20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Oan the Minister for Civil Aviation say whether his department, during his term of office and during the term of office of his predecessor, has refused applications made by TransAustralia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to import civil aircraft into Australia? “Would he prepare a statement showing particulars of such applications and also a statement showing the age of civil aircraft hi Australia and comparisons with the permitted life of aircraft in the United States of America? I realize that it will take some time to prepare the information that I have asked for, but I should like an answer as soon as possible to the first part of my question.
– Restrictions have been necessarily placed on the importation of aircraft from dollar areas. Tho.se limitations have been placed upon both organizations mentioned by the right honorable member. TransAustralia Airlines made certain requests for permission to purchase additional aircraft, but until the future of that organization has been determined the matter of granting permission is in abeyance. No interference of any consequence, in the general sense, has been placed in the way of those companies purchasing aircraft. T shall have the remaining aspect of the right honorable member’s question examined to ascertain how far it is possible to comply with his request.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware of the proposal to equip a Bristol freighter aircraft as a flying hospital for use in the Northern Territory and other outback areas? If he is aware of that fact, can he inform me whether the Commonwealth will make a contribution to that work?
– No representations have been made to me on the matter to which the honorable gentleman has referred.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the Minister for Social Services said in Hobart last weekend that the future of TransAustralia Airlines had not been discussed by Cabinet and that the airline would not be sold? If that is the Minister’s own personal opinion, when may the majority of the Cabinet express a similar opinion and so bring about a cessation of “ cold war” against Trans-Australia Airlines?
– I have not seen the statement that has been attributed to the Minister for Social Services, but my experience of that gentleman is that whatever hr> says will be pretty sensible and probably quite right.
– On the £>th October I asked the Prime Minister a question concerning a case which I understand is pending before the High Court in connexion with the payment of air route charges by certain companies which are refusing to pay them. The Prime Minister said that he would ascertain the position from his colleague in another place and provide me with the information. Has he made any further inquiries into the matter and has he an answer to give on whether the Government is prepared to allow to continue the completely unfair situation in which Trans-Australia Airlines pays airport dues and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Ansett Airways Limited refuse to do so?
– I recollect that the honorable member asked this question some time ago, and that I indicated that I would obtain an answer for him. 1 apologize to him if he has not received an answer. I shall take steps at once to ensure that an answer shall he given to him and I regret that there should have been any delay in furnishing this answer.
– My question to the Postmaster-General is supplementary to a question asked last week by the honorable member for Yarra. Is the PostmasterGeneral yet in a position officially to inform the House whether any application for a broadcasting licence has been made by the powerful Bartholomew interests of London which recently acquired the Melbourne Argus and the Australasian newspapers? If so has the application been granted? If not, can the Postmaster-General assure the House that the important Macquarie radio network, which has a Commonwealth-wide coverage, will not be allowed to fall into the hands of people who may be more concerned with the distribution of undesirable and un-Australian propaganda than with the legitimate role of entertaining and informing the Australian people ?
– The honorable member’s question has important implications. It is usual procedure for the Minister’s approval to be sought when shares in a broadcasting station are to be transferred, because the terms of the licence provide that if there is any change in the constitution of the company the Minister shall be notified. The Minister has no power in respect of the transfer of shares except that the licence when issued provides that a company shall be constituted in a certain way and that the shares shall be held in a certain manner by certain people. The licence is issued in accordance with the facts disclosed in those respects. If any change is made in shareholdings without the consent of the Minister, the Minister has power to revoke a licence or to refuse to re-issue it. That is the disciplinary power that is vested in the Minister under the act. So far as this transaction is concerned, no application was made to me, or to the board, until after the deal was concluded. The solicitors for the company have since notified me of the transaction and of the fact that the interests of the Macquarie Network Broadcasting Association have been acquired by the Bartholomew interests, London, which own the London Daily Mirror and Sunday Pictorial newspapers. About two years ago the same interests acquired the Melbourne newspapers, the Argus and the Australasian, which interests control a number of radio stations, including stations SDN” Adelaide, SSR Shepparton, 3LK “Warragul and 3YB Warrnambool. Under the transaction which is now being effected that organization would obtain complete, substantial or partial control of no fewer than fourteen broadcasting stations in Australia.
– Order ! It appears to mc that the Minister is introducing debatable matter.
– I am endeavouring to answer the question that has been addressed to me.
– Order ! The Minister is getting outside the scope of a legitimate answer.
– My final answer to the honorable member is that the transaction to which he has referred raises now issues so far as the control of broadcasting in Australia- is concerned. T shall have the whole matter examined by the legal officers of the Postal Department in order to see what action it may be necessary to take either in respect of the transaction itself, or with a view to making appropriate amendments to the Broadcasting Act.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral for information in relation to thiAustralian Broadcasting Control Board. Is it a fact that, of the three members who were appointed in 1949, one has retired, one has undertaken duties additional to his functions as a member of the board, and only one is active as a full-time member? Is this situation to remain unchanged, or does the Government propose to restore the board to it* full strength?
– One member of the board, Mr. Clive Ogilvy, retired some time ago in order to take up other duties. The work of the board is’ at present being conducted by the two remaining members, who are the chairman, Mr. L. B. Panning, and Mr. R. G. Osborne. Mr. Osborne was recently appointed a member of the Commonwealth Bank Board, but his duties in that capacity are only parttime, as is the case with every other member of the bank board. He is able adequately to perform his duties as a member of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. It is not proposed to fill the vacancy caused by Mr. Ogilvy’s retirement until further consideration has been given to the broadcasting legislation generally.
– Can the Prime Minister inform me whether he has taken any action in relation to the suggested closing of the government munitions plant at Finsbury where brass and copper strip are rolled ? Is he aware that such action will have a detrimental effect upon industry generally as private industries draw supplies of materials from that mill? Mr. Gerard, the president of the South Australian Chamber of Manufactures, and the managing director of Phillips Electrical Industries of Australia, have emphasized the bad effect that will result from the closing of the mills. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that the managing director of Pope’s Products Limited has also made similar comments?
– Order ! Is the honorable member asking a question?
– I am asking whether the Prime Minister has any knowledge of the statements that these gentlemen have made concerning the effect that the closing of this mill will have on industry. Has the Prime Minister received any communication from them urging him to take action with a view to continuing the operations of the rolling mills? It has been stated that the closing of the mill would be a national calamity and would directly adversely affect many defence projects.
– I am aware of the statements that have been made by the gentlemen that the honorable member has mentioned. In point of fact, the honorable member for Boothby yesterday made particular reference to the very remarks to which the honorable member has just referred, and I then indicated that I was having the matter looked into. One of my ministerial colleagues, also from South Australia, discussed the matter with me with particular reference to the statements that had been made, and I have arranged, through him, to have some direct discussion with at least two of the gentlemen whose views have been mentioned in order that I may be put in full possession of the facts.
– 1 desire to address a question to the Minister for Social Services, and I point out, by way of explanation, that last May, the Government of New South Wales amended the Workers Compensation (Broken Hill) Act to provide a nutritional allowance of ]5s. a week for recipients of compensation arising from pneumoconiosis and/or tuberculosis. In the calculation of the age pension, that allowance of 15s. a week has been regarded as income, and the age pension rates have been reduced accordingly in certain cases. In view of the fact that the original purpose of the State Government in granting that allowance was to enable the recipients to purchase food in an area in which the cost of living is high, has the Minister yet considered whether that special compensation payment can be excluded from income when the applications of those persons for age pensionsare receiving consideration?
– There are special circumstances associated with the position to which the honorable member for Paterson has referred. It is most expensive to purchase in Broken Hill fresh food, vegetables, milk and other foods that are needed in the treatment of pneumoconiosis and tuberculosis. As the honorable member has stated, the Government of New South Wales has granted an allowance of 15s. a week to the recipients of compensation arising from pneumoconiosis and/or tuberculosis to enable them to purchase those necessary foods, but the payment of that allowance has caused a complication in the assessment of the incomes of those persons when they apply for age pensions. However, I am pleased to inform him that this Government, after careful consideration, has decided that the broadest possible interpretation will be placed on the definition of income, and that the special allowance of 15s. a week will be disregarded in the assessment of the income of a person who applies for an age pension in these circumstances.
– In view of the fact that recent increases in social services payments have already been nullified by rising prices will the Prime Minister state whether the Government has any plans to relieve the desperate position of the people concerned?
– The honorable member has put a question to me which invites a wholesale statement of policy that would involve the repetition of a great deal that has already been said. I therefore propose not to make any statement on the matter at this stage.
– Is the Minister for Defence aware of a statement that was recently made by a leading physicist to the effect that Australia would be expendable in the event of another war because it is not strategically important enough to justify any other nation defending it? Can the honorable gentleman inform the House whether our forces are so designed as to cover all defence requirements or whether they are constituted merely to form a part of a larger army? In the latter event, will he give an assurance that, should Australia be forced to rely on its own efforts, it will not be left merely with a number of spare parts instead of a complete defence force ?
– I should like to say at the outset that any comments or observations made by Professor Oliphant must be deemed to be of considerable importance. For that reason I have given consideration to the statement that he made. My first comment is that it is most unlikely that Australia will be left unaided in the event of another world war. We have pacts and alliances not only with other members of the British Commonwealth but also with the United States of America. Consequently, the Government believes that Australia will receive support in the event of a war. This Government’s policy for the defence of Australia, both as a member of the British Commonwealth and as a member of the United Nations, was made clear by the Prime Minister in certain broadcasts, designated “ A Defence Call to the Nation “, that he made in September, 1.950. I hope to make a statement on the defence programme soon, and I intend them to deal with the progress that has been made with the Government’s plans. Australia’s defence forces are designed to provide in the best possible way for the security of the nation having regard to the strategic role that they would be most likely to play in co-operation with our Allies and to the local defence requirements of the country.
– Did the Minister have notice of this question ?
– I saw a report of Professor Oliphant’s statement, which, as I have already indicated, was of considerable importance.
– Order ! Professor Oliphant was not mentioned in the question and should not be mentioned in tho answer.
– The respective establishments for the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force provide for balanced forces that may operate either in cooperation with the forces of our Allies or independently as circumstances require.
– I recently asked the Treasurer for particulars of exorbitant dividends that were being declared by many business enterprises and he informed me that the Government did not, know what profits were being made by companies and, furthermore, he gave the impression that he did not care. As those excessive profits determine living cost? and constitute one of the main causes of inflation, will the Treasurer appoint an officer or officers to investigate the profits of business companies with the object of making details of them available to this House and to the public generally?
– The answer is “ No “. No good purpose would be served by doing what the honorable member has suggested.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a statement in to-day’s press to the effect that a Minister of this Government indicated in another place-
-Order ! The honorable member must not found a question upon a press statement.
– My question is not founded upon a press statement.
– I understood the honorable gentleman to say that it was.
– Would you like to see a telegram that I have received about the matter that I desire to raise?
– I am not founding my question upon a press statement. I have asked the Prime Minister whether he has seen a certain press statement.
– The honorable gentleman is not permitted to do that.
– Has the Government adopted a. policy of chartering ships to bring coal to this country from Africa and India and of paying a subsidy in respect of imported coal of from £2.000.000 to £2,500,000 a year? If so, would it not be better to expend that money upon making Australian coal mines safer than they are at present, and also upon scientific and economic measures designed to make the coalmining industry more attractive ? We require another 30,000 men in the industry. If the money that it is proposed to expend-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is now debating the matter. He has explained his question sufficiently.
– Will the Government give consideration to expending money, not upon subsidizing imports of coal from countries in which coal is produced by cheap labour but upon subsidizing the coal-mining industry in this country in order to make it more attractive?
– The Government is expending much more money upon the encouragement of coal production in Australia, than it is upon subsidies in respect of coal imported from abroad. Unfortunately, the present great shortage of coal, the demand for which far exceeds the supply, makes it necessary for us to resort to both external and internal sources of supply to the very limit in order to provide the public’s coal requirements.
– I direct to the Prime Minister a question supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Hunter. 7n view of the statement by the Minister for Shipping and Transport that it is the intention of the Government to obtain five ships to bring coal from South Africa and India, will the right honorable gentleman say what action his Government proposes to take with regard to the. development of the enormous coal deposits at Blair Athol and Callide, in Queensland ?
– The honorable member seems to be unaware of the fact that such development as has taken place at Callide is entirely due to the activities of this Government, since it was this Government which brought the Governments of Victoria and South Australia together in relation to the matter and, by undertaking to provide a subsidy, induced those govern men rs to enter into contracts to purchase the output of the Callide mine. So orr withers are quite unwrung in connexion with Callide. It may be very well for the honorable member to simplify the problem of the Blair Athol field into the form of a question, but I trust that he knows that the Labour Government of Queensland for a very long time negotiated for the development of Blair Athol with at least one English corporation that has vast financial resources. Those negotiations came to nothing, because, as the honorable member know3, there are very great problems of transport and other factors associated with the Blair Athol field. The question of the development of the field was examined subsequently by the Minister for National Development, who has an active interest in the matter. He is still pursuing his examination of the problem.
– Last Tuesday, I asked you, Mr. Speaker, whether you would inform the House of the reasons for your ruling that journalists were not to enter King’s Hall or the lobbies for 24 hours. You said that you would not state your reasons at that time. I now ask whether you will inform the House of your reasons for imposing the ban?
– I am not prepared to add anything to what I said then.
– My question, which is directed to you, Mr. Speaker, relates to the profiteering that is taking place in the parliamentary refreshment room9. Oranges of the kind that I now have in my hand cost 6d. in the parliamentary refreshment rooms, but they can be bought outside at six for a. shilling. Will you see what can be done about this matter?
– If the honorable gentleman will take me to the shop at which six oranges of that quality can be bought for a shilling, I shall be happy to accompany him. If he has any complaint to make, about the decisions of the Joint House Committee in regard to prices in the refreshment rooms, I suggest that he approach one of the members of that committee, upon which the Labour party is fully represented.
– I am informed, Mr. Speaker, on the best possible authority, that the new Speaker of the House of Commons is a piper. Have you considered, or will you consider, providing yourself with a chanter in order to add to the grace and dignity of the proceedings of this House?
– Bagpipe-playing is not one of my accomplishments. My experience as a boy at school was that I was always sent out of the room when singing lessons started, because the best idea of music that I have ever been able to obtain is that a sheet of music looks something like a few sparrows perched on telephone wires.
– In view of the deteriorating position of the sterling bloc will the Prime Minister inform the House why his Government considered it necessary to permit a 400 per cent, increase of the amount of dollars allocated for the purchase of imported newsprint this year?
– The allocation of dollars for the purchase of newsprint was made after full consideration of the overall dollar position and with reference to the other items which go to make up the dollar budget which are examined from quarter to quarter and are dealt with in order of priority. I do not propose to make a curb-stone statement about the overall newsprint position. The Government was quite satisfied that the position was sufficiently acute to justify the allocation of some quantity of dollars for the importation of newsprint. The amount was a very small sum conpared with the allocation of dollars in Great Britain for the same purpose. You may say that the last Government of Great Britain, the Labour Government I think you supported, “ bought off “ the press by allocating a very much greater quantity of dollars for the purchase of newsprint than this Government has ever contemplated. If the honorable member wishes to take up that issue with Mr. Attlee and his colleagues I can readily oblige him with their addresses in London.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer a question which arises out of a question that he was asked yesterday. Will the Treasurer, as chairman of the Loan Council, make strong representations to the New South Wales Government concerning the position in which New South Wales local government bodies find themselves? These bodies have had to cancel contracts which will hold up the normal servicing of rural areas. Will the Treasurer do his best to see that this serious situation is ameliorated?
– This is entirely a matter for attention by the State Government and the local authorities concerned. It is not a matter in which I, as Treasurer of the Commonwealth, can intervene. All the pressure possible should be brought to bear on the Government of New South Wales in the direction indicated.
– My question to the Treasurer is supplementary to other questions that have been asked about local government finance. Is it not a fae that local government bodies in past years have obtained their finance from such normal financial sources as the Commonwealth Bank, trading banks, superannuation boards, insurance companies and other such organizations, and that at no time has the New South Wales Government made available specific funds to local government authorities to meet their particular requirements? In view of the fact that the Treasurer stated positively in this House yesterday that he, as president of the Loan Council, could speak authoritatively about all matters of finance, will he now assure local government bodies, not only in New South Wales but throughout Australia, that finance will be made available to them for their programmes for defence, development and decentralization?
– the answer to the latter part of the honorable member’s question is emphatically “No”. The statement that I made yesterday by virtue of being chairman of the Loan Council was made because of the stupidity of the suggestion put forwa rd-
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order !
– It was because of what I consider was the stupidity–
– I rise to a point of order. The statement about stupidity that the Treasurer has made is most offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I call the Treasurer’s attention to the provisions of the Standing Orders.
– I withdraw and apologize for using the word “stupidity”. The proposal made in the question asked yesterday was of such a nature that it is obvious to any one who has any association with the Loan Council that that body would not agree to it. The position in respect of local government finance in general has not altered. Local government authorities are instrumentalities of the States. They must receive the consent of theStates to their borrowing programmes, and the availability of funds limits the extent to which they can be financially assisted.
– Can the Minister for Health say whether the committee that was appointed to investigate the matter of the sirex wasp has yet completed its inquiry. Has the report been submitted to the Minister ? If so, when will it be available to Parliament? In the meantime, can the Minister state whether the report has warranted any drastic action on the part of the Government?
– The report to which the honorable member has referred has not yet been received.
Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ Newspaper Report.
– I present the report of the Committee of Privileges upon the following matter -
A statement appearing in the Sydney newspaper Daily Telegraph of the 18th October, 1951,concerning a decision of the Joint House Committee.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 7th November (vide page 1712).
Proposed vote, £611,000.
Proposed vote, £34,444,000.
Proposed vote, £47,411,000.
Proposed vote, £48,446,000.
Proposed vole, £43,066,000.
Proposed vote, £7,725,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- The committee is now dealing with the proposed votes for defence. Involved in that matter are the Estimates for the Department of Defence, the Department of the Navy, the Department of the Army, the Department of Air, the Department of Supply and the Department of Defence Production. I have listened attentively to the debate up to date. I have learned that some honorable members opposite object to the amount of money that has been allotted for defence. Some have said that it should be spent on the development of our internal economy, but some have agreed that the amount is fairly justified. Therefore, it may be said that the Opposition is divided about defence.
It is very hard to ascertain the defence policy of the Opposition. It appears that honorable members opposite are in favour of the United Nations as a peace-maintaining project, and that they believe that that organization should take action anywhere in the world when peace is threatened. But it is of no use for the Opposition to pay lip service to the United Nations while making no attempt to help recruit Australian personnel to supplement the United Nations forces. RecentlyI tried to get some information about this matter from the Leader of the
Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who appears to be a. champion of the United Nations only provided he has not to make any move te recruit men to strengthen the United Nations forces. Only recently the Leader of the Opposition said that he agreed with the actions of the United Nations in Korea and suggested that some action should be taken in the Middle East. He should tell honorable members whether he would agree that Australia should take the same action in connexion with the Middle East as he agreed is being properly taken by Australia in Korea. The Leader of the Opposition and the members of his party have refused to go on to any recruiting platform in an attempt to get personnel for the United Nations forces, even though it is well known that we need more men to supplement our battalion in Korea. If the United Nations were to make a decision about Egypt or any other country in the Middle East, would the Leader of the Opposition consider that it was only a token decision? If he would not, then he must realize that the only way that a decision can be backed up is by men and money, and that Australia should supply its proportion of both. The Government is trying to supply as much money as possible so that Australia can properly play its part in the defence system of the Western Powers.
We cannot depend on countries outside Australia always to fight our battles, but it appears that practically every honorable member opposite agrees that Australia should be protected provided that Australians do not go overseas to do the job. Australia emerged from the last war in a very favorable position because, unlike other countries, its territory had not been devastated by warfare. Only by fighting our battles overseas can we continue to maintain our integrity. Therefore, the attitude of the Opposition is not in the best interests of Australia, and it has a stultifying effect on recruiting because the Labour party is said to represent about 50 per cent, of the people. In view of that fact, if the Labour party is not in favour of recruiting for overseas service the people that it represents will not be given an effective and proper lead in their duty towards this country. It would be disastrous to await the landing of an enemy upon our shores and to ignore an opportunity to engage him in another country. War will not originate in Australia. Therefore, if we are sane we shall prepare to engage the enemy as near as possible to the seat of the conflict. We have followed that course in the past at times, indeed, in the face of the Labour party’s opposition. Let us continue to follow a similar course in the future. I do not wish to condemn the Labour party outright in this matter. But cannot members of the Opposition see their way clear to co-operate with the Government on defence preparations? If there is one problem upon which all parties should co-operate, it is that of defence. I am confident that if members of the Labour party seriously think this matter over they will put aside paltry party political considerations and cooperate with the Government in the interests of the nation.
Effective defence preparations are not limited solely to the production of guns and ammunition. Napoleon once said that an army marches on its stomach, and that dictum holds good to-day. Therefore, I urge the Government to encourage, as a part of its defence preparations, the increase of the production of foodstuffs so that should war break out we shall have sufficient supplies to meet not only our own requirements but also those of other countries which will be our allies in the conflict. Primary production must be increased as a part of any defence scheme that the Government undertakes in the present circumstances. Another requisite to defence is that we shall transfer a substantial proportion of the population from our overcrowded cities to rural areas. A successful bomb attack on Melbourne and Sydney would destroy practically half of our total population. The transfer of urban population to rural areas would serve the dual purpose of enabling us to avert such a catastrophe and, at the same time, increase the production of foodstuffs which, in the present circumstances, is essential to any sound programme of defence preparation. I have long held the opinion that under such a programme many millions of pounds could be profitably expended with a view to increasing primary production substantially within eighteen months. We shall not be able to achieve that objective by opening up new land in isolated places. On the contrary, we should concentrate upon increasing production on laud that has already been partly settled and where sufficient water is available to intensity production. In that way we shall be able to increase primary production more rapidly than by any other method.
Thousands of acres of fertile soil in the Murray Valley have not yet been cultivated. At present, no use whatever is made of four-fifths of the volume of water in the river Murray, and that proportion of it is still being allowed to flow unutilized to the sea. Intensification of agriculture in the Murray Valley would result in the production of thonsands of tons of vegetables and other foodstuffs which could be canned for use in the future, or could be made available to the community immediately in order to bring down th.3 prices of foodstuffs. Under such a plan, increased production would be of benefit to the nation regardless of whether or not another war broke out. Defence preparations, wherever possible, should be designed to serve that dual purpose. Much of what we require to do in the interests of defence can be accomplished by measures that will also be of great benefit to the country should war not occur. The Government is already showing that it is aware of that, fact because it is drafting young men into camps where, while learning the rudiments of the. military art, their training is designed to he of benefit to them when they resume civilian life. Measures to increase the production of foodstuffs in the way that I have suggested come within a similar category.
Yesterday I asked the Minister whether he had examined the desirability of constructing a railway to link Hay, New South Wales, with Ouyen, in Victoria, and thereby reduce the distance by rail from Adelaide to Sydney by 201 miles, compared with the route via Melbourne, which is 1,073 miles; and by 165 miles compared with the route via Broken Hill, which is 1,035 miles. The provision of that link would obviate, haulage on the steep grades on the existing route via Melbourne. I refer particularly to the grade from Bacchus Marsh to Ingliston, which rises 1,070 feet in 13^ miles. If one drew a line on the map from Tailem Bend to Sydney it would pass through Ouyen, whilst a straight line drawn from Adelaide to Sydney would pass a point only 20 miles to the north of Ouyen. The construction of a railway to span the 160 miles between Hay and Ouyen would provide a direct line between Adelaide and Sydney and its value for the transport of troops, foodstuffs and raw materials, in the event of the outbreak of another war, would be incalculable and its benefits in peacetime would be difficult to overestimate. I press the Minister to investigate that suggestion; and I again urge that measures that are take.n to prepare our defences should be designed, wherever possible, to serve the dual purpose that I have indicated.
.- The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) spoke about preventing the waters of the river Murray from flowing into the sea. I do not know how we could interfere to any great degree with the forces of nature in that way. If the outbreak of war is imminent, as we have been led to believe, the Government must necessarily proceed with a programme of military training. When it puts men under arms it should ensure that justice shall be done to them in all circumstances. I take this opportunity to direct attention to the case of a soldier who has served in Korea. On active service there, he suffered shock and was bayoneted in the back, with the result that he was invalided to Australia. After his return to this country he was absent without leave for a day and for that offence he was fined £5 and was sentenced to detention for fourteen days. I consider that the administrative officer was rather severe in that case. However, the medical officer refused to sign the papers for the detention of the serviceman, and said that the soldier was not in a fit physical condition to undergo detention in camp, but should be in hospital. That kind of treatment is not likely to induce other young men to join the Army.
– “What did he do?
– I explained that he was absent from camp for one day. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) has been a responsible army officer, and I think that he will agree that the imposition of a fine of £5 and detention for fourteen days is a very severe penalty for such an offence.
– But the soldier was not detained. The medical officer would not sign the detention papers.
– The medical officer considered that the administrative officer was rather severe on the soldier, and refused to sign the detention papers because he believed that the man was physically unfit to undergo detention.
– Exactly. That is the safeguard.
– But that kind of treatment will not assist the recruiting campaign. I could quote a dozen other cases in which stiff penalties have been imposed upon troops for comparatively minor breaches of discipline. I believe that Australian troops who have served in the hard campaign in Korea should receive more lenient treatment if they are absent from camp for a few hours. After all, the administrative officer could have said, “ Oh well, I shall give the offender a warning, and let him go. He has been engaged in a most arduous campaign “.
The Government has allocated a large amount of money in order to stockpile materials for defence purposes. Last year, an amount of £30,000,000 was provided for that purpose, but only £9,000,000 of it was expended. The Government has allocated an even larger sum for stockpiling this year. I have no doubt that the stockpiling of essential materials for defence purposes is absolutely necessary, but I regret that the International Materials Conference in Washington is treating some countries more generously than it is treating Australia. Japan, for instance, has been allocated £24,000,000 worth of copper, while Australia has been allotted only £12,000,000 worth. That disparity is completely wrong. Why should Japan receive preferential treatment compared with Australia in obtaining essential materials in short supply? The Government is also stockpiling rubber, with the result that it is almost impossible for civilians to buy motor tyres. I realize that it is necessary to stockpile rubber for the Services, but I have yet to be convinced that the Government is making its purchases in a reasonable manner. Is it not interfering with the requirements of the people, particularly the primary producers? That matter should be carefully examined.
The Army, in the event of an outbreak of war, would make extensive use of our main roads, but State governments and local authorities throughout the Commonwealth have been starved of additional moneys to enable them to maintain their road systems.
– The State governments and local authorities have not been able to expend all the money that they have received for road works.
– That is not true.
– I am referring particularly to conditions in New South Wales, because insufficient money has been allocated to the authorities in that State for the construction and maintenance of roads. I know of no reason why the whole of the petrol tax which is collected by the Commonwealth, should not be allocated for road works.
– Labour governments, which the honorable gentleman supported, occupied the treasury bench in this Parliament for eight years. Did they allocate the whole of the proceeds of the petrol tax for road works?
– I remind the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) that when those Labour governments were in office, the roads were not in the same, shocking condition as they have been in during the two years, that the present Government has been in office. It is immaterial what other governments have done in the past. A Labour government was occupied for four years with the conduct of the war, and man-power and materials were not available for road works. It behoves the present Government, in its defence programme, to allocate, if not all, then almost all the money which is collected from the petrol tax to the States to enable them to construct and maintain roads. In New South Wales, at any rate, roads are in such a shocking condition at the present time that the Army, in the event of an outbreak of war, would be unable to use them for military transport. I hope that the Government will re-examine its programme for the stock-piling of materials, and make more money available to the States for the construction and maintenance of roads.
Servicemen who are returning to Australia from Korea and elsewhere wish to make homes for their young families and themselves, but this Government is not granting them any assistance. Building activities throughout Australia receive considerable publicity, but I know that the Commonwealth has no authority to build houses outside the Australian Capital Territory.
– What about war service homes?
– The Government should grant generous assistance to the men who have fought for us in Korea and elsewhere. Money should be made available to them for home building at the lowest possible rate of interest. I see no reason why the charge should be 4 per cent, when the Chifley Labour Government provided money for home builders at 2 per cent. Such a low rate of interest would give considerable financial relief to ex-servicemen who desire to build their own homes. The cost of home building in Australia has increased enormously. Many of those young people who want to build homes - -
– Order ! The honorable member may not discuss housing under the proposed vote for the De<partment of Defence.
– I am referring to the treatment of returned servicemen.
– That is not permissible.
– I have here a list of penalties that have been imposed for a variety of misdemeanours on young men who are serving in Korea. I have directed attention on a previous occasion to the harshness of some of these penalties. The United States authorities in Korea deal very lightly with offenders in their forces. They look upon slight disciplinary indiscretions as being evidence of ordinary human, frailty. But the Australian authorities have imposed extremely severe penalties on some young men for minor breaches of discipline. That sort of treatment is not likely to attract other young Australians to our armed forces.
The Government’s national service scheme is of very great importance, but the practice of taking young men away from Secondary and primary industries at inconvenient times, such as the harvesting season, is interfering with the economy of the country. More care should be taken in calling up young men for service. I agree with the policy of training them adequately for defence, but the system should be conducted in such a way as to cause the least possible interference with the industries in which they are engaged. Again I express the hope that the Government, in view of the surplus for which it has provided in the budget, will agree to make additional sums available to local government bodies and State governments for the development and maintenance of main roads throughout Australia.
.- The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) and other members of the Opposition have spoken enthusiastically about the training of young men to serve their country in a military capacity should the necessity for such service arise. We have heard from them numerous protestations of support for the Government’s defence plans. They have offered to cooperate in every possible way in any intelligent plan for the preservation of Australia’s security.
– It is intelligence that is lacking on the Government side of the chamber.
