18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House whether, as the result of the negotiations that have been taking place between himself and the Premier of Queensland concerning the development of the Burdekin Valley, and particularly the Burdekin irrigation scheme, simultaneously with the conduct of negotiations for the development of the Callide Valley coal area, he has agreed to provide the financial assistance that the Government of Queensland has been seeking?
Mr.CHIFLEY. - Dealing first with the Burdekin River scheme, the, position is, as I indicated to the honorable member when he asked a question recently concerning the matter, that arrangements were made for an expert committee of Commonwealth officers to join with Queensland officials in making an examination of the scheme proposed by the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Hanlon.I mentioned at the time that Mr. Loder, the Director-General of Works and Housing, would be chairman of the proposed committee, which would include as Commonwealth representatives Mr. Lambert, of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, Mr. Nette, an assistant secretary of the Treasury, and Mr. Crawford, of the Bureau ofAgricultural Economics. That committee has inspected the areas and examinedthe proposal, and it is anticipated that its report will be available to the Government within the next fortnight. In the meantime I have discussed with Mr. Hanlon the possibilities, in the event of the report being favorable, of a joint Commonwealth and State proposal to develop the Burdekin Valley, which,I understand, will cost approximately £30,000,000. Cabinet has already authorized me to negotiate with the Premier of Queensland, subject to the committee’s report being favorable regarding the economic possibilities and potentialities of this particular scheme on. the Burdekin River if carried out by a joint association of the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland. A committee has been appointed by the Australian Government to report on the possibilities of developing the Callide Valley coalfield. That committee consists of Dr. Chapman, of the Department of Transport, Mr. Nette, an assistant secretary of the Treasury, and Mr. Hartnell, the Director of the Division of Industrial Development. They will proceed to Queensland, I think in the next week or two, accompanied by officers of the Joint Coal Board, to report to the Government on the possibility of developing that coal-field. They will act in each case after consultation with, and with the consent of, the Queensland Government. . The Premier of Queensland, Mr. Hanlon, has already given an assurance on behalf of his Government that if the Australian Government joins with the Queensland Government in developing that field he Wild undertake that 50 per cent, of the coal so produced will be made available to the southern States. In this particular instance these States would be Victoria and South Australia, as Western Australia requires only small quantities of gas coal. In the meantime, apart from . that committee we have two German experts -at work. One of them has been here for some time and has visited the field, and the other has come to Australia recently. They have made a valuable report to me regarding both the Callide Valley and Blair Athol fields. These two experts are Dr. Danulat who is -an engineering expert in connexion with open-cut mines, and Dr. Bruggemann, who is an expert on the gasification of and extraction of oil from coal. They are preparing a report on both the Blair Athol field and CallideValley field. The committee which is dealing with the question of the supply of coal’ from Queensland, particularly to the southern States, will proceed to Queensland at a very early date and, as I have already said, Cabinet has authorized me to negotiate with the Premier of Queensland, should the committee’s report be favorable.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether he will explain, what has caused the delay in the conclusion of a treaty of friendship and commerce between Australia and the United States, negotiations for which began some time ago. Is it a fact that the proposed treaty had reached draft form last January? Is it further a fact that in February the Government raised objections to .the whole form of the proposed treaty and, after proposing drastic changes, intimated to tho United States Government that it was unlikely that ‘ the treaty would be concluded at an early date? .Is not .the Government in favour of strengthening the ties of friendship between ourselves and the United States! If so, does it not consider that a treaty of . this nature would do a great ‘ deal towards strengthening these ties?
– The honorable gentleman mentioned this matter recently during a debate. The proposed treaty of commerce, navigation and friendship with the United States is a very lengthy document which is connected with the activities, not only of the Department of External Affairs, but also of many other’ Australian Government departments, including the Treasury. It also involves a most detailed consideration of the actual machinery of commercial rela ‘tionships and other such matters. The provisions of the treaty that concern each department are being considered by the various departments so as to ensure that the form of the treaty will be satisfactory not only, to Australia but also to the United States. The basic element of .the honorable member’s question concerns friendship with the United States. That, of course is our objective. The delays in negotiating a treaty of that kind are necessarily very considerable. A treaty of the same kind is also being negotiated between the United States and India. We have made some suggestions to shorten the procedure and to simplify the nature of the agreement, and they may be adopted. The honorable member can rest assured that although it is a fundamental part of our policy to reach agreement on these matters, equally he will see that we must work out any such agreement in a thoroughly business-like way.
I think that I have adequately answered the honorable member’s questions by what I have said about our general policy. There has been no complaint by the Government of the United States about delay. If there is to be any comment on these matters I think I should point out that at least half of the matters that have been raised have been raised by the other party to the bargain. I have no doubt that this treaty will be signed ultimately, and that it will cement even more firmly’ the bonds of friendship to which the honorable member has referred.
Mining OpeRATIONS IN WESTERN
– Will the Minister for Immigration inform me what progress has been made in connexion with the immigration scheme proposed by the Returned Servicemen’s League in Western Australia. I refer particularly to its plan to bring out migrants for the goldmining industry in that State. What was the result of Mr. Lonnie’s visit overseas-in connexion with this matter?
– When I was in Western Australia a little over a month ago I was waited upon by representatives of the mining industry in that State. I went to Kalgoorlie and one evening discussed at the Chamber of Mines the scheme to bring out British miners for the mining -companies in Kalgoorlie and Boulder. The Lake View and Star Company is operating the biggest mine in Western Australia. Mr. Thorne, the managing director of that enterprise, said that it needed about 500 British miners immediately. There were some difficulties in the way of recruiting that number of miners in Great Britain, and the gentleman mentioned by the honorable member for Perth, Mr. W. Lonnie, who is chairman of the returned servicemen’s migration committee in Western Australia, agreed to go to Great Britain. He is a very distinguished man, who has made his own contribution towards Australia’s population problem as he has a family of five splendid young Australians.
– He was also decorated for service in the field.
– He won a Military Cross in New Guinea. I sent him to London in connexion with the scheme propounded by the federal conference of the returned servicemen’s organization. In fact he was nominated for this mission by the State executive of the Returned Servicemen’s League in Western Australia. In Great Britain he selected 400 miners to work in the gold mines in Western Australia. I have agreed to provide shipping for them immediately, and I understand that 5,000 either British miners wish to come to Australia to work in the gold mines of Western Australia, where the pay is high and the conditions good. I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the management of the Lake View and Star mine in Western Australia which, at its own expense and without assistance from the Commonwealth or the State governments, converted a grandstand at the old Boulder race-course into suitable hostel accommodation for at least 500 British miners. If we can get such cooperation between private enterprise and State and Federal governments, we shall be able to bring more British migrants to this country. I am glad of the opportunity to tell the House what is being done for British migrants, and to pay a tribute to the work of Mr. Lonnie, of Western Australia, Mr. Keyes, of New South Wales, Mr. Melson of Queensland, and Mr. Osborne of Victoria, all of whom went abroad in connexion with the scheme that the Commonwealth negotiated with the Returned Servicemen’s League to bring more British ex-servicemen to Australia and to provide them with accommodation that they would not otherwise have obtained.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state whether the Australian Egg Board recently refused approval to the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board for the shipment of 15,000 dozen eggs to Singapore at an f.o.b. price of 3s. a dozen? Was approval for that shipment refused on the ground that the price at which the eggs were to be sold for export to that market was 2d. a dozen higher than the price that was established by the board for sales to
Singapore? Will the Minister examine the position with the board to ensure that in the future poultry-farmers shall obtain the highest possible price for their eggs on the export market? Will the honorable gentleman indicate whether, at the expiration of the term of office of the members of the Australian Egg Board, the poultry industry will be given an opportunity to elect its own producer representatives to that body?
– I have no knowledge of the proposed shipment to which the honorable member, has referred. I can inform him, however, that it is the function of the Australian Egg Board to o’btain the highest possible price for Australian eggs on the export markets of the world. I direct the attention of the honorable member to the fact that egg producers already have majority representation on the board. I assume that in any action which the hoard may take in respect of the sale of eggs to overseas markets it would endeavour to obtain the best possible return for Australian producers. I shall be glad to obtain and convey to the honorable member the information which he has sought.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to a report that the London agent of Ampol has stated that Australia can obtain sufficient sterling petrol to make rationing in Australia unnecessary, provided that quick decisions are made and that there are nu delays in granting the necessary import, licences. The report also states that Ampol has had to reject an offer of 22,500,000 gallons of French petrol because the Australian, price had not been increased. Will the Government use every facility to expedite the issue of import licences to enable sterling petrol on offer to be obtained for Australia, and will the Government also give immediate consideration to the reduction of primage duty and petrol tax in order to offset any increase that may be granted in the price of petrol?
– I have not seen the report to which the honorable member ha* referred. A telegram has been received from Ampol which indicates that the company believes that it can obtain additional refined petrol from France until the end of 1950. I understand that the capacity of the refining plants iri France, which is already very considerable, is increasing. Ampol, however, has asked that a subsidy be granted by the Commonwealth on all petrol imported by it from France. I received the telegram only a little while ago and I have not yet had time to study its contents closely. It indicates, however, that the company does not regard the importation of petrol from France as a very economic proposition.
– Neither is the bringing of steel to Australia from Japan.
– At the moment I am not dealing with the importation of steel from Japan. Does the right honorable gentleman object to steel being brought to Australia from Japan?
– No, nor do I object to petrol being brought to Australia from France.
– Order ! The Chair objects to the interruptions of the right honorable member for Darling Downs.
– For the information of the honorable member for Wentworth I quote the following paragraph from the telegram : -
As lias been stated in previous correspondence the problem particularly is that the French cargoes are dearer than those which are currently available to us from our suppliers e:c Bahrein. The extra cost is due to firstly the cost of carrying the crude from the original supply well to the French refinery, secondly the extra cost of haulage of cargo from France to Australia as this is a longer ocean haul than from Bahrein to Australia.
I shall not occupy the time of the House by quoting further from the message, which came last night. It asked for a subsidy of 3d. a gallon to be paid on petrol imported from France, though not on any other petrol, on account of the extra costs involved in shipping the crude oil from Bahrein to France and shipping the refined petrol from France to Aus.tralia
– Why not reduce the petrol tax?
– It was not a request to reduce the petrol tax. Any reduction of the petrol tax would apply to all petrol, whether it came direct from Bahrein or from France.
– Would the Government reduce the primage on the French petrol ?
– That would not be practicable. The primage on French petrol could not be reduced without also reducing the primage on other petrol. The duties that apply to any petrol imported into Australia must apply to all petrol. Therefore, a reduction of primage would not meet the request that has been made by Ampol, which relates only to the extra costs involved in importing petrol from France. According to the company, and I accept its word, the extra charges involved represent 3d. a gallon. All that 1 can say in answer to the honorable member’s question is that the telegram has come to my notice this morning and that all of the facts submitted by Ampol will be properly examined and the necessary information will be obtained. The Government has not given consideration to the reduction of any of the duties that were mentioned by the honorable member.
– Can the Minister for the Army say whether the attention of the Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant-General Sturdee, has been drawn to statements concerning the defences of Australia that were attributed to him by the Sydney Sunday Herald on Sunday last? If so, can the Minister advise me whether the report was accurate ?
– I have been assured by Lieutenant-General Sturdee that the article that appeared in the last edition of the Sunday Herald is completely nonsensical, and that there is no truth in any of the statements that have been attributed to him. He has not yet reported to the Government upon his visit overseas. Therefore, the statement that he has had top level discusions with the Government is completely without foundation. I shall watch with interest to see whether the Sunday Herald gives as much prominence to Lieutenant-General Sturdee’s denials as it gave to the false statements that it published.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that when the United Kingdom Government recently relaxed the restrictions that had formerly been imposed upon the importation of Australian books into that country, it took no action to relax the rigid restrictions that are imposed upon the importation of Australian magazines? Are not those restrictions most unfair, in view of the fact that large quantities of English magazines are allowed to enter Australia and to compete with Australian periodicals? Will the Prime Minister request the United Kingdom Government to lift the restrictions upon the importation of Australian magazines into the United Kingdom so that Australian magazines may enjoy the same freedom of circulation in Britain as English magazines enjoy in Australia?
– One of the provisions of the Anglo-American loan agreement provides that the United Kingdom Government shall not discriminate against American goods. When the importation of American goods into the United Kingdom was restricted, restrictions were also imposed upon the importation of books from other countries. I understand that the United States of America has now agreed that that provision may be relaxed and, as a result, the United Kingdom is able to permit a larger number of books from Australia and the other dominions to enter the United Kingdom than had been allowed to enter formerly.- The honorable gentleman has asked that similar action be taken in regard to magazines. I understand that the relaxation agreed to by the United States does not apply to magazines. However, I shall arrange for the matter to be examined.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
– Has the Minister foi Immigration seen the report that was published yesterday in the Melbourne
Herald of statements that have been made hy Mr. Eric Millhouse, federal president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, and Mr. Neagle, the federal secretary of that organization, in connexion with their visit to displaced persons camps in Europe? If so_, has he any statement to make to the House about it?
– I saw a statement in last night’s Melbourne Herald that was attributed to Mr. Eric Millhouse, K.C., the federal president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, and Mr. J. C. Neagle, the federal secretary of that organization, who have just returned from an inter-dominion conference of exservicemen’s organizations. At the request of the Australian Government, they went to Europe and inspected displaced persons camps there. They were given every facility by Major-General Galleghan to examine the medical and security screening tests which are applied to displaced persons, and to make any other inquiries that they desired to make. They were accompanied by Mr. W. Hunt, the president of the Western Australian branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. The statement that I have seen attributed to those gentlemen is that it would be almost impossible for any Nazi or any other subversive person to get through the security screening net that operates in Europe under the direction of MajorGeneral Galleghan and the Australian teams. They have spoken eulogistically of all the arrangements that have been made by our officers overseas. I shall convey to Major-General Galleghan and to all the Australian medical, selection and security teams the tributes that have been paid to them - I think deservedly paid - by these two ex-servicemen’s leaders. I think that their statement will help to convince the Australian people, if further proof bpnecessary, that Australia has a better system than has any other country that is accepting displaced person migrants. Their observation that Australia is the hardest country of all in regard to its requirements is quite true, and I hope that it will continue to be so.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the full page advertisement published in this morning’s press to the effect that all Labour candidates are pledged to the socialization of every undertaking “ even the corner store in your suburb “ ? Are the people responsible for those advertisements so irresponsible, or desperate, that they will tell any lies in their attempts to mislead the people? Has the Government any power under the Constitution to socialize everything down to “ even the corner store “ or has it any desire to do so ?
– I have not seen the advertisement to which the honorable gentleman has referred. In fact, I have not yet seen the morning newspapers. If, as the honorable gentleman has said, the advertisement implies that the Opposition parties are attempting to arouse in the public mind the idea that the Labour party, if returned to office, will socialize all industries they will find that the statement made recently by the AttorneyGeneral and even by the honorable member for Parramatta, a self-appointed constitutional authority, who on that occasion interjected, “ You cannot do it anyhow “, is correct. No Australian Government, regardless of its party political complexion, would have the power under the Constitution to do any of the things that the advertisement implies that a Labour government would do. The Constitution severely limits the power of the Australian Government to socialize any undertaking, or industry. On previous occasions I have stated clearly the Labour party’s policy with respect to socialization, and I now repeat it. If public utilities are not being used in the best interests of the people, or if they are being used to exploit the community, they should be socialized. However, as I have also pointed out on previous occasions, even that statement must be qualified in so far as the Australian Government’s powers to introduce any form of socialization is extremely limited under the Constitution.
– I have received numerous complaints from organizations of dairy-farmers concerning the long delay that is occurring in making available the increased price for their products that has been recommended by the committee that inquired into costs of production in the industry. Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture give any idea when the increased price is likely to “be paid to the dairy -f arm ers ?
– I realize that the dairy-farmers are somewhat perturbed by the fact that they have not yet been granted the increased price that has been due to them for some time. The dairyfarmers have been exceedingly patient. However, they have placed the responsibility for the delay fairly and squarely upon the shoulders of the respective State governments. The Australian Government realizes that difficulties confront the industry on account of that delay. I believe that recently it was agreed that if the dairy-farmers’ federal organization submitted a case in justification of “their claim to the Ministers administering prices control in the various States “the respective prices commissioners would be prepared to grant the increase of price. It is certain that the Prime Minister or I will make a statement to “the House to-morrow about the position of the Commonwealth in this matter, and I am hopeful that that announcement will prove satisfactory to dairy-farmers.
– Has the Prime Minister considered, and if he has not done so, will he consider introducing legislation to amend the Superannuation Act by repealing the mandatory section 50a (1.), which provides that a retired officer, upon being re-employed for any reason in either a temporary or permanent capacity by the Commonwealth, shall forfeit the major part of his superannuation during that period, despite the fact that he may have paid some hundreds of pounds in premiums to the superannuation fund ? Will the right honorable gentleman also consider introducing legislation to amend that act so that all payments of superannuation shall be exempt from income tax, the social services contribution and other taxes which public servants pay during the period of their employment whilst also paying heavy premiums towards their superannuation ?
– I am not able to give the honorable member any undertaking that the Government will consider her proposal that the superannuation payments which public servants make during the period of their employment shall be exempt from income tax and the social services contribution. That matter has been reviewed on other occasions, and the Government has decided that the taxation law cannot be altered in that respect. As the honorable member is aware, the operation of section 50a (1.) of the Superannuation Act has been the subject of debate and argument for a considerable number of years. The effect of that provision is that a retired Commonwealth public servant, who is temporarily re-employed by the Commonwealth, receives only that part of his superannuation which he himself has contributed. Many representations have been made to the Government about that matter, and recently, honorable senators have brought to my notice a few examples which indicate that an anomaly may’ have arisen. A’ sub-committee of Cabinet, consisting of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, the Minister for Immigration and the Minister for Social Services, has examined the operation of the Superannuation Act from the stand-point that the honorable member has mentioned, and has prepared a full report on the matter. Of course, the Government cannot act upon that report at this late stage in the life of this Eighteenth Parliament, but I assure the honorable member that the matter of anomalies and injustices has been examined. In due course, the recommendations of the sub-committee will receive consideration.
– Did the Prime Minister hear, or has he been informed of a statement by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction in this House last night to the effect that there is not sufficient steel available in Australia to construct twenty miles of railway line, and that steel will be in short supply for the next ten- years? Will the right honorable gentleman say whether that statement is based on fact, and if it is, will he cause investigations to be made with a view to increasing the supply of that very important metal? Is it also true that the Government of New South Wales is engaged at present on duplicating the railway line from Branxton to Muswellbrook, and is largely using rails imported from France for that work?
– I did not hear the statement to which the honorable member has referred, but I can inform him that, as recently as yesterday evening, I discussed with a leading executive of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, future steel supplies for New Zealand as well as for this country. I was assured by that executive that, subject, of course, to the provision of adequate supplies of raw materials, notably coal, the company expected to be able to step-up steel production sufficiently to meet the needs, not only of Australia, but also of New Zealand, in full. The gentleman with whom I discussed the matter is to send me a letter on the subject so that I may indicate to the New Zealand Government that- Australia expects to be able to meet New Zealand’s requirements. It is true that there is a serious shortage of steel rails in this country. The Government of New South Wales has had great difficulty in obtaining sufficient rails to re-lay with heavy lines, permanent ways now carrying only light tracks. One such line is that from Sydney to Brisbane, which now carries only light rails weighing 80 lb. to the yard. It is intended to re-lay that line with 107 lb. to the yard rails. However, there has been a great improvement in steel production during the last two or three months. If the honorable member had studied figures published in the Sydney Morning Herald a week ago last Saturday, he would know that a rapid expansion is taking place in steel production due to the successful efforts of the Minister for Immigration to provide immigrant labour for this industry. The honorable member has referred to steel purchases from France. When I was in Paris not long ago, I discussed with M. Schuman the possibility of importing from that country, not only steel rails, but also other steel products.
I was anxious to do that because last year, whereas Australia sold £44,000,000 worth of goods to France, we were able to buy only £4,500,000 worth of goods from that country.
– Did the right honorable gentleman discuss petrol ?
– The honorable member for Wakefield is like a parrot in a cage. No matter what subject is being discussed, he keeps on shouting about petrol. As I have said, I discussed with M. Schuman. the importation of steel products from France to meet our expanding industrial needs. M. Schuman agreed to take the matter up with his colleagues. I shall not go into the details of the results of those conversations. They have already been made known. The products that France has agreed to send to this country include steel rails. About that time or soon afterwards, the Government of New South Wales placed orders in France for 30,000,000 tons of’ 107 lb. to the yard steel rails. Because of the very high price of the steel and steel products exported from France, it has been arranged that the Australian Government and the State governments should use the imported products’ and allow private industry to receive the increasing supplies of locally produced steel. That course was decided upon as an alternative to subsidizing the importation of steel. That I think, covers the whole story. I make no apologies for endeavouring to place orders in France for steel, products because, as I have said, France is one of our best customers. It is very short of both sterling and dollars, and is most anxious to earn both sterling and dollars to restore its economy which suffered severely during the war. In addition, of course, France is our ally in western Europe.
La Trobe Division Campaign - General Election Dates
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel find out whether free bus services were arranged for a meeting at Belgrave in Victoria last Monday night which was attended by the Leader of the Opposition to open the campaign in the La Trobe electorate for Mr. K. G. Casey?Were the buses provided from eight different centres to convey people to and from Belgrave? Were owners of private cars informed that if they used petrol to take passengers to Belgrave, the petrol would be replaced?
– I did not see any newspaper report of the incident referred to by the honorable member, but I did obtain information, from a private source in Melbourne, that what the honorable member suggests took place did, in fact, take place; that free petrol was made available to take a large number of people from various centres to travel to Belgrave where Mr. B. G. Casey was to address a meeting which was attended by the Leader of the Opposition. I have noticed, also, that in last night’s Melbourne Herald the Leader of the Opposition is reported to have said that if war came it would be only a matter of days before Australia would be in the thick of it. I cannot see how the right honorable gentleman can reconcile his statement with the use of petrol-
– I rise to a point of order.
– I think that the Minister is out of order in referring to such matters.
– by leave - I have advised His Excellency the Governor-General that the House of Representatives should be dissolved on the 31st October, and that, prior to its rising, Parliament would pass the necessary legislation to carry on the services of the Government until the new Parliament assembles. His Excellency has been pleased to accept my advice. The writs for the forthcoming election will be issued on Monday, the 31st October, and the closing date for nominations will be Monday, the 14th November. The writs will be returnable on or before Wednesday, the 25th January, 1950. As honorable members no doubt know, polling day for the election of members of the House of Representatives will be held Saturday, the 10th December, and at my request His Excellency the Governor-General has been good enough to invite the State Governors to adopt the same dates as the Commonwealth for the Senate elections.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue bo made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of Five hundred thousand pounds as a grant to the UnitedNations International Children’s Emergency Fund.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Dr. Evatt and Mr. Holloway do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Evatt, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill provides for a contribution by Australia of £500,000 to be spent on Australian supplies for the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Eund, which was formed by the United Nations when Unrra came to an end three years ago. The establishment of the fund has proved to be one of the great international achievements of the United Nations. It has the simple, humanitarian purpose of providing care for sick and hungry children and expectant and nursing mothers in countries which were devastated by the war, or where child welfare standards are particularly low. In Europe the fund is providing a daily supplementary meal for nearly 5,000,000 children and nursing mothers. It is also providing medical supplies and clothing, particularly in those areas that are exposed to severe climatic conditions. The medical work of the fund, which has been carried out in co-operation with the World Health Organization, includes a world-wide campaign against tuberculosis, which it is hoped will ultimately cover 100,000,000 people. In the Far East and South-East Asia, programmes have been drawn up for the feeding of children, the training of child welfare experts, and the control »f tuberculosis and other diseases. In spite of it’s achievement, a great part of the intended work of the fund remains unfinished. The fund urgently requires further financial support from governments in order to keep its programmes going through the next winter in the northern hemisphere and to fulfil the plans which have been laid down for its operations in Asia. These funds must be forthcoming if the urgent humanitarian work of the fund is to continue.
The Australian Government has already made three previous contributions to the fund, and the contribution provided for in this bill will bring the total to £3,220,000. This total sum is higher than that contributed by any other country in the world except the United States. Further, the children’s fund has received magnificent support from the Australian people. In response to a campaign organized last year in this country by the United Nations Appeal for Children, the public subscribed £600,000. This splendid voluntary response shows the great popular appeal of the work of the fund, and the widespread support which it has among the community. I desire particularly to emphasize the contributions made by the Australian people, quite apart from the money appropriated by the Parliament for this purpose. A second appeal will shortly be conducted throughout the States by the Australian National Committee for the United Nations. The. Australian people can be proud of Australia’s part in the work of this international enterprise. Mr. Maurice Pate, the executive director of the fund, described the Government’s last contribution as “ a generous action “ which was of particular value to the fund because it enabled it to plan its activities ahead on a firm basis. In conveying the gratitude of the organization for this contribution, Mr. Pate pointed out that, on a per capita basis, Australia was contributing more to the fund than any other country.
Canon Edwards, who is well-known to members of the Parliament because of bis long Association with the Canberra Grammar School, is now chief of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund mission in Greece, and he has spoken in the highest terms of the valuable work being done in Greece by that body. He particularly mentioned the high quality of Australian goods and the excellent condition in which goods arrived from Australia. We have received thanks from all nations in Europe for our help.
– Are the funds used for the purchase of suitable Australian goods ?
– Yes, and of course, we have to pay for the transport of the goods to their destination. I can assure honorable members that all goods sent by us will be purchased in Australia, and presently I shall give one or two illustrations of what has already been done. I repeat now that all money subscribed by Australians has been spent in this country on a variety of supplies that are essential for the well-being of the people under the care of the fund. Australia has shipped to many different destinations large quantities of meat and other protein foods, preserved milk, flour and fats. Australian wool has been used for blankets and clothing and Australian hides have been made into shoes for needy children in other countries.
At the beginning of last September the Government’s contributions, which totalled £2,500,000, and the funds subscribed by the Australian public had been expended as follows: - Purchase of supplies, £2,669,000. Charges for freight to the beneficiary countries, storage and delivery charges prior to shipment and other similar expenses, £427,000. The administrative expenses of the South- West Pacific representative of the fund were £5,000. Brigadier Field, who is in charge of the organization’s small office in Sydney, has done magnificent work without undue expense. At that time, orders had been placed for about £950,000 worth of fats, including margarine, and for £820,000 worth of tinned meats. Other goods ordered were £270,000 worth of preserved milk and dairy products, £121,000 worth of various protein foods including vegetables, £114,000 worth of scoured wool for blankets, £36,000 worth of hides and £410,000 worth of wheat flour of which £225,000 worth was destined for the work of the fund in the Middle East, where considerable assistance had to be provided for refugees because of the troubles in Palestine.
Australian supplies have been shipped to a large number of countries. Italy has received over 6,500 tons of goods, Poland 3,300, Greece 2,240, and Austria, 3,100 tons. Other recipients have been China, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Egypt, Pinland and India. Over £300,000 worth of supplies have been sent to Middle Eastern countries. Altogether, nearly 29,000 tons of supplies have been shipped overseas. Here I draw attention to an important factor. The United States has adopted a very generous policy towards the fund. It has agreed, by its laws, to match the contributions made by other governments at the rate of 2.57 dollars to 1 dollar. Thus the proposed contribution of £500,000 by Australia will draw in a much larger contribution - more than two and a half times as much - by the United States. The combined sum will help to carry the operations of the fund well into next year and over the difficult period of the four or five months of the northern winter in which the children of European and other countries in the Northern Hemisphere suffer so much through no fault of their own. I have a long note of the types of assistance provided in Europe, the Middle East and Asia and with the permission of the House I shall have it incorporated in Hansard. It is as follows : -
TYPE OF U.N.I.C.E.F. ASSISTANCE WHICH HAS BEEN PROVIDED.
Albania. - Food; . medical supplies; raw materials; milk conservation.
Austria. - Food; soap; raw materials; milk conservation.
Bulgaria. - Food; insecticides for antimalaria projects; other medical supplies; raw materials; milk conservation.
Czechoslovakia. - Food; soap; medical supplies; raw materials; milk conservation; BCG tuberculosis vaccination.
Finland. - Food; soap; medical supplies; rawmaterials; milk conservation; BCG tuberculosis vaccination.
France. - Food; medical supplies; milk conservation.
Germany. - Emergency programme of codliver oil; raw materials.
Greece. - Food; soap; blankets: raw materials; milk conservation; BCG tuberculosis vaccination.
Hungary. - Food; soap; insecticides for anti-malaria projects; other medical supplies; raw materials ; BCG tuberculosis.
Italy. - Food; soap; medical supplies; raw materials; milk conservation.
Poland. - Food; medical supplies; raw materials; milk conservation equipment; BCG tuberculosis vaccination.
Rumania. - Food; soap; insecticides for anti-malaria projects; other medical supplies; yeast for anti-pellagra programmes; raw materials ; milk conservation.
Yugoslavia. - Food; soap; insecticides for anti-malaria projects; other medical smjpplies; raw materials; milk conservation; BCG tuberculosis vaccination.
Some 274 European child-health and welfare personnel have already studied under U.N.I.C.E.F.’s group -training programme held in France, Switzerland and Sweden. Students were from Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Roumania, Yugoslavia.
Emergency programme for refugees in Palestine and adjacent areas includes food, soap, insecticides for anti-malaria projects, other medical supplies and blankets.
Ceylon. - BCG tuberculosis vaccination. Other programmes under discussion.
China. - Emergency feeding; medical supplies; child-care training.
Hongkong. - Specific programmes are under discussion. Initial milk distribution has begun.
India. - BCG tuberculosis vaccination and anti-malaria projects. Specific programmes are under discussion.
Pakistan. - BCG tuberculosis vaccination and anti-malaria projects. Further programmes are under discussion.
Philippines. - Specific programmes’ are under discussion. An initial ten month feeding programme has begun.
Approximately60 Far Eastern students will studv graduate child-care and welfare under U.N.I.C.E.F. fellowships. To date, four fellows have been appointed.
Note. - Allocations have been made and programmes are being discussed for: Brunei, Burma, Indo-China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malay Federation, North Borneo and Sarawak. In addition the following have been approved for the BCG vaccination campaign : Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Bolivia, China, Ecuador, Egypt, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Mexico, Morocco, Rumania and Tunisia.
I commend this measure to the Parliament. Its enactment will demonstrate the willingness of Australians to share their relative good fortune - indeed, their very good fortune - with suffering children in other countries whose governments are not yet able to care for them adequately. The Government is satisfied that the administration of the fund is conducted efficiently and with great impartiality. The executive director of the fund has appointed a number of Australians to responsible positions in his administration. I have already given the House one instance, that of Canon Edwards. The fund is not only a successful humanitarian enterprise. In addition, it embodies the important principle that international assistance should be available to all, strictly in accordance with need, and without political or any other kind of discrimination. Because it has scrupulously followed this principle the fund has been freed from the major political divisions that often hinder constructive work in other fields of the United Nations. The fund is a splendid example, I submit, of co-operative international action of a practical kind. The children who receive the benefit of the fund and also their mothers, in all parts of the world, know that the assistance is coming from the United Nations and also know what countries are helping. The countries receiving aid, as I told the House a moment ago, have expressed the greatest possible appreciation of the fund’s work and have played a considerable part locally in supporting it. The Government proposes to continue to offer the fund its full support until its emergency work has been completed. It is confident that that principle will be accepted by all honorable members.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
. - I move -
Chat, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1947, it is expedient to .carry out the following proposed work, which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the results of its investigations, namely: - The construction of a new wharf at Darwin.
The wharf is to be 650 feet in length and 140 feet in width. It will replace the existing town jetty, which was severely damaged in the bombing of Darwin and was temporarily repaired to enable its use to be continued. The estimated cost of the first and. second stages, the construction of which was recommended by the committee, is estimated to cost £459,000, and I recommend that the approval of Parliament should be given to the project, the details of which were fully explained to the House on the Sth October, 194S, when I moved that the proposed work should be referred to the committee for investigation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 7th September (vide page 53), on motion by Mr. Pollard -
That the schedule to the Customs Tariff 1 933-1 !148 be amended as hereinafter set out * . . (vide* page 48).
– At this stage I have no intention to delay the schedule. I do not think that any good purpose would be served by entering into a lengthy debate relative to this matter. It is quite apparent that any alteration of tariff schedules must vitally affect some industry by either improving or worsening its condition, and therefore such an alteration is of great political interest. The only comment that I desire to make on the present occasion is that I consider that the Government deserves criticism for introducing, in the dying hours of a parliament a tariff schedule that normally should have been introduced in sufficient time to allow the full impact that it is likely to make upon the industries concerned, to be assessed, and for members of this Parliament to devote their attention to it and to give it the maximum amount of consideration. It is perfectly true that the Tariff Board has held an inquiry into various matters contained in the schedule. I think that it is equally true that the Government has, in the main, conformed to the recommendations made by the board. That is all to the good, because we know the great value of the board. “We know that from it flows the policy that various governments have adopted from time to time to the great benefit of the secondary industries of Australia. It is, therefore, only occasionally that we find it necessary to devote our attention to the findings of the board. I am sorry, however, that the Government has not been in a position to give us sufficient time to analyse closely the matters set out in the schedule. It is hardly fair to the industries concerned to introduce this schedule in the last hours of the Parliament, thus preventing any case that might be advanced on behalf of those industries from being fully ventilated in this chamber. I suggest to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs that he should inform his colleague that the Committee just quietly reprimands him for his dereliction of duty in that respect. Otherwise the Opposition does not intend to oppose the schedules and we hope to see them speedily passed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Pollard and Mr. Lemmon do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Pollard, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Pollard) proposed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Although I do not want to delay the proceedings unduly I have just glanced through the various items set out in this bill and I notice that quite a number of matters on which Tariff Board reports have been presented in recent months are not referred to. Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr.
Pollard) inform me whether it is proposed to deal with those matters before the Parliament is dissolved, or whether reports have been submitted only for the information of honorable members, and that action on them will be deferred until after the new Parliament meets ? Quite a number of important industries are covered by the recommendations of the Tariff Board. As competition from other countries is being accelerated I should have thought that this Parliament would finalize these matters.
. - in reply - Although I appreciate the point of view advanced by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) I assure him that additional bills to implement the Tariff Board recommendations mentioned will not be introduced before this Parliament dissolves.
– Is it proposed to adopt the recommendations contained in those reports ?
