20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Eon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 3.20 p.m., and read prayers.
– On Thursday last, the honorable member for Moore directed a question to me in relation to the distribution amongst honorable members of answers to questions asked upon notice. With the co-operation of the President of the Senate, an arrangement has been made under which questions upon notice that are asked and answered in one sitting week will be printed and a copy supplied to each honorable member at the beginning of the following week.
– As I have one or two questions that I desire to direct to the Minister for Supply, I ask the Prime Minister whether he can indicate when his colleague is likely to resume his place in the House!
– My colleague the Minister for Supply is suffering from a serious illness and it is not expected that he will be able to resume his place in the House until a fortnight from now.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether there is any substance in reports that have been published to the effect that shortly a conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers will be held to discuss defence and foreign affairs! If there be no substance in the reports, will the Prime Minister inform the House whether the Australian Government or the government of any other country of the British Commonwealth has suggested that such a conference be held?
– I have no information in respect of the rumour to which the right honorable gentleman has referred, beyond what I have read in the press. It has not been alluded to in any cable that I have received or sent.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether representatives of the press gallery have been refused admittance to the King’s Hall and the lobbies for 24 hours? If that be so, what is the reason for that action?
– I do not know. Certainly I have taken no action in respect of that matter.
– Will you inform me, Mr. Speaker, whether it is a fact that instructions in your name, and in the name of the President of the Senate, have been issued through the president of the press gallery that members of the press gallery must not appear in King’s Hall or the four lobbies of Parliament House all day to-morrow? If that is a fact, may the House know why?
– Yes, it is a fact.
-Supplementary to the question of the honorable member for Bowman, Mr. Speaker, will you inform the House of your reason for taking the somewhat unusual action of ordering the press to stay out of King’s Hall and the lobbies to-morrow?
– Not at the present moment.
– Can you inform the House, Mr. Speaker, what privileges or rights journalists in this building have in the pursuit of their profession and to whom those privileges and rights apply? Do they apply to journalists only, or do they apply also to pedlars of confidential news letters and publicity officers of the Liberal party who sometimes appear in the press gallery? In view of the controversy in which you yourself have been engaged, and the fact that the Prime Minister has disclaimed all knowledge of any action to restrict the privileges and rights of pressmen, this matter should be clarified.
-I shall prepare a statement.
– I wish to direct a question to you, Mr. Speaker, believing that you and the President of the Senate have complete control of the accommodation of the people who are permitted to work in the parliamentary press gallery. Have you seen an article that was written by a Sun feature writer-
-Order! The honor able member cannot base a question on a newspaper article.
– I cannot approach the question without drawing your attention to the matter.
– That is the provision of a standing order, which I cannot alter.
– Then I shall ask your advice on the matter. There has been published in the press by a Sun feature writer an article which aggravates a previous article that has been dealt with by the Committee of Privileges. That aggravation was written-
– Order I Has the honorable gentleman risen on a matter of privilege?
– No. I seek your guidance on how to approach you, as the senior officer of the House who can say whether these people should remain here or not. The House is the final arbiter on reports by the Committee of Privileges. The point that I raise is that, before the House has had an opportunity to express its opinion on the report of the Committee of Privileges in connexion with the first article by the Sun feature writer, he has written another article which, if anything, is more grievous than the first article. As the custodian of the rights and privileges of this House, will you examine the second article to see whether the writer has been guilty of contempt of the Parliament, and also, whether it was in good taste for the article to be published before the House had passed judgment on the first article in the light of the report of the Committee of Privileges?
– If the honorable member for Dalley will furnish me with a copy of the second article, I shall examine it and express an opinion tomorrow on whether I think that a prima facie case of breach of privilege has been made out. Of what is good taste in these matters, I would hesitate to judge.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. In view of statements that the honorable gentleman has made about a shortage of telephone equipment, will he inform the House of the total value of the telecommunications equipment that is held by his department in all of its stores throughout the Commonwealth ?
– I shall endeavour to obtain the information for which the honorable gentleman has asked.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he has issued any instructions to the Postmaster-General’s Department to safeguard telephone subscribers against charges being made to their accounts by the wrongful use of their private telephone numbers in connexion with trunk-line calls. By way of explanation I state that my question follows the exposure in Sydney that people, by dialling from public telephone boxes the number B071, which is the number of the Sydney exchange that handles trunk-line calls to the country, can secure trunk-line calls without delay and without any check being made on the authenticity of the call, to any part of the State during the off-peak periods. If the Minister is not aware of those facts I shall let him have copies of the Eastern Suburbs Advertiser of last Friday and of Sydney Truth of last Sunday, which contain the details of the matter.
– I have heard of allegations that certain people can obtain trunk-line calls and have them falsely debited to the accounts of private telephone subscribers. I do not know what substance there is in these statements, but I shall have them investigated.
– In explanation of my question to the Prime Minister. I remind the right honorable gentleman that a few weeks ago many sensational statements were made by the Premier of Victoria, Mr. McDonald, about the dire consequences that the decision of the Loan Council was forcing upon Victoria - a decision at which the Premier himself connived. Is the Prime Minister aware that workers in some of the Victorian hydroelectric projects that are alleged to be threatened by loan cuts are now angrily blaming the Victorian Government for having made them the scapegoats in what was nothing but a political stunt? Is it true that the panic action that was taken at the Kiewa Dam project has been proved to have been without justification, that the dismissals that took place there, were bungled, and that projects such as the Kiewa Dam will soon be faced with labour shortages-
-Order! The honorable member appears to be attempting to raise a matter which is outside the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth.
– The latest shortages
– Order! Is the honorable gentleman attempting to get round my ruling?
– No, Mr. Speaker. I refer to this matter because I believe that it is having effects that were not intended.
– I have seen a reference to the matter referred to by the honorable member. I have no personal knowledge of the facts relating to the dismissals, but I should not be at all astonished to be told what the honorable member has just indicated. The Premier of Victoria keeps repeating that the Commonwealth, has, so to speak, “ done him down “ over his loan allocation. The truth is that the amount made available to Victoria for loan purposes was in accordance with a decision of the Loan Council that was concurred in by the Premier of Victoria. Indeed, such a decision could not have been arrived at without the support of two or three State Premiers.
– Of two State Premiers.
– The Premier of Victoria was one of those who supported the cut in the loan programmes. It is also interesting to note that, when the Premier of Victoria left Canberra at the conclusion of the meeting of the Loan Council, he said to me and to some State Premiers that he was going away happy and that he thought he had been very well treated. Since then he has chosen to foment the complete falsehood that in some way he had been forced to cut down vital works because of something that the Commonwealth had done. The whole point is that this year he has substantially more loan money than the State of Victoria has ever before had in one year, and that the order in which he cares to cut down his works programme is a matter for him and not for us. If he chooses to decide that labour cuts shall be applied first to the electricity undertakings and that such undertakings should be given a high order of priority in dismissals, that is a matter for him and not for us to decide. I strongly suspect that a great many of the dismissals that we have been told have been made had a purely political origin.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to what has been reported as an armed threat .by a potato-grower in the Lockyer district of Queensland against representatives of the Potato Marketing Board and government officials to prevent them from entering his property, except at the risk of their lives, in order to prohibit the sale of Queensland potatoes to the southern States at black market prices instead of to the Queensland public ? Can the right honorable gentleman explain the difference, if any, between the action of the Minister acting for the Minister of Commerce and Agriculture in preventing rice-growers from exporting rice from Australia while rice is in short supply to the consuming public, and the action taken by the Queensland Government and the Potato Marketing Board in endeavouring to ensure that the consumers of Queensland shall have an ample supply of potatoes? Further, does not the Prime Minister consider that a potatogrower or other person who makes an armed threat against the constitutional government of Queensland or any other legally constituted authority in Australia is liable to prosecution under the provisions of the Crimes Act ? As the people of Queensland consider that this is a serious matter, will the Prime Minister take immediate steps to place the facts of the case before the Australian Security Intelligence Organization with a view to taking the necessary action under the Crimes Act?
– My attention has not been directed to the report referred to by the honorable member.
– I direct to the Minister for Health a question that arises from the fact that some time ago I submitted for consideration a recommendation that drugs for the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease be included in the list of free life-saving drugs provided under the national health scheme. Will the Minister indicate whether any decision has yet been made regarding that matter?
– Following the representations made by the honorable member for Darling Downs and representations that have been received from other quarters, the whole matter to which the honorable member has referred was examined by the Special Medical Advisory Committee which, although it came to the conclusion that artane, which is the drug commonly used for the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease, is not a cure for the disease for which, unfortunately, there is at present no remedy, it gives a certain measure of relief and therefore should be included in the list of free drugs.
– Will the Minister for Health inform the House what progress he has made with the preparation of a report on the investigations that he made into the health facilities that exist in the United States? If the report has been prepared when does the right honorable gentleman expect to lay it on the table of the House? Has the Minister observed that some life-saving drugs have lost most of their effectiveness? If so, has he any plan for putting more life back into them ?
– There is no doubt that the use of life-saving drugs indiscriminately tends to cause them to lose their effects in very bad cases. That is the reason why the Government has been so careful in the restrictions that it has been placing upon their use in certain ways. The life-saving drugs themselves are still very efficient in very bad cases, for which they should be reserved. As I have stated previously, I shall deal with the other matter at the appropriate time.
– The question thatI shall direct to the Minister for Health relates to free drugs for pensioners. Is the Minister aware that in many instances pensioners who take doctors’ prescriptions to chemists to be dispensed are informed by the chemists that, as the drugs that have been prescribed are not on the free list, they will have to pay for them? The Minister has stated many times in this House that all pensioners are entitled to drugs without payment. Will he issue instructions to all chemists to that effect, so that pensioners will receive the full benefit of the scheme, and will not be subject to the disappointment of being refused drugs by chemists?
– I regret that I cannot accept the honorable member’s statement that pensioners are refused free drugs. I have a record in my possession which shows that in September, 128,000 prescriptions were dispensed free for pensioners. During that month attendances numbered about 70,000. Therefore, it is obvious that the great bulk of the prescriptions has been dispensed. It is true that sometimes patent medicines are prescribed. Of course they are excluded from the free list. Indeed, they are excluded from the free list of every other health scheme in the world.
– Will the Minister for Health consider the provision of free ambulance services to pensioners under the Government’s free medical service ?
– There is no provision in any Commonwealth legislation under which such a service could be provided. In addition, I do not know whether there is even constitutional power to enable it to be done.
– Can the Minister for Health say whether it is a fact that existing regulations prevent doctors from prescribing more than two weeks supply of drugs to pensioners on each prescription? If so, will he consider granting to doctors discretionary power to prescribe a larger quantity in individual instances in which a doctor believes that inconvenience or hardship, would be imposed upon a pensioner by reason of the pensioner having to visit a chemist with unnecessary frequency in order to draw his, or her, supply of drugs? I know of a pensioner who is suffering from acute arthritis and is obliged to hire a taxi cab in order to collect her supply of drugs whereas if she were enabled to collect a larger quantity on each occasion she would be saved considerable inconvenience and expense.
– Every effort has been made to meet the requirements of chronic cases which need free life-saving drugs, and of pensioners who obtain prescriptions from medical practitioners, because many of those persons have been under treatment for a long period. A patient who makes one visit to a doctor may obtain with his prescription six months’ supply of insulin. However, it i3 difficult to make available in that way certain drugs such as hypnotics, like morphia, which constitute a great danger to the public. During the last few days I have received representations from various reputable professional sources about the dangers that will arise if the present liberal arrangement for the supply of drugs is continued. “We have told doctors that, if they will inform us of special cases, concessions ‘will be made to meet them. If the honorable member for Hindmarsh will give me information about the specific case to which he has referred, I shall ascertain whether anything can be done in that matter.
– Having regard to the fact that the Minister for Health has intimated that the list of free medicines contains all the drugs that are necessary for the treatment of all ailments, and also to the fact that pensioners are obliged to pay for prescriptions which contain drugs that are not included in the free medicine list, will the Minister instruct doctors to prescribe only drugs that are included in that list?
– The list of free medicines available to pensioners contains all the medicines that are listed in the British Pharmacopoeia which is acknowledged to be one of the most comprehensive lists. In addition, the doctors participating in the scheme have drawn up what is called a prescriber’s list which includes the more common compounds that are in general use, particularly in hospitals throughout the world, but includes some drugs that are not included in the British Pharmacopoeia. Additional items include life-saving drugs which are made available free of charge to all patients. From my knowledge of general medical practice, the free medicines available provide sufficiently wide scope to enable any complaint to be effectively treated. It will be found that 99£ per cent, of prescriptions come within that category.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether, in view of the fact that many trade unionists consider that the “ C “ series index, which contains the list of items upon which the basic wage is calculated, is outdated, and that many items now in general use are not included in it, the Government will appoint a committee to investigate the possibilitiy of revising the list in order that a more accurate assessment of the basic wage may be made?
– I shall examine the honorable member’s suggestion and consider what should be done in relation to it.
– Will the Minister for Territories say whether all members of the recently formed Papua and New Guinea Legislative Council will be required to take the oath of allegiance prior to taking office?
– The oath of allegiance will be administered to all members of the Papua and New Guinea Legislative Council at the inauguration ceremony on the 26th November.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral say whether it is a fact that a number of female employees of the Postal Department, who were receiving 90 per cent, or 100 per cent, of the male rate of pay, have been dismissed ostensibly in accordance with the Government’s plan to sack 10,000 public servants? Is it also a fact that a number of those females have been offered re-employment in the department at 75 per cent, of the male rate of pay? If that is so, is it not a breach of the agreement entered into by the Public Service Board and the Public Service unions in connexion with the continuity of employment at 90 per cent, or 100 per cent, of the male rate of females who had been employed by the Postal Department for a certain period ?
– I have no personal knowledge of the matter to which the honorable member has referred but I shall endeavour to secure the information that he seeks.
– In answer to a question which I asked last week the PostmasterGeneral stated that the shortage of material was the main reason for the dismissals which had been effected from the Postmaster-General’s Department under the Government’s scheme for the retrenchment of 10,000 public servants. Is the Postmaster-General aware that I have received information from the secretary of the Hobart branch of the Postal Workers Union which indicates the existence of a contrary situation ? This officer of the union has stated -
The matter of the lack of equipment is incorrect. There is such an abundance of telephone equipment available that nobody knows what to do with it.
In view of this statement, does the PostmasterGeneral still maintain that the dismissals which were made in Tasmania were due to a. shortage of material? If he does not, will he endeavour to ensure that the technicians and linemen who were so summarily dismissed will be put back on duty?
– The shortage of materials in the Postmaster-General’s Department is Australia wide. Certain materials may not be held in one part of Australia although they may be held in another. If, fortuitously, some particular depot has a supply of the materials which it needs, that does not necessarily imply that the services of the men at that depot should be retained and others dismissed elsewhere. The available material must be distributed as evenly as possible throughout the Commonwealth. Neither the Postal Workers Union nor any other union can have full knowledge of the exact equipment possessed by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. The only persons who have that information and who are qualified to decide where it should be used are the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs and his officers.
– Has the Prime Minister given any consideration to the suggestion made in this House some time ago by the honorable member for Calare that a parliamentary delegation should be sent to Korea as a gesture to our fighting men there to let them know that they have not been completely forgotten by their own countrymen?
– No decision has yet been taken on that matter.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether he will be kind enough to re-examine the possibility that his department might provide some accommodation for the Australian Light Horse Band at Goulburn. I realize that this matter has been considered before at my request, but the result has not been satisfactory. Will the honorable gentleman again take into account the 70 years of history of this band, its appointment as the official recruiting band for the southern districts, its readiness to assist at all Army functions, and the fact that ever since the Goulburn drill hall was built the band has been permitted to use it for the storage of instruments and for rehearsals ?
– I have given full and careful consideration to the frequent representations that have been made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro on this subject. When national service trainees are assigned to Citizen Military Force units after they conclude their training this week, it will be possible to accommodate only military units at the Goulburn drill hall. I should be glad to comply with the honorable member’s request if it were possible to do so, but the drill hall is not even adequate for the requirements of the military forces. I wish to make it clear also that the unit which calls itself the 10th Light Horse Band is in no way associated with our military forces. It is not a military organization. It is purely a private band.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the statement, attributed to Professor Sir Douglas Copland, that it would be in the interest of Australia-
– Order ! Any question referring to a specific person must be placed on the notice-paper.
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to the statement that Australia should break away from the sterling Hoc and attach itself to the dollar bloc under the leadership of the United States of America? Does the right honorable gentleman agree that if that course were adopted British Commonwealth relations might be impaired, and the effect on the greatest purchaser of Australian primary products might be very serious. In view of the possibilities involved will the right honorable gentleman assure the House that before any action of this character is taken honorable members will be fully consulted on the subject?
– My attention has been directed to the statement to which the honorable member has referred and which was made by a distinguished Australian who is perfectly entitled to convey his own view. In order to make the position abundantly clear, I may say that Sir Douglas Copland does not speak for the Government, either directly or indirectly. He has expressed his own view on this subject. The Government itself has no such idea under contemplation.
– I desire to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you will have an investigation made into why the cushions on the seats on the Government side of the House have been replaced by others which are much less comfortable. If those on this side of the House have been brought from the Opposition side, will you have all cushions examined? Opposition members have my sympathy if they are obliged to sit on the type of cushion that I have at present.
– Order ! The quality of the cushions in this chamber has. engaged my attention for some time past. Some honorable member prefer one type of cushion whilst some prefer other types. If the honorable member for Wimmera will state his requirements to the Sergeant-at-Arms I have no doubt that he will be satisfied. As to the rest of the House, I should not like to give a guarantee.
– I ask the Minister for the Army for what purpose Mount Martha House, Mornington, was purchased for the Department of the Army? Will the Minister state the purchase price of the property? Is it not a fact that this 80-roomed residence is now occupied by no more than twelve persons?- Is ifc not also a fact that since the Government purchased the property it has beenalmost completely neglected and is now in a state of acute deterioration ? Will the Minister make, an urgent inspection of the property to observe personally the degree of Government neglect?
– I am very pleased that the honorable member has asked this question, because he has given me an opportunity to put before the House the facts about this matter. The property was purchased some time ago by the Department of the Army for the purpose of relieving an accumulated shortage of accommodation for married members of the services. At Balcombe Camp near Mount Martha there are to-day four or five very large units of the Army, the members of which are receiving special instructions. One of the units is an apprentices’ school, in which there are 450 apprentices. There is also a signals training school and an army survey school. Attached to these schoolsare a great number of instructors, many of whom had to be brought from other States. They have been living for a long time apart from their families. Because of the difficulty in obtaining supplies of materials and man-power for the erection of married quarters, the property at Mount Martha was purchased. It had been on the market for a considerable time. To-day there are eight families living there.
– How was the property purchased ?
– It was bought in. the open market. The reports publishedin the press about this property being in bad repair are completely incorrect. When it was purchased a considerable amount of overhaul and renovation work was done to it and its surroundings. Annually or bi-annually the grass is cut, and the place is kept in good order and repair. To-day the building and the grounds are in better order than they were when we took them over. The allegation that in the grounds there is an accumulation of water, in. evil-smelling slime-covered pools, is completely untrue. I have not merely accepted the reports of officers of my own department about th:it matter, because I had the property inspected by a health inspector of the Mornington Shire Council, who reported that there was no danger to health from any of the water there. Water lying on the tennis court was only rain water, and the day after the inspector was there it dried up. I say definitely that the allegations that have appeared in the press are entirely incorrect. As soon as the Department of Works and Housing is able to do what is required to the building, we shall be able to place therein many more families, the members of which have been separated for a very long time. Because of the shortage of man-power and materials we have hitherto boon unable to construct the necessary married quarters for our staff instructors, who should have accommodation for .themselves and families.