– That accusation could more truthfully be made against the Opposition. Its members have repeatedly spoken of their enthusiasm for defence, but they have carefully refrained from making any attempt to explain the rather pleasant system that they advocate under which young men would join the Citizen Military Forces only if they wished to do so and could go home and protest like “ billy-oh “ if they were asked to serve overseas. The system of compulsory training for home service only is rendered possible by the fact that our allies are prepared to enlist men compulsorily for service in any part of the world. The Labour party has returned to the completely unrealistic point of view that it adopted during the war, when it maintained that we should have two armies - one army to fight wherever it v as needed and the other army to wave it goodbye when it left Australian soil. We are told to attempt to develop our national training scheme on the same basis. We hope that the Americans will come and protect us, whereupon we shall Say, “ We are prepared to do something to help, but we are not prepared to do what every other democratic country is prepared to do “. Even Great Britain, starved and broken as it is, has fixed a two-year period of compulsory military service which involves the obligation to serve in any part of the world.
I agree with much that has been stud by members of the Opposition about the importance of producing food and military supplies of all kinds. A very good case can be made in favour of the proposal that Australia be made a huge depot to supply the needs of any forces that do our fighting for us. It is a very attractive proposal, but its faults become obvious under careful examination. Our aircraft industry, for example, could not manufacture aircraft unless we were able to import essential parts from other countries. It is easy to say, “ Let us make all the Canberra bombers that we need “, but the cold fact is that it would take us three or four years to make even one of those machines. We cannot over-stress the fact that our luxurious, unrealistic attitude towards the need for defence training is only made possible because our allies have adopted an entirely realistic attitude and have declared, “ In order to defend democracy we shall draw upon the entire wealth of our countries and will demand unstinted sacrifice from our peoples “. The outlook of the Labour party is utterly complacent and future events will prove its fallacy.
The Australian battalion that is serving in Korea has rendered a magnificent account of itself, and the Government has wisely decided to reinforce it by sending another battalion overseas. Training under active service conditions is the most valuable military training that men can be given and I suggest that a system of rotation of senior and junior officers or of junior officers and noncommissioned officers in Korea would be of the greatest possible use in spreading knowledge of operational conditions in out armed forces. I hope that such a system is being employed. We are losing valuable opportunities to improve the efficiency of our forces because we have sent only infantrymen to Korea. We should send a balanced force, including signal units, artillery and a medical unit. I do not suggest that we send an armoured force, because the terrain in Korea is unsuitable for armoured units, and, in any case, our contribution would be only very small. I have spoken to Australian artillery officers who are disappointed because they are not being given the chance to obtain experience in Korea. 1 ask the Minister to give earnest consideration to my proposal that signal and artillery units and a medical unit be added to our force in Korea.
– The subjects that have been discussed on the motion for the adoption of these proposed votes illustrate what could be done if a longer period were allotted for the discussion of the Estimates. The discussion of the proposed votes that are now under consideration will be terminated at 32.45 p.m. For some time I have advocated that a longer period be devoted to the discussion of the Estimates. I realize that that would entail the Minister for Defence and the Service Ministers being present in the chamber for long periods when the defence votes were under consideration, and I know that that would cause some inconvenience to them, because they have much work to do, but I think that, on balance, it would be a good thing.
There is some criticism that has been made by honorable gentlemen opposite with which I agree, and there are some things that have been said by members of the Opposition with which they agree. But our party system is of such a nature that it appears to be the accepted practice that when the Opposition says something, the Government must say the opposite, or vice versa. I regret that that is so. J wish that every honorable member who desired to speak upon these proposed votes could do so, because there are many honorable members on both sides of the chamber who are capable of making valuable suggestions which, having regard to their experience, deserve at any rate sonic consideration by their political opponents. If we ceased to approach those matters in the spirit that something must be wrong with anything that is put forward by either the Opposition or the Government, we could have a sensible discussion that would be of considerable assistance, and the prestige of the Parliament would be increased. 1 hope that my remarks will be of a con* structive nature. I do not want to make a speech that will consist only of condemnation of what has been said by others.
I agree with what was said by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) about the construction of a railway line from Adelaide direct to Sydney. If such a railway line were constructed, it would be Victoria’s own fault if the metropolitan areas in that State were by-passed. I represent a Victorian metropolitan electorate, and I am a railwayman with lengthy experience, but I say quite frankly that Victoria, because it was not willing to agree long ago to the standardization of railway gauges, is really responsible for the fact that we are now looking for ways of crossing this .continent quickly by rail that will- not involve the use of the Victorian railways.
The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) is the president of a railwaymen’s trade, union that can justly be described as a complete organization, because there are hardly a score of persons outside the organization who are eligible to join it. That is something of which to be proud. The honorable gentleman spoke with some authority when he said that the communications system of this country is by no means satisfactory. It is generally admitted that in the past we could not have moved a division of troops from Western Australia to the Eastern States in less than a month or six weeks. I doubt whether now or in the near future we could complete such a movement of troops more quickly than that. That is a ridiculous state of affairs, about which something must be done. I know that it is difficult to secure the man-power and materials that are required for the construction of an efficient railway system to link the eastern and western portions of Australia, but I say that the work has been neglected for far too long. I support what the honorable member for Mallee said about constructing a connecting link of the system across a very valuable area, even though that might have an adverse effect upon Victoria. That State could not lay the blame for that at any door other than its own, because it did not rise to the occasion when the work could have been done quickly and cheaply.
That brings me to the problem of communications generally. I believe that the communications system of thi? country should very largely be in governmental hands, or that governmental authorities should be able to exercise control over communications and transport on all occasions and at all times. Otherwise we shall not be able to rely upon having the right kinds of transport available if what the Government fears will happen does happen. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said that i? will happen in three years. My own experience of both land and air transport has caused me to come to the conclusion that if we were attacked with modern weapons we could not hope to move our forces to threatened points quickly enough for them to be of any use.
We must depend upon air transport largely in the future. I believe that we should encourage the development of aircraft production in Australia so that we shall be able to supply our own aircraft requirements, particularly for transport. T know that it would be impossible for us to build aircraft of many types, but what would be wrong with building only a certain kind of passenger aeroplane in this country, while other countries of the British Commonwealth built aeroplanes of other types? The tooling-up of our aircraft factories for the production of various classes of aircraft would involve the expenditure of a tremendous sum of money and the use of much man-power and materials. That would be sheer waste. Therefore, we should devote our energies to the construction of aircraft of one type, having given full consideration to the question of what type would be most useful to us. I was Minister for Air when Darwin was attacked by the Japanese. After news of the attack had been received, the Director of Civil Aviation had to make arrangements for all civil aircraft in Australia to be available at Laverton aerodrome by 10 a.m. on the following morning in order to take military, naval, and air force experts to Darwin. “We are more likely to be faced with emergencies of that kind in the future than we have been in the past.
There is talk about getting rid of the aircraft that we possess. Was ever a more absurd suggestion than that put forward? Recently, the Government sold its interest in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. I do not think that that should have been done. The Government should have insisted upon’ retaining control of communications.
– That organization has no communications, as the honorable gentleman knows very well.
– It has made some very valuable contributions to communications in the field of electronics. The disposal by the Government of its interests in that organization is a matter that I should like to argue with the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride). There is talk of the Government selling Trans-Australia Airlines, but that airline, instead of being sold, should be provided with the most modern aircraft of a type that would be valuable for defence purposes if Australia were again involved in a war and of great assistance in times of peace.
The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) referred to the need to increase primary production in Australia. I agree entirely with what he said. The members of the Australian Country party would be well advised to devote themselves to the development of primary production. Our population is increasing as a result of immigration and natural increase, but the production of food isnot increasing to the same degree. We do not want more people in our cities. I live in a city that has a population of 1,300,000. It is too large in comparisonwith the size of our general population. Our cities should be better spaced. I do not make that statement recklessly. T know that there are difficulties in the way of spreading our population more evenly throughout this continent, but what is being done to overcome them?
The Australian Country party could use its influence with the Government in this matter. It has a great deal of influence. In fact, the Liberal party appears to be entirely dependent upon it. The Australian Country party could use its influence with the Government for the purpose of ensuring that a fairer deal shall be given to country areas, but it has fallen down upon its job. I do not say that with any bitterness. I state as » fact that the members of the Australian Country party have not used their present advantageous position to persuade the Government to establish towns- 50 or 100 miles away from our big capital cities.
Contributions to the debate of the kind that was made by the honorable member for Falkinder recently should not pass unnoticed. I know that statements similar to those that the honorable gentleman made were made when the responsibility rested upon myself. I was prepared to listen to them. I agree with him that it is deplorable that the Air and Navy portfolios should be held by one Minister. That is not a reflection upon the Minister. It cannot be denied that there is rivalry between the Navy and the Air Force. The Minister for Defence is well aware of that fact. It may be a healthy rivalry, but the aspirations of both services cannot be done full justice while they are combined under one portfolio.
It is generally admitted that our first line of defence against any attack that might be made upon this country would he our air arm. What are we doing to increase the efficiency of our Air Force and of our civil aviation services? We could build certain classes of transport, fighter and bomber aircraft, while other countries of the British Commonwealth were building aircraft of other types. Those countries could take some of our aircraft and we could take some of theirs, provided that they were approved types that we knew to be successful.
It is a very difficult task for any Minister to reconcile the claims of the Air Force and the Navy. I think that it would he better to revert to the previous system of linking the portfolios of Air and Civil Aviation. In saying that, I do not intend to reflect in any way on the present Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Anthony). He wrote, in an article published in the Melbourne Age of the 30th October last, as follows: -
Civil aviation in Australia has a dual and vital role. It provides fast, efficient and lowcost transport throughout the Commonwealth in peace.
At the same time it must- be ready for any emergency in which large numbers of troops might have to be rushed to defence posts.
Civil and military aviation are indivisible in assessing the total American air strength”, says the Aviation Policy Board of the United States Congress.
There are many aspects of this matter to which I should like to refer, but I am unable to do so because of the insufficiency of the time that is allotted to each honorable member to speak on the Estimates. The Minister, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock), acted quite rightly when they raised these matters. Surely, as members of this Parliament, we can approach the subject in a national spirit and try to aid the government of the day by informing it of our views on the defence position. But at the moment we seem to spend too much time in this chamber slashing at one another. Honorable members on one side call honorable members on the other side “Communists “, and are in turn themselves labelled as “ fascists “ by their opponents. As a consequence we do not seem to be developing the respect for the parliamentary institution that is so desirable. I deplore the fact that we are allowed less than half an hour to speak on the Estimates for each group of departments. That is a ridiculous state of affairs and two speakers could take up all the time allotted. I know that I cannot do this subject justice in that time, and neither can other honorable members.
The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) made some reference to the Labour party’s attitude to primary production. I point out that the Labour party was the first to fix the return to dairy-farmers on a cost of production basis. It fixed the price of wheat and it assisted the wool industry to a great degree. It is absurd to suggest that members of the Labour party in this chamber represent only trade union interests and care nothing for the interests of primary producers. I do not suggest that members of the Australian Country party here have no regard for the interests of city people. I am sorry to see that that attitude is adopted in this chamber. However, I do say quite frankly that the Australian Country party is not using for the benefit of the country the balance of power that it now holds in this chamber. Instead, it is simply assisting the Liberal party to carry out its mistaken ideas about our defence requirements. Those ideas can be, and should be, corrected.
When I stated that the honorable member for Franklin had made a valuable contribution to the debate I did not mean to imply that I agreed wholly with him, although he had a distinguished record in the Air Force in the last war, and naturally can speak with some authority on the matter. He has expressed the view that the Air and Navy portfolios should be separated. I am not bitterly opposed to the two portfolios being held by one Minister, but I consider that there are better combinations that could be made. I am sure that the services of the Minister would be employed much more valuably if he were able to concentrate on the Air portfolio than they are at present when he has both the Air and Navy portfolios.
I should have liked to deal more fully with transport and communications, but I have been unable, in the time allotted, to do more than give a general cover of these matters. I have no authority from my party to do so, but I ask the Government to give consideration to a suggestion that more time be given for the discussion of the Estimates, so that we shall be able to make a more valuable contribution to the debate and to the conduct of the affairs of the country.
– Defence is our most important problem at the moment. The proposed vote docs not confine itself to the provision of finance for defence operations within Australia alone, but is concerned also with the provision of finance for expenditure on defence anywhere in the world. Only a few days ago Professor Marcus Oliphant said that Australia might be of no strategic value in the next war, and that we should not be likely to obtain the assistance to defend ourselves on which we might be relying. Whether the statement will prove to be correct or not, we realize how great is the danger that faces us at the present time. We know that the nations of the world are hastily arming and for what reasons. Soon after the last war Russia asked Am erica to ban the atom bomb. America agreed to do so on condition that all arms were banned and that the ban was policed, each nation to have the right to inspect the arms production and war preparations of other nations. The Russians refused that request. They have said ever since that they desire the banning of the atom bomb, but they will not agree to the banning of other forms of preparation for war. They refused to destroy the arms that they had preserved or stolen after the last war while other nations were scrapping their armaments and turning to th? task of recovery from the ravages of the war. The Russians have continued to expand their armed strength, assisted by the production of 20,000,000 slaves, and have developed a tremendous force which stands as a threat to world peace. It is there, ready to smite the world at any time and to bring the free nations to submission to its will. It was only after those facts had become apparent to every democracy that the United States decided, for its own preservation and that of the free nations allied with it, to resort to increased production of arms and to th, encouragement of other democratic nations to do the same.
Soviet Russia to-day talks of peace but, despite its protestations, it is not intent on peace. It accuses other nations of the acts and the insincerity of which it is itself guilty. I believe that our position is grave in that we shall have no voice about whether the world shall remain at peace. War will not come upon us after a declaration has been politely handed to us by our enemies. It will be unleashed on us without warning. In such circumstances it is time that, irrespective of party, we all got together and worked for our country’s good. I feel sure that many members of the Opposition are prepared to take the view that the defence of the country must come first. A two-party national war effort seems to be inevitable in Great Britain, and I sincerely hope that for the sake of our defence requirements a similar development will occur here. The needs of our defence call for the combined influence, assistance and judgment of all sections of the Australian people, as expressed through their representatives in thi.Parliament.
Russia’s protestations about its desire for peace are a sham. They are mere propaganda to put us off our guard until the Soviet is ready for an assault on us. The Russian assault has already begun on our internal economy, because the Communist stooges in our midst are attempting to cripple production in every one of our industries. Unfortunately, Communist propaganda, which is based on strife and hate, is meeting with some degree of success among the people, as it is in the United States of America and other countries. If we do not unite and face our problems together, instead of dissipating our energies in petty strife, we shall lay ourselves open to an insidious enemy. We should, as the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) has said, cease calling each other nasty names, and act together for the sake of the country. Communism has made great advances to our north, and is pointing down through South-Eastern Asia in our direction. Sooner or later the blow that is poised may be struck. Now there is trouble in Korea and the people who are enthusiastically conferring with Communists with the object of arranging a democratic peace in Korea might as well wipe that idea from their minds. The Communists have decided to take Korea because it is one of the little tips of democracy that exist in that part of the world.
Tn I.ndo-China murder and assassination are going on despite the efforts of the
French Army. A similar state of affairs exists in Burma and Sumatra. The recent troubles in Egypt and Persia have been caused by the worst sections of the people who live in those countries and all of whom are influenced by the one source. During the week-end Turkey and Greece were threatened in a warning that they received to reject the invitation of the peaceful democracies to join them in preparing defences against the power of Russia and its combination of satellites which have become an increasing danger to the western democracies.
I support the Government’s contention that we must prepare our defences. As one of its earliest defence measures the Government should arrange for the construction of suitable strategic roads from the south to the north of Queensland. Strategic roads are also required in other parts of the country, and I hope that the Government will make available the necessary funds to provide for our future safety in this way. I hope that honorable members will use their influence to ensure that the people will face the problem of the defence of this country in the spirit of those young fellows who have brought such laurels to Australia from the world war in Korea.
.- I desire to deal with the subject of the ministerial control of the Navy and the Air Force, which was raised by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) and was mentioned subsequently by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford). I suggest to the Government, with due respect, that there should be two Ministers - one in charge of each department. If we have less than three years in which to prepare our defences it is necessary that each department be controlled by a Minister who will be able to concentrate on its problems. Australia had no warning of the conflict in which it found itself in September, 1939. The responsibilities of the Navy and the Air Force commence immediately war breaks out, consequently, it is necessary that the organization of those forces be put in hand without delay. Everything possible should be done in order to ensure that they will be ready to meet an emergency.
I know full well from personal experience that there is a full-time job to be done in each of these departments. Because of the enormous and rapid developments that are taking place in relation to armaments it is necessary to have a Minister to concentrate on the affairs of each department and keep the Government informed on the organization of each of these branches of the armed forces.
The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) said that there should be a defence road from the north to the south of Queensland. During the last war a defence road was built in Queensland, but because it was a defence road it has been allowed to go to pieces and has not been properly maintained. We have already witnessed a threat to our shores; that occurred during World War II. The Government should endeavour to arrange with the Queensland Government to bring that road to the condition that it was in during the last war, and to provide for its maintenance. As I said during the debate on the budget, the rolling-stock of the Queensland Government is in a shocking condition. During World War II it was thought that the Queensland railways would not be able to handle the task expected of them. Both the Government and the men who operated the trains handled the rail services creditably. The Queensland Government has had great difficulty in procuring new locomotives It is true that there is a dribble coming through, but it is not sufficient to enable the necessary maintenance to be done on existing rolling-stock. There is a shortage both of trucks and of locomotives, . and as a consequence the Queensland railways are not in the condition to handle any threat that might come to the north of Australia that they were in in 1942.
The 1.000,000 who live in the vast territory of Queensland cannot be expected to provide roads for developmental and defence purposes without assistance. There is a responsibility on the Government to make some provision towards the building of strategic roads. The Chifley Government decided to establish certain roads which would run through the Northern Territory and into what was known as the cattle country in the far west of Queensland. New roads are under course of construction in the far west. The road to which I have referred runs west of the Dividing Range. In between the roads are bush tracks. It is true that the State Government has decided to reconstruct the sections of this road that its limited finances will permit it to build.
If the Australian Government is in earnest about defence preparations, and if the statement that it has made to the Parliament that we have only three years available in which to prepare for war is correct, then it should endeavour to rehabilitate the transport system of Queensland. In the event of another war, it may be necessary, because of a grave shortage of rolling-stock on the Queensland railways, to use the roads to transport men and supplies. If that should happen it will be found that the road system of north-western Australia will not be able to cope with the traffic. There is a defence road from Mount Isa through Camooweal to Tennant Creek and Darwin. The Government should cooperate with the Queensland Government and use immigrant labour, if other labour is not available, to construct a road from Cloncurry to the defence road that is in the vicinity of Charters Towers. In the event of war such a road would prove invaluable. If that be not done now vast numbers of workers may have to be sent to Queensland to do the work at a time when they can hardly be spared. If the Government’s warning about the possibility of war has any basis of fact, the Government should restore old defence works in our north and build the roads that I have mentioned. There should be another defence road from Longreach to Emerald to connect our defence road system with the north-south defence road.
I desire now to refer to the defence of north Australia in general terms. I had much to do with the northern part of Australia both during the war years and before the war. I saw Civil Constructional Corps workers rushed from all parts of Australia to build defence roads, airstrips and aerodromes in our northern areas. In company with two other honorable members of this Parliament I saw
Kittyhawks taking off for operational flights from unprepared ground because no airstrips had been built. I saw the Royal Australian Air Force station in Townsville being constructed on a clay pan, but I must say that that air station is now being well maintained. In the far west, at Mount Isa, Cloncurry and Longreach, there are Royal Australian Air Force aerodromes which have been maintained and improved since the war. Between the coast and those aerodromes in the far west of Queensland there are no airstrips except those built by local authorities out of their limited funds. But those strips are not all-weather runways. Many emergency landing strips that were built during the last war have not been maintained. Over them to-day grass is growing and cattle are roaming. They have reverted to the hush. If the Government wishes to act sincerely upon the warning that has been sounded by the Prime Minister, in the light of our experience during the last war it should do something to restore the defence works in our far north. It should also construct new airstrips at strategic places in our north-western area.
– Has the honorable member anything to say about the airstrip at Manus Island?
– Manus Island adjoins Los Negros, being separated from it by a narrow strip of water. An airstrip was built on Los Negros during the last war. In 1947 when I was last there that strip was in first-class order but I do not know whether this Government has maintained it in that state. I have not been informed about its present condition. In the overall defence plan for Australia there are American defence stations in the north Pacific. There should be extensive defence works on Manus Island as the apex of a defence triangle with north-western Australia, particularly with Darwin and northern Queensland as the base. That defence triangle would then act as a screen to protect the industries and people of this country. We do not know whether Singapore will be restored as a defence area, but, if so, Singapore in association with Manus Island and other strong points in Australia would constitute a vitally important screen to protect us from our enemies. I believe that the Government should proceed with the establishment of naval workshops at Manus Island so as to ensure that in the event of a conflict they will be available to service Australian and allied ships.
The Labour party is just as much concerned about the defence of Australia as is the Government. Indeed, the plans now being followed by this Government were drawn up during the regime of the Chifley Government. If we have no more than three years in which to prepare for war, defence activity should be speeded up. Next year the Government proposes to expend about £180,000,000 on defence. I suggest that perhaps difficulty will be experienced in expending all that money despite the existence of the Defence Preparations Act. The Government will be able to expend only according to the materials and man-power available.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I thank honorable members on behalf of the Government for the very careful, and in most cases moderate and constructive, comments that have been made on our defence programme, the Estimates in respect of which are at present before the committee. Tn saying that, I recognize fully what has been said by a number of honorable members opposite about the Labour party being definitely and vitally interested in the defence of Australia. We accept that pronouncement quite frankly because we recall that in 1947 a Labour government introduced a defence programme for which it deserves great credit. However, it must be admitted that whilst that programme may have been adequate in view of the conditions that existed in the world at that time, since then there have been very important political changes and obviously what was then adequate cannot be considered adequate to-day.
One of the unfortunate features of the debate on this matter has been the differing points of view propounded by some honorable members opposite. Their ideas have reached from one pole to the other. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) made a speech which presumably expressed the views of his party. He stated that in his view the amount allocated for defence was not enough. Yet during the course of the debate certain honorable members opposite have vigorously maintained that the Government intends to expend too much on defence.
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad to have confirmation of what I have said by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin), because I had assumed that he would be in the class of which I spoke.
– What is the policy of the Opposition?
– I do not know. There seems to be a difference of opinion among them. However, I am hopeful that that difference will be resolved and that they all will come in strongly behind the Government in its attempt to strengthen our defences. The attitude of honorable members opposite is that whilst they are interested in the defence of Australia, their conception of defence is - in our opinion unfortunately - that Australia should defend itself within its own boundaries. That view is reflected in organization and conditions of service of the type that they laid down in their defence programme when they were in office.
At the present time we are threatened by only one future enemy. Whom that enemy will he, is perfectly obvious; it will be the Soviet Union and its satellites. No other likely enemy will arise within the next decade, and probably within the next two or three decades. Therefore, we need not delude ourselves about the identity of the probable enemy or the steps that he will take if war should break out. We should not deceive ourselves that what will happen in the next war will be the same as happened in the last war. The power of our enemies during World War II. resided in forces quite different from the forces of the Soviet Union. The enemy in the Pacific was a maritime power and was able to attempt direct attacks on Australia. Such attacks will be extremely unlikely during a future war, at any rate in its early stages. If we confine our attention to preparations for war in Australia, we shall probably not enter the war at all because it will be won or lost far from our borders.
When this Government assumed office and examined defence matters one of its first actions was to alter the conditions of enlistment in both the Australian Regular Army and the Citizen Military Forces. It seems to me that that was a perfectly obvious step to take. I was astonished when the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua), who should have some experience in such matters, criticized the Government foi this change of policy and blamed it for the failure of our recruiting drive. I do not admit that the recruiting drive has failed ; it has only not come up to our expectations. I do say that it has sub.tantially increased the defence forces of this country.
For the benefit of honorable members I shall give the comparative strengths of both the regular forces and the Citizen Military Forces at the 1st December, 1949, which was just before the Labour Government was ejected from office, and at the 30th September last. During that period the strength of the Permanent Naval Forces increased from 10,093 to 13,0S8, that of the Regular Army from 14,827 to 21,622 and that of the Air Force from 9,100 to 13,418. Those increases justify the change that the present Government has made. When that change was made the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), who was formerly Minister for the Army, expressed concern that pressure might be exerted upon members of the regular forces to re-attest for service overseas. No such pressure has been applied, but I am happy to say that 100 per cent, of personnel capable of rendering useful service outside Australia h ave re-attested. The sa.me observation applies to the Citizen Military Forces, although, I repeat, the strength of those forces is not increasing to the degree that we should like. The figures that T have just given in respect of personnel strengths of the services at the 1st December, 1949, are virtually paper figures, because while Labour was in office many units existed on paper only and had not undergone normal training. When the present Government assumed office, the strength of the Citizen Military Forces was 7,000, whereas to-day it is over 21,000. In spite of re-attestation and changes of conditions, the young men of Australia are responding to recruiting appeals.
In the limited time available to me I shall not be able to reply to all the matters that honorable members have raised in respect of the proposed votes for the defence services. The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) is on the extreme left of his party in his approach to the problem of defence. He is the Aneurin Bevan of the Labour party in Australia because he said, definitely, that we were expending too much upon defence. He contended, in effect, that Australians want butter before guns, and thus implied that living conditions in this country are unsatisfactory. The honorable member should consult with some of his colleagues, who , I am happy to say, do not share his views in that respect. He indulged in a long discourse about oil. He criticized the Government because, so he alleged, it is not doing sufficient to obtain ample supplies of oil. When the Government assumed office it abolished petrol rationing and since that time no shortage of oil, oi petrol, has been experienced. In spite of the loss of a substantial source of supply in Persia we have been able to maintain substantial oil supplies with the assistance of the United Kingdom and of the United States of America, and as the result of vigorous activities on the part of oil companies in this country.
The honorable member’s suggestion that the world oil position is worsening is not in accordance with the facts. The great difficulty that confronted the world after the refinery at Abadan closed down was in respect of not crude oil but refined spirit. As a result of the dispute in Persia world refining capacity has been curtailed, but in the meantime active steps have been taken by many countries to increase their capacity and it is anticipated that within a reasonably short period we shall be able to meet all our needs, particularly under peace-time conditions. The honorable member’s sneering reference to the 5,500,000 unemployed in the United States of America waa most unfortunate. I do not know on what authority he cited that figure: and I do not question it. However, it is most unfortunate that a member of this Parliament should reflect upon the one country upon which the democracies rely and which is meeting its obligations under its pact with Australia. We should also remember the assistance that we received from the. United States of America in the past, and the assistance that we anticipate we shall receive from it in the future.
The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) is at the other extreme, because he is the only member of the Opposition who has supported the Government’s view that we should meet any enemy in the future wherever he might be. I compliment that honorable member upon his realistic attitude, which many of his colleagues would be well advised to adopt. He referred to the fact that a rolling mill at Finsbury is to be closed down. That mill will discontinue supplies for civil purposes, but the Government does not intend that it will cease production for defence needs. The mill will not be able to continue to operate at its present capacity because the inescapable fact is that copper, the product that is processed at the mill, is in short supply. The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) recently made a comprehensive statement to the Parliament about copper supplies and Australia’s prospects of obtaining increased supplies. Of course, those prospects are not pleasing. The simple fact is that copper is one of the vital commodities that is in short supply throughout the world. The International Material Conference, at which Australia was represented by a strong delegation, met recently in the United States of America to discuss this position.
– Who were the members of the delegation?
– It was led by Mr. Meere of the Trade and Customs Department, who was assisted by a number of able advisers. Australia’s case was presented to the conference, at which fourteen nations were represented, and in its wisdom it fixed Australia’s quota at approximately 9,000 tons of copper a quarter. The use of copper in Australia varies under normal conditions, but as a result of our defence preparations it will naturally increase. For instance, in 1950, which was a normal year, we used 35,000 tons of copper, 14,000 tons of which was Australian production, whilst the balance had to be imported. Our rate of use has now increased to 41,000 tons a year whilst Australian production has remained static. It is expected that as a result of our defence programme the rate will be increased to approximately 50,000 tons annually. Unless civil supplies are limited our allocation of copper from overseas will not be sufficient to meet our needs. The Minister for Supply has been most active in this matter. He sought out all available sources of supply, and was able to inform honorable members some time ago that we should obtain an additional 3,000 tons from Canada and the same additional quantity from the Belgian Congo, whilst the United Kingdom was favorably disposed towards making available to us from 8,000 to 10,000 tons from Rhodesia.
– That will be in addition to our quota of 9,000 tons a quarter?
– Yes ; but whilst we shall probably obtain that additional quantity, it will not be repeated periodically. In these circumstances we must restrict the use of copper. As the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) has said, we are endeavouring to stockpile as much copper as we possibly can. It would be unwise if we were to use all the copper that we can now obtain when we are not assured of continuity of supplies.
Mush has been said about the assistance that the Government should give to the States in order, particularly, to enable them to modernize rail and road systems. We must realize that transport is one of the responsibilities of the sovereign States. Whilst it is primarily the responsibility of the Commonwealth to make effective preparations for the defence of Australia, the States have the responsibility of co-operating with it in this matter. Obviously, if all responsibilities of this kind are to devolve upon the Commonwealth, certain changes will hare to be made in the set-up under federation. I have no doubt that the States will co-operate with the Commonwealth to the extent of their capacity, although up to date some States have been tardy in giving such co-operation.
– The tendency is for the Commonwealth to try to dominate the States.
– That is not so. The States, as supreme authorities in their respective spheres, have certain responsibilities, which include that of transport. I agree that it may be necessary for a State to ask for assistance from the Commonwealth in the construction of, say, a road, which may be essential from a defence standpoint. However, we must realize that the power of the Commonwealth to assist the States in that way is limited by its overall appropriation for defence. Whilst the Commonwealth, in relation to defence, is concerned primarily with the services and with munitions production, and must concentrate its efforts mainly in those spheres, it will sympathetically consider, in consultation with its military and technical advisers, any project in respect of which a State seeks assistance.
The honorable member who has just resumed his seat endeavoured to make party political capital when he said that the Government of Queensland, because of lack of funds, was unable to maintain its railways and certain roads at an efficient standard.
– Or to do anything else.
