to make calls.
– The other day, three men came up to me one after the other to ask me to do something to get for them telephones which they urgently needed. One was a taxi-cab proprietor, who needed a telephone in connexion with his business. He could not do other work because of the state of his health. Two minutes after that man left me, another approached me to say that he had been waiting for two years for a telephone, and only a little while later I was approached by a third man. I had to tell them that I had received more letters from people who wanted telephones than from those who wrote on all other matters combined. Most of those who communicate with me need telephones for business purposes. Some of them are ex-servicemen who have set themselves up in small businesses. Because the capacity of telephone exchanges is overtaxed, or because no telephone cable is available, telephones cannot be installed.
– Surely a man who is working his own farm is running a business.
– I do not deny that. I am merely contesting the view that the cities are being treated better than the country. I do not deny that country people need telephones as much as do other people, but I point out that, in metropolitan districts where new industries are being established, and where men are setting themselves up in new businesses, every effort should he made to provide them with telephones. I ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, to see whether it is possible to do something more than is being done at present. There are three or four large telephone exchanges in my own electorate. For the most part, the equipment is already fully employed, but in one area there is room for another 100 lines. Successful applicants for telephones must have a very high priority. They must be such persons as doctors, nurses, ex-servicemen, &c. The ordinary citizen has to wait for years. The general manager of a long-established flourmilling company, which has mills all over the country, the managers of which frequently, and at all times of the day or night, need to get into touch with him about a breakdown or some other difficulty, has not been able to obtain a telephone at his private home to allow that to be done. That instance could be multiplied many times. Some honorable members seem to think that the metropolitan area has all its wishes met by the Postal Department, but that is far from being true. I am not concerned about men who want to have a telephone installed merely for social reasons, but I am greatly concerned about men who need telephones to enable them to conduct their businesses. A certain amount has been done to meet the position, but a greater effort should still be made by the department to comply with long-standing applications by business men for telephones.
.- I am interested in the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the proposed vote for which is £125,000. I think it was Sir Henry Parkes who said that if a government official were given an office he would soon have a department built round him. The truth of that is demonstrated by the proposed vote for the board. Its establishment was criticized in the Parliament when the proposal was first made.
– Only its personnel.
– Not only the personnel. The proposal was criticized on other grounds. The very first order made by the board was criticized. From what we can gather, that order, under which radio stations were to have been compelled to broadcast political propaganda entirely opposed to their principles, was submitted to the Minister for his approval before it was gazetted.
– I did not see it until it was issued.
– I accept the Minister’s contradiction, but that has been said. What I am interested in is the enormous expenditure that the board has been able to incur in the short period that it has been in operation. It was created only a month or so ago, but the Estimates provide for a vote for it of no less than £125,000. It must be remembered that the board is only an administrative body. It has not to provide vast technical services or do other than make decisions, formulate policy and the like. Yet, on page 168 of the Estimates, we find such items as “Hire of motor vehicles, £3,300 “. That is equivalent to £1,100 apiece for each of the three members of the board. Then there is an item “Motor vehicles, £6,000”. I presume that that item refers to the purchase of new motor vehicles. Does that mean that each member of the board- shall have £2,000 to expend on motor vehicles? I turn to the gazettal of vacancies. The three members of the board are Mr. L. B. Fanning, Mr. C. Ogilvy and Mr. R. G. Osborne. I should like the Minister to tell me what their remuneration is.
– The chairman, Mr. L. B. Fanning, receives £3,000 a year, and each of the other two members, £2,750 a year.
– The salary range of the secretary to the board is from £1,250 to £1,438. The salary offered for the position of “ assistant secretary “ ranges from £1,110 to £1,325. The position of “ Director, Technical Services “ carries a salary ranging from £1,375 to £1,563 a year. The director of programme services will receive from £1,375 to £1,563. Then we have the position of “Research Officer, Programme Services “, the salary for which ranges from £1,038 to £1,128. Another research officer will receive from £918 to £1,108, and the administrative officer will receive a similar salary. The salary of the finance officer ranges from £978 to £1,068 and that of the licensing officer from £790 to £888. The personnel officer will receive from £655 to £745. Two positions of “ Engineer “ carry salaries of £930 to £1,020 and £990 to £1,080 respectively. Then we have the deputy director, whose salary ranges from £1,110 to £1,200. So it goes on ! It would weary me too much to go right through the list. This is a newly created board that has been superimposed on existing services, such as the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Broadcasting Committee, and the Wireless Branch of the Postmaster-General’s Department. All those officers of various types and descriptions are needed to help the three gentlemen who have been recently appointed as the dictators of Australian broadcasting services. I should like to know what services the board will render beyond those that we were told that it would render when it was established.
– I shall tell the honorable member.
– The Minister will have to tell me a lot to explain why it is proposed to expend £125,000 on a board that was set up only a month or two ago. I recollect that when the Department of Information was created, before the arrival in the Parliament of the Minister for Information, we were told that it would cost only about £70,000 a year. I should like to know what it costs to-day.
– It costs £186,000 a year.
– Well ! The expansion of the Department of Information is analogous to what we may expect with the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. Perhaps we shall be told why it is thought necessary to expend on the board so much money as it is proposed to for a board that has been created so recently. Doubtless, as its activities expand, its expenditure will rise proportionately.
I reiterate my protest against the appointment of certain members of the board. The Government acted indecently in appointing Mr. Ogilvy. I have no personal objections to him, because he is a very fine person. But the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) accepted from the Macquarie network free time on the air every Sunday night. He took it without making any monetary payment. When the Australian Broadcasting Control Board was established, he selected from the Macquarie system one of its executive officers, Mr. Ogilvy. That was a quid pro quo for the services that it had rendered to him. It was a completely objectionable action. The Prime Minister may very properly say, “ Oh, but I paid them nothing. It is a completely gratuitous service. These people mean nothing to me “. I agree that no monetary reward was given to the Macquarie network ; but it was given an influence on the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in the person of Mr. Ogilvy. That position enables Mr. Ogilvy, not necessarily as the official spokesman of the network, but as one who, because of his long service with it, must take into consideration knowledge that he has acquired in its interests to, in mind, serve such interests.
– That is a terrible thing to say.
– It is absolutely in accordance with the facts, whether it is terrible or not. The appointment of
Mr. Ogilvy was a reward to the Macquarie network for the services that it had given the Prime Minister every Sunday night, and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Eraser) every Friday night, in the shape of free time on the air. If that time were used by other persons in the community, including the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), the cost would amount to hundreds, or even thousands of pounds a year. The appointment of Mr. Ogilvy was indecent. The whole matter is improper. Free time on the air should not have been accepted by the Prime Minister from the Macquarie network. If he wants to use the broadcasting medium to tell the people of Australia about national policy or national interests, he should use the services of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and the Leader of the Opposition should be likewise entitled to use, pro rata, the services of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. To use the services of a private company, as the Prime Minister is doing, and say that the services cost nothing, and then to appoint an executive officer of that company to a position in which he may exercise control over all the rival broadcasting companies in Australia in an indirect way is grossly improper. Not much can be done about it now. I merely make my protest. We are entitled to be told why, in the space of a few months, it has been found necessary to expend £125,000 on an organization that was superimposed on all existing broadcasting services in Australia.
– The debate on the proposed vote for the Postmaster-General’s Department was initiated by the antisocialist socialist member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull).
– Anti-socialist is right !
– He balances very nicely in some respects and very awkwardly in others between socialism and private enterprise. He talked about the increased cost of postal, telephonic, and telegraphic services. Their cost has increased recently. We debated the matter in June when the Parliament decided to authorize increased postal, telephonic and telegraphic charges to offset the increased cost of providing the services. The increased cost resulted from a variety of causes. One cause was the introduction, of the 40-hour week. Any honorable member who voted against the bill to authorize the increased charges voted against the 40-hour week.
– What absolute rubbish!
– The honorable member is an expert on rubbish. The 40-hour week was a large factor in the increased cost of operating the Postal Department. Another factor was that increased staff had to be recruited to meet the increased demand for services that came about because of the prosperity of Australia that has resulted from the good government of the Labour administration. Other factors were cost of living adjustments, arbitration court awards and increased charges for fuel, light and power and increased freight and cartage expenses. There were also increased payments to contractors for expanded mail services, which included expanded airmail services, not only surface mail survices. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), speaking of the floods that unfortunately occurred in his electorate and that of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), said recently that the service for the carriage of mails by air during the floods should be maintained in normal times. He wants more airmail .services. The Government is trying to give more airmail services. It has succeeded in expanding airmail services greatly in the last few years. In addition, it has increased surface mail services. Another factor was the increased cost of office machines, and equipment, such as accounting’ machines and typewriters. Another was the increased cost of other materials, particularly of materials purchased from overseas. The Postal Department, with all those extra costs imposed upon it, could not have continued to operate on the charges made by it before such charges were increased. It is wrong to misrepresent the situation and say that the Government should have drawn on surpluses of other years in the earnings of the Postal Department to finance the additional posts, when its annual revenue has not met its annual expenditure. In , other words, it is wrong to say that we should draw on past surpluses for the purposes of subsidizing current losses. To do so would be merely to delay the day when rates would have to be increased. There is also a constitutional difficulty, which was explained at the time, and it is of no use for honorable members opposite to believe that once revenue has been paid into the public account it can be withdrawn at a later time to subsidize losses in subsequent years. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) knows that.
– What about TransAustralia Airlines, which the Government subsidizes ?
– The Government does not subsidize Trans-Australia Airlines. I repeat for the benefit of all honorable members opposite a fact that has been stated before, which is that the Department of Civil Aviation is paid a sum by the Postal Department for the carriage of mails by air and1 that the Department of Civil Aviation distributes that amount among mail contractors as payment for the services that they render. There is no direct subsidy paid by the Postal Department to Trans-Australia Airlines, and the rate paid to that airline is no different now from what it was when Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited had the monopoly of airmail services, with the exception that cost of living and- other adjustments have increased the costs of the carriage of mail by air to the extent by which the poundage subsidy has been increased since TransAustralia Airlines took over the service. There has been no additional or special subsidy granted to Trans - Australia Airlines.
The honorable member for Wimmera and other honorable members who have spoken in this debate will be interested to know that in the twelve months that ended on the 30th June last, 25 rural automatic exchanges were put into operation and that it is estimated that 151 such’ rural automatic exchanges will be installed or will be in process of installation in various localities throughout the Commonwealth in the year that will end on the 30th June next.
That is a very substantial increase in the number of such exchanges.
– Is there to be one for Mildura ?
– I ask the honorable gentleman not to be parochial. I suppose that if we installed half a dozen automatic exchanges in his electorate he would join the Labour party. He is only concerned with pulling that old parish pump. This Government takes a broad national view and tries to help all the rural electorates throughout Australia. It does not discriminate in favour of those electorates that have returned Government supporters, nor does it discriminate against those electorates that are, unfortunately, now burdened with non-Government supporters. The honorable member for Wimmera talked’ about curbing the loquacity of people who use public telephones in the electorate of Melbourne. I pointed out some months ago that if we were to do as he has suggested and install automatic time regulators in public telephone boxes to limit a twopennny call to three minutes, the cost would be practically prohibitive. I also pointed out on a previous occasion that a survey that had been made showed’ that on the average, people in the city areas take just about the same amount of time in making public telephone calls as people in the country areas take.
– But the people in the country areas have to pay for extra time over three minutes.
– People who make telephone calls from a public telephone in a country town to another telephone in the same town enjoy the same advantages as people in the metropolitan areas who call a city number from a public telephone box. I think that on the whole city people are no more loquacious than are country people, and if every person who used a public telephone box took as long to explain his point of view as the honorable gentleman takes to explain his point of view, very few people would be able to use public telephones.
This Government has done a remarkably good job for telephone users. It recognizes that a telephone is no longer a luxury, but that it is an amenity that ought to be available to everybody.
– It is a necessity.
– I accept the amendment by the honorable member for Calare that a telephone is a necessity. It is only the absence of materials, principally materials from overseas, that prevents all the extensions of telephone services required in country districts from /being made as rapidly as everybody in this chamber would desire. Nobody desires to see people discriminated against because they live in country areas. There is no greater apostle of the principle of decentralization than I am. I cannot see this country being held and populated if 64 per cent, of the population live in the capital city, as is the case in Victoria. We must get people into the -country districts, and as far as possible and as rapidly as possible orders are being placed for automatic switching equipment and underground cable with both Australian and overseas contractors. Honorable members will be pleased to know that supplies are coming to hand at a much faster rate than has been experienced in previous years and if the present rate of delivery is maintained it is anticipated that the department’s estimate that it will be able to connect an additional 60,000 subscribers in the current financial year will be fulfilled. That will be a substantial increase of the number of people who have telephones. One would think to listen to the honorable member for Wimmera that -nothing was being done in the matter of providing additional trunk-line services and that the Government was actually planning for less instead of more of such services.
– I did not mention that at all.
– The honorable member talked about trunk-line services and -the cost of telephones and the necessity of installing more exchanges and con.necting more people to them. Our est,1. mated expenditure on trunk-line services for this financial year is £2,790,000, compared with £1,683,548 actual expenditure last year. So the Government cannot be accused of defaulting in that regard.
The matter mentioned by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. “Davidson) is one of great concern. In ;1045, the Government did increase the subsidy for remote subscribers from £50 to £100 to enable those living in what might be called the real outback to obtain telephone services. The honorable gentleman has suggested a further increase of subsidy to £200. His suggestion will be brought to the attention of the Postmaster-General. I shall ask the Postmaster-General to have his officers give sympathetic consideration to the suggestion. There must be a limit to such provisions, but it is desirable to encourage people to settle in country districts.
The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), who has performed very good service as a member of the Public Works Committee and has been a party to recommending the establishment of telephone exchanges in metropolitan areas, has pleaded for a better balance between the claims of country and city subscribers than now exists. He said that the manner in which we treat certain country applicants for telephone services is not quite fair, and he mentioned one person who, he said, has been waiting twelve months for a telephone. The officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department have advised me that the delay in the supply of telephones is entirely due to the absence of cable and other material, and that the sooner that material comes to hand - and now, of course, as a result of the devaluation of sterling we must get more of it from sterling areas and less of it from dollar areas - the sooner will the back-lag of applications be dealt with. I shall ask the Postmaster-General to give special attention to the claims made by the honorable member for Bendigo, and also to take notice of what the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) said in respect of matters affecting his electorate and South Australia generally. South Australia is bigger in area than New South Wales but has a population of only slightly more than 500,000 people. I am sure that that State requires special consideration, and the honorable gentleman’s remarks will certainly be brought to the notice of the Postmaster-General with a request that consideration he given to his submissions.
The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) spoke about the position in relation to broadcasting services. He may like to know that there are about 102 commercial radio stations operating in Australia and either 38 or 39 national stations. The honorable gentleman said that if it were left to him he would have the American system, where private enterprise holds undisputed sway.
– That is wrong! I said that I would not have the American system.
– He also said that under proper administration he would not mind having the British system, which is all-out socialization, but he would not trust that system to my tender care.
– I did not say that at all.
– Then the honorable member ended up by saying that the present Australian system suits him because it is a mixture of the American and British systems. I do not know just what the honorable member wants, except that lie wants me to admit that the people who conduct stations operating now on the medium-wave band of amplitude modulation are all due to go bankrupt in a year or two because television is likely to come to this country! I do not believe that that will happen. I consider that there is room for both the system of television and the audio system of broadcasting, which can exist side by side. I hope that one of these days we shall have the proceedings of this Parliament televised or telecast, whichever may be the correct term. I know that honorable members opposite do not want that to happen. Some of them did not even want the proceedings of the Parliament broadcast. There was much stronger opposition to the proposal to broadcast proceedings from honorable members opposite than there was from honorable members on this side of the chamber. However, television of the proceedings will come in time I have no doubt, and will have the advantage of letting the people of Australia see as well as hear their parliamentary representatives. I personally have no fears of that future.
The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) referred to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board that was established under the Australian Broadcasting Control Act. What the honorable gentleman apparently overlooked is the fact that the board has taken over certain functions that were previously discharged by the Postmaster-General’s Department in relation to the control of broadcasting services. Ever since the inauguration of broadcasting services in Australia the discharge of those functions has involved the Postmaster-General’s Department in a considerable expenditure. The amount of money which has to be provided for the control of broadcasting services has increased from year to year as the industry has increased in importance. A number of the officers whose salaries are involved in the Estimates relating to the board were previously employed in the Postmaster-General’s Department. In addition a .number of the charges incurred in the operation of the board are charges that were previously incurred by the Postmaster-General’s Department. There have been some increases of costs which have been due to the fact that the board is doing work that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department was never able to do because it did not have sufficient staff. For instance the people who got in on the ground floor of the radio broadcasting industry and obtained licences! in Sydney and Melbourne got the best frequencies and got clear channels, and as a result the stations that are operating out in the country districts often have to share channels and operate on lower frequencies. There must be a rearrangement of that condition sooner or later and investigations into the matter require travel to and from country districts to enable the board to give proper consideration to the competing claims of country and city districts.
The honorable gentleman also made another unprovoked and unwarranted attack on Mr. Ogilvy. He suggested that Mr. Ogilvy’s appointment to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board was a quid fro quo for the services that the Macquarie Broadcasting Service Proprietary Limited renders the Prima Minister of Australia by giving him an opportunity to report weekly to the nation over the air. That is a terrible charge to make, and I do not think that the honorable member himself believes that it is true. He went further and said that Mr. Ogilvy was now in a favoured position on the board and was able to help the Macquarie network against its competitors. I think that that is an unworthy statement.Whatever any one may think of Mr. Ogilvy, he is a man of honour and integrity. I do not know how he votes at elections; but I do not think that he ever voted for the Labour party. I am certain that not one member of the Macquarie network directorate is a Labour party supporter. The people who own the Macquarie network also own the Sydney Sun, and none of them support the Labour party. All the matters which have been raised by honorable members will be submitted to the Postmaster-General for consideration.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for Commonwealth Railways, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and Broadcasting Services has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) represented me a moment ago as having said that I was in favour of the American system of broadcasting, with unlimited and unbridled private enterprise, as against the British system. The Minister was apparently standing upside down, because I said precisely the opposite. I said that I did not favour the American system and that as a matter of personal choice I would prefer the British Broadcasting Corporation system, but that, having regard to Australian conditions and particularly to the fact that the Postmaster-General is represented by a gentleman like the Minister, I preferred the compromise between the two systems.