– I cannot say.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 7th September (vide page 53), on motion by Mr. Pollard -
That the schedule to the Excise Tariff 1921-1948 be amended as hereinafter set out * . .(vide* page 51 ) .
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Pollard and Mr. Lemmon do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Pollard, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 7th September (vide page 53), on motion by Mr. Pollard -
That the schedule to the Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) 1933-1948 be amended as hereinafter set out . . . (vide page 51).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Pollard and Mr. Lemmon do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Pollard, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 12th October (vide page 1296), on motion by Mr. Pollard -
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Bill presented by Mr. Pollard, and read a first and a second time.
.- Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) inform me whether the duties prescribed in the schedules are the duties that hare been recommended by the Tariff Board in relation to the items referred to?
Bill agreed to, reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 20th October (vide page 1796), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of this bill, as the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has informed us in his second-reading speech, is to arrange for the financing of long service leave benefits to members of the coal-mining industry. The subject of coal is one with which this Parliament has become unhappily familiar in recent years. I suppose that no industry in the Commonwealth has had more attention paid to it by the Parliament, or has been the subject of more legislation, than has the coal industry. This bill is another instalment of legislation to deal with that industry. Although we have had an increasing volume of legislation covering the coal industry, it has been associated with a decreasing volume of coal production. It is for the Parliament to examine whether the legislation now before us is justified and whether it will bring us any nearer to the objective which we, as a Parliament, have set ourselves on other occasions - of so increasing the production of coal in Australia that our essential industries can be maintained and transport and fuel services can be adequately continued. Before I examine the background of this measureI desire to make one or two preliminary observations about the principle of long service leave which, up to the present time, has not been very generally applied in Australia. I understand that the employees of government departments, and of certain semi-government instrumentalities, such as the State Electricity Commission of Victoria, who are permanently and continuously associated with the work of a government department or a semigovernment authority, enjoy long service leave benefits. In industry generally, however, it is the very rare exception to find that any such provision has been made. In fact, one could count almost on the fingers of one hand the sections of Australian industry in which the principle of paid long service leave applies. I ask at the outset whether the coalmining industry should be selected for special treatment in this connexion, whether such treatment is justified, and whether the method of approach that has been adopted by the Government in relation to this matter is one which the Parliament should commend. The method of approach to this subject hy the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) was utterly irresponsible. The principle of long service leave is a very important industrial principle. If long service leave is granted to employees in the coalmining industry, it does not take very much knowledge of industrial matters to surmise that that principle will spread, cither rapidly or in the course of time, through industry generally. We have only to look at past experience of matters of this kind. Because this is an important matter of industrial principle, which is likely to extend to industry generally, the decision whether such a principle should be adopted should not be determined by a Minister or even by a special tribunal which has been established to deal with only one section of industry. An important principle of that kind should be determined only by the highest industrial tribunal in Australia, namely, the Full Bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. In his secondreading speech the Minister has set out the history of this matter. It appears that at one of the many conferences that have taken place between employers and- employees in the coal-mining industry the Minister for Shipping and Fuel stated that if long service leave was granted, either by agreement between the employers and the employees or by an award by the Coal Tribunal, the Com monwealth would arrange to finance the scheme. The first matter which 1 desire to bring to the notice of the Parliament is that a Commonwealth Minister in dealing with an important industrial principle should say to the representatives of the employers and employees in the coal-mining industry, in effect, “ If you fellows agree to the granting of long service leave, not necessarily by an award, but by mutual agreement, the Government will come in and foot the bill “. When he said that the Commonwealth would come in and foot the bill, he meant that the taxpayers would be compelled to foot the bill. It is almost incredible that a Minister, who is not without some experience in industrial matters, should have approached an important problem in such a casual and irresponsible way, and should not have insisted at least that the subject be properly examined by the Coal Tribunal. The Minister in saying, in effect, “If you fellows agree among yourselves that long service leave shall apply, we shall arrange for the financing of the scheme and it will not cost you anything “, committed an act of irresponsibility which this Parliament should condemn. Had the Minister referred the matter to the Coal Tribunal we would not have been satisfied, because that tribunal is not a suitable body to determine matters of that kind. The Coal Tribunal was established to deal with problems that pertain solely to the coal-mining industry. We on this side have criticized the functions of such bodies in the past. Their establishment cuts right across the principles that we applied when we were in office. We insisted at all times that important industrial matters should not be permitted to get out of the hands of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. We knew from bitter experience of the past that if anomalies were allowed to creep into the handling of industrial matters as the result of determinations being made hy tribunals that operated outside the general scope of the court, those anomalies would result in serious industrial trouble. To give to the Coal Tribunal authority to determine matters of such importance is merely to invite trouble. The demand for long service leave is not confined to those who go down the mines and work at the coal face. The secretary of the Colliery Mechanics Association informed the Coal Reference Board recently that chaos would result in the coal industry if members of craft unions were debarred from long service leave. Thus, we are getting away from the men who work at the coal face. We have the demand that long service leave be granted to members of craft unions and, of course, not all members of those unions are employed on colliery operations. Many of them work in other industries. When they find that fellow unionists who happen to be working on colliery operations are to get long service leave, they will want to have the privilege extended to themselves. I imagine that this thing will spread like a bush fire. I am not contesting the merits or otherwise of a claim for long service leave as applying to industry generally. A great deal can be said in favour of such a claim and a great deal can be said against it on account not only of the cost to the community but also of the weakening effect that it would have, if granted, upon Australia’s capacity to compete in overseas markets. I for one would not attempt to judge from my place in this Parliament where the merits of such an application would lie. There are more appropriate bodies than this Parliament to determine such a problem. If we are to have this important principle running through industry, we cannot afford to have such matters determined either in the haphazard way that the Minister suggests or even by some tribunal having a special interest in only one section of industry. Therein lies one of the cardinal weaknesses of the proposal that we are considering.
Let us’ consider now whether the coal industry has any special justification for being singled out in this way; it has been singled out, as I said earlier. To grant long service leave in the coal industry, when the principle of long service leave does not apply generally, is an utterly unreal way of approaching both the need for increased coal production and the known conditions of the coal industry. If there be one industry in which workers notoriously spend fewer days on the job each year than in any other industry, it is the coal-mining indus- try, particularly in New South WalesThat state of affairs is partly due to the= special provision that has already been, made by the Coal Industry Tribunal for holidays, sick leave, and other time off.. The coal-miner is now entitled to threeweeks’ annual leave. In addition to that,, he is allowed two full weeks of sick leavein a year. He also receives nine statutoryholidays, or the approximate equivalent of two full weeks of work, in every year.. Those periods add up to about seven weeks of work every year. Now it is. proposed to add to that special provision,, amounting to about seven daysannually
– Everybody gets, ordinary holidays.
– Everybody does not get. that special provision.
– Everybody gets statutory holidays.
– That special provision, does not consist of statutory holidays.
– The honorable gentleman said that the whole of the seven weeks was a special provision for thecoal industry. That is not so.
– I did not say that thewhole of the period was a special provision. The total of about seven weeksis made up of periods which, either by statute or decision of the tribunal, a coalminer is entitled to take off from work on full pay. The long service leave prevision will add between six and sevenworking days annually to that period,, because long service leave will amount to three months over a ten-year period-
– If the miner worksfor ten years.
– If he has been in the industry for ten years ! The provision will have a retrospective effect. Theminer will not have to start off afresh. I accept the point made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway).
An employee must have been in employment in the industry for a long period of years in order to qualify for longservice leave, but, as the Minister wil realize, many workers in various industries are in that situation. Some of them have spent lifetimes of work in the particular jobs in which they are now engaged. However, the point that I seek to make is that a coal-miner will be entitled in future to spend more than eight weeks of every year away from his job in the mine as the result of time off in the form of statutory holidays, holidays granted by the tribunal, and long service leave. That is a high proportion of time to be spent away from work in a country which is in a desperate position as the result of the shortage of coal and in which manufacturing industries, essential services and transport are hampered and restricted because they cannot obtain all of the coal that they need. But that is only the beginning of the story because, as I have said, the coal industry is notorious for the fact that the miners spend very much less time on their jobs than do workers in other sections of industry. I am referring now to the time that the average miner spends away from his job, either through his voluntary absenteeism or because he becomes involved in industrial disputes. The facts in relation to such losses of time have been stated admirably by Mr. James Johnson, a recognized authority on the coal industry. I remind honorable members that Mr. Johnson enjoys the respect of both the employees and the employers in the industry. I believe that at one time he held an official position under a Commonwealth government, either as a member of the Coal Reference Board or as an adviser of that government. From my own knowledge of his appointment at that time, I know that it was very well received by all sections of the industry. Mr. Johnson does not treat facts lightly or without a background of knowledge.
He has stated that the people who conduct coal-mines have to work on the assumption that, spread over a period of years, an average of only four days a week will be worked in the mines. He has based that statement upon the records of mining in New South Wales over the past thirty years. In addition to that, he claims that there is an average of 10 per cent, of absenteeism in the mines. I do not think that those figures can be seriously challenged. Taking them into account, it will be found that, on the average, fourteen weeks of every year are lost to production in the coal mines. That would be an extraordinary record for any industry. It is an alarming record for an industry which is basic to the whole Australian economy and the production of which is absolutely vital to our prosperity, and indeed, to the maintenance of essential industries. Tt is against that background that we must, consider the special additional amenity that is to be handed out to the miners by this Government. In tariff matters, when a government wanted to make some specially favorable provision for another country, we said that it granted mostfavoured nation treatment to that country. The coal-miners, particularly in New South Wales, receive most-favoured, industry treatment from this Government. There is no other industry in which so much has been done for the workers, where the amenities provided, are so generous or the conditions laid down are so favorable to the workers. In addition to the tribunal and statutory benefits that I have mentioned already, the coal-mining industry has a special pensions scheme that is much more favorable than those that* apply to industry generally or to age pensioners. Miners* pensions are paid at the age of 60 years, and the rate for a man, wife and one child is £4 10s. a week.
The coal-miners have not shown very much gratitude for the benefits that have been conferred upon them by this benevolent Government. They have repeatedly bitten the hand that feeds them. The story of the coal-mining industry is one of increasing benefits associated with decreasing production. That would be understandable, in part at least, if what has happened in New South Wales was applicable to the Commonwealth generally. We can dismiss much of the sob-stuff that has been put out from time to time in this Parliament and outside it about the dreadful conditions under which coal-miners work, the peculiar psychology of miners and the rest of the claptrap that we are accustomed to hearing. If working conditions in the industry generally were bad, we could expect the dissension, trouble and recurring strife that has occurred in New South Wales to occur in other
States, but we have very little to complain about in regard to the attitude of the coal-miners in Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania. If the peculiar psychology of the miner arises from the nature of his toil, we would expect to find the troubles of New South Wales being duplicated in other States, but the record of the miners in States other than New South Wales for production and continuity of work is good. Occasionally they have been caught up in a general strike, but usually they have been most reluctant to engage in it and have desired to bring it to an end as quickly as possible. They have a very much better record than have the miners of New South Wales in regard to sporadic stoppages of work. Is there something especially arduous in the mining of coal in New South Wales that causes this trouble? The coal industry in New South Wales is extremely favorably placed in comparison with other parts of .the world, particularly Great Britain. The average thickness of the coal seams in New South Wales is 6 feet, whereas in Great Britain it is 4 feet. The difference can best be described by stating that the average miner in the British mines, using hand methods at the coal face, produces from two to three tons of coal in each shift. If the same man were working in the New South Wales mines, he could produce from seven to eleven tons of coal in each shift. The reason for the advantage of three or four to one in favour of New South Wales is the greater thickness of the coal seams in that State. To get a true picture of what is happening here, we must compare the production of coal in New South Wales with that, in the United States of America.
– Order! The honorable gentleman must keep to the bill.
– The Parliament has been asked to make special provision for coalminers, and particularly the coal-miners of New South Wales, because the provisions of this legislation will not apply to some of the other States. I presume that it will be said that part of the justification for this proposed charge upon the taxpayers and the community generally is that working conditions in the coal-mining industry are more arduous and exacting than are those in other industries. That must be the reason why the Government has singled this industry out for special treatment. I desire to show that coal-mining in this country is easy in comparison with coal-mining in other parts of the world, and that the effort that the coal-miners of Australia put into their work cannot be advanced as u justification for the special treatment that they have received. On comparable seams, the production of coal per man shift in Australia is less than one-half of the production per man shift in the United States of America.
– Is there a coal strike in the United States of America at the present time?
– The Americans have their troubles. I point out to the Minister that there are over 40,000,000 tons of coal at grass in the United States pf America now. If the American mineowners and coal-miners desire to fight it out the American people will not suffer in the same way as the Australian people suffered recently because the Australian Government had not taken steps to provide a reserve of coal in this country.
– I ask the honorable gentleman to confine his remarks to the bill.
– I think that you will agree, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, that I was provoked by the Minister. Does the coal-mining industry deserve this special treatment because of the manner in which it has looked after the welfare of the community ? The employees of the coal-mining industry constitute less than 1 per cent, of the total number of employees in the Commonwealth, but since the end of the war that small section of the community has been responsible for 50 per cent, of the working days that have been lost in Australia. The irresponsibility, recklessness and militancy of the coal-miners has imposed a burden upon the rest of the community. Now we aTe being asked to impose a further burden upon the community in order that coalminers may be given additional special benefits. They certainly have not earned that special consideration, and I doubt very much whether it would have been given to them if they had not pointed a pistol at the Government and threatened industrial trouble.
I do not desire to say much more about this matter. I believe that enough has been said to indicate that the coal-mining industry certainly does not deserve specially favorable treatment at the hands of the community because of its production record. The production of coal this year will be approximately 4,000,000 tons less than was expected at the beginning of the year. Apparently the lesson of the recent general coal strike has not been sufficient. Many persons assumed that there would be continuity of coal pro”duction for a considerable period’ after the end of that disastrous strike, but the sniping tactics that have been adopted by some members of the mining unions have resulted in a loss of more than 130,000 tons of coal in the short period that has elapsed since then. As far as I am aware, nothing has been done by the Government to call a halt to this recklessness and stupidity. As far as can be seen, the losses will continue and, in consequence, the community as a whole will suffer. What I have, said will doubtless be interpreted, and rightly so, as a criticism of coalminers generally. The criticism has been provoked by the record of the coal-miners during the last two years. I do not mean that as an attack upon the individual coal-miner. I had some personal contact with the miner and his representatives during my term of office as Minister for Labour and National Service, and I am satisfied that the coal-miner of New South Wales as a man and as a type compares favorably with his counterpart in any other industry. He has character, initiative and resourcefulness. Having studied this industry for some years, I am convinced that the problem is not one of the poor type of man or of lack of initiative on the part of the coalminer, but arises from the problem of human relationships which has developed in the industry. Those relationships have been worsened by bad union leadership during the last few years, and by even worse government leadership during that period. The industry has been allowed to go on in the belief that only by militant action can the miners obtain the benefits to which they believe they are entitled.
Until the recent general coal strike, they were never shown that discipline would be exercised by the Government if it believed that they were acting improperly. They have never been made to realize that their own actions have damaged the welfare of their fellow unionists in other sections of industry. They have not been given a sufficiently strong lead by either their own leaders or the governments that have been in office in the Commonwealth sphere and in the State of New South Wales for the last eight years. The result is that because they have gained advantages and additional amenities from militant action, they believe that that is the only practical course for them to follow. Until governments are in office that can make them appreciate that the industrial tribunals must be respected and their decisions obeyed, we shall have a continuance of the chaotic conditions in the industry that have retarded Australia’s prosperity so grievously during the postwar period.
I do not know what results this new provision will produce; but the Government must make the industry .realize that a heavy charge is being borne by the community in order to make this benefit possible. At a time when our production is lagging so seriously we cannot afford to have the body of men away from work that the granting of long service leave will make inevitable, unless the cost be met by greatly increasing the production of coal mines, by mechanizing the mines on the most extensive scale practicable. Mechanization must be welcomed and operated effectively by the miners. It is a standing disgrace to this country that with conditions so far as accessibility of coal is concerned comparable with those in the United States of America we can achieve a production equal to only half of the American production. In other countries, the community and the coal-mining industry, being aware of the importance of coal for community needs, have accepted the fact that more than one shift should- be worked, that the miner must increase his production even if it be necessary to work overtime at overtime rates. But here, in practice, the industry is idle for fourteen weeks of the year, whilst on the days that the miner actually works. at the coal face he averages only six hours a day. We have coal of good quality available in abundance, and it is accessible. We must get it if we are to make anything of this country. To the extent that the Government expects to obtain additional production as the result of this measure we wish it well in its objective, but we can judge its wisdom only on the results of the next few years, and we shall watch those results very carefully indeed.
The situation cannot be allowed . to re9t where it is. Australia will not progress but will slip back further as a nation unless we increase the production of coal. That is the No. 1 priority in our needs for expanding production generally. We look to all sections engaged in this matter to play their part - to the Government which can give the leadership required; to the coalminer’ who, if he realizes his responsibility to the community, can give the increased man-effort that is required; and to the employer who, by the efficient installation and operation of machinery and by a common-sense attitude towards his employees, can do much to keep production running smoothly and increase the rate of output. All those sections come into the story. If the community is to pay, as it will be required to pay under this measure, it will demand of all those sections of the industry that they give the people their money’s worth in return by making a very much better effort than they have made during the post-war period.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro fonma ; progress reported. 1
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to make provision for the grant of financial assistance to the States in respect of the cost of long service leave granted under industrial awards to employees in the coalmining industry.
Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed. The bill.
– I should like the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) to clear up a few points of detail. I understand that officers of ths Department of Trade and Customs have already approached a section of the coal-mine owners asking them to make deposits now in advance in respect of excise duty that will be payable under this legislation. The people concerned are in some doubt about many of the details which are to be applied in this matter. For example, is an excise to be collected in respect of coal which is mined by a colliery and used for its own purposes in conducting mining operations ?
Another matter arises. It has been the practice in the coal-mining industry for the miners to be given free of charge an allotment of coal. Is excise to be paid on that coal? If so, who is to pay that excise? Normally, an excise which is charged on a commodity is payable by the purchaser. I should like to know whether the coal-miner or the coal-owner will pay the excise on the coal that is issued free to the miners ? Those matters have already arisen for determination, and I ask the Minister to convey the information to me.
– Excise will be levied on all coal produced, irrespective of the purposes for which it is used.
– Who will pay the excise on coal that is distributed to the miners free of charge?
– This bill does not deal with that matter.
– I understand that, at the moment, an excise does apply for the purpose of financing the special pensions scheme for miners.
– I do not think that that is so.
– Is not an excise of ls. a ton levied for that purpose?
– No excise is levied on coal at the present time. No government other than the Commonwealth may impose an excise. The proposed excise which we are now considering is the first that will be imposed upon coal.
– My impression is that a charge was made to finance the special pensions scheme for miners.
– It was a levy.
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) is under the wrong impression. So far as I am aware, this is the first time that an excise has been levied on coal. The bill docs not determine who shall finally pay excise on coal that is used in a certain manner.
The honorable member for Fawkner also stated that the owners of certain coal-mines had been asked to make deposits. I understand that the bill will be amended in the Senate to provide for a guarantee in lieu of deposits in certain instances.
– I thank the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) for his explanation ;but I ask him to deal at greater length with the point that I have made about the charge that is levied to finance the fund for miners’ pensions. The Minister has stated that that fund is not supported by an excise, but I recall that the price of coal was increased by1s. or 1s. 6d. a ton in order to finance that pensions scheme. I assumed that the provisions which applied in that regard would probably apply in the present instance. Those facts may give the Minister some guidance as to the persons who will be required to pay the proposed excise of 6d. a ton.
– I think that the honorable member is under a misapprehension. The pensions scheme is on a contributory basis, and is not financed by means of a levy on coal.
– But it has involved an increase of the price of coal to the consumer.
– That may be so indirectly, but the miners’ pensions scheme is not financed by a levy on coal.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 20th October (vide page 1796), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That thebill he now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 20th October (vide page 1796), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the schedule to the Excise Tariff 1921-48 . . (vide page 1796).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Dedman and Mr. Holloway do prepare and bring in it bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Dedman, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from12.40 to 2.25 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 19th October (vide page 1608), on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill has rather a curious title. It is a bill which in substance amends the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act but either by accident or design - and I gravely suspect the latter - the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has so worded its title that it does not resemble an amending measure at all, but rather appears as a purely declaratory bill. My task in examining the bill on behalf of the Opposition is made a little more complicated by the fact that, since the Attorney-General delivered his secondreading speech on it, he has circulated an amendment which appears to go rather beyond the purpose of the bill as originally represented to us. As I understand the aim of the bill as it was explained to us by the Attorney-General, difficulties have arisen during the last year or so in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, particularly since the passage of the amending legislation of 1947, which by providing for the appointment of conciliation commissioners deprived the court of much of its capacity to deal with details of industrial matters. Four important heads of subject-matter remained within the jurisdiction of the full bench of the court. Section 17 of the principal act sets out certain matters which are specifically outside the scope of the conciliation commissioners. They are standard hours of work in industry, the basic wage or the principles upon which it is computed, theperiod of annual leave, and the minimum rate of remuneration for adult females in industry. Those were four important matters which the Government believed should be treated on a uniform basis, and therefore they were reserved for the full bench of the court.
Before I deal with the matter in some detail, I shall refer to two reports that have been presented to the Parliament, the first by the former Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, the late Judge DrakeBrockman, and the second by the present Chief Judge of the Court, Judge Kelly. Those reports were presented in accordance with the requirements of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and they deal with the operations of the legislation to which I have referred. Chief Judge Kelly’s report was tabled by the Attorney-General earlier to-day. Both reports have a direct bearing on the problem now before the House. The report of Chief Judge Drake-Brockman referred to this matter as one which required some consideration by the Parliament. It also indicated various other matters of considerable importance, which, from the tone of the report, the former Chief Judge felt should also receive the consideration of the Govern ment, and perhaps be the subject of amending legislation. I make only passing reference to those reports because we are primarily concerned with the specific matter now before the House. However, Chief Judge Drake-Brockman did refer in his report to weaknesses that had become apparent in the operation of the legislation. For example, he said that the court would be benefited by the presence of counsel in its consideration of various matters that arose from time to time. He also drew attention to the difficulties that had developed through the lack of proper co-ordination of the decisions of conciliation commissioners. The appointment of those conciliation commissioners was an important breakaway from an established practice. The AttorneyGeneral knows, of course, that we on this side of the chamber were most critical of the change. We believed that it was a dangerous move, and that anomalies and difficulties would develop from empowering so many conciliation commissioners to give decisions on matters which, although arising in the individual industries over which they had jurisdiction, might overlap other industries. The Opposition considered that, in the interests of industrial peace, there should be a uniform approach to many of those important problems, and that, to achieve that uniformity, closer co-ordination of the activities of the conciliation commissioners would be necessary. A recommendation to that effect was made in Chief Judge Drake-Brockman’s report. The judge also made an important reference to the fact that the court did not possess effectual powers to enforce orders and awards against employees. That is a weakness which, I believe, has led to much industrial trouble, and has made it more difficult for the court to cope with industrial trouble when it has arisen. To the degree that that weakness existed in 1948, when Chief Judge Drake-Brockman presented his report, it exists to-day.
– But it has nothing to do with this bill.
– Perhaps it has not and perhaps it has. I take it that the purpose behind this amending measure is to enable the court to function more effectively, and the debate upon it there-, fore would appear to be an appropriate occasion for honorable members on this side of the chamber either to suggest improvements or to draw the attention of the Government to improvements that have been recommended by its own authorities. However, as I have said, these are only matters to which I refer in passing, because one effect of this amending bill will be, in substance at least, to take away from the full bench of the court the right to make decisions on some aspects of the basic wage both for males and for females.
As I said in my opening remarks, the Opposition’s approach to this bill is complicated because although the Government introduced it originally as a measure which would have application only to consideration of rates of pay for females, we have now had placed before us, without any further explanation, an amendment which, from my understanding of it, will affect consideration by the full bench of the court of the basic wage for males also. The late Chief Judge DrakeBrockman dealt with this problem in his first report. At page 5 of the printed report, there is a lengthy passage in which he says that he felt the necessity to invite attention to a judgment of the full bench of the court and to its effect, having regard to certain considerations that he set out. He pointed out that section 25 of the principal act gives power to the court only to alter the minimum rate for adult females, not to fix the rate. That was not the intention of the Government, so, in 1948, amending legislation was introduced designed to give to the court power to determine, in effect, a basic rate for females. Although the legislation set out to achieve that result, judges of the court still held different opinions. That was referred to iri the Minister’s second-reading speech, and it is also referred to in some detail in the report of Chief Judge Kelly, which was presented to us this morning. It would be as well to quote the passage in his report which deals with the matter. He says -
Reference was also made in the report of last year to the question of interpretation of the expression “ minimum rate of remuneration for adult females in an industry” appearing in sections 13 (d) and 25 (ti), and to the disagreement between my brothers Foster and Kirby and myself as to the meaning thereof. The question has again arisen- for decision in the Basic Wage Case, now in the course of hearing, and to the views already expressed is now added the opinion of Mr. Justice Dunphy. His Honour is of opinion that by virtue of the terms of sections 13 and 25 Conciliation Con> missioners have no authority to determine or alter the minimum rate of remuneration to be prescribed, or which has been prescribed, as the case may be, for any occupation or classification of work under an award. Attention was drawn by him to a dictum of the High Court in Galvin’ s case (ubi supra) to the effect that “ there is nothing in the context or subjectmatter to displace the application “ to sections 13 and 25 of the definition in section 4 of: “ industry “, as including any calling, servicesemployment, handicraft or industrial occupation or avocation of employees.
That sounds very complicated to honorable members, I have no doubt. It certainly does to me.
– The honorable member is justifying the need for this amending legislation,
– I am coming to that. The report continues -
The present position with regard to the scope of the jurisdiction of the court conferred by section 25 (d) is thus unsatisfactory, the opinions of the Judges as to the meaning of that paragraph being at variance and without any emergence of a majority view. The situation calls for the attention of the legislature.
That is all the judge has to say about it. He does not indicate the form which, in his opinion, the alteration by the legislature should take, but the bill now before us, and the amendment that has been circulated, are designed to give a lead to the court, to indicate where the function of the court begins and ends, and where the function of the conciliation commissioners begins and ends. That proposition is easy to state, but it might not be so easy to work, because various items that form part of the basic wage may, or may not, in future be dealt with by the full bench of the court. For instance, does industry loading form part of the basic wage? Does a locality allowance, or the prosperity allowance of 1947 form part of the basic wage? It would be futile for the full bench of the court to sit for months taking evidence of the most exhaustive kind about the economic position of the Commonwealth so as to determine what base rate the Commonwealth can sustain, and then for sixteen conciliation commissioners, all going their own way, each to fix his own loading on that rate for the various industries. The fixing of a fair rate for industry, in addition to the basic rate, should be a matter for determination by the most competent body in the Commonwealth, which is, undoubtedly, the full bench of the court. The effectiveness of the proposed system will be impaired by limiting it to the four matters set out in the bill. Earlier to-day, we discussed the matter of long service leave, something which has an important bearing on wage costs, and for which a uniform principle should be applied. The same might be said of overtime rates, penalty rates, public holidays, sick leave, &c. Rather than reduce the number of matters to be considered by the court, it should be laid down that all matters which apply to industry generally, and which are not subject to variation’ as between one industry and another, should be dealt with by the court. Under this proposed legislation, however, such matters as industry allowances, prosperity loading, &c, may in future have to be determined, not by the court, but by conciliation commissioners. I hope that the AttorneyGeneral, when he replies, will clarify the points I have raised.
Obviously, although we are discussing a bill to deal with a base rate which is to apply to females, our approach to this problem is unreal, having regard to existing conditions in Australia. We talk of a basic wage, but a basic wage worker is very hard to find, for the reason that the conciliation commissioners now cover almost the whole field of industry, with the exception of the coal industry, which has its own tribunal! The Commonwealth Arbitration Court fixes a base rate, and then the conciliation commissioners put a loading on top of that. Even an unskilled labourer usually receives an industry allowance, or some additional allowance of the kind. Therefore, as I have said, it would be hard to find any section of workers who to-day are paid the basic wage, and nothing more. The Commonwealth Statistician’s figures show that the average wage in Australia in December, 1948, was £8 18s. a week for an adult male. It is now more, than £9 a week. That gives a truer picture than does the basic wage, which is merely the standard.
– The whole wage structure is founded on the basic wage.
– Yes, but it is by no means clear what constitutes that foundation. Is it a living wage applicable to a man and his wife and children plus an industrial loading, a locality loading and a prosperity loading? Even the court has not made that clear. It would be of value to the Parliament if it were told what makes up the basic wage and what the position will be after this legislation has been enacted. Will the court be required to state a figure that ignores those various allowances and state that the figure that it has set is the figure beyond which no one may go, or will the court be required to say, “We think the basic wage must be made up with allowances, such as an industry allowance and the prosperity allowance, which was added to the basic wage in 1937 “ ? The rate for women has no relationship to the real wage paid. The statistical bulletin for March, 1949, which is the latest available, shows that the basic wage for women in New South Wales is £3 8s. 6d. a week, whereas the average wage for women amounts to £5 ls. 3d.
– That is the result of the prosperity that good government has given to Australia.
– Australia’s prosperity to-day has resulted from remarkably good seasons and high prices for our products overseas. Whatever political party had been in power in the la.st few years, Australia would still have enjoyed that prosperity. In consequence of it, we have had rising prices and rising wages. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) cannot feel happy about the story revealed in the periodic adjustments of the basic wage because of the increase of the cost of living. In twelve months the basic wage has risen from £5 10s. to £6 10s. a week, not because of any award of the court, but’ purely because of the increased cost of living. It is to be hoped that whichever party is returned to power it will put a halt to that. Since 1939, there has been no substantial rise of real wages, although nominal wages, admittedly, have soared. It is doubtful, though, -whether they have kept pace with the cost of living. It is difficult to deal with this measure competently because of the amendment that the Attorney-General intends to move in committee, so I shall withhold any further comment until we . reach the committee stage.
– I listened with interest to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) speaking on the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act generally, but you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have made it clear that the subjectmatter of the bill is limited, and that complicates things. The purpose of the bill is to grant to women in industry the same conditions of conciliation and arbitration as men enjoy. In 1907, Mr. Justice Higgins fixed the minimum wage that was payable to men. During the war we had to encourage more women to enter industry. In order to do that, better wages had to be offered to women. Women’s wages in industries related to defence were fixed by Judge Foster under National Security Regulations. The validity of those regulations was upheld by both the full bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and the High Court. Before then women in industries allied to the defence effort were paid only 54 per cent, of what men were paid. Judge Foster decided that women engaged in such work should receive 90 per cent, of the men’s wage. Women in other industries were awarded 75 per cent. Thousands of women were covered by the regulations, but tens of thousands were not covered. Those women whose improved wages have been confirmed in the awards of the court will maintain them until the awards are altered. Thousands of women are not so fortunately placed. I concede that they are receiving good wages now, but there is no guarantee that those wages will be maintained or that the women will continue to enjoy the present ratio between their wages and the wages of men in comparable positions. In 1907, conditions in industry were shocking, and, in order to correct the position, Mr. Justice Higgins determined the basic wage. Sometimes we call it the minimum wage ; it is now popular to call it the foundation wage. This bill is attempting to do for adult female workers what was done then for adult male workers. Mr. Justice Higgins fixed a wage for adult males. He said that it would be illegal for any employer to pay a wage less than that fixed. That wage became the foundation upon which all the considerations mentioned by the honorable member for Fawkner were based. I do not know whether there are many people who receive only the basic wage or not, and that point really does not matter in this debate. What does matter is that there must be some basic or foundation wage upon which the conciliation commissioners or a judge of the full bench of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court can make an award. Once the basic wage was fixed by Mr. Justice Higgins it could be altered only by cost of living adjustments, which were automatic, or by periodic review by the court itself, say every five or ten years. Until the basic wage is affected by such matters it stays put. It is the universal foundation wage upon which all classifications for skill or semi-skill are based. Living away from home allowances, which the honorable member for Fawkner has mentioned, do not enter into the computation of the basic wage. Other allowances such as climatic allowances and allowances for wet or dirty work can be adjusted to the basic wage by a conciliation commissioner or by a single judge. Mr. Justice Higgins said that the evils in industry, which had a had effect on employers as well as on employees, should be rectified by having a legal minimum wage fixed that would put all employers on the same basic footing and would not allow employers to use sweated labour by paying wages below the prescribed, level. The fixation of the basic wage at least saved adult male workers from being forced to accept a wage below the amount which was considered necessary to maintain something like decency and comfort for their families.
The court originally fixed the basic wage in 1907 for adult male workers, but there has never been a fixed minimum wage for adult female workers. It is the opinion of the Government and, I am pretty certain, also of the court, because its members have never suggested otherwise, and of the organizations covering both female and male workers, that the time has arrived when a basic wage for adult female workers should be fixed in the same way as such a wage was fixed for adult male workers. That is what the Government desires to do. The Government believed that it had given the court power to fix a female basic wage in the amended Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The Government’s intention in amending that act was to give authority to the court to fix a female basic wage if it thought fit. The need for the present amendments and their urgency, arise from the fact that a case is now going through the court. The evidence in that case has been collected on the assumption that the court will fix a basic wage for females, but discussions in the court have made it .plain that different points of view are held by different judges. The court therefore is not quite certain whether the act as it is worded at present gives it the authority to fix a uniform basic wage for adult women, not only for one industry hut over- the whole field of industry. It has been suggested during discussions in court that it should he made quite clear in the act that the full court has authority to fix such a wage. That is what this present hill is designed to do. When it comes into operation this measure will mean that the full bench of the court shall do only the same things in relation to the female wage as it does now in relation to the male wage. The measure does not add to or take away from the court’s powers. The act already provides that, only the full bench of that court can niter the basic wage, standard hours and annual leave provisions, or fix a basic wage for female workers. Now, as I have said, a doubt has arisen about whether the court can fix a female basic wage without a further amendment of the act.
I do not believe that any member of this House or anybody else, no matter of what political belief, is opposed to females having the same legal minimum wage protection as males have. The evils of unrestricted competition do not harm only the workers; they also harm the employers, because it is now recognized by intelligent captains of industry that a minimum wage is necessary if they are to improve industrial skill and to hold their own in competition with the industries of other nations.
– Nobody is opposing that aspect of the measure.