– I draw the attention of the Minister for the Army to recent statements that have been made to the effect that Australia will adopt the new British .2S0 rifle, ls it a fact that the North Atlantic Powers appointed an expert sub-committee to investigate the value of this rifle, and that that committee rejected it on the ground that it lacked hitting power, and recommended the adoption of the American .30 rifle? Has America developed a new version of the .30 rifle which is lighter and cheaper than previous models but which has the same hitting power? If this latter rifle were to be adopted by the North Atlantic Powers would Australia, in this respect, be left outside the standardized weapons arrangement of the Western Powers?
– The Army has been most interested in the new .2S0 rifle with which the United Kingdom has been experimenting. Recently, in Britain, our Minister for Defence and the Chief of the General Staff were present when the rifle was being tested, and the results are said to have been remarkable. All that I am able to say at the moment is that no decision has yet been made on whether Australia will adopt it. Concerning the other questions asked by the honorable gentleman, I have not yet received an official report of the tests to which the weapon was subjected.
– Will the Treasurer cause an inquiry to be made into the operations of soap manufacturers and others who expend large sums of money on radio advertising, which although totally unnecessary, substantially increases the price of soap and other products to the general public? Will the right honorable gentleman also cause inquiries to be made concerning the amount that is being expended on advertising by such manufacturers, whether it is justified, and whether it should be restricted by curtailing the tax deduction that is allowed in respect of advertising? 1 point out that the cost of advertising of that kind is handed on to the general public in the form of increased charges for the commodities concerned.
– The very complicated matter referred to by the honorable member was discussed at the recent Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. However, I shall have a reply prepared and furnish him with it.
– I preface a question to the allegations that were made by the Minister for the Army, when he answered a question this afternoon, regarding the serious and apparently deliberate misrepresentation concerning army activities in the Mount Martha area. Will the right honorable gentleman explain to the House why the Government recently granted a substantial increase of dollar allocations in order to permit the importation of newsprint from dollar areas without making an investigation of the uses to which snell newsprint would be put?
– I cannot accept the proposition that the provision of dollars for newsprint should be accompanied by provision for the censorship of the newspapers that are to be produced from such newsprint.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service seen the report of a statement attributed to a conciliation commissioner last week, in which employers were advised to take combined action to ensure that they do not pay more than the minimum award rates of pay? Did the conciliation commissioner in fact advise employers to adopt a system whereby no employer would engage a new employee unless the employee produced a clearance from his previous employer ? Would such a system be calculated to enable employers to ensure that minimum rates in industry would also be maximum rates? Does the Government approve, or would it allow, such direct action to be taken by employers outside the arbitration system?
– I have not seen a report of a statement on the lines indicated by the honorable member. I do not feel competent to comment on an alleged statement of a conciliation commissioner. I should need an opportunity to examine thoroughly such a statement before I would comment on it.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Army. I point out that during a recent investigation of the national service training camp at Wacol, near Brisbane, it caine to my notice that married members of the Australian Regular Army were being boarded in prefabricated houses situated on the Outskirts of the camp and were being charged a rental of £3 a week for such houses. Is there any possibility within the near future of that amount being reduced as it seems to be a considerable rental for houses of such a standard? That rental is much in excess of rentals that are charged for similar civilian accommodation ?
– The prefabricated houses being built for married army personnel throughout Australia and the amount of rental to be paid for them are at present being investigated by a special committee. As the prefabricated houses at the Wacol camp are still under construction and have not yet been occupied no rental has yet been charged in respect of them. The question that the honorable member has raised has not been lost sight of. For some time, the special committee to which I have referred has been examining the possibility of adopting a new basis of calculating the rental of such houses.
– A couple of weeks ago I asked the Minister for Immigration a series of questions regarding Commonwealth Hostels Limited, the organization that has been established to control hostels formerly under the control of the Department of Immigration, and he promised to furnish me with an early reply. I should now like to know when I may expect to receive that reply.
– Yesterday, I signed a letter to the honorable member setting out the information which he seeks.
– Can the Treasurer present to the House a statement setting out the number of companies, respectively, that have during the last twelve months declared dividends at rates of over 50 per cent., or over 20 per cent., or over 10 per cent., and also the total amount of dividends that has been distributed by such companies to shareholders?
– It would not be possible for me to supply the information for which the honorable member has asked. The administration of companies is under the control of the States. The Commonwealth has no access officially to such information.
– Can the Prime Minister inform me whether the Government received legal opinions, prior to the recent referendum on communism, about the applicability or otherwise of the Crimes Act as an instrument to enable it to deal with the activities of. the Communist party?
– Order ! The Standing Orders provide that an honorable member may not ask a Minister for a legal opinion.
– I shall recast my question. Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the Commonwealth legal advisers have been asked, since the recent referendum, to revise their opinions-
-Order ! The honorable member for Reid is a member of the legal profession, and should know that his recasting of a question in that way does not solve the difficulty in relation to the Standing Orders.
– Will the right honorable gentleman lay on the table any legal opinions which were obtained by the Government about the applicability or otherwise of the Crimes Act as an instrument to enable it to deal with the activities of the Communist party?
– I, myself, have always maintained the practice of not laying on the table opinions which have been obtained from the legal advisers of the Crown, and I do not propose to make an exception to that practice on this occasion.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - I have received from the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter nf urgent public importance, namely -
The need in the public interest to maintain Trans-Australia Airlines in its present state nf independence.
Mr. DRAKEFORD (Maribyrnong) 1 4.7]. - I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Eight honorable members having risen in support of the motion.
– The need for a discussion on the advisability of maintaining Trans-Australia Airlines in its present state of independence should be obvious to honorable members on both sides of the House, because this subject has been causing concern in the public mind for many months, and no honorable member who has a sense of responsibility to his electors can afford to ignore it. I do not think that any honorable member will deny that the newspapers have been publishing many leading articles and special articles on the subject. Whilst I recognize that newspapers have the right to make suggestions from time to time on various matters, I consider that some of the suggestions that have been made about the sale of Trans-Australia Airlines are most unwarranted. In those circumstances, the Government should have announced its policy regarding TransAustralia Airlines. Because of its silence. Opposition members and. Government supporters alike have no knowledge of its intentions. Any action which will interfere with such a highly successful airline will be detrimental to Australia. Therefore, the Government should have made its position clear at the earliest possible moment.
Every member of the Opposition has observed with anxiety the evidence of a well organized agitation the objective of which is the abolition of this completely successful government enterprise. It is recognized that the strength of public opposition may prevent the sale of TransAustralia Airlines and, so, there is other evidence of a strong desire to retard its development, and to make its task so difficult that it will no longer be successful. There is a strong desire, under the pretence of putting Trans-Australia Airlines on a competitive basis with privatelyoperated airline companies, to reduce it to an unpayable organization, and to cripple it, before it is dealt a fatal blow which will make it no longer a threat to the much-vaunted services provided by private enterprise. It must be admitted that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, through its acting general manager, has sought to detract from the success of TransAustralia Airlines, particularly in recent, times. The Government has contributed to, if it has not created, a state of public anxiety by allowing to go unanswered press criticisms that have come from apparently inspired quarters, and by its refusal to give information in answer to questions asked in this chamber and in the Senate. This has gone so far that thinking members of the public are remembering that the Government recently sold, without warning, the Commonwealth’s interest in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. The public fear that similar action may be taken in respect to Trans- Australia Airlines. When action of that kind can be taken without one of the directors having the slightest inkling of what was about to take place, as has been admitted by a member of this House, who was a director of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited since its inception, the anxiety and suspicion of the public is fully justified. Silently and swiftly the Government accomplished its purpose, and the lesson learned from that experience is that the full light of public discussion should be turned on to the Government’s proposals, so that all may know what it intends to do with this highly valued institution.
The people have not forgotten, and are not likely to forget, that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said that Mr. Coles and Mr. Wilson would have to go. That was reported in the press during the 1949 election campaign, and I was asked about it on a number of occasions.
– Hear, hear!
– I can well understand the applause of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) because, had Mr. Coles stood again for Parliament, the honorable member for Henty would not have been here. At any rate, Mr. Coles has gone from Trans-Australia Airlines, a fact for which I and thousands of people throughout Australia feel very sorry. He has a most capable mind, and was well fitted to develop an organization such as Trans-Australia Airlines. That he did so with great credit to himself and to the other members of the board no reasonable person would attempt to deny. We all regretted his resignation. It is no reflection on his very competent successor to say that Mr. Coles’s resignation was viewed with disappointment by his many admirers and supporters. He and his board started from scratch, or even from behind scratch, and competed successfully with already well established private airlines that had received generous assistance in the form of mail subsidies. It was not a matter of a powerful government organization competing against small privately owned enterprises as I shall make quite clear. I propose to give some information about the shareholding in Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. It is owned by five great shipping companies, which possess huge resources that they do not hesitate to use in their endeavours to damage a government airline. They are continuously on the job, and have used the press in their campaign against Trans-Australia Airlines. That they have not succeeded in damaging the reputation of Trans-Australia Airlines is due to the splendid service that this organization has rendered to the public. The principal shareholdings are listed as follows : -
The total shareholding is £39S,70S. I cannot say whether there has been any alteration since that list was published because Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, being a proprietary company, does not publish balance-sheets. However, the acting general manager, Mr. Walsh, has never hesitated to use all the figures that are available in the publicly circulated annual reports of Trans-Australia Airlines in order to try to prove that that organization has received favoured treatment. The Australian National Airlines Commission has always disclosed the real position in relation to the conduct of the affairs of the organization. Mr. Walsh’s statements have been completely unfounded, and I shall have more to say about them at a later stage. At this point I emphasize the fact that almost all of the shares in Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited are owned by shipping companies, a state of affairs that is not tolerated even in the United States of America, the home of private enterprise. Why do these shipping companies control Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited? The answer is that their object is to make airline services subsidiary, if necessary, to the interests of the shipping services. Not many Australians are aware that PainAmerican Airways received, a subsidy of one dollar twenty cents a mile for operating a service to Australia in opposition to British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines, which was merely carrying mail on a poundage basis. That fact was disclosed when an inquiry was made into an application by the Matson Navigation Company for permission to conduct an air service to Honolulu. The application was rejected because American shipping companies are not permitted to conduct airline services. We ought to consider whether shipping lines or other transport organizations in Australia should be allowed to own airlines and to try to dominate transport services. I do not know what the Government intends to do about Trans-Australia Airlines and T shall not make accusations against it, but I say that it is dangerous to allow big outside interests to control our airlines, which provide the life-blood for a vital artery of our communications system. Ansett Airways Limited recently announced that it would reduce fares. Such reductions may appear to be commendable, but the important fact is that the company provides a lower class of service than is provided by other airlines. The service is definitely second-class, because the company’s D.C.3 aircraft have 28 seats for passengers, compared with a maximum of 24 in similar aircraft operated by other companies. The announcement of the intention to reduce fares was made by the general manager of the company, whose statement, according to a report in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, included the following interesting explanation : -
Mr. R. D. Collins, general manager of Ansett Airways, said the cuts were possible because of economies through efficient use of aircraft and co-ordination of road, air, and hotel activities.
T emphasize the fact that the company was able to reduce its charges because of the profits that it received from motor coach services and hotels and because it provided a service inferior to that of other airlines. Tn the interests of public welfare, I ask the Government to keep its eyes on thu activities of Ansett Airways Limited. When I was Minister for Civil Aviation, the government of the day tried to prevent passenger charges from being lowered unduly because price-cutting campaigns of that sort throw a serious responsibility on the experts of the Department of Civil Aviation. Those experts are required to ensure that airline companies shall not reduce their standards below the safety margin.
Safety must be the first consideration in air transport. Nothing that is liable to mar the splendid record of our airlines should be tolerated. A question that was recently asked in this House elicited the fact that 109 persons had been killed as passengers of private airline companies and that only nine or ten had been killed as passengers of government airlines since their initiation. I am not foolish enough to believe that an accident could not alter those figures quickly, but I do say that it is practically impossible to get a higher standard of care and maintenance than that attained by Trans-Australia Airlines. Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited has a good record, but if honorable members travel in Ansett planes they will find that the service is second class by modern standards.
– Ansett Airways Pro- prietary Limited has a good record.
– Not second class from the point of view of safety surely?
– I am speaking of passenger carriage. The honorable member seems to be irritated by the fact that Trans-Australia Airlines is so good, but nobody can point a finger of scorn at it with justice, although many have tried to do so. There are honorable members on the Government side of the House who have declared that they would cross the floor if any attempt were made by the Government to sell or merge TransAustralia Airlines with another company. I agree with that attitude.
Reference to favoured treatment for Trans-Australia Airlines has frequently been made, not only in important daily newspapers, but in Parliament also with great emphasis. Tho charge is completely without justification. Reflections have been cast in another place also on the position of Trans-Australia Airlines and the report of its activities. Such statements reflect as well on the AuditorGeneral, who is hound to see that the accounts are properly presented and that nothing is hidden. It is his duty also to ensure that the report is presented in terms which can be understood readily by the public. The report is audited and certified by the Auditor-General, and suggestions that the balance-sheet does not give a true picture of the financial position are nonsense and apparently are being made in the interests of the competitors of Trans- Australia Airlines. The critics who adopt this line seem to have forgotten that in the period of seven years from 1939, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited received more than £2,500,000 in mail payments. Apparently that fact has been concealed from the critics so that a good case could be made against Trans-Australia Airlines. The carriage of ordinary mail is a part of the obligation of a government airline. (Extension of time granted.’] In 1950-51 Trans-Australia Airlines carried 2,542 tons or 5,694,080 lb. of mail throughout Australia. That was an increase of 27 per cent, over the volume carried in the previous year. For that service TransAustralia Airlines received a lump sum of £540,000. Have honorable members any idea of the amount Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited received for carrying a much smaller quantity when that company was practically the only air-mail carrier in the Commonwealth? The sum of £540,000 i3 small in comparison with the amount paid for the carriage of air mail in 1943-44. In that year Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was paid £7S3,725 for carrying 3,368,164 lb. over a network very much smaller than that of Trans-Australia Airlines. Moreover, at that time wages were much lower and petrol was cheaper. These facts should be known widely so that the public may understand the true nature of the allegations that favoured treatment is given to Trans-Australia Airlines. Neither Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited nor Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited has paid a penny piece in fees for air-route charges. No token payment has been made to indicate any liability. TransAustralia Airlines has paid £682,472 in respect of air-route charges, which, added to its profit of £420,617, makes a total of £1,103,089. The fact is that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and the Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited organization have paid nothing in respect of these charges, although between them they have been asked for more than £750,000, but Trans-Australia Airlines has paid the full sum for which it has been asked and, since becoming firmly established, has made a substantial profit. If the Government believes that air-route charges cannot legally be collected from the companies which, for various reasons, are refusing to pay them, it should relieve Trans-Australia Airlines of the burden of paying the charges and should refund the money that the organization has paid in respect of them. If such a refund were made, Trans-Australia Airlines would be placed upon the same basis as Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited and its profit would be £1,103,0S9.
The Minister said recently, in reply to a question that I directed to him, that the report upon the operations of TransAustralia. Airlines - for which I thank him - would enable a comparison of Trans- Australia Airlines and other airlines to be made, but, as I have pointed out, it does not in fact enable that to bc done because we cannot ascertain what Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is doing. I do not believe that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is losing money, nor do I believe that there is any justification for merging it with TransAustralia Airlines. As I have said previously. Trans-Australia Airlines is an institution in this country. Although the report is a good one, it does not enable us to compare Trans-Australia Airlines with other airlines, the reports of which, especially in the case of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, are remarkable for what they refuse to disclose. We know from answers to questions that the percentage passenger loading of Trans-Australia Airlines is much higher than is that of any other airline in this country. That demonstrates clearly that TransAustralia Airlines is much more popular than are the other airlines. But the percentage passenger loading conveys no information about freight carriage. It is well known that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has three Bristol freighters and that it carries a great deal more freight than does TransA.ustralia Airlines. I have no objection to that, because Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited displayed initiative and resource in securing those freighters and in using them for the carriage of freight.
Let me return to the question of all mails. Trans-Australia Airlines derives 3.7 per cent, of its total revenue from charges made for the carriage of air mails. Do honorable gentlemen opposite know, or have they been informed, that the percentage is much higher in the case of airlines in other countries, some of which derive >up to 25 per cent, and even 35 per cent, of their total revenue from charges made for the carriage of air mails. Yet we have been told that Trans-Australia Airlines has received favoured treatment because it has been paid £540,000 in respect of the carriage of air mails, notwithstanding that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was paid £783,000 for a much lesser service than that which has been rendered by Trans-Australia Airlines. Honorable gentlemen opposite say not a word about that. No airline should be dependent upon profits from other sources to make it a payable proposition, but if the present state of affairs continues the Government should consider permitting Trans-Australia Airlines to acquire and operate hotels for its customers, and thus to make proper provision for their accommodation when they arrive at city terminals. I should like to see Trans-Australia Airlines operating hotels in the same way as the Qantas organization is operating the Wentworth Hotel in .Sydney in order to provide terminal facilities for its passengers.
Much more could be said. There is an immense field which could, and I hope will, be covered by other speakers. I repeat that Trans-Australia Airlines is an institution in Australia. The Adelaide Moil, which has the largest circulation of any weekly newspaper in South Australia, stated on the 22nd September, 1951 -
Any interference which brings back a monopoly “ inter-Commonwealth flying “ will be resented by the people, even by many of those who were anti-T.A.A. in the first years of its service. T.A.A. has become an Australian institution. There is nothing which can take its place.
I agree that there is nothing that can take its place. That is only a sample of what has appeared in leading articles of newspapers in many States. The other airline companies that sneered at Trans-Australia Airlines when it was established and that now desire to bring about a merger with it, should not be allowed to get away with that or something in the nature of what was done in relation to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. The Government should immediately declare its intentions with regard to the independence of TransAustralia Airlines. It should state clearly that it does not intend to give to that airline’s private enterprise competitors and favours in addition to those that they are already receiving. I could recite many of thehm.
– What about air mails?
– The honorable member could not have been listening, I have already dealt with that matter. I have pointed out that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was paid £783,000 for a much lesser service than that for which Trans-Australia Airlines has been paid £540,000.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s extended time has expired.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) has naturally approached this matter with a great deal of enthusiasm, because he was Minister for Civil Aviation in the government that established TransAustralia Airlines. If he believed that his godchild was in danger, nobody could blame him for springing to its defence. His speech this afternoon was, in general, a special plea for Trans-Australia Airlines and a recital of what ever facts he had been able to muster that he thought - would tend to disparage the private airlines. Honorable members on this side of the House have a very great respect and admiration for the services which Trans-Australia Airlines is rendering to the Australian travelling public. We are not less appreciative of those services than are members of the Opposition. But there is an obligation not only upon the Government but also upon all members of Parliament to ensure that all organizations in this country that are engaged in air transportation or in any other business shall receive equitable treatment from the Government. What should be done with Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited cannot be determined by a snap decision and without a complete knowledge of all the facts and circumstances appertaining to each organization. Therefore, when this Government assumed office, one of its earlier actions was to try to ascertain those facts and circumstances. As the honorable member for Maribyrnong said, Trans-Australia Airlines publishes a balance-sheet that all who run may read. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is a proprietary company. Acting in accordance with its undoubted rights, it does not publish a balance-sheet. It regards its business as something that is wholly confidential to itself.
