20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– 1 wish to direct to the Minister for Civil Aviation a question based on the cut in air services that has resulted from the curtailment of supplies of aviation fuel from the United States of America. By way of explanation, I point out that the proposed cuts will .operate with undue severity in the coastal areas of Queensland. I am informed that some freight services have been completely cancelled and that some passenger services have been reduced by at least 50 per cent. There appears to have been no coordination between Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and TransAustralia Airlines in reviewing the services. Because the shipping service is inadequate and the railway service cannot cope with the passenger and freight traffic of north Queensland, that area is more dependent upon air services than are other parts of Australia which have alternative services.
– Order ! The honorable member is giving a lot of information with his question.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation hold an immediate investigation into the unduly harsh effect of the curtailment of air services to central and north Queensland? Will he arrange a conference between the two major airlines to ensure that the cuts which must be carried out are arranged between the two companies in such a way as to cause the least possible hardship to the communities in those areas?
– Any cuts which have been imposed upon the airlines in Australia in the use of high octane aviation fuel are .mandatory on Australia by the suppliers of that kind of fuel. As the honorable member for Daly probably knows, there has been a serious industrial disturbance in the United States of America among the workers in the refineries which produce aviation fuel. That has been in progress for some considerable time. As a consequence, world reserve stocks of high octane fuel ure fairly low. The United. States of America has had to cut supplies to its own airlines by exactly the same proportions as those that are applying in Australia. Similar cuts have been applied in the United Kingdom airlines, by the K.L.M. Dutch organization, by Air France and by virtually every airline in the world, so there can be no avoidance by Australia of the percentage cuts. How those cuts will be applied is being left in Australia to the airlines themselves in conjunction with the Department of Civil Aviation, the advice of whose officers is being obtained. The Australian Government has no power legally to impose cuts. The airlines have to pay their way, and I presume that they will apply the cuts to the services which are least profitable to them. However, the points that have been raised by the honorable member will be brought by me to the attention of the major operators to whom he has referred and also to the notice of officers of my department.
– I have received numerous telegrams of protest from people in the north-western area of Queensland in relation to the cancellation of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited Flight No. 115, which is commonly known as the newspaper plane service that serves that area. Will the Minister review the position concerning the air services of north-west Queensland with a view to taking action to restore this newspaper plane service and so ensure the arrival in that area, on the day of publication, of metropolitan newspapers? The restoration of the service will overcome a delay of at least three days in the receipt of metropolitan newspapers by the residents that occurs when other methods of transport are used. The suspension of the service penalizes all the residents in the area. If a restriction of services in Queensland is necessary I ask that an existing passenger service be suspended to enable the restoration of the newspaper plane service.
– If I sought to exercise authority, as Minister, to instruct Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, Trans-Australia Airlines, Butler Air Transport Proprietary Limited, or any other civil airline, which services it should cut and which it should continue, I should be grossly exceeding my authority, and I do not intend to do so. I pointed out, in answer to the honorable member for Dawson, that we in Australia are compelled to adopt the same percentage of cuts as is being applied in. every other, or virtually every other, free country of the world that has civil air services, and therefore have no option but to apply the cuts. The implementation of the cuts in detail is a matter for the civil airlines concerned, and they are doing their utmost, while cutting their services by one-third,, to cause the minimum amount of inconvenience to the public. However, I shall bring to the notice of the appropriate airlines the points that honorable members have raised, because I realize that companies sometimes make decisions which, on second thoughts, they may be able to alter, and I shall ascertain whether the relief that has been asked f olean be granted.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether the Australian Government has entered into any agreement, under which Australia must buy all its aviation fuel from the United States of America, with the result that cheaper fuel supplies are made available to such countries as India and Pakistan?
– Australia does not buy all its aviation fuel from the United States of America. However, it buys a very considerable quantity, perhaps the bulk of its requirements, from that country. That has been especially so since supplies from Abadan have been cut off.
What the United States sells to other countries, of course, is a matter for that country to determine.
– J wish to ask the Minister for Defence a question in connexion with the cancellation of Royal Australian Air Force training and routine flights and the restriction of commercial airline operations as a result of the shortage of aviation fuel caused by industrial trouble in the United States of America. As that industrial trouble to my knowledge lasted only a day or two, and did not cause any great loss of production, do the restrictions in Australia indicate that the stocks of aviation fuel held in this country, particularly for defence requirements, are not adequate to meet any emergency such as would arise if Soviet Russia started a war? As the development of long-range submarines has been a feature of Soviet armed development, particularly in the Pacific region, will the Minister assure the House and the people of Australia that sufficient stocks of aviation fuel will be available in the event of war and the consequent dislocation of our supply lines by enemy action?