– That is why the Government has introduced this measure. I have had conferences with the leaders of the chambers of manufactures and others, and it has been agreed that in everybody’s interests it is right and proper to pay every worker on a fair basis, irrespective of whether another five or six shillings a week is added to female wages so long as every employer pays on the same basis. After the basic wage for females has been fixed it will become the foundation upon which a conciliation commissioner or a single judge can make an award, or can make allowances in respect of climatic or other conditions.
– Where does a single judge have power in this matter?
– Sometimes a single judge takes a case when the conciliation commissioners are all otherwise engaged. Sometimes a case is heard hefore a single judge because he is familiar with the conditions involved, and sometimes the full bench passes a case to a single judge because it considers that he has special knowledge to deal with it.
– I do not know whether that can be done now.
– I have mentioned the four main functions which are peculiar to the full bench.
– I desire to understand the Minister clearly on this matter, because last year the Chief Judge recommended that some matters be referred to single judges. That recommendation was not adopted, so far as I am aware.
– Sometimes single judges deal with cases. I cite the illustration of the Women’s Employment Board. The court decided that Judge Foster should be president of that body. There are still some undecided aspects of the matter. They have not all been- written into awards. If there is any claim for back pay or anything associated with minimum wage rates fixed for females, Judge Foster would be asked to handle it. The full bench could refer a matter to a single judge if it desired to. This matter is not as complicated as the honorable member for Fawkner has suggested. The bill simply intends to give to the court the right to fix a female basic wage.
– Does the Minister say that this amendment makes no alteration of the position regarding the male basic wage ?
– It makes no alteration because the court is the only authority that can alter the basic wage. It has had that power for nearly 40 j ears. The court can alter the basic wage when new conditions arise, such as an increase of the cost of living, which make an alteration necessary. The 3s. a week increase awarded by Judge Powers is an instance. Another instance was the award of 3s. a week prosperity loading. That has gone into the basic wage now.
– Does the Minister claim that the full bench of the court will have power to deal with such matters as the war loading and the prosperity loading?
– This bill interferes with nothing that is now included in the basic wage. I repeat that the intention of the bill is to make it quite clear that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court has full power to fix a basic wage for females as it does for males. Surely there is need for such a fixed minimum wage for females. I do not think that anybody in this House would object to adult female workers having the same protection as adult male workers have had for many years. This amending bill covers nothing else.
.- No honorable member on this side of the House will oppose this bill on the ground that it purports to empower the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court to fix a basic wage for women in industry. The Minister may be relieved of any anxiety on that score. I desire to direct the Minister’s attention, however, to several aspects of this bill which lurk below the surface and which are very significant indeed upon analysis. The bill is designed to empower the court to declare a basic wage for women by the action of section 25 of the act and the consequential amendment of section 13. The further amendment which was circulated to-day to clause 3 of the bill adds a definition of the words “basic wage “. This is the first occasion on which such a definition has been attempted. The words “ basic wage “ were not denned in the legislation of 1947 or 1948 or in the legislation of earlier years. The Minister knows that the meaning of the words “ basic wage “ as well as the basis on which the basic wage was to be computed were always matters for the determination of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The socialists, who are always wanting to pass an act of Parliament to embalm something in a rigid form, have introduced an amendment which, if they only knew it, may end up by tying their own hands. Until now the basic wage has been founded on the principle of a needs or a subsistence wage. As years have gone by the opinions of judges about this matter have varied, and several factors have been added in calculating the subsistence wage of an individual unskilled adult male worker in Australia. There has been added’ the factor of whether or not the worker is likely to marry and to have children. In the course of time what was supposed to be the subsistence wage of the adult unskilled male worker in industry has become a minimum wage in the determination of which regard is paid to the fact that the average worker is a married man with a wife and family of approximately two children. The average family unit has thus come to be a factor in basic wage computations. There have also been various prosperity loadings. One was granted in 1937, and others have been added on account of war factors. The basic wage has grown in amount not only because of the increased cost of living, which fluctuates automatically in accordance with variations in the “ C “ series index figure, but also because the court has altered the basis of its computation. Whether we take the old ruling of Mr. Justice Higgins or the more detailed examination given by Judge Beeby some years ago, or the more recent decisions of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, the Minister will agree that more factors have been taken into account in assessing a basic wage for the average unskilled worker in Australia. I issue a warning to the Government that if this amendment is accepted the hands of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court may very well be bound. If some person appeals to the court, as undoubtedly he will, the court may no longer be a free agent, but may be bound by the four corners of this amend1ment. I notice that the Minister shakes his head. He is not the authority who will have to determine this matter. It will be determined by the full bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The court may very well find itself bound by the restrictive words in the amendment, which defines the term “basic wage “ as follows : -
That wage, or that part of a wage, which is just and reasonable for an adult male, without regard to any circumstance pertaining to the work upon which, or the industry in which, he is employed.
Those words seem to be much more restrictive than before. Hitherto governments have been careful to refrain from defining the words “basic wage “ and that matter has, as it were, been as long as the Chancellors foot. Instead1 of exercising its own judgment in the matter the court will in future be bound by the terms of this definition. It is unwise to put into industrial legislation restricting words which will limit the court and may very well end up by making the position of the unskilled worker worse than it has been in the past. From time to time applications to the court have been foreshadowed which will seek the establishment of a new basis for the computation of the basic wage in order to get away from the average family unit and arrive at a basic wage on the basis of a single unit, and thereafter building on that. Such moves have always been resisted by the workers. It seems that in this amendment the Government, perhaps inadvertently, proposes to bring about the very thing which the workers have so strenuously resisted in the past. The Parliament might well consider the proposed amendment and decide to leave the matter to the discretion of the court.
To my mind the bill itself - and I do not mince words - is a bungling and doctrinaire approach to an extremely difficult problem. As the House is aware, prior to 1947 no basic wage had been prescribed for females, but in fact in every industry in which women were employed and in respect of which an approach was made to the court, the court awarded a rate for females on a hit or miss, or rough justice basis. To every woman working in industries which were covered by federal awards, a wage was made applicable and that practice seemed to work out all right. The Minister has said that the absence of a female basic wage created gaps in the system, and that the Commonwealth used its defence power during the war to enact National Security Regulations to cover those gaps. That is so ; and in 1947, the Government, recognizing the lack of any statutory provision under which the court could enact a female basic wage, passed its amending legislation. The tragety was . that it passed that legislation not as a separate matter, but in conjunction with a new system altogether which supplanted the old system under which the court not only awarded a basic wage, but also determined all variations of the basicwage and all margins on the basic wage. Every such matter pertaining to industry was dealt with either by the full bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court or by single judges, against whose determinations appeals could he made to the full bench of the court. In 1947, however, the Government abandoned that system and announced a new streamlined system which, it claimed, would prevent future industrial disturbances. The tragedy is that this matter of a female basic wage was tied up with the wretched new system, which has worked so badly since it was first adopted in 1947. By the 1947 act, a new7 section 25 was inserted in the principal act. The relevant part of it reads as follows : -
The Court may, for the purpose of preventing or settling an industrial dispute, make an order or award altering - (el) the minimum rate of remuneration for adult females in an industry.
That was the first occasion on which a reference to minimum rates of remuneration for females had ever appeared in the legislation. It was enacted, not a implicit er but in conjunction with and iis part of a complicated and highly unsatisfactory system under which conciliation commissioners were authorized to perform almost all of the work that had previously been done by the judges of the court, the duties of the judges being confined to the performance of one or two functions. But in due course the matter came before the court on references from conciliation commissioners and in other ways. It was quickly revealed that the new section 25 (d) did not cure anything. Far from providing for a minimum rate of remuneration for women employed in an industry, all it did was to make confusion worse confounded. The words themselves were simple enough when read alone, but when they were read in conjunction with the authorization of conciliation commissioners to exercise extensive powers in relation to arbitration and conciliation, nobody could say what they meant. The views of the judges of the court on the meaning of section 25 (d) differed. Acting Chief Judge Kelly, said, in effect, that the court had power to alter the lowest rate of remuneration for women prescribed in an award, but that it had to be left to the conciliation commissioners to fix the rates of remuneration for other females prescribed in the same award. The view of that judge was that the court had power to alter the lowest rates of remuneration for females prescribed in an award, but only to alter them. Judge Foster took a different view. He pointed out that no standard could he found for the fixation of a female basic wage, and said that at that time there were almost as many female minimum rates as there were awards. That, of course, was the difficulty that the legislation had been designed to remedy, but it did not do so. Judge Foster held that the court had power only to alter the female basic wage analogous to the basic wage for males. He then pointed out that, as a female basic wage had not in fact been determined, there was nothing for the court to alter and the application before him therefore collapsed. “We must have some sympathy for the judges. They are men with a great deal of experience in this type of legislation. They did their best to interpret section 25 (d), but they could not make head nor tail or it. With all the goodwill in the world, they arrived at three differing points of view. The reason for that is that the Government bungled the drafting of the legislation. It mixed it up with the wretched conciliation commissioner system in such a way as prevented anyone from making head or tail of it. Judge Kirby took yet another view. He described the minimum wage as the foundational wage upon which an arbitrator could build his structure of wage differentiation. His reasoning, as far as I can discover it - I do not reflect upon him because he had an impossible task to perform - lay somewhere between the judgments of Acting Chief Judge Kelly and Judge Foster. The matter was then left in that way. The judges said, in effect, “ We do not know what the provision means “.
In the 1948 report of the Chief Judge, reference was made to this matter. The Chief Judge directed the attention of Parliament to the impasse that had been created and invited the Parliament to pass an amendment of the act. Once again the “brains trust” of the Government went into action. Some legal or pseudo-legal genius produced yet another amendment, which was debated by the Parliament and passed at the end of 1948. The amended section 25. (d) reads as follows: -
The Court may, for the purpose of preventing or settling an industrial dispute, make an order or award - (<J) determining or altering the minimum rate of remuneration for adult females in an industry.
I suppose that at that stage the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) said triumphantly, “ We have fixed it up now. They will not be able to shoot holes in it this time “. However, the matter came before the court again . a few weeks ago during the hearing of the basic wage case in Melbourne. Submissions were made on the meaning of these words. Once again, the words themselves were quite simple. If they had stood alone, there would have been no legal difficulties. However, they did not stand alone; they were still jumbled up with a system under which 99.9 per cent, of the administration of the act is left in the hands of fifteen or sixteen conciliation commissioners, and the functions of the court are limited to the determination of the basic wage, hours of work and other restricted matters. The court again considered the section, but it found that it was in no better position to deal with the 1948 amendment than it had been to throw light upon the 1947 amendment. Judge Kelly said that he was not persuaded by the arguments that had been put before him to change his mind. The Commonwealth had gone to the expense of briefing senior counsel to argue this matter and to attempt to persuade the judges that the legislation meant something. Although the streamlined arbitration system was intended to prevent litigation, it has resulted in a string of cases being heard by the court. Chief Judge Kelly has said that he still adheres to what he said when considering the previous amendment. Judge Foster said much the same thing. Judge Kirby had, by this time, retired from the fray. He had been appointed as judge in charge of the stevedoring industry. The new judge, Judge Dunphy, considered the new section, but he could not agree with the other judges. Judge Dunphy had a new view of the matter, and his opinion was, in effect, that the court had the whole of the jurisdiction to deal with the whole of the basic wage for females, not only the assessment of the wage itself, but also all matters of variation and margins. Indeed, His Honour considered that anything connected with the principle of the basic wage for females was a matter for the court itself. That view, I may say, was certainly the most sensible and simplest interpretation of all the opinions that had been expressed, but it did not find favour with his two brother judges, although, for that matter, they did not agree with each other.
– All the judges had different views.
– They happen to be honest men, no doubt, but they simply found it impossible to see their way through this labyrinth of bungling legislation. The Government has held to its doctrinaire notion that we must have all these conciliation commissioners. Many of these commissioners have obviously been the friends of the Government, with a strong bias to the working class point of view, and are not doing their job impartially. We were told that the appointment of the conciliation commissioners was designed to streamline the arbitration system, but the judges of the court have pointed out that the introduction of the conciliation commissioners has given rise to great legal difficulties. But I return to the amendment. Judge Dunphy’s interpretation, if it had been adopted, would have solved the whole problem. The Government has now made a third move to overcome the difficulty. Fancy, it has taken three bites at the cherry ! Amending legislation has been introduced on three occasions in relation to poor, insignificant little section 25 of the act. The female workers of Australia must be honoured to know that the Parliament of the Commonwealth has had to make three attempts to resolve the method of determining a basic wage for females. No honorable member is opposed to the enactment of a basic wage for females. All that we say is that the Government has bungled the job by introducing legislation as it has done, andby adhering to a system which, as has been proved convincingly over the last two years, does not function properly. We will now inherit the worst features of both systems. Section 25 of the act, as it will be amended by this bill, will read -
The court may for the purpose of preventing or settling an industrial dispute, make an order or award - (b)altering the basic wage for adult males or the principles upon which it is computed ;
determining or altering the basic wage for adult females or the principles upon which it is computed.
I hope that it will now be clear that the court has power to enact a basic wage for females. That is the intention of the legislation. The Attorney-General has explained that that was always the intention, and I hope that, after the third bite at the cherry, it will be clear that the court has that power. The point which I make now is that the Government, instead of cleaning up the mess, transferring the authority to the court, and reducing the conciliation commissioners to their proper function, has persisted in maintaining this system which has been proven not to work.
– The Government should be ashamed of itself.
– I doubt whether Ministers are ashamed of themselves, because hardened sinners, particularly if they are sinners who are driven by doctrinaire notions that neither hell nor high water can change, will not be ashamed of anything. The situation which has prevailed since 1947 will continue. I am fortified in my view by the first report of the former Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, the late Judge Drake-Brockman, who denounced the system outright. He made no bones about his views of it. I am also fortified in my view by the implications in the report of Chief Judge Kelly, which was ‘ laid on the table this morning. His remarks about the conciliation commissioners are couched in polite language; but he obviously has no respect for the divided system, because of the manner in which it has functioned. We were told in 1947 that the appointment of the conciliation commissioners was a great experiment which would bring peace to industry. In practice, it has not brought peace to industry. The now system was supposed to prevent litigation, and all industrial problems were to be solved in a simple manner by homely laymen who were without the wiles and tricks of lawyers, and were to do justice between man and man. Litigation was to be reduced to vanishing point, and everything was to proceed smoothly and happily. I have before me a list of cases which have found their way into the High Court of Australia, very reluctantly so far as the conciliation commissioners are concerned, but under the Constitution they have not been able to prevent those cases from being heard by the High Court. Some of them are the Tea Breaks case, the Clerks case, the Ozone Theatres case, and the Common Rule case. In addition, a num ber of cases are before the full bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. A few of them are the Gas Employees, ease, Oldfield case, Board of Reference case, Female Rates case, a reference re clerks preference and the Theatrical Employees case.-
We were told in 1947 that the system would prevent all that legalistic nonsense; but as the result of the exploits of the conciliation commissioners, who have known no law and have not known that they have known no law, case after case has found its way with the lawyers in charge of them, to the High Court or to the full bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Constant legal wrangling is bad for arbitration and for peace in industry. That remark, coming from a lawyer, may seem odd, but I point out that it was never intended that the arbitration machinery should be legalistic in operation. It is essential that there should be trained men in charge of it and assisting those in charge of it, but constant appeals to the courts of the land on matters of industrial law are bad for peace in industry, and bring unhappiness to both sides of industry. The main reason for so much litigation is that the men appointed by the Government to be conciliation commissioners were not the right sort of men. I have drawn attention more than once to the fact that, of sixteen commissioners, fourteen were either trade union officials or ex-Labour politicians, and’ obviously men with a violently pro-Labour point of view. In practice, they have not all allowed themselves to be influenced by that point of view. I agree with Chief Judge Kelly that, by and large, the commissioners have tried to do their jobs. I do not say that they are malicious, or that they have been deliberately partisan in their approach to the matters brought before them ; but I say that if a man is plucked from an environment where he has spent, all his life, and has become impregnated with one point of view, and is put in a position where he is supposed to act in a. judicial capacity, he cannot be expected to be impartial.
– We would not put the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr.. Beale) in such a position.
– I would not allow myself to be put there, because I would know that I was expected to give decisions to favour one side only. The conciliation commissioners were appointed for only one purpose, to serve Labour interests, and the system has worked badly because the men themselves were not satisfactory. Far from producing industrial peace, the system has, in practice, increased industrial disharmony. It has created anomalies because margins for skill have not been correlated as between various industries. One commissioner gave a higher marginal rate to bottle washers than had been given to process workers. The commissioners have not been guided by the court because they have not been sufficiently under the authority of the court. Industry in Australia is, in effect, a single unit, and we should not promote rebellion and disunity among one section of workers by bestowing greater rewards upon another section engaged in a comparable industry. Not long ago, Mr. Commissioner Blackburn awarded’ labourers engaged in loading and unloading aircraft a higher rate than that awarded to tradesmen assistants. Naturally, the tradesmen assistants were incensed, because they believed that their work was at least as important as that of the labourers, if not more so. Another conciliation commissioner declared that the fixing of the time at which butcher shops should close was an industrial matter. Everybody knows that’ it is not an industrial matter, but a matter for legislation by the various States. As a matter of fact, it is before the High Court now. The conciliation commissioners have not been able to maintain the status and dignity of their positions. They found themselves, willy-nilly, on terms of such familiarity with the persons who appeared before them that they have not been able to maintain their positions. The worker respects the law. He respects authority and discipline, but he wants something to respect. Some of the appointments to the ranks of conciliation commissioners have been such that advocates appearing before them have had no respect for them. I could1 cite many examples in support of that contention. Just recently, during the hearing of a claim by the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association, a union representative accused one of the commissioners of taking a different line from that which he had advocated years before when he was a trade union official. There can be no authority or discipline where that sort of thing happens. Only the other day, a conciliation commissioner was asked to decide whether a solicitor should be allowed to appear before his tribunal. It was argued by the solicitor that counsel could be excluded only when proceedings commenced on an industrial dispute that had been found to exist. The commissioner did not say whether he would admit the legal representative or not, but after hearing argument, he permitted counsel to appear on the first day of the hearing, and then gave the fantastic decision that lie should be excluded on subsequent days.
Attempts have been made by conciliation commissioners to circumvent the act itself. In one case recently, a solicitor was allowed to appear, but so that the. fact would not be evident, the record was altered in such a. way as to attribute the remarks made by the solicitor to a union representative. Honorable members on this side of the House have consistently argued that there should exist a right of appeal from the decisions of commissioners. In practice, there is no appeal for an employer but, by a device, a union may, in fact, appeal, because cases have been re-opened at the request of a union, and heard before another conciliation commissioner.
The Government, by bringing down this wretched little amending bill, has missed an opportunity to remedy the defects in the arbitration system that were pointed out by the late Chief Judge Drake-Brockman and that has also been described by Chief Judge Kelly. Those faults include absence of coordination in the work of conciliation commissioners, absence of the right of appeal from a commissioner to the court, and absence of the right to legal representation, which all the judges have said is desirable. In the last report it is stated that a majority of the conciliation commissioners also wished it. The fixing of margins to wages should revert to the court. This would allay the discontent that has arisen among workers because of the giving of conflicting decisions by conciliation commissioners. The function of the commissioners should be to investigate disputes, and to settle them by conciliation if possible. If that cannot be done, disputes should go before the court. In that way, it would be possible to apply common principles throughout all branches of industry. But something more should be done. The time has now come when the Government should extend the system of joint consultation in industry. At present, for the most part, we tackle our industrial problems from the wrong end. We must create confidence between management and worker by closer collaboration before disputes arise, that is by joint consultation. I investigated that, system in England last year. It is a very prominent feature of English industry for there to be consultations between employers and employees. Industrial discord in Australia could be reduced if employers and employees were allowed to meet at a round table. That is necessary for the sake of not only the bosses’ dividends but also of the general prosperity of the workers and the country. We must all realize that both workers and management have a common interest in maintaining industrial prosperity through industrial peace.
. -The subject of women’s wages has been a matter of argument for about eighteen months. Several judges have expressed varying opinions. Women’s organizations are anxious to have the position clarified. An amendment such as that proposed in this bill has been needed for a long time. Women generally know the attitude of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) towards equal rights for men and women as expressed in the Charter of the United Nations. So I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he considers that the amendment proposed in this bill will get over the difficulties that have been stated by various judges in view of the fact that they have all given different judgments.
– in reply - The honorable member for Bourke (Mrs.
Blackburn) has brought the debate to the crucial point. The only purpose of the bill is to deal with the difficulties that have been expressed by the judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The point made by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) was relevant. Between those two speeches we had an extraordinary speech from the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale). I do not suppose that 5 per cent, of what he said had the slightest relationship to the bill. He said that the system of conciliation .commissioners had caused trouble. The system of conciliation commissioners has nothing to do with the bill; but, since he has introduced the subject, I must reply to him. Prior to the introduction of the system of conciliation commissioners, the full bench of the court decided the basic wage and standard hours, and individual judges decided matters that were peculiar to various industries. The honorable member’s attack on the system of conciliation commissioners was rebutted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) in a recent speech. The honorable member for Parramatta also attacked Brigadier Blackburn, one of the conciliation commissioners, on a decision that he had made. That has nothing to “ do with the bill before the House. Some one has apparently provided the honorable gentleman with a brief. He attacked Mr. Morrison, another distinguished conciliation commissioner. The honorable gentleman himself is a lawyer, but he claimed that there was too much legalism. He said that the closing of butchers’ shops was not an industrial matter. That case has gone to the High Court, which will determine it. He apparently does not know that, since 1912, that matter has been .within the jurisdiction of the industrial authority in New South Wales. There has been expedition in handling industrial matters since the establishment of the system of conciliation commissioners. Chief Judge Kelly, whose report I tabled to-day, pays tribute to the conciliation commissioners in that report. The honorable member is not justified in making imputations against the conciliation commissioners. Tributes have been paid to them by employers and employees alike. One honorable member paid a high tribute to the conciliation commissioner who deals with industrial matters connected with the pastoral industry. What is required is not so much legalism as a determination to hear the facts fairly and give an impartial decision. That is what is being done. I apologize to the House for having said all that, but, as the remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta have been recorded in Hansard, it is right that I should also record my reply. The recent report of the Chief Judge negatives all that the honorable member has said on that matter.
– Lots of people do not know that the honorable member for Parramatta is unbalanced.
– The honorable member for Parramatta knows very well that what he had to say has nothing to do with the bill. The term “ basic wage “ was included in a Commonwealth statute after the first world war. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) has an unequalled knowledge of this subject. I remind honorable members that Mr. Justice Higgins, in the Harvester judgment, said -
The test to be applied in ascertaining what are fair and reasonable conditions of remuneration of labour, under the Excise Tariff 1906, is, in the case of unskilled labourers - what are the normal needs of the average employee regarded as a human being living in a civilized community?
The wage was called the “ basic wage “ and,, sometimes, the “living wage”. There were other synonyms, but every one knew what the term meant. It meant that, irrespective of the industry and irrespective of the job in the industry, there was an irreducible minimum below which payment might not be made. After the first world war, it was laid down that the alteration of the basic wage must be determined by three judges, not one judge, but when the question of the female rate came up recently for consideration, various views were expressed by the court. I shall not repeat them. I stated them in my secondreading speech, and they are included in the reports that I have circulated. The fact is that it is impossible in these circumstances not to yield to the request, of the judges that we should state quite precisely that the court has power to fix a foundation or basic wage for adult female workers as is done in the case of males. That involves two branches of the same point. In this bill we have made the necessary classification. We depart from the phrase “female minimum rate “ and use the same term as is used in respect of the adult male wage.
The answer to the honorable member for Bourke is that the action proposed in this bill is, I believe, what the judges wish to be done. I reach that conclusion on the basis of their remarks in open court. The amendment says to the court, in effect, that irrespective of the particular job that a woman is doing in an industry and irrespective of the particular industry in which she is engaged, she should, as an adult female worker, be entitled to a certain wage which will be above and beyond all considerations of her particular job in any particular industry. That has always been the accepted approach to the problem of the fixation of the basic wage. I consider that the bill meets the difficulty that has arisen.
That brings me to the point raised by the honorable member for Fawkner. It is now apparent from the Chief Judge’s report, which was also circulated this morning, that differing opinions have been advanced regarding the meaning of the term “ basic wage “. The Chief Judge said, for instance, that certain elements in wages would be included in the basic wage. We have attempted to clear that matter up in the case of both males and females separately in the proposed amendments to sections 13 and 25 that have been, circulated. What we have done is to put in plain English the declaration of principle which runs through all these decisions and is included in the Harvester judgment, but we do not amend the law on it. The Government has never thought the law meant anything else but that the basic wage meant, as is stated in the amendments -
That phrase is taken from the Harvester judgment. That is to say a person is considered as an adult male or female worker irrespective of the type of employment in which he or she is engaged. Mr. Justice Higgins said that an individual, irrespective of the circumstances of his industry or classification or job, was entitled to a minimum wage below which no employer would be permitted to pay. That is the meaning of the declaration. I prefer to call it a declaration rather than a definition, although it is the same thing.
Margins for skill, special industry loadings and locality allowances are not part of the basic wage. The honorable member for Parramatta wants all those matters thrown into the jurisdiction of the full court. To do so would be to make conciliation and arbitration utterly impossible. They are at present outside the jurisdiction of the full court and in the view of the Government and, I think, of all those who have gone most closely into this matter, they have always been outside its jurisdiction. But the prosperity loading is of a different character. The prosperity of a country is relevant to the adult male or female minimum wage because the general state of prosperity of a country cannot be ignored when the basic or foundational wage is being fixed.
– The war loading would have to be treated as a special industry allowance.
– The honorable gentleman knows that it was so treated. It was not an addition or subtraction in respect of work carried out through the whole field of industry. It was a loading in respect of a particular industry or groups of industries. The prosperity loading only would be included’.
– The Minister will appreciate that I am not challenging his interpretation of the matter, but that I consider that it makes the problem of coordination more important than possibly has been thought to he the case in the past.
– Co-ordination as between the conciliation commissioners. I appreciate the point made by the honor able member. It is not dealt with in this bill. The honorable member’s point is that there may be conflicting decisions by different conciliation commissioners. It is extremely important that there should be co-ordination in order to prevent anomalies arising in consequence of one commissioner taking a different view from that of other commissioners. The way in which that is dealt with, as the House knows, is by consultation individually amongst the commissioners and by a greater degree of consultation between the commissioners as a group, and especially between the chief commissioner as their representative, and the Chief Judge. In general, I do not dispute that proposition, but in the early days of a system like this difficulties in administration arise that have to be met as they arise and as new circumstances develop. I ask the House to look at the matter from the point of view expressed in the chief judge’s report. One can sense in that report a feeling that cooperation between the commissioners has increased, and I know in fact that such conferences as I have mentioned are held.
One of the few sound’ observations from the honorable member for Parramatta was that there should be general consultation, in other words conciliation, between the parties to a dispute. That is the main purpose of the conciliation commissioners. For every one argument or issue determined by them -against the will of any of the parties there are probably twenty that are determined by consent awards.
In answer to the honorable member for Bourke, I can say that no one would have thought, it possible that the use of the term “ basic wage “ could have caused such difficulties as have become apparent. But it has done so, and the judges, in open court and the Chief Judge in his report, have asked that the matter be clarified and declared. We have done that through the Parliament. Similarly with regard to the definition of what is the true minimum for females, we have identified it with a basic wage for adult females.
One final point is in relation to a matter raised by the honorable member for Fawkner. It is true, as he pointed out, that in probably no industry to-day would one find a case of the wage rate paid to an adult being merely the basic wage. I think that that is due to a fact that is recognized more to-day than used to be the case. That fact is that every worker inan industry must exhibit some industrial skill or adaptability. For that reason there is no cause for astonishment in the fact that workers in industry are receiving rates of pay that are higher than the basic wage. At one time it was believed that the labourer did not bring skill to his job, but we know now that skill is involved in many kinds of labour that were previously regarded as unskilled. I think that there is a growing recognition of that fact.
I repeat that the bill makes it clear that the phrase “ minimum rates for females” is to be regarded as meaning the female basic wage, in the same way as the male basic wage is regarded as the male minimum wage. The judges of the court have asked for that to be done. We have included in the amendments that have been circulated a declaration by way of definition that the basic wage is as described. We have tried to put it into the language of the Harvester award and the language of the High Court of Australia in the Australian Workers Union case. I think that the declaration will meet the particular difficulties that the judges considered should be cleared up, and will clear the way for a determination of the case now before the court without any loss of time, because the evidence for that case has been gathered and we do not wish the court to be delayed in its consideration of that evidence through any failure of the legislature to meet the wishes of the judges.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section thirteen of the Principal Act is amended -
by inserting in paragraph (b), after the word “wage”, the words “for adult males “ ; and
by omitting from paragraph (d) the words “ minimum rate of remuneration for adult females in an industry “ and inserting in their stead the words “ basic wage for adult females or the principles upon which it is computed “.
Section proposed to be amended -
A Conciliation Commissioner shall not be empowered to make an order or award altering -
the basic wage or the principles upon which it is computed;
the minimum rate of remuneration for adult females in an industry.
Amendments (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to -
That, in paragraph (a), after the word “males”, the following words be inserted: - “ (that is to say, that wage, or that part of a wage, which is just and reasonable for an adult male, without regard to any circumstance pertaining to the work upon which, or the industry in which, he is employed) “.
That, in paragraph (b), after the word “ females “, second occurring, the following words be inserted: - “ (that is to say, that wage, or that part of a wage, which is just and reasonable for an adult female, without regard to any circumstance pertaining to the work upon which, or the industry in which, she is employed) “.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 4 consequentially amended and, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 21st October (vide page 1837), on motion by Mr. Ward -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a bill for an act to give legal sanction to an agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australia in respect of the standardization of railway gauges in South Australia. The bill represents another step towards the objective of complete standardization of railway gauges throughout Australia. As the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) said in his second-reading speech, the standardization of railway gauges has been the subject of a good deal of discussion and also of investigation by two royal commissions over a period of years. It is interesting to note that as far back as 1921 a commission was appointed to examine the whole matter of breaks of gauge, and that it recommended that the standardization of railway gauges throughout the Commonwealth should be undertaken. At that time it was estimated that the cost of carrying out the work would amount to £57,000,000. Although the commission’s recommendation was made after very careful examination of the whole subject, nothing very much was done about it. In 1930, a comparatively small section of railway line, from Kyogle to South Brisbane, was laid down in standard gauge. In 1945, the Government of the day asked Sir Harold Clapp, an Australian and probably a world authority on railway matters, to conduct an investigation of this problem. After a careful survey Sir Harold Clapp presented his recommendations to the Government. By that time the estimated cost of standardizing the railway gauges of Australia had increased from £57,000,000 to £76,000,000. A bill based on the recommendations of Sir Harold Clapp was subsequently passed through this Parliament; it empowered the Minister to enter into negotiations with the State governments for the purpose of securing a# general agreement on this very important issue. After a great deal of discussion a tentative agreement was drawn up between the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Even at that time Western Australia and Queensland were not prepared to join the Commonwealth and the other States in a general agreement for the standardization of railway gauges. Indeed, even after an agreement had been made between the Commonwealth and New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, the New South Wales Government was not prepared to ratify the agreement by introducing the appropriate measure into the State Parliament. After further negotiations, which related principally to the detailed responsibilities of the Commonwealth and the States in respect of the standardization of railway gauges, this bill has been placed before us. The Government of South Australia has agreed to proceed with the work of standardizing the railway gauges of that State at an estimated cost of £24,000,000, on the understanding that the Commonwealth will assume responsibility for 70 per cent, of the cost. I suppose that one is entitled to assume that the estimate of £24,000,000 will be greatly exceeded before the work has been completed. If that be so, I assume that responsibility will still be accepted by the Commonwealth and the State on the original basis. Apparently, that possibility has already been discussed and no doubt the Premier of South Australia and the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) have agreed on behalf of their respective governments to accept responsibility for any increased costs.
I welcome the bill as a step forward in a project which I believe to be necessary in the best interests, not only of the defence of this country, but also of its general transport system; but I remind the House that the passing of this measure will not mean that the work will be proceeded with immediately, or that it will be completed within any definite period. We know that, owing to the scarcity of materials, all .States are experiencing extraordinary difficulties in obtaining new locomotives and rolling-stock and in maintaining their railway permanent ways. In making this step forward, something of a much more positive character must be done than is contemplated by the Government. I believe that it is the function of the Commonwealth to ensure that adequate supplies of the requisite materials to enable the standardization of railway gauges to be carried out shall be made available to those States in which such materials are not produced. Already, owing to the lack of production in the iron and steel industries, it has been necessary to go outside Australia in order to obtain some of the steel rails that will be required for this project. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has stated in this House to-day that during his recent visit overseas he got in touch with the appropriate Minister in France for the purpose of arranging for the importation into Australia of, among other things, steel rails. The right honorable gentleman has indicated that whilst the Government is willing to grant the permits for the importation of steel rails from other countries, rails from France will cost approximately three times as much as those which are produced in this country. If the steel required for the construction and conversion of locomotives and rollingstock has to be imported from France, Japan, the United States of America, or other countries, it is obvious that the present estimated cost of the project will be greatly exceeded. I hope that in the carrying out of this work the requirements of iron and steel of other industries will not be overlooked. A great deal has been said in this House about the effect on the housing programme of the scarcity of iron and steel products. The shortage of iron and steel is also acutely felt by the primary industries. I trust that the requirements of other industries will not be subordinated to this project. Whilst this project may be essential, the production of food and clothing for our kinsmen overseas is an immediate need. If the production of these goods be subordinated to the project for the standardization of railway gauges the best interests of this country and of the Empire generally will not be served. I mention these matters only because there has been some inclination on the part of the Government and of th« Minister for Transport to take to themselves great credit for having instituted the scheme for the standardization of railway gauges in Australia. This is but another of the Government’s plans which is held up for the inspection and approval of the public in the hope that the people will believe it to have been already completed. Nothing is further from the truth. The South Australian railway authorities have commenced the conversion of a small section of their railway system, but work has been delayed owing to the lack of materials. Whilst I give this project my blessing, I suggest that if the Minister believes it to be really necessary he should do everything possible to promote increased production of the iron and steel that are so necessary to enable it to be undertaken. I approve of the bill.