– It is curious that the Queensland Government should claim that it cannot modernize its transport services when it can afford to allocate £10,000,000 for electrification schemes in the Brisbane metropolitan area.
– What is wrong with that?
– That fact shows that that Government is concerned more about ensuring its return to office than it is about providing up-to-date roads or railways.
– A similar scheme was carried out in Adelaide five years ago.
– Such projects will have to be reviewed in the light of our present defence commitments.
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for the Department of Defence, the Department of the Navy, the Department of the Army, the Department of Air, the Department of Supply, and the Department of Defence Production, has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Proposed vote, £28,463,000.
Refunds of Revenue.
Proposed vote, £12,000,000.
Advance to the Treasurer.
Proposed vote, £15,000,000.
Proposed vote, £30,415,000.
War and Repatriation Services.
Proposed vote, £15,680,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- I desire to make a few remarks on the proposed vote for Miscellaneous Services. Many honorable members on both side? of the chamber have been pleading, during the consideration of the Estimates, for a much greater expenditure than is contemplated by the budget. I think that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and his colleagues must feel bewildered when they hear these widely conflicting claims. Some honorable members have contended that the budget is designed to produce an economic depression, because of the amount of wealth which it will extract from taxpayers, and other honorable members have asked that the proposed expenditure under the budget should be increased. I propose to confine my remarks to some of the items under Miscellaneous Services, because I consider that the proposed votes under that heading test the validity of the claim by the Treasurer that the Estimates have been pruned to an irreducible minimum.
If we accept the policy which underlies the budget, and agree that all the proposed expenditure is essential for carrying on the government of the country, we must accept the assurance of the Treasurer that the budget has been pruned to an irreducible minimum. But the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), when he was discussing the Estimates for the Office of Education, introduced different criteria from those shown in the rest of the budget. The right honorable gentleman said that last year’s vote for education had been reduced because there was undesirable duplication and, consequently, waste, and he justified that reduction by stating that the purpose was to avoid that waste. To that degree, therefore, if we are to accept the criteria of the Prime Minister, considerable doubt is thrown upon tho claim that the budget has been pruned to an irreducible minimum.
An examination of the proposed vote3 for Miscellaneous Services and for the various departments, reveals ample evidence of the over-lapping and duplication of services, to which tho Prime Minister has referred. I merely cite one department as an illustration. Honorable members will see that the Division of Industrial Development in the Department of National Development has grown to such a degree that the total amount of its vote for the current financial year is £89,3S1. I shall briefly recall the history of that division. Before World War II., New South Wales had established a department of industrial development, and, during the war, the Commonwealth established the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, which grew quickly and vigorously. In 1946, an agreement was reached between the then Prime Minister, the late Mr. Chifley, and the then Premier of New South Wales, Mr. McKell, to the effect that tho Commonwealth would discontinue the work of the Division of Industrial Development, and return those services to the State of New South Wales. But other things happened to prevent that chance, and a tremendous increase in tha growth of the Division of Industrial Development in the intervening years is noticeable. It is an ant illustration of the gibe which is levelled bv the man in tho street at the kind of initiative that is displayed by public servants. It is said that a public servant, if he is given a chair and a table, will quickly establish a department. The Division of Industrial Development is an extraordinarily apt illustration of the kind of enterprisewhich the Public Service has always shown, and is continuing to show.
I suggest that this Parliament must quickly make up its mind about the direction in which it desires to go, and the policy which it wishes to adopt. If we are to follow a policy of concentrating and centralizing an increasing volume of powers and functions in Canberra, the budget will continue to grow by leaps and bounds beyond its present astronomical proportions. There will be no escape from the fact that, each year, there will be an addition to tho budget if the policy which is now being pursued is continued. Therefore, I desire to sound a note of warning. I suggest that it is time to call a halt, and examine precisely what we are doing. If the present trend continues we shall experience even greater frustration than we are experiencing at the present time. We shall never be able to catch up with the mass of detail and the numerous problems that clutter the agenda of Cabinet, and of the Parliament.
But that is not the real danger. We shall certainly have less and less time to deal with more and more matters and there will always be a danger that decisions will be made hurriedly on the basis of half-baked opinions. The real danger is that we shall substitute bureaucratic government more and more for parliamentary government. ‘ I urge honorable members to heed that warning.
I suppose it is fair to say that Opposition members must be completely gratified with their handiwork, because the growth of departments occurred largely during the regime of Labour governments. The present Government has inherited that legacy from them. By one method after another, Labour governments succeeded in increasing the functions of departments, and most of them were duplicating work which was being done satisfactorily and effectively by the States. I refer specifically to agriculture, education, housing and national development. Labour governments evinced a desire to concentrate administration and authority in Canberra, and that trend produced the duplication which the Prime Minister designated as wasteful and unnecessary. It is, therefore, a criterion in judging whether the budget should be of its present magnitude, or less.
Honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber are not in any doubt about the policy which they consider should be pursued. Any doubt in that respect which may have existed in the minds of Opposition members should have been dispelled by the policy speech of the present Prime Minister in 1949. But I am sure that Government supporters, although they know that policy, are bewildered by the steps which must be taken to unscramble the departmental tangle which has been inherited by this Government. For myself, I think that we need to devote attention, when the consideration of the Estimates has been completed, to the discovery of means of unscrambling the tangle. I said in an earlier speech that the only way in which we can obtain any reliable information about what should be the nature and functions of the various departments, and the scope of their organization is by means of a completely independent investigation conducted by a competent outside authority. It is only by that means that we shall know the nature of the organization. The policy which is to underlie the organization of the departments is a matter which must he decided by the Cabinet, and I hope that Cabinet will be willing to undertake its responsibility.
.- I propose to make a few comments about the much-vaunted subsidy which this Government now pays on coal produced at Callide, in Queensland. Ministers have boasted from time to time that the Government is assisting to develop the coal resources of that State by subsidizing the production of Callide coal. However, I find, upon investigation, that the subsidy which is paid on Callide coal is less than one-half of the subsidy which the Government is paying on coal from India. The money which the Government pays on coal produced in other parts of the world has been subscribed by Australian taxpayers, and, therefore, I claim that at least some measure of consideration should be given to those persons who produce coal in this country. The freight which is payable on the coal from India is even cheaper than the cost of the transport of coal from Gladstone to Melbourne.
This Government, if it were really concerned about the development of our fuel resources, would have already corrected that anomaly. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), when he was Minister for National Development, said that coal was the key to production. But this Government really discourages the production of coal at Callide by the preferential treatment that it extends to imported coal. I remind honorable members that labour costs in India are considerably below those in Australia. During the general election campaign in 1949. the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) informed the people of Gladstone that he was disgusted with the antiquated methods of transporting coal from the Callide field to the port of Gladstone, and promised that, if he were elected to office, he would improve those facilities. Any improvement that has since occurred is not due to the efforts of this Government. The Commissioner of Main Road? in Queensland is now in the Callide area where he is ascertaining how the road from the Callide field to the port of Gladstone can be improved.
Honorable members will be interested in the amount of subsidy which has been paid on Callide coal, and that paid on coal from India. I find that £69,304 has been paid on Callide coal, and £743,000 on the imported coal to the 30th September last. Those figures are an indication of the degree of interest which the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), who represents an electorate in Queensland, shows in the development of that State. The existing transport difficulties in Queensland could be overcome if the Commonwealth were prepared to accept its share of the responsibility for developing the coal resources of that State. The subsidy which is paid on Callide coal should be at least equal to that paid on coal from India. The contractors who carry coal from the Callide field to Gladstone are forced to complain from time to time when rising costs make their contract charges unprofitable. If the subsidy were increased, they could be properly remunerated for the valuable services that they render to the people of Victoria in particular. Thi« Government should give some outward manifestation of its desire to develop our natural resources by increasing the subsidy.
We have been told by the Prime Minister that we have less than three years in which to prepare our defences. Coal is vital to defence. Therefore, the Government should examine this matter in its proper perspective and take positive action to increase the production of coal from Australian soil. Blair Athol has one of the largest deposits of bituminous coal in the world. Coal from that field was used by naval vessels during World War L, and a stoker told me that it was equivalent to the best Welsh coal. The output of that field could be increased considerably if the Government would agree ti. subsidize it as liberally as it subsidize’ coal imported from India. The extra financial assistance, would encourage the producers and the Government of Queensland to remove the bottlenecks that now hamper production. If the Government is prepared to pay £3 2s. 6d. a ton as subsidy on imported coal hewn by black labour, it should be willing to pay at thi’ same rate at least for coal that is produced by Australians in Australia under Australian conditions. The fact that the Government is willing to pay £743,000 to subsidize Indian coal hut only £69,304 to subsidize Callide coal indicates the true worth of its so-called great Australian outlook.
.- J refer to the Colombo plan for the economic assistance of Asiatic countries. Three facts should be appreciated before we attempt to assess the value of that plan. The first of these is that Australia and New Zealand have the only white populations of any considerable magnitude between Chile and South Africa. The second is that Australia and New Zealand reached the status of nations at a time when the greatest protective power between the Himalayas, Hong Kong and the South Pole was Great Britain. The third is that Australia emerged from
World War II. with the material potential of a major power. As one of the world’s great exporters of food, we h: great opportunities and great responsibilities at the same time. We had a ready market available for our industrial products in Asia. That market was desperately in need of our manufactured goods as well as reasonably large quantities of our primary products. Unfortunately for Australia and for Asia, those opportunities were sacrificed during the post-war years of Labour rule. One Australian writer wrote of this period -
In Australia the chief interest of the La bom movement seemed their drive for more leisure.
Everybody knows now that our economy was prevented from expanding properly by a continuous series of industrial stoppages. Fortunately, this Government has been able to give a definite lead towards, the solution of the economic problems that arose under the Labour Administration. It has realized the great responsibility that it bears towards other countries that, are not in such fortunate circumstances as those of Australia.
The Government proposes to expend £9,906,000 this year on international development and relief. By far the greatest item in that total is the amount of £8,950,000 that has been earmarked for the Colombo plan.. Briefly, that plan provides for the development of the large natural resources of South-East Asia and South Asia, an area that contains approximately 25 per cent, of the world’s population. Most of those people are financially poor and, although most of them are primary producers, they are generally underfed and poorly clad. Large numbers of them also suffer from the ravages of disease and the effects of periodic floods and famine. This Government believes that such conditions should not be permitted to continue and that, by helping those people to solve their immediate problems, we can gain their peaceful cooperation. The Colombo Plan has been drafted on a large scale. It provides for the expenditure in the first six years of a total amount of £1,S 68,000,000. The intention at present is to increase the area of land under cultivation by 13,000,000 acres and the area under irrigation, to the same extent.
This is expected to increase the output of food grains by 6,000,000 tons annually. The development scheme also envisages an expansion of capacity to generate electricity by 1,100,000 kilowatts. The countries involved are doing all that they can do to help themselves, but our help is badly needed as well. Under the plan, over 1,000 technicians representing various trades and professions, will ba engaged on the various projects that have already been planned by the British Commonwealth. Iron, steel, machinery, vehicles and consumer goods, such as food and clothing, are essential to the success of the project.
Assistance will be given, in the first instance, to India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Malaya, and British North Borneo. The nature of the plan shows that the British Commonwealth is determined to fight against poverty, hunger, illiteracy and disease in those countries. The first intention is to send trained men to them as quickly as possible for the purpose of increasing the supply of goods and services that are vital to proper economic development. The need for trained men will be satisfied in three ways. First, inhabitants of the countries will be trained on the spot. Secondly, others will be sent overseas for training. Thirdly, as I have indicated, large numbers of technicians will be brought from overseas. Scholarships and fellowships have been offered under the plan this year to citizens of Pakistan, India, Burma, Ind 0.China, Thailand, Ceylon, Indonesia, North Borneo, Malaya and Sarawak. At the end of last year, Australia was already acting the part of host to 1,070 Asian students. The countries that I have mentioned need chiefly such equipment as tractors with which to till their land and factories in which to make the fertilizers that are needed to enrich the soil. Irrigation works, power stations, trunk roads and railways are practically unknown in the areas that I have mentioned. The Government believes that, by providing even limited help for these people, it will assist them to gain a much higher standard of living than they have hitherto enjoyed. They are hard working and most of them are members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. They are our near neighbours and we have a duty to help them to a better way of life. By discharging that duty we shall also win their friendly co-operation.
– I direct my attention to the subject of subsidies. The cost of production in the dairying industry has been discussed on several occasions during the consideration of the Estimates, and I propose to refer particularly to the method of computing costs upon which the subsidy for the industry is based. More than one honorable member has pointed out that the original method of computing costs assumed a 56-hour working week, which was considered to be unfair. Honorable members should realize how that basis was determined. Prior to World War II., no industrial authority had the power to fix either hours of labour, wages, or conditions of work for persons employed in the dairying industry. However, during the war, when rigid restrictions were imposed on wages and working conditions generally, the Government of tha day decided to establish an authority to determine hours of labour and working conditions for the industry. A judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was appointed to the position, and representatives of the employers and the employees were given the opportunity t’j state their cases to him. The employers asked for the establishment of a working week of 56 hours. The Australian Workers Union, which represented the employees, sought the fixation of the standard hours that had been determined by the court for industry generally. The working week was then 44 hours. After a protracted hearing, during which many inspections were made, the judge decided upon a 56-hour week for the dairying industry. That was the working week that the employers themselves sought.
– In what year was that?
– In 1943. Some honorable members have complained because the hours of work that were determined by the industrial authority were used as a basis for the assessment of costs of production in the industry. It is common practice, when an industrial authority, whether it be the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, a State arbitration court or a State wages board, has determined the hours and conditions of work that shall apply in a certain industry, for tho«i? hours and conditions to be used as a basis for the calculation of costs of production in that industry. In this instance, a 56-hour working week was the desire not of the employees but of the employers. Therefore, the employers, having secured in respect of their employees a working week that they considered to be necessary in the interests of the industry, could hardly object to the determination of the industrial authority being made the basis for the calculation of their costs of production. I do not want to be misunderstood. I want to make it clear that I do not regard, and never have regarded, the 56-hour week as a proper working week. The employers sought a 56-hour week at the time to which I have referred, and it may be that the reason why the court decided in their favour was that that was the first occasion on which the rural industry had been subjected to the laws of arbitration.
Let me turn to the present position. I understand that costs of production in the dairying industry are now calculated upon the basis of a 40-hour week. I agree with the 40-hour week. I point out that those who sought it as a basis for the assessment of costs of production in the dairying industry have objected to it being made applicable to their employees. Recently, for the first time, rural industries in Victoria came within the ambit of the factories and workshops legislation. A wages board was appointed, which was charged, amongst other things, with the duty of determining the weekly hours of work of employees in the dairying industry. The first determination made by that board, in accordance with the practice followed throughout Victoria and in conformity with the standards laid down by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was that employees of the industry should have a 40-hour working week. As that was the basis upon which costs of production in the industry were determined, that decision could be regarded only as reasonable.
But the employers, who had secured a 40-hour week as the basis for the calculation of their costs of production, did not accept a 40-hour week for their employees. Instead, they appealed against the deter mination of the wages board. Before the appellate tribunal, the case for the employees was presented by the Australian Workers Union, and the employers presented their own case. The employers were successful in inducing the tribunal to increase the weekly hours of work of their employees from 40 to 48. I know of no other industry in Australia in which the employers are in the fortunate position of being able to calculate their costs of production upon the basis of a working week that is considerably shorter than that which an industrial authority has determined shall apply to their employees. I hope that those honorable gentlemen opposite who have criticized the 40-hour week and have said that it was introduced 40 years too soon will not follow the example of the employers in the dairying industry who, although they have insisted that the 40-hour week shall be the basis for the calculation of their costs of production, have used the machinery of the law to have the weekly hours of work of their employees fixed at one-tenth more than 40.
I believe in the 40-hour week. It is possible to reduce working hours only when industry is prosperous. In my opinion, the 40-hour week was introduced at the right time. As time goes on and we are able more effectively to appraise the results of the economic changes that have occurred in recent years, I believe we shall find that the introduction of the 40-hour week at the time when it was introduced was in the best interests of Australia. My object in raising this matter is to make it clear that the hours of work that are the basis for the calculation of costs of production in the dairying industry are determined by an impartial, properly constituted body. When that authority ruled, at the request of the employers, that employees in the industry should have a 56-hour working week, the employers could not reasonably object to their costs of production being calculated upon that basis.
The second matter that I desire to raise is the proposed alteration of the price of wheat for home consumption and for stock feeding. It has been announced that if an alteration is made of the price of wheat for home consumption and for stock feeding that increases the prices which egg producers pay for wheat, it is the intention of the Government to pay a subsidy upon eggs produced by the egg industry at the rate of S£d. a dozen. There are two points that I wish to make. First. a subsidy at the rate of 8£d. a dozen eggs would bc insufficient to overcome the economic difficulties with which the egg-producing industry would be faced as a result of increased wheat prices. Secondly, up to the present time the Government has made no announcement about what it proposes to do in respect of producers, the survival of whose businesses depends upon wheat for stock feeding purposes being available at low prices. The producers whom I have in mind are those who produce pig meat and poultry meat. Unfortunately, egg production has declined considerably during the last two years. Any honorable member who has an egg industry in his electorate will agree with me that during the last two years the production of eggs has declined probably by 25 per cent., and that the number of persons engaged in the industry has declined to a similar degree. But, although there has been a large reduction of the production of eggs, there has been an increase of production by poultry- farmers who are producing poultry meat for export. A great deal has been said in the course of the budget debate and in the discussion of the Estimates about the necessity to increase the production of food in this country. No one will deny that that is necessary. But the difficulty so far as the small m.en are concerned is that very few of them have sufficient capital to enable them to expand their activities. The three industries that offer the greatest scope for an increase of food production with a relatively small capital outlay are those engaged in the production of eggs, pig meat and poultry meat. I suggest that, in addition to paying a subsidy to egg producers, provision should be made also for some form of assistance to be given to those who are engaged in the production of poultry meat and pig meat. Unless that be done, there is a grave risk that the steadily improving export market that we have established for poultry meat will be killed. Therefore, urgent action by the Government is necessary.
– I want to say only two things in reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). First. the Government is not seriously concerned whether the working week is 30 hours, 40 hours or longer, provided that the community is producing sufficient to meet its demands. I emphasize the statement I made during the budget debate, that at the present time the community is going backwards. It is not producing sufficient to meet its demands. We are living on the fat of war profits and big wool cheques, which enabled us to establish overseas credits, but those who have studied our trade balances during the last few months realize that the fat i.= now melting so fast that running water cannot be compared with it. That state of affairs cannot continue for very much longer. I hope that the Australian people realize this. Whatever weekly hours of work are determined, we must, ensure that during those working hours we shall produce sufficient to meet the needs of our people, so far as we can do so here. We are importing coal, houses, wire netting, galvanized iron and many other things. We are making good our shortages from the fat that we accumulated in the past. .
With regard to the’ price of wheat for home consumption and for stock feeding purposes, I think everybody will agree that it is not fair that one section of the community, the wheat-farmers, should be asked to subsidize other sections of the community. That occurred for a long time under Labour governments, and this Government has decided that it must cease. I remind the honorable member for Bendigo that the problem of a subsidy in respect of eggs and poultry has been made much more difficult by the decision of the States not to co-operate with the Commonwealth. Under the Constitution, this Government has at i.t3 disposal only certain means of raising the funds with which to pay that subsidy. Without the help of the States, it could be forced into raising the funds hy a method that would confine the subsidy to one commodity only and would preclude the possibility of it being extended to other commodities.
The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) came into the chamber like an Australian aborigine, whirled his bull-roarer around and departed, thinking that the noise that he had made was sufficient evidence of the validity of the case that he had presented in relation to the Callide coal-field. I do not think that any honorable member knows more about Callide coal than I do. [t is apparent that the honorable gentleman, keen though he may be upon coal production, as we all are, irrespective of the side of the chamber on which we sit, does not know the history of the Callide coal-field. Otherwise, he would not have said what he did say. The Victorian Government was the first authority to try to open up the Callide coal-field. At the beginning of 1949, the Premier of Queensland, upon his return from abroad, wrote to the Premier of Victoria and said that the Queensland Government was not interested in Victoria’s suggestions, and that the Victorian Government should arrange its own terms directly with the contractors. Previous to that, delays had occurred because the Queensland Coal Board came into the matter. As a result of those delays, Victoria was forced to purchase imported coal from India. That is how the first purchase of Indian coal occurred. When the contractors had removed the overburden, the Victorian Government gave them an order for, if I remember rightly, 30,000 tons of coal at the end of April, 1949, but it was met with a blunt refusal by the Queensland Labour Government to permit any coal to be exported from Queensland.
– Does the Minister remember the circumstances?
– I remember the circumstances. A coa! strike was threatened in New South Wale; at that time. One of the circumstances which the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has not mentioned is that the Queensland Government depends for its political support very largely on tho support that it gets from the Ipswich coal-fields and does not want Callide opened up. That has not been mentioned.
The coal strike in New South Wales was over in a few months. During its progress Victoria asked the Queensland Premier whether, when the strike was over, he would give it a definite date on which it could expect delivery of Callide coal. He said, “ We cannot give you any definite date “. So Victoria had to go ahead and order a further quantity of 800,000 tons of coal from India and South Africa because it could not afford to leave the Victorian people without coal.
– Was that coal with or without subsidy ?
– It was without subsidy at that time because the Korean war had net started and the freight rate for coal brought from Calcutta to Melbourne was cheaper than that of coal brought from Gladstone to Melbourne. The Victorian Government did all it could to help the Gladstone Harbour Board to get coal-handling equipment. It even offered Queensland some mileage of rails, which were second-hand, I admit, so that a railway could be built to bring coal from Callide to Gladstone. The offer was refused by the Queensland Government. I should like to know very definitely why the Victorian Government could not get permission to export one ton of coal from Gladstone until Mr. Conelan was appointed sales manager to the contractor who operated the mine. I shall not go any further into that, but shall leave it at that point. Those are the facts. The Queensland Government would not allow the Victorian Government to dea’ direct with the contractor, and would not allow coal to be exported until the whole set-up had been altered. Then it announced that it wanted Victoria to buy Callide coal, and asked me to help it in that respect. I said that as far as I was concerned. I had washed my hands of the matter, and I told the Queensland Government that it had better deal with the Victorian Minister in charge of that particular matter. Victoria tried to obtain coal from Selene, which is 5 miles from the railway line and close to the Collide field. Selene coal is not sub-bituminous coal, but is good quality Walloon coal, if the honorable member for Melbourne knows what that is. It is a very good gas coal, but is not a coking coal. The Selene mine was being operated by a private firm, and Victoria told the firm that it would take a certain amount of th.3 coal. But the Queensland Government again said “No” to that proposal. It said, “ We want the Selene coal ourselves “’. The company had only one shaft open at Selene and was prepared, if the Victorian Government gave it the order for coal, to obtain the necessary equipment from overseas to mine more coal. That depended on Victoria being able to obtain the necessary dollars. It could have obtained those dollars, as it was able to obtain them later for the purchase of diesel electric locomotives. I would have been possible to open up that field, which, for the most part, had n.it even been bored. All that the Department of Mines in Queensland knew about the field was that a farmer who was sinking a well about 10 miles away had gone down into the same seam. So it is wrong for the honorable member for Kennedy to contend that this Government is responsible for holding up the development of coal production in Queensland.
– I did not say that at all.
– If the honorable member did not say it specifically ho certainly implied it. Tie asked why wo did not open up Blair Athol.
Mr. Calwell interjecting,
– I am telling honorable members opposite something that they do not like to hear. That is, that the Queensland Government refused to allow the Victorian Government and the contractors to get one ton of coal from the Queensland mines. Then, as I have said, later on, when the whole set-up of the administration had been altered, the Queensland Government apparently decided that it wished to sell the coal. It then approached the Australian Government and stated that, owing to the increase of freight rates, it wished payment of a subsidy on Queensland coal. It was arranged, as a result of negotiations with the Victorian and South Australian governments, to buy a definite quantity of coal for Victoria, which is, I think, about 200,000 tons a year for three years, after - and I emphasize this - the Com monwealth had offered to subsidize the difference in price, plus freight, between Callide coal and New South Wales steam coal in Victoria, including the difference between the relative British thermal unit values. It is of no use to say that Callide coal is of the best steaming quality in the world. Such a statement is sheer nonsense. Its British thermal units volume is approximately 10,000 compare.! with 12,000 for good coal. Bore coal from New South Wales has a British thermal unit value of about 11,000, and briquettes made in Victoria from brown coal have a British thermal unit value of between S,000 and 9,000. Callide coal is sub-bituminous and is useful when spreader stokers are used, because it is easily crushable for raising steam in boilers. But it is no good for use on the railways as steaming coal or for other than steam-raising purposes.
– Why is Australia paying six times the price for coal from India and South Africa ?
– Because the orders for Indian and South African coal were lodged before Victoria could obtain Callide coal. Even now it is impossible to obtain sufficient Callide coal because Victoria was not allowed to go ahead and do the things that it offered to do. Victoria offered to pay for the upkeep of a road over which the Callide coal could be hauled, and the offer was refused. It offered to supply second-hand rails to enable the coal to be transported by rail to Gladstone and again the offer was refused. So the responsibility for the present situation in the Callide field and. as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said this morning, in the Blair Athol field, rests entirely on the shoulders of the Queensland Labour Government.
– It is not interested in development.
– I would not say that, but apparently it did not know how to go about the matter, or else it did not want the field developed. We in Victoria were prepared to give an order for the Selene coal. I even tried to buy railway engines and trucks of 3-ft. 6-in. gauge to bring the coal 120 miles to Gladstone wharf. Victoria made every possible endeavour to help to open up the Callide field and the Selene field, hut without success. Tha truth of my statements can be substantiated by the Victorian Government’s files, which contain the correspondence on the matter. Therefore it is fantastic to blame this Government for paying a subsidy in connexion with the importation of overseas coal. Victoria said it wanted 200,000 tons of coal for the specific purpose of raising steam in the Newport generating station in order to save the use of brown coal. Callide coal is easily crushable, which is more than the Indian coal is, but it is not like the South African coal, which is good for use on the railways. South African coal is probably some of the best coal that the Victorian Government is able to obtain for its railways at present. Callide sub-bituminous coal ,cannot be used as a substitute for it. South African coal is much better coal for the railways than is bore coal from New South Wales, which clinkers up the grates on the locomotives and gives tho firemen and the drivers a great deal of trouble.
– Callide coal is as good as Indian coal.
– That is not so, because Indian coal averages about 11,500 British thermal units. The contracts for the importation of foreign coal were made at a time when Callide coal could not be obtained. I do not say that the late Mr. Chifley was not keen to see the Callide field opened up. In fact, I discussed the matter with him and he encouraged me to go ahead with efforts to obtain the coal. But honorable members opposite should not blame this Government for still bringing in imported coal, because Callide’s limited production and the present limited transport facilities for Callide coal must be borne in mind in relation to this matter. It is fantastic to say that it would be possible in the present circumstances to ship 2,000,000 tons of coal a year from Gladstone. I know that the New South Wales mines have produced a record amount of coal in the last year, but it is still not enough to meet requirements. If New South Wales produced enough coal there would be no need to pay any subsidy on the importation of overseas coal. Neither
India nor South Africa gets the subsidy. But the Victorian Government pays the same price for Indian coal here, whether the freight rate is £2 or £5 10s.
– It is £3 2s. 6d. a ton.
– The original Indian price has not altered very much. The subsidy is paid to the governments of Victoria and South Australia to make good the difference in price, and if honorable members opposite can tell us of any fairer way to do it, we shall be pleased to hear it.
.- I refer in my remarks to the Commonwealth Bank, especially in relation to my own electorate, which is the biggest metropolitan electorate in Sydney, with 52,000 names on the roll. There are only two branches of the Commonwealth Bank within the boundaries of the electorate. The premises at Lakemba were built 25 years ago to operate with a. staff of six employees. The area would be about 12 feet by 20 feet. The staff, which now numbers sixteen, is trying to cope with the business of the whole suburb. Because the accommodation is so confined it is impossible for the bank to add another teller to its staff and as a consequence the clients of the bank have to queue up to await attention. That is a bad state of affairs. Complaints have been made for a long time about the failure to enlarge the bank so that it will be able to handle efficiently the amount of business transacted in it. The only other branch of the bank in my electorate i3 at Mortdale. The development of the Commonwealth Bank is lagging seriously. The bank was originally intended to be developed to such a degree that every town and suburb would have at least one branch of it. A branch of the Commonwealth Bank in every town and suburb is, in fact, almost as essential as is a post office in every town and suburb. There are 1,200 official post offices in the Commonwealth, and I believe that at every place where an official post office exists there should also be a branch of the Commonwealth Bank. However, according to the last figure that I have seen there are only 500 branches of the bank in the Commonwealth. That number could be very well doubled and the original intention of the Labour Government which founded the bank in 1911 should be carried out. The Commonwealth Bank has been a wonderful institution and has financed our defence during two wars. I ask the Government to give the bank the attention it deserves and to arrange for the enlargement of its premises at Lakemba.
I turn now to repatriation services. I believe that this matter should be closely examined becauseI consider that those services do not go far enough. A lot of ex-servicemen are in a very bad state because, through some technicality, they are not entitled to such services. I have in my electorate ex-servicemen who are bed-ridden and have to depend for their sustenance upon the invalid pension.
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for Miscellaneous Services. Refunds of Revenue, Advance to the Treasurer, Subsidies, and War and Repatriation Services, has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to. commonwealthrailways.
Proposed vote, £3,510,000.
Postm aster-General’s Department.
Proposed vote, £60,568,000.
Proposed vote, £3,949,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- I want to say something concerning the electronics industry, which has had its being in the operations and policy of the Postmaster-General’s Department. I. point out that the industry is important to Australia’s defence and suggest that an early decision by the Government in favour of the establishment of television in this country would be of first-class significance to this country’s future. I consider that the overall success of the Allies in World War II. was very largely attributable to the splendid developments in electronics and the fact that we were always a jump ahead of our opponents. Not only were we able to apply electronics to navigation, anti-submarine work, pathfinder bombing, detection and identification of aircraft, gun-laying on fast-moving targets, but we were also able to apply the science in many spheres, all of which contributed to winning World War II. In the future we face a period in which guided missiles, target-seeking missiles, proximity fuses, rockets and supersonic aircraft will be used as well as a number of devices which, no doubt, are on the secret list of the democratic powers.