– Not unholy, as the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has suggested. Any proprietary company can refuse to make available to thepublic details of its activities. When Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited approached the Government and explained the undoubted difficulties under which it was labouring in endeavouring to maintain its services, the Government said that, to enable a true comparison to be made of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Trans-Australia Airlines, it wanted from the former company information about its operations comparable with that which was made available by Trans-Australia Airlines. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was asked whether it was prepared to permit its books to be examined by an independent accountant, appointed by the Government, on the understanding that the accountant examined the books of Trans-Australia Airlines on a similar basis, in order that a report could be prepared that would enable a true comparison of both companies to be made. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, although it was a private organization, agreed to that being done. It said that, in its view, its case was sufficiently strong to withstand any investigation. The Government then appointed a leading firm of accountants in Australia to examine the books of both organizations in order to ascertain their bases of costs, how they were operating, whether they held secret reserves, the ratio of their expenditure to the volume of their operations, and in general whether they were being conducted on an equally efficient basis or whether there was slackness in their administration.
– Why were those investigations made?
– So that private enterprise would be given an opportunity to compete on a fair basis with a government enterprise.
Opposition members interjecting,
– That statement seems to astonish the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) and his colleagues. The investigations necessarily took a long time to complete and to analyse and condense in a report for submission to the Government, because both were giant organizations, each employing approximately 4,000 persons and each having extensive ramifications throughout Australia. That report has not been very long in our possession. As a matter of fact, it has been in my possession for only a very short time.
– For how short a time?
– When I received it I submitted it to the officers of the Treasury and asked them to check the figures that had been furnished by the independent accountants.
– Did the Minister not trust them?
– I wanted a double check to be imposed so that there should be a complete answer to any allegation made by the Opposition in regard to the matter. The Treasury is the proper authority to which such matters should be referred. As the result of the facts and figures included in the report I arn in a position to decide whether or not the organizations are being conducted on a profitable basis having regard to their respective operations. A decision on the claims of both will be made in the light of the information contained in the report. I do not propose to answer in detail the points that were made by the honorable member for Maribyrnong because in essence they constituted a defence of Trans-Australia Airlines. I am here not to defend either of the two organizations but to give even-handed justice to both. No employee of either Trans-Australia Airlines or Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited need have any fear of the consequences of the Government’s decision, whatever it may be.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ! I must ask honorable members to cease interjecting. A running fire of interjections has been maintained by the Opposition since tho Postmaster-General rose to address the House.
– There were many interjections from the Government side when the honorable member for Maribyrnong addressed the House.
– That is so, but they were not as frequent as they have been during the last few minutes.
– We all are concerned about the future of the employees of the two organizations. Many of them fear that their future is at stake. I assure honorable members that whatever is done, the same number of aircraft will have to be flown to cope with traffic requirements, the .same number of engineers will have to be employed and the same number of hostesses and pilots will have to be retained whether the air services are conducted by Trans-Australia Airways and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited as separate organizations or as an amalgamated organization. I do not intend to indicate the Government’s decision at this stage. It is considering carefully all aspects of this difficult and vexed subject. I can only say in conclusion that I expect that an announcement of Government policy will be made in this matter before f.:e tuc of the present sittings.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison”) proposed -
That the question be now put.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ! The Standing Orders provide that when Mr. Speaker is on his feet there shall be silence in the House. The question is, “ That the question be now put “.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the House do nowadjourn.
The House divided. (Mr.Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for a refund of the wheat tax, which was paid in respect of exports from the 1948-49 wheat crop. Deliveries from this crop comprised the No. 12 wheat pool. Wheat-growers paid £12,496,000 in tax on wheat exported from No. 12 pool, and the Government has decided to refund this amount, together with interest earned upon it, to that pool. The money will be distributed to wheatgrowers, in the usual way, as a payment from the pool. The 1948-49 wheat crop was a heavy one, and deliveries from that crop to the Australian Wheat Board totalled 174,000,000 bushels. Of that quantity 115,000,000 bushels were exported, and the rate of tax payable on such exports was 2s. 2d. a bushel. When spread over the whole pool, the amount collected as export tax was equivalent to an average of1s. 5d. a bushel.
The No. 12 pool was the first pool to which the post-war marketing arrangements applied, as all the earlier pools were operated under National Security Regulations. The money has been held in a trust fund on behalf of the wheatgrowing industry, and it is now proposed to repay it to growers, since the amount involved is no longer needed for the purposes of the Wheat Stabilization Fund. This action is in accordance with the declared policy of the Government that excessive amounts would not be held in the fund.
A basic feature of the wheat stabilization plan is a financial contribution by the wheat industry towards its own future security. This contribution is made by growers while export prices are above production costs. The Commonwealth, on its part, undertakes that for the duration of the plan wheat-growers willreceive a guaranteed price, equal to the cost of production which may be determined for each season. The Commonwealth guarantee, which applies to wheat exported, up to 100,000,000 bushels each year, is supplemented by joint legislation, enacted by all State governments, under which the same price is assured for all wheat sold for domestic use in Australia. The current wheat stabilization plan covers the period to the end of the 1952-53 wheat season, and negotiations are in progress, with the States and with wheat-growers’ organizations, for an extension of the plan.
In accordance with its understanding with the industry, the Government does not wish to hold in trust amounts which appear to be in excess of the requirements of the stabilization plan. At the present time the amount held in the fund is £35,000,000, which is made up from the joint tax proceeds of No. 12 pool, No. 13 pool and part of No. 14 pool. The operations of No. 14 pool, which covers the 1950-51 crop, are still by no means complete.
With the repayment of tax on exports from the 1948-49 crop, the stabilization fund will hold less than two seasons’ contributions, but this is regarded as a reasonable situation. A succession of good crops in Australia lias coincided with high prices for wheat exported. As a result the stabilization fund has been buoyant, and funds have previously been approved by Parliament in respect of earlier pools. No. 12 pool is now the oldest contributing pool to the fund, and it is intended to repay the whole of the amount received from the 1948-49 crop, rather than to make a pro rata refund to all contributing pools. This principle of first in, first out, is endorsed by growers’ organizations as the most satisfactory way of arranging refunds to the industry. Notwithstanding the fact that two later pools have actually contributed to the fund, I wish to make it clear that in repaying these moneys to the oldest pool the Government will be acting in accordance with the wishes of the growers in relation to the method of repayment. It is wheatgrowers’ money, and the industry has indicated that it regards this method as the fairest, as well as the easiest, to operate. Many growers drop out of the industry each year, and are replaced by new growers, and it is only reasonable that the fund should be built up by those who will get the actual benefit from it in the event of a fall of prices in the future.
Reference has been made to the negotiations that are in progress for an extension of the plan. Naturally, the financial provisions necessary for an extended plan must be considered fully, especially in view of some uncertainty about the future. However, the payment of the refund of tax on the 194S-49 wheat crop is justified, since it represents an amount that is no longer needed in the fund.
The bill is evidence of the Government’s policy not to ask wheat-growers to make any more than a fair contribution to a fund to ensure the stability of their industry in future years. It is presented with confidence that it will meet with the general approval of all sections of the community. I commend the measure to the consideration of honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Debate resinned from the 11th October (vide page 539), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition supports this measure, the purpose of which, as the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) pointed out in his second-reading speech, is to obviate work that produces little return to the Treasury. The principal act provides that if a shareholder’s interest in the unimproved value of land owned by a company does not exceed £100, or if the aggregate of his interests in a number of companies does not exceed £500 he need not lodge a land tax return. This amending legislation doubles those sums. That is the only aspect of the land tax to which the Opposition gave specific consideration and on which it arrived at any decision. My personal view, however, is that the Government should not have varied the existing practice in connexion with land valuations. The Treasurer said in his budget speech -
The land tax for the financial year 1951-52, based on the land owned at the 30th June, 1951, will be based upon the actual unimproved values as at that date in contrast to the pegged values which have been the basis of land assessments since the financial year 1041-42.
I believe that the Government should examine the position that existed prior to that date. Land values to-day are based on ruling high prices for primary products and are therefore at artificial levels. I refer particularly to agricultural land although the same argument would hold true with regard to city values. However, when prices fall, as I believe they will, the land values of the present will prove to have been inflated and unreal. For that reason, the Government might well have continued to collect the land tax on the basis previously adopted.
This is a machinery measure and it will not have any effect in the direction of inducing large landholders to dispose of their land. That was the primary purpose of land taxation. Although this bill will not achieve that result the altered valuation will impose a hardship on new settlers who have had to meet high capital costs for stock, plant and equipment. These people will be taxed by the Government on a greatly increased valuation. I believe that to be wrong and unjust and I think that the Government could well have allowed values to remain as they were prior to the introduction of this amendment. I assume that the majority of new’ settlers are ex-servicemen who are being rehabilitated. If that assumption be correct, the hardship that the new valuation will cause will be borne mainly by them. That is my personal view. No decision has been made with regard to this matter by Opposition members as a whole nor has it been discussed by them in the party room because the amendment does not deal with that aspect of the situation.
Although Opposition members discussed the subject of the £5,000 minimum on which land tax is imposed they made no decision on it. Some of them considered that the minimum was too low, and that the Government might consider a higher minimum valuation upon which land tax shall be payable. The Opposition supports the bill, which it considers is designed to achieve the result intended when section 39 was inserted in the act.
– Now that the Land Tax Act has beer in operation for approximately 40 years, it is time that the House should consider whether it has achieved the intended object. Figures published by the Commissioner of Taxation show that the amount of land tax collected in respect of the year 1949-50 was £4,210,000, which would seem to indicate that receipts from land tax do not constitute a very significant proportion of the total revenue collected by the Government. Those who introduced this act intended that it should be a means not so much of collecting revenue as of bringing about the subdivision of big estates. Now, 40 years after its introduction, it is doubtful whether the land tax has achieved the purpose for which it was intended. Unfortunately, the Commissioner of Taxation has not published in his last few reports the statistics that he used to supply in his annual report concerning the land tax. It is necessary to refer to the twenty-third report of the Commissioner of Taxation, published in March, 1943, in order to obtain any indication of the social implications of this form of taxation.
In that report, the commissioner provided details of the amount of tax collected, where it was collected, and the sort of people from whom it was collected. It is interesting to note that in the year 1939-40 land tax was paid by 1S,406 individuals and 2,989 companies. lt seems most peculiar that a method has been evolved for treating companies separately from individuals. Companies ave not treated as entities. Such a concept is not usually associated with companies. A share in a company is generally regarded not as real property but as personal property. This notional basis has been written into the Land Tax Act and it is apparently assumed that the shareholders, with certain limitations which are proposed to be varied by this bill, are trustees for the company which owns the land. I should like to know why it is not possible to treat a company as an entity and why it is necessary to consider a company’s land as being held by the various shareholders. It would simplify the act if companies were treated on the same basis as individual holders. I understand that that has, in fact, happened. Shareholders are not primary taxpayers hut secondary taxpayers. Yet the involved procedure prescribed by the act has to be undertaken in order to ascertain the liability of the company. I suggest that it is doubtful whether what was intended under the original Land Tax Act has been accomplished.
Our line of thought about the land tax may need some recasting. An honorable member suggested recently that the entire taxation structure should be altered with reference to the basis of assessment of land tax. The original exemption of land worth less than £5,000 has been retained although an unimproved value of £5,000 was very different in 1910 from what it is in 1951. Unfortunately, very little opportunity has been given to the Parliament properly to assess the social effects of taxation. The information that honorable members have at their disposal is usually two or three years old. In the case of the land tax, statistics have not been published for approximately nine years so that it is very difficult for honorable members to ascertain its effects. Those who have to pay this tax know that because their land is valued at a certain amount they will have to pay land tax. They regard that fact as a nuisance but do not view it from any social aspect. Such a man says, “I have to pay £100 as land tax, or £1,000 as land tax “ and treats that as a form of outgoing or expenditure. When land is about to be sold, prospective buyers take into effect the amount of land tax that will be payable in determining the price that they are prepared to pay for it. Instead of becoming a social instrument, the tax becomes capitalized when it is first imposed. Economists have claimed that afterwards, apart from variations of the rate, it has no social impact at all. Whether or not that is true in Australia I do not know. We have not before us sufficient information to enable us to deal effectively with taxation problems that come before this House. That may become the function of the proposed Public Accounts Committee, or of some other committee. But certainly the Parliament should examine the fundamentals of the system of taxation in vogue in order to ascertain whether it is achieving the social result that it is intended to achieve.
As the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) has stated, the Opposition does not oppose this measure. It merely criticizes, at least indirectly, the failure of the land tax to achieve what it was introduced to achieve, namely, the breaking up of big estates, in order to encourage small holders, which is necessary if we are to increase or primary production. I consider that we should alter the incidence of the tax by increasing it progressively according to the value of the land, or, as the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) suggested recently, we should abolish it altogether. Apart from an occasional airing of the subject in this House, very little is done about it. I consider it to be primarily the duty of the Parliament, not a committee on taxation or any other outside body, to attend to this matter. Honorable members should evaluate the information that is placed before them in order to decide whether an alteration should be effected. I suggest that consideration should be given to an alteration of the whole structure” of land taxation in Australia.
.- In addressing myself to this subject shortly, I shall not cover the ground that has already been covered by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). I suggest seriously that the Government should abandon this field of taxation altogether. The measure before the House is designed to yield revenue totalling £7,500,000, compared with £3,591,139 during the last financial year. I do not oppose it, because it is a part of the machinery of taxation that is in existence, and as such, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) was bound to consider what should be done about this field of taxation. The Treasurer should also consider the implications of the land tax. Some of the States impose a specific land tax as well as local government taxes and other taxes. There is, therefore, considerable duplication of taxation on land. Local governing bodies derive most of their revenue from the taxation of land, and now regard this as their principal source of revenue.
I believe all honorable members will agree that local governing bodies are now in a very tight corner financially. Indeed, I cannot see how those bodies will be able to continue to carry out their present functions, particularly in the social field, unless they can obtain additional revenue from other than taxes paid by property owners. If local government taxation were increased the burden on property owners would become intolerable. If the Commonwealth were to vacate the field of land taxation altogether, a considerable saving of overhead charges would be effected. In addition to valuers employed by the States, the Commonwealth employs a number of officers, some very highly paid, to make valuations for the purpose of land taxation. That is one field in which there is duplication. Of course, there are many different systems of valuing. In New South Wales, the Valuer-General’s Department makes valuations. In other States there is a somewhat similar system, but a valuation of a different type is made for the purpose of taxation by local governing bodies, and for other purposes.
One could speak at length on the duplication of Commonwealth and State jurisdiction and administration. ‘ Although the revenue that is derived by the Commonwealth from the land tax is not great, this measure will increase considerably the number of people who will be required to pay that tax. The value of land in this country has risen by between 100 per cent, and 300 per cent., according to its location. As the honorable member for Melbourne Ports rightly said, originally this tax was intended to achieve the breaking up of large rural holdings. I do not know to what degree it has been successful in that respect. However, as a result of this measure there will be scarcely any land in the cities of this country not subJect to land tax. As a matter of fact one can apply that, observation also to country holdings. Under this measure the principles of the tax can be applied to areas that are not big enough to be subdivided, that is to holdings that are only big enough for one person to work. The value of land has increased tremendously during the last few years, and in consequence of this proposal land tax will be levied on a much greater number of persons than previously paid it. I doubt whether the advisers of the Treasurer are in a position to say how many additional taxpayers will be involved. The revenue raised from this particular source may exceed the estimate of £7,500,000. In New South Wales and other States a vicious system of rent pegging still operates. Perhaps its introduction was necessary. The effect of it is that rents are pegged at the level that existed on the 31st August, 1939. This system is completely unfair, and denies any form of justice to the owners of property.
– Order ! It seems to me that the honorable member is now speaking of a matter that is outside the scope of this bill.
– What I am about te say is relevant to the matter of taxation, because in the States in which rent pegging still exists the fair rents tribunals, when fixing rents, do not take into consideration the federal taxation imposed on land. Land tax has been specifically excluded from the assessment of the fair rents of properties. Some organizations, because of their ramifications, have to hold properties in practically all the cities of Australia. In such cases, and in others where big city properties are involved, it can be shown that because of the imposition of land tax and other taxes, the net revenue is completely extinguished so far as the property-owner is concerned. That is a very serious matter. Surely it is unfair that a propertyowner, who must abide by the government fixation of his rent, should be denied the right to have taken into consideration the amount that he is obliged to pay as land tax under Commonwealth legislation. The Treasurer should consider that matter. On this occasion the value of land exempt from the tax should have been raised above £5,000 in order to meet modern conditions. We should have either done that, or reduced the tax on a graduated scale according to the area of land held by any person. Moreover, some concession might be given by way of obliteration of the excess amount chargeable over a certain sum. The super tax that is imposed in respect of land the value of which is greater than a certain sum would, if abolished, assist some of the people who will be hardest hit by the taxation imposed under this measure.
This field of taxation is of such slight importance in the taxation structure of the Commonwealth that it would be a very good thing if the Australian Governmen abandoned it to the States. They in turn could remit it to their local government authorities. I seriously submit that suggestion to the Treasurer, who, although perhaps not able to act in such a way at present, may be able to give serious consideration to it when preparing his next budget. If this were done it would save administrative costs to the Commonwealth and would release certain officers for more urgent work with State instrumentalities. Such a change would be beneficial and would prevent the duplication of certain functions which exists throughout Australia.
.- The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) has made a tantalizing speech. He suggested that the Treasurer should vacate the field of land taxation, but did not give an assurance that he would not later suggest that the Australian Government should assume responsibility for the payment of the toll on the Sydney harbour bridge. It is of no use to suggest that the Government vacate taxation fields and then ask it to spend more money. There is no merit at all in his suggestion that the Commonwealth should vacate the field of land taxation, or, indeed, any other field of taxation. I am opposed to his suggestion that the Commonwealth, with all its burdens and responsibilities, should make such a gesture towards State governments. Then the honorable member expressed the pious hope that the State government would not take advantage of the gesture, but would allow their local government authorities to increase their revenues by higher rating.
There were two schools of thought on taxation at the beginning of this century, and during the last decade of the nineteenth century. One was that which followed Henry George, who believed that all taxation should be levied on land. There are some people who still think that there is merit in that idea. Land tax was origi nally imposed in order to produce revenue. In 1910, the Fisher Government used it to break up many big estates. An Irish reformer named Michael Davitt stated that his country needed an agrarian revolution every generation. I consider that agrarian revolutions are needed in this country every generation also, because no matter how the land tax is applied there is always the tendency that land will fall into fewer and fewer hands as the years go by. The Treasurer might ascertain the degree to which the land tax could be used to break up existing big estates so that there should be more food-producing areas and fewer areas for grazing bullocks.
– Bullocks are food.
– Bullocks are valuable, but the growing of food on small plots of land is more valuable to Australia than is the use of big areas for beef production. The bill as presented is not objected to by the Opposition. We believe that administrative costs should be reduced and methods evolved whereby a lot of departmental work would be eliminated. Insofar as the Treasurer seeks to bring that about I think that hid action is to be commended. Other proposed amendments of the act have been circulated. One of them proposes that the salary of the Commissioner of Land Tax shall be increased to £4,000 a year and that of the Assistant Commissioner to £3,000. The amount of the increase of the Commissioner’s salary will be £500 a year, and that of the Assistant Commissioner’s, £250 a year. I cannot see why there should be a distinction between the respective increases. In. any event, the salaries already appear to me to be reasonably high. If the department was a particularly busy one and handled a great deal of revenue, I could understand the proposal.
– The salaries specified are paid for the performance of all the duties that the Commissioner and the Assistant Commissioner discharge, which relate not only to land tax but also to income tax, payroll tax, sales tax and every other tax the administration of which falls within the province of the Taxation Branch. This is the only legal means of achieving the purpose that we have in view.