– I assure the honorable gentleman that stocks of aviation spirit in Australia, although I do not suggest that they are as large as we wish them to be, are sufficient to enable us to meet any eventualities that may arise in the immediate future.
– I address a question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to read an extract from a letter which I have received from Mrs. M. Hill, honorary secretary of the Parents and Citizens Association, Big Bell, Western Australia, regarding the shortage of powdered milk, a state of affairs which is common to all inland towns of Western Australia. The extract reads as follows: -
We are still in an unhappy position here in regard to the powdered milk supply - or lack of it.
Wc know that there has been examination and comparison of export and production figures, supposedly showing that shortages are often due to transport difficulties rather than short supply, thus pointing to inadvisability of restricting exports of this commodity. What, we want is that of the whole available supply our Australian domestic needs should be first served, as charity begins at home, and we certainly need a great deal better supply of powdered milk than we have been receiving over the past year or so, before beginning t-i feel that we are justified in continuing to export as much of this commodity as we do at present.
This is a vital matter. In the interests of the people who live in back country areas, and in order that they may be encouraged to remain in those areas, 1 ask that consideration be given to the supply of their requirements of powdered milk because fresh milk is unavailable to th em.
– The production of powdered and other forms of processed and concentrated milk in Australia is sufficient not only for all our own requirements but also to enable a substantial surplus to be exported. The Government has no authority to direct the manufacturers of processed milks to send their products to any particular area, but upon representations being made to me from time to time I have in turn made representations to the manufacturers, who, unless extraordinary circumstances prevail, have supplied the area in need. There have been occasions, particularly in Queensland, when the State prices authorities have declined to make a price adjustment to cover transport costs and the special costs associated with sending processed milk to remote areas of that State and the owners of the product have declined to supply those areas in circumstances that would have been unfavorable to them. I do not suggest that that state of affairs exists in Western Australia. I shall make inquiries and if there is anything I can do to help, I shall be glad to do it.
– Is the Minister for Supply aware that one of the effects of an atomic explosion is to release radio-active matter which may damage hypersensitive photographic material unless protective precautions are taken by the owners? Will the Minister say whether it will be possible to give preliminary warning of the explosion which is to take place in or near Australia so that those responsible for the protection of such material may have time to safeguard it ?
– I have been told that radio-active matter has a deleterious effect upon hypersensitive photographic material and representations have been made to me about the matter. I understand that no warning was given of the first atomic explosion in the United States of America, but that preliminary warnings were issued of later explosions. I am not able to say whether it will be practicable to issue a warning with respect to the explosion which is to take place at Monte Bello Islands in the near future. I shall have the matter examined and furnish the honorable member with an answer to his question in due course.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister say how many persons, who were appointed to executive and administrative position by the Curtin and Chifley Governments, have been dismissed, or retired, by the present Government ?
– The Government has not dismissed any person on account of his, or her, party political affiliations.
Air. TIMSON.- Is the Minister for External Affairs in possession of any information that would indicate that a four powers commission has been, or is to be, formed within the United Nations organization as a temporary solution to the problem that has arisen in respect of Dutch. New Guinea?
– A number of personal ideas have been promulgated in an effort to solve the West New Guinea problem; but, officially, no proposal of that nature has come to my knowledge.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether he is aware that because of the low allowance that is paid to young workers who undertake appren ticeships and also because of the long period prescribed for apprenticeship courses, which in some instances extend to five years, there is a serious dearth of skilled workers offering to meet the demand in secondary industry. Insofar as the Government exercises jurisdiction in this matter, will . it arrange for a review to be made of the present system with a view to making it far more attractive in respect of allowances payable to apprentices and also the periods of apprenticeship courses?
– It is a fact that at present there is a shortage of skilled workers in a number of sections of industry, and it is also true that there is a general shortage of apprentices. I am glad to be able to say, however, that this shortage does not arise as the result of reluctance on the part of young Australians to undertake apprenticeship training. On the contrary, the proportion now entering apprenticeships is about double that of the pre-war years. The shortage is due to the remarkable growth that has taken place in Australian industry in the intervening years. The Government is conscious of this problem and, in an effort to do something about it, constituted a very representative commission of inquiry which is sitting at present. That commission is presided over by Mr. Justice Wright, of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and consists of persons with experience and authority in the apprenticeship field in the various States. The Government hopes that the apprenticeship system and industry generally will be greatly assisted as the result of this inquiry.
– I address a question to the Minister for Air concerning delays in the delivery of mail to Air Force personnel who are stationed on Cocos Island. I have been informed that up to the last few days no mail had been delivered to the island for three weeks, that approximately 100 bags of mail for that destination were awaiting delivery from Western Australia, and that parcels that had been posted in the hope that they would reach Cocos Island by
Easter have not yet been delivered there. Can the Minister inform the House of the reasons for these delays? Will he take steps to ensure that deliveries “will be made more promptly in future?