– I am sure that honorable members who represent South Australian constituencies are very pleased indeed that the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) and the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, have been able to reach an agreement to undertake the standardization of railway gauges in South Australia. This bill is the outcome of that agreement. Those who are concerned about the adequate defence and future progress of this country must feel gratified that it has been possible to accomplish such an agreement. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) has said that he hopes that this work will be proceeded with and that the bill has been introduced not merely in the hope that the people will believe that the work has already been commenced. The honorable gentleman has also expressed the hope that this project will not he permitted to interfere with the allocation of iron and steel products to essential industries throughout the Commonwealth. The provision of an efficient railway transport system is absolutely essential to the development and progress of any country. We all are aware that the countries of Europe have adopted a uniform system of railway communication under which railway rollingstock from one country is interchangeable with that from another. When we consider how much has been accomplished in that regard in European countries, we must realize how backward we are in Australia. In the United States of America, where the railway systems are operated by private railroad companies, a uniform railway gauge has been adopted throughout the length and breadth of the country. The railroad companies have reached an agreement under which the rolling-stock of all companies can be utilized over the whole of the railway system. It was an eye-opener to me to see how, in the makeup of big goods trains, trucks of innumerable railway companies were all coupled together. In any country, and particularly in a country of vast distances, railway rolling-stock should be capable of being used throughout the length and breadth of the land. The existence of many breaks of gauge in Australia is a great disadvantage, particularly in time of war. The lack of railway gauge standardization in this country causes inconvenience to passengers and, what is more important, necessitates the transfer of goods from one railway truck to another at certain points. When the goods are heavy or bulky, that is a serious matter.
It causes delay and inflates freight charges. I am sure that every one with vision regards the standardization of railway gauges in this country s& a task that must be undertaken eventually.
The agreement that has been arrived at between the Commonwealth and South Australia is very pleasing to me. For years I have advocated that railway transport facilities in South Australia should be improved, and that we should take advantage of the lessons that can be learned from the railway electrification and standardization projects that have been undertaken in other countries. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) questioned the wisdom of proceeding with this project at the present time. I appreciate the force of the re- marks that the honorable gentleman has. made about the shortages of materials from which we are at present suffering, and particularly of materials that are manufactured from iron and steel. I was a member of the South Australian Parliament when the proposal to widen the gauge of the railway from Wolseley to Mount Gambier was discussed and the enabling legislation passed. The South Australian Government realized that it was necessary to avoid the break of gauge at Wolseley, which was, to a great degree, preventing the efficient transport of goods by rail from the south-eastern corner of the State. It considered the need to widen the gauge of. the railway from Wolseley to Mount Gambier to be so urgent that it was prepared to proceed with the necessary work at a time when there was a great shortage of man-power in the State. We must be consistent. We should not criticize this Government for its proposal to proceed with railway gauge standardization in South Australia during a period of shortages of materials and remain silent about what the South Australian Government did during a similar period. Some of the credit for the work that has been accomplished upon the relaying and broadening of the gauge of this railway in the southeastern part of South Australia must be given to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell). I am certain that the progress that has been made upon that project would not have been possible but for what the Minister has done to bring migrant labour to Australia. If South Australia was justified in proceeding with that work, then the Commonwealth and South Australia were justified in concluding this agreement.
I understand that the first gauge standardization work to be done under the provisions of this measure will be upon the railway from Broken Hill to Port Pirie. I realize that some difficulties may be encountered in relation to the section of line between Broken Hill and Silverton. It is to be hoped that New South Wales will co-operate with the Commonwealth and South Australia and make it possible to proceed with the work on that section. It would be futile to increase the gauge of the railway line from Port Pirie to Silverton and not the gauge of the line from Silverton to Broken Hill. Unless the Commonwealth can enter into an agreement with the Victorian Government for the standardization of the gauges of the Victorian railways, a great many of the benefits that could be derived from the standardization of South Australian railway gauges will be lost. It would not be much good to have a standard gauge line from Adelaide to Serviceton and a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge line from Serviceton to Melbourne. That would make confusion worse conf ounded. I hope that the action that has been taken by the Commonwealth and South Australia will result in similar action being taken by the Commonwealth and Victoria.
I am very sorry that it has not been possible for the Commonwealth and the States to reach agreement upon a plan for the standardization of railway gauges throughout the whole of Australia, with the exception of some parts of Queensland. One difficulty was that the New South Wales Government considered that, because the New South Wales railways were standard gauge railways, it was unfair to ask that State to bear a proportion of the cost of standardizing gauges in other States. I am pleased that the Commonwealth has been able to assist the South Australian Government by assuming responsibility for the payment of 70 per cent, of the cost of the work that will be done in South Australia. That will enable South Australia to undertake the railway gauge standardization work in that State that would have been undertaken if the wider agreement had been concluded.
I do not desire to labour this matter further. I wanted to voice my meed of praise of the two Governments for having negotiated this agreement. I congratulate the Commonwealth upon the magnificent way in which it has helped South Australia by assuming responsibility for much of the work that would have been undertaken by New South Wales if the wider agreement to which I have referred had been concluded. The cost of the work would be prohibitive if it had to be borne by South Australia alone. When the standardization of railway gauges in South Australia has been accomplished, the rolling stock will be able to lie used throughout the State and not only in certain circumscribed sections of it. I commend the Minister for having introduced the bill. I trust that effect will be given to it by proceeding with the work at a reasonably early date.
– I desire to take advantage of the motion before the Chair to compliment the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) upon the vast amount of work that he has put into this project. It is due to his untiring efforts that work upon the standardization of railway gauges in South Australia is shortly to begin. In my view, this project is a national project. Prom the national standpoint it is second in importance only to the Snowy Mountains scheme. When it is completed, a significant contribution will have been made to the security of this country. I remind the House that during World War II. approximately 30 ships were lost or disabled off the coasts of New South Wales and Victoria. Some of those ships were engaged in transporting iron ore from South Australia to other parts of the Commonwealth. If the enemy had become more active in Australian coastal waters, it is possible that we should have been forced to transport iron ore by rail and not by sea. In that event, the breaks of gauge would have caused great difficulties.
I deplore the fact that some States have not yet seen fit to enter into agreements with the Commonwealth similar to the agreement that is contained in the schedule to this bill. The work that is set out in’ the schedule will take some time to complete. It cannot be done in a few weeks. I believe that there are fifteen breaks of gauge on the Australian railway systems. Those breaks of gauge necessitate the removal of goods from one railway wagon to another, and thus increase transport charges. The Government of South Australia went to a great deal of trouble to design and construct equipment for the handling of coal from South Australian coal mines at a break of gauge. That work would have been unnecessary had the railway gauges been standardized. I am pleased that the South Australian Government has realized that railway gauge standardization is a national project, and I compliment it upon being the first State government to reach an agreement with the Commonwealth in relation to it. I again compliment the Minister upon this bill. As a member of the Labour party, I know of the trials and tribulations through which he has passed in his efforts to achieve the standardization of gauges in Australia. I am pleased that work upon the project will soon be commenced. I hope that the honorable gentleman will be Minister for Transport when it is completed.
– The standardization of railway gauges is a matter in which I have taken a great personal interest for over a quarter of a century. When the idea was first mooted it was ridiculed as being impossible of achievement. It is greatly to the credit of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) that, during his tenure of office, a start has been made to bring the project to fruition. Having been associated with railway problems for such a long period as I have mentioned, I know that, from time to time, serious problems arise, particularly when there are differences of opinion between the States. The presence of a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge in Victoria and a part of South Australia, a 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge in New South Wales, and a 3-f.t. 6-in. gauge in Queensland and Western Australia makes the problem much more complex than many of us originally realized. However, I have always advocated the standardization of railway gauges, because I believe that that project is essential for the proper protection and development of Australia.
The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) has reminded us that during World War II., Australia was in great danger. As I was a member of the War Cabinet at that time, I am able to endorse that statement. The people of Australia have not yet realized the gravity of the danger during that period. Ships that were transporting iron ore from Whyalla to Port Kembla and Newcastle, which were the foundation of our munitions production, were being sunk all too rapidly for my liking. I know more about that matter than the man in the street does, because, as Minister for Air, .1 had to ensure that effective air patrols operated off the coast in order to detect, if possible, the enemy submarines that were sinking our ships. The description of that phase of the war will make a most interesting chapter in the history of Australia’s participation in World War II., and will show how near we were to what may reasonably be described as disaster. That position, arising from the necessity to carry coal and iron ore by sea when enemy submarines were operating, may be attributed to the lack of vision of those who neglected to standardize railway gauges when labour and materials were available.
That task could have been undertaken when hundreds of thousands of Australians were unemployed during the financial and economic depression. The Commonwealth and State governments, which at that time failed to grasp that great opportunity, will always have to answer for their neglect in that respect. The expenditure on doles and other forms of unemployment relief during that period amounted to £200,000,000. That sum would have been more than sufficient, at the then prevailing rates of wages and costs of materials, to enable the standardization of railway gauges to be completed. I hope that the plans for the standardization of railway gauges will be given effect, but I realize that the present-day cost will greatly exceed £200,000,000. The commencement of the work in South Australia is only the fore runner to the beginning of standardization in other States. I pay a tribute to the splendid efforts of the Minister for Transport in this matter. He has shown patience, tolerance and ability. Some honorable members on this side of the House are not given much .credit for possessing those qualities, but the Minister, has displayed them throughout the whole of the negotiations relative to the standardization of railway gauges. I am glad that one of my colleagues has had that responsibility, and has borne it so ably.
In my opinion, the bill is a measure of the recognition bv the Government of the importance of transport in our national economy. Competent authorities estimate the internal freight movements of the nation in the year 1947-48 at 17,078,000,000 ton-miles, whilst the passenger mileage exceeded 25,000,000,000. The total cost of all forms of transport in Australia in 1947-48 was £550,000,000, of which the railways were responsible for 15.5 per cent. Much of the freight is conveyed by coastal shipping. That was why it was so vital to protect ships in World War II., when our economy was in a large measure dependent on the carriage of coal from Newcastle to South Australia, and of iron ore from Whyalla to Port Kembla and Newcastle. In 1947-48, the railways carried 30.3 per cent, of the total freight and 27.5 per cent, of the passenger traffic of the Commonwealth. I mention those figures to indicate that railways must always be an important part of the complete transport system. Obviously, some districts will remain sparsely populated for many years, and it would be completely uneconomical to serve them with railways.
I emphasize that point .because, as a former railway man and as ah advocate for railway men in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, I was told that the wages of railway employees could not be increased to what we considered a reasonable level because the railways were showing deficits each year. The reason for those losses was that some people, who may be described as political log-rollers, induced State parliaments to authorize the building of railway stations, yards and signalling systems at places where they were not warranted. I could cite examples, but I shall not enter into the details. Station masters and staff were assigned to some of the stations in the sparsely populated districts that I have in mind, but the folly of that was later realized and to-day no officials are in attendance at those stopping places. The erection of four or five stations within a distance of 20 miles in a sparsely populated area, from which for many years only a small quantity of timber was taken, was completely unjustified. It would be uneconomic to construct railways to some sparsely populated districts which could be better served by other forms of transport. The recognition of that fact warrants, in my view, a complete survey on a nation-wide basis of the transport requirements of the Commonwealth. I do not think that the Minister for Transport will disagree with my opinion. That survey should embrace the present and potential needs of the Commonwealth and of the respective States and if the report based upon the survey were adopted, a sound basis would be provided for future planning and development. Attention should be devoted’ to that matter in future. I realize that the proposal for the standardization of railway gauges in South Australia, which we are now considering, does not cover the aspect to which I am referring, but we should adjust our transport needs on the basis of the requirements of the nation, and we should consider the present needs and the potential needs of various districts that will be served. Such a survey need not restrict the rights of the States to develop their own resources, but it could well provide the basis of a developmental scheme within which the legitimate and natural claims and aspirations of the States could be concentrated and which could be combined with strategic needs, and the main requirements of defence, should the occasion to do so arise. There would have to be co-operation, in spirit and in practice, between the Commonwealth and the States. Despite the regrettably long time that it has taken to reach a comparatively minor measure of agreement, I do not despair of a complete understanding being reached within a decade, even though it has taken a good deal longer than ten years to reach the present stage.
I do not propose to allot the blame for the delay to any particular person or State. We can afford to forget who is responsible, in view of the splendid achievement that has been reached with the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, which has been made possible by the wider outlook of the present day on affairs of national importance. I should not like the mistakes that we have undoubtedly made in developing our railways to occur in the expansion of other forms of transport. Those mistakes have been most expensive, and have retarded the development of Australia as a whole. Shipping facilities, road and rail transport and air services should be considered on the basis of what is essential for the needs of the people. The desire to meet purely local demands and to serve particular interests, merely because they are vociferously advocated, should be resisted. The undue and unreasonable pressure that is exercised through political sources must be subjugated to the future requirements of a rapidly developing nation. If those conditions can be fulfilled, there is no reason why the effects of the setbacks of the pa3t cannot be reduced, thereby making . possible a brighter future.
Progress in transport in recent years has been so rapid that speculation on the future may reach extremes without being absurd, but a sober examination of the problem of transport shows that the railways will be the backbone of any nationwide transport system for a long time. I emphasize that statement, although I am Minister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation. I support this bill whole-heartedly, because I consider that the standardization of railway gauges will be a definite step in the direction of making them effective for the encouragement and development of Australia’s defence and advancing economy. I desire, at this stage, to pay my tribute to Sir Harold Clapp, under whom I served in the Victorian railways years ago. Sir Harold has played a prominent part in assisting the Minister for Transport with the formulation of plans to standardize railway gauges. Sir
Harold is a great railway man and organizer. He has ideals. He has looked to the future, and desires that Australia’s railways shall be developed in such a way that they will give the service that we really need. In my opinion, Sir Harold Clapp’s contribution to this work has not been fully appreciated, and I feel that it would be wrong if I, who have been associated with him as an employee of the Victorian railways, did not offer him my sincere thank3 for the work that he has performed.
Like other honorable members who have spoken on this bill, I regret that, through the reluctance of one of three States to ratify the agreement, the beginning of the work to standardize railway gauges has been so long delayed. For many years, the railways of this country have been sadly neglected, and that neglect has contributed largely to their present parlous financial position. The iniquitous system of using the railways as a method of subsidizing other industries has made serious inroads upon railway revenue. I recall times when the railways of New South Wales, Victoria and other States carried starving stock from drought-stricken areas at one-quarter of the usual freight rate. It took a long time to convince the Commonwealth Arbitration Court that railway employees should not be paid low wages because the systems were operating at a loss. I do not suggest that it was wrong to grant that form of subsidy to country interests.
– Why, then, did the Minister describe it as iniquitous?
– The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale), who has interjected, goes to sleep during a debate, wakes up for a second, hears one word and wants to base a case on it. I repeat that it was an iniquitous system under which the railways were used as a method of subsidizing various industries, because that system made serious inroads upon railway revenue. These losses in revenue were for years successfully used to prevent railwaymen getting reasonable pay and conditions. Later, it was realized that credit for those subsidies should be given to railway revenue.
A similar situation arose with developmental railways, which, it was known, could not be operated at a profit. At one period the railways were showing a return of approximately 3 per cent, on the total amount invested in them, but as the money had been borrowed at approximately 5 per cent., there was a loss of 2 per cent, on vast blocks of capital. Unfortunately, that loss was used as an argument against the claims of railway employees when they sought better wages and conditions. I am glad to say that their wages and conditions have been greatly improved in recent years. The practices to which I have referred, combined with the failure to provide essential capital expenditure, have resulted in a series of successive and accumulating deficits. If the railways are to play to the full their important part in the transport structure of the Commonwealth, they must be modernized and standardized. This bill makes a real advance in that direction in respect of South Australia, but similar action is required in other States. The report that has been furnished to the Victorian Government by an eminent overseas expert, Mr. John Elliott, on the deficiencies of the railway system in that State, confirms the views of most persons with an experience of it. A similar report on the Western Australian railways was completed this year by a combined committee of Commonwealth technical officers and Western Australian railway and treasury officers. Both reports show most clearly the urgent need for immediate action to prevent further deterioration of the railways in those States. It is pleasing to know that Victoria is negotiating with the Commonwealth for a separate agreement about railway standardization, and it is hoped that the Western Australian Government will reply to a proposal made to it by the Commonwealth. There can be no doubt that our present railway system, with its varying gauges, and consequential transfer points, is quite unsuitable for a country of the. size and population of Australia. The irritating restrictions on the carriage of passengers and freight, as a result of this archaic system, must be removed, and replaced by a system adapted to meet the demands of the present time. In the absence of standardization, railway working costs are excessive.
I support the bill, which, I understand, is not being opposed. When railwaygauges have been standardized, national development can be accelerated, and the strategic value of the railways will be improved. As has been stated, the standardization of railway gauges is the second largest public work that has been undertaken in Australia. An agreement has been reached with the Government of South Australia, and I hope that it will not be long before Victoria, and later New South Wales, will become parties to similar agreements. Although the railway gauge in New South Wales is already standard, that State, by supplying rails and other materials, would benefit largely from the work of standardization in other States. I do not suggest that all the railways in Queensland should be standardized at this time, hut the main lines should be, and those in the coastal area. The Minister for Transport is well qualified to bring this work to a successful conclusion.
.- 1 whole-heartedly support the Government’s proposals for the standardization of railway gauges. I have had some experience of the disastrous effects of a break of gauge in time of war. During the retreat of the Turks from Palestine through Syria, accompanied by a large number of German and Austrian troops, the destruction of the Turkish Army was completed because of the break of railway gauge at Damascus. The Turkish Army of 135,000 soldiers had been defeated by the British forces in Palestine, but it was its inability to withdraw over the railway line from Damascus, because of the break of gauge, that utterly destroyed’ its ability to go on fighting, so that five days later the Turks concluded an armistice with the British, and that was the beginning of the break-up of the forces opposed to the Allies. The railway line running from Palestine to Damascus was of 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, but the line from Damascus to Rayak and Beirut was of the French mountain gauge, with ratchet attachment. The rest of the line, right through to Berlin, was of standard gauge. The Turks were unable to get away with their men and materials. They were not even able to take away their currency, so that my own unit captured at Maidan railway station a 16-ton truck loaded with coined silver. I do not say that the whole 16 tons reached head-quarters, but, at any rate, 5 G.S. wagons reached there loaded with silver coin. Lacking the means of retreat because of the break of railway gauge, the defeated Turkish forces had’ no chance to escape from the pursuing force, consisting of six divisions of cavalry, and so they were destroyed. I shudder to think what would have happened to Australia if the Japanese had landed, in force on any part of the Australian coast. I do not believe that there was ever anything in the “ Brisbane line “ story ; that was a lot of “ tripe “. But if a considerable force had been landed in the vicinity of Newcastle and Sydney, and our forces had been compelled to retreat south, Albury, where the break of gauge occurs, would have been the scene of the defeat of the Australian forces. Therefore, irrespective of cost, and irrespective of what authority controls operations, I believe that we should standardize our railway gauges. I commend the Premier of South Australia for being statesman enough to enter an agreement with a government supported by a political party opposed to his own, and to accept the great benefit which is offered to his State, and to Australia as a whole.
Although I greatly regret to say it, I believe that we have not fought our last war. Australia has already fought in two major wars, and suffered a great loss in treasure and in its young manhood; but if we do not prepare for the next war, we shall lose, not only treasure and lives, but also our identity as a people, and the possibility of becoming one of the great nations of the world.
I do not agree that the railways, when gauges are standardized, should come under the sole control of the Commonwealth. That would not be in the best interests of Australia. There is no reason why the railway system should not be run efficiently under the control of the six States. The railways of England are owned and conducted by various railway companies, which interchange rolling stock. The same applies to the railway system of the
United States of America. If our railway gauges were standardized, there is no reason why trucks belonging to the Department of Railways, in Victoria, should not carry goods all the way to Perth and Brisbane, and return loaded with goods from those States. From Queensland, they would bring back sugar, which is so necessary to many of Victoria’s industries.
I do not think that it would be possible to defend Australia, with its vast distances, unless railway gauges were standardized. I have heard people say that the railway connexion between Sydney and Melbourne could be broken by destroying the bridge at Albury, or that railway traffic could be stopped by destroying the bridge over the Burdekin River. The Rhine is one of the great rivers of the world, a fast running stream. It has always been considered a great natural barrier, which only military leaders of the type of Napoleon, or Adolfus of Sweden, could successfully cross with their armies. During the last war, our Air Force repeatedly destroyed the railway bridges over the Rhine, and within 24 hours the trains were running again. During the Palestine campaign, in the first world war, a force of 100 Australians, drawn from various regiments, together with 5,000 Egyptian labourers, laid 7 miles of railway track from the Wadi Guzze past Shellal. An engine pushed in front of it a train of trucks loaded with the rails and sleepers, whilst in front of that again, tractors with ploughs prepared the track for the laying of the sleepers, and the train kept moving all the time. Any one who says that railway traffic can be stopped by bombing simply does not know the facts. Bombs could stop traffic for 12 or 24 hours, but I believe that the destruction of railway bridges over the largest rivers in Australia would not hold up traffic for more than 48 hours.
As I have said, I do not agree with the proposal that the entire railway system of Australia should be controlled by the Commonwealth. For one thing, that would facilitate the holding up of railway traffic by industrial disputes. Recently, we had the experience of a trade union, controlled by theorists, who were antiAustralian and anti-British-
– The honorable member should return to the bill.
– My remarks are relevant to the bill, because the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) suggested in his speech that the railways should come under Commonwealth control.
– The subjectmatter of the bill is the standardization of railway gauges ; that, and nothing more.
– Then, you should not have allowed the Minister to say what he did.
– If the honorable member proposes to debate the matter with the Chair, he will lose the argument, because I shall order him to sit down.
– Apart from the suggestion that the railways should be controlled by the Commonwealth, I commend the proposals of the Minister for Transport. It is not often that I find myself in agreement with the Minister, a fact which makes me inclined to doubt my judgment on this occasion. I believe that the work of standardizing the railway gauges of Australia is essential to the wellbeing of the country. I hope that before long an agreement will be reached with Victoria, and that in our time it will be possible to travel from Cairns to Perth without changing trains, and to carry iron ore from Port Augusta to Newcastle, without unloading and loading where two railway systems meet.
– The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) has taken another step towards implementing his ideal of a standard railway gauge throughout Australia. The Premier of South Australia has been big enough to accept a proposal that will considerably benefit his State and be of undoubted strategic value. The proposal will help South Australia and the Northern Territory to produce more meat, because it will make possible the transport of stock to market. I agree with the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford) that railway transport has a part to play in Australia. Undoubtedly, the Minister for Transport agrees with him, too; but, apparently, one member of the ‘Government, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), does not agree, because last night, when I mentioned the standardization of railway gauges and Sir Harold Clapp’s report on the Queensland railways, he roundly criticized me and said that Australia could not get enough steel to build even 20 miles of railway line for ten years. I should Tike to know whether the proposal is to be shelved for ten years. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) told me this morning that steel could ‘be imported and that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited could double its steel production. Does the Minister for Transport agree with the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, and consider that the proposed work will be ‘held up for another ten years ? When the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction twisted my remarks about railways, he either did not ‘know what the policy of his Government was or disagreed with it. But ie is not -game to say where he stands. The same purpose las is to ‘he achieved in South Australia could be achieved in Queensland if Sir Harold
Clasp’s .recommendations were accepted. Queensland could be linked with the Northern Territory. That would be of strategic v<alue and it would <also help production .by providing a system «of transport in land that -cries out for it. I congratulate South Australia on having -accepted -this proposal. Queensland is losing by (failing to ‘take advantage of .a similar proposal. Sir Harold Clapp has recommended -a connecting link between the southern, central and northern railway lines in ‘Queensland, and a line to the Northern Territory. I believe that the Queensland Government made another proposal that the Minister for Transport does not agree with. It is for a connecting line nearer the coast than that proposed by Sir Harold Clapp. Such a line would not be desirable from the viewpoint of either production or strategy. Either what I proposed last night or what Sir Harold Clapp has proposed in ‘his report should’ be accepted.
– It is essential, in the interests of defence, that we have a standard railway gauge .between ‘the capital cities df Australia. 3?>hat is my only interest in .this matter. I have always vigorously -opposed the idea that we should tear up all our railway lines and re-lay .them in order to make the gauges uniform with that in New South Wales. I particularly oppose the idea now when we have so many other public works to do, especially those that will provide an assurance against .drought. We have a standard railway gauge from Brisbane to -Sydney. I do not see any purpose in pulling up the broad gauge line from Albury to Melbourne. A .standard gauge line from Bombala to Melbourne would lin-k Melbourne with Brisbane without need to change trains. Such a line would link with the South Australian system. The line from Port Pirie to Kalgoorlie is a standard gauge line. Little work would need to be done to convert the line from Kalgoorlie to Perth to the standard gauge. What I have suggested would provide a ‘standard gauge line (between the capital cities of Australia.
– in reply - It is pleasing to me to know that this measure ‘has received such .general support. ‘The honorable member -for Wakefield ‘(Mr. McBride), in his opening sentence, ‘said that he was in favour of .this great national work and then went on to argue against proceeding with .it. He talked of previous investigations of the standardization of railway gauges and expressed regret that the work had not been proceeded with then. He said that in 1921 it had been estimated ‘that the standardization of railway gauges would cost £57,000,000. All honorable members know that the cost to-day is estimated to be much greater “than that. If the work is delayed further the cost will rise still more. All the ‘States are in ‘agreement about the need for standardization of ‘railway gauges. It may:be inferred from what ‘has been .said in this discussion that ‘Queensland and Western Australia :are .not in favour of it, but to infer that -would the wrong, because all the States approve ;of the principle, ;and the only difference that exists concerns, firstly and mainly., financial obligations and, secondly, the dispute between ‘Queensland and New
South Wales about the priority to be given to certain sections of the work. I agree with the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford) that, in the depression, when labour and materials were readily available, the Australian governments ought to have been f ar-sighted enough to proceed with the work. There are times which are favorable for carrying out great national works. I believe that now is- a favorable time to proceed with the standardization of railway gauges. During the war, because of insufficient maintenance, the Australian railways became dilapidated. That is especially true of Western Australia. The Government of Western Australia appointed Mr. Duplessis and Mr. Gibson to report on the condition of the Western Australian railways. They reported that their condition was so deplorable that it would cost £26,000,000 to rehabilitate them. The State government is unable to meet the cost. We have discussed the matter with it and made what I regard as a generous offer. Other State railway systems are in a bad condition. Some of the lines need almost to be reconstructed. It appears- obvious that, during the period of reconstruction they should be converted to the standard gauge. Regardless of what the Commonwealth does, the States are faced- with the expenditure of millions of pounds and the use of men and materials in rehabilitating and reconstructing their railways. So the time is opportune to begin this- great national work. We have heard the argument regarding the alleged obsolescence of railways, but I think that all honorable members agree with transport experts that no matter’ how we arrange our internal transport system, railways will always be the basis of it. That does not mean that we have to abandon the development of’ road or air transport. It does not necessarily mean that every railway in Australia to-day ought to be retained’ and standardized. I believe that the present trend in connexion with railway transport is to eliminate, as far as possible, short spur lines and to use good roads for the purpose of feeding traffic into rail terminals and speeding up transport’ over the main system. I do not agree with the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard
Corser) that all that is necessary is to link the State capitals with standardized lines, because many of the advantages of standardization arise from having standardized locomotives and rollingstock and the interchangeability of rollingstock’ which is only possible where the whole of the main railway system i9 standardized. This is in itself an important” advantage in the efficient working of the railway’ system.
– What is the approximate mileage to be covered- by the third rail system’?
-7-The Australian Govern.ment does not favour the third rail system. It favours the standardization of the tracks themselves and also the standardization of rolling-stock, which will eventually mean a great saving and a greater efficiency in the operation costs of the railway systems. As I have said, all of the’ States are in agreement.
The honorable member for Wakefield commenced’ his speech by saying that he was in favour of the bill and then advanced all sorts’ of reasons why the work of standardization should not” be proceeded with. That latter opinion is not shared by the Premier of his own State, South Australia-.
The’ honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) and I very seldom agree oh anything^’ as he has” said, but T agree with’ his statement that once this great work is commenced it should’ be proceeded with until it is completed. That does not mean that’ it should be given priority over all other work. It should1’ be given its correct priority, having regard to the requirement’s’ cif the’ nation. The Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, is stressing the need for carrying out certain of these railway works as-early as possible. One of’ those works was mentioned by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy). I refer to the Telford to Port Augusta line. The South Australian Government plans to- construct a; great power’ station- at Port Augusta. It hopes’ that’ within- two or’ three years- it will have ari annua! production of i;000,000’ tons of’ coal coming down from Leigh- Creek- to– Port Augusta.
Mr. Playford hag been pressing the Commonwealth to get on with the work of standardizing the railway from Telford to Port Augusta. The same applies to the Peterborough division in the northeast of South Australia. The question that arises in respect of the standardization of the latter railway, however, is that it is essential that something be done about the short stretch between Cockburn and Broken Hill, which is now covered by the railway owned by the Silverton Tramway Company Limited. We are not expecting any difficulty in that direction. The charter under which that company operates was granted’ by the New South Wales Government and that railway can be acquired only by that Government. The New South Wales Government has agreed to co-operate with the Commonwealth when the Commonwealth considers that it is essential to do the work in connexion with that stretch of line. Broken Hill will be the terminal of the line. The New South Wales Government has merely raised the point that it is unable to finance the work, in respect of which a verbal agreement has been reached for that section of line when acquired and converted to be incorporated in the South Australian system.
The question of how this agreement affects Victoria has been raised. Only to-day I have had discussions with the Victorian Minister of Transport and his technical officers and I am quite confident that, had this Parliament not been drawing to its close, an agreement with Victoria would have been signed and the necessary legislation would have been passed through the Parliament. We have made progress in our efforts to overcome one or two outstanding difficulties, and as a result, I am hopeful that an agreement will be concluded at an early date. Its conclusion prior to the general election in December is, of course, not possible.
South Australia recognizes that it would be unwise to convert to the 4-ft. 84-in. gauge the section of their railway system adjoining the Victorian system until Victoria itself is ready to make a similar change. That principle is recognized in both States. These are only technical difficulties, however, which the technicians advising both the Australian
Government and the State governments admit are not very formidable.
I turn now to the matter of the availability of steel. Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has stated that it would be able to increase its production of steel without expanding its existing plant, if adequate coal supplies were available, by 500,000 tons a year - that is to say, from 1,250,000 tons to 1,750,000 tons. I understand that the company is also planning for an extension of its plant that will eventually raise its steel production to 4,000,000 tons a year.
With steel production being stepped up, we believe that this work and other important works can proceed without any vital interruption of essential industry. The Commonwealth is now planning to assist in the development of increased coal production. I think honorable members will recognize that one of our great difficulties with respect to coal supplies is that, whilst greater quantities of coal than hitherto are being produced, the demand for it is much greater than it was previously. For that reason exploratory work is being carried out to discover new coal-fields. The Commonwealth is assisting in the development of transport to bring coal from the areas in which it is mined. Next week a committee of technical experts is going to Queensland to confer with the Queensland authorities regarding the development of coal resources in that State. The Government is also conducting negotiations with the Victorian Government in regard to the development of certain coal deposits in the Gippsland district and, as I have already stated, it is co-operating with the South Australian Government in the development of coal production at Leigh Creek.
The project that is the subject of this bill does not stand alone. It is a part of a great national plan for development and I believe that whilst this agreement is a great step forward, it is only the first phase of this great national work. I am convinced that, once commenced, this work will go through to completion. I am very gratified at the approval which this measure has received from the House and the country generally.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill presented by Mr. Dedman, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to give effect to an agreement that has been entered into between the Commonwealth and the Government of the State of Tasmania for the regulation and improvement of the coal industry in that State. Honorable members will recall that in 1946 this Parliament passed the Coal Industry Act, the purpose of which was to give effect to an agreement that had been entered into with the Government of the State of New South Wales for the establishment of authorities, on a joint basis, for the regulation and improvement of the coal industry in that State. After that legislation came into operation the Government pointed out to the other coalproducing States the need for increased production of coal in the interests of the whole of the Australian community, and with that object in view, offered to conclude agreements for the introduction of legislation for the establishment of joint authorities for the regulation and improvement of the coal industry in those States. The Government, of course, has regarded it as a matter of vital national concern that adequate supplies of coal should be available to meet the requirements of consumers throughout Australia, and has considered that it should do all in its power, on a proper basis, to assist any State in which coal is produced, and which is prepared to take steps to increase such production.
The Government of Tasmania has now requested the Commonwealth to join it in the establishment of a joint authority having power to regulate and improve the Tasmanian coal industry with a view to increasing supplies of
Tasmanian coal. The Government of Tasmania has pointed out that the demand for Tasmanian coal is expected to increase steadily until in 1953 it will be approximately double that of 1948. In order to bring about the necessary expanded production correspondingly, the provision of considerable finance, organization and planning will be necessary. The Commonwealth has acceded to the request of the Government of Tasmania and has concluded the agreement with that Government set forth in the preamble to this bill. The Government of Tasmania will introduce into the State Parliament as quickly as possible the complementary legislation covered by the agreement. The legislation to be passed by this Parliament and the Parliament of Tasmania will together confer upon the proposed joint authority all the powers that .are considered necessary to achieve the objects of the proposal, each parliament legislating to confer such powers to the extent of and within the limits of its constitutional powers.
The joint legislation will authorize the establishment of a joint authority to be known .as the Tasmanian Joint Coal Board. The board will consist of the persons who for the time being are members of the Joint Coal Board established in respect of New South Wales by the Coal Industry Act 1946, and one other member. It is proposed that the additional member will, between meetings of the full board and subject to decisions of the full board on matters of policy, carry out generally the executive functions of the board in relation to day-to-day problems. The powers and functions to be conferred upon the Tasmanian Joint Goal Board are to be substantially identical with those that have been conferred upon the New South Wales Joint Coal Board, with certain exceptions which have been agreed to having regard to differences in the character and extent of the problems faced by the two authorities. The Tasmanian board will not have the power that has been conferred upon the New South Wales board of compulsorily acquiring coal mines or the special power of making an order placing the day-to-day management of a particular coal mine under its direct control. As in the case of the New South Wales board, the Tasmanian board will have full powers, not only to take steps to increase production of coal in Tasmania, but also to ensure the proper and equitable distribution and use of the coal, but also to regulate the selling price of the coal and to promote the health and safety and industrial welfare of the mine-workers and the social welfare of the mine-workers and their dependants and of communities of persons in coal-mining areas.
The joint legislation of which this bill forms a part -will also provide for the establishment of machinery to deal with certain aspects of the industrial conditions of the workers engaged in the production of coal in Tasmania. It will authorize the establishment of a special tribunal which, under the -State legislation, will have power to deal with, and settle effectively and expeditiously, intrastate industrial disputes which may arise in the industry from time to time and which might otherwise interfere with production.
The Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania have agreed to divide responsibility for financing the operation of the Tasmanian board on a basis similar to the formula that was included in the agreement for the establishment of the New South “Wales Joint Coal Board. The Commonwealth and the State will share the cost of administration equally and will make contributions on a fl-for-£l basis to the Tasmanian Joint Coal Board’s “Welfare Fund. The amount which the Tasmanian board will receive each year for welfare purposes will be related to the contributions made to the welfare fund of the New South “Wales board. All other expenses, including those arising from any production or trading activities that are undertaken by the Tasmania board, will be met by the Commonwealth, which will also provide finance for capital purposes.
Debate (on motion .by Mr. Habbison) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Holloway) read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of the bill is to amend section 6 of the National Health Service Act 1948. In its present form section 6 provides that the regulations may make provision for a scheme for payment by the Commonwealth on behalf of persons to whom professional services have been rendered by medical practitioners participating in the scheme. The payment would be a stipulated portion of the fee prescribed for the particular purpose. Honorable members are aware that the Commonwealth proposes to pay direct to the doctor 50 per cent, of the fees charged by him for services given to the patient. The Government also proposes to prescribe a schedule of maximum fees chargeable by doctors who voluntarily participate in the scheme. The Government is anxious to introduce the scheme as early as possible so that its benefits may flow to persons who need medical attention, and much of the detailed work has already been done. In framing the regulations, however, it has become apparent that if section 6 were left in its present form payment for medical services would be rigidly and literally limited to those items which are expressly referred to in schedules of the regulations. From an administrative standpoint such an inelastic system has serious disabilities. It is hot considered feasible to draw up a complete and comprehensive schedule embracing every possible medical condition or combination of conditions that would be met with in practice. Furthermore, it is doubtful whether any set of regulations which attempted to conform strictly with section 6 in its present form could provide for the exclusion of certain patients - for example, compensation cases and persons living in areas in which other classes of medical services are provided - or permit the making of special arrangements, if thought desirable, where agreements for the provision of medical services exist between doctors and particular groups such as friendly societies and industrial and other medical schemes. There is also some doubt about whether section 6 permits a mileage allowance to be prescribed which would have regard to the actual mileage travelled by doctors to render professional services in rural areas.
The measure now before the House is designed to provide the flexibility which will ensure that the regulations shall be so drawn that the benefits contemplated will reach the people to the fullest extent. At the same time it has been thought desirable to extend the section to show in outline the general nature of the scheme.
Clause 3 of the bill provides for the repeal of section 6 and the substitution of a new section which will enable the Minister to make special arrangements of the nature already referred to, where such a course is desirable. Another important feature of the clause is that it provides that three months’ notice must be given before any fee can be reduced. Clause 4 provides for the deletion of the word “ advisory “ from section 16 of the act. Section 16 enables the Minister to establish such advisory committees as he thinks fit for the purposes of the act. It will probably be found desirable to establish committees other than those of an advisory nature and the section in its new form will be less restricted. Clause 5 extends the power which may be taken under the regulations by providing for the investing of any court of a State with federal jurisdiction over matters arising under the scheme. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.4-7 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 25th October (vide page 1948), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This is a bill for an act to ensure, so far as Commonwealth legislative power permits, a just and orderly sharing of liquid fuel amongst the people of Aus tralia while such fuel is in short supply, and for other purposes. When only limited quantities of petrol are availablefor distribution, it is necessary that some* - form of control of the distribution of thosequantities should be imposed so that industry and essential services may beenabled to continue to operate. Only limited quantities of petrol are availablefor distribution in Australia at the present time, and therefore this measure has been brought down by the Government.
The fact that the Government hasfound it necessary to introduce this measure is a concrete example of the inability of socialism to meet a national emergency. Petrol is an essential commodity. The responsibility of ensuring that adequate quantities of it are available to the community falls upon the Commonwealth. The Australian Government, by granting or refusing to issue import licences, is able to determine the quantity of petrol that shall be imported into this country. It can determine how much or how little petrol should be imported, and from where it should be purchased. Being faced with a shortage of this essential commodity, what did the Government do? Did it devote its attention to finding ways and means of increasing petrol imports so that the requirements of the Australian people and of Australian industry and essential services could be satisfied ? I can see no evidence that it did so. On the contrary, it adopted the purely negative policy of drastically reducing imports. The result is that the production potential of this nation is now gravely threatened. Collieries are idle, because there is no petrol available for the transport of coal. Wheat-growers areapprehensive of the possibility that insufficient petrol will be available to enable the wheat harvest to be transported to the marketing centres. There is insufficient petrol available to move the products of our primary industries to the seaports or to move the products of our secondary industries to the rural areas. Milk is being wasted because there is no transport available to move it to the centres at which it is normally processed. I have just returned from a tour of a dairying district, and I have first-hand knowledge of the position that obtains in that area.
When the censure motion in relation to petrol was being debated in this chamber recently, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said -
The primary reason that we cannot obtain from dollar areas all of the petrol and other commodities that we should like, is that we can neither earn nor buy dollars to pay for them.
The right honorable gentleman left the matter there. He did not say a word about the possibility of obtaining petrol from non-dollar areas. He was content to rest upon that statement and to take no further action. It was left to what honorable gentlemen opposite refer to as free enterprise to obtain additional supplies of petrol from non-dollar areas. During the whole of the petrol controversy the object of the Government has been to confuse the issue and to decry any suggestions that greater quantities of petrol can be obtained than the Government has admitted are available’ to it. I go further than that, and say that it has been the policy of the Government, not only to decry such suggestions, but, if I may lapse into the vernacular, to “ knock “ those who made them. That attitude has driven the Government into the paths of confusion. From time to time statements have been made by persons who are commonly called government spokesmen. Those statements have been remarkable for their inconsistency. The Prime Minister said recently that, following the cessation of petrol rationing, the oil companies increased their sales until stocks were down to the very lowest level consistent with security. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) maintained, however, that the petrol shortage would ease considerably when the oil companies were granted higher prices. The Government cannot have it both ways. The Prime Minister speaks with one voice and the Minister for Shipping and Fuel speaks with another. On the 18th October, the Prime Minister said, in answer to a question that was addressed to him in this chamber, that the lack of dollars necessitated the restriction of imports of fuel during the year. On the same day he said in answer to another question -
Inquiries have been made with a view to obtaining petrol from soft currency areas, but we have been unsuccessful up to date.
In the next breath the right honorable gentleman stated, in reply to an interjection, that he had sanctioned the issue of a licence to Ampol to import 12,500,000 gallons of petrol from France. He went on to say -
I have been given to understand by other oil companies that the importing of petrol from France will be an uneconomic proposition. However, I hope that further supplies of petrol will be obtained from France during the next eight months. France refines crude oil and exports the spirit.
The conflicting statements that have been made by Government spokesmen prove conclusively that the negative policy that has been adopted by the Government has driven it into the paths of confusion. It is a remarkable fact that free enterprise, which is anathema to socialists, is showing a socialist government a way out of the present petrol crisis.
On the 11th October the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) said that a reserve of 50,000,000 gallons of petrol had to be maintained for defence purposes, but a few days later, speaking in this House, he scouted the idea that war is imminent and said that there is no possibility of it for five or ten years. If the Minister is right and there is not likely to be a threat of war for ten years, why should not a portion of the 50,000,000 gallons of petrol that is being kept as a defence reserve be released so that essential services and industries may be enabled to continue to operate? I do not suggest that any of that petrol should be used for the purposes of pleasure. If there is no possibility of war for a period of ten years and if we have a defence reserve of 50,000,000 gallons of petrol, it passes my comprehension why tha Government has not made a portion of the reserve available to tide us over the present difficult situation. This country and its industries are in a state of chaos to-day. The fact is that so many forms of control have been declared by the High Court to be. invalid that the Government is determined to make at least one control stick. When the High Court decided in favour of the Melbourne City Council in the litigation in which a section of the Banking Act was challenged, the Prime Minister said, in effect, “We shall nationalize banking”. He has adopted a similar technique in relation to petrol rationing. The right honorable gentleman is very obstinate. He believes that, having regard to his position of authority, what he says must go. If the High Court has the temerity to interfere with a decision that he has made, he will ensure by some means that the decision of the court is by-passed and that his decision will prevail eventually. Since the announcement of the High Court decision in relation to petrol rationing, the whole of the efforts of the Government have been devoted to establishing a case for the re-introduction of petrol rationing. Controls and regimentation are part of the socialist doctrine, because without them socialists cannot govern effectually. Like other socialist governments, this Government is not concerned with private enterprise or with efforts that private enterprise is making to obtain supplies of vital fuel for the nation unless the supplies that are obtained are subject to strict governmental control.
The Prime Minister has blamed many persons and bodies for the petrol shortage. He has blamed the Premiers and the oil companies for making the position worse than it should have been. He has said that the Premiers did not act quickly enough after the High Court decision was announced, and that the oil companies have not honoured promises that they made to restrict sales to the rationing level. The Prime Minister attacked Commonwealth Oil Henneries Limited, in which the Government is the largest shareholder, as the worst offender. Yesterday, in the House, he attacked the Opposition parties for having dared to suggest that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, when returned to the treasury bench on the 10 th December next, would proceed to get all the petrol that Australia needed, and thereby obviate the necessity for rationing. We have made that statement, and I assure the House and the country that we shall honour it. The unrealistic attitude of the Government towards the importation of additional supplies of petrol, and, indeed, its colossal blundering efforts, may be seen in the story of the attempt by Ampol to import petrol from Poland, and of its failure to do so because of hindering tactics on the part of the Government. The story, briefly, is that on the 22nd August last, Ampol applied to the Department of Trade and Customs for permission to buy a consignment of Polish petrol. I pause at this point in order to remind the House that, at the moment, Ampol has been granted a licence to import petrol from France. Ampol claimed that it could purchase petrol from Poland. On the 25th August, that company wrote a letter to the Department of Trade and Customs in which it requested an answer to its application. In other words, a delay of three days had occurred since the company had made its original request. At that time, petrol was in great demand. I believe that that delay was a part of the Government’s policy to prevent the importation of additional supplies of petrol. On the 31st August, the company had a telephone conversation with the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs, and requested a decision on its application. On the 2nd September the London agent of Ampol sent the following cable to his principles in Australia: -
Must have immediate decision. Cannot extend offer any longer.
Ampol then made a telephone call to the Prime Minister, and asked for a decision upon its application. On the 6th September, the company received a telegram from the Prime Minister in which he approved of the request. I remind the House that the application had been made on the 22nd August, but approval was not given until the 6th September. On the 7th September, Ampol’s London agent cabled to his principals in Australia to the effect that, because of the delay that has occurred, the Polish vendors had sold the cargo elsewhere. That is the classic example of the determination of the Government to hinder the importation of additional supplies of petrol, because it had declared that sales of petrol must be rationed. Ampol has publicly stated that Australia may obtain enough sterling petrol to make rationing unnecessary in this country. The company considers that the importation of an additional 40,000,000 gallons of petrol will be sufficient for that purpose. The Polish petrol was on offer, and all that was required was an import licence from the Department of Trade and Customs. The obstacle to the purchase of that petrol was the delay on the part of the Government in granting the necessary licence. If the Government persists with that policy, petrol will be rationed as long as the Labour party occupies the treasury bench.
The petrol situation is too important to this country to be made the plaything of party politics. As I have stated, the experience of Ampol provides a classic example of government blundering, which lias hindered us from obtaining additional petrol. Ampol said that it subsequently rejected an offer of 22,500,000 /gallons of petrol from France because the price at which it would have to be sold in Australia would not be economic. The position was that approximately :30,000,000 gallons of petrol were available. The importation of additional supplies at the rate of 4,500,000 gallons a month would overcome the. existing petrol shortage. The petrol was offered to us, subject to certain conditions which I shall discuss as I progress.
In answer to a question that I directed to the Prime Minister this morning, the right honorable gentleman said that the French petrol would cost more than the petrol that we obtain from our usual sources of supply. I asked the Prime Minister whether he would waive primage and the petrol tax on the French petrol so that it would not have to be sold at a higher price than that at which petrol is normally retailed to the public. It is within the power of the Government to grant both of those requests. Ampol has suggested that the Government should subsidize the cost of the French petrol by an amount of 3d. a gallon, and it is within the Government’s power to grant that request. The additional petrol that would be sold in Australia would be subject to the petrol tax of 10$d. a gallon, plus primage, and the revenue from those sources would reimburse the Government for the amount of the subsidy of 3d. a gallon. The Prime Minister replied that the French petrol might be an uneconomic proposition, and might cost us more than the cost of petrol from our usual sources of supply. I remind the right honorable gentleman that the Government has no hesitation in paying for imported steel two or three times the price at which steel is produced in Australia. Steel is in short supply, and the Prime Minister has authorized the importation of steel at a price that is considerably in excess of the local manufacturing price. Some government contracts specify that imported steel shall be used. Therefore, the Government should not have any qualms about allowing petrol, which is in short supply, to be purchased at a higher price than that at which supplies are normally available. The Government has established a precedent with steel, and petrol has an equal claim for special consideration.
The Prime Minister stated on the 14th September that supplies of crude oil were plentiful. Of course, they are ! There is no world shortage of crude oil. The Prime Minister explained that the shortage of petrol in the sterling area was due to the lack of refining capacity. I shall examine that statement, because it is most important. “We have already had some experience of importing petrol from the sterling area. According to the latest reports, the petrol refining industry of France has made great progress this year. Those reports must be accurate, otherwise France would not be able to offer us 30,000,000 or 40,000,000 gallons of petrol. The French companies hope that by the end of 1952 France will be one of the principal exporters of petroleum products. That is common knowledge. Australia is represented in France by an ambassador and a trade commissioner, and the Government must have known for some time that France could provide us with petrol. If the Government had not been supplied with that information, I should like to know what our trade commissioner was doing. Of course, the Government knew that France could offer us petrol. I do not believe for a moment that our representatives overseas have not been aware of the position, and that they have not made that information available to the Government. Therefore, I charge the Government with being aware of the position relative to the importation of petrol, with deliberately ignoring the fact that petrol was available, and with permitting the people of this country to suffer untold difficulties through the lack of petrol. Our industries have been seriously handicapped, our national development has been retarded, and the personal comfort of our people has been affected for several years by the shortage of petrol. The Prime Minister has declined to consider suggestions for obtaining additional petrol since the High Court declared that the Commonwealth’s war-time power to ration sales of petrol was no longer valid. The Prime Minister must not be baulked when he considers that the Government is pursuing a certain policy in the national interest! That paternal attitude which the right honorable gentleman adopts towards the people who, he considers, must obey him, is becoming nauseating to the general public. I do not believe that our trade commissioners abroad have not been aware of the position, and have not made available to the Government the information that petrol may be obtained from France. Therefore, the Government stands indicted on that charge. Free enterprise has had to show the Government the way in which to obtain petrol, and the Opposition parties have had to prod and flog the Government to seize the opportunity that free enterprise has made possible to procure petrol from abroad.
It is monstrous that this Government, which is pledged to advance the interests of the people, is not concerned with obtaining additional supplies of petrol, which are urgently required for our essential industries, and for transporting the harvest. It should be the first responsibility of the Government to ensure that essential industries have adequate supplies of liquid fuel. It is monstrous that we should find ourselves in this position when we recall that France, ravaged by two world wars and beaten completely into submission in 1940, has sufficient petrol for its own requirements and* a surplus for export. Australia, one of the victorious nations, was not ravaged by war, and its industrial centres were not damaged. “We have a vast manufacturing potential, the best sources of iron and steel, and the best coal seams that are known, but our steel works are producing at only 64.6 per cent, of their capacity. If adequate supplies of steel were available, we could erect our own oil refineries, as France has done. The only three countries in the world that have socialist governments are subject to severe forms of rationing. The position is monstrous. The United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia are waiting cap in hand on war-ravaged France for supplies of petrol. We are supposed to pride ourselves upon our ability to manufacture steel at a lower cost than any other country is able to produce it. Australia had an export trade in steel, but we are now importing some of our steel requirements. We should be able to manufacture our own oil refineries in order that we should not be placed in the position of having to appeal to other countries, for our petrol supplies. The Opposition parties believe that petrol can be procured from abroad, and, therefore, wemake it perfectly clear to the Government and to the people that we shall procure sufficient petrol for the requirements of this nation when we are returned to the treasury bench on the 10th December next. We shall make it our first business to get all the petrol that Australia needs, and to make it available without rationing. It is essential for us to register the fact that we have a definite objective in view. We do not propose to follow the negative socialist policy. We know that there is a surplus of crude oil in the world to-day, and that petrol can be obtained. Clause 14 of the bill reads as follows: - (1.) Subject to this section, this Act shall cease to be in force on a date to be fixed by Proclamation. (2.) This Act shall not continue in force after the thirty-first day of August, One thousand nine hundred and fifty. (3.) This Act shall be deemed to be repealed as from the time at which it ceases to be in force.
We propose, when the bill is in committee, to move an amendment to insert the word “ January “ in place of the word “ August We believe that when we are returned to power on the 10th December we shall be in a position to make petrol obtainable. We know that it is possible to purchase between 30,000;00O and 40,000,000 gallons of petrol overseas. The Government could subsidize the purchase of the petrol, or remit primage duty, or reduce the petrol duty.
If the Government will accept the amendment which we propose to move, we shall not call for a division; hut if it refuses to do so, we shall divide the committee.
– The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) said - and he was in the subjunctive mood when he made the statement - that if thu Opposition were returned to power on the 10th December it would give the people of Australia, without rationing, all the petrol they wanted, and without any interference by the Government in any circumstances whatsoever. If the Opposition ever did become the government of this country again - and God forbid such an eventuality - it would have to do better in peace than it did when the country was at war. It then left the country defenceless, not only in arms, but also in petrol. When the rabble that sits opposite was the government, it fell to pieces in October, 1941, because its members could not even trust one another. Indeed, their hatred of one another was greater than their hatred of the enemy. When the Labour Government took over, it found that Australia had practically no petrol at all. I propose to tell thu
Story, and it is a grim one. At the 3lst December, 1940, when the war had been in progress for fifteen months, the total non-military stocks of motor spirit, in Australia amounted to 101,000,000 gallons, but they had fallen to 42,000,000 gallons by the 31st July, 1941. That was within six months of the time when the Japanese struck at Pearl Harbour, and the Pacific war began. At that time, which was before Australia became involved in the Pacific war, the armed Services were using 60,000,000 gallons of petrol a year, so that there was not nine months’ supply of petrol in hand, although everybody knew that war with the Japanese was coming. That was the time when honorable members opposite, as members or supporters of the government of the day, closed the Burma Road as part of an appeasement policy to Japan. Although it was known that it was only a matter of days or months before Japan would strike, petrol stocks were allowed to dwindle until the position became so bad that action had to be taken, and a cable was despatched by the Government-
– I rise to a point of order. I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether it is permissible to review conditions said to have obtained some years ago. The purpose of the bill is to provide for petrol rationing to a date next year. I submit that it is not permissible for the Minister to proceed as he has been doing.
– The honorable member foi Wentworth, in the course of his speech, spoke of what would be done next year in certain circumstances. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) is entitled to reply to that statement, and to recount what has happened in the past. It is always permissible to make comparisons during discussions in this House.
– I propose to go back no further than when the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) was himself a Minister of State, and when the then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the present Leader of the Opposition, either dumped his party, or his party clumped him; and when two honorable members, who had supported the then Government, one a Liberal member and the other a Country party member, voted the Government out because of its failure in regard to petrol and other matters. At that time, the petro] position was so bad that the incoming Minister for Supply and Development, the late Mr. J. A. Beasley, said that there was scarcely a smear of petrol in the country. However, when I was so rudely interrupted, I was speaking of a cable which the Menzies Government sent to Australia’s representative in Washington, Mr. R. G. Casey, on Srd August, 1941. The cable explained the position, and asked Mr. Casey to arrange for the shipment of 50,000 44- gallon drums of motor spirit to Australia by the 15th September. There were no supplies in Australia, and no tankers had been arranged for. The position was so desperate that the Government was prepared to bring out the petrol in 44- gallon drums stored in ships’ holds.
Honorable members opposite, who allowed that to happen, nOw talk of what they will do for Australia in the future.
They stand condemned as the guilty men who let the country down in time of war. They would let it down again in time of peace. They are not likely to be trusted again, however, no matter who pays for big advertisements on their behalf, and no matter how many changes of front they make on this question. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) may perpetuate his name by perpetrating fresh follies. He will go down in history as the creator of a series of Fadden’s follies in regard to petrol. At first, he wanted petrol to be brought in from Poland. Then Mr. “Warner, Minister for Housing in Victoria, wanted to import petrol from Russia.
– I rise to a point of order. So long as the Minister stands with his back to the Opposition and to the Chair, and directs his remarks entirely to Government supporters, it is impossible for us to hear him. “Will you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, ask him to address the House?
– I do not know whether that is the real reason why the honorable member cannot hear the Minister. However, I ask the Minister to address the Chair and the House.
– I do not know whether it is the honorable member’s auricular functions or his intellect that is at fault. When members of the Opposition in this Parliament, and a member of another Parliament, who is of the same political kidney, told the country that there was plenty of petrol to be had from behind the Iron Curtain, and that they knew how it was to be had, one could almost imagine that Comrade Stalin had been rung up by Comrade Warner, and that the Polish President, whose name I do not know, and probably could not pronounce even if I did know it had been rung up by Comrade Fadden. Eventually, it was found that the petrol was not available, and that those who were playing with petrol for political purposes were quite unconcerned about the effects which their fairy stories might have on the wealth producers of this nation. The Leader of the Australian Country party said in one of hi9 bucolic outbursts that there was no need for rationing. He encouraged the oil companies to sell all the petrol they could, and his friends got the petrol. I read a statement in a Sydney newspaper this week that one wealthy man, who lives on the north coast of New South Wales, had 1,000 44-gallon drums of petrol stored away. I know that wealthy men, the graziers and squatters, and big business men have hoarded petrol, but the small farmers, the small business men, and those for whom the Labour party stands, including the working man, with a small car which he uses to take his family out at week-ends, found themselves victims of the stunt worked by honorable members opposite immediately after the High Court declared the rationing regulations invalid. That decision was given on the 6th June this year, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) immediately telegraphed the State Premiers telling them of the acute dollar shortage, and of our obligation to the United Kingdom to play our part in keeping dollar expenditure down to the minimum. He acted in the way that the people would expect their leader to act, and in a way the people had a right to expect Opposition members to act in support of that action, if they had any regard for the welfare of the country, and were at all concerned with the agreement which Australia had made with the United Kingdom. However, they do not care what happens to the United Kingdom, because there is a Labour Government in power in that country. They are even prepared to allow the United Kingdom to sink. Any one who knows the facts about petrol, and the fight by the United Kingdom to survive and revive economically, realizes that the cuts in expenditure, amounting to £280,000,000, recently announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, are very real and substantial withdrawals of spending power from the people of the United Kingdom. Honorable members opposite say, “ It does not matter ; let us use more petrol ; let us import all we can import; let us do everything we can to serve the interests of our class and our supporters., and if the United Kingdom people suffer more, that is their had luck “. We have their de facto leader, a spurious Labour man in other years, the honorable member for Reid (Mr.
Lang) saying in .the publication called the Century -
We should be prepared to buy all the petrol, all the newsprint, and all the machinery that the United States merchants are prepared to ship here. Dollars are their problem, not ours. .Our problem is to see that United States merchants buy our goods.
What a callous and brutal observation to make. That he was speaking f or the big interests that finance the Opposition partj.es in this Parliament and hope that they will win the general election on the 10th December is proved by the fact that that statement is republished in a document called “ Petrol Rationing Exposed ! “, which was issued by the Victorian League of Rights, which describes itself as “non-sectional and antimonopoly”. It is published by people without any regard for truth or political decency and whose only cause is to create confusion in Australia.
The Prime Minister . not only sent a telegram to the Premiers the day after the High Court announced its judgment. A. meeting of the representatives of the oil companies was also convened. They are not all guilty men. Some of them have a sense of commercial morality, if there can be such a thing as commercial morality. The telegram to the Premiers was read and the industry was asked whether it would voluntarily put forward a plan for import quotas, and whether it would be prepared to devise some form of rationing to re-sellers. On the next day, a meeting was held between the Prime Minister, the Acting Attorney-General, the Minister for Shipping and Fuel. the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, the Minister for Trade and Customs and departmental officers at which the possibility of the States undertaking rationing was discussed. It was decided that the Acting Attorney-General should arrange telegraphic advice to the Premiers on the drafting and legal aspects of State legislation for rationing. The Government was so anxious that the people should not suffer, that, within 48 hours of the High Court’s unexpected decision, it had devised machinery to get over the situation.
Dollar difficulties are very real. The average annual deficit from 1936-37 to 1.9383.9 amounted to £9,200,0.00 in Australian currency, or 36,000,000 dollars. We have had a dollar surplus only in .the exceptional years pf World War II., when we received lend-lease aid .and when United States troops spent large sums of .dollars in Australia during their service in the South- West Pacific area. In 1946-47, the deficit amounted to £16,900,000, or 54,000,000 dollars; in 1947-48, it amounted to £.51,200,000, or 164,000,000 dollars, and, in 1048-49, it amounted to £22,400,000, or 72,000,000 dollars. We have financed our dollar purchases by drawing .on the Empire dollar pool. The Prime Minister informed the oil companies of that fact. He told them that the decision that had been made by the Government was that import licences would be issued to permit sufficient quantities of petrol to Gome into Australia after taking into account the then present stocks within Australia and to meet the sales quotas which would have been set had the rationing regulations remained in existence. That was fair and proper and it was generally recognized as such. I have no particular friend amongst the members of the press, and I do not want any. I think *the Labour party wins elections because it is opposed by the press. If Sir Keith Murdoch starts to support the Labour party, I am afraid that we shall lose ground. Leaving all that aside, I direct the attention of honorablemembers to an editorial that appeared in the Sun News-Pictorial of Thursday, the 1st September. It was headed “Petrol and Paltering”, and it stated -
Political irresponsibility has rarely been more deplorably manifest than in the reluctance of State governments to face up to the question of reintroducing petrol rationing.
Yet the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), seven weeks afterwards, says that there is no need for petrol rationing. Those who are not myopic and can look at the problem other than through political spectacles, know that that is true. The article proceeded -
In Victoria vaccillation and temporizing reached a climax at Tuesday’s meeting of the Liberal-Country party when a recommendation by the Premier for reintroduction of rationing was rejected (strangely enough on the motion of a Cabinet Minister) in favour of further procrastination.
He was Comrade- Warner, to whom I referred earlier. The article went on -
It is unfortunate that political: innuendoes and. recriminations have been introduced, into our controversy which should, be above party politics.
It concluded. -
If chaos in the distribution of these limited supplies is to be avoided the States cannot too soon invest the Federal authority with power to-, reimpose rationing.
That article- was published on the 1st September. We are still waiting for Victoria to pass its legislation and for the Legislative Council of Tasmania to pass a bill to- enable this Government to re-impose rationing. Fair distribution is impossible without rationing. The oil companies have been tried and found wanting. Most of them have broken their promise to the Prime Minister. Those who had the money to- pay black-market prices could. get the petrol, but those who had not the money could get very little. If the political’ adventurers opposite were in power again, they would do the work of the reactionary forces in this- country.
– What about the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited?.
– We hold one over 50 per cent, of the shares in that company. Our partnership was negotiated under an agreement made by the Bruce-Page Go,vernment. Under that agreement, the Commonwealth has no- managerial or administrative control of the company. That is left in- the hands of big business. The. company is part of the “ racket”.
– Labour has been in power for eight years and has done nothing about it.
– We do not break agreements. The day will come when public money will be safeguarded, though. No one can object to that. We have done a good job for Australia since we have been in office. Opposition members make a terrible mistake when they think that petrol is the latest issue on which they should base their political fortunes. First, it was communism, then socialism, then nationalization of banking,, and. now. it is petrol.
– They have- not won a round yet.
– And they will. hot. Petrol is not the burning subject that honorable members opposite would like to think it is. Petrol will not light the road to victory for the representatives of the reactionaries in this country. The exposition of the petrol situation made to-night by the honorable member for Wentworth was not honest, and was not made in the interests of the country. It was an apologia for the racketeers and black marketeers who have done well out of the miseries of the people since the High Court took away the authority of this Government to ration petrol. Petrol can be a most explosive commodity, politically and otherwise, if not properly handled. In the hands of the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale), it willdestroy his chances of getting back into Parliament. Certain oil companies, certain business interests, certain hungry, greedy, anti-social elements whose wealth is in inverse ratio to their sense of decency are the people responsible for the present situation over petrol distribution. There are certain guilty men in this Parliament and in other places. One day they will have to give an account of their stewardship before the- people of Australia.
– On the 10th December.
– Tes, and the Labour party has a date with destiny on the 10th December. At any rate, this Government gave this country petrol throughout the war. Petrol supplies in Australia were insignificant when Labour assumed office in 1941. The Labour Government got tankers. It got the confidence of the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the United States of America. It still retains the confidence of the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the United States of America.. If we could build refineries we would do so. The honorable member for Wentworth says that France is building refineries. It is doing so with the aid of the United Kingdom - the socialist Government of the United Kingdom - and the Government of the United States of America,, which is a “ new deal “ government, under the presidency of Mr. Truman, and which, Like this Government, is concerned,, not with monopolies, but with the great mass of the people.
It is an awful commentary on honorable gentlemen opposite, that, two years after the war broke out, they had to cable to the Australian Minister in Washington, “For God’s sake send us petrol in 44-gallon drums “. Within two months they were out of office, and no one wept ! They may call themselves the “ petrol party “ before the general election. They have called themselves by n lot of other names.
– The Minister calls us by a lot of names.
– I do, and my vocabulary will continue to be an extensive one until after the 10th December. The honorable member for Wentworth talked about the rise of the price of petrol. He talked about the need to build oil refineries, and to import steel for that purpose, but he did not care about the price of the steel.
– I said nothing of the kind.
– The honorable member never makes himself clear. He befogs the issue. To-night he was lost in petrol vapour. He does not mind what price we pay for imported steel. 1 have a shrewd idea that some of the oil companies have been holding petrol back in the expectation of a rise of price. I think they have been blackmailing the community as they have done before; and that they have been waiting until the price of petrol rose so that they could unload more petrol on the market. How did it come about that last Saturday one company, this miserable little Ampol group that, with its subsidiaries, does not. import more than 5 per cent, of the petrol used in Australia, could rush petrol out to the north shore of Port Jackson? How does it come about that through such stunts it gets free advertisements over the Australian Broadcasting Commission .news service and everywhere else ? It was doing things that, the bigger oil companies would never tolerate or support. I have had some dealings with some of the people connected with the bigger oil companies and I find that they have a much higher sense of decency in respect of community service than, for instance, any member of the Opposition.
– It was not the big companies that broke the agreement not to oversell petrol.
– Of course it was not. It is those miserable little groups which are responsible for the speeches that the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) reads so badly in this Parliament. This Ampol group has put out a document entitled “Ampol’s purchases from Sterling Areas Save Dollars “. The document hears a picture of Bahrein Island with a flag on it and it tries to create the same impression, as the right honorable gentleman himself tried to create, that there is any amount of petrol available in Bahrein Island which has no dollar content, either in respect of tankers or. royalties or anything else. The truth of the matter is that Bahrein petrol is not dollar free. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) made the position very clear when he read to this House a letter which he had received from the Acting Australian High Commissioner in London, Mr. Mighell, which said that the Bahrein Petrol Company Limited, through which the Ampol group was proposing to import petrol, was registered in Canada and that its operations on the island of Bahrein were wholly controlled by the Standard Oil Company of California and the Texaco Oil Company, and that its executive office was in New York. In spite of that situation this stooge company in Australia has tried to fool the Australian people that it can bring in dollar-free petrol from Bahrein.
– The Government granted it import licences, so there must be something in its claim.
– The Government made inquiries and was advised by its representative that no Polish or Russian petrol was available, and it was given certain facts by the Bank of England which the Leader of the Opposition (Mi Menzies) could have obtained if he had wanted to do so, and which showed who receives the royalties and in what form royalties are paid to the interests which supply Bahrein petrol. There is very little sterling petrol around Australia, and if honorable members opposite think that they are on a political winner by talking about petrol, and believe that a great deal of public support for the oil companies actually exists, let them recollect that there are many people in Australia who think that oil could be mined in Australia and thai the actions of foreign oil companies have prevented it from being found here.
– Childish !
– I think that thai expression fittingly describes the mentality of the honorable member who used it. There is not much sterling petrol around the world. In fact, there is very little of it, and Great Britain itself has to pay dollars for most of its petrol. America is not producing all the petrol that it could produce, because that country has its eye on the future. It has its mind on the possibility of another war and is buying petrol from abroad in order to conserve its own oil resources. The American Government is not prepared to let petrol go out of other countries like France if purchased on lease-lend aid and is not prepared to give Australia free petrol. The truth is that all these advertisements which appear in the press of Australia and which are paid for by certain hig interests out of the slush fund that is financing the political activities of honorable members opposite never tell the truth about any subject. They say that there is no world shortage of petrol.
– The Prime Minister said there was not.
– There is, and so convinced are the defence chiefs of this country that there is a world petrol shortage that they say that we must hold a minimum reserve of 50,000,000 gallons for defence purposes. Honorable members opposite say that we do not need to worry about war, because some honorable members have given expression to their hopes and desires that there will be no more war. But any government must take the advice of its defence chiefs on such matters. This Government is doing that and is not allowing that reserve of 50,000,000 gallons to go into the general pool for black marketeers and others to distribute to other wealthy men. I have another idea that a lot of the petrol that has been hoarded in 44-gallon drums in recent months will come on to the black- market once the price has risen and that that man on the north coast of New South Wales to whom I referred will probably make £2,500 by his dealings. That is just as bad as black-marketing in time of war, and just as anti-social, reprehensible and indefensible. I cannot believe that anybody in this country will support such wicked distortions of the truth as fall from the lips of honorable members opposite. I cannot believe that anybody will be misled into believing that the petrol to which honorable members opposite refer is available. Honorable members opposite can try all their tricks, but they will make no difference. The Opposition parties emerged from the 1943 general election discredited. They came out of the 1946 election discredited. They were a rabble when their Government fell to pieces in 1941, and they are a rabble still. The stories they tell the Australian people about petrol have no basis in fact. Their inventions about the availability of petrol supplies are as false as most of their other propaganda. They are depending upon what I referred to some nights ago as “ scare ‘em stiff “ propaganda. I referred then to banking propaganda, petrol propaganda, communism propaganda, and everything that is an insult to the intelligence of the people of Australia. Petrol rationing will recommence on the 15th November. The machinery for rationing is starting up again and once the people of Australia find that they can get petrol they will believe that this Government has done the job required. Honorable members opposite would never give the people petrol. They would let the big people have the petrol. They would follow the policy of helping big business in regard to petrol just as they would follow it in regard to every other commodity. All the propaganda that has appeared in the press and that has been spoken from platforms and over the radio up to date will not fool the people into believing that the facts given by the Prime Minister are not facts. The Prime Minister has told a consistent, honest story from beginning to end. He desires to conserve dollars in order to help the Government and people of the United Kingdom. He wants to see a fair distribution of available petrol supplies; We: can only obtain more petrol by spending more dollars mm petrol and less; on tractors; and: machinery and everything elsa that we import from dollar areas. This Government has held then balance very nicely between the competing needs of all sections, of the1 community, and has acted fairly in regard to. all sections. It might well be called the- “ fair go “ Government, because it believes, in justice for all. Honorable members- opposite,, as we. know,, have always been the stooges, of “ big business:”’, and’ are tha stooges of the- big; oil companies, abroad and in Australia and of the racketeers and profiteers in the matter of petrol as. well as in the, matter of everything else.