– I also wish to make a personal explanation. I think that I heard the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) aright and that every other honorable member heard him as I heard him. He has said, at least by inference, that I have misrepresented him. He does not recall what he said and obviously he has had a second thought on the matter. He needed to have such a second thought.
Proposed vote, £1,395,000.
Proposed vote, £1,127,500.
Proposed vote, £3,634,000.
Proposed vote, £4,500. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– I protest against the allotment of only an hour for the consideration of the important Estimates which are now before the committee. Such an arrangement is unworthy of the Government. Because of the importance of the matters which honorable members desire to bring before the committee during the consideration of these Estimates the Government should have made special provision for their discussion, particularly at a time when it is said that we are on the eve of a new era in the development of northern Australia. The people of Australia look forward with more certainty to a new era in the government of this country after the10th December next. I regret that such a short time should be allotted to the consideration of the Estimates for the Northern Territory to which only an individualist is attracted and in which only an individualist can survive. I have been wondering whether this socialist Government, in conjunction with the Hanlon Government of Queensland, is preparing to cut off the head of the golden goose after further fattening the monopolist activities of Vesteys and Bovril (Australian) Estates Limited with a view to coming in later for the kill. The situation appears paradoxical to me because the Hanlon Government has already passed legislation to confiscate the cattle industry in Queensland. The people of the Northern Territory, particularly the small cattle men, are wondering whether similar legislation will be passed by the National Parliament to prevent them from controlling their own sales of cattle. I have wondered whether this Government has been preparing a plan to enable the monopolies to develop their holdings so that, at the right time, it can make the kill. My wonderment is fortified by the following statement by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) in his budget speech : -
The Commonwealth has plans for encouraging the development of the cattle industry in Northern Australia, and so increase the avail - nihility of meat for export to the United Kingdom. The Government is collaborating with the governments of Queensland and Western Australia in the provision of improved transport facilities and water supplies for this purpose. On present estimates these plans will cost the Commonwealth about £4,500,000.
I am pleased to notice that the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) has returned to his duties. I sympathize with him in the sad bereavement which caused his brief absence from the Parliament. I am also pleased to note that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) is present in the chamber. Both honorable gentlemen are interested! in the matters which I propose to raise, and I trust that they will have something to say about them. I hope that the Minister for Transport will he able to indicate the Government’s immediate plans for the provision of transport facilities through the Channel country of western Queensland. It is claimed that the development of the Northern Territory is dependent on the development of the Channel country. I challenge the accuracy of that claim. Certain advisors of the Government believe that the development of one area is coincident with the development of the other. I do not agree with them. If such a policy were put into effect, cattle from the Northern Territory would, be drained southwards. My policy has always .been to transport cattle from the Northern Territory to northern ports.
I propose now to say a few words about the report on the administration of the Northern Territory for the year 1947-48. That report, which was tabled, in the Parliament only a month ago, was fifteen months overdue. That delay indicates some lack of efficiency either on the part of the Administrator of the Northern Territory or the printing department. Under the heading “ General Conditions “ there are two paragraphs which would have been better left out of the report. The report was presented to the Minister for the Interior. I suggest to the honorable gentleman that before reports of this kind are printed and published, he should see that they are vetted by his senior officers at Canberra, The first of the paragraphs which I think could have been better left unsaid reads as follows : -
The housing position in all parts of the1 Territory is one of acute shortage, and to date’ there have been only ten new houses completed by the Department of Works and! Housing in the whole of the Territory. That department has, however, reconditioned over 100 houses in ‘Darwin which had been neglected over the war years. Money has been made available for housing, not only for the Darwin scheme but for all the inland towns. However, to date, there is no evidence of construction commencing. The housing, shortage may eventually prove the downfall of development.
The second paragraph to which I take exception and to which I direct theMinister’s special attention reads as follows : -
It has been found almost impossible to obtain the number and the standard of officers required for the successful and full functioning of this Administration. At the present time I have in this organization only a few officers of outstanding ability. Although the rank and file of the officers is working hard, I find that there is an almost complete lack of juniorleadership. This may mean, if it is not watched very closely, a complete breaking up of the fabrication, with consequent disintegration. We are skating on very thin ice indeed, and if any of the senior officers, fail in health or break down in their duties, I will find it very difficult to replace them from the officers I have on hand. I trust that the ice holds and we do not break through into the waters beneath. This position could be improved by the Public Service Board looking into the possibility of obtaining for the Northern Territory their own complete organization on a colonial Public Service scale. There is not sufficient incentive at the present time in the Northern Territory to attract officers of good knowledgeable repute.
Surely the statements contained in that paragraph would have been better left out of an official report. I know some of the officers of the Northern Territory administration. Many of them are very able and it ill becomes the Administrator to single out some officers who, in his judgment, are able. He indicates that he has a very high regard for the .Director of Mining, Mr. Coxon, the Director of Lands, Mr. Barclay, and his assistant, the Government Secretary, Mr. Leydin. The Minister should instruct him never again to write such a report about his officers.
I propose now to discuss the subject of the land administration and the subdivision of estates in the Northern Territory. This subject, which is bound up with the administration of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley); the Minister for the Interior and the Minister for Transport, is of such importance as to justify its fullest examination by a commission of land commissioners from western Queensland. Those officers could give the Government most helpful advice. The commission should also include in its membership surveyors from western Queensland who, in association with land officers, have made excellent recommendations relating to the development of Queensland from the Channel country to the Gulf of Carpentaria. The Payne Commission, which made a factual report on the Northern Territory in 1936, recommended that a land court should be established or that at intervals a land court from. Queensland should be invited to sit in the Northern Territory and make decisions on major problems of policy. Unfortunately, that recommendation was not accepted by the Government. The only action taken by the Government in relation to that section of the Payne Commission’s report was to abolish the then existing Land Board. I have no doubt that the board was abolished at the behest of Vesteys because a certain officer in the Northern Territory administration refused to allow himself to be twisted around the fingers of the representatives of that monopolistic concern. It is true that the Northern Territory Land Board was abolished during the term of office of a Conservative government. Whilst I congratulate the Minister for the Interior for his decision to re-establish the Land Board, it is unfortunate that he did not exercise more care in doing so. The board has been reconstituted under an ordinance and has been, clothed with powers to make decisions that override, the decisions of the Minister himself. I do not think that the Minister can refute that statement. Let us consider what happened when choice lands resumed in the Northern Territory were due for allotment a few months ago. Instead of adopting a policy of closer settlement on the Barkly Tableland, with holdings limited to 400 square miles, the lands resumed were consolidated with adjoining stations and holdings, not of 400 square miles,, but of 1,000 square miles were allotted.. That action was ridiculous in the view of those who have first-hand knowledgeof the area. An economic holding in. that part of the Northern Territory at present would not exceed an area of 400 square miles. If a railway were constructed through the Barkly Tableland the existing economic area of 400 square miles could be divided by four. Somepersons may challenge the accuracy of that contention, but I do not believe that, such a challenge could be upheld. Only a few months ago an article written by a previous Administrator, Mr. C. L. A.. Abbott^ appeared in the press. It stated that if a railway were constructed through that country an area of 100- square miles would constitute an economicholding. That, of course, is a choice part of the Northern Territory. I do not sing the praises of Mr. Abbott, becauseI recall that in 1943, as Administrator, he advised the then government virtually to give away, for a further 42 years, 11,000 square miles of the Northern-. Territory, known as Alexandria Station. Since then Mr. Abbott has obviously seen the light. I do not know what Minister was responsible for signing- the instrument of title. The Minister for the Interior will probably reply that whoever may havebeen responsible the action was taken on the recommendation of Mr. Abbott. Although Mr. Abbott has seen the light this Government has not done so, for it still regards 1,000 square miles of country as an economic holding in that area. In 1932, when, as a land commissioner, I advised resumptions, I insisted that: no new holdings should exceed an area of 400 square miles. In spite of the fact that the proposal for the construction of a railway through the Barkly Tableland appears to be nearing fruition, the Government has recently made allotments of land equal to 2-J times that size. That proposal should be further examined.
Some of the residents of the NorthernTerritory appear to believe that there is something crooked in the set-up of the new Land Board. That is not so. I agree, however, that its constitution is wrong in principle. The only criticism which I level at the board as it is now constituted is that provision has not been made for inclusion in its membership of a land commissioner from western Queensland. Queensland land commissioners have a very wide experience which would be invaluable to the board. I know from my experience as a surveyor that western Queensland from Charleville to the Gulf of Carpentaria, was subdivided into holdings varying in area from 20,000 up to a maximum of 40,000 acres. Even at Boulia, which is 250 miles west of Winton, 60,000 acres of land is regarded as an economic area. In that district the annual rainfall is from five to seven inches. Notwithstanding that fact, over the border 1,000 square miles has been stated to be the smallest economic holding. The Government appointed to the Lands Board an able officer, Mr. Barclay, the Director of Lands in the Northern Territory, an able administrative officer. Mr. Huthness, and a pastoralist from western New South Wales. I have not met the pastoralist, who is, I understand, a very able man, but I contend that he must have an unconscious bias in favour of large pastoralists. The small settlers in the Northern Territory should be represented on the Land Board. I presume that the pastoralist to whom I have referred dominated the other two members of the board and convinced them that 1,000 square miles should be regarded as the smallest economic area and that the western Queensland figure should not be adopted.
Let us examine the way in which blocks of land in the Northern Territory have been allocated. Returned servicemen are striving to obtain land there. As the Minister for the Interior knows, I have for some time advocated the establishment of a returned servicemen’s land settlement scheme in the Northern Territory, but the honorable gentleman has refused to institute such a scheme. Under existing conditions, if a returned serviceman is allocated land in the Northern Territory, the fact that he is a returned serviceman is only incidental. There is no reservation of land for returned servicemen in the territory as there is in other parts of the Commonwealth. The people of the Northern Territory view with hostility the fact that when blocks of land are being allocated the men with most money for developmental purposes are most likely to get them. The Brunchilly block has been allocated to a firm that holds another 4,000 square miles of land known as the Inverway station, the Alcoota station and the Bushy Park station. The Minister for the Interior will probably offer the excuse that he has acted in conformity with the regulation, formulated two or three years ago by himself, that no newcomer to the Northern Territory can obtain more than 5,000 square miles of land. That is nothing to be proud of. This Government, which is supposed to safeguard the interests of small men, has approved of an ordinance which provides that no newcomer to the territory shall be granted a lease in respect of more than 5,000 square miles of land! The firm that owned Inverway station, Alcoota and Bushy Park, was given the lease of 1,000 square miles of land at Brunchilly. That land could well have been allocated to Mr. Schultz, a small man in the Victoria River Downs district. I have been trying for years to obtain an outlet for his cattle. His holding is situated in cow country. It is not suitable for fattening bullocks. The Brunchilly block is situated in fattening country. In 1932, I recommended that the cattlemen in the cow country should be allocated blocks of land on the Barkly Tableland so that they would have an outlet to fattening country. However, this choice block, Brunchilly, was allocated to a big company, and Mr. Schultz and others are still striving to secure land in other areas on which they can fatten their cattle. Instead of resumed land in the Northern Territory being allocated in a way that is likely to bring more people to the territory, it is being given to the big men.
I shall now deal with the Channel country of western Queensland and its relation to the Northern Territory. In 1945, Mr. J. W. Fletcher, a very able pastoralist and meat works manager, who bad been associated with Mr. W. L. Payne in the preparation of the Payne report on the Northern Territory, was appointed by the Queensland Government as a member of the Abattoirs Commission for inland killing. That commission reported favorably on the Channel country, which has an annual rainfall of from 5 to 7 inches and which floods every five or seven years, as being a suitable fattening area for stock brought down from the breeding country in the north. Then Sir Harold Clapp reported on a project for a railway north from Charleville. Sir Harold and the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) favoured a railway connecting Charleville with the Cloncurry railway system to Mount Isa. I thought that that scheme was an ideal one, but the Queensland Government objected to it because it feared that the Queensland ports would be deprived of the trade that would be diverted to New South Wales. It boosted up the Channel country so much that I presume the Minister for Transport, in his wisdom, said, “What about bearing some of the expense of a railway through the Channel country ? “. The Queensland Government would not agree to that, and fought the Minister to the death. Then the Queensland Bureau of Investigation detailed some engineers to examine the Channel country report of the Abattoirs Commission. The report pf the bureau was published a few months ago. The Queensland Government was first advised by oneengineer that it was possible to dam the Georgina and the Diamantina Rivers and to flood the Channel country. The engineers who were detailed by the Bureau of Investigation more or less put a damper on that project. They were chary of making a report on the Channel country similar to that of the Abattoirs Commission. The result is that there is a deadlock. On the 26th September of this year an article by Mr. Fletcher appeared in the Brisbane Courier-Mail, which stated, inter alia: -
There has been a lot of talk about the Channel country and the boosting of beef from Northern Australia. Commonwealth a.nd State Governments are taking pride in the latest joint scheme - the building of 528 miles of main roads into the Channel country from the rail terminus at Yaraka, Quilpie and Bourke . . .
Before any policy is decided for the Channel country, the question of partially flooding the country should bc thoroughly and expertly examined over all the rivers by a committee with practical and technical knowledge. It is essential to know with absolute definiteness what can and what cannot be done; what may be done easily and quickly without extreme cost, and what may ultimately be done in a bigger way.
It is not possible to organize the linking of the breeding country in the north with the Channel fattening country unless there is regularity in flooding.
That is a significant admission. We know quite well that there is no regularity in the flooding of the Channel country. I have been advised by engineers that the artificial flooding of which Mr. Fletcher has spoken can be done only locally, but Mr. Fletcher has said that it can be done generally. Engineers have advised me that only nature can flood the Channel country in a general way and the heavy floods occur only once every five or seven years. Before publicmoney is expended upon the construction of a railway through the Channel country the Minister for Transport should obtain a further report from engineers of the highest standing so that he may decide who is correct. The cost of such a railway would be borne by “ dummy “, that is, the Commonwealth. I consider that the Queensland Government would be well advised to push out spur railways from Quilpie and Yaraka and to feed the railways with road trains in the good seasons. The breeders and dealers in the Channel country want the Commonwealth to construct a railway so that cattle may be transported from the Barkly Tableland to that area for fattening, but the Barkly Tablelands area is itself a fattening area. I have seen cows and vealers there, in prime condition and fit for slaughtering, in August. Only fattening country can produce such stock. It would be ridiculous for the Northern Territory to drain its cattle into the Channel country in order to satisfy a few dealers there. I ask the Minister for Transport and the Minister for the Interior to hesitate before approving of a project for the sending of cattle from the Northern Territory to the Channel country to satisfy a few fatteners. In my opinion, it would be wise to establish abattoirs in the centre of the Barkly Tableland, in the vicinity of Brunette Downs. If that were done, cattle would not have to travel for more than a few hundred miles. They could be killed, :so to speak, on the spot, and the carcasses could be sent from the abattoirs to a gulf port or overland by rail. Under the present arrangements, the small men are at the mercy of the dealers, who are waiting to come down upon them like hawks upon their defenceless prey. Under present conditions only the great station owners who possess depot stations leading into Queensland or New South Wales can survive. Such a situation is ridiculous I ask the Minister to consider whether Northern Territory cattle can be killed in the territory and exported from northern ports.
I consider that the development of cotton-growing in the northern rivers area has not been treated as seriously as it should be treated. The secretary of the cotton-growers’ organization at Katherine has written to the Minister for the Interior asking for financial assistance in connexion with the installation of a cotton ginnery. The cost of a ginnery is now £300, although when I first obtained an offer on their behalf from the Queensland Cotton Board, some time ago, it was £250. The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner has allocated approximately one and’ a half acres of land near the railway station at Katherine as a site for the ginnery. The cotton-growers are asking the Government to assist them on a £l-for-£l basis. If all the cotton-growers in that area cannot agree, a few of them will buy the ginnery themselves, but it would he beyond their resources to erect it and to construct the necessary buildings. The total cost would be £700 or £800. The least that the Minister for the Interior can do is to grant the cotton-growers a loan of half that amount. I ask the Minister to urge Cabinet to override the recommendation of the Tariff Board that no further tariff protection should be given to Queensland cotton-growers. The Government should take the bit in its teeth, treat the Northern Territory as its own baby and by-pass the Tariff Board. The planting season in the Northern Territory commences in midDecember. I am sure that, on reflection, the Minister will agree that my request is sound. I trust that he will treat the growing of cotton, tobacco and sorghum in the Northern Territory seriously and instruct his officers at Darwin to assist Northern Territory cottongrowers to prove conclusively that the northern rivers district of the territory is good cotton country.
– I should like the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) to inform me whether any change had been made in the developmental plan for Canberra, particularly in relation to the lakes scheme. The Walter Burley Griffin plan, which has become almost a sacred document from which there shall be no deviation, provides for that chain of lakes. There is now a further development to extend the lake frontage to the Canberra University, when it is built. Canberra is situated in a rather waterless paddock, and many people would be concerned if there is any interference with the decorative schemes, which provide for enjoyment and beauty. I have heard, although not officially, that a curtailment of the lakes scheme is being considered so that certain areas may remain under production, but I believe that the lakes scheme sets the seal on the Walter Burley Griffin plan. I ask the Minister to inform me whether any curtailment of the plan has been considered, or whether any new decision has been made upon this matter. If changes are under consideration, I suggest that he provide the opportunity for a wider discussion in which those who live in Canberra for a part of the year and have grown to be jealous of its rights and its plan may participate.
The beautification of the city of Canberra may be aided through the development of the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme. In time, that gigantic scheme, which has captured the imagination of the world-
– Oh !
– The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale), who expresses surprise at my description of the Snowy Mountains scheme, is very close to his own parish pump, and, therefore, suggests that it is not a gigantic scheme. I think that all of us are agreed that it is a gigantic and magnificent scheme. I merely suggest that some of the water that will be passing this city could be
Burned into Canberra and fed through a series of fountains. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to see the fountains of Versailles will recall that the topography of that district in France is similar to that of the Australian Capital Territory. In this rather dry area, we could erect a suitable memorial to the man who designed the Federal Capital, and to the Labour Government which planned the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, by providing a series of fountains that would be fed from the waters of the Snowy River. Those are my ideas for further beautifying this city, but they also have a utilitarian value.