– If that he so, the action of the Treasurer can he seen in a different light. The Opposition does not oppose the passage of the bill. However, I could not miss the opportunity to put the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) on the right track, even though that track does not lead in the direction of the Sydney harbour bridge.
.- Although this bill deals with that section of the taxation power of the Commonwealth which is responsible for raising the least amount of revenue, it involves a number of important principles. The last report of the Commissioner of Land Tax disclosed that the revenue derived from land tax in the Commonwealth was only 1.1 per cent, of the total taxation revenue, and that that figure had not increased to any appreciable .degree since 1945. That disclosure lends a great deal of weight to the argument that the Government should use land tax for the purpose for which it was originally designed. In other words, land tax should be imposed with the object of breaking up large estates or .of applying a kind of .social compulsion. A great deal of the cost of land tax collections is covered by the cost of collection of income taxes, because in many instances the officers concerned work side by side. If the Government is not prepared to use land tax for ,the object that I have stated, it would be better advised to forget land tax and collect the amount of .tax (through ordinary income ,tax channels. However, I myself do not approve of that method. I believe that land tax should be imposed not to raise revenue .but to improve the production of food.
As the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) represents .country interests, I should have thought that he would have given consideration to differentiation between the various types of primary production. The wool-grower, who sells his products at world parity prices and who accordingly receives for them a higher price than other primary producers receive for theirs, is treated for the purposes of land tax, on exactly the same basis as is .the dairy-farmer or the meat producer.
– Many meat producers and dairy-farmers are exempt because they are on leasehold land. They are not taxed at all.
– They are not all on leasehold land. Undoubtedly the dairy-farmer and the meat producer are obliged to-day to sell their products under fixed contracts and at prices which the members of the Australian Country party suggest are not payable prices. They are therefore in a much less favorable position than are the wool-growers, who are the only primary producers in the community who are able to sell their products at world parity prices. I suggest to the Treasurer that in future deliberations in regard to taxation measures of this kind, a distinction should be drawn between the man who uses his land to grow a product which may be sold on the world markets at greatly enhanced profits to ‘ himself, and the man who is obliged to sell his products, under contract, to the United Kingdom. It would seem that, until such a distinction is drawn, many producers will be committed to the sale of their products at prices which are less than the cost of production.
This legislation also deals with companies that own land. From my reading of Australian agricultural history, which perhaps is not so extensive as is that of some honorable members opposite, the operations of such companies are not what they might be. It is only necessary to consider the position of the Northern Territory to-day in order to see what happens to the Australian countryside when large tracts of land are owned by companies, the shareholders of which never even see the properties concerned. In many instances, decline of the properties inevitably results from such ownership. Erosion and loss of fertility follow. I submit that numerous concessions should not be given to companies which own land. Instead, the Government should direct its policy to an extension of personal ownership, through which proper use may be made of the soil and vital food production may be increased.
The Australian Labour party does not oppose the passage of the bill, but I h,ope to remain long enough in this Parliament to see the introduction of land tax legislation .designed to correct .the catastrophic decline of primary production. That decline threatens the continued supply of the food that goes on to the tables of the people who reside in areas such as that which I represent. It was discussed by Professor Sir Stanton Hicks at the recent conference of the Australian Primary Producers’ Union at Albury. People who live in the industrial areas of the cities may soon find that instead of such commodities as onions, butter, lamb and beef being in short supply for a time, they will be permanently unobtainable. The Treasurer is more responsible than is any other member of the Parliament for ensuring that the policy of the Government shall be directed towards checking that decline of essential production, in order to protect the welfare of not only primary producers, but also every member of the community, especially those who are dependent upon wages.
– Would the constituents of the honorable member be prepared to help to produce food under existing conditions ?
– 1 assure the honorable gentleman that many residents of the State electorate of Richmond, in which factories are numerous, would be only too glad to go to rural areas if the Govern- ment would give to them the opportunity to do so. The amount of revenue to be. derived from this tax will be determined by the number of persons on the land. The Government should implement an effective policy of rural settlement. It should give greater encouragement .to young men to go on the land. I trust that the rural ginger group which, according to press reports, was formed within the Government parties last week, will persuade the Government to do something along those lines.
– in reply- I should not have found it necessary ‘to reply to the debate but for the specious argument advanced by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), who takes every opportunity to focus attention on what he describes as neglect on the part of members of the Australian Country party of the interests of the man on the land. Land tax is ‘not a new tax. The honorable member has been associated for many years with the party that was instrumental in instituting it, because it was originally introduced in 1910 by the Fisher Government. It would be interesting to know whether the honorable member has done anything to accelerate the subdivision of big estates in order to increase rural productivity, which the Fisher Governmentclaimed was its objective in instituting the land tax. When the honorable member said that land tax was impeding production of foodstuffs, he overlooked the fact that the tax is levied only in respect of properties whose value exceeds .£5,000. He ignored the fact that an overwhelming proportion of foodstuffs is produced on leasehold land which is exempt from land tax. In the circumstances in which we find ourselves to-day, this tax ig an indispensable source of revenue. For that reason the Government has decided that the tax shall be assessed on actual values instead of on values that were pegged in 1942.
– Is the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) prepared to comment on that point ?
Sir ARTHUR FADDEN. ^ Land values have moved with the times. Does the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) suggest that the value of land has not increased since 1942? The value of land is the basis upon which revenue must he obtained through this tax .either by assessing it in respect of true land values or by increasing the rate on the present pegged values.
– That is all that 3 wanted to know. This amendment is being made purely for revenue purposes?
– That is obvious; and it is useless to try to hide the fact. I should be delighted to abandon every field pf taxation, if it were possible to do so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; -progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Administrator’s message) :
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a new clause to be inserted in a bill for an act to amend the Land Tax Assessment Act 1910-1950.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Commencement).
Amendment (by Sir Arthurfadden) agreed to -
That clause 2 be left out, with a view to insert inlieu thereof the following clause: - “ 2. This Act shall be deemed to have come into operation on the first day of July, one thousand nine hundred and fifty-one.”.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
New clause 2a.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ 2a. Sectionfive of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section (5.) and inserting in its stead the following subsection : - (5.) There is payable to the Commissioner a salary at the rate of Four thousand pounds a year and to the Assistant Commissioner a salary at the rate of Three thousand pounds a year, out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is appropriated accordingly.’.”.
The purpose of this amendment is to provide that the salary of the Commissioner of Land Tax shall be £4,000 per annum in lieu of £3,500 per annum as at present, and that that of the Assistant Commissioner of Land Tax shall be £3,000 instead of £2,750 per annum. The change is being made in recognition of the heavy increase of the duties and responsibilities of those officials in recent years. Honorable members are doubtless aware that the officers who are appointed Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner, respectively, under the Land Tax Assessment Act are statutorily appointed by the relevant acts to be the Commissioner and the Second Commissioner of Taxation, respectively, for the purposes of the income tax and social services contribution, sales tax, pay-roll tax, entertainments tax and a number of other direct taxes of lesser importance. The commissioners are required to carry heavy independent responsibilities in the administration and interpretation of the com plicated provisions of the various taxing acts. Those responsibilities must be exercised by them in an individual capacity. The interpretations that are given are subject to critical examination and contest by skilled accountants and lawyers, and must also stand the test both of boards of review and of the High Court of Australia.
In addition to the tasks that arise out of the interpretation of the taxing laws, there devolves upon the commissioners the duty of collecting and protecting the revenue of the Commonwealth. For this purpose, since the advent of uniform taxation, there has come under the personal management of the commissioners a large Australia-wide organization with twelve branch offices, in which between 7,000 and 8,000 persons are employed, compared with fewer than 1,000 in 1925 and 1,100 in 1939, when there were only seven branch offices. The extent of the increase of the responsibilities of the commissioners, primarily in consequence of uniform taxation, is strikingly demonstrated by some comparative statistics. In 1925, they administered only four acts, received 220,000 income tax returns and collected £16,000,000 in revenue. By 1939, they were administering six acts, receiving 400,000 returns and collecting £28,400,000. This year they administer eleven acts, and receive no fewer than 3.500,000 income tax returns, and it is estimated that a total of £756,000,000 will be collected in revenue in the current financial year.
The nation’s expanding economy since the termination of World War II. has added greatly to the magnitude and importance of the posts occupied by the Commissioner and the Second Commissioner of Taxation. The higher prevailing rates of tax have also increased their responsibilities, because there is a greater tendency on the part of taxpayers to evolve means of lessening their liability and, in consequence, there is a greater degree of challenge to the commissioners’ interpretations. One result of that development is that, whereas in past years one board of review dealt comfortably with appeals from decisions on objections, at present three boards are heavily engaged with cases. Another result is that the legislative programme that is necessary to circumvent means of avoiding tax has become much heavier. The initial work of this programme must, of necessity, devolve upon the commissioners.
Therefore it will be appreciated that it is both appropriate and necessary that the remuneration of the commissioners shall be commensurate with the responsibilities that they are called upon to shoulder. When I mention that the annual salary of the Taxation Officer of one of the large public companies of Australia, whose responsibilities do not extend beyond the taxation affairs of the company, receives a salary equal to that at present given to the Commissioner of Taxation, honorable members will realize that there is every justification for the proposed increases. Accordingly I commend this amendment to the committee.
.- The Opposition has not discussed this new clause, and, therefore, any remarks that I make upon it will express my personal opinion. I endorse the statement of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) that the Commissioner of Taxation and the Second Commissioner occupy two of the most responsible and onerous positions in the community, and I agree with the principle that such men should be paid salaries to which they are justly entitled. The Commonwealth, in order to obtain the services of first-class men for those high positions, must offer attractive salaries. I believe that, in the present Com m issi oner of Taxation and the Second Commissioner, we have the best men, and I consider that their salaries should be commensurate with the importance of their offices.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
New clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill -by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
– I declare (a) that the Estimates of Expenditure are of an urgent nature; (b) that the resolutions preliminary to the introduction of the Appropriation Bill are urgent resolutions; and (c) that the Appropriation Bill is an urgent bill.
Question put -
That the Estimates be considered of an urgent nature; that the resolutions be considered urgent resolutions; and that the Appropriation Bill be considered an urgent bill.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the time allotted for the consideration of the remainder of the Estimates, the Resolutions, and the stages of the Appropriation Bill, be as follows: -
.- On behalf of the Opposition, I protest vigorously and vehemently against this outrageous attempt to curtail discussion of the Estimates. It is still a long time until Christmas, and there should be plenty of opportunity to discuss proposals for the appropriation of £1,014,000,000, which is the estimated expenditure for the present financial year. The Government proposes that honorable members should have only fourteen and a half hours in which to discuss the expenditure of this huge amount. It proposes to dispose of public money at the rate of about £70,000,000 an hour, or more than £1,000,000 a minute, and yet members of the Government call themselves democrats.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the length of time which it is proposed to allot, and whether or not that time is adequate.
– Would it be in order, Mr. Speaker, for me to entertain you with a play-back of speeches made by some Government supporters and Ministers when they were in Opposition?
– I suggest that the honorable member discuss the allotment of time.
– It was my intention to refer to what had been done in other Parliaments. In 1948, the Chifley Government allowed nineteen hours for the discussion of the Estimates, and even then the allotment of time was made only after a free discussion of three hours had been allowed on the proposed vote for the Prime Minister’s Department. The budget that year provided for an expenditure of £526,000,000, and the Parliament consisted of only two-thirds as many members as it does now. Because the Parliament is now larger, more time should be allowed in which to discuss the Estimates. In 1948, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) objected to the proposed restriction of debate, and he used these words, which I endorse -
The time schedule that has been circulated is an indication of the farce to which the business of the Parliament is been reduced by the Government.
The present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) protested when the Chifley Government allotted a much greater period of time for the consideration of the departmental estimates than is now contemplated. We have 36 departments and a number of ancillary instrumentalities whose needs must all be considered. The work of each department should be discussed intelligently and properly in order to protect the interests of the taxpayers. But this Government considers that fourteen and a quarter hours will be sufficient for that purpose ! Twenty-eight hours, or even a month, which was approximately the period devoted to the general budget debate, would not be too much time for the consideration of the proposed expenditure of such a vast sum of money as is involved in the Estimates. Honorable members have a duty to their electors. We were told, when the
Chifley Government was in power, that large sums of money should not be appropriated by the Parliament without the most exhaustive discussion, especially when large tax levies were involved. The expenditure needs of this Government are far larger than were those of the Chifley Government - almost twice as large in fact. The largest amount that the Parliament ever appropriated under the Chifley Government in the post-war period was £526,000,000. We are now being asked to appropriate £1,014,500,000, a super record amount. And all this has to he dealt with in fourteen and a quarter hours ! The Government, by its action, is showing its complete contempt for democracy. There is very little to distinguish it from Hitler’s show.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has tried very hard to whip himself into a frenzy of indignation over this matter. The House is now considering whether the time proposed to be allotted for the consideration of the Estimates is reasonable having regard to all circumstances. For that purpose, I suggest, we must look not merely at the recent past and the time that has been available during the current sitting period for discussion of important issues but also to the time that will be available to us in the future for the discussion of the wide variety of measures on which honorable members may unburden their souls for the edification of their .electors. When we consider the opportunities that were available to us earlier in this sessional period, we are reminded that a record number of speeches for this Parliament was made during the course of the general budget debate. That is traditionally an occasion on which any subject on which any honorable member wishes to talk may be freely discussed, and 104 members of this Parliament took full advantage of their privilege in order to discuss matters that were close to their hearts and to the hearts of their electors. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), I remind the House, was given unlimited time in which to speak during the budget debate so that he could state the point of view of his supporters on every issue that he cared to discuss. Now, as honorable members will find if they study the notice-paper, twelve bills that relate to a variety of matters are already listed for debate. I assure them that that is by no means a complete list of the legislation that will be brought forward for debate before the House terminates t the present series of sittings. Therefore, quite apart from the considerable period of time that the Government proposes to allot for the consideration of departmental estimates, there will be a host of opportunities for discussion of various important subjects. Those opportunities will arise not only during the consideration of bills but also during debates on special motions for the adjournment of the House and on the daily motion for the adjournment.
There is an alternative method by which the problem of dealing with the details of the Estimates could be solved. We have had all-night sittings in the past, but I do not think that any honorable member opposite who has had experience of such sittings will argue that the Parliament was able to give better consideration to its problems on such occasions, when about 75 per cent, of its members were in a state of semi-coma or completely asleep, than we shall be able to give to them during the period of fourteen hours of concentrated attention that the Government proposes. Only last week, Mr. Speaker, I gathered that you found it necessary, in view of the apparent lack of interest by honorable members opposite in matters that were before the House, to suggest-
– This has nothing to do with the proposed time-table.
– It has a great deal to do with the time-table. If honorable members opposite were not sufficiently interested to participate in debates on a variety of matters that came before the House during recent weeks, they can scarcely complain with justice now that they are not being given adequate opportunities to discuss the same matters. It will be very interesting to notice how often the quorum bells are rung during the course of the consideration of the Estimates-
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. The Minister has just cast an aspersion on the Opposition. At the time of which he spoke, only six Government supporters were in the House. The Government was completely at fault for not having maintained a quorum.
– Order ! No point of order is involved.
– Honorable members opposite are trying-
– I rise to a further point of order, Mr. Speaker. You have ruled that, in this discussion, speakers must confine their remarks to the question of time. The Minister is not doing that.
– Order ! I can see uo point of order. I can interpret the rules of debate without the assistance of the honorable member.
– Honorable members opposite are trying to establish an impression that they are not being given sufficient time in which to discuss the important matters with which the Parliament has to deal. Just as it has become traditional in some parliaments for a prospective Speaker to make a display of reluctance when he is pressed to take the chair, so on this matter a sort of pantomime performance has become customary over the years. Just as Labour governments placed time limits on discussions of the Estimates, so this Government proposes to do it.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
Mr. DRAKEFORD (Maribyrnong; [8.16]. - Time is brief i and I shall not delay the House any longer than is absolutely necessary. What the Government proposes to do is both contemptible and despicable. It is making a farce of the proceedings of this Parliament and, as a member of this House of many years standing, I strongly object to the course of action that it proposes to take. After having deliberately allowed the budget debate to go on until 104 honorable members had spoken, it now proposes to limit seriously the time to be devoted to the Estimates, which we went to discuss in detail. The timetable provides for less than half an hour to be devoted to the consideration of the proposed vote for each department. Every honorable member is supposed to be allowed two periods of fifteen minutes in which to speak on the proposed vote for each department. Therefore, the timetable is completely farcical. We shall begiven no opportunity to exercise that Tight. I want to speak on a number of matters that I consider to be of the utmost importance. The Government should be held up to public obloquy for the course of action that it proposes to take. Last week, Mr. Speaker, you complained that very few honorable members were present in the chamber during a certain debate. Can there be any wonder at the paucity of the attendance after about 100 speeches had been delivered during the budget debate when successive speakers merely repeated in more or less different terms what other honorable members had already said ? Apparently we are not to be allowed to express our views on important matters during the consideration of the Estimates. Only a few honorable members can hope to say what they want to say, if they are fortunate enough to catch the Chairman’s eye when they rise to speak. The Government is deliberately attempting to prevent the Opposition from criticizing its actions. I have a great deal to say about its failings in various respects. I realize that every government has its difficulties, but this Government is despicable and contemptible-
-Order! The honorable member will withdraw the words “ despicable “ and “ contemptible “. He is an old parliamentarian and should know better than to speak in that way.
– I withdraw the words and say instead that this Government is the meanest Government that I have ever known. I shall conclude my remarks promptly because I realize that the time that is occupied by this discussion will encroach upon the period that will be available for consideration of the Estimates. There are 123 members of this House, and it is ridiculous to propose that less than half an hour be set aside for consideration of the proposed vote for each department. If the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J.
Harrison) is responsible for the timetable that we are considering then he, as the representative of the Government, is showing contempt for the forms of the Parliament and the rights of honorable members. The Government ought to be pilloried for its action.
– The Estimates must be passed by the Parliament at one time or another. One would imagine, from the speeches that have been delivered by honorable members opposite, that they are being denied an opportunity to ventilate their views on various matters of national importance. In fact, as every honorable member knows, they were free, under the rules of debate as applied to the budget, to discuss such matters at length for over a month after the budget was presented on the 2nd October last. Every member of the Opposition who particularly wished to discuss any matter was at liberty to speak for 30 minutes on that subject during the budget debate. Therefore, the Opposition is attempting to mislead the Parliament and the people outside.
-Order! Never mind about the public outside.
– I think honorable members do mind about the public because all this discussion is designed to mislead the public into believing that the Opposition has not had adequate opportunity to state its case. The truth is that the budget was introduced on the second day of October and this is the sixth day of November and honorable members still have not disposed of it. Some of them continue to insist that they want to go on talking. Whether the Parliament has to discuss the expenditure of £100,000,000 or £1,000,000,000 is immaterial. The budget has to be debated by the Parliament and if honorable members insist on division after division when they know that that is a timeconsuming procedure, they can blame only themselves if time runs out before other matters which they want to discuss can be brought before them. There has been ample time for every honorable member on both sides of the committee to discuss the budget. The Government did not apply the guillotine to the budget debate and honorable members could have wandered from Peru to Mexico in their speeches. This action of the Opposition is a stunt and it will convince nobody.