[9.10J. - The Minister for- Information (Mr. Calwell) finished! his speech’ on rather an ironical note in view of all he said about this poor, unfortunate all-Australian company called Ampol. That company’s shareholders are Australians and thb is a. co-operative company. The Minister has gone to no small pains to accuse it and ta put. it in the same category as the trusts, monopolies and combines and: the big oil companies that, ironically enough, his. Government has fostered: at tha expanse, of this. Australian company. It cannot be denied that the Government has done so.. It was left, to. this Australian company to find petrol’ for its co-operative shareholders and. its consumers around the. countryside of Australia when the monopolies and combines which this Government pretends to hate-, had failed to assist them.
I shall deal with several inconsistencies in the. Minister’s speech. The extent to which he abused the Opposition, is sufficient indication of the extent to which, the petrol position is annoying the Government. That: cannot be denied. I shall deal with a statement that he made regarding the fact, that Australia, sent to the United States in 19,41 for petrol in any quantity in any containers whatsoever. It; is very unfortunate for the Minister’ and. foc the reasonable people who, sit. with him and behind him in this House that in 1941 we had a body known, as; the Australian Advisory War Council,, and that the mem bership., of that council comprised the late Mr. Curtin,, the late- Mr.. J. A. Beasley, the present Minister for External Affairs (Dr.. Evatt),. Mr. F. M. Forde,, and eventually Mr; Norman Makin-
– Of what period in- 1341 is the right honorable member speaking?
– Of the very time of the incident, to which the Minister referred. The state of affairs, mentioned was. brought, about, because of dire, circumstances in Great Britain which were such that, the United Kingdom had only three weeks’ supply of petrol at a. time when a concentrated air blitz was in progress over that country. We were asked to divert petrol that would have come to us in the ordinary course of events so aa to save the United Kingdom in the circumstances, that I have just related. Yet the Minister has used that incident to try to make the people believe that this Government, and this Government only, is, concerned with the safety of the United Kingdom. He has condemned us for diverting that petrol to Great Britain in 1941.
I desire to draw the attention of the House and of the country to. the policy speeches, made during the 1940 general election by the late Mr. Beasley,, who then led the non-Communist party and by the late Mr. Curtin, who then led the Labour party. Let us not. forget that we were then in the midst of war just as to-day, we hope we are in the midst of peace.. On the Sth September, 1940, Mr. Beasley said that the reason that, the non-Communist part-“- existed as a separate entity was that Mr. Curtin was,, on the one hand, too weak to resist the penetration of the Labour movement by the Communist party, and on the other too confiding to resist, industrial conscription.
– What, has that to. do with the bill?:
– I have mentioned it because the Minister brought the matter up. originally. Mr. Beasley said in hia policy speech that, if his party were returned’ to power with sufficient strength to control1 the government of the country; it: would seek the repeal of compulsory petrol rationing, bring about a re-adjustment of overseas purchases and .increase storage facilities. What has this Government done during 1.949 in connexion with these very same matters? The late Mr, Curtin, who led the Australian Labour party in 194.0 when we were in the midst of war, said that Labour was opposed to the then Government’s petrol rationing scheme and if it were given the opportunity to do so it would abolish it with a minimum of delay. The maintenance of transport services was essential to the mobility of the defence forces and petrol reserves were indispensable to an expanded air programme, but Mr. Curtin claimed that if the suggestions that had been made by the Australian Labour party had been adopted, the external funds problem would not have been so acute and there could have been a greater importation of petrol and increased reserves could have been established while other imports not so essential to our economy were decreased. The tariff policy which Mr. Curtin advocated at that time is exactly the same as the policy which the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has advocated to-night.
Whether the Government likes them oi not, certain fundamental principles must be accepted. Petrol is the life fluid of Australia’s economy. More petrol means more production and, inversely, less petrol means less production. We have to deal with this matter on the basis of fundamental principles. Whether the Government likes it or not, petrol is absolutely indispensable to the economic walfare of this country. We cannot do without it. That being so, let us move to the next phase of this problem. Can it be denied, and if it is denied can the denial be proved, that there is a world surplus of petrol to-day? Students of this subject know that an oil war is in progress to-day between American and British oil interests. It is anticipated that as the result of the world surplus of oil and the waging of an oil war, the price of petrol must be reduced in the near future. It cannot be denied, and it has not been denied, that there was a surplus of 23,000,000 tons of sterling oil at the end of 1948. The Government did not receive a gallon of that surplus. Accord- ing t& the Prime Minister’s pessimistic estimate, we need only one-third of 1,000,000 tons of oil in order to do away with the necessity for rationing petrol in this country.
Australia has accumulated huge overseas funds, which means that it has produced and supplied to Great Britain and France, Russia, Poland and other countries a far greater quantity of goods than it has received from them in exchange. We have contributed millions of pounds worth of goods to Unrra. We have made gifts of wool valued at £750,000 to Poland. Gifts of wool have also been made to Italy to the value of £250,000 and to Austria, Yugoslavia and Hungary to the value of £150,000 in respect of each of those countries. We have received nothing from those countries in return. Extra sterling petrol has been available in continental countries. All continental countries have received and are consuming additional petrol and in not one of them is petrol rationed.
– That is not correct.
– It is correct. What has this Australian socialist Government done to procure one additional gallon of petrol for Australian consumers? As I have said, we have contributed millions of pounds to Unrra-
– Order ! We do not get oil from Unrra.
– The point that I am making is that we should have obtained oil from Unrra in return for our contributions to it. Sufficient petrol would have been available to us from continental sterling sources but for the deliberate interference by the Government with a private company which has been defamed by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman), and to a lesser degree by the Prime Minister. Ampol has endeavoured to obtain oil for this country, but it has received no assistance whatever from this Government in its efforts to do so. I challenge the Government to place on the table of the House copies of the cables and correspondence that have passed between it and the company in connexion with the efforts of this private concern to obtain petrol from Poland. Let us see the extent to which this Government has assisted this all-Australian company, which was described by the Minister for Defence as a miserable and poor company. It took the Government from the 22nd August to the 7th September to grant Ampol a licence to import petrol from Poland. It has been suggested in some quarters that this shocking delay was deliberate on the part of the Government. The only way to prove that the delay was not due to the deliberate action of the Government is for the Government to make available to honorable members on this side of the House copies of all the cables, telegrams and correspondence relating to this matter. On the 22nd August this all-Australian co-operative company applied to the Department of Trade and Customs for the issue of a licence to import Polish petrol. On the 25th August, the company appealed to the Government to expedite its decision. On the 31st August, because of the Government’s silence, the company was compelled to telephone the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs seeking a decision. On the 2nd September, Ampol’s London agents cabled Australia requesting an immediate answer. On the 6th September the licence was granted. On the 7th September, Ampol’s London agents advised the company that, because of the delay, the Polish Government had sold the petrol elsewhere. In spite of those facts the Prime Minister has stated in this House that the issue of a licence was delayed only because Poland did not have sufficient petrol to permit of sales to he made beyond its own territory. The issue of the licence was delayed solely because of the procrastination of this Government and, as a consequence, the petrol was sold elsewhere.
– Where was it sold?
– It does not matter where it was sold. The only fact that matters is that it was sold elsewhere. The only way for the Government to prove that it is not culpable is for the Minister to make available to the House copies of the cables and correspondence that passed between the Government and the company in connexion with this matter.
Petrol is not rationed in the British Commonwealth countries of Canada, India, Pakistan, Ceylon and South Africa, and in each of those countries the average amount of petrol consumed by each motorist is almost twice the amount that has been allowed to Australian motorists. I invite the Government to attempt to answer these facts and if it can do so to get out of the difficulty which they present. I challenge the Government to deny that at the London meeting of Commonwealth finance Ministers which agreed to the 25 per cent, reduction of dollar imports, the Finance Minister for Ceylon, Mr. Jayawardene, agreed to a petrol quota. I invite the Minister for Defence to say whether or not that statement is correct.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman must address the Chair.
– I shall deal with that matter in my own time.
– I point out that when Mr. Jayawardene returned to Ceylon he found that the quota to which he had agreed would necessitate the imposition of petrol rationing in that country.
– There are not enough motor vehicles in Ceylon to fill the street which passes in front of this building.
– That merely strengthens the observation which I am about to make. When Mr. Jayawardene returned to Ceylon and found that such a quota would necessitate the imposition of rationing in that country, he returned to London and asked for and received a promise of sufficient petrol to obviate the necessity for the imposition of petrol rationing in Ceylon. Those facts were disclosed by him to the press immediately after his second return from England in September last. What has this Government done in connexion with the maldistribution of petrol between members of the British Commonwealth? The only British Commonwealth countries which have imposed petrol rationing are Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain, all of which are socialist-controlled. Continental war-devastated countries such as France, Denmark, Belgium and Luxembourg have not imposed petrol rationing. Our former enemies, such as Italy, are supplied with British crude oils and are able to export their surpluses of refined petrol to India and other countries. Great Britain is supplying 1,800,000,000 tons of crude oil, 3,750,000 tons of fuel oil and 250,000 tons of other petroleum products, including aviation gasoline, petrol, diesel oils, &c, to Argentina this year in return for meat, yet the Australian Government abolished meat rationing in this country. Is meat more important to the British people than petrol? If meat rationing is unnecessary here’, why is it that petrol rationing has become so necessary as a means of helping Britain? The Minister has stated that on the 15th November petrol ration tickets covering a period of two and a half months are to be distributed. If there will be enough petrol available then to enable the Government to honour ration tickets covering a period of ten weeks, why is it that conditions now are so chaotic that there is not sufficient petrol available to fill the petrol tanks of ambulance cars, why is it that harvesting has been delayed, and why is transport throughout the Commonwealth dislocated? If, upon the reintroduction of petrol rationing, petrol users can be supplied with sufficient petrol to last them for two and. a half months, why cannot some petrol be released now by the Government in order to alleviate the present chaotic conditions ?
Aviation spirit is as necessary for the defence of Australia as is ordinary petrol, yet the Government has duplicated air services in Australia by establishing Trans-Australia Airlines, which, has used dollar petrol to carry 1,000,000 passengers. Sterling crude oil is in plentiful supply, but no move has been made to increase refinery capacity in Australia. I desire to mention, as a matter of interest, that, according to cable advices, the first cargo of French petrol for Australia that has been obtained by Ampol is expected to leave for Australia on the 5th November. That is a very appropriate date.
– It has not left yet.
– It is obvious that the Government is doing, as it did in relation to Polish petrol, everything in its power to ensure that this petrol does not leave the country from which it has been purchased.
– That is a complete lie.
– Why did the Minister make that threat? What has this Government done to obtain additional petrol supplies? It has been left to free enterprise in the shape of a small Australian oil company to obtain the only additional petrol that is coming to this country. The company has obtained that petrol despite everything that the Government has done to retard its free passage. Let the Minister produce for the information of honorable members the file containing the cables and the correspondence that passed between the Australian Government, the United Kingdom Government and the Acting High Commissioner in London relative to the Polish petrol that Ampol endeavoured to obtain. If the Minister does produce the file, we shall be able to ascertain the degree to which the Government has assisted or retarded the efforts of free enterprise to obtain nondollar petrol.
It is obvious that we must have petrol rationing in this country for as long as the Government follows the import policy to which it is committed. There must be some method of ensuring the equitable distribution of the scanty petrol supplies that the Government is prepared to permit to come into Australia, t associate myself and the members of the Australian Country party wholeheartedly with the statement of the honorable member for Wentworth that when the present Opposition parties are returned to power after the forthcoming general election they will obtain additional petrol. In the interests of this country, it must be obtained. The slogan of the Australian people should be. “ Socialize and stagnate, or produce and prosper “.
.- All honorable members appreciate the predicament in which the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) finds himself. Iti order to bring this debate back to it.’, proper level, I. say that the responsibility for the chaotic conditions that exist in this country at present in relation to petrol is that of the Leader of the Australian Country party. I venture to say that a great many people in Australia were influenced by what the right honorable gentleman said a few months ago when he went from one end of the country to the other asserting that there was no need for petrol rationing. It is possible that the justices of the High Court were influenced, in some respects by the opinions that the right honorable gentleman expressed then because, as I have said previously, many persons were amazed at the decision that was given by the High Court in relation to petrol rationing. It will be recalled that after the petrol rationing system was abolished, honorable gentlemen opposite tried to gain a political advantage by saying that there was no need for panic because ample supplies of petrol were available, yet throughout the country people were hoarding petrol because they believed that it was inevitable that within a relatively short space of time a petrol shortage would occur and the reimposition of rationing was inevitable. Honorable gentlemen opposite now realize that the great majority of people in Australia are to-day of the opinion that petrol rationing should never have been removed, and in consequence the Opposition is trying to escape responsibility for what has occurred.
The Leader of the Australian Country party has quoted the decisions of the Advisory War Council in order to try to avoid accepting the responsibility for the dangerously low storage of petrol in 1941. He has mentioned the late Mr. J. A. Beasley, who at the time of his death recently was the Australian High Commissioner in London. Mr. Beasley was a member of the Advisory War Council. On the 5th November, 1941, just after the Labour Government took office, he made the following statement in this House : -
I repeat my previous statement that the duty of the Government is first to restore the stocks of petrol to a safe level, and secondly, to maintain them at that level. In the light of present developments in the Pacific, I cannot forecast what the outcome will be.
When the late Mr. Beasley talked about the abolition of petrol rationing, the stocks of petrol in this country amounted to approximately 150,000,000 gallons, but twelve months later those stocks, owing to the maladministration of the present Opposition parties, which then formed the
Government, had decreased to approximately 45,000,000 gallons, a quantity that was regarded as being dangerously small.
Honorable gentlemen opposite have not. disguised the fact that their purpose is not only to embarrass the Labour Government in this country, and thereby injure the Australian community, but also to create as much difficulty as possible for the British Government, because it is a Labour government. The shortage of petrol in 1941 was not caused by a dollar shortage. There were difficulties in regard to obtaining the use of tankers at that time. Honorable gentlemen opposite have avoided making any direct reference to the necessity to save dollars at the present time. They should say straight out whether they are anti-British in this connexion. This Government, realizing the heroic struggle of the British Labour party and the British people against great difficulties, is doing everything it can do to assist them.
Although honorable gentlemen opposite have talked about obtaining petrol from almost every part of the globe, they have not gone into details about it. The Leader of the Australian Country party has suggested that excessive delay in granting an import licence to Ampol caused the loss of petrol that was supposed to be available in Poland for export to Australia. According to the right honorable gentleman, the first application for an import licence was made on the 22nd August and the licence was issued on the 6th September, approximately two weeks later. Having regard to the fact that it was necessary to make inquiries overseas to ascertain whether the petrol had any dollar content, I think that the Government acted very expeditiously. Honorable gentlemen opposite profess to be fully informed upon every aspect of this transaction. They say that they know that the petrol was available and that it was subsequently sold elsewhere, but when they are asked to state where it was eventually sold, they can give us no information about it whatever. That proves conclusively that the petrol that they have said was available for export to Australia did not, in fact, exist.
The members of the Opposition say that they are opposed to petrol rationingbecause it is a form of regimentation..
Surely they do not believe, that any political party would: be foolish, enough t©> continue to ration petrol o<n other commodities if. there were no necessity to do so-. It weald be. of great political advantage to- the Labour party at the forthcoming general election if we were able to say that there is no longer any need to. ration petrol in this country. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), has talked of the governments! of the three countries in which petrol rationing is still in existence,, which are the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia. Those are Labour governments.. They recognize the soundness of the principle that when a commodity is in short supply it is proper to ration it and thus ensure that available supplies are distributed equitably. Honorable gentlemen opposite do not want petrol to be rationed because they know that,, without rationing, persons who are prepared to pay black market prices will be able to get all the petrol that they require, and the unfortunate ordinary members of the community will have their means of transport immobilized because they will be unable to obtain any petrol. The responsibility for what has happened in the last few weeks must fall on honorable gentlemen opposite, who are making- a desperate bid to win the next general election. They know that they have played every other card in their hands. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was not foolish enough to stick his neck out ; he persuaded the Leader of the Australian Country party to do so. The Leader of the Opposition is too astute a politician to put himself into the position in which the Leader of the Australian Country party now finds himself. That right honorable gentleman is now desperate. For weeks on end he has remained silent in this House because he has no answer to make to the criticisms that have been levelled against him in relation to petrol.
The daily press has allied itself with the Opposition parties and the oil companies of this country in a campaign to discredit the Government. Honorable gentlemen opposite boycotted the official opening of the Snowy Mountains scheme because they thought they would gain some poli tical advantage by doing so. The quantity of petrol that was used to transport members of. Parliament to the scene of the ceremony in comparison, with the total petrol requirements of this country, was a, mere; cupful. Nevertheless, honorable gentlemen’ opposite considered that it, was a good political move not to attend the ceremony. I think that the great majority of the- Australian people will regard their absence from that important ceremony as an indication of their lack of judgment and balance. As I have said, the daily press has allied itself with the Opposition-. A few days ago the Sydney Daily Telegraph published an article about the wastage of petrol. Details were given of the quantity of petrol that has been consumed by ministerial cars in the last twelve months. I was agreeably surprised at the figure that was given. According to- the Daily Telegraph, in the course of twelve months the nineteen Ministers of this Government used approximately 27,000 gallons of petrol. Having regard to the duties that Ministers perform, 1 think that that was a moderate figure. Wa know full well that when the Opposition parties were in power Ministers were not so moderate in their use of government motor cars and petrol as are the Ministers of this Government.
A few days ago the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) made an attack upon a conciliation commissioner. 1 did not know at the time what was behind that attack, but I have made it my business to find out. I have discovered that the attack was not made because the honorable gentleman was desirous of challenging the impartiality of the conciliation commissioner. A difference occurred between him and the honorable member for Indi when that gentleman was acting in his official capacity as a trade union representative in the Australian Capital Territory. I discovered that when the honorable member for Indi was a Minister and had the use of a government car, the official driver objected to the honorable gentleman using that vehicle to carry dead sheep on his property. If we can take any notice of all we hear about the use of government motor cars, we may believe that the right honorable member for Cowper when a Minister was using a government vehicle on hia property in the Northern Rivers district, and I think that it would be safe to say, without any fear of exaggerating, that the car was employed on work usually performed by a boundary rider. He preferred to use government petrol to feeding half a dozen cattle dogs. It would be a good thing for the public if a close examination were made of the use of government motor cars and petrol since liquid fuel has been in short supply. I think that it would be discovered that this Government had not abused the use of petrol in government vehicles.
– The Minister sent a government car to Queensland in order to pick up his wife.
– The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) is more concerned about Red Star spirit than the spirit provided by Ampol or any other company. This Government has set out to preserve the interests of the community, and the Prime Minister has not been stampeded by the propaganda that the Opposition parties have distributed on the petrol situation. The leader of this Labour Government is never stampeded. The Australian community is very fortunate to have as Prime Minister a gentleman who displays so much balance in the various crises which arise from time to time as the result of political manoeuvring on the part of the Opposition parties. He knows the real position, and he has challenged the Opposition parties to produce the facts. The Leader of the Australian Country party has not told us where petrol is available. If it is available, where is the source of supply? Have any companies been refused a permit to import petrol, if they can prove beyond doubt, as they must necessarily do, that there is no dollar content in that petrol? The Prime Minister has pointed out quite truthfully that the petrol difficulties of the sterling area arise from the shortage, not of crude oil, but of refining capacity.
The Opposition parties are making a desperate bid to win votes at the forthcoming general election. They are saying in effect: “Return us to the treasury bench on the 10th December, and. we will abolish petrol rationing. There will be petrol for every one “. Many people towhom I have spoken during the past few weeks have expressed the opinion that the sooner rationing is re-introduced thebetter it will be, because- °very one will get his proportion of the available supplies. The Opposition parties realize that they must make a desperate bid to win votes, and, therefore, they say that if they are returned to office, there will be ample supplies of petrol for every one. I hope that the Australian people will not be so foolish as to believe that claim. The major oil companies broke the agreement that they made with the Government. After the High Court had declared invalid the National Security (Liquid Fuel) Regulations, the Prime Minister summoned representatives of the oil companies to a conference and laid before them all the information that was in the possession of the Government about petrol supplies. The oil companies evidently realized at that time the necessity to conserve petrol and consequently dollars, and they agreed that they would not release any more petrol to their distributors than they had made available during the rationing period. But, the moment the Government turned its back, the major companies were canvassing for custom, and urging primary producers to lay in stores of petrol. It is generally recognized that those people who knew that rationing would be reintroduced began to hide their petrol. Primary producers at various places are reported to have rolled drums of petrol into rivers so that they would not be discovered if a check were being made on stocks. The Opposition parties are responsible for that state of affairs. I believe that petrol rationing is essential. Petrol must be conserved in order to preserve our industries. Much petrol is wasted in this country. It has been said that we cannot afford to retain petrol rationing. 1 say that we cannot afford to do without petrol rationing.
The Leader of the Australian Country party has spoken about an arrangement that was made at the conference in Great Britain to allocate petrol among various nations in the sterling area. I did not agree with the right honorable gentleman’s reasoning, when he said that other mem’bers of the British Com.monwealth had received better treatment in the distribution of petrol than Australia had received and that we should force the position to get as advantageous treatment as he alleges had been conceded to the other countries. None of the countries which the right honorable gentleman mentioned are large and important. He referred to Luxembourg and Ceylon, which use a small quantity of petrol compared with the great quantity that is consumed in Australia. The Leader of the Australian Country party spoke of the contributions which we made to Unrra, and to other countries that are less fortunately situated than we are. He said that we should have used as a bargaining medium those contributions that we made to relieve distress, and even the contributions that we made for the alleviation of distress among children throughout the world. The right honorable gentleman implied that we should not have been prepared to give tha’, assistance unless we had been guaranteed supplies of petrol. Honorable members opposite speak with two voices. Sometimes they complain that the Labour Government is not doing enough to assist the people of the United Kingdom, and at other times, they complain about the alleged adverse commercial and trade agreements that we have made with Great Britain. They say that we are not receiving enough in return for the food which we send to the United Kingdom, and that we are not obtaining sufficient value for the contributions which we make to relieve international distress. 1 hope that the Australian Labour Government was not at any time of opinion that it would receive any benefit in a material sense in return for its contributions to the alleviation of international distress. I believe that the value to this country was the great goodwill which we established throughout the world as the result of those contributions. The Leader of the Australian Country party is desperately in need of arguments or he would not have had to introduce those matters into the debate. He referred to the agreement that the United Kingdom had made with Argentina, and said that Great Britain had agreed to supply oil in return for meat. Argentina was able to force upon the United Kingdom an unfair and adverse agreement, and apparently the right honorable gentleman believed that we should follow suit. That attitude is peculiar, in view of all the speeches that I have heard from time to time in this House about the need to preserve the British Empire. It appears to me that the Opposition parties consider that the British Empire is worth preserving only when a Conservative government is in office in the United Kingdom. “When a Labour government is in office in Great Britain the Opposition parties here adopt an entirely different attitude.
Honorable gentlemen opposite have not made out a case against the reintroduction of petrol rationing. They say that the Government should produce certain papers and cables relating to the Empire dollar pool and petrol supplies. I do not know what the official files contain, because they are not in the departments which I administer, but I venture the opinion that, if the Government could trust the Opposition parties, it would- be quite willing to make any confidential information on the subject available to them to show them exactly what the position is. But I think that the Government would be very unwise to make any files available to the Opposition parties, in view of our experiences with them. They would not worry about the welfare of Australia or Great Britain, but would use confidential information, if it suited them, for political reasons, as they have done in the past. They have even been prepared to use the contents of stolen documents. Therefore, is it unlikely that they would use improperly the information that was voluntarily given to them by this Government? The Australian Labour Government has nothing to hide in this matter. The Australian public are the best judges of the position. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) briefly described the situation that existed in 1941, and I shall not cover that ground again ; but we must not forget that the Labour party was not returned with a majority in this House at the election in 1940. “We became the Government in 1941 when the Opposition parties fell ito pieces .after they .had bungled the affairs .of the country. 1 repeat ;a ‘statement that I made om a previous .occasion, because the position was never properly clarified tto my .satisfaction. A Minister for Supply in -an anti-Labour government, who was in control of petrol .supplies just prior to ;the .entry of Japan into the w.ar., attended -a function .at a .consulate in Canberra. He evidently ‘.consumed so much liquor that one of the .Japanese gentlemen who was .attached Tto tie Japanese consulate ait the time, had to take the Minister ito has hotel in Canberra, ;and put him to bed. Those are the people -who now say that they should be entrusted with the welfare and safety of -the people of Australia.
I do not want to repeat what is now’ history and is known to all the people of Australia, but the Opposition parties, when in office, bungled affairs, immobilized transport and reduced reserves of petro! to such a degree they had to evolve a plan for abandoning one-half of Australia when the Japanese threatened to invade this country. Everybody knows to-day that that statement is true. Prom General MacArthur down, it was recognized that that plan had been brought into existence by an anti-Labour government. The plan was popularly known as the “Brisbane line” plan.
– Sir Leslie Wilson, a former Governor of Queensland, has acknowledged the existence of that plan.
– That is so. General MacArthur rejected the advice that had been given to him to the effect that Australia should be defended on a line .extending from a point a little north of Brisbane to & point a little north of Adelaide. General MacArthur has stated that, in his successful campaign to turn the tide of the Japanese invasion, he was backed by the Labour Government led by the late Mr. John Curtin. Those words are not a statement by a member of the Australian Labour party. They were uttered by the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Forces in this theatre of war. As the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) has interjected, Sir Leslie Wilson, who was Governor of
Queensland in 19&1-42, referred on his return -to .the United Kingdom .to the strategy -which had -been worked out for the abandonment <of large .sections of Australia.
Honorable members -opposite are now trying to take advantage -of the situation which they have created. Every Australian who has been immobilized during the last few weeks because he has not been .able to get petrol for .his motor car and >evEry primary producer who has been unable to .get petrol for his tractor should remember that if petrol rationing had not been interfered with by the High Court the economy 01 the country -would have continued to function smoothly. The need for petrol rationing is recognized by the State Premiers regardless -of their political views. If petrol rationing is not .quickly .restored the position will rapidly become -chaotic. An anti-La’bour government could not obtain ‘additional supplies of petrol, because they are simply not available from the sterling area. Australia .can import additional petrol -only by drawing more dollars from the Empire dollar pool. We already have a dollar deficit, and additional dollars ‘are not .available to ns.
– The only way in -which Australia can obtain additional petrol is by reducing dollar ‘expenditure in other directions.
– That is true. Australia would be obliged to reduce its purchases in the dollar area of agricultural machinery and various essential commodities. The position, in that event, would be worse than it is at present. 1 have great faith in the common sense of the Australian people, and I know that they will not fall for what is a cheap political trick.
.- This is an important bill, because it brings before the public the issue whether more petrol can be obtained and, if so, why the Government has not obtained it. Speakers from the Government side of the House have put up a verbal barrage, and we have just listened to speeches by two of the loudest-mouthed demagogues in the Government. They have indulged in the vilification and tongue-slanging, which is characteristic of them. As for the
Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), no one who has listened to him during the last six or seven years would expect him to make any other kind of speech than the one that he has just made. Indeed, it is the only sort of speech he knows how to make. He never varies it. He delivers it on all subjects, and we know that we shall always hear something about the “ Brisbane line the military situation in 1941, and the depression, until we have all become heartily sick of it. The truth is that the Minister is utterly discredited. He is, perhaps, the biggest hypocrite that we have ever had in this House. He is the man who, for years past, has been engaged in attacking the private banks, while all the time he was using a secret safe deposit in a private bank. His statements cannot be accepted by the public. People arc not prepared to listen to him when he speaks of the administration of departments by other Ministers, when he so badly administered his own department that the biggest fraud in years was perpetrated without his knowledge under his nose. For years, he has criticized big business, but one of his own friends is the director of a big business concern and was appointed to that position with the aid, or on the recommendation of, the Minister. It is time he resigned his portfolio, and gave some better man behind him a chance to serve his Government. However, I have already devoted too much time to the Minister for Transport.
The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) also spoke on this bill. However, he did not address the House. His habit is to turn his back on the Chair and on the Opposition, and address caucus. I am glad of that, because I find it difficult to look at him and feel well. He said that there was a shortage of petrol in the world. Let us examine that statement, which is not borne out by responsible journals which any one may see in the library. I quote the following from Barron’s National Business and Financial Weekly, for the 9th May, 1949 :-
American oil companies, which plunged with great vigor and enthusiasm into the postwar task of supplying Europe and Asia with petroleum products, are already finding they have overshot their goal. Last month the price of Persian Gulf crude was cut an average ot 15 cents a barrel by major American Middle East companies. Arabian American Oil Co. (Aramco), which had scheduled production of 550,000 barrels a day for first-half of 1949, has cut back to 500,000 and in Venezuela Creole Petroleum Corp., New Jersey Standard affiliate, believes output will- level off at about 15 per cent, below the 1948 peak.
It is evident, therefore, that the American oil companies are reducing production because the world demand for oil has been satisfied, except in limited areas such as Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. The article continues -
The stated goal of the ERP countries is to raise consumption from 750,000 barrels a day in 1938 to 1,500,000 in 1951, with 1948 consumption having reached the one million mark. That is for the future. As of today, huge production increases in Arabia and Kuwait, and moderate ones in almost all other producing areas of the world, have depressed the market.
In order to show that that is not merely the opinion of one journal, let me point out that Business Week, of the 9th June, points out that the oil industry has adjusted itself to ample supplies. The demand after the war rose faster than supply, and during the winters of 1946 and 1947, had to be met from stocks. Now, supply has overtaken demand.
– -Throughout the world there is over production of petrol to-day, but the Australian Government has utterly failed to take advantage of the situation and to obtain more petrol. The Opposition takes the view that petrol is not a luxury, but an essential. Australia is a country of vast distances and is more dependent upon transport than, perhaps, any other industrialized country in the world. For that reason, scarcity of petrol constitutes a problem in Australia different from that in England or New Zealand.
This bill has been drafted with many “ whereases “ in order to convey the impression that petrol rationing in Australia is inescapable. It is inescapable only because of the fatuous fumbling of the Government, which has made no real attempt to get more petrol. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) is the Mother Hubbard of politics. Every time the people of Australia look for some essential commodity, the cupboard is bare, and it is so with petrol to-day. Although the war has been ended for more than four years, we are told that we cannot get petrol because there is a shortage of dollars. That is nothing new. The Government has itself admitted that only during one year in the last 30 years and more - and that was when the American troops were here - has Australia ever had a surplus of dollars. Therefore, the dollar problem has always faced Australian governments; but whereas, before the war, the problem did not assert itself, it has asserted itself now. During the last two years, the Government has done nothing to meet the situation except to restrict the importation of goods with a dollar component, including petrol. We have never been told by the Prime Minister the actual dollar component of petrol. In one statement, ho said that Britain had to draw 400,000,000 dollars a year to pay for imported petrol. The actual amount was 160,000,000 dollars. The balance, as the Prime Minister well knows, was spent on importing equipment for refineries. One of the problems facing the oil industry is that European countries are developing their own refineries. What has this Government done in that direction? The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) pointed out that the Government has made no attempt to develop Australia’s refining capacity, and that is true. The Government is not even producing in Australia .all the-petrol it could produce from shale. The Newnes shale oil undertaking is capable of producing 10,000,000 gallons of oil a year, but the actual production is only about 2,000,000 gallons a year. There is plenty of shale there to be mined, but the miners have applied a darg, and the Government has done nothing to see that more shale is mined. As a result, the works at Newnes are producing only about 20 per cent, of their capacity.
We have been told that Australia cannot have more petrol because dollars are so urgently needed for other things. Let me examine what the Government is doing about dollars. For the production of newsprint in Australia, sulphite pulp must be imported, and the Government has decided to continue to provide dollars for the importation of sulphite pulp from Canada. The Prime Minister says that dollars cannot be obtained for petrol, but dollars are being used to pay for Canadian sulphite pulp, although this commodity is now freely available from the soft currency area at a substantially lower price. The price of sulphite pulp, c.i.f. Hobart, from the soft currency area is £34 a ton, as compared with £51 12s. a ton from Canada, and we must pay for the Canadian article to the tune of about 500,000 dollars a year. I ask the Prime Minister whether it is not a fact that the Department of Trade and Customs and the Treasury recommended that importation of Canadian sulphite pulp be stopped in order to save dollars. Is the Prime Minister prepared to place on the table of the House the file which deals with this matter? I ask the Prime Minister also whether any representations have been made to him on the matter. Will he explain to the House why the importation of Canadian sulphite pulp is permitted and the importation of Canadian newsprint is prohibited, despite the fact that both could, come into Australia under similar contracts and both have been subject to assurances by the Government? What has been the effect of the devaluation of the Australian £1 on the dollar cost of that pulp, and by how much has it increased the price of Australian newsprint to the consumer? Those questions must be answered directly. We are told that we must save every dollar possible and that we can afford only as many dollars as will buy us the barest essentials, but import licences have been granted for the importation of Canadian sulphite when there is already twelve months’ supply in Australia, and sulphite can. be obtained more cheaply from soft currency countries, notably Sweden.