– We have established a regular courier service between Australia and Cocos Island. During the initial stages of the building programme at Cocos Island we experienced some difficulties, but I . was under the impression that they had been overcome and that a prompt and regular service had been established. ‘ I was not aware that more than 100 bags of mail had been delivered to Western Australian ports, and were awaiting shipment to Cocos Island, but I shall make inquiries into the matter, and take action to improve the position if it is possible to do so. I should like to explain to the honorable gentleman that when we begin a huge construction programme on a remote island, we must expect some mistakes or inconvenience to occur in the early stages, but I think that most of the inconvenience has now been removed. Nonetheless, I shall do my best to improve the position.
– My question, which is directed to the Postmaster.General. may be regarded as supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Bowman. Is the Minister aware that mail and food, parcels sent from Australia to Cocos Island are. held up on the mainland prior to despatch, and will he state the reason for the long delay? If such’ a state of affairs exists, will the honorable gentleman take steps to see that it is remedied? I point out that many men are employed at Cocos Island on the construction of an aerodrome in preparation for the air service to South Africa, in which the Minister is also interested as Minister for Civil Aviation.
– Mails and parcels consigned to personnel at Cocos Island will be despatched as frequently as aircraft travel to that part of the world. At the present time, there is no regular service, as the honorable member probably knows, and we are dependent upon the Royal Australian Air Force courier planes. As far as it is possible to co ordinate the work of the Postal Department with that of the Royal Australian Air Force in connexion with the voyages of such planes, it will be done.
– Is the Treasurer aware that, owing to the drastic loan cuts, the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land in Victoria will cease after the 30th June next? Is not the rehabilitation of those men the joint responsibility of the Commonwealth and the State of Victoria? Does he agree that the provision of funds for the land settlement of exservicemen should be accepted as a national responsibility ?
– The amount and allocation of loan funds was decided’ by the Australian Loan Council.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service make public the whereabouts of 70,000 unfilled jobs about which leaders of the Government have been talking during the last month? Will he also advise the House how many jobs, other than those for skilled tradesmen, are available for mein over 45 years of age? Is it correct that more than 1,000 persons in the metropolitan area of Sydney are in receipt of unemployment benefits? Can he inform me how many adults are registered for employment with the Commonwealth Employment Service but are not receiving unemployment benefits, due to the fact that their wives are working, which renders them ineligible for unemployment benefits?
– Order ! I think that the honorable gentleman’s question should be placed on the notice-paper..
– Some of the information which is sought by the honorable member for Phillip can be supplied only after I check the details, but I should like to explain that the last figure of vacancies registered with the Department of Labour and National Service, which came to me officially, was approximately 58,000. As I have explained to the House on previous occasions, such a figure does not necessarily mean that openings are available for persons, irrespective of their trade capacity or sex. It has frequently happened that vacancies in one establishment, when they are registered, are dependent upon the availability of a proportion of skilled personnel who can have a proportion of unskilled labour “working with them.
– The -figures are “ phoney
– The statistics are genuine.
-Order ! I ask the Minister to ignore interjections.
– The figures are presented, to the best of my knowledge, in the same way as they were by the previous Labour Administration. They do not attempt to do more than give a general picture of the situation. Some Opposition members suggest, by their interjections, that those figures are inaccurate. I should like to be shown any respect in which they are inaccurate.
– Where are the unfilled jobs?
– If the honorable member for East Sydney will give me the opportunity to supply the information sought by the honorable member for Phillip, I shall indicate, in detail, where the vacancies exist in New South Wales, and furnish the other information for which I have been asked. The broad fact remains that, by happy contrast with the situation which existed earlier under earlier Labour administrations, the degree of unemployment in Australia is at the present time lower than it is in any other industrialized country of the free world.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether it is a fact that officers of the Commonwealth Employment Service nave “been instructed that they are not to answer inquiries made by members of the press ot by members of the Parliament. If such an instruction has been issued, can the Minister state the reason for it? If no such instruction has been issued, will the honorable gentleman inform the officers of the -service that they may answer inquiries made by members of this Parliament.? Is it ,a fact that a number of new Australians are now regis tered as unemployed with the Commonwealth Employment Service, and will the Minister inform me of the approximate number involved?
– No general instruction has been issued to officers that they shall not answer inquiries by members of the Parliament or representatives of the press. However, I have issued an instruction that questions ‘which relate to unemployment in terms of numbers are not -to be answered from any particular office.
– Why not?