.- In peace and war, it was the policy of the Chifley and Curtin Governments to keep the Parliament in session almost constantly. I remind honorable members that during the major portion of that period the Parliament comprised only 75 members. Now when there are 123 members, the Government proposes to limit severely the time available to honorable members although when it went to the country in 1949 and again in 1951 its supporters were very voluble in respect to the application by the Chifley Government of the gag and the “ guillotine “ although such actions were limited. No one will deny that the record of the Parliament that was in session during that difficult and dangerous war-time period is unparalleled in the history of federation. This Government, with ample time available, proposes to force the Parliament into recess and thus deprive members of their democratic rights. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) has stated that honorable members have had ample time to deal with the budget. Honorable members have had half an hour each and in that time no one could steer what the Minister referred to as a course from Peru to Mexico, as he suggested could be done. Consequently honorable members have been limited to expressing their views on broad problems. The Estimates contain details of the proposed expenditure of the numerous Commonwealth public departments. Honorable members can be critical, constructive or destructive in dealing with those details, but individual members are specialists in some items and they should be afforded a much more ample opportunity to discuss them.
As a former member of a State Parliament and a member of this Parliament I know that it has been the policy of Labour governments always to allow honorable members to exercise their democratic rights even if the Parliament had to sit all night and continuously until Christmas eve. This
Government seeks to throttle the representatives of the people in respect to items on which they wish to speak. Immigration is a subject in which every member is interested from some point of view. What hope have the 123 members of this Parliament to deal adequately with that one item alone in the ten minutes that they will be allowed? In the circumstances, this is an exhibition of totalitarianism in its worst form and a deprivation of members of their democratic rights, and I object strongly to the proposal to limit so severely the time for the discussion of the Estimates.
Mr.TURNBULL (Mallee) [8.26].-I have listened–
– Order ! I heard somebody refer to the “ Mallee hen “. I demand that those words be withdrawn. I strongly object to the calling of names across the chamber.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 92.
Question put -
That the motion(vide page 1560), be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker -Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 30th October (vide page 1285).
Proposed vote, £593,000.
Prime Minister’s Department
Proposed vote, £1,917,000.
Proposed vote, £1,568,000.
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed vote, £6,311,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– I take this opportunity to offer some views upon Mansard. Hansard costs the nation many thousands of pounds a year, employs a large staff, including some of the finest reporters in the Commonwealth, and enshrines the gems of oratory of the wittiest, wisest, and most selfless gathering of people in Australia. Yet it is not sufficiently widely read. This afternoon, I was looking at the Hansard report of the first Commonwealth Parliament. During the last 50 years, there has been no change whatever in the display, make-up or method of producing that journal, but during that time the method of presentation of reading matter generally, and of newspapers in particular, has been revolutionized. If we wish large numbers of people to read Hansard, we should modernize the publication and produce it in a new style, with a bright and interesting make-up that would attract the modern reader. The newspapers of 50 years ago were very dull; they contained many thousands of words and were read by only a small section of the community. To-day, people have become accustomed to shorter, crisper and brighter reports. They can no longer be expected to read the very long and detailed reports that are contained in Ilansard. I know there are some people who are Hansard enthusiasts and who never miss reading one word of any speech. But they are few and far between. I am not astonished at that, because Hansard is a very difficult publication to read. When one receives it, wrapped as it comes through the mail and tries to open it, it is most discouraging.
I suggest that attention be given to the form that Hansard takes. If it is considered necessary to continue the present verbatim Hansard, consideration might be given to the publication at the same time of a summarized version. I say “ If it is considered necessary to continue the present verbatim Hansard “, because the verbatim record might be sufficiently well kept if we employed for that purpose a tape recorder or a wire recorder. If we employed the talents of our Hansard staff to produce a summarized report and gave them full authority to edit and sub-edit speeches, busy people, people interested in politics and people generally in the country and city areas would have an opportunity, in a reasonable time each week, to keep abreast of what is happening in the National Parliament. I believe it to be very important that that should be done.
It is true that at the turn of the century, when the existing form of Hansard was modern in comparison with the form of the newspapers of that day, the press reported the proceedings of Parliament very fully. Some newspapers published daily six, seven or eight columns of straight parliamentary reports. But, as I have said, the newspapers of that day were read by only a small proportion of the total population. To-day, everybody reads a newspaper, but the form of newspapers has so changed that they no longer attempt to present to the people a clear and proportioned picture of happenings in the Parliament or of the serious and important happenings in the nation generally. It would be quite true to say that the proceedings of Parliament are no longer adequately reported in the press of this country, and that the press as a whole - I except from this statement only one or two newspapers - chooses to report only the titbits of parliamentary happenings, the sensational events, the scenes and the amusing moments, and makes no attempt, to give from day to day a serious and proportioned report of bills discussed and speeches made.
If it is considered necessary to continue the present form of Hansard, I suggest for consideration that there be published also a summarized Ilansard, and that an impartial team of Ilansard reporters be authorized to edit and sub-edit speeches in such a manner as still to present to the people as a whole a clear picture of the proceedings of the Parliament from day to day. Probably every member of the Parliament would feel that his speech had been summarized too much.
– Very likely. I think the honorable member is on a wild track. He is stating only his opinion.
– I admit that the reporters would have an extraordinarily difficult task in summarizing the speeches of the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson). They are so full of solid sense and wisdom that it would be difficult to omit a word from them. Nevertheless, I believe the proposal that I have advanced is worthy of consideration.
– I am glad to see the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in the chamber to-night, recovered from his illness to some degree. I suggest to the right honorable gentleman that it would be wise, in reorganizing his department on a functional basis, to adopt the method that he adopted in connexion with other departments shortly after he became Prime Minister. The Prime Minister’s Department has eight or nine branches. I think that the only two that ought to be under the control of the department are the Audit Office and the Public Service Board, because the integrity of public finance is one of the main cares of a Prime Minister and the integrity of the Public Service is also a matter that concerns him very much.
I think that a case could be made out for placing the officers employed in the other branches under the control of other departments. I refer mainly to the Office of Education, but also, and only in passing, to the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which should be under the control of the Department of the Treasury. The Office of Education is one of the legacies which the Prime Minister inherited from a previous government. In my opinion there is no room for a Commonwealth Office of Education. I should have imagined that at most we would need only a very small staff to advise on matters pertaining to education, its control and the encouragement of experiments in research into education on lines somewhat similar to those adopted in the United States of America. Here we have an illustration of a Commonwealth activity that has reached out in a manner, typical of all Commonwealth bodies over the years, for functions that are being adequately performed by the States. Here is an example of the relentless pursuit of a policy of centralization. It seems to me that education has no place in the centralized system of Canberra. If honorable members will examine page 9 of the Estimates they will find that it covers the proposed vote for the Office of Education. The details which are set out on page 12 suggest that the total proposed vote is £209,000. If, however, honorable members turn to page 81 of the Estimates they will find under Division No. 181 another proposed vote for the Office of Education of £2,215,000, which includes £1,496,000 for Commonwealth grants to universities and £709,200 for the Commonwealth scholarship scheme. University scholarships have been awarded year in and year out by the universities themselves since universities were first established in Australia. There is no point in having a Commonwealth Office of Education to decide the conditions under which scholarships awarded by the Commonwealth shall be held. The money made available for that purpose might well be paid direct to the universities or to the State governments. The universities are capable of deciding who should receive university training and the conditions under which they should receive it. The same remarks apply to most of the Commonwealth grants to the universities. This year £1,496,000 has been provided for that purpose. I do not suggest that the universities do not need that money or that the Commonwealth should not make it available.What I am concerned about is the manner in which the grants are being made available and the necessity for establishing a very large branch of the Prime Minister’s Department to administer them. I should have imagined that ample advice could have been given to the Prime Minister and the Treasurer by their existing staffs, to enable them to decide what grants should be made. Some aspects at least of the work of the Office of Education, which are under the care of the Prime Minister, are at present going through a scheme of re-organization by the Public Service Board, the principles of which might well be spread over other sections of the office. For instance, matters dealing with Unesco and SouthEast Asia might be placed under the Administration of the Department of External Affairs.
The proposed votes covering university training, which are set out on page 92 of the Estimates, total £818,000 are under the control of the Prime Minister’s Department. It is interesting to note that other proposed votes covering war service land settlement, and the technical and rural training schemes for ex-servicemen are under the control of other departments. Thus, a veritable medley of departments deal with various aspects of the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen. These, in my opinion, should all be dealt with by the Repatriation Department. I have no desire to belittle the importance of the education programme. In making these comments my sole desire is to stress the need for relieving the Prime Minister of many functions about which he should not have to worry. Next year, when we are considering the redistribution of governmental powers and functions, we should divest the Commonwealth of many functions that it has usurped from the States and restore them to the States which can carry them out more effectively and more economically.
.- I support the remarks made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser) concerning Hansard. I propose to touch briefly upon certain points that I am sure the honorable member would have dealt with if he had been given more time to devote to the subject. From the utilitarian aspect we realize the advantage of the present format of that publication, but there is no reason why its make-up, if not its content, should not be improved. The Government might well consider the issue of separate editions containing the debates of each House of the Parliament. If that course were followed it would be more easy for members of the Parliament to analyse the speeches of the past. The only suggestion I offer for the improvement of the make-up of Hansard is that the record of speeches should contain more paragraphs. At one stage of his speech an honorable member may fulminate against the Government and then drop down to a lower key. At present there is no break in the continuity of the record by the commencement of a new paragraph to denote the change to a lower key. That, however, is but a trifling fault which might easily be rectified.
I propose now to deal with the Office of Education, to which reference was made by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland). I do not share the honorable member’s sorrow - his words were too softly spoken to be regarded as anger - at the fact that the Commonwealth has projected itself into the field of education. Within their limited constitutional powers both the previous Government and the present Government have done a remarkably good job in that field. What I regret- is the fact that the proposed votes for education are being reduced and that some splendid features of the Commonwealth’s participation in education are being eliminated. Having regard to the importance of Unesco as a special agency of the United Nations for releasing the tension of war, giving to the people opportunities for study and bringing to a sensible outcome the battle against illiteracy, it is pleasing to note that the Government has widely increased the amount of the grant to that body. I hope that the Government will increase it still further. That organization, together with the Food and Agriculture Organization and other highly successful agencies of the United Nations, should be encouraged. I observe that on the local scene the grant for the Office of Education has been substantially reduced. Some of the activities of that instrumentality might well have been left undisturbed. I refer, for example, to the decision to abandon the issue of the Current Affairs Bulletin and the graphs that were issued with that publication. The fact that during the regime of the Chifley Government some spirited arguments took place in this chamber on whether the officers who prepared the graphs were following a particular political line, does not detract from their value as a great factor in assisting the progress of adult education. That was particularly so in country centres, where people had formed small community groups that studied various subjects. Some of the Current Affairs Bulletins were extremely instructive documents of a very high standard and were of great assistance to such “-roups. Some of the bulletins dealt with such subjects as soil erosion, immigration, the problem of China, wheat, wool and the great primary industries. Such bulletins should be available to people in this country at a fairly reasonable cost. They were splendidly produced, well coloured and attractive and were of great benefit to people who were doing extra-curricular work, particularly in adult education groups. The honorable member for Warringah will agree with me that they were extremely useful educational booklets. I shall be sorry if it has been found necessary to curtail this particular activity. Although an activity may be carried out in the right spirit it may nevertheless, and unfortunately, become a subject of criticism. In years past some of those bulletins were considered to evidence a bias towards communism. That was sheer nonsense. The subjects with which they dealt were factually and splendidly presented, and were a great credit to the Office of Education.
I am proud of the work of the Office of Education. It should not have to work on a pinch-penny budget, and I hope that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) - it is a faint hope, of course - will reconsider this matter to see whether, by more liberality, he can nourish the educational side of our federal activities.
– If I may interrupt the honorable member, I may perhaps save time by saying that it is not to be assumed that the Current Affairs Bulletin will definitely go out of production.
– I apologize if I have made a mistake, but I gained the impression from at least three newspapers that it was to go out of production. If that is not to be the case I shall not continue my remarks on it.
– I have been in communication with the Government of New South Wales and the University of Sydney to see whether we can make some alternative arrangements for the publication of the bulletin, and I am hopeful that some arrangement may be arrived at.
– Every one who has listened to the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) will admit that he has made a very useful and valuable contribution to the debate. I shall confine my remarks to his reference to the Commonwealth Office of Education and the part that it has played in assisting the educational systems of the States so that something approaching a general high standard of education can operate throughout the Commonwealth. At the same time, I consider that there is a dangerous tendency, which should not be encouraged, towards centralization of education in Australia. I can conceive of nothing worse that could befall this country than a completely regimented system of education. I am not worrying about “ isms “ at the present moment. I am speaking about education as such. Just as life varies from time to time, so must education be constantly moving and changing to meet the needs of a great democracy according to the different conceptions and requirements of different times. In certain educational circles there is now a tendency to try to force the Commonwealth towards complete regimentation of education. I have the greatest possible admiration for the State education systems that have been developed in this country, but no worse evil could befall Australia than that State schools should become our one and only source of education. It would be still worse to force upon the Commonwealth a nation-wide standardized system of education. It was my good fortune to investigate education in the United States of America in 1936, and I subsequently made a report on the matter. I found that the American Government had a commissioner of education and 100 experts at Washington, at a time when America’s population was about 130,000,000 people. It was their responsibility to distribute the grants that were provided by the federal authorities for the establishment of standards which State and local government bodies in control of education could follow.
I take up the theme of the honorable member for Warringah that there has been a tendency to let the Office of Education grow at the expense of the States. The point that requires to be taken very seriously is that the growth of federal educational activities should perhaps be reviewed generally and not only in relation to this particular office, for the purpose of discovering whether we can return to the States work that they are exceptionally fitted to carry out. At the same time there is nobody who wishes less than I do for the disappearance of the Office of Education the continued existence of which is an absolute essential for the correlation of all the educational activities in Australia, particularly in relation to universities, to ensure that the smaller States shall have standards that approximate at least to the standards of the larger States. It is also essential that, at the seat of government of this Commonwealth, we should have a number of advisers who, as a result of their personal knowledge of educational problems, would be capable of advising the education authorities of the States and of assisting in the development of education. I speak with feeling on this matter because I am a former New South Wales Minister of Education. In my dealings with the Commonwealth in the years before the last war I found that the greatest problem confronting us in the achievement of harmony in our various educational systems was a lack of unity both in the ministerial and administrative circles of the Commonwealth about the educational problems that confront the Commonwealth as a whole. Whilst I support the general contentions of the honorable member for Warringah [ should greatly regret to see any serious diminution of the leadership that can be given by the Commonwealth in the sphere of education. I should be loth to see the disappearance of the experienced advice and leadership that can be given to the States by men who understand education and its problems and who know what action should be taken to remove existing inequalities in relation to educational facilities in the Commonwealth.
.- In general I support the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) in his view that some of the items that appear in the Estimates under the Prime Minister’s Department should not be under the Prime Minister’s administration. My reason for holding that opinion is that, as is generally admitted here, leading members of the Government are sadly overworked. I cannot support the honorable member’s views on the Commonwealth Office of Education, because I consider that they are retrogressive in effect. The Commonwealth Office of Education is the natural bridge by means of which we can span the gap between the weight of the educational responsibilities that lie on the States on the one side, and the Commonwealth’s control of the major purse-strings of the nation on the other side. I very much regret that the only item in the proposed vote for the Prime Minister’s Department that has been subject to reduction is that of the Office of Education. That seems to me to be a very unfortunate state of affairs. The Commonwealth Office of Education has done a very good job. I am glad to know that publication of the Current Affairs Bulletin may be continued. I understand that its circulation reached about 50,000, although I am not certain of the figure, which I received from the Department of Education in Western Australia. It has been a most important publication for the members of the public who have been making use of it, and I hope that the Government will ensure its continued publication.
The details of the Estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department show the strange circumstance that although the number of persons employed at the Commonwealth Office of Education has risen to 130 this year compared with 126 last year the estimated expenditure on salaries is considerably below actual expenditure last year. In 1950-51, £117,982 was expended under this heading, but the estimate for the current year is only £105,000, although apparently the staff of the office has been increased by at least four employees. I should like to have an explanation of this reduction. Even the ordinary incidental expenses of the office are, apparently, being sadly reduced. For instance, the estimate for “ postage, telegrams and telephone services “ is £4,700, compared with an actual expenditure of £10,212 last year. It is unfortunate that the work of what is left of this valuable department is to be crippled by this reduction of ordinary expenditure. While it is true that this year’s estimate of £8,S00 under the heading “United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization - Expenses “ is considerably more than the actual expenditure last year, it is £2,600 less than the estimate for 1950-51. Estimated expenditure on “ General educational and cultural activities “ is £5,000, compared with last year’s estimate of £13,000, and actual expenditure of £5,833. Here again, higher salaries and increased administrative costs surely should warrant a substantially greater vote for this important work. Expenditure on “Research projects “ is being reduced to considerably less than last year’s estimate, and the estimate for “ teaching aids “’ is £3,000 compared with £4,400 in 1950-51. It seems to me that the Government is moving in quite the wrong direction. When the Office of Education was established most honorable members, I am sure, felt that a move would be made to place education in this country on a sounder basis than it had been up to that time. Most people hoped for a decentralized administration, and for more liberal Commonwealth financial assistance to the States. It is regrettable that the Government is scaling down the activities of this organization which is engaged on most important work.
Mr. WENTWORTH (Mackellar) [9.2 j. - I notice with pleasure that, included in the vote for the Department of External Affairs, is the sum of £149,000 for Antarctic exploration. I have also noted with pleasure the proposal that Captain P. G. Taylor, one of our most distinguished airmen, should make a trip to the Antarctic in a flying-boat. We hold a good but not indefeasible title to the major portion of the Antarctic continent. It is important that we should improve that title and that, as soon as possible, we should undertake permanent occupation of our Antarctic territory. We may be asked, “ Is not the whole of the Antarctic quite valueless?” It may be, but it is only 300 years or so since the Dutch; who knew Australia, wrote it off as entirely valueless ; it is only 100 years since Russia sold for a nominal sum its rights in Alaska to the United States of America, and since the statesmen who made the purchase were criticized for having added that arctic “ icebox “ to their country. It is only a little more than 50 years since there was a tendency to write off New Guinea as being entirely without value. Only through the energetic action of an Australian was even a portion of that island preserved for us. Therefore I do not think that we should adopt the view that the Antarctic is necessarily valueless. What are its potential values? At present they are mainly speculative, but they are certainly worth investigating. Whalers are already taking many millions of pounds out of the Antarctic Ocean. That enterprise, in which Australia has no share, it is not merely speculative. Its value has been proved beyond doubt, although it may be argued that occupation of the Antarctic continent would not help us much in that connexion. I point out to the committee what the whales have long known that the seas around Antarctica are the richest source of animal life in the entire globe. It is probable that those seas are the greatest sources of animal protein in the world. Their wealth cannot be exploited at present, but it is worth investigation. The existence of animal life in those waters is due to convection currents which bring up sediment from the floor of the Antarctic ocean and to the long hours of summer sunlight in those regions.