I ask the Minister for the Interior to inform me whether any suggestion has been made for varying the lakes scheme, because that would affect the plans for the beautification of the whole of the lakeside area and the new university. I should also like to know whether the Minister, in co-operation with the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon), will ascertain whether the waters of the Snowy River could be flumed back and used in a series of fountains in Canberra to make a most beautiful memorial to an enterprise which the Labour Government has put into execution.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) to a matter which, I believe, is conducive to an unsettled state of affairs in New Guinea. I refer to the lack of wharfs. As the Minister will immediately realize, the territory must have adequate wharf accommodation in order that it may export its commerce and products. At present there is no wharf at Rabaul or Kavieng, and 350 feet of the wharf at “Port Moresby was condemned some time ago, and I understand that the remainder is about to fall. Workmen have been repairing the wharf at Lae for two and a “half years, but the structure has now completely collapsed. Of course, a new wharf will be built there eventually, but time is of the essence of the contract. Persons with businesses in the territory naturally desire to be able to export their products, and the lack of wharfs is causing serious inconvenience.
The hotel position in the territory leaves .much to be desired. At Lae there is a building which, at the best, might be termed a hotel. It is conducted by a woman who is now in occupation of a former Army Medical Women’s Auxiliary Service camp, and she is seeking permission to build upon a section of land that she owns. For the last two and a half years, the town-planners have been at work in Lae, and she has been informed that she will not be permitted to erect an adequate hotel until their scheme is complete. That is a disgrace. The aircraft of British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines Limited and Qantas Empire Airways Limited call at Lae, and as the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) will agree, accommodation at that town is primitive, to say the least.
I understand that, to date, only twelve houses have been built in the territory. The construction has been undertaken by contract labour, and although the material has been provided, the average cost of the houses is £2,329, which is excessive. Another bone of contention in the territory arises from the price of copra. The price is fixed at between £42 and £43 a ton, whereas world parity is between £75 and £78 a ton. Probably the greatest cause for complaint is the cost of living, which is increasing to a fantastic degree. The general estimate is that the cost of living has risen many hundred-fold since 1939. I shall cite some instances. Rice, which in 1939 was £11 a ton, is now £68 a ton. A case of meat costs £3 18s., and a roast for a family costs 26s. The position is that an employee in receipt of a salary of £500 per annum practically goes “ broke “, because he cannot pay his way. Before the outbreak of war, New Guinea was self-supporting, but’ that is no longer so. One of the reasons is that the gold-mining industry has slumped severely. In prewar years, approximately 200 mines were operating, but only twenty are working to-day. Any person who desires to purchase land may buy only old plantations. The general conditions in the territory are not in any way conducive to development. The territory is rich in resources and urgently requires a proper guiding hand and” assistance to enable its great natural wealth to be exploited.
.- I should like to make a few observations about my trip abroad, because I consider that they will be of interest to the Minister for External Territories (Mr. “Ward) in relation to the development of New Guinea. The Government is pursuing a very vigorous policy of migration, to which I pay a tribute. “While I was overseas, I had excellent opportunities to observe the degree to which we were applying ourselves to attract migrants to Australia, and I do not think that the effective work which various groups abroad are performing in selecting migrants can be improved. However, there are special groups of stateless families to whom we have not yet paid attention, and some of them may be secured for settlement in New Guinea, if the Australian Government decides to extend its migration policy to that territory. Most of the stateless families are agrarian people, who are fleeing from tyranny of one kind or another in Europe, and no effective policy has been evolved anywhere in the world to deal with them. If they are not rescued, they may constitute a fruitful field of propaganda for the Communists. At present, they are without hope, and are being pushed around from place to place.
The International Refugee Organization is doing a wonderful job; but I understand that there is what may he described as a hard core of people, who will not be reached before the activities of the organization terminate in June, 1950. Nobody seems to know what will become of them. Perhaps the Minister for External Territories will raise this matter with the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) with a view to obtaining some of those stateless families for settlement in New Guinea. A large number of them have been trained in agricultural pursuits, but others are professional men, such as doctors, dentists and engineers. The International Refugee Organization has a competent organization for checking their bona fides, and the Minister for Immigration may consider it worth while to approach the appropriate authority in Europe to secure some of those people as migrants. I direct the attention of the Minister to this matter now, because the International Refugee Organization is exhausting the classes of people who, it is considered, will be acceptable to Australia. “We are trying to take selected groups, but the numbers from which they are drawn are dwindling and it is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain migrants from them. “When the International Refugee Organization ceases to function at the end of June, 1950, stateless families, perhaps numbering 17,000,000 people, will be wandering around Europe. They are the nationals of various States which formerly were insecurely placed in Europe, and, in times of political stress, the people became fugitives. Many of them are in Germany and Austria. If the Government will raise this matter with the International Refugee Organization, Australia may be able to obtain valuable migrants to assist in the development of New Guinea, and to protect that important defence bastion in the South-West Pacific. Some of those people, if they were to settle in New Guinea, would not come into conflict with the economy of the southern parts of Australia, and might play a useful part as Australian citizens in the development of the territory.
– I am sorry that the time remaining for this discussion is so short, because I should have liked to reply at length to the criticism by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) of the Government’s plans for the development of the territory. I expected that the honorable member, in view of his experience and of his awareness of the lack of any definite proposal for the development of the territory in the past, would have had a word of commendation for what this Government has done since the end of the war. In my opinion, the only genuine attempt that has ever been made to develop the Northern Territory has been made during the last four or five years. The Government has taken action to cut up the large holdings. The honorable member criticized the Land Board, yet he was one of those who advocated its reinstatement. He also criticized the Government for having failed to establish a land court. The Government asked the Queensland Government to allow the Queensland Land Court fo function in the Northern Territory. but the request was refused. We are now trying to get the South Australian Land Court to go into the territory. The honorable member also criticized the chairman of the Land Board.
– I said that he was an able man, but that he was dominated by the member who represented the pastoral interests.
– The honorable member then said that I had brought the chairman of the board from New South Wales.
– Not the chairman, but a member.
– We brought in Mr. Crossing. I have never seen him, but I believe that he is a very capable man. I have met unsuccessful applicants for land who spoke of him in the highest terms. We now come to the leases of Vesteys. Whenever any one wishes to criticize the administration of the Northern Territory, he mentions Vesteys. When the present Government assumed office, Vesteys held large tracts of country in the Northern Territory on lease, current until 1964. Unless it was prepared topay out colossal amounts of money in compensation, the Government could not resume the land for re-settlement. I recommended that we should negotiate with Vesteys. I saw how hopeless it would be to try to develop the Northern Territory if Vesteys were allowed to hold huge areas of land without being required to improve it. The land was undeveloped, and was not producing to capacity. After negotiation, an agreement was reached. When it was known in the Northern Territory that we were negotiating with Vesteys, residents of the Northern Territory were almost unanimously hostile, but when they became aware of the terms of the agreement they were astonished that the Government had been able to obtain from Vesteys so much land for new settlers. It was also agreed that we should write into the leases held by Vesteys conditions compelling the firm to make improvements stipulated by the Administrator of the Northern Territory. A certain amount of improvement has to be made each year under a penalty of a substantial fine, or the termination of the lease.
The Government has set out to encourage new settlers in the Northern Territory, and has agreed to assist them financially in the search for water. We have agreed to pay the entire cost of unproductive boring operations. At the present time, the development of the territory is being held up only by the shortage of fencing wire, steel posts, bore casings, and other heavy equipment. If I go out of the Government without ever doing anything more, I am satisfied that I have done something of value by laying the foundations for the development of the Northern Territory according to a plan which residents are prepared to accept.
The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) mentioned the lakes scheme, which is part of the Griffin plan for the development of Canberra. At the present time, a committee is considering a slight modification of the plan, but the proposed modification does not affect the university site. At the moment, the proposals are merely being discussed. Any recommendation will eventually come before me as Minister, and then, if it involves a considerable variation of the Griffin plan, it must be tabled in the Parliament, so that honorable members will have an opportunity to discuss it.
– The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) complained of the slow progress that had been made in the development of New Guinea and Papua. He said that, before the war, New Guinea was a selfsupporting territory, whereas now it was not. Let me point out that anti-Labour governments, which were in power before the war, had no plans for developing Australia’s external territories. They expended only a few thousand pounds a year in Papua. The criticism of Australia’s administration of Papua and New Guinea, which has taken place at various international conferences, including the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations, should more properly have been levelled at those governments which preceded the present one. Such criticism should not have been directed against the present Government, which has plans for developing the territories, and for improving conditions for the native population.
The honorable member for Franklin complained that hotels had not been restored since the war, and that only twelve houses had been built. Such a charge is ridiculous. I do not suggest that the honorable member wished to mislead the committee, but I say that those who advised him gave him inaccurate information. It is true that difficulties have been encountered in connexion with housing, and with building generally, in Papua and New Guinea, but many more buildings have been erected than the honorable member said. The difficulties have been due to shortages of materials. A Commonwealth department controls the export of building materials and equipment, but the Government has no power to direct manufacturers in Australia to send goods to territories overseas, any more than it has power to direct distribution of production in Australia itself. The manufacturers and their agents decide what materials shall go to the territories. The Government is making every effort to improve the situation. One of our greatest difficulties has been to find accommodation for the officers who are to put the Government’s plans into effect. I admit that I am not so worried about hotel accommodation as the honorable member for Franklin apparently is. I am not so much concerned over the comfort of those whose stay in New Guinea would be temporary as I am for the comfort of those who reside there permanently. That is not to say that we are indifferent to the need for providing adequate hotel accommodation. We recognize that some people have occasion to visit New Guinea for business purposes, and it is necessary that they should have a ccommod ation.
The honorable member for Franklin was on doubtful ground when he spoke about the hotel at Lae. No difficulty has been placed in the way of the lady who conducts the hotel in building on the site allotted to her in the new town plan for Lae. The trouble is that she objected to the site allotted to her, and did not wish to build there. Now, she has been given permission to remain on the present site for a further five years.
The Administrator has reported that the wharf at Rabaul is in a much better condition than at any time since the end of the war. It must be remembered that; many of the wharfs in this area were erected for war purposes. Piles were not sheathed, with the result that they quickly deteriorated. A plan for the reconstruction of wharfs has been approved, and the Department for Works and Housing is proceeding with the job. It is not regarded as an economic proposition to construct a permanent wharf at Rabaul, because it is intended to shift the town to Kokopo, where a new wharf will be erected. The new wharf at Lae is under construction. Steel piles are being driven, and the necessary material is being accumulated. It is hoped that the wharf will be completed within twelvemonths. Materials are also being assembled for the wharf at Samarai, and work will be begun shortly.
It is true that the cost of living in. Papua and New Guinea has increased compared with what it was before the war; but the same is true of the cost of living on the mainland. However, most of the estimates of the increase have been grossly exaggerated. Critics have taken certain items, the price of which has increased considerably, but they have disregarded those items upon which the increase has not been so great. For instance, rents charged Administration officers are very low compared with rents in Australia. It is not true that the cost of living in Papua and New Guinea has increased by as much as 100 per cent.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke).- Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory, Papua and New Guinea, and Norfolk Island has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That the following resolution be reported to the House: - That, including the sum already voted for such services, there be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges lor the year 1949-50, for the several services hereunder specified, a sum not exceeding £164,1 52,000.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That, towards making good the supply granted to His Majesty for the service of the year1 949-50, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum not exceeding £92,594,000.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Dedman and Mr. Lemmon do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Dedman, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Mr. DEDMAN (Corio- Minister for
Defence and Minister for Post-war Reconstruction) [8.1]. - Imove -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill has three main purposes. First, it preserves in force until the 31st December, 1950, certain of the National Security regulations and orders at present in force which I shall indicate a little later; secondly, it makes certain amendments to some of those regulations which are proposed to be continued in force after 1949 ; and thirdly, it discontinues several regulations and orders as from the 1st January, 1950. If honorable members examine the regulations and orders which it is proposed to continue in operation, they will see that they cover a variety of matters. I shall briefly review the functions of the most important remaining regulations and orders.
The rationing of tea and butter in Australia depends on the continuance of eight regulations - Rationing, Tea Control, Food Control and Evidence Regulations, together with General Regulations 73 and84 and Supplementary Regulations 100 and 116. I shall not elaborate precisely how that is achieved; that can be explained, if honorable members wish, in committee. The issues involved in the maintenance of tea and butter rationing are, I think, well known. Tea supplies from Indonesia and elsewhere are still insufficient: the restoration of a private market would mean that tea prices would probably rise to approximately twice the present subsidized level, since the Government is naturally not prepared to subsidize an unrationed commodity. Allowing the price to rise to such a height would not produce any more tea, and would cause hardship either by preventing many people from buying tea or by forcing them to pay a price not comfortably within their means. The rationing of butter enables an appreciable increase of the quantity that we can export to the United Kingdom, without, it will be agreed, any sacrifice of nutritional standards among our own people.
Since the end of the war the control of new issues of capital by companies has
I een considerably relaxed and is not considered by the business community to be at all restrictive of desirable new enterprises. But the war still weighs heavily on the supply of building and construction materials and skilled labour, and makes necessary some degree of control of capital development if the most desperately felt community wants are to be met until the transition is fairly completed. At the same time, this control affords a necessary check on undesirable inflationary forces arising from wildcat enterprises. The control of interest rates, under the National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations, Part IV., is complementary to the control of capital issues, and for that reason continues to be necessary. Money for business can be raised in several ways, and simply to refuse permission to raise capital through the normal market channels would not be effective if concerns were able to offer attractive interest rates for deposits by finance companies and other similar institutions. Regulation of interest rates is desirable for the further reason that advances by the trading hanks are controlled, and the normal force of competition is thus not able to keep interest rates in check.
The only set of marketing regulations proposed to he kept in operation during 1950 consists of the National Security (Apple and Pear Acquisition) Regulations, and to supplement them for staffing and pay provisions, the National Security (Staff of “War-time Authorities) Regulations. The acquisition of apples and pears was discontinued in 1948. The regulations were retained for 1949 and will be required in 1950 for two purposes: first, to enable the Australian Apple and Pear Marketing Board to act as the marketing agent for Tasmanian and Western Australian State marketing authorities; and, secondly, to wind up affairs in connexion with ‘ previous Commonwealth acquisitions.
A substantial number of retained regulations and orders has always been carried along until it became possible to transfer their provisions, often largely unchanged in effect, from this emergency drafting form into permanent legislative form. This work is being continually proceeded with, but where difficulty or delay is experienced in the introduction of new legis- lationfor this purpose, I do not think that any restrictive principle is involved in the continuance of the provisions of such regulations in their present form for the time being. The regulations that fall within this category are the National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations, the National Security (Medical Benefits for Seamen) Regulations, the National Security (War Deaths) Regulations and several General and Supplementary Regulations. Amendments to the Defence Act and other defence legislation will account for most of these remaining matters.
As in previous transitional provisions bills a clause has been included so that land tax will continue to be assessed by the Commonwealth on the departmental valuations of 1939. Pressure of work still makes it impracticable for a complete reassessment to he undertaken at present. The bill also makes some amendments to regulations proposed to be kept in force, through section 6 and the Third Schedule. Actually, although the appearance is that of an ordinary amendment to continuing powers, honorable members will find that these might more accurately be regarded as discontinuing provisions. They discontinue subject-matters of quite independent standing and may be considered along with the discontinuance of items effected by sections 5 and 6 and the First and Second Schedules. There is little to be said of the individual regulations and orders that are proposed to be discontinued by the bill. I draw attention simply to the major changes brought about by the decision of the High Court of Australia that the National Security (Women’s Employment) Regulations, .the National Security (Liquid Fuel) Regulations, and, in part, the National Security (War Service Moratorium) Regulations were invalid. I draw the attention of honorable members, however, to two points in this connexion. Clause 8 of the bill provides for the preservation of awards, determinations, &c, in force under the National Security (Women’s Employment) and National Security (Female Minimum Rates) Regulations until revoked by competent authority. It will be remembered that the wages and salaries of some thousands of female employees were affected by these awards. Secondly, the petrol rationing system administered by the Commonwealth will return substantially unchanged next month, but, of course, under other legislation.
With the passage of this bill the items remaining in force will be seventeen sets of regulations, twelve general and fourteen supplementary regulations, and three orders, that is, a total of 46 items. I have had prepared a list of the items which have been discontinued since the Defence (Transitional Provisions) legislation first came into operation.
Reviewing the situation, we shall be left with a small and uncontroversial group of provisions in this transitional form. Only a very few could be classed as controls and in every such case we can see the winding-up to be not far distant. In short, the unwinding of the war economy has been all but achieved.
With the permission of the HouseI shall incorporate in Hansard the two lists of regulations and orders of which I have spoken, setting out those proposed to be continued and those discontinued since the beginning of the transitional provisions legislation. They are as follows : -
REGULATIONS AND ORDERS TO BE CONTINUED IN FORCE BEYOND THE 31st DECEMBER, 1949.
Apple and Pear Acquisition.
Coal-mining Industry Employment.
Economic Organization, Part IV.
Medical Benefits for Seamen.
Stall of War-time Authorities.
War Service Moratorium.
General 1, 2, 3, 37, 54a, 55aa and 55a, 57, 60b,60c,60d,60e tog,60j to m,66, 73, 84.
Supplementary 1, 33, 52, 58,62, 63, 80, 94, 100, 110, 129, 133, 139, 142.
Cordage and Fibre.
Orders under Supplementary 61.
REGULATIONS AND ORDERS REMOVED FROM SCHEDULES OF DEFENCE (TRANSITIONAL PROVISIONS) ACT 1946 SINCE THE 1ST JANUARY, 1947.
Australian Barley Boards.
Australian Tobacco Leaf.
Board of Business Administration.
Boot Trades Dilution.
Change of Name.
Claims against Commonwealth in relation to Visiting Forces.
Control of Animal Diseases.
Dairy Produce Acquisition.
Disposal of Commonwealth Property.
Female Minimum Rates.
Hide and Leather Industries.
Landlord and Tenant.
Naval Charter Rates.
Prisoners of War.
War Damage to Property.
Wheat Industry Stabilization.