– If the honorable member will give me a chance I shall explain. The instruction has been issued for certain very obvious reasons. One is that, if a reply is given from a particular office in a particular district, it may .give a misleading picture of the overall situation. I have no desire to give to the public other than a correct and complete picture, as comprehensive as I can make it, about the employment situation. It is my practice to issue regular monthly statements of employment statistics, and because of public interest in this matter I have in recent times made the statement more detailed than previously. I propose to continue ‘to do that. The figures are collated in the head office and ‘are made available from there, and no individual officer in an employment office is in a position to say with any authority what is the general position. I have directed that if requests are received from press representatives or members of the Parliament for general information .about the employment situation, they shall be referred to the central office and, if necessary, to my own office. I shall then .see that complete and np-to-date information is made available “to the press or to the Parliament. As for the second question asked by the honorable member, no analysis of employment statistics has been made to find out the amount of unemployment among new Australians as distinct from other Australians. The only figures would be in respect of persons in residence in ‘Commonwealth holding centres. I shall see whether any information is available that will enable a more detailed picture of the situation to be presented, and if so it will be given to the honorable member
– Criticism of the inadequacy of accommodation and lack of privacy at the inquiry office of the Victorian branch of the Department of Social Services is expressed frequently to members of Parliament personally, and also in newspaper reports. Can the Minister for Social Services say whether any steps have been taken to ensure that pensioners and others shall be able to discuss their inquiries and problems in privacy and comfort?
– The state of the Melbourne offices of the pensions branch of the Department of Social Services was brought to my notice some time ago. The premises were definitely inadequate and unsuitable. I am pleased to say that the offices have now been renovated, and that any member of the public can now discuss personal matters in complete privacy. Comfortable chairs have been installed, and magazines and other reading matter provided for the convenience of members of the public who have to wait for attention.
– It is just like a club.
– Yes. I have inspected the premises personally, and I invite honorable members to pay them a visit to see how pensioners are being looked after.
– In explanation of a question that I direct to the Minister for Social Services I refer to current increases of the number of elderly people who are arriving with their families in Australia as immigrants from the United Kingdom. Many of those people are in receipt of pensions for which they have contributed in the United Kingdom but, under our social services legislation, are not entitled to Australian social services benefits, such as free medicine. Will the Minister investigate the possibility of making reciprocal arrangements with the United Kingdom so that such elderly people may be properly cared for in this matter ?
– Pensioners from anywhere in the world who settle in Australia are entitled to the benefits of the free medicine scheme that are available to all citizens of Australia. The establishment of reciprocity between Aus tralia and England in respect of other social services benefits is not a new matter, but has been under discussion for a long period of years. The pensions scheme in England and Australia are so fundamentally different that it is difficult to resolve them completely. Many of the practices that are followed in the United Kingdom are not followed here, whilst many of the principles that we apply in respect of social services are not applied in the United Kingdom. However, reciprocity agreements are still under review. I am sure that the people, of both countries support the principle of reciprocity in relation to social services.
– Can the Treasurer say why the Government, in implementing its import restriction policy, decided to honour letters of credit issued before the commencement date of the restrictions although no actual orders for physical goods had been placed, and also why it decided to prevent the fulfilling of actual orders placed before that date without financial transaction’s having been carried out, although in some instances the goods had already been manufactured and the British manufacturers faced heavy loss through the termination of the contracts ? As the Government’s precipitate action in curtailing imports has caused a national crisis and a weakening of the entire British economy, when does the Treasurer envisage the restrictions being removed and what action is the Government taking to ensure that it will not be necessary to re-impose them.
– I shall have a reply (prepared for the honorable member on this very complicated matter. In regard to the duration of the import restrictions, as I said in my financial statement a fortnight ago, the Government will lift the restrictions as soon as the requisite funds are available.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that the Government’s drive for an increase of primary production is being affected by the fact that orders for essential farm machinery are being cancelled by farmers because distributors are unable to give reasonably firm delivery dates? Is the Government giving all possible assistance to manufacturers of farm machinery in connexion with such problems as the labour shortage and the granting of import licences for essential machinery parts ? Will the Minister ensure that the very closest co-operation is established and maintained among farm machinery distributors, primary producers, and the Government ?