In World War II. it was necessary to detect and attack aircraft flying at 300 miles an hour at 25,000 feet, but we must now prepare our defences in order to detect, identify and attack aircraft flying at nearly 1,000 miles an hour at 40,000 or 50,000 feet. It should be remembered that there can be no effective identification or attack which depends on the human mind under these circumstances. Any defence must be automatic and capable of operating on split-second timing. Therefore it must be electronic. Such is the importance of the electronic industry for this country’s future. The value of the electronic. industry throughout the world is well recognized. Overriding priority was given recently in the United States of America to two industries - aircraft and electronics. In a statement which he made recently a prominent American industrial economist, Mr. Lionel D. Edie, said -
Statistical estimates of war orders in electronics are difficult to make. The best judgment at the moment is that the value of electronic equipment per man in uniform will be at least three or four times asgreat as that in the last war. Quite possibly this ratio may have tobe revised upwards as the events of 1952 and 1953 unfold.
The inescapable conclusion is that in any future war electronic devices will play a vital role and there can be no adequate defence effort which disregards this fact.
It may be said that electronic equipment could be obtained from abroad, but we must disabuse our minds on that point. There is no evidence that the United States of America will have a surplus of such equipment. Already, concern has been expressed at the probable inability of the United States to stand up to the five billion dollar to ten billion dollar load which the electronics industry will be called upon to bear within the next few years. Efforts are being made in the United States to establish the basic manufacturing facilities necessary for the expansion of the American electronics industry within the defence time-table that has been set down. Even if Australia were able to secure the needed equipment from America it would not have the reservoir of trained technicians which would be needed to operate and service the equipment. If we are to depend on securing this equipment from the United Kingdom we must keep in mind that in any future war the United Kingdom will be under attack from the very guided missiles and the supersonic aircraft against which we should he preparing our defences. It may be that the United Kingdom will face the grim necessity of having to secure electronic equipment from Australia if the complete load of electronic defence is not to fall on the United States of America.
I believe that we in this country can and should be self-sufficient in this section of our defence effort. The construction of advanced aircraft has already been undertaken here. For the cost of one modern bomber Australia could advance well along the road to selfsufficiency in electronic defence. “Without adequate electronic equipment bombers cannot operate at the highest peak of their efficiency. This task is by no means beyond our capacity and would put this country in the forefront of modern electronic development. While preparing for our defence we should establish our place in electronics with all its potentialities in communications, defence and industrial application. It is also necessary to provide a future for advanced electronic technicians who, since the war, have languished in a scientific back-water while their colleagues abroad have had access to the most advanced electronic development and practice. Because of the load that has been placed on the industry in the United States of America invitations have been extended from that country to our electronic technicians to go there, and if we are not careful we shall find that we shall lose more of the technical men of whom we already have insufficient. Some firms with parent companies overseas have been able to send their technicians abroad in order to gain experience but, in the main, smaller firms have been denied access to new knowledge in the advanced field of electronics.
How are we to provide ourselves with electronic equipment? In the first place, it would be possible for the Government to place orders for it, but so rapid is the progress of the art that equipment obtained in that way would almost certainly be out of date in a short time and by adopting such a course the Government would only succeed in stockpiling a lot of ineffective and out-of-date equipment. Under that scheme the Government would have to foot the bill for the development of production facilities. Such a scheme would not provide the hard core of technicians that would be needed. It is not sufficiently appreciated that the techniques of television are almost identical with those that are employed in connexion with radar and electronic control equipment generally. If the Government would establish television in Australia it would be the biggest single step forward in defence preparation. I have no brief for television as an entertainment, but it would be of great advantage to make an early decision on this matter because the electronics industry would be able to apply itself to the training of its technicians and the development of production and design. There may be arguments about the cost of the installation of television, but it would be two years before a television station could operate.
The entertainment side of television would be a mere by-product of the use of this medium as a training ground in defence techniques. Consequently, if there were any difficulty in providing the funds for this development the Government would be justified in including a major portion of the cost in the defence Estimates. I hope that the Government will not be more concerned about a matter of book-keeping than about the security of this country. Electronics will play a vital part in Australian defence. Past experience and productive capacity abroad dictate Australia’s need for selfsufficiency in electronics. Gaining experience through the issue of defence contracts would be costly and inadequate. The establishment of a limited television service would provide a training ground for technicians at minimum expense while preserving the results of defence expenditure as a peace-time asset. In World War II. the electronics industry was severely handicapped because its real importance was not recognized until the shortage of man-power, materials and machine tools made expansion of the industry well-nigh impossible. In the light of the importance of the electronics industry to defence we cannot afford to make that sort of mistake in future. If any doubt still remains about the desirability of taking immediate steps along the lines I have indicated I urge the Government to call a top-level conference of the defence services, of technical officers and engineers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, of technical officers of the Department of Supply and the Radio Physics Division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and of representatives of the electronics industry in order to consider the probable demand of the industry and the means by which it can be prepared for defence production within the defence time-table. The prime requisite is an early decision on when we are to have television in Australia.
– I want to mention a few matters affecting the Postmaster-General’s Department. I draw the committee’s attention to the huge sum of money which has been provided for the payment of wages and allowances to temporary and casual employees of that department. Out of a total salary and wages bill of £43,000,000, £17,000,000 has been set aside for wages for temporary employees. As the temporary employees of the department are generally amongst its lowest paid employees, it is safe to assume that nearly 50 per cent, of the staff of the Postmaster-General’s Department at present consists of temporary and casual employees. The Estimates of other departments indicate a somewhat similar state of affairs. 1 suggest to the Government that if it is tn have an efficient Public Service, and in particular an efficient business undertaking such as the Postmaster-General’s Department, it is necessary to build up the staff of skilled workers with permanent employees who will be available, year after year. The employment of any thing like 50 per cent, of employees on a temporary or casual basis means that there must be a large amount of inefficient service in the department. The Postal Department cannot be compared with departments such as the Department of Immigration, the Department of Labour and National Service and a number of other relatively new departments. The Postal Department has been in existence since federation as an Australian government instrumentality, and before that the various States controlled postal matters. It is therefore an oldestablished organization, but it is expanding at a rapid rate with the rapid growth of our population. Because of this expansion it is necessary that the permanent staff should be able to cope with the increased business. About 50 per cent, of the Postal Department’s staff are employed on a temporary basis and the remainder are permanent officers. I suggest that we cannot expect efficient service from this department while the proportion of permanent officers is so small. I suggest that the Minister should attempt at an early date to improve the position as between permanent and temporary employees, and increase the number of permanent officers.
Recently the Government sacked 10,000 public servants. Of that number about 4 000 Postal Department employees were dismissed, 1,000 of them having been employed in Victoria. They were all temporary employees and included in their number were linemen, technician? and telephonists. This action is incredible in view of the fact that there are about 30,000 outstanding applications for new telephone services in Victoria alone. Applications have been received during the last few years at a rate greater than can be coped with by the department. Telephone services are revenue producers, and although from time to time the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) has wittingly or unwittingly misled this chamber and the people about supplies of equipment for telephone services, I know that millions of pounds’ worth of telephone equipment is held in stores around Melbourne. The equipment was available, and linemen and technicians were available to install it. Yet the installations have not been effected. I suggest that the whole matter of the dismissal of Postal Department employees should be urgently reconsidered by the Government. The department has lost the services of skilled workers and sooner or later, because of the demands which are being made on the services of the department, and because of the natural wastage of personnel, the department will be compelled again to re-employ these skilled workers to provide the services so urgently needed by the people. But unfortunately the skilled workers who have been dismissed are now employed in industry and because of their one painful experience with the Postal Department, when they are again sought they will be loath to reenter the government service. Therefore, the public will not get the service that it requires.
– Why does not the honorable member put the blame where it belongs ?
– I am putting the blame where it belongs. The blame lies with the Government for its stupidity in sacking men who were performing very necessary services for this community. In the years since the war ended Labour governments made great plans for the efficient carrying on of the Postal Department. They placed orders for new equipment and obtained employees who could install it. They made the necessary arrangements to have new buildings erected, and by their actions placed the Postal Department on an efficient footing. Year by year new records were being made in service to the public. Now this Government has reduced the number of employees, irrespective of whether they were doing useful jobs. Although all preparations had been made to expand our services and although skilled workers and materials were available, this Government has reduced the number of employees and thus prevented the public from getting the service that it is entitled to. If the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick) knew anything about the actual position in the Postal Department he would not be firing such stupid interjections across the chamber. Unfortunately the honorable member does not understand anything about the position and I do not think that he ever will- Because of these sackings the department has been changed from an efficient organization into an inefficient one, and it has lost the urgently required services of many skilled workers. At present the Postal Department is advertising by means of the press and radio for casual employees to deal with the Christmas rush. Apparently it did not enter the mind of the Postmaster-General, or the minds of any of those wonderful Government supporters who make such silly interjections, that it might have been a good idea to employ on these services the people who were sacked. They decided to throw out 4,000 men and then wasted money in advertising for other employees. When the Christmas rush is over they will realize that through natural wastage they have lost more linemen and technicians, and they will then proceed to advertise for others. If they had used common sense they would have saved trouble, advertising expense, and inconvenience to the public by not so precipitately sacking 4,000 employees.
During the war the Postal Department had to put females into positions normally occupied by men. Many females served as mail officers and motor drivers. The Women’s Employment Board decided that they should be paid in most instances the male rate of pay, and in some instances 90 per cent, of the male rate. They have received that salary up to the present time. A recent basic wage decision of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration fixed the female rate, of pay at 75 per cent, of the male rate, and the department decided to reduce the wages of these females. The Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia, quite rightly, objected to any such reduction, and after negotiation between that union and the Public Service Board, an agreement was reached that all the females employed at 90 per cent, or 100 per cent, of the male rate of pay should continue to receive that rate. However, since that time many of these females have been dismissed. Some have since been re-employed by the department on similar work at 75 per cent, of the male rate. I therefore charge the Government with attempting to get cheap labour. The Government is looking for sweated labour and it is playing a very low trida on an unfortunate section of this community. The Government should consider paying the same rate to these women on re-employment as they were receiving before they were dismissed.
The dismissal scheme as applied to the Postal Department has been a complete blunder and it has destroyed the efficiency of at least one section of the department. Because of the failure of the Government to appoint more people to the permanent staff of the Postal Department, both in the Postal Branch and the Telephone Branch, the department is now in the position of not having sufficient employees satisfactorily to carry out its work.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson), who has just resumed his seat, made some rather reckless statements about the great and important Postal Department. That organization is undoubtedly the greatest business concern in Australia. Since 1939 Australia has added approximately 1,000,000 people to its population, most of whom rely on the Postal Department for some service, but when one travels through the country one finds little evidence of any improvement in the buildings and works of that department. In recent years there has been a marked improvement in the equipment of the Postal Department, but our equipment is still a long way from meeting our requirements. The honorable member for Wills referred to the 40-hour week. [ would never at any time oppose the reduction of working hours in this country, provided we could be sure that those who were to work the reduced hours could provide the wherewithal for our national existence and progress. That is the task that confronts us in respect of practically every industrial activity in this country. We have made the error of dispersing our available resources and man-power too widely. The introduction of the 40-hour week necessitated a tremendous increase of staff in the Postal Department, as well as increased costs for equipment. That reduction of working hours has confronted private enterprise generally with similar difficulties, and, consequently, has militated against the progress of the country. According to a report that was published in the daily press on the 26th October last, the Deputy Director of
Posts and Telegraphs in New South Wales said that a record number of 39,000 telephones had been installed in New South Wales last year and that that figure represented four times the number of installations that had been made annually pre-war. However, in such a comparison, allowance must be made for the increases of staff that have occurred in the meantime. It is an astonishing fact that at present, six years after the end of the recent war, 52,000 applicants in New South Wales are on the waiting list for telephones. The overall position throughout Australia is correspondingly unsatisfactory. Those figures give some idea of the tremendous lag that the department must make up. After all, every citizen who requires a telephone 13 entitled to he provided with it. Yet, the honorable member for Wills has said that the introduction of the 40-hour week has proved of benefit to the nation. I repeat that I should not oppose the reduction of hours provided that our economy was capable of producing the needs of the community. The Government has a duty to provide, at once, facilities such as telephones for those who require them. The work should be done not in five or ten years, but immediately.
In the limited time available to me 1 shall not be able to deal with all the aspects of the department’s activities to which I should like to refer. People in the country always look forward to mail day. It is the bright day of their week. The department should, wherever possible, increase the frequency of such services. Mail contractors have to contend with all sorts of travelling conditions. In many instances, they have to traverse had roads. They feel the impact of higher costs generally and, consequently, their task is rendered more difficult. The usual practice is that mail contractors tender on an annual basis to provide a particular service, but, in spite of rising costs, their rates are pegged at those at which they tender. Whilst I am aware that the department makes adjustments in instances in which it is shown that a contractor’s costs have risen, I suggest that, until our economy is restored to normal, the Postmaster-General should provide machinery within his department for the purpose of making such adjustments automatically.
Much has been said about the need to increase primary production. An examination of the movement of population from the country to the cities provides the answer to the question that was raised by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) when he referred to the basis on which the cost of production of dairy products has been fixed.
– Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– The point I emphasize is that we shall not encourage people to go on the land unless normal amenities, including satisfactory mail services and telephone services are provided in country districts. The honorable member for Wills would have us believe that ample equipment is available to enable the department to meet all applications for telephones. The fact is that while adequate supplies of some classes of equipment are available other classes are in short supply and, as a cha:n is only as strong as its weakest link, jobs cannot be completed until all the requisite equipment is available. I urge the PostmasterGeneral to approve more generous conditions for the installation of telephones in isolated areas. I admit that last year he effected considerable improvements in this respect. Surely, those who produce the food of the nation are entitled to expect the community as a whole to bear some proportion of the cost that is involved in the provision of normal postal and telephone services in rural areas. I also direct attention to the fact that post office buildings in practically every country town are obsolete and inadequate to meet the increasing requirements of the districts that they serve. Staffs at post offices in my electorate are working under very arrent difficulty because of congested conditions. These buildings have existed for many years and have not been reno vated, or extended, since they were first constructed. That position again is due to shortages of materials and man-power. I repeat that it was a national tragedy when the Labour Government, although ii had all the relevant information available to it, nevertheless permitted the introduction of the 40-hour week. It has not been possible in the face of rising costs and shortages that have resulted from that reduction of working hours to provide services that could have been provided if the introduction of the 40-hour week had been delayed for four, or five, years, in order to enable us to make up the lag that resulted from the cessation of developmental work within the department during the recent war. I urge the Postmaster-General to ensure that justice shall be done to mail contractors by helping them to meet rising costs. I also ask him to expedite the installation of telephones in country areas and by that means help to extend rural settlement.
.- A glance at the schedules in respect of the Postmaster-General’s Department reveals the unbusinesslike approach of the department to essential developmental works to enable efficient postal, telegraph and telephone services to be provided for the community. The retrenchments of staff that are reflected in the Estimates of expenditure show that the tall poppies are tenaciously hanging on to their jobs whilst large numbers of personnel in essential branches are being dismissed. I refer particularly to retrenchments in the maintenance and transport branches. Staffs in those branches must be kept at full strength if the department is to give the standard of service to the community that it is entitled to receive. Although the Government has emphasized the necessity for retrenching staff, expenditure in respect of the administrative staff is to be increased. The number of deputy heads and assistant heads of branches is to be increased. The appropriation’ in respect of the salaries of those officers is to be increased by £] 7,000 for the current financial year. At the same time, we find evidence of a cleverly conceived plan on the part of the Government to reduce departmental services with a view to farming out more and more work on the cost-plus system to such organizations as the Standard Telephones and Cables Proprietary Limited and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. In order to carry out this plan it proposes to dismiss numbers of clerks, draughtsmen, engineers and technicians. The Government could not dispense with the services of such employees if it intended to undertake developmental work within the department.
– Leave us the telegraph messengers.
– If the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) would pay more attention to the affairs of his department than he does to those of private interests he would have a better grip of the department’s requirements and would not take so much notice of the outside interests that he serves. The office of librarian and the welfare and educational facilities for the staff have been abolished. Those facilities cost the huge sum of £2,000, so this Government, which is so bent on saving money, made a miserable economy in that respect.
I am particularly concerned with the position in New South Wales, where hundreds of highly skilled draughtsmen, technicians, maintenance men and construction staff have been dismissed. But the administrative staff has been enlarged, and its salaries have been increased. I make no complaint against increases of salary, because I believe that the remuneration of officers should be commensurate with the skill which they attain in departments. I have been a trade union leader throughout my career, and I have fought for many years to wrest from such persons as the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett^ educational and welfare facilities for the employees of the Postmaster-General’s Department, but this Liberal Government has abolished them in one fell swoop. The transport staff has also been sadly weakened. The honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Eggins) has complained about the difficulties which are experienced by country people in getting their mails, vet transport staff, including drivers, have been retrenched, with the result that His Majesty’s mails will not be available in any reasonable frequency to many of the people whom the honorable gentleman represents. It is an alarming condition of affairs when His Majesty’s mails are disrupted, and that position requires thorough investigation. Private interests are doubtless playing a big hand in that matter, and the PostmasterGeneral is only too ready to assist them to fulfil their plans.
Many honorable members spoke yesterday about defence preparations, and 1 personally am greatly alarmed about the position.
– Order! I remind the honorable gentleman that the consideration of the votes for the service departments has been completed. I ask him to relate his remarks to the departments which are now under consideration.
– One of the most important matters in our defence preparations is telegraph communications.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Exactly.
– I desire to ensure that a recurrence of the events in 1941, when the Liberal government of the day evolved “ the Brisbane line “ strategy, will be avoided. We have virtually no communications in the far north of Queensland. The basis of defence preparations should be efficient telegraph communications. Yet the PostmasterGeneral, by his haphazard policy, is destroying communications with the fa north. In the event of war, that part of the Commonwealth will be isolated. Government supporters laugh and jeer al that statement. Their principal concern is to protect profits, and the sources from which they come. I say deliberately that the Postmaster-General is sabotaging the Postal Department for the express purpose of handing over all its facilities to private enterprise, such as Standard Telephone and Cables Proprietary Limited and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited.
I invited the Postmaster-General to inspect the postal facilities that are provided for approximately 45,000 persons in my electorate. The district of Pagewood does not possess a post office, although it is one of the best developed districts in Watson. I have written repeatedly to the Postmaster-General’s Department about the lack of adequate postal facilities there, and I have been informed, in reply, that Pagewood is served by an unofficial post office and that the existing facilities are considered adequate. I point out that the unofficial post office to which I refer is situated, not in Pagewood, but in Maroubra. The kind of reply which I have received from the department to my representations shows the lack of consideration of certain administrative officers for the residents of Pagewood.
– Why does not the local member of Parliament do something for them ?
– I have asked the Postmaster-General several times in the last two years to grant the people’ of Pagewood adequate postal facilities, but he is evidently too occupied with his own private interests to bother about my request. I assure him that he will receive a royal welcome if he comes to Watson. I urge him to inspect the postal facilities, or rather the lack of them, in Pagewood, Maroubra Junction, Maroubra Bay, Matraville, La Perouse, Kingsford and Kensington, not to mention Botany. The lack of adequate facilities in those districts is to say the least disgraceful. The people who are paying increased rates this year for postal services are disgusted with the existing administration.
I shall now refer briefly to the proposal to increase the broadcast licencefee. The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) submitted sound arguments for the introduction of television, but I consider that, before such an innovation is attempted, we should deal with fundamentals, and provide telephones, postal facilities, and proper post offices for the taxpayers.
– And a proper PostmasterGeneral.
– A proper PostmasterGeneral, of course, is essential. The broadcast licence-fee is to be increased by 100 per cent. Once again, the wealthy classes have been let off lightly by this Government. In previous years, a person has been required to pay a licence-fee for every set that he has in his house. The wealthy classes can well afford to have a radio set in every room, and pay a licence-fee in respect of each of them. The Government now proposes that, regardless of the number of sets in a house, only one licence will be necessary. The worker, who can afford to possess only one radio set, is to j>ay the same amount in licence-fees as a wealthy person who has a number of radio sets.
– One law for the rich, and one law for the poor !
– As usual! The Postmaster-General’s jaundiced outlook in that respect is not to be commended. Generally speaking, the postal facilities in Australia are in a disgraceful condition. Why does not this Government improve them? Day after day, honorable members receive complaints from their electors about the inadequate postal facilities. I suppose that most of the time of a member of the Parliament, if he is attentive to his duties, is occupied in dealing with complaints from people about telephone, telegraph and postal facilities.
– Why does not the honorable gentleman refer those complaints to me?
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that there are no boys to deliver telegrams at Maroubra Bay? The residents of that district must call for their telegrams at the nearest post office. In the Maroubra Junction district, people have to walk a mile from the post office to the fire station in order to collect letters. Time after time, I have made representations to the Postmaster-General and the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in New South Wales, Mr. Kellock, in which I have asked for an improvement of the existing facilities. Let me say at this stage that I invariably receive most courteous treatment from Mr. Kellock and his officers. When I make that statement, I do not forget the men in the workshops, and I thank them for the courteous manner in which they perform their duties. Those members of the staff of the Postmaster-General’s Department receive very low wages, and deserve more sympathetic consideration than has been shown them up to date.
I shall be most satisfied if the PostmasterGeneral will inspect the postal facilities in Watson, because I am sure that he will be convinced that they are in an extremely bad condition. Telegrams for people who live in La Perouse are thrown over their fences. A letter which contained a cheque for an age pensioner was thrown over his fence and blew away. The pensioner was put to a great deal of trouble before that cheque was replaced.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I always listen most attentively to the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin), and I am certain that other people who hear his speeches share with me the opinion that he puts his mouth into top gear before his brain is even ticking over. Therefore, I shall not waste the time of the committee in discussing any of his statements. I desire to take this opportunity to bring to the notice of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) the need for greated decentralization of the activities, including the administration, of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I am certain that, for years, the commission has been aware of its centralizing tendencies, and that it is making an effort to develop regional policies in order to balance them. That fact is evident in the news services which are broadcast from country stations. In those sessions, news of vital interest to country men and women is made available in a form and at times of the day and night tn satisfy rural listeners. The news is excellently handled, and those services give a much better local cover than i3 given to persons who reside in the large cities.
I should like at this stage to pay a tribute to the press and the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the excellent way in which they co-operate to ensure that people who live in country districts receive an adequate news service. I believe that the press in every State, with the exception of Queensland, readily co-operated with the Australian Broadcasting Commission when it inaugurated its news services. I was interested to read a classified advertisement in a newspaper recently in which it was stated that commercial broadcasting stations io Queensland were endeavouring to give country listeners an adequate news service. As a result of the enterprise of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, orchestras and world celebrity artists have been travelling to provincial centres at great expense, and they have brought to country people the authentic concert atmosphere. That policy is very good, and is greatly appreciated by country audiences, but there is a great demand for extended services, including parliamentary broadcasts, for country listeners.
In many country districts, the reception of parliamentary broadcasts, which come from stations in the cities, is very bad, and there is a demand that such broadcasts be made over regional stations. From my own observations, I have drawn the conclusion that, although many people want to hear the parliamentary broadcasts, the majority will not have them at the expense of losing the normal regular programmes. The solution, of course, is the provision of more regional stations so that alternative programmes can be provided. I ask the Postmaster-General to give the consideration of their provision an early priority. The Australian Broadcasting Commission is an octopus that tends to centralize Australian culture in the capital cities, especially in Sydney. However, as the Melbourne Argus has commented, it is “ an octopus with a conscience, aware of its vices and anxious to make amends “.
I express concern also at the lack of television development in Australia, and I urge the Government to make an early start on this venture. I sincerely hope that recent press statements on the subject have been statements of fact. Like the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall), I am not primarily concerned about television as a means of entertainment or education, although I am fully conscious of its potential value in that respect, but I am greatly concerned about its development in the interests of national defence. We urgently require trained and experienced electronic technicians. Such technicians cannot be trained from books. They must have practical training, which is the best sort of training in any case. The honorable member for Paterson made a very valuable contribution to the deliberations of the committee in his speech on the defence value of television. The honorable gentleman is an expert in the field of electronics, and I shall not presume to add to his argument. I merely lend my support to his efforts to bring prominently to the attention of the Government the desperate need for electronics training in Australia. 1 am aware that many residents of rural districts are opposed to the introduction of television because they believe that country areas will not benefit from it. They overlook the fact that television is very closely allied to radar. They expect Australian industries to produce defence equipment, but they lose sight of the fact that, unless we foster television, we cannot expect our radio engineers and technicians to gain sufficient experience to enable them to produce radar and other electronic devices for the defence of our country towns and aerodromes as well as our cities.
In conclusion, I express the belief that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is providing a very fine service. But [ also believe that the same service, or an even better service, could be provided at a lower cost than has been estimated if additional supervision were exercised over expenditure. L am of the opinion that insufficient publicity is given to the worthwhile activities of the commission. This, I believe, is due to the fact that the commission does not differentiate adequately between publicity for its programmes on the one hand, and public relations on the other hand.
.- I join with the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) and the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) in protesting against the apparently unwarranted dismissal of many humble members of the Public Service from positions that they have occupied with honour and distinction. As a former employee of the Postal Department, I can say with confidence that linemen and other technicians employed by the department in the general division work hard and provide a great service to the community. Without them the Postal Department could not maintain efficiently many of its important functions. However, I did not rise principally for the purpose of discussing this subject, which has already been dealt with adequately by other honorable members.
My primary object is to direct the attention of the Government to what I consider to be a racket that is being practised by advertising contractors at the expense of the Postal Department and the people. This Government is the custodian of the money of the people, and if anything that I may have to say on this occasion should be responsible for putting an end to the racket, my contribution to this debate will have some value. The racket affects that medium of advertising known as the classified telephone directory, or, colloquially, the “ pink pages “ of the telephone directory. I do nol suppose that many honorable members have any knowledge of the amounts that are paid to the Postal Department for the right to solicit advertisements for the “ pink pages “ and the amounts that the contractors obtain from the public. It may be platitudinous to say that, if advertising costs are inflated, prices are inflated also. Nevertheless, the statement is truthful and has a hearing on this subject. I quote, for my authority, a comment that was made by T. J. Reese in his book Modern Advertising. He wrote -
In addition to tins inescapable costs of production and the costs of marketing, there is another and most important surcharge - that of advertising - and in a world of competition for public sales of goods and services the repetition of a slogan or a business name means added business. “It pays to advertise” is not an empty statement. But the question might also be added, “Who pays for the advertising?” and the re,ply is, of course, “The public”, and any increase of advertising costs is also mct by the public.
I believe that the Postal Department is the unwitting victim of a racket that has an adverse effect on the general public because of the increased costs that arise from expensive advertising. I have taken a great deal of trouble to obtain facts on this subject for the information of honorable members. Everybody knows that a large proportion of every telephone directory is taken up by the classified directory. In fact, in some instances, the classified section occupies almost as many pages as are occupied by the normal directory. A charge is made for every advertisement that is inserted in the classified directory. The Postal Department calls for tenders from advertising contractors, and a price is paid for the right to solicit advertisements for the directory. The department receives its pound of flesh, but the successful contractor receives much more than that.
For the benefit of honorable members, I shall mention the charges that are made for entries in the classified directory in Melbourne. An ordinary entry in small type costs £2 2s. a half-year, and £4 4s. a year. The half-yearly charges are a relic of the days when telephone directories were published twice a year. An entry in thick small type costs £6 6s. a year. A half-inch display card costs £12 12s. a year. A li-in. trade mark entry advertisement, which features a registered trade mark or trade name, costs £31 10s. a year. An ordinary l$-in. advertisement costs £37 16s. a year. Charges for larger advertisements are fixed according to the following scale: - Quarter column advertisement, £42 6s.; half column advertisement, £69 6s.; full column advertisement, £118 16s. About 68,000 advertisements of assorted types are included in the Melbourne classified telephone directory. A reasonable estimate of the revenue derived by the advertising contractor from that section is £403,000. The department receives from the contractor only £55,000. The contractor, therefore, makes a gross profit of about £350,000, from which he must pay his operating expenses. The advertising contractor for the Melbourne classified telephone directory is Edward H. O’Brien Proprietary Limited, of Temple Court. The situation in Sydney is worse, if anything. The “ pink pages “ of the Sydney telephone directory contain about 68,000 assorted advertisements, from which the contractor must derive a revenue in excess of £412,000 a year in return for a payment to the department of £65,000.
– Is this a new idea ?
– No, the system has been in operation for a long time. According to my calculations, the contractor in Brisbane receives about £5,451 for advertisements in the classified direc tory and pays £11,000 to the department. There is an apparent anomaly in those figures, but the explanation was indicated by the Postmaster-General (Mr Anthony) in a reply that he made recently to a question that I had asked on this subject. He pointed out that the advertising rates in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth corresponded generally with those charged in Sydney and Melbourne, but that regard was paid to the smaller circulations in those cities. I assume from that comment that the contractors in the less populous capital cities pay to the department less than the standard rate in Sydney and Melbourne. About 4,000 assorted advertisements are published in the “ pink pages “ of the Adelaide directory, and the contractor, Directories (Australia), receives about £48,000, and pays to the department about £7,000.
– Are those figures accurate?
– Yes. I am prepared to check them with any honorable member who is interested. About 2,500 assorted advertisements are included in the classified telephone directory of Perth. I estimate that the contractor’s revenue is £37,451. In Perth, the department receives £5,000 a year for the right that it gives to the contractor to solicit advertisements. I do not suggest that the figures that I have cited are beyond challenge, but they represent at least a genuine effort to expose what I. consider to be 8 racket.
Summarized, the returns to the contractors in respect of all advertisements on the “ pink pages “ are, in round figures, as follows :- Melbourne, £403,000; Sydney, £412,000; Brisbane, £5,000; Adelaide, £48,000 ; and Perth, £37,000. There is no classified directory in Hobart. The total sum for the Commonwealth is £906,000, in return for the right that it gives to contractors to solicit advertisements, and to charge for the insertion of advertisements at any rate that they like to determine, and the department receives £143,500, or less than one-sixth of the contractor’s estimated revenue from “ pink page “ advertisements.