Occupation of a permanent station in Antarctica would, I believe, help longrange weather forecasting materially. It is probable that our climate is determined by the position of the line where the warm waters of the northern oceans go over the top of the colder waters of the Antarctic Ocean. The position of that distinct line of demarcation sometimes changes by as much as 300 or 400 miles. Those shifts may, in some measure, determine the upward and downward movement of the rain systems on the Australian continent. It is indisputable also that although geological exploration of this ice-capped continent would be difficult, it contains mineral deposits worthy of investigation. Perhaps, too, with the development of our atomic research, we shall need experimental or production areas, remote from population centres, where the various processes can be carried out without undue danger of radiological contamination. For that purpose, the Antarctic continent may well be ideal. There are other points too. The use of Antarctic territory for airline bases may be a remote possibility because of the geography of the southern hemisphere. The area may have some attraction for tourists although, because of the severe winds, that does not seem likely. However, quite apart from those things, there are various avenues of purely scientific research that may be followed. Such research, in addition to being of considerable value in itself, has a secondary value in that it can be of great assistance in meteorological and other observations to which I have referred. There is also a need for a ring of seismic stations all over the world in order that we may understand the movements of the earth’s crust. At present the Antarctic continent is the main gap in that ring. The study of cosmic rays and solar discharges is obviously something that should be pursued near to the magnetic poles where there are opportunities not elsewhere available to observe such pheno mena. The phenomena of terrestial mao.netism are in some aspects best studied close to the magnetic poles. Geology I have mentioned. In connexion with geodesy, the determination of the exact figure of the earth will be incomplete until we have better observations on tho Antarctic continent. Lastly, the study of glaciation and the advance and recession of the ice over the earth - of longrange importance, but nevertheless it is important - requires ice-cap observations on the Antarctic continent to supplement observations in other parts of the world. Therefore, both for reasons of economic value, which are speculative but cannot be dismissed out of hand, and for reasons of scientific value, which are not speculative and which cannot be dismissed at all, the Government should be actively engaged in setting up permanent stations in the Antarctic.
There are also military considerations which may be real or unreal but which are worth considering. The establishment of a proper, permanent station will require some 750 tons of stores with perhaps 200 tons a year to maintain the station. I think it is possible to take these in by air but it may be that to use an airlift of the necessary magnitude, except as a military exercise, would be beyond economic possibilities. Therefore, the Government should consider using a vessel to penetrate the ice pack and land the initial equipment and stores, and then the station could be serviced and the personnel changed by air. As honorable members are probably aware, the ice pack around the Antarctic usually moves out during the summer leaving a lane of clear water between the ice pack outside and the ice barrier inside, an area where a sea-plane could readily land. It is with much pleasure that I support the proposal to send Captain Taylor to the Antarctic because I believe that not only will he find a way of establishing a permanent base but also that he will find a way of servicing it once it has been established. Although I believe that the Government should press on with the acquisition of at least one vessel capable of penetrating the ice pack in the summer, I think it is fantastic to consider the building of such a vessel in Australia. That is a specialized job. It can be done overseas by shipyards which are contemplating building a number of these vessels for operation in the northern hemisphere including the area to the north of Siberia. The building of such a vessel in Australia might involve an unwarranted diversion of resources and would certainly cause delay. But American or Canadian shipyards could build such a vessel as part of the mass production programme that they have already envisaged. Therefore, I consider that the Government should abandon any proposal to build an Antarctic vessel in Australia and with the least possible delay, obtain an overseas ship.
.- I regret to see that of all the items published in the Estimates under the heading of the Prime Minister’s Department the only one that it is proposed should suffer a reduction in expenditure is the Office of Education. This is a strange state of affairs. This is a growing nation and there is a need for a coordination and correlation of State educational facilities. There is a need for a compilation of information to be made available to other peoples of the world who are interested in educational research. One can only conclude that the proposed cut in expenditure must be made at the expense of the welfare of the great bulk of the people of Australia - not only the younger generation but the adults to whom the Office of Education has rendered a very valuable service. Its publications and its works generally are of a very high standard. State educational authorities, State school teachers, registered school teachers, technical teachers and secondary school teachers have expressed a very high appreciation of the work of this authority. I have never met an officer in any field of State education who has shown any resentment at the scope of the work of the Office of Education.
I can quite understand the attitude of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland). He belongs to an older generation and is exceedingly jealous of State educational functions. While the
Constitution continues to permit a division of authority in respect of various matters between the States and the Commonwealth, I consider that there should be no actual duplication of activities, but that some body should knit up the loose ends and correlate the information that may be available from State authorities in regard to such matters as education, agriculture and re-afforestation. I understand that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself has been an educationalist and it is regrettable that he, through his Treasurer, should be responsible for a reduction of no less than £66,000 in the vote for the Office of Education. Last year £117, 9S2 was expended on salaries and allowances for permanent officers, but this year the vote is only £105,000. It would appear that there has been a diminution in the permanent staff or in the general expenses of the permanent staff.
It is also proposed that expenditure on temporary and casual employees shall be reduced from £106,31 S to £64,.000. The dismissal of the temporary and casual staff of the Office of Education can result only in the effectiveness of the permanent staff being seriously affected. I regret that this is the case. I understand that some of the steps taken, from sheer necessity, by the Office of Education in order to save money, have been of a very questionable character. I believe that certain casual employees were told that they had been dismissed in accordance with the policy of the Commonwealth Government but that if they applied for re-engagement they would be re-employed at a reduced salary. I regard that as a parsimonious, mean and contemptible state of affairs. Tha Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) may laugh, but if he were told that, as part and parcel of the attempt of the Government to cure inflation, he would be sacked and re-engaged at half his salary he would be very cross. That is what the Government has clone to the weaker section of the community. If the right honorable gentleman wants particulars of what is happening I shall provide them. Doe3 the Prime Minister challenge these statements?
– Certain of the staff of the Office of Education were told that they would be dismissed but that they could apply for re-employment on the following day.
– Will the honorable member let me have the particulars?
– I shall give the Prime Minister the particulars of these cases as soon as I resume my seat. Will the right honorable gentleman apologize if I am proved to be right?
– I shall.
– I am glad that the Prime Minister has accepted the challenge. It is regrettable that this reduction has taken place in respect of such an important matter as education. I hope, even at this late hour, that something will be done to continue the full scope of the work of this very valuable Commonwealth instrumentality.
.- I shall take only enough time to correct a few errors of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). The debate about the Office of Education was begun by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) saying that the proposed vote for this year ought to be less; but now it looks as if it ought to be more. The honorable member for Lalor, walking in somewhat unaccustomed paths, has said that if there is one thing that matters in this country it is that the Office of Education should be built up, and built up, and built upf Because the proposed vote is less than was the expenditure in. 1950-51, he is now asking the people of Australia to believe that this Government has no interest in education, that it is the enemy of the improvement of public instruction. The answer to that contention is very simple indeed. The proposed vote is less than was expenditure during the previous financial years because the Government believes that certain activities ought no longer to overlap. The number of employees of the Office of Education referred to in the Estimates is a little extravagant; it is the number that were actually employed when the Estimates were prepared.
Although the Office of Education will have fewer employees, and we will expend less money on it, this Government is undertaking the largest financial responsibility for scholarships in the history of Australia. The whole scholarship system, for which the Commonwealth will pay, is to be administered by the States, for the very good reason that the State education authorities and the State universities have had a vast experience of conducting examinations and dealing with the award of scholarships. We came to the conclusion that the Commonwealth ought not to be doing what the States could do. Of course, if some honorable members opposite want us to duplicate what the. States arc doing, they should say so. If that is their idea of efficient administration, let them say so. But, as I have previously indicated to the committee, we decided that where ever there were overlapping functions we would endeavour to secure some removal of the overlapping.
The whole burden of what the honorable member for Lalor had to say was that we were cutting down on the Commonwealth facilities for education. In point of fact, this Government is pro-
Tiding the greatest sum of money that has ever been provided for education in the history of the Commonwealth. It is doing that because it believes in education ; it does not believe just in talking about it, but in doing things about it. Under Division No. 181 - Commonwealth grants to universities - this Government is providing, for the first time in the history of Australia, for a Commonwealth grant to the State universities. The proposed vote for that purpose is £1,496,000. Yet honorable members opposite are arguing about the Government cutting the overlapping in scholarship administration by varying the employment of some of the employees of the Office of Education. They say nothing about the fact that this Government - the first government in the history of Australia to do it - intends, in this financial year, to grant almost £1,500,000 to the universities of the States. They say nothing whatever about the fact that, in addition, the Government intends, during this financial year, to provide £709,200 to implement the Commonwealth scholarship scheme. Until a few years ago the Commonwealth did not make any contribution to education.
– That is an obligation that this Government inherited from theformer Labour Government.
– We took up the obligation, and expenditure has now reached a colossal sum.
– Splendid !
– If my friend wants me to agree, I agree at once that the former Labour Government introduced the scholarship system. But we have had the privilege of providing £709,200 to put it into operation. If he wants to discuss it on that low level, let me tell him that the former Government, of which he was a supporter, never for a moment thought of subsidizing the State universities. We have not only thought of it, but, in this year, will grant them almost £1,500,000. If honorable members opposite put up these red herrings, they must be prepared to have them caught and dealt with. They apparently have in mind that, as a part of the post-war arrangements, the former Labour Government provided moneys to the universities in respect of national service reconstruction trainees. That is perfectly true. But that was a payment for persons in respect of whom the Commonwealth considered that it had a specific obligation. The total cost was a mere fraction of the cost of what we have done, which is not related to particular persons in respect of whom the Commonwealth has obligations. Our scheme is designed to put every Australian university in a position of solvency. This will be the most dramatic contribution that has ever been made by the Commonwealth in my lifetime to public education in Australia.
– But the value of money is down!
– Honorable gentlemen opposite will tell us, now that they have been thoroughly warmed up and reminded of one or two things, that they started the Australian National University. So they did, but on estimates of cost which were so grossly inaccurate as to be open to criticism, which could be expressed in other terms. We were told that there was to be established a medical research school at a cost of less than £300,000. The total estimated cost is now almost £2,000,000.
– Was it not necessary?
– The question is not whether it is necessary but whether-
Opposition members ‘interjecting,
– Order !
– The more they talk the more trouble they are in. Of course it was necessary, but it does not follow that a Parliament which was told that the proposal would cost £300,000 would have agreed to it if the fact had been disclosed that the ultimate cost would be about £2,000,000. That is something that honorable members opposite should rumble in their minds in the still watches of the night. All I need to say is that for buildings alone the Autralian National University has been assisted by this Government to the tune of £9S4,000. That is a little less than £1,000,000 in one year. In spite of nearly £1,500,000 in direct grants of an entirely new kind to be made to the State universities, more than £700,000 to be expended on Commonwealth scholarships, nearly £1,000,000 to be expended on the National University buildings, and £450,000 to be expended for the maintenance of the National University, we are now being told on the strength of a small administrative re-organization in the Office of Education that we are doing our educational job on the cheap.
– Time is up.
– The honorable member is quite right. Time is up. It is quite unnecessary to say another word.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has just given us a remarkable demonstration of how to make a virtue of misdeeds. It is true that the Government has provided in these Estimates nearly £1,500,000 to rescue our universities from bankruptcy. But why were the universities bankrupt? They were bankrupt because the Government had failed to halt inflation.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Why does not the honorable member blame the Australian Country party as well as the Prime Minister?
– Order ! The honorable member is entitled to be heard without interruption.
– The Prime Minister is not entirely to blame; perhaps the Australian Country party should bear some of the blame. I refer honorable members to the reports of the chancellors of Australian universities. Those reports emphasize the fact that the universities were sliding into bankruptcy and that their financial position was deplorable because of the rising tide of inflation. Inflation had reduced the value of their money to such a degree that they could no longer pay for necessary materials and services. I suggest that the Prime Minister should apologize for the allocation of over £1,000,000 to our universities, because that was given only after the universities went cap in hand to the Government and asked for it. There would have been no need for them to do that if the Government had put the brake on inflation. Therefore, apart from the matter of scholarships which were initiated by a Labour government, the Government cannot take credit but must suffer discredit for the way in which it has treated our universities.
– The remarks of the honorable member are merely funny.
– It may be amusing to the honorable member that people should have to cope with inflation, but-
– Order ! The honorable member must link up his remarks with votes for the departments before the committee.
– I intend to do that, Mr. Chairman. A few weeks ago it was stated in this House that an international materials conference had decided that Australia should severely restrict its consumption of some vital raw materials. I believe in international co-operation, and I think that Australia should enter as fully as possible into the deliberations of international bodies which are concerned with the control of monetary policy or materials. But I believe that Australia should enter such organizations as a free and equal partner, with an equal voice in the deliberations and an equal vote in all decisions affecting our economy. During the time that I ha,ve been a member of the Parliament I have tried to ascertain how, when, where and why the decisions are made which relate to the sterling bloc and the financial policy of this country. As far as I can gather there is a nebulous body called the Sterling Area Statistics Committee, which was set up in London in 1947. Associated with that organization is a Commonwealth liaison committee. It is impossible to discover any body in which Australia has a clear-cut representation and a definite say in all decisions. Today, fundamental decisions which affect every aspect of our economy are being made overseas by informal statistical committees and consultative committees upon which Australia is not officially represented. This is not a matter of whether or not we should be attached to the sterling bloc; our whole future depends on financial decisions which will be made in London during the next few months. The last Labour Government leaned a little towards the British Labour Government, which of course was faced with tremendous problems, but it is always desirable to have a Labour government in Great Britain because previous Australian to ry governments have not paid particular attention to Australia’s interests when there was a tory government in Great Britain. Now that the Conservative party has assumed office in Great Britain I am afraid that Australia’s interests will not receive the consideration to which they are entitled in the general moulding of financial policy and other matters with which our future is bound up with that of Great Britain. Everybody knows that the British currency was devalued in the absence of adequate consultation with Australia.
– That was done by a British Labour government.
– I admit that. Undoubtedly it is to the advantage of the British Government, irrespective of its political complexion, to be able to make such financial decisions without consultation with Australia.
– Order ! The honorable member is out of order in making his present remarks. He must deal with the departments being considered by the committee.
– I think that the matter about which I am speaking has some relationship with the Prime Minister’s Department and the Department of the Treasury. In order that our interests may be fully considered, such far-reaching financial decisions should not be made without adequate consultation with Australia. I realize, of course, that irrespective of the cost to us we must help to keep Great Britain stable. Even if we do not want to do it, from sheer necessity we must do it. But it must be done in a manner that will not disrupt the Australian economy. Two eminent economists have recently propounded their views on this matter. One is Sir Douglas Copland, with whom I do not always agree, and the other is the. brilliant Queensland Government economist, Mr. Colin Clark. They both ha.ve indicated that Australia will have to sell its goods in the dollar market sooner or later and that it may as well do it before our economy is ruined. They both have put forward cogent facts in support of their arguments. Our primary economy is at present in the position where one product is sold at the very highest price on dollar markets and the rest are sold in the sterling area under long-term contracts. This situation is forcing labour, materials and land into one channel, and it would be better for Australia, having in mind the necessity to increase the production of our agricultural products, to make a free gift of a large sum of money to Great Britain rather than to continue as we are.
– Order ! That matter may be discussed when the proposed vote of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture is being considered.
– The point that I wish to make is the necessity for such matters to bc brought to the notice of the appropriate authorities which deal with the currency and the financial policy of the sterling bloc.
– Order ! The honorable member is out of order, but I shall allow him to discuss miscellaneous items as long as the points made by him are not laboured and are linked up with the proposed vote of the Prime Minister’s Department.
– Time is very short, and I have already said what I wish to say in relation to the matter.
– In a word, the honorable member wants to cut the painter that holds us to Great Britain.
– I do not. I wish only to ensure that the Australian economy, as well as the British economy, shall not be ruined. The position to-day is that Great Britain has an adverse trade balance of more than £800,000,000. In other words, the banker of the sterling bloc is not in a position to honour cheques that might be presented to it. I suggest that instead of concluding firm contracts and tying the Australian economy to such contracts it would be far better for Australia openly to acknowledge its debt to Great Britain and, if necessary, to pay it by means of a free gift, in order to assist that country to maintain its position. Because contracts are made with the United Kingdom Government, Australian products, which might be sold on the dollar markets at greatly enhanced prices, must be sold to the United Kingdom at prices which are frequently far too low.
– Now that there has been a change of Government in the United Kingdom, the honorable gentleman wishes to cut the painter.
– It is amazing how loyal the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has become since Mr. Churchill resumed office. I trust that the right honorable gentleman will consider the matters that I have mentioned, because the United Kingdom will not be assisted if Australian primary production continues to decline at the present rate.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman should leave remarks such as those to discussion of the proposed vote of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture.
– I suggest that the Prime Minister should take steps to ensure that the financial policy of this Government will be made the subject of a full report to the Parliament, so that it may be adequately debated. Somehow or other, the rural interests of Australia are usually forgotten when contracts are made with the United Kingdom. Australia is the country which is expected to make all of the sacrifices. Instead of the nebulous, unofficial discussions which take place concerning our currency and our attachment to the sterling bloc, I suggest that there should be a properly constituted body to which formal delegations might be sent. Those delegations should be backed by the decisions of the Australian Parliament, reached after full debate, concerning the financial policy .which the Government desires to pursue. I shall listen intently during the next few months to the members of the Australian Country party as they discuss the long-term contracts with the United Kingdom and the prices that Australian primary producers are to receive for their meat, butter and other products. I hope to have an opportunity to discuss that matter when the proposed vote for the Department of Commerce and Agriculture is being considered.
I wish to make it clear that I consider that Australian interests should be fully and adequately represented at international conferences, whether their purpose is to deal with the allocation of raw materials, financial and currency problems, or any other matter. I trust that this Government will not permit the country’s interests to be neglected when such vital problems ai-e being discussed overseas.
.- I do not support the arguments of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), who spoke for about a quarter of an hour-
– I had only ten minutes !
– It seemed like a quarter of an hoar. The honorable member had no facts upon which to base his remarks. He denied any wish to cut the painter with the United Kingdom, although hp knows that some members of his party would be only too glad to do so. I do not think that there is the slightest ground for introducing that subject.
I wish to discuss the proposed vote of the Department of the Treasury and to put forward some suggestions concerning our loan policy. I know, and other honorable members probably know also, that that policy is not decided solely by the Treasury. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has great knowledge of the operations of the Australian Loan Council. However, there are one or two matters which are worrying many people in this country to-day. Unfortunately, a certain lack of confidence in Commonwealth loans has developed, both as to the security provided and the return offered. It is a remarkable fact that only a negative rata of interest is paid by Commonwealth loans to-day. A loan investment accumulates at the present interest rate of £3 los. a year, although its purchasing power is decreasing each year by more than that amount because of rising prices. To-day it pays people to borrow at fixed interest rates, if they can find persons who are willing to lend, because it certainly does not pay to lend money. Such a state of affairs is both irrational and inflationary. Unless something is done to hak the developing lack of confidence in Commonwealth loans it will continue to develop at an even more rapid rate. 1 suggest to the Treasurer that when loans are floated at higher interest rates than those that previously obtained, either investments in previous loans should bear the higher rate of interest or the investors in previous loans should be permitted to subscribe stock or cash to the new loans. I put that proposal to the right honorable gentleman some time ago. and I received a reply which indicated that it is impossible to increase rates of interest payable on Australian securities to bring them into the line with recent rates. He explained that if that were done the increased loan burden of the country would be approximately £10,000,000 a year. I suggest, however, that that burden may have to be borne. Although our loan indebtedness has more than doubled since World War II. began, the interest burden has decreased from 5.5 per cent, of our national income, as it was in 1940, to 3.8 per cent, of the national income in 1950. In the United Kingdom at the beginning of World War [., subscribers to previous loans were given the privilege of subscribing cash or stock to new loans which carried a higher rate of interest. The following course may, perhaps, be of more interest to the Treasurer. I suggest that an issue should be made of short-dated bonds that would be non-interest bearing but redeemable at par plus adjustments in accordance with fluctuations in the cost of living. Under such a plan the capital value of investments would be safeguarded, regardless of changing circumstances. Thus, the savings of investors would be secured in these uncertain times. I believe that such a plan would be successful. If the bonds were issued in small denominations they would be attractive to the small man for whom no small savings media that offer an opportunity to hedge against rising prices are now available. Such a plan would encourage saving and thus be deflationary in character. It has been tried in other countries.
– Suppose that there was a fall in the cost of living?
– The investor would not receive any payment by way of interest.
– What would he receive for his investment if he did not receive interest?