– The Government is aware of the acute shortage of farm machinery in Australia, and of the necessity for the adequate equipment or reequipment of farms if the desired increase of primary production and, consequently, of Australian exports, is to be achieved. The Government is active both in regard to local production and to imports. In respect of imports, priorities have been established both for sterling and dollar goods. Various Government agencies are actively assisting in the procurement of farm machinery both from the sterling area and the dollar area. The Minister for Immigration is assisting Australian manufacturers of agricultural implements by allocating immigrant labour to them, and aiding the recruitment of labour. He is also prepared, where necessary, to discuss the establishment of hostels in association with manufacturing establishments. This Government is without authority, of course, in relation to the allocation of Australian iron and steel. The State governments alone have that authority. However, that has not deterred the Australian Government from engaging in conversations with representatives of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which is the principal producer of iron and steel in this country. That organization, I am glad to say, has been co-operative and understanding, and it is willing to make special rollings of certain types of iron and steel and to recognize the prior needs of agricultural implement manufacturers.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that the statement he made last year, when this House was debating legislation to provide for an increase of the radio listener’s licence fee, that licences would be made available to all pensioners at a special fee of 10s., is not being honoured in full? Is he aware that many pensioners are questioned when they apply for listeners’ licences at the reduced fee and are asked whether any one else lives with them, even in rooms that they may have let, and that, if other persons live on the same premises, the concession is withheld on the ground that somebody else may benefit from it? If the Minister is aware of this practice, will he order that it be discontinued so that every pensioner who owns a radio set may have the benefit of the reduced fee? If he is not aware of the practice, will he have inquiries made with a view to ensuring that every pensioner shall be able to obtain a listener’s licence for 10s.
– I shall have inquiries made into the matter that the honorable member has mentioned. At the same time, I point out that it is not intended that the concession provided for pensioners shall be used as a screen by anybody else in order to avoid payment of the full licence fee. This raises a difficulty of administration, which always occurs when concessions are made. Many pensioners live with other persons who make much greater use of the radio than they do. Subject to such special circumstances, every pensioner’ in Australia may obtain a listener’s licence for 10s.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General a question that is supplementary to the question asked by the honorable member for Port Adelaide. Is it not a fact that every person who renews a radio listener’s licence has to produce the departmental notice directing him to do so. Does not this afford a ready means of identification, so that the state of affairs described by the honorable member for Port Adelaide could exist only in the case of applicants for new licences ; and does not the PostmasterGeneral agree that in these cases it is proper that full inquiries should be made so that unscrupulous persons who live with pensioners or have pensioners living with them may not be able to exploit this fact in order to obtain a cheap licence ?
– Yes, I agree with the honorable member?
– My question is addressed to. the Acting Prime Minister. Is it a fact that for the last twelve months the confidential secretary to the Secretary of the Department of Defence Production has been the subject, of a security investigation, and that officials of the security service have urged consistently that this person be discharged? Has she been discharged? Is it not reasonable to assume that, in the course of her duties, she must have come into possession of material vital to the defence preparations of this country? Is there any evidence that any of this information has been passed on to unauthorized recipients ? Has the security service- recommended that this person be prosecuted’, 01: that any other action be taken against her? Does the Government intend to take action against her? Is it a fact that a vise to enable her to- travel abroad has been -issued? If so, by whom was it issued ?
– I am not ill a. position to answer the questions that have been ‘asked by the honorable gentleman. This Government will adhere to the principle that was followed by its predecessor. It will not discuss the activities of the security service.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that current restrictions oil the importation of books into Australia are effecting a saving of less, than £500.000 a year in expenditure overseas? Is; the right honorable gentleman aware also that the restrictions are causing a considerable logs of time and money as well as great inconvenience to .libraries, schools, universities, book-sellers and ordinary citizens? Does he know that the Public Library in Melbourne employs a full-time official to comply with the formalities involved in getting books through the Customs? In view of these considerations, will the Government abolish restrictions- upon the importation of books?
– I shall submit the question to the Minister for Trade and Customs, who .is the appropriate Minister.
– After consideration of the means used to fight the disastrous bush fires that occurred in New South Wales last year, many bush fire brigades have decided to purchase wireless equipment which will enable a two-way link to be maintained between fire-fighters at the scene of a fire and the township from which reinforcements must come. Will the Postmaster-General make available a channel of suitable frequency for use by these transmitters,, which, it is to be hoped, will need to be operated for only a few hours every year?
– The honorablegentleman has made a very valuable suggestion. However, the problem of making a suitable frequency available for this purpose is a highly technical one. 1 shall refer the matter to my technical officers for their advice.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister inf onn the House whether further negotiations have taken place regarding the provision of assistance by the Commonwealth to Queensland for the development of the Burdekin Valley? Having regard to the new-found affinity that exists between himself and thi* Premier of Queensland, will he consider making such financial assistance available in time to prevent a recurrence of the unemployment that occurred in the lower Burdekin district during the slack season of last year ? If funds were made available promptly to the Queensland Government, many persons in the district who would otherwise become unemployed could be absorbed into this very important project.