That is bad enough, but in the classified telephone directory there are many other display advertisements, for which advertisers are charged handsomely. The people who derive the benefit from those advertisements are the contractors to tho department. I suggest to the PostmasterGeneral that this matter he investigated. In November, 1950, the Government approved an increase by 100 per cent, of the charges made in respect of the ordinary kind of entry. In the same month, it gave its approval to an increase by 100 per cent, of the charges in respect of thick, small-type entries. The cost of a half-inch display advertisement for a halfyear was formerly £6 6s., but it is now £12 12s. Approval of that increase was given in November, 1950. In August, 1950, approval was given for the charge made for the insertion of a half-column entry for a year to be increased from £35 to £63, or by 80 per cent.
Despite the inordinate profits that are being made by the contractors, which, knowingly or unknowingly, are approved by the department, the telephone directories are printed for the advertising contractors by the department.
– Surely that cannot be right.
– That is true. In the reply that I received from the PostmasterGeneral in July, 1951-
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
, - The committee was shocked to learn to-day the extent of the proposed penetration into the Australian broadcasting system by the Bartholomew interests, and was relieved by the announcement of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) that ways and means of combating that infiltration are under consideration. The Bartholomew interests, which are overseas interests, already control the Melbourne Argus and some broadcasting stations. They purport to have acquired the Macquarie broadcasting system. If that be so, the Bartholomew organization, in addition to its press connexions, will have effectively under its control, even if it does not own all of them absolutely, city broadcasting stations in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, six country stations in New South Wales, three country stations in Victoria, one country station in South Australia, and the station in the Australian Capital Territory. It is an open secret that the organization, which has the backing of millions of pounds, i3, in addition, negotiating for the purchase of some Sydney newspapers.
The acquisition of a network of that kind indicates, not a normal commercial venture, but an attempt by overseas interests to obtain control of Australian public opinion and to make Australia subservient to themselves. That is not Australian. Insofar as it is a deliberate attempt to gain control of Australian public opinion, it i3 anti-Australian. It may be said that these are British investments, and so they are. We in Australia are completely loyal to the British Empire and Commonwealth, but we insist, and have done so for 100 years, upon the preservation of our identity. The establishment of self-government in Australia did not mean any disloyalty to Great Britain. The establishment of the Commonwealth of Australia was not an act of disloyalty, but meant only that, in full loyalty to and co-operation with Great Britain, we were asserting our identity as a people.
Let me remind the committee that, without an Australian feeling in the means of approach to public opinion, this constitutional identity might mean very little. The work that was done 100 years ago, and to which perhaps I have a better claim to refer than has any honorable member’, may well be undone if our organs of public opinion fall under the control of this foreign-dominated network. 1 remind honorable members that 130 years ago the first step was taken towards achieving the Australian Constitution. It was the establishment of an independent Australian newspaper by my own family. We realize fully that if the Australian news system and the Australian broadcasting stations fall into the hands of these foreign interests, that work may well be undone. We want British investment in this country, but we do not want British investment that is directed towards channelling Australian public opinion in directions that are to the advantage, not of Australia, but of people overseas. We do not want a return of colonialism by the back door.
What are we going to do about it? There are several steps that are open to us. Section 49 of the Broadcasting Act gives to the Minister the power, and I think imposes upon him the duty, to cancel licences when licencees fail to comply with the provisions of the act. lt may well be that this transaction constitutes a violation by the interests concerned of section 53 of the act, which imposes a limit upon the number of broadcasting stations that any one interest may control. I do not know whether that is so. The question is one of law. There may well have been a violation of section 50 of the act, which provides that, except with the consent in writing of the Minister - which the Minister has told us has not yet been given - a licencee shall not transfer, assign, sublet or otherwise dispose of a licence, or admit any other person to participate in any of the benefits of the licence. There may well have been a violation of that provision which would justify a cancellation of these licences. Even if that be not so, under section 49 (1.) (b) the Minister may cancel a licence if he considers it advisable in the public interest to do so. I do not think the present position can be allowed to continue. The correct and ethical action might be, not to cancel the licences but to give notice that they will he cancelled if this transfer is completed.
But the matter goes further than that. T suggest that the situation cannot be met adequately only by administrative action. The Parliament should establish the principle that organs of public opinion in Australia cannot be permitted to fall into the hands of other than Australians. We can recollect that France was destroyed because the Nazi and Communist parties obtained control of organs of public opinion in Paris and, in 1937, 3938 and 1939, broke down France and made it easy prey for its enemies. That kind of thing - perhaps not in the same form in this instance - must not bc allowed to occur in Australia. If we believe in preserving intact the identity of the Australian people, loyal within the framework of the British
Empire, but determined to maintain their individuality as a self-governing people, then honorable members on both sides of the chamber will not permit this thing to occur.
– The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Lawrence) referred to the possible introduction of television in Australia. I gave a statement to the press upon that matter a few days ago, and I have more or less repeated it when replying to questions addressed to me in this chamber. I thoroughly agree with the views that were expressed by those honorable gentlemen. Television is not, as many people believe it to be, only a means of providing entertainment, although that is the predominant use to which it has been put in some countries, notably the United States of America. It has a defence significance that we in this country cannot afford to ignore.
Methods of warfare have changed considerably since the beginning of this century. The evolution of the internal combustion engine has revolutionized warfare. At first, motor vehicles were used largely for pleasure, but later they were developed into armoured fighting vehicles. The internal combustion engine was a major factor in the last two world wars. In 1939, the electronics industry began to play an important part in warfare. Many of the scientific devices that are now used in war, such as radar, sonar, and the proximity fuse, are based upon the cathode-ray tube, which is one of the main elements in television. Therefore, the Government recognizes that the development of television in this country must be proceeded with ; but at this juncture it is very difficult to decide what is the best and wisest manner in which to proceed.
We have advantages that the United States of America and Great Britain do not possess. One of them is that we can watch how the experiment works out in those countries. We should avoid the mistakes that they have made, and also capitalize on certain advantages that have been shown to exist in certain methods of application. The Government, as has been announced previously, decided that one television station should be built in Australia and be located in Sydney. It was to be of an experimental character and not necessarily designed to provide day and night programmes for people who wanted entertainment. It was to be primarily designed for the purpose, as the honorable member for Paterson and the honorable member for Wimmera have pointed out, to give Australia an opportunity to gain training and knowledge in this new science of electronics. That is the policy that has been announced; but the application of it - the method by which television shall be introduced into Australia, the matter of the licensing of stations, and all such matters - is extremely complex, and is at present being investigated and considered by the Government. I have not sufficient time to deal further with that particular subject other than to say that I thoroughly agree with the views expressed by those honorable members.
I shall touch briefly on the remarks of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) with respect to the acquisition by an organization known as M.P.A. of interests in certain Australian broadcasting stations. There may be a difference of opinion about whether that will be a good or a bad thing from a national standpoint. The fact is, however, that it is an unusual development, and something new as far as broadcasting in Australia is concerned. I know of no other instance of an overseas organization having bought up, wholesale, a number of broadcasting stations in this country. It is a matter of opinion whether this organization will or will not use the stations, as they can be used, for the advancement of the interests of Australia or for the advancement of some other interests.
– It is a .British organization.
– It is competent for the honorable member to express his opinion. I am merely dealing with the question of whether this is a good thing or a bad thing for Australia. This transaction will give either complete or partial control of a number of broad casting stations to the company. have not yet gone into the matter of the provisions of the legislation that govern the matter because only recently have I been notified by the company of its intention to proceed with the transaction. If the transaction is completed it will mean that under the complete or partial control of this organization from London will be no fewer than fourteen Australian broadcasting stations. The law provides that no company or organization shall have a controlling interest in more than eight broadcasting stations in Australia, and insofar as this particular project is concerned my observations lead me to believe that the provisions of the act will probably be complied with. I think that the company will not have a complete controlling interest in more than eight stations, although, as I have mentioned, it will have a substantial or partial interest in fourteen. Honorable members opposite who imply that they are supporting this particular kind of adventure are the first to proclaim their complete Australianism when other issues are raised. Personal friendships cannot affect matters of this sort. I take the view that this is a matter that the Government and the Parliament must examine. I propose to see that it shall be examined thoroughly from a legal standpoint. I shall not express a view about what may or may not be done. I am merely giving the facts to the committee so that honorable members may be able to form their own opinions. I do not propose to say anything further on the subject now because I dealt with it at question time to-day.
I turn now to the remarks of the honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean) concerning the advertisements in the classified pages of telephone directories. The honorable member has obviously gone to a great deal of trouble to obtain and assemble certain facts and to assess the value of the advertising in the “ pink pages “ of telephone directories. But there are certain other facts of which, T consider, the committee should be made aware. First, the system in relation to advertising in the “ pink pages “ of the telephone directories, whether it be right or wrong, has been in existence for many years under governments of all political colours. It was not instituted by this Government or by either of the two preceding governments, but dates further back than that. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department is faced with a problem in connexion with the classified section of the telephone directories. It has to decide whether or not it should take over its production completely, which would mean the establishment of a large advertising division in each State. It is not a simple matter to conduct an advertising business. The difference that the honorable member for Hoddle has mentioned between the amount that the advertising contractors pay to the Postal Department and the amount that they receive from the advertisers, is not all clear profit. Large staffs to canvass for advertisements, assemble them and do the other work associated with advertising, have to be paid.
Long before 1 was associated with the Postmaster-General’s Department, it decided that the simplest method of handling advertising in the “ pink pages ‘’ was to call for open tenders from people who were interested in the advertising business or who wanted to enter it. That practice has been followed and accordingly, tenders have been called publicly. In each case the department has accepted the best tender it has received. The department makes a clear profit from the transaction, and the receipts from the contractors virtually pay for the cost of producing the telephone directories, which therefore, in effect, cost the department nothing to produce. We are satisfied with the system in that respect. We are not convinced that if the department itself did the job it should be very much better off than it is at the moment. If the department did take over the job, lt would have to engage a large number of employees, the payment of whom would no doubt absorb a very substantial proportion of the profits which, it is alleged, the present contractors make. I consider that the best thing the department can do is to submit the contract to tender. There are at least twelve large advertising firms in Melbourne, and probably the same number in Sydney, which are eligible to tender for the contract. If there is such a huge profit associated with the contract as the honorable member has implied, then there are a lot of very alert advertising people in Melbourne and Sydney who are not availing themselves of the opportunity to make it. I doubt whether any better method than that of calling for tenders could be used at this particular juncture. However, in view of the great volume of research which the honorable member for Hoddle has obviously done on the subject, I give to him my assurance that I shall personally examine the matter again with a view to seeing whether a different system may be tried.
– Does the department or the contractor pay for the cost of printing the “ pink pages “ ?
– The department receives £116,000 from the contractors.
– The department pays for the cost of printing.
– The department pays for tho printing and the contractors have the right to use the pages. As the honorable member has mentioned, in each capital city the amount that the department receives is very largely based on the profit that the advertising contractors expect to make from the “ pink pages “.
I have not much time to deal with the other matters that have been raised during the debate. I turn now to the subject of the employment of casual staff in the Postal Department, which was raised by the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson). Every person who joins the department as a temporary employee realizes that he is not assured of permanent employment. After all, the very word “ temporary “ indicates his status in the department. Such an employee cannot expect to he employed by the department forever, and when conditions necessitate the retrenchment of staff it follows that those who have accepted temporary employment must expect to have to go.
– But almost 50 per cent, of the department’s employees are classed as temporary employees.
– That has been tha percentage for a long time, and for very good reasons. I have not time to go into them now. The department recruits employees for casual work, for instance, at Christmas time when the volume of work that it handles increases tremendously. No doubt temporary employees who have been dismissed from the department and who wish to take up work in it at Christmas time will find no difficulty in obtaining employment during the busy period. Students from universities also work in the department at busy periods.
I have not sufficient time to deal with all the other matters raised. I am sorry that I have not been able to visit the telephone exchange at Maroubra about which the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) so often speaks. I am not making my promise about when I shall be able to do so, but I hope that one of these days I shall be able to have a look at it. It is not very easy, with 10,000 post offices in Australia, many of them large and important, for the Postmaster-General personally to visit them all, or even to visit certain electorates. To tho best of my ability I am trying to visit as many establishments as I can and also to meet the reasonable requests of members. The Government is, of course, necessarily limited by finance in relation to the expansion of postal facilities. If we exercised our rights as a government and went full steam ahead, and used up all the steel, cement, timber, roofing tiles and other building materials that we could lay our hands on, there would not be much left over for house-builders and factory-owners. So it is necessary for the Government to act in a somewhat restrained manner in respect of it-* demands on the country’s resources. That is one of the reasons which have impelled the Government to adopt its present policy of steadying down on governmental work. There is just not enough material available for all purposes.
I am sorry that in the time at my disposal I have not been able to deal with the matters raised by other honorable members, but I give to them my assurance that those matters will be examined.
– Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the pro posed votes for the Commonwealth Railways, the Postmaster-General’s Department and Broadcasting Services has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Proposed vote, £2,091,000.
Australian Capital Territory.
Proposed vote, £1,616,000.
Papua and New Guinea.
Proposed vote, £5,571,000.
Proposed vote, £15,300. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- The first thought that I had after looking through the Estimates under the heading of the Northern Territory was that once again, when it had become necessary to effect economies in expenditure, the northern parts of Australia had had to suffer. They had to suffer regardless of whether or not the cuts in expenditure were essential to the economy and of whether or not the works required were vital to the development of the Northern Territory of Australia. I have no argument to offer against the view that a review of government expenditure is necessary from time to time. If, as a result of investigations, certain cuts are found to be necessary, I think that they should be made; but the nature of the work that will be affected and the amount involved should be taken into consideration. In examining the Estimates before the committee one is forced to the conclusion thai expenditure has been reviewed, not with the object of ensuring that the maximum service shall be obtained for the amount allocated, but in order to effect an overall cut, irrespective of the importance of the work concerned. That is a wrong attitude. The result must be, as in the case of the Northern Territory, a restriction of development. For the very important work involving the construction of water supplies, roads and stock routes the vote has been cut from the £200,000 voted in 1950-51 to £140,000 on this occasion, a reduction of £60,000 in respect of this vital developmental work.
The Government has made this proposal despite the fact that the cuts will directly affect the production of meat at a time when Australia has been placed in a very perilous position in that respect and has recently signed a long-term agreement with the United Kingdom for the supply of meat at fixed prices. Beef must be produced in ever increasing quantities if we are to comply with the spirit, as well as the letter, of that agreement. Authorities have stated that in the short space of ten years Australia will cease to be a beef exporting nation. We have even been told that in that time Australia might have to import beef in order to feed its own ever-growing population. Australian production of meat for the last season was about 67,973 tons. That production was achieved after good seasonal conditions had been experienced. I should like to know what would happen if a drought struck in the beef-producing areas. The Government should increase expenditure upon the development of the beef industry in the Northern Territory, which is one of the few remaining areas in Australia in which any considerable expansion of this industry is possible This should be done as an insurance against the very dangerous possibility of a meat famine in this country.
Let me turn to some of the other items under the heading of “ The Northern Territory “. The proposed vote for assistance to and development of mining is £1S,000, an increase of £1,900 on last year’s vote of £16,100. There are three industries that will play a most important part in placing the Northern Territory in a sound economic position. They are the pastoral industry, the agricultural industry and the mining industry. Very little effort is being made to enable the- mining industry to become a reasonable economic asset to the North. As I said before, the vote proposed for the provision of assistance to the mining industry is only £1,900 in excess of the amount that was voted last year and, owing to increased costs, the results that will bo obtained from the expenditure of that amount will be considerably less than was achieved last year. For the first time in the Northern Territory’s history, mineral production exceeded a value of £1,000,000 last year. This figure could be greatly increased. It has been contributed to largely by gold production and wolfram production. If the gold producing possibilities of the Northern Territory, including the goldfields of Tennant Creek, were exploited production could be doubled. I consider that there could be substantial increases also of the production of wolfram.
Important as are these two minerals, there are possibilities for the production of others in the territory, including mica, tin and copper. Mica is absolutely essential to the defence and peace-time requirements of any nation and in view of the present defence position the Government should make serious efforts to place this industry on a sound basis. I know that some assistance has been given to this industry, but it has not been sufficient to place it in a position to continue without further assistance. Copper and tin are already being produced but because of the transport costs involved their production is a difficult proposition. T ask the Government to consider freeing the prices of these metals for a period of five years so that mining activities can be placed on a permanent footing and thus contribute to the wealth of the territory. An expenditure of £3,700 has been proposed under the heading “ Encouragement of Primary Production “. The corresponding figure for 1950-51 was £2,150. The amount proposed will give very little encouragement to primary production and I think that this heading should be amended to read “ The .Discouragement of Primary Production “.
As I have said, the third important industry in the Northern Territory is the agricultural industry, which has received very little mention in the Estimates. It is true that under item 22 an allocation of £11,000 has been provided to deal with noxious weeds; but under the heading of “Agricultural Research” in item 27, no funds whatever have been provided. Last year the sum of £9,960 was set aside for that purpose. At present no provision has been made for agricultural research in the Northern Territory. I ask the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony), the representative in this chamber of the Minister who is acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, to say what has become of the Government’s plan to grow rice, tobacco, cotton, and peanuts in that part of Australia, concerning which the Government has made statements from time to time. Have all these plans been abandoned? Are we to go back to the old system of “every man for himself”? There are extensive possibilities for agricultural development in the territory and I ask the Minister to explain what the Government proposes to do in order to assist such development.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, is it not possible to have the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) in the chamber so that he can hear the remarks of honorable members and reply to them ?
– I do not think that the Minister is in the building.
– He should be here.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was often absent from the chamber when he was a Minister.
– Not while the Estimate;!’ were being discussed.
.- I wish to discuss articles that have been published in the press recently on the subject of native health in the Northern Territory and in the territories generally. These have suggested that a large number of aborigines and half-breeds suffer from yaws, venereal disease and tropical ulcers. Had the Minister (Mr. Hasluck) been present in the chamber during this debate I should have asked him to state the intention of the Government in regard to the expansion of medical services for the aborigines. The Government is to be congratulated on the very large increase of its Estimates of Expenditure in respect of native affairs in the Northern Territory. How much of that money will represent a real increase of effort and how much will be used to counter inflation I do not know, but it appears to be a real and genuine increase.
If the Government is having difficulty in supplying medical services to the native peoples, as newspaper articles have suggested, then the Minister should explain what the Government intends to do about it. There are many medical practitioners who are not allowed to practise in our metropolitan areas but who might be willing to work in the back-blocks. Many have already been sent to New Guinea by the Minister and his department, and if the newspaper articles about the health of the aborigines in the Northern Territory are true then it would be useful both to the chamber and the country at large if the Minister would give us some information about what he intends to do rather than leave us with the impression that he is merely deeply concerned about the natives in the northern parts of Australia.
.- The Estimates before this chamber relate to expenditure upon very important territories that are under the control of this Government. As the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has clearly pointed out, the details of the budget and Estimates give no hopeful indication that the Northern Territory will be properly developed. The Government is completely responsible for the Northern Territory, and when in Opposition the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) and other members of the Government insisted that it was vitally important that the Northern Territory should be developed. To give point to their argument they propounded hold plans for achieving that purpose. Those plans have not been given effect in the budget and the Estimates.
The Northern Territory must be developed if we are to hold the northern part of this continent. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) made a good move when he appointed a previous Premier of Western Australia, Mr. Wise, to be Administrator of the Northern Territory. Mr. Wise has had a wide experience of administration and has a very great interest in the problems and possibilities of the territory. More than that, he i* deeply concerned about our responsibility for that portion of
Australia and the natives who live in it. He can improve the Northern Territory vastly if he is supported by the Government but if he is not given both financial and technical assistance his efforts will fail. Therefore, it is important that the Government should immediately consider plans for the development of the Northern Territory and should give all possible assistance to the Administrator as well as to the honorable member who represents that area.
The Territory of Papua and New Guinea is a major responsibility of Australia. The Minister for Territories made a statement some time ago about what he was doing and what he proposed to do for our own Australian natives. I take it that at some time he will make a statement to honorable members about his intentions towards the natives of our External Territories. His statement, although apparently intended to he a blueprint of what he proposed to do, was not much more than a mass of generalities. It indicated that he considered that something should he done, but it did not indicate clearly what the Government intended to do. The Minister talked vaguely about a society in which everybody was equal and had equal rights and equal chances. He said that his idea was to put the natives in a position of having all the opportunities and rights of Australian citizens within their grasp. That was not a completely true picture of the society of the nonaborigine part of our population, and the generalities of which the statement largely consisted did not give any indication of the practical plans which the Government should put into operation. We need more than has been done by the Minister; we want practical plans that will give practical effect to his noble ideas. We want the native skills of the people of the Northern Territory and the External Territories to be used for their own benefit and for the ultimate benefit of our territories.
To-day Australia is chided in the councils of the nations of the world because it is not doing sufficient for the native populations of its territories. When the last Labour Government was in office its
Minister for External Territories was constantly attacked while he was trying to improve the lot of the natives and to exploit the potential wealth of their land in their own interests. It was said that he was trying to elevate the natives into a position of affluence and comfort to which they were not accustomed. It is better to aim at the highest standard of housing, nutrition and health than to hope and expect that a policy of inaction will produce such a result. The Estimates before us do not indicate any plan of action or any realization by the Government of its primary responsibility to develop quickly the Northern Territory. They do not indicate that the Government realizes how great are its responsibilities in respect of our External Territories. The Minister, of course, should be here during this debate, but in his absence we ask the Minister at present in charge of the committee (Mr. Anthony) or some other Minister to give details of the Government’s plans for the External Territories.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory made an eloquent plea for more assistance to the Northern Territory. He should be listened to with respect because he knows the conditions in his own electorate probably better than does any other honorable member in this chamber. Apparently the Government does not intend to answer any of his questions. The Government has not given any consideration to the problems of the Northern Territory and it has not indicated that it intends to follow any positive plan of action. The Opposition demands answers to the questions that have been asked, and a more positive plan for the development of the Northern Territory and the External Territories under our control.
– Two or three years ago when the Chifley Government was in office plans were prepared for the development of cattle routes in the Northern Territory. I remember well how the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) objected to the methods which the Government proposed to use at that time. However, since the present Government has been in office it has done very little in this connexion, and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is still overseas and out of touch with the problems of both South Australia and the Northern Territory. It seems to be quite in order that the honorable gentleman should do nothing now even though when in opposition he posed as an authority on such matters. There has long been uneasiness in South Australia because of the transfer of the control of the Northern Territory to the Australian Government. South Australia looks to the territory for its meat supplies, and the people of that State have been hoping that the promise made by various Australian Governments from time to time that it would arrange for the easy transport of fat stock from the territory to South Australia would be honoured. Some attempts have of course been made to help South Australia in that respect, but sufficient has not been done.
The United Nations, which is the body that gave to Australia a trusteeship in relation to Papua, looks to us to develop it properly. The Government and the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) have their own ideas about the Northern Territory, but it is pertinent to ask whether all that could or should be done to develop its vast potentialities is being done. Much has been said about populating our vast open spaces. It has been said that it is necessary for security purposes to develop the Northern Territory, North Queensland and the northern part of Western Australia. In the light of that position, the Government should do everything that it can to ensure .that those areas shall be developed and populated as swiftly as possible. I am sorry that the Minister for Territories is not present during this debate. I appreciate that perhaps it is necessary for him to be out of the chamber at this time, but I do think that when the Estimates of his department are being considered he should be here to explain to honorable members just what he intends to do in the territories under his control. Where it is necessary for the good of Australia, money should certainly be made available and expended to the best advantage. Whilst we do not object to such expenditure we should be informed of the specific purposes for which it is to be incurred.
I should now like to say a few words about the development of Canberra. Since I was elected to the Parliament, I have taken a keen interest in events in this city which, I believe, will assume increasingly greater importance in the eyes of not only patriotic Australians, who will naturally be interested in the development of their National Capital, but also visitors from overseas. When I visited Canberra in 1939 to attend a conference that was being held here, I discussed its future with an American whom I met at Hotel Canberra, where I was staying. As I had been informed that he had travelled round the world many times, I was interested to learn what he thought of our National Capital. When I asked him whether he thought that we were expending too much money on the development of Canberra, he replied, “ No, not at all. Go ahead and spend the money. Next to Washington, Canberra will be the show city of the world “. I trust that the Government will do everything in its power to make Canberra a national capital of which all Australians will have cause to be proud. At the same time, I appeal to it not to overlook the just claims of the residents of the Australian Capital Territory to self-government in local affairs. As a democracy, we believe in the principle of self-government. A considerable sum is to be expended in Canberra during the current financial year. I trust that the Government will act equally as generously in the interests of Canberra residents by giving to them a greater voice in the control of their civic affairs.
– I regret that the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) is not present in the chamber this afternoon. However, he had made prior arrangements to visit Nauru at this time for the purpose of unveiling a memorial to a gentleman who was the Administrator of New Guinea and was killed when the Japanese occupied that territory. No one regrets more than the Minister himself does the fact that he has not been able to be here to-day while the Parliament hao been considering the first
Estimates in respect of the territories that have been presented since he was appointed Minister.
I shall bring the remarks of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) to the attention of the Minister upon his return. I believe that tho first requisite for the development of the Northern Territory is that its administrator shall have an intimate knowledge of its agricultural and other requirements. For that reason, the Minister should be congratulated upon having selected for that position Mr. Frank Wise, who, as honorable members know, was formerly a Labour Premier of Western Australia and is a noted authority on tropical agriculture. I knew Mr. Wise personally when he was employed as an inspector in the Department of Agriculture and Stock in Queensland. I also know that due to his drive and activities as a fruit inspector in the Public Service of Western Australia he developed the banana industry in the Carnarvon district, although it was generally believed that the soil in that area was totally unsuitable for that purpose. The agricultural development of the Northern Territory could not be entrusted to more capable hands, and I am glad that the Minister selected him for that appointment. The fact that he has been opposed politically to the Government parties has not lessened his efficiency.
I point out to the honorable member for the Northern Territory, and the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson), who also referred to the subject, that whilst the sum of £75,000 was appropriated last year in respect of stock routes and £93,000 was actually expended for that purpose, the proposed vote under that heading this year amounts to £120,000.
The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) referred to health and medical services. Whereas the sum of £7.000 was appropriated last year for the purchase and installation of hospital equipment, the proposed vote for that purpose for the current financial year is £14,000.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory must realize that the develop- ment of the territory involves not merely finance but also shortages of labour and materials. It is difficult to obtain labour in the territory when so many more attractive jobs are offering in southern States, where, although ruling wages may be slightly lower, working conditions are better. In addition, considerable industrial unrest is caused in the territory by the North Australian Workers Union, which is substantially under Communist control. When I visited Darwin not long ago, I formed the opinion that that union’s principal purpose appeared to be to hinder the development of the territory. For that reason, it is not uncommon to see ships held up in Darwin for long periods. During my visit to that town, the wharf labourers refused to unload a cargo of galvanized iron and wire from one ship because they did not like the person to whom the material was consigned, and the ship was forced to return with its cargo to the southern States.
– The control of the North Australian Workers Union has been changed in recent months.
– I am glad to have that information. Considerable development is contemplated in New Guinea. I disagree with the honorable member for Port Adelaide when he says that we derive our authority to administer that territory from the United Nations. That may be so in theory; but during my last visit to that territory I saw 6,000 graves of Australians at Moresby and Lae. Our authority to administer the territory is not ‘solely the United Nations trusteeship that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) negotiated when he was Minister for External Affairs. When I visited Manus Island I was shocked to see that tens of thousands of pounds worth of material that the Americans had abandoned had been allowed to rust. That island could have been converted into a powerful outpost of Australia with the aid of American capital and material, but the Chifley Government, by placing obstacles in their way, denied to the Americans the opportunity to transform the island into a £100,000’,000 base.
– That is not true.
– If the honorable member challenges that statement, documents can be produced to substantiate it. Reliable authorities have estimated that during the recent war the Americans expended £100,000,000 sterling in order to make Manus Island a stepping stone for the invasion of Holla ndia and the Philippines. When I visited the island I saw an area equal to the average city block covered with refrigerators of capacities of 350 cubic feet and 600 cubic feet that the Americans had discarded. The internal equipment of those units had been removed by representatives of the Chinese Nationalists who had contracted to buy the refrigerators from the Americans for practically a song. I also saw large areas of land covered by the motor vehicles that the Americans had discarded. I again emphasize that the development of the territories is not merely a matter of finance, but involves also the provision of basic materials, such as cement and steel, which are in short supply throughout Australia. So long as those shortages continue, the territories cannot adequately be developed no matter how much finance the Government might make available for that purpose.
I shall be pleased to bring to the notice of the Minister for Territories the remarks that honorable members have made concerning matters that relate to the administration of his department.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That the following resolution be reported to the House: -
That, including the several sums already voted for such services, there be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 195 1-52, for the several services hereunder specified, a sum not exceeding £400,930,000.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That, towards making good the Supply granted to His Majesty for the service of the year 1951-52, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum not exceeding £212,710,000.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. Townley do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Silting suspended from 5.50 to 8 p.m.
Additions, New Works, and Other Services involving Capital Expenditure.
In Committee of Supply:
That the Estimates - Additions, New Works and Other Services involving Capital Expenditure 1951-52 - be considered as a whole.
Proposed vote, £98,848,000.