General11, 25, 26, 31 a,69a, 87, 88, 91.
Supplementary 3, 4, 11, 14, 16, 18, 38, 47, 49,57,65, 90, 91, 96, 105, 112, 120, 128. 134,136.
Control of Essential Materials.
Control of Footwear.
Control of Tinplate.
Shirts, Collars and Pyjamas.
Control of New Commercial Motor Vehicles.
Control of New Motor Cars.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Francis) adjourned.
Additions, New Works, and Other Services involving Capital Expenditure.
Mr. CHIFLEY (Macquarie - Prime
Minister and Treasurer). - I declare (a) That the Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, and Other Services involving Capital Expenditure are of an urgent nature; (b) That the resolutions preliminary to the introduction of the Appropriation (Works
and Services) Bill are urgent resolutions ; and (c) That the Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill is an urgent bill.
That the Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, and Other Services involving Capital Expenditure be considered of an urgent nature; that the resolutions be considered urgent resolutions; and that the Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill be considered an urgent bill - resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the time allotted for the consideration of the Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, and Other Services involving Capital Expenditure, the resolutions, and the stages of the Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill, be as follows: - ‘
.- I take exception to the time allotted to this debate. I do so primarily because we have had no intimation about the nature of the works to be carried out beyond what appears in the summary on page 437 of the Estimates, which shows that last year the expenditure on such works was £27,000,000. This year it is proposed to expend £51,000,000 or practically twice the amount expended last year. No explanation is made regarding the necessity for this proposed increased expenditure. The House is entitled to know why the amount is to be doubled without any explanation having been made. By declaring these Estimates urgent the Prime Minister is treating the Parliament with utter indifference. It is unfair of him to declare them urgent without giving an explanation to the House. If there are any special reasons for these matters to be declared urgent I should like to know what they are, because we have found on other occasions that only a fraction of the money that has been approved by this Parliament has been actually expended.
– I think that the honorable member is referring to the wrong subject. The declaration that these Estimates are urgent has been agreed to. The allotment of time is now the only matter before the House.
– It is impossible in the limited time provided by the allotment of time to discuss properly Estimates that propose an expenditure that is twice as great as the actual expenditure for the same purposes last year. It is utterly wrong to treat the Parliament in a cavalier fashion, and I did not desire these Estimates to go through in this limited time without voicing a protest.
.- There is no necessity for the Government to apply the “ guillotine “ in relation to these Estimates for capital works, thedebate on the first division of which is to be concluded_ at 10.45 p.m. That division concerns capital works of a total cost of £51,000,000. Debates on the remainder of the general Estimates have been conducted along lines that should have indicated to the Government that an affirmative vote on these Estimates would be obtained in the time desired without placing restrictions upon the debate.
– I remind the honorable member that there is quite a number of other measures to go through before the ending of the Parliament.
– I quite appreciate the necessity to put other measures through before the Parliament is ended, but the Prime Minister (Mr.. Chifley) has not given the House an opportunity to deal with this particular matter in an expeditious manner. I have no doubt that the House would have done so had the Prime Minister not come along with the quite arbitrary resolution now before us. Some honorable members from both sides of the House are absent, and that is having a curtailing effect upon the debate. I think that the Prime Minister is treatingthe institution of Parliament with a measure of contempt to which we are not unaccustomed, by introducing a resolution to curtail the period of debate.
– Surely the honorable member does not hold me responsible for the absence of other honorable members.
– I do not hold the Prime Minister responsible for even the absence of members of his own party, but I say that he could have had this matter put through quite easily without applying the “guillotine”. We on this side of the House do not intend to suffer the sudden introduction of the “ guillotine “ without at least voicing our disapproval of such an action.
.- I, too, object to the application of the “ guillotine”. I am present in this chamber as often and for as long as is any other honorable member. Yet during the whole of the debate on the general Estimates I had an opportunity to speak on only two occasions, once for two minutes, and on the second occasion for ten minutes.
– Too long !
– I note that the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) says “ Too long “. I wanted to say something about the Royal Australian Air Force,but I was denied an opportunity to do so.
– Order ! The honorable member may not do so now.
– I mention that matter merely to show that during the discussion of the general Estimates we did not have an opportunity to review-
– Order ! The honorable member must discuss the motion before the Chair.
– I have mentioned these incidents merely to emphasize my point that the Government is adopting a contemptuous attitude towards the Opposition. The Prime Minister (Mr.Chifley) is most adept in these matters. He rises in his place, merely mumbles a few words relating to the application of the “ guillotine “ and then sits down. Only a comparatively few minutes are given to us to debate most important items. The Parliament is being asked to vote £51,000,000 for works as a mere formality. It is sufficient for the Government that these Estimates have been passed by the Labour caucus, but that is not good enough in a democratic country. This is supposed to be a deliberative assembly. We are the representatives of the people. Members of the Labour party are mere delegates-
– Order! The honorable member is not in order in making a speech about matters which have no relation to the motion before the Chair.
– I shall say no more on that aspect of the subject.
– The honorable member must speak to the motion before the Chair or not at all.
– It ill becomes the Prime Minister of a democratic country such as this to treat the Parliament in such a scurvy fashion. I object to the altogether disproportionate time proposed to be allotted for the discussion of these Estimates.
.- I, too, place on record my objection to the proposal to limit the discussion of these Estimates. My objection is based on the fact that although the time proposed to be allotted is extremely limited, honorable members on this side of the House will not be allowed a fair share of the allotted time. Only one and a half hours are allotted for the consideration of matters of the highest importance and when an honorable member of this side of the House receives the call from the Chair-
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the motion before the Chair.
– My point is that Ministers will be given unlimited scope and may well occupy almost the whole of the time allotted. The Government will thus be placed in a distinctly advantageous position. Apart, perhaps from the initial speaker honorable members on this side of the House will be given little or no opportunity to voice their objections or otherwise to the proposals placed before them. Honorable members opposite smile at such a suggestion. They regard the move to limit the discussion as smart political tactics. Honorable members on both sides of the House should be given equal opportunities to present their case. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) is normally a fair-minded man.
– Hear, hear !
– I used the qualifying word “ normally “. On this occasion the right honorable gentleman is acting abnormally. I object to the motion because it will give to Ministers opportunities that will be denied to Opposition members.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That the Estimates - Additions, New Works, and Other Services involving Capital Expenditure 1949-50 - be considered by Parts.
Part I. - Departments and Services - other than business undertakings and Territories of the Commonwealth.
Proposed vote, £50,954,000.
.- I assume that honorable members may discuss the activities of any department for which works are tobe carried out.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - That is so.
– I propose to discuss the New Guinea branch of the Department of Works and Housing. I have received a letter from a resident of New Guinea of some 25 years standing who has just returned to Australia, which reads as follows: -
I think that, of all the scandalous evidence of maladministration in New Guinea, the prize must be awarded to the Australian Department of Works and Housing.
In every port visited by the ship on which I travelled, they told me funny stories about the muddle and waste of the teams planted in the different places by Works and Housing. Take Samarai for example. For 9 months they have had a Works and Housing team averaging 10 men in Samarai. They have had material lying there for a similar period. Yet, believe it or not, nothing worth mentioning has been done in Samarai in the way of either works or housing. Samarai was destroyed during the war. They are still without a wharf and I could not find evidence that even one European bungalow had been built in the place.
– Would the honorable member read that again?
– If the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) interjects again I shall refer him to some timber matters that might interest him. The letter continues -
There have been teams of Works and Housing men in Lao for a long time and it is at least 12 months since a supply of steel plates was delivered there. Yetpractically nothing has been done to provide Lae with wharfage accommodation.
When the honorable member for Franklin (Mr.Falkinder) mentioned that matter to-day, the charge was denied by the Minister for External Territories, who said that everything at Lae was going on well. The letter continues -
Furthermore, the port of Lae seems now to be run by Europeans and native wharf labourers who have fanciful ideas about the rights and privileges of workers.
The experience of the Burns Philp liner Bulolo at Lae very recently is worth quoting. She had 400 tons of cargo and many passengers for Lae. She arrived on a Thursday morning and she should have been out of the place within 24 hours, but on Saturday morning the barges still had not completed unloading and they knocked off on Saturday afternoon and Sunday because presumably the weekend is sacred in this workers’ paradise. So Captain Rothery, unable to get any guarantee when his ship would bo unloaded, sailed off to Dreger Harbour ( Finschhaf en ) and other ports and was obliged to call at Lae on his return trip in order to complete discharging. That is typical. There is not only the enormous cost of discharging by barge, because the Government has failed to supply a suitable wharf, but there is also the further heavy cost of lazy and inefficient labour. There are similar conditions in Port Moresby and Rabaul . . .
High officials of the Administration are quite aware of these unsatisfactory conditions, but they have no authority whatever over works and housing. Works and housing in Papua and New Guinea is directly under the control of the Brisbane office of this Federal Department and the Administrator at Port Moresby seems to have no authority at all in relation thereto.
As I have said, my informant is a man who has resided in New Guinea for 25 years and who knows the difficulties with which the white residents there have to cope. Perhaps the Minister can explain why this state of affairs exists. I mention such matters to show that in this important outpost of Australia, there is too much centralization. That fine country has been administered in a dictatorial way by the Minister for External Territories, of whose peccadilloes we have some knowledge. He is ruling New Guinea in such a tyrannical way that to the Australian people it might be Siberia for all the inside information they can obtain about it. We know that the Minister for Work’s and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) is an industrious Minister but when he tries to administer a branch of his department so far away from Canberra, and when he is compelled to be, as it were, so much beholden to another Minister, he cannot expect to get the best results. I suggest that had he called for tenders for most of the works which he has put in hand, in both Australia and New Guinea he would have accelerated their completion. New Guinea deserves better treatment than it has received at the hands of this Government. It is not only a bulwark in our defence but also a possible stepping stone for the invasion of Australiaby a hostile power. It is the nearest of our possessions to one-half of the population of the world. It is on the edge of the teeming millions of Asia. Portion of New Guinea has already been taken out of our control and handed over to the Trusteeship Council by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt). Next year a deputation from the United Nations is to visit New Guinea to carry out an inspection.
– We shall welcome it.
– Including the Russian delegates? New Guinea should have been held by Australia under a strategic trusteeship arrangement similar to that made by the United States of America in respect of the Marshall and Caroline Islands.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order ! The honorable member must not discuss that matter.
– These sittings of the Parliament are drawing to a close. Within a comparatively short time the Parliament will rise for the last occasion and the people will be given an opportunity to say what kind of government they will have in the future. This Government has been notorious for its policy of meddle and muddle in regard to New Guinea. Soon, however, there will be an opportunity to end the “ Edwardian “ era. I trust that the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) will be able to give me an assurance that conditions in New Guinea are not so bad as they have been painted by my informant. A large amount of money has been provided in these Estimates for expenditure in New Guinea. No doubt much of it will be expended on “ window dressing “ works to impress the members of the international deputation.
– I wish to correct at once the misapprehension on the part of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) in relation to responsibility for the Government’s works programme in New Guinea. The implementation of that programme in New Guinea is not the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward). I as Minister for Works and Housing am solely responsible for suchworks throughout the whole of the Commonwealth and its territories.
– The Minister should not be too hard on the honorable member for Balaclava because, after all, he did “boom” the Minister.
– Doubtless he did so hoping that I might let him down lightly whenI rose to reply to his remarks. During the last two years I have visited all the areas in New Guinea to which the honorable member has referred. I was at Lae only five weeks ago and I also recently visited Manus Island and other islands in the Pacific which are under the control of the Minister for External Territories. The honorable member has suggested that tenders should be called for the construction of the wharf at Lae. It is impossible to get tenders for work of that type. The department recently called for tenders for the construction of houses in the Lae area but the lowest tender received was for an amount equal to twice the cost of undertaking the work by day labour. Obviously the contractors put their heads together and determined to fleece the Government. As long as I remain Minister for Works and Housing I shall not allow any contractor to blackmail me into accepting tenders based on excessive prices. Money expended on public works has to be found by the taxpayers of Australia and I shall see that their interests are protected.
– A very belated, but nevertheless welcome conversion.
– The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) is an auctioneer. Members of his profession also put their heads together so successfully in an attempt to fleece the people, that it became necessary for the State governments to pass anti-lot splitting laws.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.Order ! I ask the Minister to confine his remarks to the subject before the Chair.
– It seems strange that, although the honorable gentleman “was allowed to talk about private contractors, I am not allowed to do so.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order ! The Minister is entitled to refer to private contractors, but the anti-lot splitting laws have nothing to do with the question before the Chair.
– I was trying to demonstrate that the same remarks apply to the profession to which the honorable member for Corangamite belongs as apply to private contractors who have endeavoured to blackmail this Government.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - That matter has nothing to do with the question that is before the Chair. The Minister is not entitled to debate anti-lot splitting laws.
– If there were not so many interjections I should not be led into other fields.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The Chair will deal with interjectors if necessary.
– The problem of the wharf at Lae is a difficult one. “We did not wish to build a wharf of the same type as the one that was there originally. It was constructed of timber and, owing to the damage that was done to it by insects that abound in tropical waters, the cost of keeping it in good repair was great. The new wharf will be built on steel piles that will be driven into the sea bed and filled with concrete. We believe that by using that form of construction the task of maintenance will be made much easier. The designing of the piles took some time, but they have now been designed and tested on a portion of the wharf near the graving dock in Sydney.
– Now all that remains to be done is to make them.
– The voice from the deep ! The piles have been found to be satisfactory. Three teams of men are now driving them into the sea bed at Lae and the wharf should be completed shortly. It is true that at Lae cargo was unloaded from ships into lighters, but I point out that it was the captain of a ship owned by a private shipping company who steered his vessel into the old wharf and knocked it down.
Opposition members interjecting,
– An action for damages has been brought against the shipping company.
Opposition members interjecting,
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.Order! It appears to the Chair that organized interruption is being practised. If it is continued, stern action will be taken.
– The honorable member for Balaclava produced a list of charges, but he concluded by saying that he was not prepared to substantiate them. He does not appear to have very much faith in his correspondent. I do not blame him for that because it is quite possible that a man who has lived in the islands for 25 years is a little “ troppo “. That probably accounts for his charges. The honorable gentleman’s correspondent has stated that high officers have informed him that a royal commission should be appointed. Who are those high officers? To which department do they belong? Most of the public servants in Lae are officers of my department, and it would be strange if they condemned their own actions. While it is true that major matters of policy must be referred to Brisbane, Mr. Vidgen, the Controller of Works at Port Moresby, has considerable authority. For instance, he may enter into contracts with contractors for works up to a. certain value, and he is empowered to engage and dismiss labour throughout the islands. It is not necessary for matters such as that to be referred to me. The Government has recognized that it is necessary to delegate power to public servants in places such as New Guinea.
Approximately five weeks ago I visited Lae, Port Moresby and Manus Island. I met deputations at those places; but not one of the matters to which the honorable member for Balaclava has referred was raised by the members of those deputations. The people living in the islands know that the construction of the wharf at Lae is proceeding and that gangs of men are working on it. They know that town, surveys are being undertaken. I do not suggest that conditions in the islands are as good as I should like them to be, but the fact is that the matters that have been raised by the honorable member for Balaclava were not raised by the persons that I saw five weeks ago.
.- Perhaps the Chair will permit me to reply to the remarks that have been made by the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) about lotsplitting laws.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - The Chair prevented the Minister from proceeding along those lines. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) may not deal with that matter.
– What the Minister said was incorrect. I propose to relate my remarks to the Estimates for buildings, works, fittings and furniture for the Parliament, hostels for migrant workers, and reception, training and holding centres for the accommodation of migrants. The estimated expenditure upon the last two items is £3,200,000 and £1,050,000 respectively. The expenditure of those sums of money will involve the employment of much labour and the use of large quantities of materials. Although it is gratifying to know that many migrants are coming to the country, I object to the proposal to expend over £4,000,000 upon the provision of accommodation for them at a time when many Australians are without homes. In to-day’s issue of the Melbourne Herald there are extracts from letters about Australian families who are suffering hardships because of lack of accommodation. One of the letters reads as follows: - “ L.P.” of Grovedale, via Geelong, writes : “ My husband and I and our nine children have lived in a tent for the past four months. We have to give up the tent for Christmas. Can any onelet us a house in the country, near a school ? My husband can do any sort of work.”
There is no reason for honorable gentlemen opposite to laugh at that. It is a very serious matter. Another letter reads -
For two years, a couple with three children have been living in an unlined outhouse in an East St. Kilda backyard. “ This is a fibro-cement building divided into two ‘ rooms ‘ with a three-ply partition “, writes “ Libra “. “ The section in which our two boys sleep has only the tin roof as a ceiling.”
– It is a shame. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr.
Thompson) is a good Christian gentleman and deplores the fact that people must live under those conditions. The Government proposes to expend over £4,000,000 on the provision of accommodation for migrants, but I believe, and I know that my belief is shared by some members of the Labour party, that our own people should receive more attention than they are getting. Another letter which may be of interest to the Minister for Works and Housing, reads as follows: - “If we could only get a place for 12 months it would help. We are trying to build through the War Service Homes and should have our place completed by then,” writes “ Worried “, of Footscray.
Honorable members opposite have often referred to the depression years and have said that many people then lived in tents. Those days have not gone. Australians are living in humpies throughout the country because they cannot get houses. Parliament House is being extended to provide accommodation for an unnecessary number of members, but the material that is being used for that purpose could be used to build homes for the people. Although the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has told us that we are living in the golden age, there is a great shortage of houses. War service homes are not being built in sufficient numbers. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) is concerned only about the migrants who are coming to this country and is prepared to expend over £4,000,000 to provide accommodation for them. The Minister will shortly try to bluff the committee, but he knows that in his own electorate there are many people who cannot get homes. How many families in Melbourne are living in one room or with their relatives? The Government is spending money without any thought at all for them. We want houses now more than ever before.