We are not told the whole truth about dollars. One finds a few interesting observations in the preamble to the bill. This stated for instance that - . . there has been and is a considerable deficiency in the dollar currency becoming available to Australia for the -purchase of essential imports :
There is nothing new about that. That has been a problem, as the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence well know, which has faced Australia at all times. The problem is primarily due to the fact that our economy is tied closely to that of Great Britain. I do not criticize that, hut it is a fact. So what is the good of saying that we cannot get any more dollars than are allowed to us by Great Britain? What has the Government done to increase dollar earnings? Nothing has been done to increase the production of gold. I have said before now that if the production of gold were increased to the pre-war level, there would be sufficient gold, which is equivalent to dollars, to enable us to get all the petrol we need. We sell our gold for sterling, and production of gold is only half of what it was before the war. I know that the Government, by signing the International Monetary Agreement, tied its hands rather as far as assisting the gold-mining industry is concerned, but what attempt has been made to encourage exports that will earn dollars? Pious statements have been made but no encouragement or leadership has been given.
The Prime Minister has said on many occasions that the Government will not hypothecate Australia to a foreign country, but, when dollars became dearer, through the devaluation of the fi, the Government directed its attention to getting some dollars from overseas, but it obtained only barely enough with which to buy the goods without which we cannot survive. It is difficult to understand why, when we produce the very things that Western Europe needs and export more than we import, the Government cannot say to the United States that we need from it petrol to keep us going. We need dollars for not only petrol but also capital goods and equipment. It is said that the solution of the dollar problem depends on co-operation between Great Britain, ourselves and the other parts of the British Commonwealth but why has the Government not said to the United States of America, “You are pouring out money to reconstruct Western Europe, and it is not expected that reconstruction will take place sufficiently until the end of 1952. We are prepared to sell to Western Europe at something less than world parity if need be, provided that we get the goods, such as petrol, that we need “? The Government has made no attempt to solve the problem along those lines. The outstanding facts are that there is an over-supply of petrol throughout the world, that this country produces many commodities that Western Europe needs and that all that we get in return from our exports is a marking up of the value of our exports in the books overseas. We get nothing in terms of essential goods and equipment in return. We are adversely affecting our economy by building up that huge surplus overseas, because we thereby increase the inflationary force in Australia. As we produce the goods that Western Europe needs, why could not a three-cornered arrangement be reached between theUnited States of America, Western Europe and ourselves under which wecould get petrol?
Another strange observation made in the preamble is this - . . in view of the intensification of the shortage of dollar currency to countries in the sterling area, the Government of theUnited Kingdom arranged a conference to review the dollar currency position, which conference was held in London in the month of July, One thousand nine hundred and fortynine, and was attended by Ministers of the United Kingdom, Canada and the followingsterling area countries of the British Commonwealth, namely, Australia, Ceylon, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and SouthernRhodesia.
Later the preamble says - . . the limitation of the importationinto Australia of liquid fuel is an essential measure in effecting economy in expenditure of dollar currency generally and in giving effect to the recommendations of the London Conference in particular:
What countries have given effect tothe recommendations of the London conference in particular along these linesother than the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand?
– Who told the honorable member that?
– There is, I believe,, no petrol rationing in any country of’ the world except Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. The countries that have socialist governments are the only ones that ration petrol. It is also important to observe that this recommendation, the exact details of which have never been revealed, was made before devaluation of the currency took place. It is an important’ circumstance that devaluation of the currency; which has had a- far-reaching and1, in my opinion, adverse effect on Australia, was effected by Great Britain,, and that we followed suit. We’ were giVen no notice, or only the shortest possible notice, of Great Britain’s step. The Prime- Minister’ said that” it would have been indiscreet of Great Britain to announce details of its intentions’ Before they were carried’ out, but, apparently, Canada knew about the proposed step two weeks before it was taken. It iff very strange if dominion prime ministers cannot be told the intentions of Great Britain. The economy of this country is conducted, not from Canberra, but from Whitehall. The Australian Labour Government is subservient, to the Labour Government of Great Britain, although, it has on occasions- criticized Australia’s dependence: on Great Britain. Never before has the Chancellor of the Exchequer exercised such an iron control over our economy as he does to-day. It is- about, time a voice waa raised in. the name of Australia.
Another observation, made in the preamble is this - . . by reason of the foregoing; the importation, of liquid fuel into Australia is limited, and there is a. shortage, of liquid fuel in Australia : . . it is necessary that adequate stocks of liquid fuel, be maintained in Australia for defence purposes, and accordingly the Parliament has, by the Liquid Fuel (Defence Stocks) Act 1949, made provision for- the maintenance of such stocks.
The Minister for Information, giving- misinformation as he usually does: said/ in effect, “ It is true that we have a majority shareholding in the Commonwealth 00 Refineries Limited, but we can do nothing about, it”. Under the Liquid Fuel (Defence Stocks) Act, the Government may give a direction, to Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, or to any other oil. company, to lay aside stocks of fuel. It is strange that the Government talks about defence purposes being one reason why petrol rationing should be restored, when Minister after Minister has risen in this House and said that there is no danger of war for five or ten years. Under this legislation, petrol rationing is to con- tinue only until August, 1959 Are members of the public to- understand that the existing chaos is not to’ be removed because the Government need’s’ petrol to be held in stock against war ? If not, why are the stocks needed? The. Government has said time and’ time again that increasing refining’ of petrol in Western Europe will . ease the problem- gradually. So- why cannot the defence’- stocks be made available to tide the country over’ a difficult situation? The Government talks about motorists a-£f if all of them- engaged in luxury motoring, but, in fact, most of the petrol is used- for essential purposes. Oil companies- cannot make firm arrangements to import petrol because they must have licences to import it. All imports are prohibited unless the importer holds an import licence. The Government should grant licences freely to any person to bring petrol into the country from soft currency areas.
– We did that.
– The Government did it only after certain representations had been made about the delay. What I am putting to the Prime Minister is that there- can be no reason why conditions should not be established in. which petrol importers can place firm, orders for petrol without having to run the risk of losing their source of supply because of’ delays in getting, import licences. These delays are caused by red tape: During the course of the day the Prime Minister answered a suggestion made from this side of the House regarding the payment of a subsidy. I suggest that the matter could be dealt with easily, if not by subsidy then by a reduction of the petrol tax: or a combination . of both. After all if the Government undertook a burden of £1,000;000 or so a year that would not be an excessive amount to pay to- maintain the essential transport of this country. It seems to me that during’ this debate no real reason has been advanced why, when there is an aboundance of petrol throughout the world; Australia cannot obtain sufficient for its requirements. The Prime Minister always falls back upon the excuse that we cannot obtain dollars except from’ the United Kingdom. I suppose, therefore, that if the position of the United Kingdom becomes worse our position will also become worse. In other words, we have no say regarding it. If England’s economy under a socialist government goes down the drain, so, apparently does ours. Is there no one who is prepared to stand up for the rights and interests of Australia?
This issue in relation to petrol is far reaching and important, because the Australian people are becoming increasingly satisfied that the chaos in our transport has been brought about by the futile fumbling of this Government. The Opposition is not prepared to support this bill to give the Government power to ration petrol until August of next year. Nobody disputes the fact that when petrol is in such short supply as it now is in Australia some form of equitable distribution must operate until such time as supplies meet demand. That is not the issue that the Opposition is fighting tonight. Its argument is that no real attempt has .been made by the Prime Minister to alleviate the position. He always speaks in terms of restriction upon restriction upon restriction, and .has never ,given any real lead to the people about low they are to obtain the petrol that they need. Apparently the position is that Australia is unable to get dollars according to the extent to which Britain is .unable to ,get dollars, and that our economy is bogged down although we are producing vast quantities of goods that can be sold readily in overseas markets and we could increase the mining for gold in Australia that could be readily sold for dollars. ‘The ‘Opposition registers its .protest against the inability of the Government in this matter and we say with confidence that if we are returned to office -at the general election we are satisfied that petrol will be obtained quickly and distributed to the people without any resort to rationing.
– I do not propose to traverse this whole matter again at great length. I have already answered many of the points raised about petro .supplies, but I now desire to reply to a few more erroneous statements that should be corrected. Such erroneous statements <about petrol .grow up like mushrooms inspring. 1 consider that some of the remarks of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) ought to be brought back to his mind very clearly. The fact of the matter is that if President Roosevelt had not, early in the term of the Churchill ‘Government, introduced lend-lease for the purpose of giving the United Kingdom munitions of war, the war might have been completely lost, because the position had been reached under the United Kingdom coalition Government that, due to the sale of British investments abroad, the -United Kingdom was compelled, Under the Johnson Act passed by the American Congress to pay cash for all the munitions of war that it received from the -United States. Great Britain could no longer pay for these goods and. President Roosevelt introduced the lease-lend provisions that enabled -Great Britain to obtain -American supplies. Let me <carry that further, toshow how ridiculous are statements that we are tied to the British economy.
I ‘turn now to the Anglo-American loan agreement. 1 do not think that anybody will deny that had it not been for that agreement under which America lent the United Kingdom large sums of dollars, neither Australia nor ‘the United Kingdom would have ‘been able to provide the dollars necessary to enable Australian industry to be carried -on. It would :not have ‘been possible i;o meet the dollar commitments of the sterling area without the aid of that loan agreement. We must remember also that ‘Great Britain drew -about ‘300;000;000 dollars under the International Monetary Fund Agreement to which the honorable member -for Warringah, -rather sneer’ingly referred. I point these matters out because it is stupid, and could perhaps ‘be malicious, for honorable members opposite to suggest ‘that this country would be able to carry on with the dollars that it can obtain ‘by Itself, without a serious disruption Of our -‘industry. There is a limit to the sources from which ‘we can get the dollars to make up the difference between what we earn and what we spend. The degree to which w.e can .borrow is always .limited and if we -were to borrow money outside the various international agencies we should have to pay exorbitant ‘rates of interest. At the present moment Australia is debited in America with an amount of 10,000,000 dollars that was borrowed on behalf of local governing authorities in Brisbane and Sydney. That debit is now a great difficulty to us because the loans it represents cannot be converted at any reasonable rate of interest. One of the loans falls due for repayment very shortly and the other falls due next year. So this matter gets back to just plain cold material facts. The only sources from which we can obtain dollars to make tip any deficit between our dollar earnings and our dollar expenditure are in the first place the international agencies like the International Monetary Fund, from which we could purchase dollars, and the International Bank. There are great difficulties about borrowing from even the later institution. Except for those agencies the only other source from which we could obtain dollars is the United Kingdom pool. Unless we get dollars, industry in this country must be completely disrupted. It is of no use for honorable members opposite to attempt to deceive the people about what the Opposition parties can do. That is just an election stunt. The country had some experience of such Opposition performances just prior to the outbreak of the war with Japan. I remember that the present Leader of the Opposition, who was Prime Minister at the time to which I refer, came back from abroad and told a meeting in the Sydney Town Hall what his Government was going to do to assist the United Kingdom in the conduct of the war. Only a month or two later his own party threw him out of the Prime Ministership and it was not very long before he and his party and also the Australian Country party were thrown out of office, not by the Labour party, but by independent members or quasimembers of their own party. So when the Opposition parties make promises it is well to go hack over their record of previous promises.
It is apparent that anybody who has any sense of proportion would realize that the United Kingdom is our greatest customer. If the United Kingdom goes down we shall have lost our greatest market. That is a purely material outlook. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) spoke about the socialist governments of New Zealand, Britain and Australia. The people of those three countries are of British stock. Ninety-five per cent, of the people of this country are of British stock and have, of course, a close affiliation and sentimental association with the United Kingdom apart from any material interest. I think that New Zealand has an even higher percentage of British stock. The other countries of the Commonwealth, such as India, Ceylon and Pakistan are not predominantly of British stock, nor is South Africa. Only 48 per cent, of the Canadian people are of British stock.
I rose to correct the misstatements that have been made to-night regarding petrol but I shall also answer the honorable member for Warringah who spoke about the gold-mining industry and complained that it had not received encouragement. The gold-mining industry is the only industry which, through the actions of this Government, pays no taxes of any kind at all. First of all the Government removed the gold tax. Incometax is not being paid even on the dividends received from gold-mining companies by individuals. We removed the excise on oil used in connexion with gold production. We even went further than that and gave financial assistance to companies in Western Australia that did not have a profitable margin on which to carry on. The real trouble with the Australian gold-mining industry is that no matter what incentive is provided, not enough man-power is available to meet its requirements. J am speaking particularly of the goldmining industry in Western Australia. The devaluation of currency, which some members opposite would like to criticize, has provided the greatest relief to the gold-mining industry of this country.
I shall deal with several other points so that honorable members opposite may be better informed. The Leader of the Australian Country party and the honors able member for Warringah talked about, the long delay in dealing with applications for import licences for Polish petrol. Their statements are completely untrue.
– The Government did not reply for fifteen days.
– If the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) would only keep quiet occasionally he would probably gain some information that he will never gain by listening to himself. On about the 22nd August the Ampol company made certain inquiries regarding the importation of Polish petrol. The Government asked the company to supply particulars, which were duly supplied on the 29th August-. The Government then wired the British Treasury to discover whether the purchase of Polish petrol would involve any payment in dollars. The British Treasury replied within a few days. The Leader of the Australian Country party may see the relevant cables if he pleases. The whole world may see the cables. I have no intention of acting on matters involving payments to foreign countries until I know whether dollars are involved. The British Treasury’s reply indicated that Polish petrol could be paid for with sterling, if such petrol was available. The Government informed the company on the 6th September, eight days and not fifteen days, after the application was lodged, that it would grant an import licence. Now let us follow the sequence of events. After some time had elapsed the Acting High Commissioner in London received a request from the London agents of Ampol to intercede on behalf of the company for the purpose of obtaining an export licence from the Polish Government. The Acting High Commissioner advised me to that effect and I asked him to approach the Polish Government to inquire what objection it had, if any, to the granting of a licence. These are the only cables that exist on this subject. Not until the 7th October, after I had sent another cable to the Acting High Commissioner asking him to approach the Polish Government to ascertain why a licence had not been granted, was a reply received from the Polish Government. Until then we were unable to obtain an indication whether a licence would or would not be granted. We interceded on behalf of Ampol and obtained a licence for the company, but the Polish Government informed us that it had no petrol to sell. That Government made it perfectly clear that the only reason why it could not make petrol available to Australia was that no petrol was available for export. Let me put this matter in blunt English. Statements have been made on this subject by honorable members opposite either in complete ignorance or in complete distortion of the facts. The company concerned cannot deny the truth of any of the statements which I have made to-night.
The honorable member for Warringah has referred to other sources from which petrol may be obtained. It is true that refinery capacity in France has increased very considerably. It is also true that France is able to refine sufficient petrol, not only to meet its own requirements, but also to make small exports .for the purpose of earning sterling. The Direction des Carburants which is the French body responsible for granting export licences, will consider either to-day or to-morrow whether any additional licences will be issued for the export of petrol. The problem that France has to face is that its crude oils have to be brought from Mexico, Bahrein, Iraq, Irwan, Kuwait, or some other exporting country. The honorable member has said that if we reduced the petrol tax it would be practicable to import French petrol to this country. Ampol has not requested the Government to do so. It has asked for a straight-out subsidy. If the petrol tax were reduced, the American companies which bring petrol to Australia from Bahrein or Sumatra would obtain the benefit of the price increase and the position would be precisely the same. The companies which imported petrol from France would still be at a disadvantage compared with the American companies which import petrol from Bahrein and Sumatra. I make these points solely to clear up any misapprehension that may exist in the minds of the people in regard to this matter. I regret that honorable members opposite should attempt to make a political football of a subject of such grave national urgency.
I propose now to deal briefly with the subject of defence stocks. It is true that a little more than 50,000,000 gallons of petrol are held in reserve in Australia for defence purposes. I understand that the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has had something to say about how non-Labour governments bad left this country in a perilous position in relation to defence stocks. In the early days of the war we had to import petrol, not in tankers, hut in drums, because non-Labour governments had neglected to establish adequate defence reserves of petrol. If defence stocks were relinquished every seaboard tank in Australia might be empty in a few weeks. Although the petrol companies undertook to ration supplies of petrol to resellers, within a period of three months 22,000,000 gallons in excess of the normal consumption were. sold. That extraordinary usage took place despite the undertaking given by the petrol companies that they would make available only sufficient supplies to equal the quantity of petrol that had been made available under the rationing system. What quantity of petrol do honorable members opposite think would have been used if the petrol companies had not exercised any control at all? I point out that that extraordinary additional usage took place in the middle of winter and not during the harvest and tourist season. If no restrictions had been imposed by the petrol companies, 50,000,000 gallons would have disappeared in a few weeks and no reserves would have been available for defence purposes. As I have already dealt with the Defence Committee’s recommendations on this matter, I shall not traverse that subject again.
The judgment of the High Court that the Commonwealth had no constitutional authority to impose petrol rationing may have been based on a sound interpretation of the law, but it cannot be denied that it was a national calamity. I say no more than that about the judgment. The Leader of the Australian Country party has said that only three British Commonwealth countries are now rationing petrol. South Africa proposes to ration petrol and has already made an announcement to that effect. The Government of India has also announced that it will ration petrol. These are not English-speaking countries to anything like the degree that Australia is. The right honorable gentleman also mentioned Ceylon. I point out that although that country earns far more dollars than it expends, it has agreed to a 25 per cent, reduction in its dollar imports. And Ceylon is not’ peopled solely by British stock.
I want to make, it clear that the cablegram which I have received tonight from Paris indicates that the Direction des Carburants, which controls the issue of export licences in France, will consider either to-day or to-morrow whether any additional licences should be granted for the export of petrol. I have already said that refinery capacity in France is increasing very rapidly. This Government will certainly do what it can to obtain petrol from that source. When I was in Paris I discussed personally with M. Schuman, the then Premier of France, the subject of what goods we could obtain from that country. M. Schuman did not then indicate that we could obtain petrol. He gave me a list of goods which had been prepared by one of his Ministers and had petrol then been available, he would have so advised me. The Leader of the Australian Country party has also said that petrol rationing is not imposed in France. That is true. The average motorist in France has to pay 63.20 francs a litre for petrol. Those engaged in priority work pay only 43.20 francs a litre. Thus, the priority user has a distinct advantage over the ordinary user. The priority user also must obtain bis petrol on coupons, so it cannot be said that there is no control over the use of petrol in that country. Very effective control is exercised by the heavy tax that is imposed on those who use petrol for other than priority purposes.
I do not think that I need canvass all the matters that have already been covered in other discussions on this subject. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman), who was in London when this matter was discussed, knows as much about it as does anybody else. The honorable member for Warringah has said that Australia is importing newsprint from Canada. That is perfectly true. We made a contract which will continue until March next to import newsprint from that country, but we have told the users of newsprint that after the expiration of that contract, no newsprint will be brought to Australia from Canada. I understand that the newsprint mills in Canada are sending a special delegation here, probably to induce us to change our decision. It is also true that we import a quantity of sulphite pulp from Canada for use in the newsprint industry. I suggest to the honorable member that he should discuss this matter with representatives of the Australian newsprint industry, because we have been endeavouring to encourage the production of newsprint in Tasmania. I also advise the honorable member to repeat in the electorate of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) what he has said on this subject to-night. It would be interesting to know how the electors of Wilmot would react to his suggestion that supplies of imported sulphite pulp should be cut off from the newsprint industry in Tasmania. The statements made by the honorable member are sheer hypocrisy. In the interests of the community as a whole, we are endeavouring to make an equitable distribution of all the petrol we can afford to buy. I assure honorable members opposite that the’ Commonwealth did not approach the State Premiers to try to persuade them to re-impose petrol rationing. When I met the Premiers I placed the whole of the facts before them, and three Liberal party Premiers and three Labour party Premiers decided that petrol rationing was essential if there was to be an equitable distribution of the petrol available to us. This Government has to decide what Australia can afford to expend on purchases in dollars, and how those dollars should be expended. We accept full responsibility in that matter. Indeed, we should not be a government if we did not do so. I have risen to participate in this debate, as I have done on a number of occasions previously, solely to correct statements that have been made by honorable members opposite who either are completely ignorant of the facts or who have completely distorted them.
.- This is a bill to re-impose petrol rationing on the community. It arises out of the decision of the High Court of Australia on the 6th June last that the National Security (Liquid Fuel) Regulations promulgated by the Commonwealth were invalid. I point out to the House that before the High Court gave its reserved judgment on the 6th June, it must have been obvious to the Prime Minister (Mr.
Chifley), if he and his legal advisers knew their job, that this decision was a very likely one. It must have been known to them, for a long time that it was a very likely one.
– Why is that*
– ‘Solely because the arguments advanced by the Commonwealth in support of the continuation of the National Security (Liquid Fuel) Regulations were very tenuous. It was widely rumoured that the regulation would be declared to ‘be invalid. The Commonwealth’s legal advisers must have told the Prime Minister some .months before the High Court announced its decision that the skids were under the regulation. I mention that matter in passing in order to indicate that long before the 6th June, the Prime Minister could have done something about this matter but, like Mr. Micawber, he waited for something to turn up, and, like Nero, he fiddled and twiddled while Rome burned. He did everything except deal with the problem that was going to arise because of the probable discontinuance of petrol rationing.
We had been told that petrol rationing is necessary ‘because the Commonwealth will not allow more refined, petrol to be imported into Australia. I emphasize the words “ refined petrol “. There is no shortage of crude oil in Australia. Indeed, quite recently this country was placed in a most advantageous position as far as crude oil is concerned. I have received information - there is nothing secret about it because it has been published in the press - that crude oil has been located in New Guinea at a depth of several thousands of feet. Until recently the crude oil was being brought to the surface at the rate of several thousands of barrels a day. The company’ responsible for the discovery of the oil and the operation of the wells is Oil Search Limited. It is owned partly by Australian interests, and partly by the Vacuum and Standard oil interests. The company, operating in Australian-controlled territory, has discovered a substantial quantity of crude oil and that oil is, or was, being brought to the surface until the company was told to discontinue its activities because the capacity of Australian refining plants is not sufficiently large to enable the crude oil that it can supply to be refined in Australia. The inadequacy of the capacity of oil refineries in this country is due primarily to a shortage of steel and to industrial disturbances, particularly the recent coal strike. The Government has been compelled to tell a private organization that is in a position to produce crude oil in Australian-controlled territory that it should not continue to bring the oil to the surface because it cannot be refined. Some years after the end of the war, the Government has had to confess that the capacity of oil -refining plants in Australia is not sufficiently large to enable us to refine the crude oil that can be obtained from oil wells that are situated within a few hundred miles of Australia.
The Government’s excuse for refusing to import additional quantities of petrol is that we have not sufficient dollars to pay for the extra petrol. Australia has always been short of dollars. From almost the beginning of our economic history, we have had to look to Great Britain for dollars and to rely upon a sterling pool of one kind or another. It is not without significance that New Zealand, which is in a worse position than Australia is in as’.far as external trade is concerned, imports more petrol a head of population than does this country. Refined petrol is not rationed in most of the European countries. As has been said, practically the only countries in the world that have found it necessary to continue to ration petrol are the countries that have socialist governments. However, let us accept the position. Let us ignore the mystery of why only countries with socialist governments are short of refined petrol. Let us accept, for the sake of ‘argument, that, because of the shortage of dollars, the Prime Minister is justified in not permitting additional supplies of petrol to come into this country from dollar sources.
The question that then arises is whether petrol can be obtained from nondollar sources. “We have been told, in one form of evasive words or another, that it cannot be so obtained. This matter has been raised in the House on at least a dozen occasions during the last three months. On every occasion that it hasbeen raised the Prime Minister and other Ministers have told us, in one mumbling form of words or another, that the petrol that some persons think is sterling petrol has a dollar content. What a mysterious phrase ! We are never told precisely what the dollar content is. The Prime Minister says, in effect, “ You must rely upon the word of an official of the Bank of England. He has told us that this petrol has a dollar content. Therefore, the Government will not allow it be to imported.” Then the right honorable gentleman, in characteristically stubborn fashion, says, “ Anyhow, we are not going import any more petrol, and that is all there is to it “. That is where the matter rests. It is apparent that thi9 Government will not try to get more sterling petrol. I maintain that it could get sterling petrol from somewhere if it tried to do so.
– On what facts does the honorable gentleman base that statement?
– I base it on the fact that the Prime Minister sits down on his seat and makes no effort to get additional sterling petrol. I base the statement on the fact that a small petroleum company, after fossicking around, has been able to get 4,500,000 gallons of sterling petrol from France. That petrol is now being loaded into tankers at French ports and will be in Australia within a few weeks. When the Prime Minister was told that Ampol had an option on that petrol and required an import licence, a pistol had to be put to his head. A few minutes before the option expired - it was literally minutes, and not hours or days - the right honorable gentleman agreed to issue the licence. He did so with the utmost reluctance, because he hates to admit that, he is wrong. When the licence was issued, a cable was sent to France, and Ampol acquired the 4,500,000 gallons of petrol that will arrive in Australia in a few weeks. I base my statement also on the fact that another cargo of 4,500,000’ gallons of petrol have been purchased in France by Ampol. Tankers are now on their way to French ports from Australian ports to load it. The import licence that was required before that cargo of petrol could be purchased was; issued by the Prime Minister with great. reluctance. Ampol also has a chance to acquire another 25,000,000 gallons of petrol - I think that figure is correct - but it has decided that it will not be an economic proposition to purchase it, because the price demanded by the vendors in France is 3d. a gallon too much. That quantity of petrol is apparently to be lost to us because of that fact. The Prime Minister has been requested to reduce the excise duty upon that petrol by 3d. a gallon so that it may be- acquired, but he has refused to do so. Is it not more important that the people of Australia should be provided with adequate supplies of petrol than that there should he this jiggery-pokery and fooling around in relation to 3d. a gallon?
If the Government really wanted to obtain sterling petrol, it could obtain it without difficulty. If small companies such as Ampol can get sterling petrol, why cannot the Australian Government get it ? I venture to suggest that there is a tie-up between the Government and the large oil companies of Australia, which have an interest in maintaining the present state of affairs because their quotas are based upon their high sales in the pre-war years. They are not anxious for new companies to come into the market. The reluctance of the Government to allow new and enterprising oil companies to come into the field may be due to the fact that there is a tie-up between the Government and the large oil companies. Let them all come. Australia needs petrol. If small companies are allowed to enter into competition with the large companies, the Vacuum and Shell organizations will be stimulated into doing some fossicking around themselves and in a short time those concerns also will get sterling petrol. This Government will not try to obtain it. It is a socialist government, and socialists have doctrinaire notions about these matters. They are not interested in being enterprising. They believe in doing things by regulation. That is not the proper way in which to advance the prosperity of this or any other country.
Like a fox in a corner, the Government has been compelled to attack other institutions in order to defend itself. It has even attacked the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, its own instru mentality. It was pointed out in this House recently by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) and myself that shortly after petrol rationing was declared to be invalid, the assistant manager of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, in which the Australian Government has one share more than half of the total shareholding, sent the following telegram to agents of the organization : -
Trust you realize that all possible means of gaining maximum motor spirit sales results must be pushed to utmost under present unrationed conditions. While good results from some centres, country sales generally disappointing notwithstanding stock difficulties. All depots telegraphed similarly arrange Saturday bulk deliveries if gallonage obtainable. Tax-free road permits available until 26th June.
We pointed out that the instrumentality in which the Government had a majority of shares was doing the very thing that the Government was snivelling about, by seeking to increase its sales of petrol when rationing had been declared invalid. We said that if any body in the country had an obligation to exercise some restraint in the matter of petrol sales, it should be this instrumentality in which the Government held a majority of the shares. The Prime Minister should have anticipated the decision of the High Court, and when the National Security (Liquid Fuel) Regulations were declared invalid, he should have given a lead, and said to the country, “ Now that rationing has been declared invalid, we may be short of petrol. We ask you to exercise restraint. There will be enough petrol if you exercise restraint “. Had the Prime Minister given that lead, the present shortage of petrol, apart from the crisis caused by the coal strike, might never have happened. But people did not show restraint, because they had not been given a lead. AH that they had were conflicting statements, which made them panic. Their panic was directly attributable to the mumbling, .bungling and inefficiency of the Government. In addition to that, the Government’s own instrumentality sent out the panic telegram in which it urged its agents to sell more petrol than they sold during the rationing period.
That information was brought out in the House, and the Prime Minister tried to excuse himself on the ground that the
Government had no control over Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. Nobody believed him. Nobody believed that the great Commonwealth which was entitled to appoint three out of the seven directors to the board of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and which held 51 per cent, of the shares, did not lave a strong influence on the policy of that instrumentality. The Prime Minister gave an explanation to that effect, and tried to get away with it. Conscious in Ms heart that he had failed to do so, he arranged for the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) to ask a stooge question a few days ago about Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. The honorable member for Martin asked the following series of questions: How many shares has the Commonwealth in the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited? How many directors has the Commonwealth on the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited? “What control has the Government over the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited? “What government negotiated the agreement with the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and by what method may that agreement he terminated?
The Prime Minister rose pontifically, and mumbled a reply to the effect that he could not really say how many shares the Commonwealth held in the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, although he confessed that it held a majority of them. “We know that the Commonwealth holds 51 per cent, of the shares in the organization. Under the Oil Agreement Act of 1920 and under succeeding acts, the shareholdings have been increased, but the Commonwealth’s shareholdings have always been increased proportionately so that it may retain a majority of the shares. The Prime Minister then said that the Government had been represented on the board by Mr. Findlay, and then by Mr. Martens. The present representative of the Commonwealth on the directorate is Mr. Hibberd. I pause at that point to inform the House that under the memorandum and articles of association of that instrumentality and under the AngloIranian Oil Agreement of 1920, the Commonwealth is entitled to three of the seven directors. According to the Prime
Minister, this Government has not even bothered to appoint its three directors, and yet it is crying and snivelling about not being able to exercise control over the policy of the organization. The Prime Minister’s reply indicates that the Commonwealth has only one director on the board of that instrumentality.
– There will be a few candidates for appointment to the board after the general election.
– I will bet there will be. The Prime Minister has said that the Government has no control over the policy of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and that the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company has the deciding voice in managerial policy. According to the right honorable gentleman, that company appoints the managing director. Indeed, a new managing director was appointed recently, and the Government was not aware of it. What sort of a ramshackle, rickety Government is this that does not know of the appointment of a new managing director of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited? The Commonwealth holds one share more than half of the shares in that _company, but does not appoint the quota of directors to which it is entitled, or require its representatives to report on the company’s doings. After all, the Australian taxpayers have contributed the cost of the majority of the shares in that instrumentality. The Prime Minister moans and groans about injustices and about not having a voice in determining the policy of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, but he has allowed a fantastic situation to continue. The Prime Minister did not know that a new managing director had been appointed. If the Prime Minister were doing his job and the Commonwealth’s nominees on the directorate were doing their job, the Commonwealth would know every move in the game. But the Commonwealth has not known any move in the game.
I take the matter a little further. Amiable as I am, I am somewhat suspicious of Government statements in these matters, so I read the AngloIranian Oil Agreement and the Oil Agreement Act pf 1920, and succeeding acts. I found that it is true that the Commonwealth owns a majority of the shares in the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and that when the shareholdings have been increased on several occasions, the Commonwealth has maintained its majority holding. I also found that under the act of 1920 the memorandum and articles of association of the company provide, among other things, that three of the seven directors shall be Commonwealth nominees and that the remaining four directors shall be the nominees of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. Evidently the Commonwealth has not had the energy, initiative or gumption to appoint its full quota of directors. The memorandum and articles of association also provide as f ollows : -
That no action or question or decision relating to, or affecting -
1 ) the policy of the Commonwealth in connexion with Naval or Military or external affairs; or
any proposed sale of refined products on long contracts or under circumstances which might endanger the ability of the Refinery Company to meet requirements for consumption within Australia; shall be taken, determined or made without the consent of the Commonwealth as expressed through its representatives on the Board of Directors;
That provision is in the memorandum and articles of association, yet the Prime Minister says that the Commonwealth has no voice in determining the policy of the company. I am prepared to admit at once that paragraph (5), which I have just read, is well and truly arguableby lawyers. It may well be said that the words - any proposed sale . . . under circumstances which might endanger the ability of the Refinery Company to meet requirements for consumption within Australia; may not entirely meet this particular case, but if I were the Prime Minister, I should give it a “ go “. I should say to the Commonwealth directors on the board, “Look here, you tell all the other members of the board that we are invoking this particular provision to tell you that we do not want the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited to sell petrol in large and extravagant quantities during the present crisis “. If the other members of the board had been intransigent and stubbornabout the matter, and had refused to obey, I should have called a meeting of shareholders. At any orate, I should have done something. If the Prime Minister had been a real Prime Minister and not one who has no sense of responsibility and no knowledge of bis legal rights, he would have endeavoured to exercise to the utmost limit his legal rights to stop the majority of the directors from doing something which he thought was inimical to the interests of Australia. Good heavens, the AttorneyGeneral does not mind taking cases to the High Court. He has lost five cases in succession.
I have described the real issue. It was well worthy of a trial. It is at least arguable that there is ample authority in this agreement for the nominees of the Commonwealth on the board of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited to have said to their fellow directors, “Insofar as this matter affects the security and the defence of Australia, we say that the company should not sell excessive quantities of petrol to the public “. I imagine that the courts of law, if the matter had ever reached them, would have certainly listened to that view. But of course it is not really a matter for recourse to the law. One does not conduct one’s business in that way. In a large company which is operating in conjunction with the Commonwealth we do not go to law about such matters. The Commonwealth’s nominees could have said to their co-directors, “We want your co-operation and assistance in this matter. We want the company to damp down on. its sales of petrol and set an example to the restof Australia by not exploiting; this difficult situation “. There is not a shadow of doubt that the other directors would have concurred in that view. Of course, they would have done so. There is no reason why they should not have done so. There would have been no disagreement about policy on that matter.
What emerges is that the Government has not attempted to influence the policy of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. All that it has done is, through the medium of a deceitful stooge question directed to the Prime Minister, to pretend to the people that it has no power over the policy of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. I say that the Government has all the moral power and plenty of latent legal power to have said- to the directors of the organization, “ Gentlemen, we are in a crisis.- We want this company to set an example to the other oil companies and not to embark upon excessive sales “. But the Government did not do so. All that it did was to attempt to deceive this House, as I have shown.