– When the original scheme for the construction of the Burdekin dam was prepared, it was estimated that the cost, of the project would be £29,000,000. The Queenslaud Government was asked to carry out a further investigation of the matter, and subsequently an expert committee was appointed for that purpose. A revised scheme has now been prepared. It is estimated now that the cost of construction of the dam will be £70,000,000. The matter, therefore, rests at that stage at the present time.
– I desire to ask the Minister for External Affairs whether the so-called “ peace conference “, which is shortly to be held at Peking, has as its objective the furtherance of revolutionary movements in Asia. If this is so, is it not unpatriotic for Australian nationals to participate in a gathering whose aims appear to be inimical to Australia’s security ?
– My knowledge of the agenda of this so-called “ Peace in the Pacific Conference “ has been gained solely from reading the terms of the invitation that was received by a number of selected individuals in Australia. I think it is clear, beyond any reasonable doubt,, that this so-called peace conference is of the same kind as three or four so-called previous peace conferences that have been called by the Communists according to a pattern which is well known. The conference is intended, of course,, as a vehicle for Communist propaganda and how any persons from this or any other country could believe that by attending such a conference they could influence Communist policy to adopt democratic principles eludes me. I believe that a grea deal too much public attention has been given to this matter. Half a dozen individuals have accepted this invitation and, in doing so, have fallen for the bait. Except for one individual, who, I believe, is a distinguished ornament of the Labour party, I do not think that those who have accepted the invitation are people of any political importance, nor do I believe that their names are known outside the very limited circles in which they normally move. There is a lunatic fringe in every
Wintry and recent events have shown that Australia is no exception.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral say whether it is a fact that 1,441 applicants are awaiting telephone services from the Lakemba exchange in New South Wales, many of whom are business people? Is it also a fact that a large number of telephones are awaiting connexion to private homes and public boxes? Will the PostmasterGeneral state why the number of applicants who- are waiting for telephones in the Banks electorate is greater’ than in amy other electorate in Australia ? When will he have the telephone requirements of the Lakemba district in particular and the Banks electorate generally attended to?
Conversation being audible,.
– I must again call the attention of the House to the- very loud conversation that has been taking place this afternoon from time to time. I suggest that if honorable members- are not interested in questions we might proceed to deal with, the orders of the day.
– If the honorable member for Banks has a record number of applications outstanding for telephones in his electorate, his must be the most prosperous electorate in Australia because it is only people who are doing fairly well who can afford telephones. Last year my department installed about 90,000 telephones throughout Australia, but a similar number of applicants- are still waiting.
– Because; owing to the great prosperity of the country, new applicants are being placed on the list as fast as services are being provided. Honorable members can rest assured that my department is doing the job as fast as- the availability of materials will permit it to be done.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral now able to answer the question that I put to him on the 25th February - nearly eleven weeks ago - when I asked whether the regulations of his department’ required telephone subscribers to pay the cost of telephone instruments that had been destroyed by fire? Has the Postmaster-General issued an instruction to prevent the sending out of bills to bush fire victims for the cost of instruments destroyed in the fires? Has he taken steps to ensure that his department shall meet the cost of replacing instruments which were destroyed in fires in which people lost all their possessions ?
– Any such cases of which the honorable member may be aware will have prompt attention if they are brought under my notice.
– The honorable gentleman promised ten weeks ago that the matter would receive attention.
– Is the Minister for Health in a position to give an answer to representations that have been made to him by State Ministers for Health and the Private Hospitals Association which asked him to give consideration to the provision of maternity benefits under the hospital benefits scheme? Is the Minister aware that two large maternity hospitals ‘in South Australia are likely to close unless some relief is given at an early date in the cost of maintenance of babies in maternity hospitals ?
– There has been no change in policy with regard to that matter.
– In view of the Treasurer’s repeated statements that the fixing of interest rates is a matter for the Australian Loan Council and not for the Australian Government, can he indicate whether, at the last meeting of the Australian Loan Council, a firm policy was formulated on future loan interest rates ? If that is not so, will he, as chairman of the Loan Council, call that body together for such a purpose? Is not the success of recent public authority loans that have been floated at £4 2s. 6d. per cent. - which, after allowing for income tax concessions, is no more advantageous than the rate of 3f per cent, offered for the last Government loan - an indication that 3f per cent, is a satis factory maximum interest rate ? Does not the right honorable gentleman think that the announcement of a firm policy on interest rates would stabilize the market for government bonds?
– I reiterate the statement that the matter of loan raisings from the public, as to condition and duration, is one entirely for the Australian Loan Council, and the proceedings of that body take place in camera.
– My question, which is directed to you, Mr. Speaker, concerns the list that you recently compiled of expressions that were not permissible in this House. By way of explanation may I say that the Australian language is constantly changing, and I should like to know whether one particular expression to which I shall refer will be allowed to be used in this House-
-Order! I do not give rulings on hypothetical questions. Any expression that the honorable member has in mind will be dealt with when the occasion arises.