Honorable gentlemen opposite have often asked why more houses were not built in Australia in 1935 and 1936. I travelled in Australia extensively at that time, but I did not see any evidence of a housing shortage. The housing shortage has arisen since the war. In 1935 and 1936 the people lived in decent homes of their own and not in other people’s houses, but the position is different now. I am, of course, prepared to admit that the principal reason for the present housing shortage is the effects of the war. I object to the expenditure by the Government of large sums of money upon unnecessary projects such as the extensions to Parliament House at a time when many people are without homes. If this nation is to be a contented one and if greater production is to be achieved, we must give the people proper homes to live in. Many young men who married after they were demobilized from the armed forces, are unable to obtain homes. Others will not marry until they have homes. Although the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) talks at length about the necessity for populating this country, and the Commonwealth is expending large sums of money on accommodating migrants, I consider that the expenditure of money to provide houses for our own people would ultimately produce the best possible Australians, namely, the children of Australian parents. The birth-rate is being retarded because many young married couples have not adequate accommodation in which to raise families. That statement cannot be denied. The Government should not incur heavy expenditure on the erection of public buildings before our people are adequately housed in this so-called “golden age”.
– My remarks in reply to the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) will be brief, because his observations do not merit much attention. The contribution of platitudes, sophistries and plain humbug of which he has delivered himself, does not delude anybody. If we wait until every person in this country is housed before we bring one migrant here, we shall never bring any migrants here; and if there is one country in the British Commonwealth of Nations that needs population more badly than Australia does, I invite the honorable member to name it.
– That is not the point at all.
– If the honorable member will remain silent, I shall address the intelligent sections of the chamber. If we wait until everybody who wants a house is housed, we shall be waiting for the next ten or twelve years, because we are so far behind. This Parliament, and State parliaments, have inherited a legacy of neglect from the parliaments, Commonwealth and State, that governed Australia in pre-war days.
– Will not the new Australians be engaged on building homes?
– As the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) very sapiently remarks, the people who are coming to Australia are helping to build homes for those who are already here and for those who will come later. We are employing a considerable number of migrants in brickworks and cement works, and in making tiles for roofs. Approximately 400 of them are employed in the steel industry in New South Wales, and others are employed in the timber industry, and in the steel works at Whyalla, in South Australia. During the period of two years in which they are under contract to this Government, we shall utilize their services in the way that is most beneficial to the Australian community. It is all very well for the honorable member for Wimmera to say that he considers that we should bring migrants to this country. He says, in the next breath, that the Government should concentrate expenditure on providing houses for Australians. To-day the matter is not one of money. This Government is not worried about money when it comes to doing the things that are necessary. That is why we have committed this generation and posterity to the expenditure of £200,000,000 on the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. This scheme is under the able leadership of the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon). Such a scheme was not thought of by the Opposition parties when they were in office, and if the Parliament consisted of members of the mental calibre of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton), the Snowy Mountains scheme would not have been thought of in 1,000 years.
What we are doing in the matter of migration is to bring people as quickly as we can to fill the 250,000 jobs that are vacant in Australia, because we just have not got the men and women here to fill them. “We are bringing in people not only to develop our economy and expand our industry, but also in order that we may help to build the population of this country in such a way and so quickly that the Commonwealth shall not be as defenceless in the future as it has been in the past. I have kept this matter out of the field of party politics, and the stand that I take has been amply supported by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). He is entirely at variance with the honorable member for Wimmera, who generally specializes on rabbits and mallee roots. We have to expend money on the housing of the unfortunates who are coming here from abroad. Where does the honorable member for Wimmera think that they will live? Does he expect them to live under guin trees ? They have no relatives and f riends to take them into their homes and look after them. I am conscious of the difficulties of Australians, but we have to take risks and suffer inconveniences. It is rather hard on some people; but Australians ran many risks at other times, and endured unnecessary suffering during the financial and economic depression. In those days, the Opposition parties were in office, and they failed dismally to house the people. That is why they have been languishing in the cool shades of opposition during the last eight years. When they were in office, they demonstrated that they were only a rabble. We shall expend £4,000,000 in a profitable manner in providing austere conditions for the newcomers. The migrants will help to produce more than the equivalent of the £4,000,000 that we shall expend on them. They will rear families, and provide bornes and many of the other things that Australia requires. The honorable member for Wimmera should endeavour to keep a sense of balance when he speaks in this chamber.
– What about the extensions to Parliament House?
– That is not my particular responsibility. The honorable member appears to consider that the larger Parliament is not necessary. If there is one honorable member who is not necessary, it is the honorable member for Wimmera himself. I am sure that he would not he missed if he did not return after the forthcoming general election. However, the Parliament has decided to increase the number of honorable senators and members of the House of Representatives, and the new senators and members must be properly housed, and given the normal amenities that are available in- a parliament house. However, I leave such matters to the Minister for Works and Housing. I suggest to the honorable member for Wimmera that he should refrain from criticizing migration, because it is a very popular subject with the Australian people. Indeed, 90 per cent, of Australians want our migration plan to succeed. This year, we shall gain by net migration, that is, there will be a surplus of arrivals over departures of approximately 147,000 people, and with the surplus of births over deaths, numbering 100,000, the population of this country will increase by 250,000 next year. That has never happened before in our history, and that is the justification for the proposed vote.
.- Now that the shouts of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) have ceased to reverberate around the chamber, I shall direct some observations to the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) on the matter of housing. That may seem a little strange, because we have not heard much about housing to-night, but there it is. A few days ago, I asked the Minister for Works and Housing a question about some shacks, as they were described by the Parramatta City Council, that had been erected in Spurway-street, Ermington, in the Parramatta electorate, where, normally, no buildings may be erected without the consent of the local council. That is an ordinary provision in local government law. On this occasion, the council’s building inspector found that a number of buildings had been erected. When he made inquiries, he discovered that they had been constructed apparently at the order of the Minister or the Department of Works and Housing. I asked the Minister to inform me why the ordinary local government procedure had not been followed, why the permission of the council had not been obtained, and why, if he proposed to stand on the letter of the law, and contend that the Commonwealth was not bound by the law of New South Wales or local government procedure and had the right to erect the shacks, he did not, out of courtesy, approach the Parramatta City Council and co-operate with it. The Minister promised to furnish a reply. He has not yet done so. The buildings are still there, and I understand that they have been erected for the purpose of housing displaced persons, migrants, or New Australians, whatever the Minister for Immigration decides to call them from day to day.
– What does the honorable member call them?
– Some times, I call them displaced persons, and at other times I call them New Australians. I always want to make the Minister for Immigration happy, if I can. He is a little cantankerous at times, and I confess that, periodically, I may fail to make him happy, but that has not been through lack of trying.
– Put some ginger into it.
– We are coming to the ginger. The Minister who has interjected knows all about ginger, ginger bread, the top of the cake and that sort of thing. It is a poor condition of affairs when a Commonwealth department flouts the wishes of a local governing authority, and erects a number of shacks, or buildings, of that kind. The department should co-operate with local authorities. I protest that a Commonwealth department, even if it has the legal power, has not the moral right to act in that way, and I should like to know how far this action is extending. Is the Minister going to romp around the municipalities throughout the Commonwealth, put up buildings here and there wherever he feels inclined, flout the building regulations and erect structures irrespective of their suitability for the particular district in which they are placed? It is time that a public protest was made about the matter, and I am making it on behalf of not only the people who live in Ermington, but also the Parramatta City Council, which has written to me a letter that clearly indicates its indignation about the matter.
I now direct the attention of the Minister for Works and Housing to another matter relative to housing. It is not one for which he or his department can be said to be responsible, but I bring it to his notice because, in one sense, his department is ultimately responsible. When I make that statement, I have in mind the fact that the Commonwealth, through the Department of Works and Housing, provides large sums of money for housing. The New South Wales Housing Commission is erecting homes in various suburbs of Sydney. As every honorable member knows, the State authorities undertake the construction of dwellings, and the Commonwealth’s main contribution to the matter is a large sum of money, amounting to many millions of pounds. The Minister conceded to me on a previous occasion in answer to a question, that having subscribed money for State housing schemes, the Commonwealth has an overriding interest and even an authority in the matter, and has some voice with State housing commissions over the buildings that are being erected. Ultimately, the Commonwealth must have such an authority, because if it is dissatisfied with the kind of buildings that are being erected, it can withhold, either by its own executive action or by an amendment of the act, the money that it has granted. In the electorate of Parramatta, with which I am most familiar, although my remarks are not necessarily limited to it, homes for the New South Wales Housing Commission have been popping up like mushrooms after rain. In my own district, 742 homes have already been erected by the Housing Commission. For those who occupy the houses I have nothing but praise. They are good Australian citizens, who moved in from other districts, probably from houses less comfortable than these. But of the houses into which they moved there is a good deal to be said. I, in common with other honorable members, have received a spate of letters protesting about the condition of houses erected by the New South Wales Housing Commission. In the Ermington district, I inspected brick houses which coat, probably, £2,000 or £3,000 apiece. The houses are of a kind that would not have been expensive before the war, but they are expensive now. They are, apparently, well built, but the drainage is a disgrace. A stench arises from, the sumps and grease traps, and slimy water is running from the backyards out into the streets, and down the gutters for hundreds of yards. The residents have made repeated representations to the local authority, which has done nothing, saying that it is for the Housing Commission to act. The local authority has communicated with the Housing Commission, as I have done, but still nothing has happened. This Government, which has supplied the money with which the houses were built, cannot wash its hands of the matter. From the residents of another area, I have received the following letter : -
We, the undersigned, wish to bring to your notice the deplorable conditions caused by the recent rains to Housing Commission residents in Cliff and Alfred streets, Parramatta.
We have complained on many occasions to representatives of the commission, also to the local Health Inspector who saw fit to inform the Council of these conditions but all their representations have been ignored. Owing to lack of drainage the water is laying up to 12 inches under the houses and in the yards, which is proving detrimental to the children’s health and is impossible to use clothes lines.
These conditions occur after every spell of wet weather. We would deem it a personal favour if you would use your powers to have this matter investigated and if possible rectified.
Significantly enough, the writers signed themselves “Waterlogged”, but they were not content to shelter under a nom de plume. They all signed their own names as well. This is not an isolated instance. I have been receiving complaints for the last eighteen months, and the people concerned, who are paying substantial rents, are not being treated fairly. The buildings themselves are satisfactory, but the drainage is disgraceful. Somebody is responsible. Who is it?
– Is not the matter governed by laws of the State of New South Wales?
– Of course, but no one does anything about it. The local municipal authority says that it is powerless to act ; that the responsibility belongs to the Housing Commission. As a matter of fact, this is a very good illustration of socialism in practice. When something is done by the Government, no one is prepared to accept responsibility. If houses built by private persons were in such a condition,. the local council would jump on them, and insist that action be taken to remedy the position. However, when the houses are built by a government instrumentality, no one seems to have authority to insist upon the maintenance of proper standards. Those who try to get something done become lost in a kind of bureaucratic maze. I am now speaking of what I know. I have seen these houses again and again. I do not charge the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) with being personally responsible; that would be absurd. But this Parliament, which agreed to provide the money for the housing scheme, is ultimately responsible. When I last mentioned this matter, the Minister washed his hands of it. I ask him not to do so again. He should call upon the New South Wales State Housing Commissioner to justify himself. I have no doubt that all sorts of excuses would he offered, but the evidence cannot be brushed aside. Most of the occupants of the homes are persons in a humble way of life, who are trying to bring up their children in healthy surroundings. They ought to be the special concern of the Minister. Complaints have been made, not about one house only, or about ten, but about hundreds and something should be done about them. This Government provides the money, and it should see that the people get a fair deal.
– It is the responsibility of the local municipal authority to see that drainage is satisfactory.
– I referred to the drainage of the houses themselves, the grease traps, &c, which are defective as the result of faulty construction.
– That is a reflection upon private enterprise, of which the honorable member boasts so much. All the houses constructed by the New South
Wales Housing Commission have been built by private contractors.
– But there is a system of inspection.
– A good contractor would not do bad work. As a matter of fact, I do not believe that conditions are nearly so bad as the honorable member said they are. Of course, in the building of 23,000 houses, there will be some bad jobs.
– Why should they all bp in my electorate?
– -In all the States except South Australia there are housing commissions, and they, in an endeavour to get as many houses as possible built, probably took risks, and let contracts to builders who had not sufficient financial backing. That accounts for the fact that a few jobs have not been up to standard. But I challenge the honorable member to point to hundreds of badly constructed or badly drained houses that have been erected by the New South Wales Housing Commission. He also said that the houses to which he referred had cost as much as £2,000 and £3,000. That is not correct. No houses recently erected - and the most recently constructed houses are the dearest - have cost as much as £3,000.
The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) deplored the fact that some people were badly housed, and condemned the expenditure of money by my department on providing accommodation for immigrants. Most of the money has been expended on materials which were not ordinarily available in Australia. Very little of it could have been used in the* building of ordinary homes. The materials used for providing accommodation for migrants include Nissen and Quonset huts purchased from the Government of the United Kingdom, and Quonset and Sarr huts purchased from the United States of America authorities, and brought from Manus Island. Mal.thoid and a kind of pressed cardboard are being largely used in the construction of some of the huts.
– A building so constructed would be better than a tent.
– There is nothing to prevent any one from buying such materials. As a matter of fact, I would rather live in a good tent than in the kind of huts being erected under the scheme of which the honorable member has complained. I lived in a tent for quite a few years after I started clearing my farm. The honorable member spoke of ex-servicemen who were without homes. The record of this Government in regard to the building of war service homes is much better than that of the governments which preceded it. Twenty years after the end of the first world war, many returned soldiers were still trying to get homes. The following is the record of war service homes construction in the years before the Labour Government took office : -
It might be argued that the small number of homes being built was due to the fact that there were few applications, but that is not so. In 1938, there were 474 application awaiting attention and only 23 houses were built, although there were 250,000 persons unemployed in Australia. Thus, twenty years after the end of World War I. hundreds of ex-servicemen were still trying to get homes built for themselves.
I turn from the needs of exservicemen to the needs of ordinary citizens. When Labour took office, the Prime Minister, the late John Curtin, said that we should not await the end of the war before getting a housing scheme under way. It must be remembered that the Constitution limits the Australian Government, in the field of housing, to providing war service homes or homes for its own servants. That leaves practically the whole field of housing to private investors, banks, insurance companies, co-operative building societies and the State governments. Negotiations were started in 1943 that culminated in 1945 in the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. For the first time in the history of the Commonwealth, we wenable to reach an agreement under which homes may be built for the great mas* of the community in the middle and low income groups. During general election campaigns, when honorable gentlemen opposite were appealing to the electors to return them to office, they proclaimed from the hustings the promise that millions of pounds would be made available for housing. Mr. R. G. Casey, who was Treasurer in the Lyons Government, promised that if his party were returned to power, about £20,000,000 would be made available for that purpose. The party was returned to power, but Mr. Casey and his colleagues in the Ministry did not build one home. The only residence that was built is the one that is now occupied by the Canadian Legation, and it was built for Mr. Casey himself at the cost of about £8,000 or £10,000. That was his great effort to house the people. He excused his failure to carry out his promise by claiming that it was unconstitutional for the Australian Government to enter the housing field. The Labour Government was well aware of the constitutional restrictions, but that did not deter it, even under the stress of war, from entering into negotiations with the State governments that resulted in the Commonwealth and State Housing agreement. Under that agreement, 23,000 houses have been built and a big building programme is under way. Moreover, the Government has made available to the State housing authorities factories for the prefabrication of houses and joinery factories. We have financed good building contractors whose only lack was that of money. The Homesglen concrete prefabricating factory is owned by the Victorian Housing Commission. All those ventures have been made possible because of the money that we have made available to the States under the agreement. In all, regardless of constitutional limitations, we have made available to them no less than £48,000,000 That £48,000,000 has been expended on the completion of 23,000 houses and the purchase of land on which to erect more homes. The tempo of the home-building programme is increasing daily. Of the houses built under the agreement, 60 per cent, have been made available to men who served in World War II. Last year, the War Service Homes Division made 6,084 homes available to other ex-servicemen. So it is plain that this Government has outstripped any of its predecessors in providing houses for the people. Last year, 52,500 of 60,000 houses started were completed. The average annual construction of houses in the ten years preceding the war was only 27,000. We hope that, this year, the rate of construction will so increase as to enable 58,000 or 60,000 houses to be built. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to-night announced that we have entered into a new field in the provision of houses. The Government has decided to grant important concessions in respect of the importation of complete pre-fabricated houses, and, when I say “ complete “ I mean complete in all senses. The houses will arrive in Australia in a prefabricated state with all fittings. That will be an important contribution to housing in Australia. The complete state of the imported houses will ensure that their importation shall not be a drain upon plumbing and other fittings that are scarce in Australia. The Government proposes, not only to remit the duty on - imported complete houses, but also to pay the freight provided that, in respect of each unit, its contribution shall not exceed £300. We propose to make a capital contribution of up to £300 on the first 10,000 imported complete houses. Nothing like that has ever been done previously. The honorable member for Wimmera has referred to the buildings that are being erected for governmental purposes. Admittedly, we have a big works programme in hand, but I remind the honorable gentleman, that every major public work, if it is likely to compete for materials with the housing programme, is referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report before it is put into operation. In fact, all major public works must be approved by the Parliament because the reports and recommendations of the Public Works Committee must be agreed to by it. Therefore, the honorable member has voted for all major public works .that have been likely to absorb materials required for the housing programme. He has voted for every major public work that has been started in Australia in the last three years.
– I have not !
– Of course the honorable gentleman has done so, because every major public work that is likely to compete with the housing programme is referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report and is voted upon by the Parliament before it is put in hand.
– Did I vote for the extensions to Parliament House?
– I said “ every major public work “. The extensions to Parliament House will cost only £40,000.
– The figure stated in the Works Estimates is £100,000.
– The honorable member is confusing extensions to Parliament House with other things. A new airconditioning system has been installed in Parliament House. As a matter of fact, a member of the honorable member’s own party, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), complained on several occasions about the condition of the air in this chamber. He said there was too much hot air in it. One cannot wonder at that when a lot of politicians are present. But he complained about the conditions in the chamber. Other honorable members have also done so. I think the complaints were justified, because the previous air-conditioning plant was extremely out of date and the conditions were had.
– How many applications for houses have been lodged ?
– The States get the applications.