I shall now make a number of comments, and ask some questions. Why did not the Government appoint the three directors to the board of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited as it is entitled to do? Why did it not ask Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited to exercise restraint in selling petrol after the High Court had declared petrol rationing invalid? Has the Commonwealth ever called- a meeting of shareholders? Has the Commonwealth ever tried to obtain a variation of the agreement with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company? Of course it has not done so. Has the Commonwealth ever exercised the rights that it possesses under article 16 of the agreement in the Oil Agreement Act 1920 to buy out the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company? That article provides that after fifteen years, since 1935, the Commonwealth may buy out the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company by giving the necessary two years’ notice. This Government has been in office for eight -years, and it has not given such notice or expressed any dissatisfaction with its position in respect of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. The Government has never attempted to become the sole proprietor of the organization, as it was entitled to do under the agreement. The explanations which the Prime Minister has given of the position are revealed as nothing but deceitful humbug, which has been uttered in an attempt to mislead the people of this country.
There are other aspects of the petrol problem. We have been told that since the petrol rationing was abolished, consumption has increased by 20 per cent. That is true, but the overall increase of 20 per cent, is only trifling compared with the increased consumption of petrol by go- vernment departments as will be shown by the figures that I shall cite now. Up to the time the High Court declared the rationing regulations invalid, the average monthly consumption, from January to May, 1949, before the strike, was 691,000 gallons. In. September, after the coal strike was over, it was found to have risen to 802,000 gallons, an increase of 111,000 gallons. Who was it that behaved like a drunken sailor when rationing ceased? It was the Commonwealth Government. Commonwealth departments alone consume half as much petrol as the departments and instrumentalities of all other governments in Australia. This Government ought to set a good example to the people’, but it has done the opposite.
An examination of the bill also shows that we are about to return to the bad old days. For instance, the bill provides that the Governor-General may make regulations with respect to the rationing of liquid fuel. We can . understand that, but clause 7 provides as follows: - (1.) The regulations may empower a person or authority to make orders with respect to all or any of the matters with respect to which this Act authorizes the making of regulations. (2.) Sections forty-eight and forty-nine of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1948 shall apply to orders made under the regulations which are of a legislative and not of an executive character, in like manner as they apply to regulations. (3.) Orders so made shall not be deemed to be Statutory Rules within the meaning of the Rules Publication Act 1903-1939. (4.) The Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1948 shall apply to the interpretation of all orders so made in like manner as it applies to the interpretation of regulations, and, for the purpose of section forty-six of that Act, as so applied, all such orders shall he deemed to be regulations.
And so we go ‘ down the slippery slide. An official is to have exactly the same power to make orders as the GovernorGeneral has to make regulations, or as this Parliament has to enact legislation, and it is evident that orders may be made which are of a legislative as well as an executive character. Thus, once again, we shall be pushed around by petty officials. We were glad when the High Court declared the regulations invalid, because we thought that normal conditions would be restored, but now the old evils will appear again. The real cause of the present trouble is the vacillation of the Government between the time it knew that its power to impose rationing was coming to an end, and the 6th June, last, when the High Court declared the regulations to be invalid. Other reasons are lack of leadership by the Government, the absence of a plan to meet the new situation, and the failure to make any effort to obtain sterling petrol, which a resolute government would certainly have been able to do, seeing that a small private company has been successful in getting it. The Liberal party has stated in advertisements, and it may well be said here again, that it has no doubt that if the shackles are removed we shall he able to get sufficient sterling petrol to make rationing unnecessary.
Debate (on motion by Mr. SCULLY’ adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Ward) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to authorize the execution on behalf of the Government of Australia of an agreement with the Government of New Zealand relating to certain rights vested in those Governments jointly in connexion with phosphate deposits on Christmas Island, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize the execution by the Government of an agreement with the Government of New Zealand in relation to certain rights which have been jointly acquired by the Australian and New Zealand Governments to the phosphate deposits on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, and for other purposes connected with the control and working of those deposits. The bill represents the successful culmination of negotiations undertaken by the Government with the object of ensuring continuity of supplies of high grade phosphate to meet the needs of the agricultural industry of the Commonwealth. Previous negotiations, which had been conducted as far back as 1926, and renewed from time to time in subsequent years, to- secure the Christmas Island deposits had net been successful. As the result of the latest negotiations, the Australian and New Zealand Governments have jointly acquired, under an agreement made on the 31st December, 1948, the whole of the interests and assets of the Christmas Island Phosphate Company Limited at Christmas Island. This is a private company which is incorporated in England.
Christmas Island is located about 1,400 miles north-west from Fremantle. It is an administrative dependency of the Colony of Singapore. It contains deposits of high grade phosphate estimated at from 25,000,000 to 30,000,000 tons. These deposits had been worked for more than 50 years by the Christmas Island Phosphate Company Limited under a 99 years lease of the whole of the island which was granted to the company from the 1st January, 1891.
Pre-war output of phosphate .by the company was approximately 150,000 tons a year, most of which was sold to Japan. Since the war, supplies of this phosphate have been obtained for Australian andNew Zealand requirements to supplement the supplies available from Nauru and Ocean Islands. The present phosphate requirements of Australia and New Zealand are approximately 1,250,000 tons a year. This is expected to increase to approximately 1,500,000 tons a year by 1951-52. Nauru, with a total deposit of 75,000,000 tons, and Ocean Island, with a total deposit of 12,000,000 tons, can supply approximately 1,300,000 tons a year. The Christmas Island deposits should supply the balance of the requirements.
Under the agreement which has been concluded with the Christmas Island Phosphate Company Limited, the two governments have jointly purchased the whole of the rights of the company in the undertaking at Christmas Island as at the 31st December, 1948, including the unexpired portion of the company’s leasts which, at that date, had still 41 years to run. An amount of £2,750,000 sterling was paid by the two governments as joint purchasers in consideration for the sale. This price was subject to adjustments in respect of capital expenditure incurred by ;the company after the 30th June, 1948, :and also in respect of certain stock -adjustments which were to be subsequently determined. These adjustments which have since been effected with the. company, involved a further sum of £142,695 sterling, bringing the total purchase price up to £2,892,695 sterling.
Since the conclusion of the sale, consultations have taken place between the Australian and New Zealand Governments on the method of providing for the future conduct of the undertaking at Christmas Island and a form of agreement which is acceptable to both Governments has been arrived at. This proposed agreement is set out in the schedule of the bill.
Under this agreement it is provided that the purchase price and any additional moneys required for the working of the undertaking will be provided by the two governments in equal shares. It is estimated that Australia’s contribution under this arrangement will be £1,500,000 sterling. A separate commission is to be established to manage and control the undertaking on behalf of the two governments. This commission will consist of three commissioners, of whom one is to be appointed by the Australian Government, -one by the New Zealand Government and one by the two governments jointly. The British Phosphate Commissioners representing the Governments of the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand attend to the supply of phosphate for Australia and New Zealand and work the deposits on Nauru and Ocean Islands; but as the United Kingdom Government is not joined in the agreement for the purchase of the Christmas Island deposits it will be necessary to establish a separate commission to control this Christmas Island undertaking. However,, in view of the close connexion between the working of the Christmas Island phosphate deposits and the activities of the British Phosphate Commissioners in regard to Nauru-Ocean deposits, it is proposed to utilize the service of the British Phosphate Commissioners as managing agents of the Christmas Island undertaking and thereby avoid unnecessary duplication of existing facilities and services. In anticipation of the agreement to give effect to this agreement, the British Phosphate Commissioners assumed control as managing agents of the undertaking at Christmas Island as from the 1st January, 1949.
Phosphate from Christmas Island will be disposed of in Australia and New Zealand, in conjunction with phosphate supplied by the British Phosphate Commissioners from Nauru and Ocean Islands, under arrangements that will ensure, as far as practicable, the lowest possible average cost. In practice, the Christmas Island phosphate will he delivered to the nearer fertilizer works in Australia, principally in Western Australia, thus releasing a corresponding tonnage of phosphate from Nauru and Ocean Islands for delivery to New Zealand. The supply of ground phosphate from Christmas Island to Malaya previously arranged’ by the Christmas Island company will continue in accordance with the obligation taken over from the company, but the agreement provides that phosphate is not otherwise to be supplied to countries outside Australia and New Zealand except with the unanimous approval of the commissioners.
In common with the British Phosphate Commissioners, the activities of the Christmas Island Phosphate Commission will be conducted’ on a. non-profit basis, but any surplus funds which may be accumulated as a result of the activities of the commission are to be shared equally between the -two governments. Although under the terms of the agreement the management and control of the undertaking is to be vested in the commissioners, it will be noted from Article 9 of the agreement that the commission will be subject to any general directions of policy that may be jointly given by the two governments.
The addition of these Christmas Island deposits to the present holdings at Nauru and Ocean Islands, pursuant to the provisions of this bill, will ensure continuity of supplies of high-grade phosphate for Australian and New Zealand needs for many years to come. Honorable members will appreciate the importance of this in relation to Australia’s agricultural industry. The New Zealand Government has already enacted appropriate legislation in relation to this matter.
.- The agreement, for the ratification of which this bill provides, will be beneficial to Australia because under it fertilizer will be brought to this country for the benefit of primary producers. Nothing was said by the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) about the labour that is to be used for working the deposits of phosphate on Christmas Island. We know that on Nauru Chinese labour has been used’ to work the phosphate deposits, and that recently riots occurred amongst them, which resulted in some deaths. An official was sent to Nauru to inquire into the incident, but I do not think that the report of his inquiry has yet been presented to the Parliament. We do not want on Christmas Island a repetition of what occurred on Nauru Island. We had a gallant commissioner at Nauru, who, with the whole of his staff, was executed when the Japanase took the island. I should like to know whether the Administration has properly compensated the dependants of those officers who were executed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I asked the Minister for External Territories some specific questions in my second-reading speech. The committee stage gives him an opportunity to reply to them. I should like to know whether Chinese labour, is being imported to Christmas Island. I also wish to know the result of his inquiry into the riots and deaths at Nauru.
– What the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) had to say about Nauru has nothing to do with this measure ; but, with your permission, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I shall make some references to it. The dependants of the employees of the British phosphate commission and of the administration of Nauru who lost, their lives have been compensated. I almost said that they had been adequately compensated; but it is impossible adequately to compensate people for the loss of their dear ones. Investigations into the riots at Nauru are continuing. An official was sent there for that purpose. Inquiries about the riots were made at the last meeting of the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations. A full report is being prepared. I hope to be able to supply thehonorable member with full details at an early date. Regarding the other inquiry of the honorable member I desire to advise him that conditions of labour on Christmas Island will be not less satisfactory than they were under the private company.
– Is it native labour or Chinese labour?
– I understand that it is partly Asiatic labour.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Pollard), read a first time.
. - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill seeks approval of the second supplementary sugar agreement made this month between the Australian Government and the Government of Queensland. Under this agreement the Australian and Queensland Governments agree to amend the existing sugar agreement to provide for an increase of £4 2s. 8d. a ton in the wholesale price of refined sugar of 1A grade, and for the prices of sugars of other grades, as at present fixed under the existing sugar agreement, to be increased commensurately. The new maximum prices compared with the existing prices will be as follows : -
An increase of £4 2s. 8d. a ton in the wholesale price would affect the retail price of refined sugar by £4 13s. 4d. a ton, that is, by id. per lb. The present retail price in capital cities is 4-^d. per lb. The remaining clauses of the present sugar agreement will remain intact. The only purpose of the supplementary agreement is to increase the prices set out in clause 5 of the agreement.
The decision by the Government to recommend to the Parliament the amendment of the existing sugar agreement to provide for the increased prices was made after consultation with the Queensland Government, which had requested the price increases on behalf of the sugar industry, and after a close survey of the present position and future prospects of the sugar industry. When the original agreement with the Queensland Government was signed in October, 1945, the Australian Government gave an assurance to the sugar industry that, if during the currency of the agreement cost levels in Australia increased substantially, it would be prepared, on representations from the Queensland Government, to give consideration to the industry’s position.
On the 3rd December, 1947, the Commonwealth Parliament approved a bill to amend the sugar agreement to increase the wholesale price of refined sugar by £4 2s. 8d. a ton. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), in announcing approval of that increase to the industry, stated that the increase would have to cover the cost of the 40-hour week. The sugar industry, in again requesting an increase of £4 2s. 8d. a ton, has shown that of the £4 2s. 8d. increase granted in 1947 only £1 3s. remained for the industry in respect of the 1948 season, and it estimates that for the 1949 season increased costs will not only have eliminated the price increase granted in 1947, but will also have exceeded that amount by about £1 a ton. The net returns to millers and growers from sales in Australia have been as follows: -
This shows that the return from home-, consumption sales has declined from £24 a ton in 1947 to the estimate of £21 a ton in 1949. The 1949 value will be the lowest since 1919, and nearly £3 a ton lower than the average over the last twenty years. While the price for export sugar is at present higher than the homeconsumption price, nevertheless, the net return from sales of sugar on the domestic market has always been recognized as the major stabilizing factor in the industry’s economy. Undoubtedly the industry has had to meet sharp rises of costs since the last price increase in December, 1947. Even though some part of the overall increase in costs which has incurred since 1947 must be regarded as having been taken into account by the Commonwealth at that time, substantial increases over and above these costs still remain. The main reasons for the lower returns to the industry are stated by the Queensland Sugar Board to be the increased costs of transport, packages and refining charges. For instance, interstate shipping freight rates on raw sugar have increased by £2 2s. a ton since 1947. In addition to the substantial fall in its net return a ton from raw sugar sold for homeconsumption purposes, owing to the increased costs of marketing its sugar locally, the industry also claims that in growing the cane and producing raw sugar it has had to meet increased costs not reasonably anticipated in 1947 and far in excess of those attributable to the 40-hour week. It has listed the principal components of these increases as - (a) wages; (b) rail freights, and (c) materials and replacement costs, claiming -
In its case the sugar industry also claimed that it should be relieved, for the time being, of the payment of its contribution of £216,000 per annum to the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee because that committee has large accumulated funds. It is true that the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee has funds totalling over £800,000, which have accumulated due to the nonpayment during recent years of export sugar rebates. The Government considered this proposal of the sugar industry, but was unable to approve of it. The contribution by the sugar industry to the fruit industry has operated for very manyyears, and has, to a great extent, been by mutual arrangement between the two industries. Jam contains approximately 60 per cent. sugar, and therefore it is in the sugar industry’s own interests to encourage the sale of fruit products. The Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee funds, apart from being used for purposes of domestic and export rebates, may also be used for the purpose of promoting “the use and sale of Australian manufactured fruitproducts in the Commonwealth of Australia or overseas “. Therefore the Government could not agree to any action which might jeopardize the fruit processing industries. The sugar industry has presented a sound case, and the Government is satisfied that the increase in the price of sugar is justified.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Davidson) adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Appropriation (Works and Services ) Bill 1949-50.
Customs Bill 1949.
Excise Bill 1949.
Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) 1949.
Northern Territory ( Administration) Bill 1949.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Mr.RYAN (Flinders) [12 midnight]. - On Friday last the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford), in answer to a question by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), replied in part to certain charges that I had made regarding the management of Trans-Australia Airlines. If the Minister had any regard for the efficiency of Trans-Australia Airlines and for correct business principles, I should have thought that he would have shown some gratitude to me for bringing those particular matters to his attention, because the charges that I made certainly required a thorough investigation. Instead of being grateful, however, the Minister accused me of being unduly credulous in accepting information that I had received and which I believed to be true. One of the charges that I made way in relation to the manipulation of accounts. I appreciate that the Minister obviously did not have time to reply to all the statements that I made, and that he also obviously had to rely on information supplied to him by the staff of Trans-Australia Airlines itself. The Minister’s reply bears the same relation to the facts of the case as the TransAustralia Airlines balance-sheet for 1947-48 bears to Trans-Australia Airlines’ actual financial position during those years. In his reply the Minister dealt with two particular headings. In the first place he said that the allegation that Trans-Australia Airlines had been robbed of £5S,000 was untrue and that stocktaking during 1947-48 disclosed a net deficiency of £5,780. That figure is far below the actual loss that occurred through thefts or mismanagement. I did not make it clear that the £58,000 that I had mentioned referred, not only to the loss in that particular year, but also to losses incurred in the preceding year. However, the losses for the year ending the. 30th June, 1948, were far in excess of the figure given by the Minister, and I suggest, although I cannot vouch for the statement, that possibly one of the ways of concealing these losses was to include them in the actual operational charges for that particular year.
The Minister has made no reply to the charge that nothing has appeared in the balance-sheet or elsewhere to show that any loss had occurred, and that the losses had been concealed both from the general public and from the Parliament itself. In that particular instance- 1 refer the Minister to the Auditor-General’s report for 1946-47 and 1947-48, in which he has made a very pertinent criticism of certain losses during these two years.
Regarding the second item to which the Minister referred, which was the writing up of stores, the Minister said that Trans-Australia Airlines had revalued some disposals stores to the standard prices for replacement costs, but had not carried over the credit into the profit and loss account. The credit had been put aside as provision against depreciation. I have two observations to make on that statement. The first is that no figure regarding the writing up of value was given by the Minister. I said that the value of stores was written up by £200,000 in the year ending the 30th June, 1948. The Minister has given no reply to that statement. My second observation concerns the Minister’s statement that credit had been put aside as provision against depreciation. The balance-sheet contains no item to show any provision for depreciation, and if this amount has been written up I ask where it is shown and where it has gone? That question certainly requires some explanation, which I hope will be forthcoming. In fact, the whole of the balance-sheet, as I have said before, is completely incomprehensible, and nothing of any value can be gathered from it. I do not know whether that fact has arisen from a desire to conceal matters ; hut no one can point out where the deficiencies are, if there are any, or say what has happened to the depreciation amount that the Minister has mentioned. The whole matter requires investigation and adjustment. I suggest that the Minister should have a special investigation carried out by the Auditor-General into the charges that I made, and I suggest that such an investigation might well be held before the general election takes place in December. Some years ago the famous American inventor Edison commented on government enterprises. He said -
The Government never really goes into business for it never makes ends meet and that is the first requisite of business. It just mixes a little business with a lot of politics and no one ever gets a chance to find out what is actually going on.
I suggest that that is what is taking place in regard to Trans-Australia Airlines.
– In general, I support the remarks of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan). I was not satisfied with the Minister’s reply to the honorable member’s allegations. The Government should not attempt to minimize the importance of such charges. In the same category as that honorable member’s question is a question that I placed on the noticepaper before the beginning of the present sessional period almost two months ago. If there is high efficiency on the accounting side of Qantas Emipre Airways Limited - and there is undoubtedly high efficiency on the operational side, as there is in all the air services of Australia - the information that I sought in my question would have been forthcoming long ago. My question, which still remains unanswered on the notice-paper, reads -
Qantas Empire Airways Limited has a splendid record. Formerly the British Government owned 50 per cent, of its shares, hut the company is now completely owned and controlled hy the Australian Government. On its administrative side it has men of calibre like Mr. Hudson Fysh and Sir Keith Smith, but the accounting side is not as efficient as it would be if it were a private company. Great subsidies have been paid to thi9 airline. Measures to provide for those subsidies whizz through this Parliament during the debates on the Estimates when the Government applies the guillotine. I placed my question on the notice-paper so that I could analyse the balance-sheet of Qantas Empire Airways Limited in the same way as the honorable member for Flinders has analysed the balance-sheet of TransAustralia Airlines, hut the information required, which any private company could make available in 24 hours, has not been obtained by the Minister after nearly two months, and now we are in the last hours of this Parliament without the information having been vouchsafed. Perhaps the Minister will post it to me after the Parliament has ended.
– I shall deliver the information to the honorable member.
– The Minister should have answered my question some weeks ago so that I and other honorable members could have analysed the balancesheet. I have an idea that some of those subsidies that Qantas Empire Airways Limited has received have not been offset in the right way. The Minister has boasted several times that Qantas Empire Airways Limited will make a profit, and I should like to see it do so, but, as the quotation made by the honorable member for Flinders has indicated, government enterprises do not make profits. The Minister should have made a frank statement in answer to the question that I placed on the notice-paper.
Mr. DRAKEFORD (MaribyrnongMinister for Air and Minister for Civil
Aviation) [12.10 a.m.]. - I regret that the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) has seen fit to return to an attack that had no justification whatever. I expressed surprise when he made his original charges that this honorable gentleman, who is usually very reasonable in presenting facts, had allowed himself to be misled or to be fed on information that did not have any basis. Most of the newspapers, particularly the Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial, headlined his charges to the effect that £58,000 had been stolen from Trans-Australia Airlines. No doubt those headlines created in the minds of the people the idea that there was great carelessness somewhere for which I, as Minister for Civil Aviation, should have to answer, and that some kind of crime or great laxity had occurred for which the Government should be held responsible. But there was nothing in the honorable gentleman’s claim whatever. Its falsity was proved conclusively by the answer that I gave as soon as it was possible to obtain the necessary information. All that the honorable gentleman did was to multiply the acknowledged loss of under 1 per cent, of the total stores, valued at more than £800,000, held by TransAustralia Airlines. I think that such small percentage losses occur in private business just as in concerns like TransAustralia Airlines. The correct figure of £5,780 was multiplied into £58,000 by the honorable member in his charges, which were headlined by newspapers all over Australia. What is the object of all this criticism ? Is it to try to discredit an organization of which the honorable member himself is as much a part-owner as I am, and of which I think that he should be very proud. His allegation was completely refuted and yet to-night, although he started off in an apologetic manner, he said that my answer was not effective. I do not know what could be more effective than proving that the charge was false. I suggest that it was a deliberately false charge, made with the object of dishonoring this company, which is being conducted by men who would not dream of producing false balance-sheets. Yet the honorable member has suggested that these men would be a party to the presentation of accounts which are open to public inspection by any competent
– What did the AuditorGeneral say?
– The only reference that the Auditor-General made was in respect of some deficiencies of stores that had been transferred from disposals. I ask the honorable gentleman not to rely on what appeared in the AuditorGeneral’s report for 1947-48 without being fair enough to consider what he said in his report for 1948-49, when he definitely referred to the fact that a good deal of the sources of complaint had1 been remedied. He did not use these actual words, but that is the effect of his statement. When this airline was inaugurated it bought a great quantity of disposals stores, just as other airline companies, such as Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, also did.. I am not criticizing any company for doing that. It is probably good keen business tactics. From the brief that was prepared for him, the honorable member for Flinders-
– No brief was prepared for me.
– The honorable member presented an alleged analysis of Trans-Australia Airlines balance-sheet, but failed completely to pin any cause for complaint upon Trans-Australia Airlines or my department or myself. I suggest that if the honorable member studies ‘the newspapers which published his charges under big headlines he would find that my answer was not published under similar headlines. It certainly appeared in those newspapers, but it’ was not given the same prominence as was given to the charges.
Mr. Ryan interjecting,
– The honorable member obviously becomes ‘ rattled when his statements are refuted. He alleged that a car had been provided for branch managers to drive around in and that the wages of various people had been doubled because of overtime worked. I do not know whether I should mention what I am about to say, but I ‘pointed out to the honorable member outside this chamber that I thought he was on the wrong track, and he said that he would ask some’ :md-re questions about the matter. I prepared answers for him, but he did not ask thos*? questions, because he knew he was on the wrong track. He knew that it would be dangerous for him to ask those questions.The information that has been furnished to the House completely refutes hig statements.
The honorable member said that branch managers had been using motor vehicles for private purposes. It is true that a motor vehicle has been allocated to the branch office in every capital city. It is placed at the disposal df the manager, but is not for his sole use. Does the honorable member suggest that an instrumentality of the size of Trans- Australia Airlines should not have a motor car allocated to it in each of the capital cities for staff purposes? That practice is commonly followed even in private businesses, but no comment is made about that. However, when Trans-Australia Airlines and Qantas Empire Airways Limited adopt a similar practice, honorable members opposite characterize it as a sheer waste of public money. They know very well that, in bringing these complaints before the House, they are not animated by pure motives ; they do so solely to bolster their charge that a government instrumentality cannot pay its way.
– Government instrumentalities are not paying their way.
– In the two periods covered by the reports ‘of Qantas Empire Airways Limited, that organization has made a profit. No doubt that fact has caused honorable members opposite some concern. They do ‘not like to have their allegations refuted. I believe that Trans- Australia Airlines will also show a profit. I assure honorable members opposite that the answers to their questions are being prepared. I am not by any means running away from them. If the honorable member for Balaclava will examine the notice-paper, he will see that the question that he has asked in relation to the carriage of mails by Qantas Empire Airways Limited is covered by a question in almost similar terms which has been placed on the notice-paper by the Leader of the Australian Country “party (Mr. “Fadden). If the honorable member’ had taken the trouble to investigate the ‘ position, he would know that the British Overseas Airways Corporation, and Qantas Empire Airways Limited operate in a parallel partnership and that, in order to obtain the information for which he has asked, it is necessary to ascertain the proportions of mail carried respectively by the two companies. A great deal of investigation is needed to elicit that information. However, honorable members are entitled to that information, and 1 assure them that it will be supplied to them.
– The answer to my question will probably be supplied by post.
– It will not be sent by post. It will be conveyed personally to the honorable member either at the conclusion of this sitting or during the next sitting of the Parliament. A good deal of the delay that has taken place in obtaining information of this kind arises from the obscurity with which honorable members opposite surround their questions.
The honorable member for Flinders has said that certain stores which were issued in Sydney have not been properly accounted for. I have made specific inquiries in relation to that complaint, and I have been informed by responsible officers of Trans-Australia Airlines that they have no knowledge of any stores being unaccounted for. If the honorable member will furnish particulars of dates and the persons concerned, I shall have the matter investigated without delay. I hope that his allegations on this occasion will prove to be as ridiculously om justified as the other allegations that he has made. The honorable member has also complained about over staffing in TransAustralia Airlines. ‘I assure him that the staffing of Trans-Australia Airlines bears the same relationship to the work done as is the case with Qantas Empire Airways Limited. It has taken over under my direction as Minister lines that were known to be non-paying. I point out that no complaints were made on this score when Qantas Empire Airways Limited was operating under a subsidy which enabled it to guarantee a 7 per cent, return on the captial invested in one branch of its service. It was because of the payment of subsidies that the private companies, which are so loudly applauded by honorable members opposite, were able to earn profits for a long period of years. Subsidies are paid to the MacRobertson Miller Aviation Company Limited, Airlines (Western Australia), Guinea Airways and others. All airline companies, with the exception of EastWest Airlines and Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited, receive subsidies. Butler Airways Limited receives a small subsidy and these are essential if air services are to be supplied in sparsely populated areas.
The questions that have been asked by honorable members in relation to this matter have necessitated the making of lengthy investigations. The answers are now available and will be supplied without delay. I warn honorable members opposite, however, that if they propose to use the information during the election campaign they will find that those for whom they obtained this information will be somewhat upset by the fact that the answers completely refute the allegations, expressed or implied, in the questions. The complaints made by the honorable member for Flinders to-night have no more substance than those which the honorable member made on the previous occasion and which I was able to show were completely without foundation. I do not accuse the honorable member of wilfully making false statements. I do not think that he would do so. Probably, he is the innocent victim of people who, in pursuit of their own interests, make suggestions with the deliberate intention of doing damage to a government instrumentality of which I feel proud and of which honorable members opposite, if they were reasonable men, would also feel proud.
– Will the Minister answer one further question ?
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to invite the Minister to answer further questions.
– I have so effectively answered the questions that have already been asked by the honorable member that I wonder that he has the temerity to try to ask another question. I thank him for the apology he has made for his earlier incorrect statements. I suggest to him that he should not make allegations against Trans-Australia Airlines and its officials unless they are soundly based.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act - Second Annual Report by Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, for year 1948-49.
Ordered to be printed.
Science and Industry Research Act - First Annual Report of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, for year 1948-49.
Ordered to be printed.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department - Defence - J. P. Buckley. Treasury - D. A. Davey, S. E. Whicker.
House adjourned at 12.22 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool: Use of Premises by Cabb and Company.
Does the Commonwealth handling equipment pool occupy premises in Wattle-street, Ultimo ?
Does Mr. T. Carr, of Carr and Company, machinery merchants of Wattle-street, Ultimo, occupy portion of the land on which the equipment pool depot is located?
Does Carr and Company have any business dealings with the pool?
Who owns the property upon which Carr and Company’s material is stacked?
Does Carr and Company use the same gates as pool employees and vehicles to enter and leave the premises?
Why are the properties not separated by a dividing fence?
Has Carr and Company paid the Commonwealth any money for the use of the pool’s equipment to load and unload material?
Carr and Company, machinery merchants, occupy land adjacent to the site of the premises of Commonwealth handling equipment pool.
Sydney City Council.
Yes. This was inevitable in view of the fact that the site occupied by the Commonwealth handling equipment pool was taken under National Security (General) Regulation 54 at a time when the area was held under lease by Carr and Company from the Harris estate.
Suitable arrangements have been made for erection of a dividing fence and an alternative entrance and action by the Department of Works and Housing is now awaited. It is anticipated that work will comment*: in the near future. Delays in the erection of the fence and construction of a separate entrance were due to the necessity for the provision by Commonwealth handling equipment pool of toilet facilities for the staff of Carr and Company in accordance with the terms of the lease and also to difficulties experienced by Carr and Company in clearing material from the adjacent area.
Equipment has been hired at the usual hiring charges to Carr and Company from time to time and payment therefor has been made by the company.
Expedition to Arnhem Land
With respect to an expedition to Arnhem Land involving an expenditure of £8,148 last financial year, will he state (o) why the actual expenditure was £5,148 in excess of the vote approved by Parliament; (6) how the expenditure was made up; (o) what the expedition achieved, and (d) whether any of the £8,148 was recouped by his department or whether any portion of it is likely to be i recouped ?
What was the average monthly consumption of petrol by the Commonwealth Government and its departments from January to May, 1949, inclusive?
What has been the consumption in each of the months since?
The average monthly consumption ot petrol by the Commonwealth Government and its departments from January to May, 1949, was 091,877 gallons. The consumption during each month was - January, 604,030 gallons; February, 711,101 gallons; March, 727,747 gallons; April, 638,945 gallons: May, 776,960 gallons.
The consumption during June, July, August and September, 1949, was - June, 800,339 gallons; July, 942,746 gallons; August, 883,187 gallons; September, 802,159 gallons. Consumption of petrol by Commonwealth departments in tho recent months was abnormal on account of the coal strike which affected consumption for the months of June, July and August. During these months hundreds of vehicles had to be sent long distances with mails which would normally have gone by rail, and much petrol was also used by the Departments of the Army and Air in the movement of personnel and coal. Additionally, the Department of Works and Housing, in order not to impede important housing and works projects, had to move much material by road instead of by rail. Apart from the strike, consumption of petrol in connexion with the rocket range and other works has increased with the intensification of the work. Every precaution is being taken to ensure that petrol is used only for essential transport in Commonwealth vehicles. During rationing no user was left without petrol for essential transport and this applied and will apply, so far as supplies permit, to the Commonwealth Government as well as to other users.
I ask the Prime Minister whether it is correct, as reported in newspapers cablegrams from London, that under an arrangement with General MacArthur 1,000,000 tons of crude oil from the sterling areas will be sent to Japan for treatment in refineries that were supposed to have been dismantled under the policy of preventing the restoration of the Japanese war potential?
If such refineries exist in Japan and are not being used, will the Australian Government as part of Australia’s reparations from Japan press for their dismantlement and transfer to Australia for use in refining petrol in this country ?
In reply to the honorable member’s questions I have ascertained that on the 26th September, General Head-quarters of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers in Japan issued the following press statement : -
Permission has been given to Japanese Pacific coast oil refining plants to resume operation by importing crude oil, it was announced to-day ‘by S.C.A.P.’s Economic and Scientific Section.
Soon after the beginning of the occupation. Japan’s Pacific refineries were closed and only six small west coast refineries remained in operation. These plants Were devoted to the processing of indigenous crude and the greatest share of Japan’s oil needs were met by importing finished petroleum products. A S.C.A.P. directive lifting these restrictions on the Pacific coast plants was issued last July.
The first step in the refinery programme is the approval for the repair and rehabilitation of five refineries. These include: Nippon Oil Company refineries at Yokohama and Kudamatsu ; Showa Oil Company refinery at Kawasaki; Toa Nenryo Company refinery, Shimizu, and Daikyo Oil Company refinery, Yokkaichi. They will be placed in operable condition not later than next January 1.
The Daito Oil Company refinery will be prepared to receive and process fuel oil at the rate of 1,000 barrels per day into lubricating oils and asphalt. The remaining four refineries will be capable of receiving and processing imported crude oil at the rate of 4,000 barrels a day into a complete line of refined products, the ratio to be determined by domestic industrial requirements.
Repair and rehabilitation of the Maruzen Oil Company refinery at Shimotsu and the Toa Nenryo Oil Company refinery at Wakayama comprise the second step of this programme. Maruzen Oil Company refinery will be prepared to receive the process imported crude oil at the rate of 2,000 barrels a day into a full line of refined products, not later than next April 1. The Toa Nenryo Oil Company refinery will be prepared to go into operation at the rate of 7,000 barrels a day by next July 1.
Crude oil will he imported and made available to these refineries sufficient to maintain the scheduled rate of operation. Permission has been granted to the Mitsubishi Oil Company refinery at Kawasaki and the Kao Oil Company refinery at Marifu for repairs of existing facilities. A supply of cracking stock is contemplated for these plants.
Beginning in January, about 80,000 tons of imported oil will be refined monthly by Japanese plants, according to present plans. The quantity to be refined is expected to increase to 120,000 tons each month which is approximately two-thirds of domestic demands. A portion of the fuel oil. will continue to bc imported.
It is anticipated that permitting Japan to resume refining of imported crude oil will effect a saving of approximately $10,000,000 during the first year of operation.
ARMED Forces: Australians in Japan.
As essential supplies for troops in the British Commonwealth Occupation Force come within sterling areas, principally from Australia, the effect of devaluation of sterling, in terms of dollars, on the cost of living of the troops in Japan, is negligible. Any extraneous personal purchases and services involving dollar or yen expenditure have been more than offset by the recent cost-of-living increases approved for the Australian troops generally.
Australian Capital Territory : Building Construction
1,328 mcn were engaged ‘ on building construction in the Australian Capital Territory as at the 30th June, 1949, on erection of homes, hostels, office buildings, and minor industrial establishments.
The figures quoted arc in respect of building construction under the control of my department. They do not relate to private enterprise.
As stated in the Aluminium Production Commission’s annual report tabled on the 13th October, none of the bauxite, deposits held by the commission is in Victoria. For the honorable member’s information, I advise that the principal Victorian deposits arc leased by a commercial company. The quality of the bauxite held by the commission in Tasmania and New South Wales compares favorably with that of the Victorian ore.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 October 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19491026_reps_18_205/>.