– The capital value of his investment would be secured, and that would bo of advantage particularly to the small man whose savings otherwise would depreciate.
– What would have been the result under such a plan in respect of an investment of £100 during the last two years?
– I could not say exactly; but possibly the investment would now be worth £120.
– That gain would represent a phenomenal rate of interest.
– No interest would be paid to investors, but their capital would be conserved. That form of loan has already been , issued in Canada and in other countries and it has proved successful in attracting investments because it safeguards the capital of investors.
The third possible course that I have in mind has been partly tried in the past. It is that interest up to an amount of, say, £50 on investments in new loans should be exempt from income tax. That plan would attract the savings of the small man which is the money that the Government should wish to attract. It would be helpful to investors and to the country as a whole. In view of the Government’s extensive programme of developmental works it is essential that it should attract loan money from the average citizen as well as from big investment companies. Those works will have to be financed from loan money and unless sufficient investments can be attracted the Government will experience extreme difficulty in financing its develop- mental projects. I ask the Treasurer to give careful consideration to the suggestions that I have made.
– In the very limited time that is available to me as the result of the application of the wretched “ guillotine “I shall not be able to say much at this juncture. I propose to deal with the proposed vote for the Parliament although, like other honorable members, I should like to have the opportunity to deal with other matters that are relevant to the proposed votes before the committee. But the spineless and spiritless mob behind the Government is prepared to put up with the “guillotine “ and thus to allow the Government to prevent full consideration of the Estimates. The estimates in respect of the Parliament show how much it costs to operate the Parliament. Having regard to the increased numbers of members and senators, it is natural that their cost should increase; but the time allowed for the consideration of the Estimates has been so restricted–
– Order ! The honorable member cannot reflect upon a decision of the House. I ask him to withdraw that remark.
– If I have offended against the Standing Orders, I withdraw; but I say that the wretched mob behind the Government–
– Order ! The honorable member will withdraw that remark and apologize.
– I withdraw and apologize, but in the limited time–
– Order ! The honorable member will resume his seat.
Motion (by Mr. Ward) put -
That the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) be further heard.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
N oes .. . . . . 54
Majority . . . . . 11
In division :
Question so resolved in the negative.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for the Parliament, the Prime Minister’s Department, the Department of External Affairs, and the Department of the Treasury has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Proposed vote, £976,000.
Proposed vote, £2,724,000.
Proposed vote, £2,064,000.
Proposed vote, £9,564,000.
Proposed vote, £2,760,000.
Proposed vote, £864,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- The proposed vote for the Department of Trade and Customs includes an amount of £20,000 for the Prices Branch. We have heard a great deal in recent times about rising prices, prices control, and inflation, and this Government has invariably contended that prices control merely records increases of prices. Ministers have no faith in prices control, and airily dismiss as party political propaganda all arguments that are advanced in favour of it. Yet the Government has provided an amount of £20,000 for the Prices Branch during the current financial year, and, in addition, will make available £819,000 to the States for the purposes of prices control. In such a situation, the Government calmly washes its hands of its respon sibilities and repeats ad nauseam, “ We do not believe in prices control, which is merely an instrument for recording variations of prices that have already taken place “.
This Government insists that the State Governments do not wish the Commonwealth to resume control of prices, yet it is making available to them an amount of approximately £819,000 to carry on what it regards as a farcical system. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) may seek to take credit for the fact that more than £800,000 has been earmarked for expenditure on prices control in 1951-52; but the Government, in asking the Parliament to vote that sum, is not consistent, because it regards prices control as wasteful and futile. Some Ministers go even further than that, and claim that State governments refuse to transfer to the Commonwealth the power to control prices. Yet State Ministers who administer prices control, when they met last week, complained that this Government would not assist them in their most difficult task, even by appointing a Minister to sit in conference with them.
– Who are they?
– Although the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) may not be aware of it, they are sovereign States, which have great responsibilities and heavy commitments.
– That is so. The sole object of my interjection was to ascertain what State Ministers had complained.
– The policy of this Government is clearly to write down the importance of the States. Obviously, it is the intention of the Minister for Defence and of his colleagues to reduce their stature, hamstring their efforts, and bring to futility their best measures to combat rising prices. The Minister asks “Who are they?”
– Who are the Ministers to whom the honorable member referred?
– I point out to him that they are the governments of thesix States of Australia, which are struggling vainly against rapidly increasing prices. According to press reports last week, the State Ministers who are in charge of prices control carried a motion of protest against the inaction of this Government, which will not co-operate with them and assist them in their most difficult task. Prices control is definitely a Commonwealth responsibility, but this Government will not accept it. The terms of the motion that was carried by the State Ministers last week were as follows : -
That the Federal Government be onCe again approached to assume the responsibility for prices control.
Yet this Government calmly washes its hands of the whole matter. Such a trifling matter as checking rising prices is not worthy of its consideration. But this Government is so lacking in responsibility to the people, and so careless of the expenditure of public money, that it has made available more than £800,000 to continue the system of prices control during the current financial year. The Opposition believes that prices control, as it exists at the present time, is a burden that the States cannot bear alone. They must receive from the Commonwealth a considerable measure of active assistance. The minimum requirement is the appointment of a Commonwealth Minister to attend their meetings in order to gain an appreciation of the difficulties with which the States are confronted in administering prices control, and which are daily complicating their task. But the Government says, “ We shall not appoint a Minister for that purpose. The control of prices is not a Commonwealth responsibility. The people, at a referendum in 1948, declined to vest prices control in the Commonwealth ‘’. Of course, Ministers do not point out that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party refused to support that referendum three years ago, when the Labour party urged that prices could be controlled more effectively by one authority than by six authorities. Labour and Liberal Premiers alike are now disillusioned about prices control. This Government alone refuses to accept the fact that the States are unable to control rapidly rising prices. For some time, the States asked the Commonwealth for assistance in that matter. Now, they demand it. The Government, which has budgeted for a surplus of £114,500,000, replies, “ We shall dole out to you an amount of £S19,000 for the purposes of prices control, and we propose to expend £20,000 on the same matter ; but we do not believe in prices control, and shall not help you in any way. In our opinion, prices control is farcical “. The Government is recreant to its trust, but eventually it will be forced to act. Rapidly increasing prices are disorganizing State government finance, university finances, and industrial operations. The people of Australia are demanding that this Government accept its proper responsibility. It should say to the State governments: “ We realize that inflation is getting out of hand. Therefore, w7e shall take over prices control if you will refer to us th, necessary power “.
– The States would not refer the power to us.
– State representatives announced only a few days ago that they would be prepared to refer the necessary power to the Commonwealth. Not long ago, a Gallup poll indicated that SO per cent, of the people of Australia were in favour of Commonwealth control of prices. Therefore, the Government no longer has an excuse for failing to act.
.- Imports are flowing into Australia at an alarming and ever-increasing rate, and our adverse trade balance overseas is becoming greater and greater. We are bringing to Australia a large number of people from other countries. We are also bringing here from overseas large quantities of goods that could be very well manufactured here. Some people solittle understand the problem of inflation that they believe that the cure for inflation and high prices is to allow goods from overseas to enter Australia almost unimpeded. It is against the interest? of Australian manufacturers and of their employees to allow our adverse trade balance to continue to grow. One reason for the present situation is that the Tariff Board and the Department of Trade and Customs do not act promptly enough to protect Australian industry. In my electorate, there is a factory which manufactures furniture drapings, . and which used to employ about 100 persons under excellent conditions. Recently, because of the competition of imported fabrics from Italy, Belgium and Japan, the firm lias had to discharge about half the number of its employees. Even if it were prepared to dispense with profit altogether, it would still not be able to compete successfully against the overseas manufacturers.
T do not say that the tariff should be used to protect exploiters, but it should be used to protect legitimate Australian industries against competition from countries where employees work more hours a day for less pay than. do our Australian workers. Because some distributing agencies in Australia have been making immense profit, ranging from 50 per cent, to 100 per cent., some people believe that goods should be admitted freely from overseas in order to keep down prices. If that were permitted, many Australian industries, both new and old, would be destroyed, and it would not be an easy matter to re-establish them in a time of national emergency. Because our population is increasing so rapidly, it is important that we should manufacture in Australia as large a proportion as possible of the goods we need. Australia should be something more than merely a primary producing country. Primary production cannot support a large population. Therefore, it is essential that we foster our secondary industries, and protect them against unfair competition from overseas. Whilst I favour adequate tariff protection, I believe that we should have in conjunction with it a system of prices control in order to protect the consumers from exploitation. The textile firm to which I previously referred applied to the Tariff Board for increased protection, and the board, after hearing evidence, reserved its decision. No decision has yet been announced, and in the meantime overseas competition has become so severe that the firm has had to dismiss about half its staff. If the board is not satisfied with the way in which the firm is conducting its business, it should say so. It should not hold up its repor.t indefinitely. In my opinion, the industry should be given increased protection. It is urgently necessary that our Australian industries shall be protected from rapidly growing and unfair competition from other countries.
should remember that it was a Labour government that made Australia a member of the International Trade Organization and ratified the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which is pro”1” ting this Government from increasing its tariff charges in order to protect Australian industries. However, if he will state the case on behalf of the industry that he has mentioned, to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan), I am sure that he will be granted a very sympathetic hearing.
– This Government could withdraw from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade if it wanted to do so.
– That is not so. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) did not vote on the bill to authorize the ratification of the agreement. He ran away from the issue when it was raised by the Labour Government, and he does not know very much about it now.
My main purpose in speaking at this stage is to describe the progress that has been made with the health scheme that has been in operation for the last eighteen months and to correct some of the misstatements that have been made about it. During the last general election campaign, Senator McKenna went round the country telling the people that at that time not a pint of milk had been paid for by the Government. That was absolutely false. Five States are co-operating with the Government at present in the supply of milk to school children. Three hundred thousand children in New South Wales, where the scheme has been in operation since early in this year, and 150,000 children in Victoria, are receiving milk daily. In South Australia, 3S,000 children are already benefiting, even though the scheme began to operate there only on the 18th September because of the necessity to wait for the increased milk yield during the winter season. In Western Australia, where distribution began on the 30th July, 40,000 children are receiving milk. In Tasmania, which entered the scheme on the 11th September, 33,000 children are supplied with milk. Children in Commonwealth Territories are not being neglected, and 3,000 children, in the Australian Capital Territory are being supplied with milk. Arrangements have been made to provide milk under the scheme in the Northern Territory wherever supplies can be obtained. The only State that has remained aloof from the scheme is Queensland. It is a dairying State, and one can scarcely understand the reluctance of its Government to co-operate in this remarkable project to help the nutrition of children. Sir John Boyd Orr proved very conclusively in the United Kingdom that the distribution of milk to children is of great value. Notwithstanding the fact that housing conditions generally were of a very low standard in England during World War II. as a result of bombing, children of from ten to twelve years of age at the end of the war were 2 inches taller and 2 or 3 lb. heavier than children of similar ages had been prior to the war. That proved the great value of a regular supply of milk to young children. This Government is emulating the British experiment because it wants to develop healthy, well-fed children, who will grow to adulthood with a minimum of sickness.
Great progress has been made with the plan for the free supply of life-saving drugs. In June, 1951, a total of 465,000 prescriptions for such drugs were made available to the people of Australia. That represented a rate of approximately 5,000,000 prescription a year, out of between 8,000,000 and 9,000,000 prescriptions issued annually for all purposes. About half the total number of prescriptions dispensed in Australia to-day are for free life-saving drugs. Those prescriptions are much more costly than ordinary prescriptions. The average cost is about 18s., whereas ordinary medicines cost from 4s. to 5s. for each prescription. Thus, although the number of prescriptions for free drugs represents about half the total number of prescriptions dispensed, the relief to the people of Australia represents about 10s. a year for every man, woman and child. The effect of the scheme in other respects has already been very pronounced. These drugs have such a beneficial effect in the treatment of serious illnesses that the average length of time spent in hospitals by patients has been considerably shortened. The reduction of the duration of sicknesses and of the medical attention required has had a very marked effect upon the costs to which patients are subjected. I venture to say that the overall value of the scheme has been about four times the value of the free drugs that have been dispensed. Much suffering has been prevented and many lives have been saved.
I am glad to take advantage of this opportunity to refer to the provision of free medical treatment and free medicines for pensioners in some other way than in the form of answers to questions, which, as a rule, deal only with specific cases. This service has been very valuable.
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. As you know, the period allotted for the consideration of the Estimates is severely limited. The Minister is entitled to answer criticism, but nobody has criticized the schemes to which he is referring. Therefore, I suggest that he is out of order. I point out also that the usages of the Parliament would be better served if the right honorable gentleman were to make a statement on this subject by leave of th, House to-morrow.
– Order ! The honorable member knows that there is no point of order. The Minister has a right to speak if he wishes to do so.
– I am astounded at the audacity of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) because, when a Labour government made use of the “ guillotine “ while the Estimates were under consideration, Minister after Minister rose to speak, and thereby prevented members of the Opposition at that time from talking.
– That is not true.
– It is absolutely true, as I can prove. It happened time after time, and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was one of the most guilty men in that connexion. He cannot get away with that sort of stuff because I have been a member of the Parliament for too long to let it pas? unchallenged.
– Order ! Honorable members will cease interjecting and the Minister will proceed with his speech.
– It is interesting to note that, although questions are repeatedly asked about the situation of pensioners-
– Why not make a statement ?
– I tried to make a statement, but a member of the Opposition moved that I be not further heard, and I was not able to do so.
– Not on the subject of health.
– Yes. Honorable members opposite persisted in raising points of order when I was making a comprehensive statement on the subject. However, they were dealt with at the general election when the people clearly demonstrated their approval of this Government’s policy. About 600,000 pensioners and their dependants benefit from the scheme under which they can obtain free medical attention and free medicine and it is their right to be informed, by means of the parliamentary broadcasts and newspaper reports, of the nature of this scheme. A complete statement on the subject is much more important than would be any imaginary grievance that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) might wish to voice on a single issue. This matter affects between 600,000 and 700,000 members of our community. The entire population, of course, is interested in free medicine. The .people are entitled to a statement on the subject.
– We have been waiting for a long time to hear such a statement.
– But now, when the honorable member is hearing it, he keeps on raising points of order. Since the free medical service for pensioners began in February of this year, no less than 6S8,000 services have been provided by the doctors of Australia. An attempt has been made to convey the impression that the doctors will not operate this system. More than one service has been given to each pensioner in Australia and as there is not more than 10 per cent, of any class sick at any time, it is obvious that an enormous service has been rendered. Three-quar ters of the general practitioners of Australia have volunteered to give these concessional services to the old-age pensioners.
Since free medicine has been available in September, 128,000 prescriptions have been dispensed free. That is at the rate of 1,250,000 a year. The total number of prescriptions dispensed in Australia is roughly 9,000,000. That is to say, 700,000 pensioners and their dependants, who at present represent from one-twelth to one-thirteenth of the population, are being provided with practically one-sixth of the total number of prescriptions dispensed throughout Australia. That does not indicate a lack of desire by the medical profession, by chemists or by the pensioners themselves to avail themselves of this service. This is the appropriate time, when I am making a considered statement, to put these facts before the public of Australia.
The Government is trying to stamp out tuberculosis. The previous Government brought down a measure which I supported because I regarded it as comprehensive, but that Government went out of office before it could implement its proposals. Since this Government has been in office I have tried to get the utmost value from this measure. Not much could be done until I had brought down the tuberculosis allowance, the rate of which has been increased by £1 15s. for a man and wife in the budget for this year.
– That was decided by the Minister’s predecessor.
– It was not. If the honorable member reads the files he will learn that the Labour party offered less than half the amount the recipients are getting at the present time. The Labour party’s offer to tubercular pensioners was so miserable that I would not accept it, but insisted on making certain that the pension given and the amount that could be earned would together be well above the basic wage. This was to ensure that any person who was infectiously affected with tuberculosis should get enough money to remove from his family all economic worries and enable him to leave his work. As a result, many concealed cases who had remained a’ work offered themselves for examination.
To enable the States to treat sufferers and to provide tuberculosis hospitals apart from those related to repatriation, the Government, in eighteen months, has given towards maintenance expenditure to Queensland £60,000; to Victoria, £890,000; to Tasmania, £85,000; to South Australia, £70,000; and to “Western Australia £1S2,000. Nothing has been given to New South Wales because the State government has not received a statement of the amount that that State should receive. The total reimbursements, including capital expenditure, total approximately £2,000,000. Every request made by the States for capital expenditure for housing tuberculosis patients has been met promptly. Every request for maintenance has been met also. Only to-day I was able to save the Princess Juliana Hospital in North Sydney for the treatment of tuberculosis in association with the Royal North Shore Hospital, which I hope to see made a chest hospital with a thoracic surgery centre that will be available to the whole of Australia and not solely to New South Wales. These are the things which honorable members opposite do not want to see done. They break their hearts politically. They say, “ Do not say a word about it. Keep mum about these things. We will make insinuations in the Parliament itself, but we do not want a definite statement made “.
Honorable members have asked me repeatedly to make a statement on my visit overseas at the first opportunity and 1. shall make some reference to it now. In the United States of America and in Canada the responsible authorities have maintained a voluntary system of contri011 tions and have developed a big system of voluntary insurance such as we have in the contributions fund that was started in New South Wales and has spread throughout Australia. Over 90 per cent, of the total cost of running hospitals in the United States of America was met from income derived from patients and more than half of that amount was from insurance. On the Atlantic seaboard, over SO ‘per cent, of the income came from voluntary insurance and in Detroit, a great industrial city, 75 per cent, was derived from that source. If a system of that kind could be developed in Australia, we should not only be able to give an assurance to the hospitals that they
Sir Earle Pape. would have the revenue they needed, but also would have a great deal more money at our disposal with which to provide the extra hospital beds that are so badly required in Australia.
– But money is not the trouble. Shortage of materials is the problem, is it not?
– Both money and materials are scarce. Funds are required not only for immediate needs but also to carry on in the future. Some security is necessary because that will improve the status and conditions of nurses as well as the general treatment in the hospitals. Later I shall make a full statement regarding the position in America. An honorable member laughs. He does not care about the health of this country. He is thinking only of the party political advantage he may get by talking. If honorable members opposite care for the people, why did they not do something about finance while in officeand provide an allowance for sufferer? from tuberculosis?
.- The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) lives under the influence of a spirit of complacency regarding the benefits which, according to him, flow from his health services. If an expenditure of £864,000 is involved, of which over £700,000 is for health services and administration expenses, honorable members have the duty of ensuring that some degree of efficiency accompany that expenditure. The Minister for Health ha? told us again and again that approximately three-quarters of the medical practitioners in this country are participating in the pensioners’ health scheme. That is a very broad statement. There are approximately 30 doctors in Ballarat, but only two of them are willing to treat pensioners under the scheme. There are doctors practising in centres such as Meredith, Clunes, Creswick and other small towns in the vicinity of Ballarat, that are particularly suitable for old people to spend their last days in, but none of them i3 participating in the scheme. Therefore, pensioners who live in those places have to make a long -journey to Ballarat to consult the two doctors there who are participating in the. scheme. I do not believe that the pensioners’ health scheme is working efficiently. It needs to be investigated thoroughly. If a huge sum of money is to be expended upon it, more is required from the Minister for Health than assurances that it is working wonderfully well.