.- The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) intruded into the debate and, as usual, went berserk because of some slight criticism of the immigration policy. No one has decried in any way the efforts of the Minister for Immigration to bring migrants to Australia. He is doing a good job in that respect. That is admitted on all sides. But he has been asked why he has not paid some attention to housing immigrants, and he hae replied that housing is a matter for the State parliaments. I recall that the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), one of his colleagues, disagreed with him on the floor of the chamber and opposed bringing more migrants to Australia until the Australian people themselves were housed. To a great degree housing is, as the Minister has claimed, the problem of the State governments, but it is also a problem for this Government to tackle. As the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) has said, the Commonwealth pays money to the States to enable them’ to build houses. Surely, when the Government pays money to the States, it has jurisdiction over its expenditure. To a great degree it is the responsibility of the Australian Government to ensure that, the people shall be housed. Excursions into what happened in the ‘thirties are beside the point. There is no comparison between the demand for houses now and the demand then.
– Of course there is!
– If the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) kept his ears to the ground, he would know that there was not the demand for houses in those days that there is now. The Australian Government has the responsibility to explore every avenue to ensure the availability of materials with which to build homes, but it has done little to ensure the continuity of the supply of materials. I am indebted’ to my colleague, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann), for some figures that he received from the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) in reply to a question. In 1939, 459,154 working d’ays were lost as a result of industrial disputes compared with 1,655,338 in 1948. At the rate of eight hours a day, or even six hours, that loss represents the loss of a vast quantity of material. I defy any one to challenge my claim that most of the stoppages were not in any way the result of arguments between employers and employees. Most of them arose from opposition by trade unions to the arbitration system, whether it was applied by the Coal Industry Tribunal or by any other authority. No figures are available later than those for the first quarter of this year, but in that quarter, 272,781 working days were lost because of stoppages. At that rate, the number of days lost in the full year would be well over 1,000,000. That calculation does not take into account the vast loss of working days as the result of the disastrous coal strike.
So it must be the responsibility of the Australian Government to take a hand in meeting the housing shortage. It is of not much use for the Government to make available to the States money with which to build houses unless it assists them to obtain material to ensure that building tradesmen may work uninterruptedly. Is it any wonder that the people condemn the Government when they see cement being used to provide kerbing opposite Hotel Kurrajong. Visitors to Canberra are rightly entitled to condemn that sort of thing. I do not know how much is being used, but I should say that the amount would be probably 40 or 50 bags on the whole job. Yet there are poultry-farmers all over the country, and people who want to do jobs on. their own homes, who cannot get a hag of cement. The people have every right to condemn the Government for such actions. Whilst I admit that certain work has to be done, and although I do not say that the work that I have referred to should not be carried out, I consider that the Government would be doing a lot more for Canberra, in which we hope some day to have a population of 40,000 people, if it built wider streets instead of the present narrow roadways, some of which are not of sufficient width to allow two omnibuses to pass one another. I can see a lot of trouble in store for Canberra if it has a (population of 40,000 in the future because of all these bottleneck roadways. Instead of wasting cement, the Government should see to the job of work designed to avoid road bottlenecks and also to help the people to obtain materials. There is some justification for criticism of the Government’s failure in that respect.
Honorable members opposite often speak of the work that is being done an a result of the Australian Government’s assistance to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. I do not wish to decry the value of that work; in fact I appreciate it, and so do the majority of the people of this country. But some terrible mistakes are being made. One instance, which I shall cite, concerns the town of Midland Junction in Western Australia, which is a big industrial centre and which is also the site of the
Midland Junction railway workshops, which the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), and also the Minister for Works and Housing, both know well. An area of land was made available to the State housing authority, on which there are now 100 homes, if not more, but in the winter that land is neither more nor less than a lake. I made representations some months ago to the Prime Minister, in his capacity of Treasurer, on behalf of the Midland Junction Municipal Council, for a grant of money to pay for draining the area, which is very clayey in character. The water comes down from the hills and has no outlet. A visitor to that area in winter time would think that it was another Venice. 1 approached the Prime Minister for & loan to enable that land to be drained in one direction to the Swan River and in another to the Helena River, but his answer was “ No “. In contrast to the Prime Minister’s attitude, a Liberal government some years ago saw fit to make a grant of £50,000 to Northam Municipal Council for sewerage and drainage works. The Prime Minister said some time ago that the Government is not worried about money, but only required opportunities. There was an opportunity, but the proposal was turned down. The Government’s refusal in that instance will be a standing indictment of it. The land to which I have referred was made available at a very cheap rate. The Midland Junction Municipal Council cleared it and was prepared to mak> blocks available at a very low figure. What is wrong with this Government that it should allow good homes to be spoilt? I have raised this matter so that the Prime Minister may examine it before the 10th December, when the general election will ‘be held.
– The honorable member had better have a word with the Western Australian Housing Commission while he is at it.
– That could also be done, but it is your money that is required for the work.
– It is the taxpayers’ money.
– Yes it is the taxpayers’ money, but the Treasurer is the trustee for the taxpayers. It would be foolish to say that the local government authorities could raise the necessary loan. It would be almost impossible for them to do so because the people who live in that area are mostly employed in the Midland Junction railway workshops. They are working men who are already rated to the very hilt and cannot afford an extra loading on their rates to cover drainage for an area that should have been taken over and dealt with under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. I have brought that matter to the notice of the Government so that something may be done about it. I point out to the Prime Minister that there are many children living in that area, and T hope that my representations on the subject will prevent the people who live there from having to face another winter runing around holding their trousers or skirts up to keep them dry.
Another matter to which I desire to draw the attention of the Minister for Work and Housing, and to which I hope he will give his attention, is in connexion with a brick now being produced in Western Australia which is known as the Fry brick. It is a cement brick. The man who invented it served in a machinegun section in World War I. Ever since his discharge he has been experimenting with a view to making a mobile machine gun post, and at long last he hit upon the bright idea of this brick. It is made at Guildford in Western Australia, about 8 miles from Perth, and can be laid by any individual who is physically capable of lifting a brick. It is not heavy, and measures 27 inches long by 6 inches deep by 4 inches thick. It is impossible to lay it without it fitting into all the adjoining bricks above, below and on either side. The heaviest Fry brick would weigh about 20 lb. The bricks are of a fair size and have been highly recommended by people who have used them. The inventor, Mr. Fry, is not in a position to go into mass production of the bricks, but I commend the invention to the Minister as worthy of examination by his department. I can supply the Minister with any particulars that he may desire in connexion with this matter.
– Are the bricks suitable1 for home building?
– Yes. Two Western Australian members of Parliament have laid them in a demonstration at the Western Australian Parliament House.
– Are they solid or otherwise?
– They can be made with a cavity, or solid. These bricks would provide an answer to the shortages of labour, because they can be laid by any ordinary individual with ordinary common sense who is physically capable of lifting a brick.
.- 1 am rather interested in the charges that are being levelled at the Government on the ground that it is responsible for the present unfavorable housing position in Australia. There is no dispute about the fact that there has been a greater productive effort under Labour administration than has ever been made before. A charge was levelled against the Government to-night, as it has been levelled in the past, with respect to the number of man-hours lost to industry. It is wonderful how short the memories of honorable members opposite can be. I remind them that it was left to this Government to make the agreement with the State authorities which is known as the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. I also remind them of the words the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) used in this Parliament when he was Prime Minister in 1939. He said on that occasion that the responsibility for housing the people of Australia lay with the State governments. He also said that the Government that he led did not have power under the Australian Constitution to build homes. Another statement that he made at that time was that we were in a war that would decide whether we should have homes or not. But even greater problems than those that faced the Menzies Government faced the Curtin Government. When my late illustrious leader, Mr. Curtin, took over from the rabble we had the Japanese knocking at the doors of this Commonwealth. Japan was then the third greatest naval power in the world and it was allied against us. It was in that period that the Curtin Labour Government was called upon to find the equipment necessary to enable the Mother Country to establish in the Pacific the naval protection that it gave us in the early stages of the war.
I was interested to hear the figures that were cited by the honorable member for Swan. I shall cite a figure published by a non-Labour newspaper that shows that in 1919, after World War I., under the Hughes Administration, 6,000,000 mandays, and not man-hours, were lost. That figure was published by Sydney Truth on the 28th July, 1946.
I draw the attention of honorable members to a charge that was made in Adelaide by a member of the Playford Government’s own party regarding South Australia’s appalling housing position. I shall quote from the Adelaide News of the 10th August last which is not very long ago. The Government of South Australia happens to be a Liberal government even if it has a socialistic premier at its head. I derive some pleasure from quoting this extract from the only evening newspaper published in South Australia. Incidently, only one morning newspaper is published in that State. I mentioned that fact at a conference in Britain, and those who heard my statement could hardly believe it. The extract reads : -
Charges made by Mr. Baden Pattinson, M.P., about South Australia’s “ appalling housing position “ must be answered by the Government.
Mr. Pattinson cannot be accused of having a political axe to grind. He is a member of the Government party. Unless the Government AnsWers his charges, the public’s high confidence in the State Housing Trust will be shaken.
That statement was published after one of the most vicious attacks that has ever been made on the Playford Government had been made by a member of its own party. Yet we are told by honorable members opposite that we are responsible for the housing of the people of Australia. I received an answer from the Minister for works and Housing only yesterday to a question I asked him in reference to the position of the housing of exservicemen, which showed that in 1946 £375,000 was expended on war service homes. In the last financial year £8,000,000 was expended for the same purpose. Ex-servicemen of World War I. were still battling for homes in 1939. for the year 1938-39 there were 474 outstanding applications from ex-servicemen for war service homes, and the Liberal Government of that time built throughout the Commonwealth the magnificent total of 27 war service homes in that year. Now honorable members have something to hold up their heads about.
Mr. McBride interjecting,
– Honorable members opposite can come into the ring any time they want to do so. I have given the actual facts. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) is one of the most consistent interjectors in this chamber, but 1 doubt whether he can answer the charges of Mr. Baden Pattinson, who is of the same political ilk and attends the same club as does the honorable member for Wakefield, or the charges that I have made to-night that non-Labour governments neglected the ex-servicemen of World War I. Last year 52,000 homes were built which is a record that has never previously been equalled in the history of the Commonwealth. Let us consider the position in South Australia. In the metropolitan area of Adelaide, 1,400 homes were built in 1939. Last year the number built was 3,300. That is a vast increase. I agree that the number of houses built is not yet sufficient to meet requirements, but it must be apparent to the people and to every thinking member of Parliament that the housing position is on a much better footing than it was in 1939. .
– On the contrary, housing has never been so badly behind as it is to-day.
– I do not agree with the honorable member. Today the housing position is on a much better footing than it has been at any other time in our history. The greatest number of working hours have been lost during the regimes of anti-Labour governments. The illuminating document from which I have quoted and which was sent to me by a large and influential company in Adelaide of which the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) is the chairman of directors, contains some very pertinent facts relating to improvements effected since the Labour Government has been in office. I trust that the company will continue to publish statistics which are of so much interest to the people. In 1936, when the non-Labour government was in office, only 863 houses were built in the metropolitan area of Adelaide. I thirds; that I have made out a clear case to prove that this Government has done its utmost to house the people of the Commonwealth. During the depression when I, among hundreds of thousands of other good tradesmen, walked the streets for years looking for work, anti-Labour governments which were then in office did nothing to house the people. The Labour Government had to overcome not only the backlog caused by the inactivities of its predecessors, but also the difficulties caused by the war when all the resources of the nation were devoted to bringing to a successful conclusion a war which, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has said, would determine whether or not our people would have homes at all. Honorable members opposite have indulged in a lot of talk but they have been careful to avoid the facts that are distasteful to them. Their speeches have been made solely for propaganda purposes. I invite honorable members opposite to prove that any of the statements which I have made are untrue and that the charges made by Mr. Baden Pattinson in relation to this subject were unfounded. I invite them to challenge successfully the statement made by the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) yesterday in relation to the building of war service homes. These are facts, and facts are very hard things to knock over.
– Unfortunately, I do not know Mr. Baden Pattinson, and I did not read his speech. Accordingly I am not in the position to refute any of the charges that he made. Some of the statements that have just been made by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) serve no useful purpose whatsoever. All these comparisons between what was done in 1920 or 1925 and what is being done to-day are only so much nonsense. They will not place one additional family in a home. The only thing that really matters is the housing of the people, and it is not of very great concern whether the houses be provided by governments or by private enterprise. What one government or another has done or failed to do in this matter is of no consequence. Discussions of that kind are insulting to the people who are still waiting for houses.
It has been said that 474 ex-servicemen who served in World War I. were still waiting for houses in 1939. The comment I wish to make on that statement is that during the intervening period a Labour government had been in office for two years. If it had been as clever as this Government claims to be it should have been able to do something to provide houses for those men. The point is that the people need houses and it is our business to see that they get them. Nothing else really matters. I had no intention to inject a vigorous argument into this debate. I deplore the ridiculous arguments that take place in this Parliament concerning what this, that or another government has done or failed to do.
I rose to speak in a very mild manner about a comparatively minor matter in regard to costs. Certain alterations are in progress in this building. I believe that the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) referred to this matter a few days ago. I refer to the provision of rest room accommodation for employees in this institution. We are now engaged in carrying out extensions to this building at a cost of £50,000. I understand that there are 221 employees in this building. Both the honorable member for Bourke and I are of the opinion that the amenities provided for the staffs, particularly in respect of rest rooms, are insufficient. I trust that the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) will look into this matter with a view to providing increased accommodation if possible, as the number of toilet rooms, wash rooms and rest rooms for women is at present very much less than it should be. When this building was first constructed, not so many women employees were engaged, in it as are now working here. If, in the extension now under construction, the provision of rest and toilet accommodation for women is to be on the same basis as in the old portions of the building, it will be completely insufficient to meet the demands of the staff. The Minister should examine this matter. This is something which has not been given sufficient attention in the past. I particularly ask that consideration be given to the provision of amenities for women employees in this building. At the moment there is no place for a girl who is ill to lie down. There is no place for a girl to eat her lunch, unless she is prepared to go out and sit on the lawns, which, of course, is not possible in unfavorable weather conditions. This is a matter in respect of which this Parliament might very well set an example to other Australian institutions which employ a large number of employees.
– The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) made a cheap sneer when she said that during the two years that the Scullin Government was in power it could have built war service homes for the 474 outstanding applicants from World War I. I repeat again that in 1938-39, after World War I. had been over for twenty years, although there were still 429 unsatisfied applications for war service homes, the government of the day which was actively assisted by the honorable member did nothing about it. In those days there were no shortages of materials and man-power. The honorable member told us a sob story about the provision of toilets and other amenities for women employees in this building solely for propaganda purposes.
– What rubbish!
– The Opposition parties have four representatives on the Joint House Committee, one of whom is Senator Rankin, a woman member of the party to which the honorable member for Darwin belongs. It is the duty of the Joint House Committee to make recommendations relating to the provision of facilities in this building. The proper place in which such matters should be raised is in the deliberations of that committee and not in this chamber. If the honorable member had a genuine desire to look after the interests of women employees in this building she would have arranged for her colleague to bring the subject before the Joint House Committee. But not a word was said about it at the meetings of that body.
– I discussed the subject with members of the Joint House Committee.
– The honorable member is absolutely insincere. If she were really concerned about the welfare of women workers in this building, she would have seen that the matter was mentioned in the proper quarter.
.- The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) has acted like a spoilt boy whose rocking horse has been criticized by one of his playmates. He is not big enough to accept the reasonable and courteous suggestions made to him by the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons). His speech in reply to the honorable member shows that he is scarcely fit to occupy his ministerial position. The proper place in which such a matter should be discussed is the Parliament itself, and not at a meeting of the Joint House Committee. It is appropriate that such a matter should be raised during the consideration of the Works Estimates. In raising this matter the honorable member for Darwin had no thought for her own electorate. She raised it solely in the interests of women workers in this building. She will not gain a single vote as the result of having done so. That is also true of the comments that were made by the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn). Both honorable members have made their suggestions in the mildest and most courteous manner. The Minister should be ashamed of himself for having made such a scurrilous attack on the honorable member for Darwin.
.- Honorable members opposite invariably approach a discussion relating to the subject of housing by reverting to what has happened in the past. To-night honorable members opposite have even gone as far back as 1928 in their attempts to prove that a previous government had neglected its responsibilities in this matter. What interests the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) and other honorable members on this side of the chamber is the fact that to-day too few houses are available for the people. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) referred to the number of houses that were built last year. Everybody who knows anything about the housing situation knows very well that whether the number built be 48,000 or 50,000, it is insufficient to meet existing demands let alone to take up the backlog. In spite- of that, the Government is still inviting people to come to this country. What has brought about this situation? The main reason for the lag in home building is the shortage of bricks, iron, and all the things that go to make a house. One of the reasons for the present shortage of materials is the inadequacy of coal supplies. The Government has been dallying with coal production for the last eight years, but nothing has been done to increase production. One other reason for the shortage of materials is that the Government is building structure after structure that is quite unnecessary.
The committee is asked to approve of the provision of £2,000 in respect of works, fittings and furniture for the Department of Information. Of all the excrescences on the body politic, the Department of Information is the most unsightly. There is no real reason for its existence. The present Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), when speaking in this chamber in 1942, opposed an appropriation of £50,000 for the department and declared that if ever th ere was a department that should be abolished il was the Department of Information. What has happened since then? The department has increased in size from year to year. In the financial year 1949-50 it is proposed to expend no less than £339,000 upon it. The way in which that large sum of money is to be expended has not been disclosed, but I have some ideas about it. The Department of Information is one of the most glaring examples of the extravagance of this Government. All that it does, as far as one can see, is to act as a vehicle for the boosting of the Minister for Information. The honorable gentleman requires to be boosted, but I consider that £300,000 is a large sum to expend for that purpose.
Who will be housed in the building upon which this sum of £2,000 is to be expended? Is the building intended to accommodate the members of the staff of the department who have been recently recruited? Between 1940 and the present time the permanent staff of the department has increased from nineteen to 98 and the temporary staff from 98 to 293. As I understand it, the three main functions of the Department of Information are concerned with radio, films and publicity. The publicity staff of the department in Canberra has been increased by 50 persons this year. What on earth have publicity officers got to do in Canberra? The materials that are to be used and the money that is to be expended by the department could be utilized to provide houses for people who are of far greater value to this country than are the members of the department’s staff. In yesterday’s newspapers advertisements appeared inviting journalists to apply for appointment to the department. Are those journalists to be housed in this new building? If so, why are they to be so housed? Why is the department advertising for journalists? Are they to be used at the forthcoming general election as the Government’s publicity agents ?