.- I wish to refer to the urgent need for an expansion rather than a contraction of the Postal Department’s programme of capital works. In answer to a question that I asked a few days ago, the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) said that over 103,000 applications for telephone services, including over 53,000 in New South Wales, were still outstanding. Furthermore, approximately 2,000 of these applications had been listed for more than seven years. Many others had been outstanding for as long as three years. Those facts give an indication of the inordinate delay that is being caused by the lack of work on new telephone exchanges, post offices and other instrumentalities associated with the Postal Department. Apparently applicants for telephone services must wait for periods that vary from three years to seven years, even when their need is urgent, unless they happen to be in the fortunate position of having premises close to an existing telephone channel to which they can be connected without much difficulty. Notwithstanding the keen demand for telephone services that has resulted from the development of new housing areas and the expansion of business generally, the Government has undertaken a programme that involves severe retrenchment of the technical staffs of the Postal Department. Circumstances demand expansion of the department’s services. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to explain to the committee why he supports a programme that provides for the dismissal of thousands of skilled building tradesmen and te’ephone technicians when new telephone exchanges and post offices are urgently needed, not only in the metropolitan areas, but also throughout the country districts of Australia. I can see no .justification for this policy, and I strongly object to it on behalf of my constituents, as, no doubt, many other honorable members will do.
The ultimate result of the Government’s programme, if it be carried to its logical end. will be delays of as long as ten years in the installation of new telephone services. It is idle to say that most, of the applications have been outstanding since the Labour party was in power. The present Administration undertook to remedy all the evils that it attributed to> the rule of the Labour Government. The present Postmaster-General, when he was in Opposition, constantly criticized the Government of the day for its alleged failure to embark on a progressive scheme for the provision of telephone services. It will be interesting to hear to-night hia attempt to justify this Government’s retrenchment programme. An examination of the records of the Postal Department for the metropolitan area of Sydney shows that work on certain new exchange buildings has completely ceased. That building programme was designed to overcome the shortage of telephones, but it has been nipped in the bud because the Government has decided that the Postal Department must reduce expenditure. Anybody who considers this issue fairly and squarely cannot fail to be critical of the Government’s- decision. Even though a curtailment of expenditure may be necessary, the discontinuance of work on telephone services cannot be justified. Imagine the situation of a businessman for whom a telephone is essential if he must wait for three or four years before he can obtain an installation. The PostmasterGeneral, of course, will say that the shortage is due, not only to the lack of sufficient exchanges, but also to the difficulty of obtaining materials and equipment. If that be so, on what grounds does the Government justify the restriction of building operations and the sacking of men who will be needed to install new exchanges?
– Order! The honorable member may not discuss the Public Service during consideration of the Works Estimates.
– I was linking my criticism of the Government’s decision to reduce expenditure on postal works-
– The honorable member must deal with finance only. He must relate his remarks to the amount, proposed to be made available for works.
– It is impossible to discuss the need for telephone services and exchange buildings without mentioning occasionally, in passing, the subjects of man-power and materials. They are associated with the expenditure of money on works. If you, Mr. Chairman, or anybody on the Government side of the chamber can tell me how we can discuss the building of telephone exchanges without referring to men employed on such work-
– Order ! The honorable member may not discuss that subject at this stage. He must refer to the proposed expenditure on construction work. The subject of general policy has already been discussed.
– I accept your ruling, Mr. Chairman. In view of the continuing delay in the provision of telephone services, it is obvious that not enough money has been allocated for the employment of man-power to* build exchanges and the purchase of essential equipment. It is idle for the Government to tell the people that it intends to give to them efficient telephone and postal services if it is not prepared to provide the funds that are needed for the purpose.
I condemn the Government’s retrenchment programme, its negative policy in relation to the provision of telephone exchanges, and its complete disregard of the promises that were made on its behalf at the last general election. I should like to hear the PostmasterGeneral attempt to justify now the criticism that he directed at the Chifley Government because of the lack, of telephone facilities. All over Australia todav people are wondering why they must wait for as long as seven years in order to obtain telephones when the present Government parties undertook that there would be a full developmental programme for the provision of such facilities. The Government has also discarded the former Labour Government’s progressive plans for the development of television. Its general policy in relation to important works can lead only to further delays and hardship. I hope that the PostmasterGeneral will at least try to give a satisfactory explanation of this negative policy in relation to capital works. Important undertakings in all parts of the Commonwealth are at a standstill although the people are clamouring for new services. Why does the honorable gentleman support a Government that has dismissed thousands of expert tradesmen and technicians who could provide those services? The people expect an answer to that question, and I hope that the Postmaster-General will be able to provide one.
– I shall certainly answer the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), who worked himself into a state of feverish excitement over the provision of new telephone services and other facilities by the Postal Department. In the first place, the Government has achieved far better results during the last year than were achieved by the Labour Government during the last year of its term of office. I have referred to the last year of the Labour Government’s term of office because it might be considered to be unfair to criticize its failings in 1946 or 1947, so soon after the cessation of hostilities in World War II. In 194S-49, the last year of the Chifley regime, 46,079 telephones were connected in Australia, whereas in the last year, under the administration of the present Government, no fewer than 71,000 new telephones were installed. The number of outstanding applications has been reduced from 125,000 to 100,000. That is the answer to the honorable member for Grayndler.
Having answered that question, I shall now tell him what the Government proposes to do this year. In order to try to restore our screwy economy to some semblance of normality, it has been necessary to reduce government works of all kinds. As I have pointed out on other occasions, very little cement, steel, timber and other vital materials would be left for the use of private enterprise and homeless families if the Government did not reduce its expenditure on capital works. The situation of the civil population would be desperate if the Government ignored its needs. The Government would have the power and the funds with which to commandeer virtually all the essential materials in the country. But this Government wishes available supplies of materials and equipment to be distributed fairly throughout the community. That is why it has restricted its construction programme. The proper time for a government to go full steam ahead with a great building programme is in a period of unemployment when men are in need of jobs, not in a period of full employment when employers are seeking men. The Chifley Government prepared blue-prints for vast public works, which were to be undertaken in the event of a recession occurring. It never intended to go ahead with those plans when there was over-employment in all sections of industry and thereby render more acute the shortages of labour and materials.
The honorable member for Grayndler asked what the Government intended to do about Postal Department works. It is true that we have curtailed employment and have reduced the Postal Department’s staff from about 80,000, which is the normal figure, to about 76,000. We have reduced the number of temporary employees of the Postal Department by approximately 4,000, or nearly 5 per cent. But it must be recognized that, because the population of this country is increasing, it is necessary to continue to provide new telephone lines, telegraph channels, telephone exchanges, &c. Within the limits of our resources, and bearing in mind the need to avoid expansion that would be to the detriment of other phases of activity, we are maintaining a very full building programme. Last year, £15,725,000 was expended by the Postal Department upon telephone exchange services. The estimated expenditure for this year is £17,S50,000, or £2,125,000 more than was expended last year. That indicates that we are endeavouring, consistent with the general state of the community, to- maintain a reasonable balance of works.
– The Minister is contradicting his earlier argument.
– I am not. I am saying that we cannot go ahead with the programme that we had in mind. We envisaged a much larger programme than this. As Postmaster-General, I should be very pleased if it were possible to accede to all the requests that I receive from honorable members and from local authorities for the construction of new telephone exchanges and post offices, and for the provision of various postal and telegraph services. We have been compelled to reduce our ambitious programme. It is probable that, owing to the increased costs of labour and materials, we shall be unable, with £17,S50,000 this year, to do more than, if as much as, we did last year with £15,700,000. We are maintaining a fairly reasonable balance.
There will be a reduction of expenditure upon the acquisition of post office sites and buildings. Possibly that reduction will do less harm to the community than would a reduction of capital works. Last year, we expended £1,390,000 upon the acquisition of sites and buildings, but this year the expenditure for that purpose will be only £800,000. We are reducing expenditure wherever it is possible to do so, and we are trying to avoid restricting our activities where such a restriction would be harmful. La3t year, we expended £2,200,000 upon new buildings and works, apart from engineering works and services, which are in a different category. Speaking from memory, this year we shall expend approximately £24,000,000 upon engineering works and services. Upon post office buildings, telephone exchanges and other buildings we shall expend £3,200,000, or £1,000,000 more than last year.
Some honorable gentlemen opposite have suggested that, as it is not possible for the. Postal Department to provide individual subscriber services to the degree that is necessary, more public telephones should be installed. The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) and other honorable members raised that matter. We gave careful consideration to that suggestion. Consequently, provision if being made for the installation of 1,200 public telephones this year. Last year. S95 were installed. It is hoped that the provision of those additional public telephones will, to some degree, compensate many people who cannot get a personal telephone.
– Will any of them be trunk-line telephones?
– They will be ordinary public telephones, but, will be capable of use for trunk-line calls. Last year, 24 new telephone exchanges were built throughout Australia. That was not so many as we” should have liked to build, and not so many as are necessary. This year, we shall construct 50 new exchanges. Therefore, it will be seen that we are not pulling in our horns so far as that sphere of our activities is concerned.
– Does that include the Lismore exchange?
– Probably it does. I. remind the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) that the Public Works Committee, on which members of his own party serve with distinction, reported unanimously that a new telephone exchange at Lismore was urgently needed. Rural automatic telephone exchanges are very important in country areas. Last year, we installed £5, and it is proposed to install another 100 this year. Within the limits of the man-power and materials that are available to us, there has been no chiselling down of the essential requirements of the community.
– The committee is entitled to be informed precisely of the Government’s policy with respect to Glen Davis. Last year, an item of £177,000 in respect of that project appeared in the Estimates for the Department of Fuel, Shipping and Transport. In these Estimates, an item of £250,000 is shown under the heading “ Department of National Development “. The committee is entitled to know what that means.
From the time that rumours began to circulate about the Government’s intention to close Glen Davis - I emphasize the word “ rumours “ - many suggestions have been made about the future of this industry. It has been stated that an influential group of people in Sydney, that has access to people who occupy high places in the Government, intends to obtain the cracking plant at a very low price. We were informed recently during a debate on a motion for the adjournment of the House that some portion of the plant at Glen Davis was to be taken to Bell Bay, in Tasmania. Is it still the intention of the Government to do that? Are tenders for the purchase of the plant to be called for? If so, will only Australian undertakings he invited to tender for it, or is it the intention of the Government to invite tenders from firms throughout the world that may need the plant in order that the highest possible price may be obtained for it?
I oppose whole-heartedly the dispersal of this industry. The removal of the plant from its present location would not be an economical proposition. It is situated deep in the Blue Mountains, approximately 60 miles from Lithgow and 30 or 40 miles from the nearest railway siding. To dismantle the plant and re-erect it in another place would involve the expenditure of a considerable sum of money. I want to know what really is to be done about Glen Davis. After it was reported that the Government intended to close the works, rumouafter rumour circulated. In the electorate of Macquarie, once again many rumours are in circulation regarding who eventually will take possession of this valuable plant, which should be producing petrol for the defence requirements of this nation. While the industry remains at Glen Davis, I shall continue to speak for it.
It ill becomes honorable gentlemen opposite to pretend that the Glen Davis project is of no value at all and to advocate the killing of an Australian industry, the result of which would be that, in the event of war, we should be completely dependent upon oil supplies from overseas. I cannot understand why they adopt such an attitude. It has been stated that if another war occurred we should not be without our friends. We know that we should have valuable allies and valuable friends. It is the duty of this Government to cultivate the friendliest of relations with those countries which could be of some value and service to us, but we must not forget that, if a war occurred, they too, would be involved in it, and might have their hands full. What would become of Australia then ? If we want to think in terms of our defence potential, we must think in terms of Glen Davis.
Let us consider what happened during the last war. Germany was boycotted by tho world and was blockaded by the British and the American fleets, but it was able to produce synthetic fuel in such quantities as to enable its war machine to continue to function for years. Was that not an object lesson to those people who, knowing nothing about the shale oil industry, apparently believe that we can move the Glen Davis plant to another place and, by importing crude oil from overseas for refining in the plant at the new location, achieve the results that are now being achieved? Before oil can be treated at Bell Bay or anywhere else, it must be brought to Australia by sea. But the industry at Glen Davis is producing petrol from Australian shale. If the sum of £250,000 to which I have referred is intended for expenditure upon Glen Davis, the assurance should be given that the industry will be allowed to remain there. The people who are working in the industry to-day, from the chief executive down, are doing a magnificent job. I hurl in the teeth of honorable gentlemen opposite the accusation that the men there are Communists or something of that kind. The workers at Glen Davis are loyal and patriotic. I doubt whether one Communist is associated with the undertaking in any way at all. The people who have gone into that valley should be given a further opportunity to make a success of the industry.
The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) referred to the fact that this year approximately £2,000,000 more will be expended upon postal works and services than was expended last year. We all know how the value of the £1 has depreciated under the administration of this Government. Seventeen million pounds now will certainly not buy as much as £15,000,000 would have bought last year. My plea is for people in country districts, and I invite the members of the Australian Country party in this chamber to speak up for country interests with respect to improvement of telephone facilities. Country people have to face many disabilities, such as bad roads, and efficient telephone services are an essential for them; yet the Government is dismissing the workers who could install telephones in homes in country districts.
Mr. Treloar interjecting,
– I suggest that rather than yelp out interjections it behoves the honorable member to stand up in his place to-night and make a plea for improved telephone facilities for the people in his electorate. They would appreciate that much more than his interjections. There is a big job to be done in developing Australia, and this country can be better developed by making conditions a little more congenial for country dwellers. The provision of telephones can assist towards that end, and I sincerely hope that additional funds will be made available by the Government so that the Postal Department may extend telephone facilities in country areas, and give country people a better go in the future.
.- 1 shall take the advice of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) and speak up for the people in my electorate. The Postmaster-General’s Department is working very hard and is doing an excellent job. The operation of country telephone exchanges presents a problem to-day, because it is becoming very difficult to obtain people to man such exchanges. Many people who have been operating country telephone exchanges are giving up that work, and the Postal Department has the difficult job of making new arrangements to keep the exchanges in operation. I was pleased to hear the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) say that the Government proposed to install an additional 100 rural automatic telephone exchanges. These are absolutely necessary. I agree with the honorable member for Macquarie that telephones are essential for people who have to travel miles over bad roads to the nearest town, for instance, to obtain a doctor in an emergency. The provision of telephones is much more essential te people in my electorate, and in the electorate of Macquarie and other country electorates, than it is in the electorate of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), where people can find public telephones not many yards away from their front doors.
I intended to speak, not about telephones, but about the money that is to bc made available for immigration centres in country areas. It was a great disappointment to me that the Government had to reduce the expenditure on such immigration centres. It had arranged to build n iO-family immigration centre at Gunnedah, where a strong immigration committee had done a lot of preparatory work. That committee had been in touch with the Cobbers’ Club in Birmingham, and had made arrangements for large numbers of members of that club to settle in Gunnedah. Among the intending immigrants were bricklayers, carpenters, general tradesmen, men who would be useful in rural industries, and workmen of all kinds. Unfortunately, when the arrangements had reached the stage at which the land was available for the centre, the Government had to prune its expenditure. The intending immigrants were prepared to live in tents until they had built their own homes but, unfortunately, it was against the policy of the Department of Immigration and of the State immigration authorities to allow immigrants to live in tents. I sincerely hope that the Government will reconsider the matter and cancel the abandonment of this scheme, which would be of great assistance in decentralization. Gunnedah has large potentialities for development. It has a coal mine and plenty of timber, and is developing very fast.
I turn now to the improvement and maintenance of country aerodromes. The people of Walgett, in the north-west of New South Wales, have to depend on bad trains for their communications with Sydney. It takes about twenty hours to travel by rail from Walgett to Sydney in the worst trains in Australia. They are obsolete and are often dirty. The people of Walgett have an air service as a result of their own efforts, because they built their own aerodrome. But Walgett is in the black soil area, and in recent years has suffered considerably from floods. It takes only a few points of rain to put the Walgett aerodrome out of operation and to isolate the town so far as air transport is concerned. I heard early last year that a sum of £120,000 had been provided in the Estimates to improve the aerodrome. Unfortunately, the work was to be carried out by the Department of Works and Housing, which was about three years in arrears with other work. I hope that in the near future priority will be given to the construction and improvement of aerodromes at places like Walgett, where the people, who are completely isolated by air in the rainy season, have made an effort on their own behalf by preparing their own aerodrome. The people of Walgett now need the assistance of the Government to put down an all-weather airstrip so that they may have a regular air service. At present they have a four-day service operated by a DC3 airliner, but have no service at all when there is rain.
The same position obtains at Moree, although that town is not so far by rail from Sydney as Walgett. The people of Moree also have built their own aerodrome, which is in the process of being taken over by the Department of Civil Aviation. It is most necessary that Moree also should have an all-weather airstrip. The Walgett and Moree local government authorities are prepared to do the necessary work, but cannot pay for it. I hope that the Government will keep this matter in mind and see that all-weather airstrips shall be put down in those places at the earliest possible moment.
.- One matter with which I wish to deal is the provision of radio-telephone facilities for people in outback areas. I have raised this matter on numerous occasions in the Parliament, but from what I can see no progress is being made in relation to it. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) has told me on various occasions that the department intended to go ahead with the installation of radiotelephone services for country people, but later said that the work had been held up because of the difficulty of making the necessary equipment. I have discovered that other public works projects, such as that of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, and other instrumentalities like the Forestry Commission of New South Wales have been able to get all the equipment they required to install and conduct efficient radio-telephone services. I cannot see any real obstacle in the way of the Postal Department obtaining equipment to install radio-telephone services for people in isolated areas.
People who live in the far out-back areas of the Commonwealth have been hoping for years that sooner or later they would be able to have radiotelephone communication with the big centres of population. Apparently the Government has abandoned the installation of ordinary wire telephone services to those areas, and the hopes of the people there now rest on radio-telephone services. The Labour Government established an experimental radio-telephone station at Broken Hill four years ago. The experiments carried out there proved that radio-telephone services can be operated in the most efficient manner, and that people connected to such services can speak to any town in the Commonwealth, because they can be operated in conjunction with the ordinary wire network. I myself had a trunklinecumradiotelephone telephone conversation from Sydney to Tibooburra, the call having to pass through Melbourne, Adelaide and Broken Hill. Such efficient services should now be installed for the benefit of country people.
I do not wish to traverse at great length the ground that has been covered by other honorable members with respect to telephone facilities, but I support the remarks that two honorable members on this side of the committee have made about the inadequacy of such facilities for people in the out-back. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) said a few moments ago that he had not risen to speak about telephones. He had been stirred to speak on the matter by the remarks of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), who had urged him and other members of the Australian Country party to make representations to the Government for improved telephone facilities for country people. I. too, ask members of the Australian Country party who claim to represent country people to appeal to the Government to improve telephone facilities in the country. If equipment is too scarce to provide telephones in private homes in the country, then the Government should be prepared to increase considerably the public telephone facilities in various country towns. When honorable members make representations about the provision of public telephone services in their electorates, the department offers the excuse that the proposed service would not be likely to prove payable, and it is there- fore not prepared to install it. How can the department bc sure about whether thc service will pay or not until it has actually been in operation? It seems to me that that is a stock answer by the department It does not satisfy the people who require telephone facilities.
The telephone facilities provided by automatic exchanges are also in a deplorable condition, due to neglect of maintenance. It is very difficult at times to obtain the number sought or to make any call without butting into several other conversations on other lines. That position should be promptly examined by the department and it should effect necessary improvements.
Another item in the Estimates relates to the standardization of railway gauges. Last year about £.1,500,000 was voted for the standardization of railway gauges, but only £694 of that amount was actually expended. This project is very important. It has been agreed that the work shall be commenced in South Australia in order to standardize the railway system of that State with the line to Broken Hill. The department should proceed with that work. Last year, £1,500,000 was made available for this purpose, but only £694 was expended, probably on trips by officials. Thi3 year £1,250,000 has been placed on the Estimates for this purpose. That is a very small vote and we have no guarantee that it will be expended in view of the fact that a similar appropriation was not expended last year. I ask the Minister whether the £1,250,000 provided for this year will he expended and, if so, for what purpose. I should like to know whether it will be expended on the standardization of railway gauges.
– Is the honorable member referring to the South Australian part of the standardization scheme?
– Yes. I should like to know whether this money will be expended during the current financial year.
– It will be expended during this financial year. Operations did not commence quickly enough last year.
– I desire now to refer to the proposed vote for equipment and furniture for Australia House and the official residence of the Australian High Commissioner in the United Kingdom. Last year £78,632 was expended on equipment and furniture for the official residence, which was then occupied by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) who represented the Government in London. Apparently he demanded a refurnishing of the establishment. The Estimates before the committee contain the extraordinary figure of £S0,000 for equipment and furniture for the same establishment. Another High Commissioner has been appointed; he was until recently the honorable member for Balaclava. I should like to know whether he has demanded a complete re-furnishing of the establishment because of dissatisfaction with the furnishing scheme of the honorable member for Wentworth.
.- I wish to speak on the expenditure in connexion with the Coal Industry Act. A sum of £2,900,000 has been provided in the Estimates in this connexion, which is approximately equal to that expended in each of the last five years in defraying the expenses of the Joint Coal Board and the special industrial tribunal that was set up under the act. There is no doubt that a great deal of good has come to the miners and those engaged in the coal-mining industry by virtue of that expenditure. They have gained better conditions, parks and playgrounds, a great number of amenities, shorter hours and longer holidays. But they have not produced more coal. The community has not obtained any more mined coal than it was obtaining before these bodies were set up. It is, of course, a fact that last year a considerable additional quantity of coal was obtained. For that I give the credit to the Minister for National Development ( Senator Spooner), who has organized and considerably increased the production of the open- cut mines.
– What about the men who dug the coal?
– Order !
– The men who dug the coal are not to blame. They have been misled by a bunch of Communists. The coal industry, upon which the Govern ment has expended between £12,000,000 and £14,000,000 without getting extra coal, furnishes one of the greatest indictments of Australia. This afternoon the Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Kent Hughes) mentioned the expenditure of £5,000,000 on subsidies on coal imported into this country and on the transport of coal from central Queensland to Victoria and South Australia. Notwithstanding the expenditure of that £5,000,000 and the £14,000,000 that I have already mentioned, underground mines are still failing to produce more coal. That pinpoints the fact that we have been beaten to our knees by the Communists in the coal-mining industry.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine himself to the proposed vote of £3,000,000.
– I am trying to confine myself to the expenditure of that money, hut I point out that it is to be expended under the Coal Industry Act, which applies to the Joint Coal Board and the Coal Industry Tribunal. I think that I am entitled to say that the expenditure of so much money should enable us to get more coal. In the State of New South Wales there is some of the best coal in the world. If the co-operation of the industry could be obtained there is no reason why. the coal mines could not supply the whole of the needs of every State in Australia. Already we have allowed millions of pounds to go down the drain, not only in the form of losses in the coal-mining industry, but also in the form of a loss of potential production by associated industries. This production, had it not been lost, would have been worth millions of pounds. It is strange that the New South Wales Government, which was a partner with the Australian Government in the establishment of the Joint Coal Board, has seen fit to set up its own coal authority independently of the Joint Coal Board. I say quite frankly and openly that the Joint Coal Board has not received adequate cooperation from the McGirr Government in New South Wales. It is difficult to find the head of the New South Wales Coal Authority, Mr. Baddeley. He seems to disappear up a hollow log. A considerable amount has been expended on that authority, which has operated in direct conflict with the Joint Coal Board.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order! There are too many interjections. The honorable member has a right to be heard.
– I seriously suggest that in view of the conflict all over Australia in the coal industry a national conference of representatives from all States should be called by the Australian Government in order to try to rectify the position. Because New SouthWales has fallen down on the job other States have endeavoured to safeguard their economies by the production of coal even though the quality of the coal available in some States is very poor. I think it is time that representatives of the interests concerned conferred and laid down certain principles upon which coal should be mined. I sympathize with the men who work in the mines. Unfortunately, there is a psychological aspect of this problem which some people do not understand, but it is also a fact that the miners have been led up the garden path by the Communists, who are in control of the mines in New South Wales. A considerable quantity of coal has been stockpiled in Sydney. About 120,000 tons of coal is held at Bunnerong power station. That is the largest quantity of coal that has been stored there since 1942, when 240,000 tons was held. But there is a catch in this. In last week’s issue of Common Cause the president of the miners’ federation was reported to be a little suspicious of the accumulation of stocks. The only reason why it has been possible to obtain this quantity of coal is that unless there is a reserve in hand the miners will not have their Christmas holidays. If it were not for that fact the Communists on the New South Wales coal-fields would take action to prevent that stockpiling. Unfortunately, the coal that has been stockpiled is mainly of the open-cut variety and other qualities of coal have to be blended with it in order that it may be used by the power station.
Whilst open-cut coal is of assistance to industry, it cannot completely overcome the shortage of supplies. Unless the production of underground mines is improved, it will never be possible to meet the coal requirements of this country. Some open-cut mines have good quality coal ; but, on the whole, the quality is not sufficiently high to meet the requirements of industry. It may be possible so to increase the production from opencut mines that there will be a surplus of that quality and yet not be sufficient of the quality needed to meet the requirements of the gas and powerproducing industries. I compliment the present manager of the Joint Coal Board, Mr. Cochrane, who is doing a good job in collaboration with the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). In view of the fact that the miners have been treated so fairly and that their conditions have been bettered by Commonwealth expenditure, they should ensure that coal shall be mined in sufficient quantity underground to meet the growing needs of this country. Otherwise we shall not be able to develop our nation as it should be developed. Coal is the basis of all our economic development, and unlesswe can solve the problem of how to get by underground mining, all the good coal we need, we shall never be able to build the nation that we seek to build. I urge the Government to give immediate consideration to the suggestion that a national conference be called. At the present time such a conference might do an enormous amount of good. There are so many different opinions about the various aspects of this matter that a frank and common-sense discussion would be of enormous benefit to the whole country.
It is important that some of the good gas-making coal that is produced in New South Wales be made available to other States. In recent years those other States have not been able to get that coal because New South Wales has fallen down on its job. The McGirr Government has not been prepared to co-operate with other State governments and the Australian Government in the production and distribution of the good coal that is to be found in New South Wales.
Motion (by Mr. Kent Hughes) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Aderm ann.)
Majority . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Kent Hughes) agreed to-
That, including the several sums already voted for such services, there he granted to His Majesty for the service of the year 1 95 1-52, for the purposes of Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, a sum not exceeding£ 98,848,000.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Mr. Kent Hughes) agreed to-
That, towards making good the Supply granted to His Majesty for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure for the year 1951-52, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum not exceeding £49,130,000.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Kent Hughes and Mr. Anthony do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Kent Hughes, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 26th September (vide page 113), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill provides for the reimbursement of the States in respect of collections of tax under the uniform income tax system, the total amount proposed to be made available for the current financial year being the record sum of £120,000,000. The increase does not represent additional payments as such but being made to offset higher costs of administration and to enable the State governments to meet the increased costs of the goods and services that they provide.
I propose to examine the circumstances under which uniform income tax was introduced during the recent war. Such an examination has become necessary in view of the repeated statement that the Chifley Labour Government was guilty of a breach of faith in having refused, after the lapse of one year following the conclusion of World War II., to return to the States taxing power that they previously exercised. For many years, income tax had been the subject of discussion and, indeed, of a major controversy, between the Commonwealth and the States. In the early days of the recent war the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden ), who was Treasurer also at that time, suggested that the States agree to abandon their ‘ right to levy income tax for the duration of the conflict. Following a conference on the matter, the States refused to accept his proposal. Finally, he brought down a proposal for the application of uniform income tax throughout Australia with the proviso that tax collections in excess of the normal collections of the States should form the famous post-war credits upon which the Government of which he was then a member was subsequently defeated. “When the Curtin Government assumed office it appointed a committee to examine this problem and that committee made certain recommendations. Subsequently, the late Mr. Chifley, who was the Treasurer of the day, asked the States to accept a formula that would give to the Commonwealth the sole right to collect income tax, the Commonwealth to undertake to vacate the income tax field insofar as the States had previously operated in it, after the lapse of one year following the conclusion of hostilities. Under that formula provision was also made for reimbursements to be made to the States on a basis that was to be mutually agreed upon between the Commonwealth and the States. The States refused to accept that proposition also.
The Commonwealth then decided to go ahead with its proposal and it instituted uniform income taxation in the face of opposition from the States, which, later, challenged the validity of the relevant legislation in the High Court. At that stage, there was an interesting development. The Curtin Labour Government had based that legislation upon the defence power of the Commonwealth. The court upheld its action and rejected the submissions of the States, not on the around that the defence power of the Commonwealth enabled the Commonwealth to levy uniform income tax hut on the ground that” the Constitution gave to the Commonwealth priority over the States in the collection of income tax.
Thus, there was no agreement which, as some honorable members still allege, was broken by the Chifley Government. The Commonwealth made no attempt to prevent the States from imposing income tax, but they would have been in an impossible position had they sought to do so, because the Commonwealth could have proceeded to collect its own tax, in respect of which it would have enjoyed priority, and, at the same time, would have been under no obligation to reimburse the States in any way whatever. Thus, the States would have been obliged to rely upon the limited revenue from income tax that they would have been able to collect after the Commonwealth had practically exhausted that source. That would have been the first, indeed the vital position that would have arisen had the States attempted to levy income tax to the degree that they had levied it previously. I emphasize that the Chifley Government did not commit a breach of any agreement with the States in this matter, because no such agreement existed. Furthermore, the States challenged the right of the Commonwealth to impose a uniform income tax. If the States had again entered the field of income taxation they would still have been obliged to seek considerable financial assistance from the Commonwealth. Whilst a reversion to the previous system would have benefited the more populous States of New South “Wales, Victoria and Queensland, the less populous States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania would have been placed in an impossible position. Thus, the facts completely refute the claim that has been made from time to time - it was repeated when the last measure of this kind was introduced - that the Chifley Labour Government broke an agreement with the States.
The Treasurer, in introducing thic measure, said that its purpose was to provide reimbursements to the States of a record total of £120,00.0,000 for the current financial year. That is approximately £33,500,000 more than the amount to which the States were entitled under the formula, that was adopted by the Chifley Government after the conclusion of the last war. That formula, which is set out for the guidance of honorable members in tho budget papers, provided for increases of the grants to the States from collections of income tax. Although these reimbursements have increased from year to year they have been far from sufficient to enable the State governments to meet the growing costs of administration. This record reimbursement of £120,000,000 is further evidence of the rising costs of all goods and services. The present inflationary conditions are jeopardizing the standing of the States within the federation, impeding their work and, indeed, placing them in a position of complete and utter dependence upon the Commonwealth. Although this is a record payment, it will not be sufficient to meet the financial needs of the States for the current financial year. The Western Australian Government, in its last budget, budgeted for a small deficit, after taking into account all the payments that the State is to receive under various headings from the Commonwealth. However, the costs have since risen to such a degree that that budget will be thrown completely off balance. The same observation applies to the budgets of the other States. That fact highlights once again the urgent responsibility of this Government to halt inflation. It also throws into bold relief the vital need for a permanent agreement between the Commonwealth and the States so as to avoid the continual wrangling and the unedifying bargaining and fighting by the States in their efforts to obtain sufficient reimbursements from the Commonwealth.