– I have the expression before me, Mr. Speaker.
– Order ! That does not matter.
– Will the Minister for Immigration state whether instructions have been issued to officers of the Department of Immigration to refuse assistance in the payment of fares to the wives of ex-servicemen who are resident in England if the wives are unable to obtain clear medical certificates? If such instructions have been issued is not an unnecessary hardship being imposed upon these young people ?
– I am not aware of any special direction having been given in the type of case mentioned by the honorable member. This Government insists, as have other governments, on a high medical standard for those who are to be given assisted passages to Australia. However, if the honorable member has had any particular case of hardship brought to his attention, I shall be glad to examine it.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that in Dalby, an important town in Queensland, with a population of 6,000 people, an old army hut has been used as a post office for the last four or five years? Is it a fact that plans and specifications have been drawn up for a new post office to fulfil the requirements of the town and district? If so, when will tenders for the erection of the building be called, and can the Minister indicate when a start will be made to erect it?
– There are many post office buildings throughout the country that should be demolished and replaced by new ones, but unfortunately we have not the resources to enable us to do that at the present time. Nor have we had the resources during the history of preceding governments. Some post office buildings have been in use since 1880 and even before that time. Such post offices have fulfilled very important functions, but so far as the district of Dalby is concerned, I realize its importance, and I shall investigate how far we can go in respect of the building of a new post office there. At present, as the honorable member knows, both State and Commonwealth works have been severely restricted on economic grounds. It is not possible to go ahead with many works for which plans are in existence.
– Can the Minister for Immigration inform me whether the Government debits Commonwealth Hostels Limited with the cost of buildings and capital equipment, interest charges thereon, salaries of administrative staff, portion of passage costs from Great Britain, or any other charges previously made by his department?
– To the best of my knowledge no charge is made in connexion with the first and third matters to which the honorable gentleman has referred. The rates of tariff at the hostels do not include a charge in respect of the capital cost of construction of buildings, interest payments on such buildings, or anything of that kind. I should need to check whether administrative costs of the staff of Commonwealth Hostels Limited is included in the general working expenses of the establishments. To the best of my knowledge, no charge is included in respect of passage money.
– In view of the fact that the Commonwealth line of ships is now making enormous profits, namely £700,000 during the past year, can the Acting Prime Minister state whether it is the intention of the Government to cancel negotiations for the sale of this valuable national asset?
– The policy of the Government in connexion with the disposal of the Commonwealth line of ships has already been declared, has not been amended, and will not be modified.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister seen the announcement that a world congress of junior chambers of commerce will be held in Melbourne on the 6th September next, and that the congress will be opened by the GovernorGeneral? Does this mean that the Governor-General’s term of office has been extended, at least until after the 6th September? As the Governor-General has already held office for more than the usual term of five years, will his term of office finally expire this year? If not, when will it expire?
– I am not in a position to give that information to the honorable member.
– In conformity with Standing Order 65 I wish to explain a material part of a speech that I made which has been misunderstood. I refer to the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Land Tax Bill 1952. This bill immediately followed the
Land Tax Assessment . Bill 1952. Both bills dealt with the raising of exemptions from £5,000 to £8,750. I spoke to this aspect of the second bill. It has been claimed that I was speaking to the wrong bill. I wish to correct that misunderstanding. I affirm that I was quite correct and in order in speaking as I did.
– by leave- This morning’s Sydney press contains a report concerning pillage of soldiers’ mail from Korea. The facts are that the consignment consisted of 967 bags of parcel mail which was embarked at Kure on SS. Anking on the 3rd May, and was loaded by coolie labour under army supervision. When the hatch was lifted after the arrival of Anking yesterday it was found that twenty bags had been ripped open and the contents scattered. The master of the vessel immediately called in the police, and the Postal Department was not notified until some two hours later. As the vessel is expected to reach Sydney onFriday, it was decided to leave the parcel mails on the ship for disembarkation inSydney, where the work of unloading will be performed under the supervision of the investigation staff, police and shipping mail officers. In the meantime, arrangements have been made for guards to protect the mails continuously during the 24. hours of the day while the vessel is discharging other cargo at Newcastle. The postmaster and supervisor of mail at Newcastle visited the ship which, unfortunately, did not carry way bills or any documents concerning the mail, which, apparently, was loaded at Kure as army cargo. The vessel was manned by three English officers and a Chinese crew.
Motion (by Sir Arthurfadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1936-1951, as amended by the. Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1952, and for otherpurposes.
Messages recommending appropriation reported.