The Minister has told us that the scheme under which life-saving drugs are provided free of charge is of great benefit to the community. Probably it is of some benefit. The Opposition would not object to the expenditure of this huge sum, or even a larger sum, upon the health scheme if it could be sure that the money would be expended for the benefit of the people. The Government parties have decried form-filling and they would have nothing to do with the pharmaceutical benefits scheme that was prepared by a previous government because, they said, it would involve much form-filling. I ask the Minister to examine the present pharmaceutical benefits scheme, not on the surface, as he has been content to do in the past, but in consultation with the pharmacists. He has told us that, under the scheme, probably more than 1,250,000 prescriptions will be dispensed each year. The task of assessing those prescriptions will fall upon the pharmacists of this country. The chemist in charge of a busy pharmacy told me some time ago that he had to employ a pharmacist at a wage of £12 12s. a week - it is probably more than that now - to assess prescriptions. In order to supply the people with free drugs under a scheme that the Minister has told us is very successful, he has to bear that expense.
There are some methods that could be adopted for the provision of drugs free of charge that would work quite well and would avoid pharmacists being involved in considerable expense. Those methods might involve some form-filling, but I remind the Minister that one cannot send a telegram without filling in a form. There is nothing wrong with form-filling. Indeed, it has been resorted to under this scheme to a considerable degree. If the Ministry of Health used more energy and imagination, the scheme would be considerably more efficient than it is now.
Sir EARLE PAGE (Cowper - Minister for Health) -10.44] .- Apparently the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) knows nothing about this subject. The present arrangements for the dispensing of medicines and the payment of chemists were agreed to by the chemists in consultation with the Chief Pharmacist. The arrangements are working so smoothly that within a fortnight of the end of each month chemists have in their hands cheques in payment for what they have done under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. They regard that as a most wonderful achievement. The Australasian Guild of Pharmacists, at a meeting in Brisbane last May that it had asked me to address, laid great stress upon that achievement. The Australian pharmacists told their New Zealand colleagues that the scheme, because of its simplicity and the smoothness of its operation, was the most wonderful of its kind in the world.
With regard to pharmaceutical benefits for pensioners, the pharmacists, in conjunction with the doctors, prepared a prescribers’ list of drugs, which, together with the list of life-saving drugs that can be supplied free of charge, covers approximately 95 per cent, of the prescriptions that are dispensed. The chemists are being paid also within two or three weeks of the end of each month for the medicines and drugs they supply to pensioners. Every day 1 receive letters from chemists throughout Australia congratulating me upon the manner in which this scheme has been handled. The chemists say that it has exceeded their expectations. When the Labour party was. in office there was in operation a scheme under which medicine* were supplied free of charge to person’ who were entitled to the benefits of the repatriation legislation. Under that scheme, six or seven months elapsed before chemists were paid for prescriptions that they had dispensed. The chemists were afraid that something of that kind would happen under the present scheme, but they have been most pleasantly undeceived. I assure the honorable member for Ballarat that if a chemist can afford to pay £12 12s. a week to a pharmacist to do the work that he has described, that chemist must be doing well out of the scheme.
Mr. Eggins having been given the call,
– I rise to order. I submit that, under the rules of debate that apply in this chamber, the call should be given to honorable members on each side of the chamber alternately. The fact that the Minister for Health has jumped a claim on two occasions is not a reason for stifling comment by honorable members on this side of the chamber. I direct your attention, Mr. Chairman, to what I consider to be an error on your part. I believe that an honorable member on this side of the chamber should have received the call.
– No point of order is involved. Counting the Minister for Health as having spoken twice, the call has been given to three honorable members on each side of the chamber.
– I rise to order again.
– No point of order is involved. The calling of honorable members is a matter for the Chair. If the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) disagrees with the Chair, he knows what to do.
– The Minister for Health spoke for half an hour.
– No point of order is involved.
– Then I move -
That the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) be now heard.
Question put. The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C.F. Adermann.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- In spite of the contention of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) that insufficient time is being allowed–
– Order! The honorable member may not reflect on the decision of the House in regard to the allotment of time.
– Before I proceed with my general remarks on the Estimates under consideration I propose to answer one or two statements that were made by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke). The honorable gentleman claimed that the solution of the problem of inflation lay in the assumption of prices control by the Commonwealth. He is well aware that towards the end of the period when that control was exercised by the Commonwealth the Labour Government was losing its administrative grip and was glad to transfer responsibility for the control of prices to the States. The honorable member is also aware that the mere transfer of prices control from the States to the Commonwealth would do nothing to solve the problem of inflation. Opposition members have talked of millions for this and millions for that, but not one of them has stressed the need for increased production. Although the factory labour force in Australia now numbers SS9,000 persons, or an increase of 347,000 compared with the force available in 193S-39, Mr. Colin Clark, the director of the Queensland Bureau of Industry, has said that having regard to the average production per man-hour of those engaged in manufacturing industries, it is doubtful whether its effectiveness has increased over the 193S-39 level which, in turn, was approximately the same as the level of 1.928-29.
– I rise to order. I ask on what item of the Estimates the honorable member is addressing the committee.
– He is speaking on the subject of prices, which was referred to by the honorable member for Perth (Mr! Tom Burke).
– My point of order is that the only item in the Estimates upon which the honorable member may base a speech in relation to prices control is the proposed vote for the Department of Trade and Customs, which administers prices control in the Australian Capital Territory.
– Order! The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) is well aware that he has not raised a point of order.
– The solution of the problem of inflation lies solely in increased production, yet not one member of the Opposition has dealt with that aspect of the problem during the debate on the Estimates. Prices have risen solely because of the inefficiency of the previous Government, and its inability to face the facts that confronted it. Can any honorable member state what benefits the people have derived from the introduction of the 40-hour week?
– Order ! The honorable member is now getting very wide of the proposed vote.
– The only increase that has emerged from the reduction of the number of hours worked weekly is the per capita increase of the expenditure on cigarettes and tobacco to £6 6s. 10d., and on beer and spirits to £7 9s. Sd. The fact that such extraordinary increases have taken place in the per capita expenditure of the people on those amenities arises from the greater degree of leisure experienced by the community in general, which shows the drift-
– Order! The honorable member had better return to the proposed vote.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ! If honorable members will not remain silent 1 shall name them. I shall not permit the committee to become disorderly.
– I enjoy a drink with any person, but there is a limit-
Mr. Cremean interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean) will apologize to the Chair.
– I apologize.
– Who pays for the drinks ?
– Order! The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) will leave the chamber. My authority for requiring him to do so is Standing Order 303.
– I rise to order.
– Order! The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) will resume his seat.
– I ask you, Mr. Chairman, whether you regard the interjection that was made by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) as having been grossly disorderly. I admit your right to act in certain ways under the authority conferred by the Standing Orders. I understand that you are in charge of the committee. Do you regard the interjection of the honorable member for Watson as having been of such a nature as to give you the right to demand that he withdraw from the chamber?
– Yes. I must act if honorable members persistently disobey the Chair, as they have done after repeated calls for order. The honorable member for Watson had been warned, and he knew what would be the result of such disobedience as his was. He will therefore leave the chamber.
– Then I shall move that your ruling that the honorable member for Watson must leave the chamber be disagreed with.
– The honorable member for Watson will leave the chamber. The Serjeant-at-Arms will remove him. Serjeant-at-Arms, will you please remove the honorable member for Watson?
– I rise to a point of order.
– Order ! The committee can deal with my ruling later, and if it considers that I have acted wrongly the honorable member for Watson can return to the chamber.
Mr. Curtin thereupon withdrew from the chamber.
– I move -
That the ruling be dissented from.
The ruling to which I take objection is, that the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) was guilty of gross disorder. Acting on that assumption, the Chairman exercised the power contained in Standing Order 303 and ordered the honorable member to withdraw from the chamber. Standing Order 303 was adopted during the last Parliament. It empowers the Speaker to order the withdrawal of an honorable member summarily if and when he has been guilty-
– Order ! The honorable member may not debate this matter.
– The standing order says that a motion of dissent from a ruling of the Chair shall be put, but it does not say that it shall be put without discussion.
– Order ! Standing Order 279 reads as follows : -
If any objection is taken to a ruling of the Cliairnin.ii of Committees, such objection shall be stated at once in writing, and shall be forthwith decided by the committee; and the proceedings shall then he resumed where they were interrupted.
– I take it that the words “ forthwith decided “ mean that no other business shall be conducted until that motion has been disposed of. No other interpretation can reasonably be put on their meaning. Standing Order 303 empowers Mr. Speaker or the Chairman of Committees to order the withdrawal of an honorable member for gross disorder. That is the second means that is provided by which an honorable member who has been disorderly can be dealt with. Standing Order 301 provides that an honorable member may be removed from the chamber by a vote of the House if he has been guilty of disobedience of the Chair, or for any other sufficient reason. That standing order was designed to deal with conduct which amounts to .disorder, or disobedience of the Chair in general. Standing Order 303, however, goes further and provides as follows : -
The Speaker or the Chairman shall order a Member whose conduct is grossly disorderly to withdraw immediately from the House during the remainder of that day’s sitting:
Those two standing orders deal with different kinds of disorder. The first is a less serious kind of disorder which can arise in a number of ways, whilst the second is grossly disorderly conduct, which is, naturally, an exaggerated form of disorder. It is not merely an act of disorder which is punishable by the normal means in the power of the House. Such disorder is extreme. It is, in fact, gros3 disorder and is far greater than the less serious disorderly conduct for which the House may vote to stipend an honorable member. This matter has been defined in May’s Parliamentary Practice, which cites specific cases in which a member was ordered by the Speaker to be removed, immediately from the chamber. May, in fact, cites two specific instances. It says that a member who, after asking a question-
– I rise to order.
– The PostmasterGeneral may not take a point of order on a point of order. That is impossible.
– It is quite in order for the Postmaster-General to take a point of order.
– Then there are two points of order before the Chair.
– There are not two points of order before the Chair. The honorable member for Perth is debating his own motion.
– Under Standing Order 303, Mr. Chairman, you ordered the honorable member for “Watson (Mr. Curtin) to leave the chamber. As you have already pointed out, Standing Order 279 provides that if any objection is taken to a ruling of the Chairman of Committees, it shall be stated at once in writing. That action has been taken by the honorable member for Perth. Standing Order 279 further provides that the objection shall be forthwith decided by the committee.
– But it does not say that it shall be decided without debate.
– It then states that the proceedings shall then be resumed where they were interrupted. I submit that the word “ forthwith “ means “ at once “, without a debate which .might extend over a period of hours.
– In my view the point of order taken by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) has no force, because the Standing Orders specifically name all the questions that must be put to the vote without debate. Dissent from a ruling of the Chairman is not included among them. You, Mr. Chairman, have taken the view that the word “ forthwith “ means that the vote must be taken immediately. “We do not make Standing Orders as we go along, and if you will examine the Standing Orders, Mr. Chairman, you will find that dissent from the Chairman’s ruling is not one of the questions which they specifically state shall be put to the vote without debate.
– There is no need for them to provide that. Standing Order 279 says “ forthwith “, which is plain enough.
– Order ! The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has the floor.
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) has not been here for long enough to hear the local town hall clock striking. What I am trying to point out to the committee and to you, Mr. Chairman, is that the Standing Orders specifically mention the questions that may not be debated, and that dissent from the Chairman’s ruling is not one of them. Therefore I say that never in the history of this Parliament has the validity of a Chairman’s ruling been put to the vote without a debate on the question. It is true that there was a provision in the previous standing orders whereby a motion of dissent from the Speaker’s ruling could be put on the notice-paper and debate on it could be delayed. That has never been the practice in relation to dissent from a ruling of the Chairman of Committees. Rulings of the Chairman are dealt with immediately and decided upon. You have ruled that the word “ forthwith “ in Standing Order 279 means that your ruling cannot be debated. I put it to you again that the only questions that can be put without debate are specifically mentioned in the Standing Orders. This question is not one of them.
– I direct your attention, Mr. Chairman, to Standing Order 101, which states -
If any objection is taken to the ruling of the Speaker, such objection must be taken at once and in writing and a Motion of Dissent moved, which, if seconded, shall be proposed to the House, and debate thereon shall proceed forthwith.
That shows quite clearly that, in the case of a ruling by the Speaker, a motion of dissent shall be proposed to the House and debate thereon shall proceed forthwith. Standing Order 279, however, states that an objection to a ruling by the Chairman of Committees “ shall be forthwith decided by the Committee “. There is no reference in that standing order to debate. It is quite clear, I submit, that a motion of dissent from i ruling by the Speaker may be debated, but an objection to a ruling by the Chairman of Committees may not be debated.
– Standing Order 279 states that an objection to a ruling by the Chairman of Committees “ shall be forthwith decided by the Committee I submit that no question can be decided by the committee until the pros and cons on it have been stated.
– I am prepared to give my ruling. When the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) made his motion of dissent, I gave a ruling, but permitted the honorable member to continue to debate the motion until I had further studied the Standing Orders. What the honorable member for Dalley has said in relation to Standing Order87 is correct in part. What he forgot to say was that there is a reference to a motion in each instance. The matter now being discussed is not a motion, but a ruling by the Chair. The point made by the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) is quite correct. Debate may take place on a motion of dissent from a ruling by the Speaker, but an objection to a ruling by the Chairman of Committees shall be decided forthwith. I rule that the matter must proceed to a vote without debate.
– Have I the right to move that your ruling on Standing Order 279 be disagreed with?
– No. We shall deal with one ruling at a time.
– May I move dissent from your ruling on Standing Order 279 after the present motion has been disposed of?
– I shall examine that matter later.
– So that honorable members may make up their minds about how they shall vote on the question now before the Chair will you inform us, Mr. Chairman, why you ordered the honorable member for Watson to leave the chamber?
Mr. Tom Burke having submitted, in writing, his objection to the ruling,
Question put -
That the ruling he dissented from.
The committee divided. (TheChairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
That the ruling be dissented from.
The ruling to which I object is that chairman’s ruling cannot be discussed. Under Standing Order–
Mr. Calwell having submitted, in
Question put -
That the ruling be dissented from.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– When speaking to the motion for the adjournment of the House on the 23rd Oceober, the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) referred to certain matters that had come to his notice in relation to the Repatriation General Hospital, Springbank. As a prelude to answering the three points that he raised, it should be said that staff reductions there were in keeping with the policy of the Government to reduce the number of its employees. The Repatriation Department, in common with other departments, was informed of the number of men and women in its employment whose services were to be terminated. No reductions were made in various categories of staff concerned with actual medical treatment, such as doctors and nurses. All essential facilities for medical treatment in repatriation medical institutions have been preserved, but it has been necessary to curtail some of the desirable, though less essential, features. A certain amount of reorganization was necessary, but it is hoped that all of the amenities that were mentioned by the honorable member will be restored in due course.
The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) has informed me as follows : -
The honorable member for Kingston will appreciate that whatever complaints were made to him were not shared by all of the patients at the hospital, because the following letter appeared in the Adelaide News of the 25th October, over the signature of five patients : -
Where did Messrs. Galvin and Cameron. M.H.R.’s, (“News”, 23.10.51) get their information that “the decline in service received by ex-servicemen patients “ at Springbank Repatriation General Hospital as a result ofthe Federal Government’s Retrenchment Policy?
To say that only two bowls are now supplied to each ward is ridiculous.
From our point of view - and after all, we are sonic of the patients of this Hospital - there has been no decline in service, nor are we lacking in any of the amenities the Members allege.
Messrs. Galvin and Cameron appear to have seen an opportunity to make political propaganda out of the Retrenchment Policy. As ex-servicemen we take strong exception to becoming the medium, more particularly as the statements are absolute balderdash. Quite obviously the Members got their information from pure hearsay, not from patients.
Excellent work is done by the staff of this Hospital.
Summed up, all essential facilities for medical treatment in repatriation medical institutions including the Repatriation General Hospital, Springbank, have been preserved.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Conciliation and Arbitration Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1051, No. 118.
Customs Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1951, No. 122.
Excise Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1951, No. 123.
Hospital Benefits Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1951, No. 119.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Defence purposes - Chester Hill, New South Wales.
Postal purposes - Bakers Hill, Western Australia.
Nationality and Citizenship Act - Regulations Statutory Rules 1951, No. 120.
Northern Territory Administration Act - Crown Lands Ordinance - Reasons for resumption of certain lands - Newcastle Waters.
Papua and New Guinea Act - Ordinances - 1951-
No. 31- Customs (Export) Tariff.
No. 32 - Electricity Supply.
Public Service Act -
Appointments - Department -
Parliamentary Library - B. P. Bradmore.
Territories - J. E. Barnes.
Works and Housing - J. M. Blackall.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1951, No. 117.
Science and Industry Research Act - RegulationsStatutory Rules 1951, No. 121.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance - 1951 - No. 10 - Conveyancing.
House adjourned at 11.33 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Royal Visit to Australia.
e asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the money in the Wheat Stabilization Fund is now far in excess of any likely demand to meet the requirements of the scheme?
Air. Anthony. - The Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has furnished the following reply : -
A bill to authorize a refund of tax in connexion with No. 12 wheat pool was introduced in the Senate on the 31st October, 1951.
Health and Medical SERVICES
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Will he give consideration to the provision of medical benefits for persons now residing in Australia who are receiving payment under the British age pension scheme?
– The bases of eligibility for age pensions in Australia and the United Kingdom are completely different and it is not proposed at present to extend the arrangements beyond the existing field of eligibility.
y asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has furnished the following replies: - .
Antarctic during the season which will commence on the 2nd January, 1952, comprising the following nationalities: - Norway, 10: United Kingdom, 3; Japan, 2; Union of South Africa, 1 ; Netherlands, 1 ; Panama, 1 ; Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, 1.
Following the recent development of the whaling industry by two shore-based stations in Western Australia, Australia is now exporting whale oil, and it is anticipated that over 9,000 tons will be exported as the result of operations during the 1951 season.
y asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
How many applications have been received each year since 1945 for finance under the War Service Homes Act for (a) purchase of new homes through the commission,
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) The total number of applications received each financialyear since 1945-46 for all classes of assistance under the War Service Homes Act are -
Applications for the purchase of an existing property or the discharge of a mortgage are dealt with immediately they are received and providing no difficulties are met with in regard to title, valuation or survey (where this service is required) it is possible for the whole transaction to be completed within one month from date proposal is submitted. In emergent cases settlement has been effected in a lesser period.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The members of the Capital Issues Board are -
Mr. W. C. Balmford, F.I.A. (Chairman)Commonwealth Actuary and a member of the previous Capital Issues Board.
Mr. A. N. Armstrong ; General Manager, Industrial Finance Department of the Commonwealth Bank and a member of the previous Capital Issues Board.
Mr. J. S. Campbell, F.F.A.; General Manager and Actuary of the National Mutual Life Association of Australasia Limited.
Mr. A. E. Heath, C.M.G., A.C.A. (Aust.). - Secretary, Sydney and Suburban Timber Merchants Association Limited, Agent-General for New South Wales in London 1034-38 and President of Sydney Chamber of Commerce 1940-42. 1944-46 and 1947-49.
Mr. P. W. Nette, A.T.C.A.- First Assistant Secretary, Department of the Treasury.
The following persons, who are all officers of the Department of the Treasury, hold delegated powers and functions under the Defence Preparations (Capital Issues) Regulations: -
Mr. W. C. Balmford, Mr. G. Hunter, Mr: R. A. N. Kelly- Canberra.
Mr. W. R. Hinchliffe, Mr. M. L Bradley, Mr. W. A. P. Flewellen - Melbourne.
Mr. S. O’Brien, Mr. D. R. Jamieson, Mr. A. Rodburn - Adelaide.
Mr. V. N. Powell, Mr. S. A. BiggsHobart.
Mr. M. W. O’Donnell, Mr. R. V. Hutchinson, Mr. R. W. O’Brien, Mr. V. M. Levy - Sydney.
Mr H. T. Shannon, Mr. B. W. GateBrisbane.
Mr. D. H. Higgins, Mr. E. E. MulcahyPerth.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 November 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1951/19511106_reps_20_215/>.