When the last measure of this kind was introduced, I suggested that the Government should, as an appropriate jubilee gesture, arrange for a conference, or a convention, for the purpose of adjusting on a permanent basis the powers, responsibilities and financial functions of the Commonwealth and the States. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has declined to take advantage of the opportunity to do so. The Government has silenced the clamour that arose even in the ranks of its own supporters, and in which the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) was prominent, to confer with the States in order to devise means whereby the States could be assured permanently that th pv would obtain sufficient- revenue to meet their budgetary requirements without having to come continually with cap in hand and plead bankruptcy and poverty in order to chisel additional revenue from the Commonwealth. The Government failed to take action in that direction. It merely called the States together and arranged to make this total reimbursement of £120,000,000 available to them for the current financial year.
– The States never thought that they would be given so much.
– I believe that the submissions that were made by the State Premiers on this subject would show that they asked for larger reimbursements.
– The States got the shock of their lives when the Commonwealth agreed to give them so much. When the States were asked whether they wished again to exercise their power to levy income tax, they immediately rejected the proposition.
– The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) is astray in regard to that matter. The Premier of Western Australia, when he was Leader of the Opposition in the Western Australian Parliament, strongly advocated that the States should revert to the system that was in operation before the uniform income tax was introduced, but when he was challenged by the then Premier of that State, Mr. Wise, who is now Administrator of the Northern Territory, he shifted his ground. Much party political capital has been made out of this issue, but I do not wish to discuss it on that level. I urge the Government to accept the advice that was tendered to it by the Opposition when the House was considering a similar bill last year. Tho Government should accept some financial responsibility for the particularly heavy items of expenditure in the budgets of the States. The heaviest item, of course, is the cost of social services. The Commonwealth has budgeted for a record expenditure on social services during the current financial year, but, according to the reports of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, the heaviest item of expenditure of the States is also the cost of social services, which include education. The second major item of their expenditure is the cost of rail services.
When the House was considering the States Grants (Special Financial Assistance) Bill last year, I suggested that the Commonwealth should accept responsibility for a major part of the cost of education and railways. The cost of administration and the capital cost of education in the States is increasing almost daily. Expenditure on education imposes a terrific strain upon the budgets of the States and I believe that, as a national venture, the Commonwealth should take a much more active interest in that matter, and accept a fair share of the financial burden. Notwithstanding the arguments that were advanced by the Prime Minister in a recent debate, the financial assistance that is given by the Commonwealth to the States at the present time does not relieve them of the growing cost of education under their ordinary curricula. The Commonwealth makes provision only for education at the university level. I hope that a reasonable agreement will be reached between the Commonwealth and the States in accordance with which the Commonwealth will accept a major share of the financial responsibility for education. When I make that statement, I do not mean that education should be wholly controlled by, and be the complete responsibility of, the Commonwealth. Every one who has studied the problem realizes that the best system of education is that which is completely decentralized. Therefore, while I believe that the decentralization of education should always be our objective, I consider that a substantial measure of the financial responsibility for it should he accepted by the National Parliament.
The second major item of expenditure by the States is the cost of their transport systems, which are a vital factor in the welfare of this country in peace-time and in war-time. The Commonwealth should take an active interest in the improvement of the railways. It is regrettable that progress has not been made with the standardization of railway gauges.
– Western Australia does not favour the standardization of railway gauges.
– Western Australia is in favour of it, but not on the financial terms that were proposed.
– Hear, hear! Western Australia wanted standardization foi nothing.
– The railway systems of Australia are a vital element in the development of the countryside. It was never intended that they should return profits. Many lines were constructed for developmental purposes, and unprofitable lines make a constant drain upon the finances of the States. The Commonwealth, by accepting some of the financial responsibility for State railways, would not be a kind of fairy godmother. At the present time, production is hampered and transport is made more difficult by, and many disabilities result from, a transport system that is below modern standards. In war-time, such a system can restrict the defence effort and thereby cause frightful losses. The series of different railway gauges seriously impedes the transport of men and materials. Parts of the Australian railway systems are almost obsolete. Therefore, the Commonwealth, from the standpoint of defence and development, should accept a large share of the financial responsibility for the railway systems of the States.
The only way in which those complex problems can be solved is for the representatives of the Commonwealth and States to meet in conference, and discuss them in a spirit of co-operation and conciliation. I am rather dismayed by the tendency of this Government to adopt a “ stand-over “ attitude towards the State governments. The Commonwealth has told them that they must realize that they cannot do this, but must do that. Such an approach is not likely to produce an effective working partnership between them. I believe that, in the fullness of time, the National Parliament will be vested with wider powers than it now possesses. For the present, however, it i3 clear that it is practically impossible to secure a major alteration of the Constitution that would clear the way for this Parliament to be clothed with greater powers. In those circumstances, we must do the best we can to allow the federal system of government, which does not make for maximum efficiency, to work as well as it possibly can. I believe that the Prime Minister should invite the six Premiers to confer with him. He should not summon them peremptorily, as I understand he proposes to do next January, and tell them that they can have only a certain sum of money and that the Commonwealth, with its superior power and influence, simply will not allow them to have more than that amount to provide the services that they wish to provide for the people. If the States are invited to attend such a conference as I have described their problems should be discussed sympathetically, and an attempt should be made to establish a better working partnership between the Commonwealth and themselves than exists at the present time.
Every conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers seems to follow the same pattern. The representatives of the States ask for a certain sum, and the Commonwealth offers them less. After an undignified wrangle, the Premiers are sent back to their Parliaments with sums that are not sufficient to meet their budgetary needs. They then budget for small deficits, as the Premier of Western Australia has done. Those small deficits probably become large deficits as the costs of goods and services increase as a result of the inflationary conditions. . The Commonwealth, at the end of the financial year, grudgingly doles out more money to enable the States to meet their deficits. To date, Commonwealth Ministers have not appeared willing to meet the Premiers on such a basis, but I urge them to make the approach that I have suggested because I believe that excellent results would accrue from a conference that was held in an atmosphere of conciliation and co-operation.
Under the tax reimbursement formula, the States will receive approximately £86,000,000, but an additional £33,000,000 is to be granted to them during this financial year. In terms of money, that seems to be a great deal, but it probably will not meet their needs. The apportionment on this occasion, as the Treasurer has pointed out, is a com promise between the tax reimbursement formula and payment on a population basis, as some Premiers have advocated. Substantial payments will be made to New South Wales and Queensland, in which the rates of State income tax were high at the time of the introduction of the uniform income tax. A relatively small payment will be made to Victoria, in which the rates of State income tax were low at that time. Western Australia will receive a much larger sura than was collected from State income tax, but the total payment will be only sufficient to meet the costs of goods and services. I believe that the apportionment of revenues between the Commonwealth and the States should be revised, but such a matter should be considered in an atmosphere of cooperation and conciliation. In that way, a long-term solution of the varying demands and needs of the States may be achieved.
No financial provision that is made, no tax reimbursement formula that is devised, and no sum that is provided, can achieve a satisfactory longterm solution of the problem of the relations between the Commonwealth and the States while the present runaway inflation continues. Unless positive action is taken to reduce the cost of living, and the heavy costs to the States of goods and services, the payments by the Commonwealth to them will increase from year to year, and. indeed, during each financial year. It is clear that the heaviest responsibility that rests upon the Commonwealth is the need to take positive action to halt the rising cost of living. Let this Government give effect to its preelection promise in 1949 to put value back into the £1. Unfortunately, the Government has not yet taken positive action, other than that of presenting its mis-named “ courageous “ budget to the Parliament, to achieve that result. In the interests of Commonwealth and State administration, and, indeed, of national solvency, this Government must take action quickly. The growing problems of Commonwealth and State administration must be solved. They definitely should not he permitted to become more complex. The time will arrive when the high artificial standards of to-day will give place to comparatively normal conditions as we knew them a few years ago, and that movement will involve some measure of adjustment downwards, which will involve dislocation and hardship. Should a collapse take place, all the misery that has accompanied other business recessions will again be experienced. The Government should discuss with the Premiers the complex problems of Commonwealth and State administration. Let this Government bring the representatives of the States together, and devise a working basis on which the many conflicting views can be reconciled. The Commonwealth and the States should work together in a much more harmonious partnership than has been the case in recent times.
The Opposition does not oppose this bill. However. I warn the Government that this legislation will be only the forerunner of a number of measures to grant assistance to the States unless the suggestions that I have made are adopted. If a satisfactory agreement with the States 13 not reached, there can be no escape from the unhappy atmosphere in which the representatives of the Commonwealth and the States almost invariably meet.
– I am pleased to support the bill, which provides for the distribution to the States of a considerable sum from the Commonwealth Treasury. These grants are made possible under the terms of an agreement with the States and, whatever the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) may say, hu should realize that it is a legal agreement that has been upheld by the courts.
– Mr. Speaker, I direct your attention to the state of the House.
– I have been keeping a count. There has not been a quorum present since I returned to the chamber. There are nine honorable members on my right and eleven on my left. Ring the bells.
– Eleven Labourites and nine Government supporters.
– Order ! No comment is necessary. The facts speak for themselves. [Quorum, formed.’]
– The lack of a quorum was probably occasioned by the tiresome remarks of the honorable member for Perth, prompted by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). I am happy to have the opportunity to support the proposed grants to the States for which the bill provides, because they represent the greatest in ea sure of assistance ever extended to the States by any Australian Government. If the uniform tax system be wrong in principle, as the honorable member for Perth has claimed, I point out that it was in existence throughout the term of office of the Labour governments that he supported. Those governments continued to uphold the agreement and resisted all the efforts of the State governments to abrogate it with the object of regaining their former taxing rights. Under the terms of the formula in the agreement, the payments from the Commonwealth Treasury to the States this year under the act would amount to £86,443,000. But the Government wisely and generously realizes that this would not be sufficient to provide for the reasonable requirements of the States, and it has agreed to add to that total a further amount of £33,557,000. I hope that before long some new agreement will be reached between the States and the Commonwealth so that the Treasurers of tha States will not have to form a sort of rugby scrum in Canberra each year in an endeavour to squeeze as much as they can out of the Commonwealth Treasury. Some reasonable plan that would be satisfactory to all the governments concerned should be propounded. I trust also that the Australian Government will notify the States in clear terms that it will not hold itself responsible for any unnecessarily large deficits that may bc caused by the negligence of their governments
The grants that are made to the States in the ordinary way under the terms of the agreement each year are supplemented from time to time by additional payments. I urge now that a supplementary grant be made available for the assistance of Queensland primary producers who are suffering from the effects of a dreadful drought. This disaster is taking great toll of the resources of
Queensland and already has caused tremendous losses of stock and. crops. Dairy production has dwindled to a dangerously low level, milk even being rationed, and the herds of many unfortunate dairy-farmers and small graziers have been considerably reduced and, in some instances, completely wiped out. I ask the Government to approach the Government of Queensland with an offer of assistance to combat the effects of the drought. I make this special appeal because in the past Victoria and New South Wales have received large sums from the Commonwealth in times of drought. I instance the drought of 1947. On one occasion, the Commonwealth paid onehalf of £1,734,000 on a £l-for-£l basis with the Government of New South Wales in order to provide special relief for grain and dairy-farmers in that State, and provided substantial assistance to Victoria at the same time. The situation of Queensland farmers to-day is probably more serious than it has ever been, and I sincerely hope that the State Government will be willing to co-operate with this Government in any reasonable scheme to succour them. Stock-owners have already sustained grave financial losses because of the necessity to purchase fodder for their beasts. The prospect ahead is very grave in respect of both the cattle and cane industries. The Government of Queensland does not support the policy of making grants to drought-stricken farmers. It has consistently resisted attempts by governments of the Commonwealth to render aid in that way in times of emergency. On the 13th May, 1947, at page 2273 of volume 191, Hansard recorded that the Prime Minister of the day, Mr. Chifley, informed the Premier of Queensland that his Government was willing to assist the State Government by granting funds on a £1- for-£l basis in order to help primary producers in drought-stricken areas. He pointed out, in reply to complaints by Mr. Hanlon, that the assistance that had been given to the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria was equally available to Queensland. The only form of government aid that is given to Queensand farmers in times of drought is in the form of loans at a low rate of interest that are made available through co-operative societies. For instance, a sum may be distributed through a co-operative butter factory, which is held responsible for the eventual repayment of the loan. The society is faced with the problem of recovering payments from drought-menaced producers, for fodder supplied.
Governments of New South Wales and Victoria have made at various times unconditional grants to farmers in adverse seasons, and I ask this Government now to urge the Government of Queensland to adopt the same procedure so as to permit Commonwealth assistance to be given. At the same time, it should offer Commonwealth aid on a £l-for-£l basis. In 1947, the New South Wales Government and the Australian Government provided nearly £2,000,000 for cereal growers and dairy-farmers on the basis of acreage and production. No request for such aid was made at that time by the Queensland Government. Mr. Chifley pointed out that, in a letter to Mr. Hanlon, he had outlined the Australian Government’s attitude to drought relief generally and had explained what had happened in connexion with the New South Wales drought relief scheme for the dairying industry. He said he had informed Mr. Hanlon that, if the Queensland Government cared to submit a considered scheme of drought relief for Queensland dairymen, the Australian Government would lie pleased to give full consideration to it. All that I ask this Government to do is to give to the Queensland Government the opportunity to co-operate in a joint scheme for the assistance of the struggling primary producers of Queensland on a 50-50 basis. The State Government at least will be fully aware of the dire effects of the debacle that has overtaken men on the land in the drought region and could advise what sections require assistance. I urge this Government to try to induce it to amend its policy in the interests of producers who are suffering from the effects of drought to-day. I hope that the Commonwealth will act quickly and will try to persuade the State to prepare a scheme for the. provision of assistance to those who will suffer, and, indeed, are suffering, loss and destruction.
Mr. KEON (Yarra) [10.11.- The first point that arises from this bill is that the
Government’s policy in relation to inflation is rapidly reducing to complete and absolute chaos the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States and between the States and local governing bodies. The necessity to repeat the special grant that was made to the States last year on account of an increase of the basic wage is, I suppose, largely due to the fact that the wages bills of the States have increased tremendously. It is quite obvious that, unless the Government is able to check inflation and to prevent ever-increasing wage rises, it will be absolutely impossible to achieve any degree of stability in the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States.
I express my regret at the fact that in this bill no provision is made for the allocation of additional money to Victoria in order to offset the damage that has been done by the reduction of the Victorian Government’s loan programme.
– Another £1,400.000 has been made available to Victoria.
– This Government, having reduced the Victorian loan programme from £76,000,000 to £53,000,000, with the result that work upon many essential power, fuel and irrigation projects has been retarded or has ceased, now tells us that it hopes to repair that damage by giving Victoria £1,400,000. That small allocation is a recognition by the Government and by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) that Victoria’s case is sound. It is a recognition of the harm that has been done to Victoria and to Australia in general by the reduction of the Victorian loan programme.
– Why did Mr. McDonald agree to it?
– Why did passengers on coaches agree to Ned Kelly taking their purses? They had no option. Consent to the reduction of the Victorian loan programme was wrung from the Victorian Premier at the Loan Council meeting. He was presented with the ultimatum that if he did not agree to it, no decision could be reached, in which event a formula would have been applied under which all the States would have got much less money than they required. He was blackmailed and bulldozed by the Commonwealth into accepting the reduction.
Irrespective of Mr. McDonald’s decision at the Loan Council meeting, the stark, simple fact is that, as a result of the reduction, vital irrigation works have been held up. The Victorian State Rivers and Water Supply Commission has been forced to abandon work upon a number of projects that are well on the way towards completion and which, within the next few years, could be irrigating land for the production of the vitally needed food about which honorable gentlemen opposite have talked so much during the last few days. Irrespective of what Mr. McDonald did or did not do at the meeting of the Loan Council, the simple fact is that the result of the loan cut has been to impede the progress of vital schemes such as the Latrobe Valley power and fuel project and the Kiewa project. If honorable members opposite believe that Mr. McDonald supported the proposal to reduce Victoria’s allocation of loan moneys, now that they have evidence of the effect of the reduction they should be saying that he acted wrongly in agreeing to it, and that the Government should be making provision for Victoria to receive at least three-quarters of the sum of which it has been deprived.
– What about Queensland?
– In Victoria, a number of irrigation, power and fuel projects are near completion, or have nearly reached a point at which they could begin to produce. That is not true of most of the projects of the other States. Acting under the time-table of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), which is based upon the assumption that we have only until 1954 to prepare for war, Victoria went ahead only with projects which, before 1954, either could have been completed or would have reached the stage at which they would be capable of irrigating land or of producing fuel and power. Acting under the Prime Minister’s declaration of urgency, and influenced by his statement that we had no more than three years in which to prepare for war, the Victorian Government entered into heavy commitments overseas for the purchase of houses, equipment and materials.
The result was that when the State’s loan allocation was reduced, of the ?53,000,000 that was available to it ?47,500,000 was earmarked to honour contracts that could not be broken. Therefore, thewages of the men employed upon irrigation, power and fuel projects could no longer be paid, and the men had to be dismissed. If it be asked why the Victorian Government entered into those contracts, the answer can be given in the words of the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), who was Minister for National Development in February, 1951. A press report published on the 12th February reads as follows: -
” FIVE YEARS’ SHORTAGE OF POWER,” CASEY WARNS.
“Must Order Plant.”
Canberra, Sunday. - A warning that New South Wales and Victoria would beshort of electric power for at least five years unless large orders were placed for plant, was given to-night by the Minister of Development (Mr. Casey) .
It would he very difficult to obtain this plant in the next few years, he said.
Mr. Casey was defending the Government’s action;
– Order! The honorable gentleman must not refer to a Minister by name.
– I am reading from a newspaper report that mentions the right honorable gentleman by name.However, in reading the remainder of the report I shall refer to him as the Minister for National Development. The report continued as follows : -
The Minister for National Development was defending the Government’s action in proceeding with the Snowy River Scheme which, he paid, was sometimes publicly questioned.
Acting on the advice of a member of this Government and also on the advice of the committee on power that has been established by the Commonwealth and the States, the Victorian Government entered into heavy commitments overseas for the purchase of machinery and materials. The Victorian Housing Commission, acting on the advice of this
Government that if it did not obtain what it required this year or next year it would not obtain it at all, entered into contracts worth millions of pounds for the purchase of prefabricated houses from overseas. I repeat that when the loan cut was made Victoria found that of the ?53,000,000 that was available to it. ?47,000,000was earmarked for expenditure upon commitments that had been incurred solely as a result of the timetable laid down by the Prime Minister and the urgings of various Ministers in this Government.
I notice that the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Interior, in replying to the criticisms that Mr. McDonald has made of the loan cut, have made no reference to the fact that the Victorian Government had to enter into those commitments if it wanted to obtain materials for power and housing projects. The Minister for the Interior, when hewas Minister for Railways in the Victorian Government,was most emphatic that contracts should be entered into for the purchase from overseas of diesel loco motives and other equipment that the Victorian railways required. Some of the commitments that the Victorian Government has to meet from the ?53,000,000 of loan moneys that has been allocated to it were entered into by him at that time. The honorable gentleman committed the Victorian Government and the Victorian Railways Commissioners to the purchase of a considerable quantity of equipment. In relation to transport in Victoria, and, doubtless, also in relation to power, fuel and irrigation projects in that State, his policywas, “ Buy now and let the future take care of itself”. That being so, I should have thought that the honorable gentleman, knowing thatwork upon many irrigation, power and fuel projects in that State has been retarded or has ceased completely as a result of the loan cut,would have used his influence in the Cabinet to secure further financial assistance for Victoria.
This Government, having told the people, through the voice of the Prime Minister, thatwe have no more than three years in which to prepare forwar, that ifwewant equipment from Europewe must obtain it before the European nations swing over to a complete war economy, and that increased production of power and food is essential to enable us to gird ourselves for war, then drastically cuts the loan programme of the Victorian Government.
– That is nonsense. The Commonwealth reduced its own loan allocation.
– Order! The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) is entirely out of order in interjecting from a seat other than his own.
– Unlike honorable gentlemen opposite, I am not so much interested in apportioning blame as I am in trying to ensure that work shall be started again upon the power, fuel and irrigation projects. For heaven’s sake, let the Government do something to provide Victoria with the finance that it needs to get work upon those projects going again. I am not interested in who is to blame - Mr. McDonald, the Prime Minister or the Minister for the Interior. [ am interested only in trying to ensure that work shall begin again upon power projects that are essential to our defence effort, and upon vital irrigation projects that must be completed before we can produce sufficient food in this country to feed our growing population.
Already irreparable harm has been done to many of those projects. The Utah Construction Company, which is building the Eildon dam, has a contract with the Victorian Government, which has had to use loan moneys to honour the contract. Therefore, work upon that project has proceeded and not much damage has been done to it. But work upon the Rocklands dam and various other projects of the Victorian State Rivers and Water Supply Commission throughout Victoria, many of which were approach!”.”; completion, has had to be drastically curtailed or in many cases completely abandoned.
The State Electricity Commission, as the result of an appeal to people in country areas who hope to have electricity supplies made available to them, has been able to raise some money to fina nf e its work in those areas. Surely the Minister for the Interior realizes how necessary it is for electric power to be made available in country areas if the production of food in this country is to equate consumption. I appeal to him. It is st:ll not too late for the Victorian members of the Cabinet and of the Liberal and
Australian Country parties here to see that the Government shall provide finance to allow those projects to be carried on again. I am sorry that the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) is not in the chamber at the moment, because questions that he asks occasionally in the House seem to show that his conscience is stirring, particularly when he sees in and round his electorate the results of the reduction of Victoria’s loan allocation. I hope that he and other honorable members, including Ministers, in the ranks of the Government parties will raise their voices about this matter. Let us stop worrying about who is to blame. I have no doubt myself that the Commonwealth is entirely to blame.
– That is not true.
– Let us agree to differ on that point. The honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) believes that Mr. McDonald is to blame. I say that it is this Government that is to blame.
– The Loan Council had to cut the finance.
– Order! There are too many interjections.
– Having agreed to differ on the question of who is to blame, there is at least one matter on which both sides will have to agree. That is, the harm that is being done to projects in Victoria that are vital for defence and development, as a result of the loan cut. There cannot be any argument about that. Having reached agreement on that point-
– Who said we had ?
– Undoubtedly we have. Is the honorable member challenging the fact that provision of money for these projects in Victoria has been affected by the loan cuts?
– Yes, definitely.
– The people of Victoria and the people in your own electorate who cannot obtain houses will be very interested to hear that statement, because the Victorian Housing Commission has had such severe cuts in its loan allocation as a result of this Government’s action-
– Order! There are too many interjections. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) must address the Chair.
– The people in the electorate of Isaacs who cannot obtain houses, and whose hope of obtaining them will be deferred as a. result of this Government’s action in cutting the Victorian loan allocation, will be amazed to hear their representative in this Parliament saying that the loan cut has had no effect on the Victorian housing programme.
– And it has not had, either. This is a mere party political stunt.
– Does the honorable member mean to tell us that the chairman of the Victorian Housing Commission is a man who tells lies in official reports, and tries to mislead the Victorian Government? Mr. O’Connor has no reason to lie. There is no reason why he should say that be has to reduce his housing programme because of the loan cut unless that is true. Mr. East, the chairman of the Victorian State Rivers and Water Supply Commission, has no reason to tell the Parliament and the people of Victoria that work on his projects has been delayed because he has been unable to get the necessary loan moneys. Yet the honorable member tells its that these statements are untrue. Is he trying to tell us that thi chairman of the Victorian State Electricity Commission and other State authorities-
Mr. Haworth interjecting,
– Order! The honorable member for Isaacs is interjecting too much.
– It is quite obvious that the Government is on unsafe ground in connexion with this matter. It realizes that it is on the spot. It is not good enough for it to pass the blame on to Mr. McDonald. The people want more than just buck-passing. They want action taken so that labour can he reemployed on these projects and that the drift already started can in some way be halted. It is still not too late to prevent the worst happening in relation to those projects. I appeal to the Minister for the Interior, who comes from Victoria, to do something about it. He had the administration of the railways as a Minister in the Victorian Government, and urged upon that Government a policy of buying up machinery abroad whenever it was available, and bringing in prefabricated houses before Europe’s economy became geared to arms production more strictly than it is now.
One of the Minister’s main claims to distinction in the Victorian Government was “ Operation Snail “, under which he intended to bring out British railwaymen complete with their homes on their backs. Victoria has gained as a result of what I would describe as his courageous advocacy that the Victorian Government should enter into contracts abroad and let the future take care of itself. The plan that he propagated in Victoria for the acquisition of machinery while it was still available overseas meant that Victoria has been able to obtain a great deal of material that it would not have been able to obtain otherwise. In continuance of that policy the Victorian Government entered into other contracts for power-houses and machinery, only to find that, having done so, the Australian Government, which talks about keeping defence projects going, has withheld the finance necessary to meet those commitments. I have read the Prime Minister’s statement about the matter in the Sydney Morning Herald’s financial review. He blamed Mr. McDonald for the loan cuts. He said that, in fact, his Government had been most generous to Victoria, and that the loan market was not favorable, but he entirely ignored the fact that Victoria now finds itself in the position that, having entered into commitments to obtain materials which will not be obtainable next year, the source of finance to pay for them has been shut off.
T should have thought that in this bill to provide for an increased grant to the Victorian Government, something would have been done to correct the position. However, nothing has been done and the hold-up of the Kiewa schemes and the development of the La Trobe Valley schemes, both fuel and power, will continue. Above all, and I think that this is the worst feature, the Government’s action will result in the delay and closing down of irrigation projects which otherwise would have been operating in the next two years. The blame for what has happened rests fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the Liberal and Australian Country parties, and more particularly on the Victorian members of those parties. I hope that as the days go by, before finally damage which cannot be corrected is done, the Government will be prepared to increase Victoria’s financial allocation. This miserly gesture of £1,400,000 in view of the loan cut of £20,000,000, will certainly not meet the situation. I appeal to the Minister for the Interior, and to every honorable member opposite who has any sense of responsibility, to urge the Prime Minister and the Government to act in that direction. I urge every one of them who believes that the Prime Minister meant what he said when he told us that we have only until 1954 to prepare ourselves against the threat of war, to see that the harm that has already been done, not only to Victorian development but also to Australian development generally as a result of the Victorian loan cuts, will be alleviated by a Commonwealth grant. Never mind who is to blame. Let us agree to differ about that. But we all should agree that something has to be done to prevent the worst happening to those projects. It is still not too late to act. and I hope that as a result of my statements and of representations made to the Government, and of the Minister for the Interior’s own knowledge of tho facts, Victoria will receive from the Government in the near future a substantial allocation which will enable it to restart those projects.
.- I have been most interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon). There was nobody in the Victorian Parliament in my day, and there is no Victorian politician, either Federal or State, more astute in reading political barometers than is the honorable member for Yarra, whose eyes are cast down. He knows quite well that his protege in the Labour party in Victoria, the Victorian Premier, has not only overplayed his hand lately, but has also lost a terrific lot of prestige. He has furthermore been playing his bagpipes so much that there is nothing but wind and wail left in them, and so it is necessary for the honorable member for Yarra to try here to restore some of his proteges lost prestige. It was the Loan Council which cut the loan allocations, but the honorable member for Yarra contends that it was this Government. He has tried to excuse the Premier of Victoria for voting at the Loan Council meeting for the loan cuts about which he is now complaining. The Premier of Victoria said at Yallourn a few days ago that because two of the States, Western Australia and South Australia, intended to vote for the loan cuts, he thought that he had better vote for them also.
– In order to get what he could, of course.
– Of course meetings of the Loan Council are held in camera, but that does not seem to make any difference to Mr. McDonald, so we might as well be clear and above board about the matter. The- Premier of Victoria said clearly - and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) can read his statement in the Morwell News or the Yallourn Times if he cares to do so - then because Western Australia and South Australia were going to vote for a loan programme of £225,000,000 instead of £300,000,000, he had decided to vote similarly. Of course, the Commonwealth has only two votes and if only two States had voted for the cut it would have meant that the voting would have been equal.
– The formula would then have applied.
– No; that is the point that I am coming to. As a result of an equal vote, the Commonwealth would have had to use its casting vote, and then the Premier of Victoria could have said that it was the Commonwealth’s casting vote that had caused the loan cuts to be made. Can any one seriously tell me that an astute politician like Mr. McDonald did not know that fact before the vote was taken? Any honorable member who says that is telling the electors a bed-time story-
– If Mr. McDonald made a mistake at the Loan Council he is entitled to correct it now.
– What I ask Mr. McDonald is, whether the voting was five-three or six-two.
– The Minister got out just in time.
– Got out of what? Out of buying a teledex? I should like to ask the Premier of Victoria whether the voting was six-two or five- three.
– Why does not the Minister ask him?
– I am asking him now in public, which is a much better way than asking him in private, because then the public will hear the truth. The voting was five to three as he avers. It was therefore Mr. McDonald’s vote which put the responsibility on his own shoulders and on nobody else’s. Therefore al] this nonsense about the Australian Government having ordered the cuts falls to the ground. If the Premiers had all been against this Government they would have outvoted it by six to two. They could have decided to raise £300,000,000 of loan funds if they had so chosen. The Commonwealth did not stop them from doing so. The Premiers had the matter in their own hands and apparently the majority of them, like sensible people, examined the position of the loan market and decided that it would not be good for them to start expending on the basis of £300,000,000 annually, because they would expend £150,000,000 in the first six months and would then find that they had no more funds and would be faced with chaos.
– You had a prior meeting with Tom Playford, and had it all cooked up beforehand.