– What is the figure that the honorable gentleman has mentioned ?
– Two thousand pounds. I want to know what it is to be used for.
– ‘Order! The honorable gentleman must not discuss the whole of the activities of the Department of Information. He is getting very wide of the mark.
– I want to know what the £2,000 is to be used for.
– As long as the honorable gentleman relates his remarks to that item, he will be in order.
– I am trying to ascertain exactly what that sum is to be used for. I see that the Minister for Information is now present in the chamber. I ask the honorable gentleman what the Department of Information is doing that justifies this expenditure.
– The Department of Information is one of the best Commonwealth departments. Honorable gentlemen opposite seem to have a phobia about it. To mention information to them is like showing a red rag to a bull. I do not know why they have that obsession. The department is doing excellent work. It needs this money for the purchase of furniture and equipment. If the department did not function as a separate department, the officers who are now employed by it would continue to do the work that they are now doing but they would be attached to other departments. Attaches abroad who work with the heads of missions, whether they be ambassadors, ministers or high commissioners, must be on the pay-roll of the Department of Information or the Department of External Affairs.
The Department of Information does excellent work in the fields of immigration and tourist attraction as well as in selling goodwill for this country. The amount of money that it spends, including the miserable sum of £2,000 to which objection has been taken, represents only a few pence a year from each taxpayer. I ask the committee to compare the expenditure of the Department of Information with the money that the British Foreign Office makes available to the British Council each year for the purpose of selling goodwill for Great Britain. The money that is made available to the British Council is never discussed by the British Parliament. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) knows of the work that is done by the British Council. Its funds have been used, for example, to bring the Boyd Heel orchestra and the Old Vic company to Australia.
– Can the honorable gentleman explain what we get in return for our expenditure on the Department of Information? I have never been able to find out.
– The amount of money that we have expended on the Department of Information is a mere bagatelle compared with what other countries have expended upon similar organ izations, and we get three or four times more value for our money than those countries get for their expenditure. I shall not presume to canvass the matter that has already been decided by the committee. I refuse to allow the honorable member for Flinders to lead me astray.
An expenditure of £2,000 upon furniture and office improvements is not very much in these days. If the honorable member for Flinders had been talking of millions there might have been some ground for his complaint. We must keep our offices in good condition. We have extended our offices in Melbourne and Sydney and will shortly open an office in South Australia. It is hoped eventually to have a branch of the department in each capital city. In a federation, a Commonwealth department must have a branch office in each State because the smaller States are entitled to the same treatment as the larger ones. The appropriation of which the committee is being asked to approve may not be expended, because it is very difficult to obtain the equipment that is required. The honorable gentleman may therefor sleep soundly to-night. The fact that the Department of Information is to cost a few more pounds will not worry the Treasury. I wish that I could persuade the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to give me much more money. If he did, we could do a better job, and we are doing a good job now. In the next financial year, when I shall still be Minister for Information, I shall give more attention to that matter than I am able to give to it at the moment.
.- I desire to refer to certain items in the schedule which are concerned- with undertakings that the Government regards as major parts of its policy. More than £200,000,000 is to be expended upon the Snowy Mountains scheme, of which we have heard so much. This Government has a habit of assessing the worth of a project to the nation in terms of the amount of money to .be expended upon it. That is not the best test to apply, but it sounds grand and glorious. Although the proposed expenditure on the Snowy Mountains scheme is over £200,000,000, only £1,500,000 is to be provided this year for that purpose. On that basis it will take us almost 100 years to complete the scheme. That is not the only scheme that the Government has put forward. It is the 1949 scheme. The 1946 scheme of the Government was the £200,000,000 project for the standardization of railway gauges in Australia. Last year £50,000 was appropriated in respect of that scheme, which was then three years old, and only £13,000 of that sum was expended. In the third year of grace of the standardization of railway gauges only £13,000 was expended, although the project envisaged an expenditure of £200,000,000. This year only £40,000 is to be appropriated for that scheme, so it is obvious that the Government is not very serious about it. At the 1949 general election the Snowy Mountains scheme is to be the Government’s principal election placard in respect of developmental work. At the 1946 general election it was the £200,000,000 project for the standardization of railway gauges, and at the 1943 general election it was the scheme for the establishment of an aluminium industry in Australia at a cost of £5,000,000 or £10,000,000. I cannot remember the exact figure. We have not heard of the aluminium project for years, although it was flaunted before the electors in 1943. Not one pound of aluminium has been produced in Australia. The Government moved from a £5,000,000 or £10,000,000 aluminium project in 1943 to something much grander in 1946, that is, a £200,000,000 railway gauge standardization project. It is not content to have only another £200,000,000 project to put before the electors at the 1949 general election and has devised a £50,000,000 project for the development of north Australia. No appropriation is to be made this year in respect of that project. When the Government asks the Parliament to vote vast sums of money for projects such as those that I have mentioned it is merely indulging in vote-catching.
The Department of Aircraft Production was supposed to produce Beaufort houses to the value of many millions of pounds.
– That was scuttled by the Victorian Government.
– The Government has analibi for everything. It owns the factories and the aluminium and the employees are its employees, but no Beaufort houses have been produced. The Minister says, in effect, “Don’t blame me, blame the Victorian Government”. Was it the fault of the Tasmanian Government that the establishment of the aluminium industry was not proceeded with ? Is it the fault of governments other than this Government that only £13,000 was expended upon the railway gauge standardization last year? The truth of the matter is that the Government has treated the Australian public cynically. Honorable gentlemen opposite have said to themselves, “ An election is pending. Let us think up some grandiose scheme and tell the people that the Labour party will develop this country”. Although schemes have been devised for the establishment of an aluminium industry, the manufacture of Beaufort houses, the standardization of railway gauges, the development of northern Australia and large-scale works in the Snowy Mountains, virtually nothing has happened. When the Parliament is called upon to discuss the Estimates next year I shall be very surprised if more has been done to implement the Snowy Mountains scheme than has been done to standardize railway gauges in Australia.
I now direct attention to the cynical attitude that the Labour party displays towards the welfare of the people I shall cite an instance, and the Government will not he able to blame the Victorian Government or any other authority for its neglect. If there are slums to be found anywhere in Australia, they are the war workers homes at Yarrawonga in my electorate. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) was the chairman of the War Workers’ Housing Trust at the time the designs for those buildings were approved. The bench which I occupy in this chamber is designed to accommodate two honorable members, but it would be too big to put in the kitchen of any one of hundreds of war workers’ homes at Yarrawonga. Those dwellings are so small that, if I stretch my arm above my head, I can touch the ceiling, and if I reach sideways, I can touch the walls. Homes of that type may be seen wherever munitions establishments have been built.
Well, they are there. The design was stupid and crazy, but I suppose that it cannot be altered now. However, at least the ordinary services should be provided. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) is responsible for the administration of the Yarrawonga group of perhaps 100 homes. During the last two years, I have brought to his notice on a number of occasions the fact that the water pressure is so poor that water will not run from the taps in the bathrooms and kitchens of a number of the houses. The only way in which a householder can draw water is to place a bucket under a low tap in the garden, and go shopping for a couple of hours, at the end of which the dribble of water from the tap has yielded a couple of gallons. The irony of the situation is that only 200 or300 yards away, across the River Murray, is situated the Mulwala explosives establishment, which the Commonwealth erected at the cost of approximately £2,000,000. The establishment has an extensive and expensive water filtration plant. The township of Yarrawonga requires a water filtration plant, and the Yarrawonga Urban Waterworks Trust took the reasonable view that it would be foolish to build a duplicate water filtration plant when the Mulwala plant was available across the river. In September, 1946, I received from the secretary of the waterworks trust a letter in which he stated -
For the past two or three years, the Yarrawonga Urban Waterworks have been trying to come to some arrangement to secure a supply of water from the Mulwala factory pumping station.
I have in my hand a file of correspondence relating to the matter. The waterworks trust had been trying to obtain permission to make use of the Mulwala plant for two or three years before they wrote to me in September, 1946, and since then, I have been making representations on its behalf to the Minister for the Interior. The file of correspondence on the subject is half an inch thick, and contains approximately 50 letters which have passed between the trust, various Commonwealth Ministers, and myself about the matter. The township of Yarrawonga has not had a drop of water from the Mulwala filtration plant. That is the real test of the administration of a government. The Labour Government has not been able, in the course of six years, to build a pipe line of a few hundred yards from its munitions establishment, across the River Murray, to supply its own tenants in the war workers’ homes at Yarrawonga. What is the use of expecting the Australian people to have any confidence in grandiose schemes involving the expenditure of hundreds of millions of pounds when the Government fails to carry out the small work of building a pipeline from Mulwala to Yarrawonga? The Government can offer no alibi for that neglect. The pipe-line could be constructed across the weir in which the Commonwealth has an interest, because the weir was erected under the River Murray Waters Agreement. Correspondence, deputations and interviews over a period of six years have failed in this matter. If that neglect is typical of the administration of the Labour Government, how long will it take to provide electricity and water from the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme ? In my opinion, that project is only a grandiose election placard, and should be rated no higher than the Government’s plan for the standardization of railway gauges. When the Government shows that it is able to provide Beaufort homes for its employees and an adequate water supply for its own tenants at Yarrawonga, it will be time to ask the Parliament and the people to take seriously some of the grandiose projects about which it speaks so glibly.
– What is the difficulty about supplying the township of Yarrawonga with water?
– I refer the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson), and I hope that he will raise the matter in caucus. I should appreciate his assistance, because the efforts of the municipality of Yarrawonga, the tenants of the Government and myself have failed.
– Does the honorable member admit failure?
– In this matter, I admit complete and abject failure. I have got nowhere with the request. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) should not attempt to laugh the matter oil, because the Minister for the Interior visited Yarrawonga a few months ago, and I am sure that he obtained first-hand information about the conditions under which the tenants of the Government are living. Do not ask me why the Government allows those conditions to continue. I do not know whether the final responsibility lies with the Minister for the Interior or the Minister for Works and Housing. Before the Parliament and the people will have any confidence in the Government’s ability to carry out its grandiose schemes, they will need to be shown that the Government can satisfactorily undertake less important works of the kind that I have mentioned.
.-The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) considers that the Government should be content to undertake such works as those of ensuring that its tenants shall have an adequate water supply. I believe that this Parliament should tackle problems of greater magnitude, if it is to be worthy of its position as the National Parliament. The honorable member referred to the Beaufort homes project, and I shall be delighted to place on record the facts relating to it. The Beaufort home was designed by the technicians of the Beaufort homes organization along the lines of the Hawkesley organization, which is another aircraft company in the United Kingdom. The Commonwealth co-operated with the State of Victoria in a joint effort to make Beaufort homes. After 70 or 80 of the structures had been produced, the Labour Government in Victoria was unfortunately defeated and a coalition government consisting of the Liberal party and the Country party came into office. The new Minister for Housing, Mr. Warner, is the chairman of directors of Electronic Industries Limited, and also of many subsidiary companies which are registered on the Victorian Stock Exchange. A considerable proportion of the material in a Beaufort home is steel. Because of opposition by the Country party and other organizations opposed to the Labour party, the Australian Government’s referendum proposals were defeated, and control of the distribution of steel within each State reverted to the Government of that State. The Victorian Minister for Housing, Mr. Warner, evidently did not regard housing as a major responsibility, because he ordered that steel should be diverted from the Beaufort homes project to various secondary industries. I emphasize that, at that time, Beaufort homes were being made, and the tempo of production was increasing. The result of Mr. Warner’s policy is that many people in Victoria, who, in other circumstances might now be occupying Beaufort homes, are without houses, Those are the facts, and I am- glad that the honorable member for Indi has given me the opportunity to relate them for inclusion in the records of this Parliament.
The honorable member for Indi also referred to the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric project. I admit that it is perfectly true that there is a chance that work on the project will be stopped. It is a very slim chance, and it will occur only if the Opposition parties are returned to the treasury bench. That is the only chance of this great project being stultified. When I have visited the Murray and Murrumbidgee areas, many responsible men have asked, “ Can you do anything to ensure that no one will stop this project ? “ I said, “ I do not believe that any one will ever dare to stop this great work,” and they replied, “ We fear that if, by some unfortunate chance, Sir Earle Page or a muddler like him becomes Treasurer, he will stifle this great project “. Responsible men expressed those views to me in the Murrumbidgee Valley and at a meeting in the Murray Valley which I attended with the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). The danger of the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme being stopped will arise only if the Opposition parties are returned to office.
The honorable member for Indi has estimated that, at the rate of expenditure for this year, the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme will take 100 years to complete. If that statement represents the sum of the gentleman’s knowledge of construction work, he should never again be a Minister. I thought that every one knew that work on a great undertaking like the Snowy Mountains scheme has to proceed for three or four years before it gains considerable momentum. About 200 engineers and 100 draftsmen will be needed when construction is fully under way. There will be a combined administrative staff of at least 1,000 persons, and behind them there will be a working staff of 8,000 or 9,000 men. I point out that, for the first six months after .the Allied Works Council was set up, it spent only a few hundred thousand pounds, but when the gears began to mesh, and operations got under way, it expended money at the rate of £1,000,000 a week. Our experience with the Snowy River scheme will be much the same. We shall not count in terms of millions of pounds, but in kilowatt hours, and in acre-feet of water. The water which is now running into the Pacific Ocean we shall turn into the thirsty in: land, where it will be used in producing food. It is only a few weeks ago since confirmation was given by the Government of Mr. W. Hudson as commissioner in charge of this work for seven years at a salary of £5,000 a year, and of an associate commissioner for a period of six years, at a salary of £3,000 a year. Mr. Archer was made secretary of the commission three weeks ago, and already the commission has a staff of 100. Contracts have been let for the construction of roads and the building of houses. I believe that if a tragedy occurred, and the Opposition were to win the next election, it would not dare to do more than slow down the progress of the work. No government would now attempt to stop this great project from being put into operation. This project has been talked about for the last 70 years. This Government will not run away from its obligations. We know that difficulties will arise, and that the Opposition will, no doubt, derive some petty pleasure from drawing attention to them. The Government, however, is determined to go on with the project. The scheme will be officially inaugurated on Monday next, and eventually about 10,000 persons will be employed upon it.
.- I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford) what progress is being made with the development and reconstruction of the Bilinga aerodrome near Coolan gatta. The plans provided for the acquisition of additional land and the extension of the runway, as well as the construction and furnishing of buildings.
An amount of £2,882,000 is to be expended under the terms of the Coal Industry Act 1946. That is a very large amount of money and the Parliament should not vote it without receiving full information. I know that power is taken under the act to do certain things, and to embark upon certain undertakings, but honorable members are entitled to information on the Government’s plans.
Some years ago, it was proposed that the railway gauges of Australia should be standardized at a cost of £200,000,000. I have been informed that no railway gauges have yet been standardized, but every year an amount of money is voted in connexion with the proposal. This year, the amount shown in the Estimates is £40,200, and there is an additional amount of £800 for fittings and furniture. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) has been in charge of standardization proposals for years, but nothing has yet been done although a certain amount of expenditure is constantly going on.
.- The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) and the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) cited figures in connexion with the construction of war service homes. I have here reports issued by the War Service Homes Commission which show that those figures were inaccurate. The honorable member for Boothby, shouting very loudly, told a hard-luck story about returned soldiers of the first world war who had waited for twenty years for homes. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Minister stated that in the year 1938, 29 war service homes were completed and 474 applications were approved. His figures were correct as far as they went, but the commission’s report goes on to point out that up to the year 1938, 21,374 houses had ‘been completed, so that construction was at the rate of more than 1,000 a year. That shows that the 474 applications constituted an average waiting list of that time. That compares more than favorably with what has been achieved since this Government has been in office. I am not criticizing the War
Service Homes Division, which is an efficient organization; I am criticizing the policy of the Government. In 1945, only eight war service homes were completed.
– That was a war year.
– The war ended that year, and by that time many returned men, who had been discharged from the services, were looking for homes. In 1945, 3,500 men were waiting for homes. In1948, the number of homes completed was 1,244, but the number of applications was 13,338, so that the department was falling behind. It is a pity that Ministers and their supporters should endeavour to falsify the facts.
To-day, I received a reply from the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) to a question which I had placed on the notice-paper asking how many Royal Australian Air Force squadrons were in service in December, 1941. I had asked the question because of statements that had been made of the unreadiness of the Air Force at the beginning of the war.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - The committee is discussing the Works Estimates for the Air Force, not the strength of the Air Force.
– I am talking about the number of squadrons in the Air Force. The Minister replied to my question by saying that in December, 1941, there were in the Royal Australian Air Force twelve squadrons and one ambulance unit. Up to that point he was correct, but why did he omit all reference to the squadrons which were at that time serving overseas ? In the United Kingdom squadrons Nos. 452, 455, 458, and 460, the last two consisting of Wellington aircraft, were operating. There were also two fighter squadrons, Nos. 450 and 451, in the Middle East.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed vote has expired.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Holloway) pro posed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– To-day I have perused the report of the Tariff Board which advises the Government to drop the cotton industry. This is an important industry to Australia, especially to Queensland, and a great sum of money has been expended on it.
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The cotton industry has been discussed in the debates to-day.