– It is not “ What’s cookin’, good-lookin’ ? “ in the honorable member’s case. The Commonwealth told the Premiers after they had decided that the loan funds to be raised should total £225,000,000, that it believed that it would he possible to raise only £150,000,000 and, in order to prevent chaos, it was willing to underwrite the balance. We have had that argument out on the budget and I do not propose to bring it up again. This was the first time in the history of the Loan Council that such an offer had been made, yet the honorable member for Yarra had the audacity to say that the Australian Government had cut Victorian loan funds ! I should like the honorable member and all honorable members to look at the graph that I have in my hand and to observe the rate at which the loan expenditure in New South Wales and Victoria has increased in the last two years. It has risen much faster than has inflation. The Victorian Government was told, first, that it would not be able to expend the amount it had asked for even if it received it; and, secondly, that the necessary funds were not available in the loan market.
For the first time in history, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer considered that, in view of the bad treatment Victoria had received under the formula that had been agreed to by Mr. McDonald’s previous political mentor. Sir Albert Dunstan, they would alter the amount to be allocated over and above the formula in order to permit Victoria to receive an additional £1.400.000. This is the gratitude that the Prime Minister and the Government have received from Victoria for having given that State, with the consent of the other Premiers, the best deal that Victoria has had from the Loan Council.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) said that members of the Loan Council had haggled and that the Premiers had quarrelled with the representatives of this Government. As a matter of fact, it was the first conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers that I have attended at which the Premiers, on being informed of the amount which the Federal Government proposed to make available from revenue, did not voice disagreement with any real sincerity. A couple of face-saving remarks were passed. At other similar conferences I have heard a Labour Prime Minister say that the vote was in the affirmative, but the decision was in the negative. On this occasion it was obvious by the looks on the faces of the Premiers that they had received considerably more than they had expected. The criticism of the honorable member for Yarra is very strange although I can understand his perturbation. I know that he is worried because certain projects in Victoria have had to be stopped.
The socialistic, overweaning ambitions of the Labour party in Victoria caused it to agree to Mr. McDonald’s Government taking office with thirteen members in a House of 65. The Labour party then pushed the Premier into nationalizing the gas company. The price which the gas company was permitted to charge was kept down until the company could not carry on. Then it was nationalized and the price jumped. Last year, £2,500,000 was expended by the Victorian Government in the purchase of the gas company, and it was proposed to expend an additional £2,800,000 under this year’s programme. Neither of those amounts includes the cost of the material that has been ordered overseas in order to produce gas from brown coal. The production of gas from brown coal is a very laudable object, but I warned the Victorian Government that if it incurred high expenditure on the installation of plant at the new open-cut at Morwell before the out was producing and before the two new briquette factories had been erected and had commenced operations in 1954, there would be confusion in the conduct of operations at Morwell.
Perhaps I am speaking in an egotistical strain, but it is because the honorable member for Yarra cited me and said that I was responsible for the present state of affairs. It had been laid down by the Victorian Government of which I was a member that the first priority should be given to fuel, transport and power, and I think that most honorable members will agree that those requirements should have the most urgent priorities. If the Victorian Government had observed those priorities instead of wasting money on the nationalization of the gas company, it would not be in the difficulties that it is in to-day. When the Dunstan Government, backed by the Labour party, was in office it allowed the railways to get into such a poor state of repair and it grossly underestimated the volume of power per unit that was required. It was not until the Hollway Government came into office at the end of 1949 that the State Electricity Commission received the shake-up that it should have received long before.
Millions of pounds has been wasted on the Kiewa Valley scheme, which I trust will not be wasted on the Snowy Mountains scheme. Does the honorable member for Yarra know that if the race lines have to be cemented in, as I consider they will be, the cost per kilowatt of power produced by the race line part of the Kiewa Valley scheme will be much higher than the cost per kilowatt of brown coal generation at Yallourn? Does he know how much was expended in order to keep the road open from Rocky Valley to Pretty Valley? The original scheme was sound, but the expenditure on the race lines will be found to be uneconomical and that part of the scheme will have to be abandoned.
The railway authorities in Victoria have not been without blame. They ordered NT class engines, which were too large for the turntables in Victoria and, therefore, sold some to South Australia. A lot of mistakes have been made by the heads of Victorian departments, and before they start criticizing the Australian Government for not providing sufficient loan money they should ascertain how much loan money has been wasted in the past by their own departments. The provision of more loan money for Victoria would have to be approved by the Loan Council, and if such a proposal were made every other State would want simliar treatment. The Premier of Victoria and every other Premier knows that. At the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers the Commonwealth was able to control the distribution of the £33,000,000 it was providing over and above the formula amount and, with the consent of the other Premiers, it treated Victoria very well. Victoria received about £1,400,000 more than it had received under any previous distribution. Honorable members should not forget that the Loan Council has to consider the needs of all the States. It would not be right to classify hydroelectric undertakings in Victoria as defence works without doing so with hydro-electric undertakings in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. lt was nonsensical of the Premier of Victoria to speak as he did. I excuse the honorable member for Yarra, because hi3 motive was to restore the fallen prestige of his “ Charlie McCarthy’s dummy “ in Victoria.
– The Minister cannot accuse me of that.
– The honorable member for Yarra and I have been in many political contests. We know each other’s form, and we know a good deal of each other’s methods.
– What a horrible revelation !
– Our association has been, on the whole, a pleasant one. The honorable member for Yarra has plenty of political courage, but on this occasion he had to try to make a good case out of very bad material.
– I have been told that the Minister has yet to score his first win.
– I advise the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) not to enter the contest. There is a difference of opinion, I understand, between “ progressive “ Labour and the Australian Labour party, and between the opinions held by the honorable member for Yarra and those held by the honorable member for East Sydney. The honorable member for Yarra must realize that all the States have equal rights in the eyes of the Commonwealth. The.y all must receive their just share of revenue under the formula, and under the financial agreement, which provided for the setting up of the Loan Council. The argument of the Premier of Victoria was fallacious, and will convince no one.
Mr. MINOGUE (West Sydney) TlO.44]. - This is the most important matter which has come before the Parliament during the present session. All previous speakers, whether Liberal or Labour, have concentrated on advocating the interests of their own States. The honorable member for Yarra. (Mr. Keon) and the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Kent Hughes) discussed the tonic of the allocation of loan money to Victoria, which has been debated in this chamber four of five times already. I am sorry to have to point out that the State that matters most, but which is treated worst, is New South Wales, and it has received no mention here to-night. The Minister for Works and Housing made some ridiculous statements. He said that the Commonwealth had given so much to New South Wales, and so much to the other States, and they all ought to be satisfied. If the Government of New South Wales could retain all the revenue that is raised in that State, and could act independently of the Commonwealth and of the other States, there would be no need for its Premier to come to Canberra and beg for more money. Because certain promises about the payment of subsidies were broken, New South Wales received only £47,000,000. as against £36,000,000 last year, and we have been told that New South Wales ought to be well satisfied. However, if the present £1 is worth only 5s. in prewar money, how can it be claimed that New South Wales should be satisfied when its grant is increased by only £11,000,000 ?
A progressive housing scheme was inaugurated in New South Wales by the Premier, Mr. McGirr, and one of his Ministers, Mr. Clive Evatt. The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), who is an estate agent, and knows how hard it is to get a home, should have had the decency to tell the Government that New South Wales has not been treated properly. A year ago, I said that the Commonwealth should inaugurate a national housing scheme, and the strongest opposition to my proposal, both privately and publicly, came from the honorable member for Bennelong. Last week, he said the long-haired professors who are attached to the Liberal party were responsible for the economic ills of the Commonwealth. The honorable member comes from New South Wales, which, however one looks at it, remains the pivot of the Commonwealth in respect to defence, production, population and revenue. The honorable member for Bennelong, from the beginning to the end of his speech, merely condemned the McGirr Government in New South Wales. He called the workers
Communists, and condemned the coalminers. I was at one time a member of a county council of which the honorable member for Bennelong was chairman. On one occasion we visited a mine in the Burragorang Valley, and decided to go underground, but when we got down below, with our lamps in our hands, the honorable member confessed to me that he did not think that we would ever get out alive. The honorable member for Bennelong had me by the heel as we were coming up on the belt-
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - Order! I do not think that this matter has any relation to the bill.
– You, Mr. Speaker, allowed the honorable member for Bennelong to speak about matters such as this, and I suggest that what was good enough for him is good enough for me.
– Order ! The honorable member for Bennelong has not made a speech in the House on this measure. The honorable member cannot now speak about any speech that he made in committee.
– We inspected the mine, and at that time we considered that as war was imminent it would become a useful defence project. When we returned to Sydney the honorable member for Bennelong decided that we should call on the members of the New South Wales Government and tell them our story. That was in spite of his apparent Communist antagonisms. There was a Communist cell at Bunnerong power station, and in the transport section every time I tried to expose it and get the honorable member for Bennelong to do something about it in the Sydney County Council, the first thing that he used to do was to ask the press to leave the room.
– This is a bill to provide financial assistance to the States. The past history of the honorable member for Bennelong and certain county councils is not germane to the discussion of the bill.
– Previous grants of money made to New South Wales have been so squandered that that State has been left without houses, electricity and gas. At the time about which I am speaking there was a strike at the
Bunnerong power station. That was brought about because certain groups of workmen had to travel from Sydney Central Station to Bunnerong, some 2^ miles away, and we suggested that they should get travelling time. However, the honorable member for Bennelong put scabs into Bunnerong-
– Order ! I cannot allow the honorable member to proceed in this way. He is speaking of matters that are completely outside the scope of the debate now proceeding. The measure before the House is to provide money for the present financial year for the six States. What happened a few years ago with regard to Bunnerong or Bennelong is not a subject for discussion now.
– I am disappointed that the amount of money allotted to New South Wales is not very much larger. It has been stated time and time again in this House that the only way to defeat communism is to ensure that people are well fed and well housed. I suggest that the Australian Government should build homes for the people who should be allowed to purchase them on payment of a small deposit. They could then pay off the balance of the purchase price. The interest should be no more than 2 per cent. There is no possibility of doing any such thing in New South Wales because the grant of ?47,000,000 is quite inadequate. Every young man and young woman in this country who wants to get married should be supplied by the Government with a home. Men who are lucky enough to be employees of the Commonwealth Bank are allowed sufficient finance, at the moderate interest rate of 2-? per cent., to build themselves homes. If it is good enough for such persons to be granted finance on those terms it is good enough for the workers. The Government should guarantee every engaged couple that twelve months after they become engaged they will receive a home. That should be done as a matter of policy, and also as the cost of furnishing and setting up a home is almost prohibitive at the present time and leaves nothing over for young couples to pay as a deposit on a house of their own. Moreover, each married couple should be paid ?50 on the birth of each child-
– Not enough.
– I am surprised because the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) has for once supported me. After the thirteenth child is born to any married couple, the Government should ensure that thirteen is no longer an unlucky number by making over the home free of any further charge to the father of the family. Such a policy would ensure the population of our country with far better people than we could ever get through an immigration policy.
– Order ! The honorable member is again speaking of matters outside the scope of this debate.
– New South “Wales is not being allotted sufficient money under this measure. The Minister for the Interior and the honorable member for Yarra spoke at length about the injustice that will be done to Victoria under this bill. I suggest that the Labour party wants to do the right thing by all the people, not by only some of them. But the whole of our people will never be satisfactorily housed or lucratively employed while a Liberal government remains in office. While the Government occupies the treasury bench there is no hope for New South Wales nor for the working people of the whole of the Commonwealth. The only hope for Australia is that a Labour government should return to office.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Motion (by Mr. Kent Hughes) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- On the 24th October, the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) addressed a question to me concerning the attitude of the Labour party in Queensland towards the Primary Producers Organization and Marketing Act 1951 of that State. I promised the honorable gentleman that I would refer his request to the Acting Premier of Queensland, Mr. Gair, and that I had no doubt that he would furnish me in due course with a complete and devastating’ reply. The Acting Premier of Queensland has forwarded the following reply, which I have already shown to the honorable member for Darling Downs. I read it for the benefit of all honorable members. It is as follows: -
The questions asked by the honorable member for Darling Downs in Hie Federal Parliament on October 24, 1951, indicate that he knows nothing of the legislation he referred to.
The act in question is an amendment of the Primary Producers’ Organization and Marketing Acts of 1920 and 1940.
In Queensland, marketing hoards are set up for specified commodities produced in the State. The board has a virtual monopoly of the market in Queensland for its locally produced commodity. That monopoly means that the Queensland consumer cannot lawfully obtain supplies of the commodity except through the board. But while a marketing board had, in the past, this monopolistic control over the Queensland market for its commodity, it had no duty to supply that market.
All the amendment does is to impose that duty on marketing boards.
The amending act did not apply to dairymen but to butter factories and then only to the butter produced by these factories.
Inspectors were authorized to enter premises and to seize commodities where the requirements of the law were not being complied with. This is the elementary principle of government - that it is the duty of the executive to carry out the law enacted by parliament.
Mr. Swartz was correct in saying that there was a section 12e of the act, but hu was totally wrong in saying that it reversed the “onus of proof “. The section has no relation whatever to evidence as it deals only with the exercise, by the Governor-in-Council, of the power given to him by section 12 to change the personnel of a marketing board. There is no provision in the amending act “ not allowing of a defence “.
Mr. Swartz’s reference to section i)2 of the Commonwealth Constitution was pointless since interstate transactions in Queensland produced commodities are expressly excepted in the act.
I hope that the honorable gentleman is suitably enlightened on the intentions of a very fine government which has been in power in Queensland for a long time and looks like staying there in perpetuity.
.- The answer given by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) concerning the Queensland Primary Producers Organization and Marketing Act 1951 does not state the facts. I know something about that measure. It wa3 satisfactory for many years, but the latest amendment of it is not acceptable. That is evident from the very fact that the Acting Premier of Queensland and the Labour party inserted a provision which, in effect, is a threat that unless the boards do what the Government tells them to do, they will be dismissed and substitute boards appointed. If the Butter Marketing Board in Queensland had stood up to its responsibilities to the dairymen as it could have done, the Queensland Government would have substituted for it a board of civil servants who had been selected and were ready to act. The butter producers of Queensland would not have been represented then by producers of butter as the original Primary Producers Organization and Marketing Act provided if any marketing board defies the Labour Government in Queensland it now has power to substitute a hoard of civil servants who will do its bidding. That threat has been held over the marketing boards of Queensland. By this legislation, the Queensland Government is destroying every bit of stability that exists in the marketing boards. The primary producers will never vote for a continuation of the marketing boards while that threat is held over their heads. The Acting Premier of Queensland has appointed a potato board with power to go on the farms and grab potatoes. He has told farmers that they will have to produce potatoes for Queensland. When the growers have told him that there is a contract with the south and that hia instructions cannot be carried out, he has replied that if there is a bona fide contract it conflicts with section 92 of the Commonwealth Constitution. Inspectors are to be sent on to the farms to seize the potatoes. The farmers have threatened that if steps are taken to confiscate produce they will deal with the inspectors who have then gone back to the board and reported accordingly. Mr. Gair, the Acting Premier, is merely saying that they will have to carry out the act. The new act will not hold water. It has no legal basis. Its very essence is destroying all stability in the marketing of primary produce.
.- The only thing devastating about the reply from the Acting Premier of Queensland is the remarkable way in which he has dodged the true issue. The Queensland Government amended its marketing legislation in order to make an attack upon the primary producers in that State. That Government knows that it has lost the confidence of the producers. That is clear from the fact that it has for years jerrymandered electorates by reducing the number of electors in safe Labour seats in the Brisbane metropolitan area to only half the number of electors in country electorates that do not return Labour candidates. Its latest attack upon primary producers is a further step in a plan that it has been directing against them for many years. Its latest marketing act is known amongst producers as the “ stand and deliver act “. Under that act, as the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) has pointed out, the Queensland Government not only threatens the marketing boards that if they do not do its bidding they will be sacked and a bunch of stooges put in their places, but it also compels producers to produce what the Government orders them to produce and to deliver their products to points that the Government prescribes.
– That is nonsense.
– No, it is the truth. At the same time that Government itself produces cattle at Peak Downs and sells them at the highest prices that it can obtain for them. “Whilst the Government forces the farmers to sell their cattle at fixed prices, it sells its own cattle to the highest bidder in the auction hall. I have no doubt that it is out to wreck primary production in Queensland. Under other iniquitous legislation that it has passed, meat inspectors are empowered to enter, at any time, upon properties and to impound cattle and sell such cattle at any price that the authority concerned is prepared to state and the owners of such cattle have no redress at law. In addition, under what we know as the various Queensland co-operatives acts any group of primary producers can take over an industry and control the distribution of its products. Such groups are financed by government loans, which are made available practically free of interest, and they can use that finance to buy out private enterprise at their own valuation against which the owners have no right of appeal. Such groups are thus permitted and assisted by the State Government to wreck private enterprise. Legislation of the kind to which I have referred violates the principles of tha Atlantic Charter. It is identical with legislation that has been passed in Soviet Russia and which the United Nations has condemned. No Government that was responsible for such legislation could hold up its head in the United Nations. Yet the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has condoned such legislation which is designed to smash primary production in Queensland by forcing producers off the land as one step in the State Government’s plan to socialize the land. As that Government has for year1* jerrymandered electorates, it does not worry much about opposition from primary producers. I know that it can win an election because the electorates have been rigged. In some of those electorates its agents have engaged in practices that have been the subject of investigation by public tribunals. It is humbug to say that the Queensland Government is justified in passing legislation that ls to the detriment of the primary producers. I repeat that such legislation violates the principles of the Atlantic Charter and is undemocratic and totalitarian in the extreme.
.- I direct attention to certain practices that are followed by the service departments under which ex-servicemen are treated unjustly. “When I am required to do so I shall supply to the appropriate Minister the names of persons to whose cases I shall refer. The first case is that of a man who served in the Royal Australian Navy in “World “War II. and had a good record throughout his period on active service. “When hostilities ceased he went absent without leave for a period and after he arrived at Fremantle on his return to Australia he was involved with other members of the crew of his vessel in another incident. Eventually, when he was discharged from the Navy he found that he had been classified as a deserter, although he claims that he surrendered after he went absent without leave.
– For how long was he absent without leave ?
– I have not that information. At the time that the incident in Fremantle occurred he was only nineteen years of age and he expressed regret for his conduct on that occasion. His record shows that he served satisfactorily during the war, whereas that incident occurred after the cessation of hostilities. In 1941 he joined the Australian Imperial Force and as a result of satisfactory service in the Army he was advised by the naval authorities that his naval medals would be issued to him but that he would not receive deferred pay because the Navy Board, could not regard satisfactory service in the Army, or in the Air Force, as counting in assessing his eligibility in that respect. He was further informed that if he had served a further period in the Navy he would have become entitled to receive his deferred pay. I ask the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) to examine that case and to ensure that justice shall be done to that man.
The second case that I have in mind relates to the payment of war gratuity to a man who served in the Air Force. He was given an unsatisfactory discharge on disciplinary grounds. He considered that marking to be unjust and unfair, and he applied to have it deleted from his discharge. He was eventually advised that approval had been given for the removal of that entry and that he was entitled to receive all financial benefits. He naturally assumed that such benefits included his war gratuity. However, although the Air Force authorities agreed that the marking on his discharge was unjust, he was refused payment of war gratuity. Evidently, the Registrar of War Gratuities exercises some super authority in such matters. Again, it appears that an anomaly exists because if the man was able to satisfy the Air Force authorities under whom he had served during the war that his certificate of discharge should be amended, I think that the Registrar of War Gratuities should not have authority to withdraw payment of the war gratuity from him. If there are other similar cases, the decision which is made in this case should affect all of them equally. I hope that these matters will be considered by the service Ministers with a view to having them rectified.
, - If the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) will give me the name of the Royal Australian Navy rating who was discharged and now claims deferred pay, I shall inquire into the matter and ascertain what can be done about it. Tho honorable gentleman also referred to a man who claims a war gratuity. That matter comes under the control of the Department of the Treasury, but if the honorable member will furnish me with the name of that man, I shall submit it, through the Department of Air, to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and obtain a decision from him.
.- In relation to the matter raised by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), I think it is desirable that I should place on record some of the provisions of the Primary Producers’ Organization and Marketing Act, which was passed by the Queensland Parliament. Section 3 of the amending act embodies a number of new sections in the principal act. New section 12a (2) reads as follows : -
Any and every Board shall, at all times, take and do all such steps, acts and things as are necessary for the due performance by that
Board of the duty imposed upon it by this section and in particular -
Shall, by notice given to any and every grower of that commodity require him to produce and to deliver to the Board, during any period of time with respect to which the Board has made a determination under paragraph (o) of this sub-section, a specified quantity of that commodity and impose upon him either by that notice or by any subsequent notice all such further or other requirements (including the delivery daily or at specified times during the relevant period of amounts of the specified quantity of the commodity) as the Board shall deem necessary to ensure compliance by him with the requirement first mentioned in this paragraph.
I direct particular attention to the word “ produce “ in that section. I regard it as all-important in relation to this matter. An absolute direction is given by the board, acting more or less as the agent of the State Government, in relation to the primary production of Queensland. Section 12c (1.) reads -
The Minister may, at any time and from time to time, direct in writing any person to report to the Minister-
Whether or not any Board is taking and doing under and as prescribed by this Act all such steps, acts and things as, being necessary for the due performance by that Board of the duty imposed upon it by Section 12a of this Act, are prescribed by this Act to be or may be lawfully taken and done by it;
I ask honorable members to note that the Minister may direct any person to report to him.
I move from that section, which gives an individual who has been appointed by the Minister the right to report on the actions of the board, and come to Section 12b (4.), which reads -
A report to the Minister by a person thereunto directed under Section 12c of this Act -
That, with respect to its duty under Section 12a of this “Act, any Board has failed to take or do as prescribed by this Act any step, act or thing prescribed by tins act to be taken or done with respect to that duty; or
That, with respect to its duty under Section 12a of this Act, any Board has failed to take or do any further or other step, act or thing, the taking or doing of which is deemed necessary by the Governor in Council for the due performance of that duty and which it may lawfully take or do, shall, for the purposes of this section, be suf ficient proof of a contravention by that Board of this Act.
The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) has referred to the onus of proof. Under this legislation the board has no right to express its views to the Minister, who may accept the statement of an individual who has been appointed by him about the activities of the board. What will happen to the board if a report of that kind is made? A new paragraph in section 12 reads -
If at any time the Governor in Council is satisfied that the Council or a Board has contravened any provision of this Act or, in the case of a Board, of any order in Council, the Governor in Council may, by Order in Council, remove all or any of the members of the Council or, as the case may be, Board and appoint persons to be members thereof in place of the persons so removed.
The information given by the Acting Premier of Queensland in reply to the question asked by the honorable member for Darling Downs constituted an attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of a member of this Parliament. In view of the comments that have been made about this legislation, it is desirable that some of its provisions should be embodied in the permanent record of the debates of this Parliament so that honorable members may see for themselves the kind of government that is in office in Queensland at the present time. That Government is giving full effect to Labour’s policy of complete socialization. Queensland is now very rapidly moving towards that condition.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.27 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Armidale High School (New South Wales).
Ainslie School (Australian Capital Territory).
Balwyn State School (Victoria).
Brisbane Boys’ College (Queensland).
Bunbury High School (Western Australia).
Chatswood Public School (New South Wales).
Christian Brothers’ College, Perth (Western Australia).
Geelong Grammar School (Victoria).
Hobart High School (Tasmania).
Holy Cross College, Sydney (New South Wales).
Katandra West State School (Victoria).
King’s School, Parramatta (New South Wales).
Manly High School (New South Wales).
Melbourne Grammar School (Victoria).
Methodist Ladies’ College, Melbourne (Victoria) .
Manjimup State School (Western Australia ) .
Morphett Vale State School (South Australia).
North Sydney Girls’ High School (New South Wales).
North Sydney Technical High School (New South Wales).
North Sydney Boys’ High School (New South Wales).
Prince Alfred College, Adelaide (South Australia) .
Sydney Church of England Grammar School (New South Wales).
Sydney Grammar School, Sydney (New South Wales).
Scotch College, Melbourne (Victoria).
St. Louis School, Perth (Western Australia).
St. Vincent’s College, Sydney (New South Wales).
St. Virgil’s College (Tasmania).
Taringa State School (Queensland).
Wenona, Sydney (New South Wales).
Wesley College (Western Australia).
Xavier College, Melbourne (Victoria).
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
-The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s. - On the 2nd and 16th October, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) asked a number of questions relating to trade with Japan. As foreshadowed in my replies I have arranged for the appropriate Minister to make a statement on this general subject. In reply to the specific point raised by the honorable member concerning the danger of the City of Hong Kong being used as a port of entry for J apanese goods under illegal labels, the Government is aware of this possibility. It is however a normal function of the Department of Trade and Customs to ensure that duties are collected in accordance with the tariff applicable to the country in which the goods are manufactured. Also this department is responsible for ensuring that imported goods are correctly marked in accordance with Commonwealth legislation.
h asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following information : -
The amount contributed by the Commonwealth for the period the 1st July, 1948, to the 30th June, 1951, was £541,500. Coal produced in New South Wales during the period the 1st July, 1948, to the 30th June, 1951, totalled 35,624,200 tons.
The total tonnage of coal mined in Western Australia was -
s asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows : -
y. - On the 31st October, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) asked a question regarding consideration of the continuance of some form of the Commonwealth guaranteed advance that operated in respect of the Tasmanian apple industry last season. The Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has now furnished the following reply : -
The Government has not given consideration to any form of Commonwealth guarantee, by advance or otherwise, for the 1952 apple export season. The Commonwealth guarantee in respect of experts of Tasmanian apples shipped on consignment in the 1951 season was in the nature of a special arrangement necessitated by unstable conditions in the United Kingdom market during the temporary change-over period from Ministry of Food bulk buying to trader to trader purchases and sales under the United Kingdom Open General Licence system. The Chairman of the Australian Apple and Pear Beard is at present in Tasmania and on his return he will report regarding the operation of the 1951 season arrangement and on crop prospects and general marketing outlook for the coming season.
s. - On the 23rd October the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) asked the following question : -
I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether the Government has given any consideration to making Australian currency more freely convertible into dollars?
This is entirely a matter of Government financial policy, and it is not proposed to make any statement regarding that policy in reply to a question.
s. - On the 18th October, the honorable member for River ina (Mr. Roberton) asked the following question : -
Having regard to the fact that it would be physically impossible for us to meet our commitments under the International Wheat Agreement, which was entered into by a Labour Government and under which we are required to sell annually 88,000,000 bushels of wheat at 4s. 5d. a bushel less than the current export parity price, and since any default will be a charge against the exporting country in a subsequent year or years, will the Prime Minister give urgent consideration to extricating this country from a situation that can bring only discredit and dishonour upon it? Will the Prime Minister inform the honorable member for Lalor, who was a party to the agreement that we are obliged by kinship and geography to send some 10,000,000 bushels of wheat to our immediate neighbours outside the agreement and in excess of our domestic requirements?
Our ability to meet Australia’s current International Wheat Agreement quota cannot be determined until crop figures are known, and there is in the agreement a clause which permits the adjustment of quotas should a short crop make it necessary.
s. - On the 16th October, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) asked the following question : -
I urgently ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council if he will request the Prime Minister to intervene personally with respect to the proposal to disperse the Australian Broadcasting Commission band? It has been stated that the Government in this matter places responsibility upon the Australian Broadcasting Commission whilst the Chairman of the commission has said that it is the responsibility of the government. Whoever may be responsible, will the Vice-President of the Executive Council consult with the Prime Minister in order to see if it is possible, during the present period of apparent economy and savings, to protect to the maximum possible degree the rights of Australian artists, actors and musicians who are employed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission ?
The decision to disband the Australian Broadcasting Commission Military Band was made by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, following a review by the commission of its activities, with the object of affecting savings in its expenditure. The decision to dispense with the military band was made exclusively by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and this has been made quite clear publicly. It was considered by the commission that, as the programmes furnished by the band appealed to only a limited number of the total listeners, the heavy expense incurred could not be justified at the present time. The commission reconsidered the matter on the 13th September as a result of representations made to the Chairman by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition, but was unable to alter its decision.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Government has taken the view, which I think commended itself also to our predecessors in office, that it was not in the public interest to convey, by way of answers to questions in the House, information as to the opinions, activities and intentions of the security service with regard to a named individual. The honorable member will, I think, appreciate the wisdom of this policy. I assure the honorable member, however, that the activities of Mr. Burchett have come under the Government’s notice.
s. - On the 17th October, the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) asked the following question : -
Is the Prime Minister aware that the Minister for Shipping and Transport, while addressing the Australian Transport Bond Federation this week, made the following statement: -
The commercial road vehicle has come into its own in the last ten years and is here to stay. No thoughts of a vested interest in other forms of transport can be allowed to inhibit its rationalized and common-sense development.
The road haulier must not be regarded as the enemy of the railways or any other State-owned instrumentality. Is this a. statement in line with policy already decided upon by the Government! Was the State government consulted before such a policy reached a point where a responsible Minister felt he was entitled to make such a pronouncement ob Government policy!
The statement referred to by the honorable member should be read within its context and not segregated from the Minister’s statement. - However, there does not appear to be anything to which objection could be taken in the statement that the commercial road vehicle has come into its own in the last ten years and is here to stay, nor in the suggestion that no thoughts of a vested interest in other forms of transport can be allowed to inhibit its rationalized and common-sense development. The further statement of the Minister that the road haulier must not be regarded as the enemy of the railway or other State-owned instrumentality seems to me to be in line with such rationalized and common-sense development. For the honorable member’s information, I would advise that a CommonwealthState committee has been constituted to consider the whole question of road transport and to formulate recommendations directed towards making the best use of the man-power, materials and finance available. The committee is comprised of a Commonwealth chairman and representatives of all States roads authorities. When the recommendations are received, they will be considered and discussed with the Premiers of the various States. The answer to the honorable member’s direct question, therefore, is that no policy concerning road transport has yet been decided upon by the Government. At the same time. I can see nothing in the statement by the Minister for Shipping and Transport which would run counter to rational and common-sense thinking on this subject.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 November 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1951/19511108_reps_20_215/>.