– If the matter has been discussed during the day-
– The report has not been debated. It advises that the Government should give no further assistance to the great cotton industry. The Government is about to consider the report, and I am taking the earliest possible opportunity to appeal to it to save the industry. The first Cotton Bounty Act was passed by the Commonwealth Parliament in 1926. At the same time, tariff concessions were provided for the importation of seedlintings, oil plants, linter saws and other plant and equipment needed by the cotton industry. That plant and equipment is still in Australia. Another form of assistance granted to the industry consisted in a higher tariff on certain cotton piece goods. Those forms of assistance have cost the Australian public millions of pounds. Therefore, I ask the Government to give full consideration to the matter before deciding to sacrifice the industry, for that would be the outcome of acceptance of the Tariff Board’s report. The Government should not lightly throw away the millions of pounds that have been expended on the establishment and maintenance of the industry. Years ago, when the cotton bounty was last revised, it was clearly understood that the Queensland Government was about to provide the water that is essential to the growing of cotton. The water has not been provided. The industry is in a desperate plight because of the lack of water. The Tariff Board, which is a diligent body, has, in its report, defined the present state of the industry. A tremendously valuable industry would be assured if the cottongrowers had the water that they need. In view of the value of the industry to
Australia, I suggest that the Government immediately appoint a special committee to discover what can be done to put it on its feet again. This industry is too valuable an industry for Australia to lose and is, in fact, vital to the full development of the country. It has shown its value to Australia. In 1860, 14,000 acres were seeded with cotton. In 1913, the Queensland Government made an advance that made possible a guarantee of 51/2d. per lb. for seed cotton. In 1924, the British Australian Cotton Association indicated that it was prepared to invest millions of pounds in the industry. It gave an impetus to the establishment of cotton ginneries, some of which have never operated, because the Queensland Parliament enacted legislation banning ratoon and under which the cotton had to be pooled, and which provided for a fine of £1,000 on any one who did not send his cotton to the pool. In 1924, 50,186 acres under cotton produced 15,000,000 lb. of cotton. In 1925, the crop amounted to 20,000,000 lb. By 1926, however, the crop had fallen to 9,000,000 lb. Then, the Australian Government granted a bounty on seed cotton and on cotton yarn, the latter being to assist the manufacturing side of the industry. In the first year of the operation of the cotton bounty, £120,000, a pittance, was paid to the industry; but that did not save it, for, in 1927-28, the production again declined, and the amount of the bounty paid fell to £81,454. The cotton-growers placed their cotton in a pool and an agreement was reached for the payment of the equivalent of the Liverpool parity price, plus freight, handling charges, &c, for the Australian crop. So we could go through the years until 1934, when 17,500 hales of cotton were produced by the Australian industry. It is estimated that the current crop will amount to only 800 bales. Something is undoubtedly wrong with the industry. A special committee should be appointed to find out what is wrong with the industry and to recommend means of reviving it. Americans one took an interest on the Australian cotton industry. This industry is a great employer of labour. In considering the recommendations of the Tariff Board, the Government must have regard to that aspect. Attention should be paid also to what the
Commonwealth and Queensland have done to establish the industry. The report of the Tariff Board refers to the fact that water is essential for the successful production of cotton, but there is no suggestion in its report that the Government should set out to find water for it. As I have said, the Cotton Bounty Act was originally passed in 1926. Under it the Australian Government provided a bounty of £600,000 for five years on seed cotton and £300,000 on cotton yarn. The millions of pounds that have been invested in the cotton industry are worth saving. The bounty does not represent the only investment that the Australian Government has made in the industry. It has also provided the industry with tariff concessions on the importation of plant and equipment and has imposed higher duties on the importation of cotton piece goods, knitted cotton piece goods and cotton towelling. The industry has also received certain other minor forms of assistance. I hope that the Government will take all the aspects that I have referred to into consideration when it deals with the report of the Tariff Board.
– I told the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) this afternoon that reports from all over New SouthWales - and I think it may truly be said of the rest of Australia - are that industry is being held up and, in some districts, brought to a standstill by the lack of petrol. Petrol pumps are dry. Many farmers cannot get their products to market. Deliveries of cream to butter factories are being held up. Even in the cities an acute position is arising.
Mr.Fuller. - We told you all about that.
– I am not interested in what the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) told us. If this position is being deliberately created by the Government to justify its attitude on petrol rationing, it will have something to answer for to the people of Australia. The Liquid Fuel (Defence Stocks) Act 1949 was enacted after petrol rationing had been abolished by a decision of the High Court. . It provides that the Minister may require any person who imports petrol to hold certain stocks in the interests of defence. I understand that about 50,000,000 gallons is held for that purpose at present. I approved of the legislation, as did every honorable member, when it was introduced, but, when an economic crisis is upon us, amelioration is called for. The Government should give effect to the provision which states that -
The Minister may … by a further notice in writing so served, revoke or vary any such notice, or any such notice as previously varied.
In other words, the Minister, and the Government, could alleviate the situation immediately by permitting the oil companies to release certain defence stocks to essential industries in Australia. Petrol is as essential to the well-being and progress of Australia as is coal, and that applies particularly in country districts. It is unthinkable that the Government, in order to try to prove its point on petrol rationing, should impose upon the people of Australia unnecessary hardships and do much damage to our economic position, but it would appear that that could quite easily be so.
– The honorable member does not believe that, surely?
– I do. I am stating what is happening. If the Minister hired a private car instead of using a government car and tried to travel around Australia, he would quickly discover that what I say is absolutely correct. Even in Canberra to-day, people who came here in good faith cannot buy a single gallon of petrol with which to drive their cars away again. There is a second thing that the Government could do. Petrol rationing will be re-instituted on the 15th November, if the State parliaments pass the necessary legislation. The best part of a month will have to elapse between now and the reimposition of rationing. Are we to allow Australia to get into a condition of chaos between now and then because ‘the Government will not allow petrol to be imported and will not release any of its stocks? “We are told that this is completely a dollar problem, but I propose to quote the figures that were given to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) on the 2nd November, 1948, nearly twelve months ago to disprove that contention. The figures are in Hansard. They show where the petrol came from. The question asked by the honorable member for Barker was a long one and I shall not repeat it all, but I refer the Minister to page 759 of Hansard for September, 1948. The figures given in the Minister’s reply show that £30,000,000 worth of petrol were imported into Australia for that year and also that of that amount only £5,000,000 worth came from dollar sources. So there would not be a serious dollar problem in respect of the importation of a limited quantity of petrol for a month at least until the rationing period begins on the 15th November. I know that the Minister or the Prime Minister will say that every gallon of petrol that comes into this country has a dollar content because there is not enough sterling petrol in the sterling area to provide the sterling area’s requirements, and therefore the countries of that area have to import dollar petrol. They will also say that every petrol user in the sterling area, whether he uses petrol from that area or a dollar area, is using a proportion of dollar petrol. But the point is that on the figures supplied! by the Government itself only £5,000,000 worth of petrol of a total of £30,000,000 worth came from dollar sources.
– That was a year ago.
– Yes, but they are the last figures that were officially issued by the Government. I say, therefore, that if the Government desires to bring about a state of chaos in industry and to hold up every motor vehicle throughout the countryside so as to justify the contention that it has advanced all along that petrol rationing is necessary, it is a pretty drastic way of advancing its case. The Government could alleviate the situation by the methods that I have suggested. I have not taken the Government unawares or unprepared by what I have said to-night, because as I said at the outset, I saw the Prime Minister this afternoon and told him that I intended to speak on this matter on the adjournment and acquainted him with the line I proposed to take. I have had telephone calls this afternoon from State members of Parliament in Sydney who have told me that, in response to numbers of telegrams that they had received from their constituents, they had approached Mr. O’sullivan, the State Minister .for Transport in Sydney, and that Mr. O’sullivan had told them that it was a completely federal matter and that he was powerless to do anything. The whole question hinges upon the Government giving the oil companies permission to import a sufficient quantity of petrol to tide over the position until rationing comes in again on the 15th November, and it hinges also on what the Government intends to do in respect of its hoarded supplies. I use the term hoarded in respect of the 50,000,000 gallons of petrol which, I have no doubt the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) will say, are essential defence supplies. Against what have we to defend ourselves in the next two or three months? Is there any enemy or any war in sight within that period? Those stocks can easily be replaced within a month or two. At the moment people cannot get petrol at garages or bowsers throughout the country. Their businesses are at a standstill because of lack of petrol, their products are remaining, on the farms and their industries are being completely disrupted. They will not be satisfied with the answer that these stocks arc, at this juncture, essential for defence. Therefore, in view of the situation that is rapidly developing in this country, I ask that the Government give consideration to taking some measures to alleviate it.
.- I desire to raise a matter that is connected with an area known as Bradfield Park that is within my electorate. Some days ago I received a letter from some people in my electorate which stated -
It was announced on the Australian Broadcasting news service at 6.45 a.m. on Thursday, the 8th September, 1949, that the Royal Australian Air Force was shortly to bc moved out from Bradfield Park and that huts occupied by the Royal Australian Air Force would be the domicile of a “ large number “ of migrants or, to use Mr. Calwell’s phraseology, new Australians. As yon are no doubt aware about one-half of the hutments in this area are the property of the Housing Commission of New South Wales and are occupied by approximately 43 families, totalling 2,400 persons, 1,100 adults and 1,300 children, as emergency accommodation. I have been requested to ask the following questions: - How many migrants will be installed in this *rea? Will they be single males or married couples if What control will be placed over them? What recreation facilities will be made available to them, particularly in the evening? By way of explanation, I would point out that neither we collectively, nor this organization, object to’ those new settlers, but there are at present some 200 odd of these persons, all apparently single males, in residence in huts in this area-
– Order ! I understand that the honorable gentleman raised this matter in the House earlier to-day.
– I am not raising the same matter, but a different matter.
– The Chair has given the honorable member every opportunity to advance his argument-
– I have nol:-
-Order! The honorable member will resume his seat. The Chair informs the honorable member that as he has already raised this matter during the debate on the Works Estimates to-day, he is not’ entitled to raise it again. He may not raise during a debate on the adjournment a matter that has been dealt with during proceedings earlier in the day.
– I did not raise it during the Works Estimates debate.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) mentioned to me earlier this evening that the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) had informed him that he intended to raise the subject of the petrol shortage in the House this evening, and he asked me to be here to hear what the honorable member had to say, and to give him a reply. It is well known that petrolusers throughout the Commonwealth are suffering from a very grave shortage of petrol at the present time, but if there is one thing that is completely clear it is that the Australian Government is not responsible for the position that petrolusers find themselves in to-day. It illbecomes the honorable member for Richmond or any other honorable member of the Australian Country party to bring this matter forward in the way that the honorable member for Richmond has brought it forward, because his own leader, the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) has all along incited the petrolusers of this country into using more petrol than the country could afford to provide. I shall outline the steps that the Government has taken to meet this situation. Immediately after petrol rationing was abolished by the decision of the High Court of Australia, the Government investigated the matter, closely examined all the figures in relation to the quantities of petrol required for essential purposes in this country, and issued import licences for the importation of 440,000,000 gallons of petrol for the year ended the 31st May next year. In assessing that amount, the Government took account of the amount that would be required if petrol consumption continued at the scale that applied when rationing was previously in operation, plus a certain amount for the natural increase of consumption due to the number of new cars put on the road, and also an additional amount of 50,000,000 gallons to maintain defence stocks at the required level. At a later stage the Government issued additional import licences for 5,250,000 gallons, that being the amount that was calculated to he the excess of petrol consumption during the coal strike period recently. That amount was calculated after a very close examination of the figures of petrol consumption during that particular period. The Government called all the heads of the various oil companies together in Canberra. I was present at that meeting, at which the Prime Minister explained the position to the heads of the oil companies. He explained quite clearly what he intended to do and he informed them of the amount of petrol that, in the opinion of the Government, this country could afford. The Prime Minister also stated that import licences covering the importations which the Government was prepared to permit would be issued.
All the heads of the oil companies in Australia promised the Prime Minister that they would do their very utmost to ensure that consumption of petrol in the interim period between the abolition of petrol rationing and the time when State governments took up rationing, if those governments intended to do so, would not be greater than it was during the period when rationing was in operation. During the months of June, July and August, that is, practically the three months since that meeting took place, the companies have oversold petrol by 22,000,000 gallons, after making allowances for 5,250,000 gallons to which I have already referred.
– Did the Commonwealth Oil Henneries Limited oversell?
– I am talking about all the oil companies.
– I am talking about the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited.
– I am talking about all the oil companies. I cannot give the Opposition the figures for any individual company, either the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, or anyother. All I am saying is that the oil companies combined oversold by 22,000,000 gallons. The Department of Supply and Development is of the opinion that much of that quantity of petrol has; been hoarded. For example, there waa a case in a court in Sydney yesterday in which a chemist in -business in the city - and not even a primary producer - was prosecuted because he was found to have six 44-gallon drums of petrol on his premises. The prosecution was undertaken, I believe, under the New South Wales Explosives Act, which lays down that not more than a certain quantity of petrol may be kept in a private garge. It is quite “obvious that the Australian Government has no responsibility whatsoever for the situation that has arisen. As far as defence stocks are concerned, I point out that whenever Defence Estimates are under consideration in this chamber, and also on many other occasions, honorable members opposite, including the honorable member for Richmond and other members ‘ of the Australian Country party, continually say to the Government, “ You are not prepared to defend this country. Your preparations are not at a stage that would permit you to provide adequate defence for Australia “. The Chiefs of Staff and the Defence Committee have said that the stocks of petrol which are being maintained for defence purposes at the present time are the minimum essential for the defence of Australia. Yet honorable members opposite are prepared to say that we should release that petrol in order to make up the deficiency that they themselves have helped to cause by the incitement that they have given to primary producers and others to consume petrol at an exorbitant rate. There is no responsibility on the shoulders of the Australian Government for the situation that the petrol-users of this country find themselves in to-day. The honorable member for Richmond can blame whom he likes. He may take a choice of three persons or groups of persons who may or may not be responsible for the position, but it is one or the other of those groups and not the Government who is to blame. In the first instance, petrol rationing ceased because of a decision of the High Court. That court also made a decision in another case not very long ago in relation to the ban on the gale of cream for commercial purposes. The regulation in relation to cream was made under the Commonwealth’s defence power, in the same way as was the regulation relating to petrol. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), has made it clear that, in his opinion, which, I think, is supported by most constitutional lawyers in the country, the defence power extends, not only to the organization of the resources of the country for war, but also to the unwinding of that war effort after the war has ceased. If, in the opinion of the High Court, the banning of the sale of cream, and, therefore, the rationing of butter is a valid process in the unwinding of the war effort, the man in the street cannot see why the rationing of petrol should not come within the same category. The citizen cannot understand some of the decisions that have been given. Immediately the Commonwealth’s authority in relation to the rationing of petrol was declared to be no longer valid by the High Court, there was power in the hands of the State governments to ensure the equitable distribution of the petrol that was allowed to come into the country. The matter was fully discussed at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in Canberra, and a full explanation was given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). I also explained the position because I had just returned from London, where I had had the opportunity to hear the British Minister for Fuel explain the position. If the anti-Labour Premier of Victoria had been as willing as were the Labour Premiers of Queensland and New South Wales to refer to the Commonwealth the power, rationing would have been introduced a couple of months ago, and the present situation would not have arisen. That is the second section to whom the honorable member can attach some blame for what has arisen.
The third section consists of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) and other honorable members of that party who endeavoured to lead the people to believe that the Commonwealth could obtain petrol, if it so desired, from a number of sources. The Leader of the Australian Country party said that petrol was available from Russia and Poland. The Government issued licences for the importation of petrol from those sources, but none was available. So primary producers and other users of petrol who are suffering as the result of shortages of supplies can blame the Leader of the Australian Country party, the honorable member for Richmond and other members of the Australian Country party for the position.
The Prime Minister gave some information yesterday about the matter that has been raised by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr.Bernard Corser). I know that, through unfortunate circumstances, for which the honorable member for Wide Bay himself was solely responsible, he was not able to be present in this chamber when that information was supplied. I assure the honorable member that the matter is being considered by the Government, and that, in due course, the House and the country will be informed of the decision.
Motion (by Mr. Ward) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Question so resolvedin the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Aluminium Industry Act - Fourth Annual Report of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, for year 1948-49.
Apple and Pear Organization Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1949, No. 74.
Australian Capital Territory Representation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1949. No. 73.
Customs Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1949, No. 75.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (2).
National Security (Prices) Regulations - Order - No. 3443.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes - Glenthompson, Victoria.
National Debt Sinking Fund Act - National Debt Commission - Twenty-sixth Annual Report, for year 1948-49.
Norfolk Island Act - Ordinance - 1949 - No. 2 - Coroners ( Validation ) .
Re-establishment and Employment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1949, No. 72.
Superannuation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1949, No. 71.
House adjourned at 11.25 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
How many (a) permanent and (b) temporary and exempt employees were there in the
Commonwealth Public Service at the 30th June, 1939, 1945, 1947, 1948 and 1949?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
g asked the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction, upon notice -
Will he lay on the table (a) a list of scholarships awarded by the Australian National University for study overseas, showing the names of the holders and their Australian addresses, and (b) alist of scholarship holders of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization - J. S. Bowles, C. K. Coogan, W. P. Crowcroft, J. A. Ferguson, N. T. Flentje, L. J. Frahn, J. H. Green, Miss P. Kott, J. McAndrew, J. K. McKenzie, J. J. O’Dwyer, G. J. Ogilvie, J. A. Roberts, M. R. J. Salton, J. R. T. Short, J. F. Turner, M. M. H. Wallace, K. C. Westfold, R. G. Wylie, K. A. Ferguson, Miss K. Hardy, F. H. W. Morley, B. F. Short, D. H. Simmonds, B. Dawson, J. V. Sanders, E. R. Segnit, J. A. Friend, W. D. Crow,* A. Hurley,* L. H. P. Jones,* W. G. Murrrell,* K. Norrish,* D. Spencer,* G. Alexander,* A. J. Hodge,* P. Schinckell.*
Science and Industry Endowment Fund - F. F. Gardiner, D. H. L. Gibbings, Miss M. B. Noye, Miss G. R. Wykes, K. B. Mather, F. V. Mercer, G. K. White, R. J. Moir.*
n asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, upon notice -
If so, who authorized these conditions of sale ?
– The Minister for Shipping and Fuel has supplied the following information: -
y. - On the 30th September the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) asked me the following question : -
Will the Prime Minister arrange for the latest report of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission to be made available to honorable members before the Estimates relating to that organization are considered in this chamber. Will the right honorable gentleman state whether any aluminium has yet been produced by this Government venture which so far has cost the taxpayers of this country £1,000,000.
I desire to inform the honorable member that the report of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission will he tabled in the House of Representatives on the 13th October, 1949. No aluminium has been produced by the commission, but the erection of the plant has been pushed ahead. Machinery has been procured and is at present in Aus tralia. 1 would direct the honorable member’s attention to the financial statement attached to the report; this shows that out of £400,300 so far contributed jointly by the Commonwealth, and Tasmanian Governments, expenditure of £319,000 is represented by tangible assets.
Air Mail Services : First-class Matter at Ordinary’ Rates.
– On the 23rd September the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General the following question : -
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 October 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19491013_reps_18_205/>.