Motions (by Sir Arthurfadden) agreed to -
That there be granted to Her Majesty for or towards defraying the service of the year 1952-53 a sum not exceeding £149,028,000.
That there be granted to Her Majesty for or towards defraying the service of the year 1952-53, for the purposes of Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, a sum not exceeding £36,504,000.
Standing Orders suspended; resolutions adopted.
Resolutions of Ways and Means, founded on resolutions of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. McBride do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Sir Arthurfadden, and read a first time.
Sir ARTHURF ADDEN (McPherson-
Acting Prime Minister and Treasurer) [3.40].. - I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to obtain an appropriation of £149,028,000 required to carry on the necessary normal services of government other than capital services for the first four months of the financial year 1952-53. The provision sought may be summarized under the following heads : -
The bill provides for the carrying on of essential services approved by the Parliament in the Appropriation Act 1951-52. Honorable members will, however, appreciate that under present day conditions of rising costs for wages and materials, it is not practicable to limit the provision to the rate of expenditure provided for in the 1951-52 Estimates. The amounts included in the bill are accordingly based on current rates of expenditure. The amount of £62,024,000 for “Defence Services “ provides for expenditure on the defence programme and requirements in Korea and Malaya, whilst the amount of £6,209,000 under “ War and Repatriation Services “ covers expenditure on repatriation and rehabilitation and other post-war charges. The amount of £15,000,000 for “Advance to the Treasurer “ is required to enable the payment of special grants to South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania to be continued pending the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and also to cover unforeseen and miscellaneous expenditure and to provide for any unexpected defence requirements. Except in relation to defence, no amounts are included for new services.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Bill presented by Sir ARTHUR Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for an appropriation of £36,504,000 to enable Commonwealth works in progress at the 30th June to be continued until the 1952-53 budget i3 passed by the Parliament. Programmes for capital works are in operation in the major Commonwealth departments, including such departments as the Department of Works and Housing, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and the Department of Civil Aviation. To enable these programmes to be continued successfully, funds must be available without interruption for the purchase of materials in advance and also to ensure continuous employment on the many projects. The bill, therefore, provides for four months’ expenditure on works included in the expenditure programme of £115,408,000 provided for in the capital works estimates 1951-52 and in the additional estimates 1951-52. In accordance with the usual practice in submitting a supply bill, no provision has been made for any new services.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Messages from the Governor-Genera] reported transmitting Additional Estimates of Expenditure for the year ending the 30th June, 1952, and Additional Estimates of Expenditure for Additions. New Works, and other Services involving Capital Expenditure for the year ending the 30th June, 1952, and recommending appropriations accordingly.
Ordered to be printed and referred to Committee of Supply forthwith.
Motions (by Sir ARTHUR Fadden) agreed to -
That the following additional sum be granted to Her Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1951-52 for the services hereunder specified, viz.: -
That the following additional sum be granted to Her Majesty for the service of the year 1951-52, for the purposes of Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, as specified hereunder, viz.: -
Standing Orders suspended; resolutions adopted.
Resolutions of Ways and Means, founded on resolutions of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. Eric J. Harrison do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Sir Arthurfadden, and read a first time.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to seek parliamentary approval for expenditure in excess of the 1951-52 Estimates in respect of certain items. The total of the additional expenditures for which provision is sought is £28,000,000. On the other hand, expenditure is expected to fall short of the Estimates in respect of certain other items to a total of about £23,000,000. In the net result, therefore, total expenditure in 1951-52 is likely to exceed the budget estimate by about £5,000,000 only. The main items of additional expenditure for which authorization by Parliament is now being sought are as follows : -
The main items in respect of which expenditure is expected to be less than that provided for in the 1951-52 Estimates are as follows: -
The additional provision required for defence services is made up of many items spread over the whole defence field. In the aggregate, these increases amount to £11,600,000; but against these are savings on other items estimated at £8,800,000, so that the net additional authorization required is estimated at £2,800,000. For immigration, additional provision is required to an amount of £2,500,000 principally to cover costs of assisted British immigrants and certain losses on immigration hostels. There will he offsetting reductions in expenditure on Dutch, Italian and other European immigration schemes and on a number of other items, amounting in all to £2,100,000.
Additional provision of £1,400,000 will be required for a number of items in respect of war and repatriation services, which are set out in the bill; but this will be more than offset by savings on the budget estimates amounting to £1,800,000. For example, expenditure on reconstruction and rehabilitation is expected to be about £600,000 lower than the budget estimates.
The items of capital works and services for which additional provision is required are as follows : -
Against this increase, expenditure is expected to fall short of estimates in respect of -
An item in respect of which the outgoing from Consolidated Revenue is expected tobe substantially less than was estimated in the budget is the. statutory transfer to the National Welfare Fund. As honorable members know, the amount transferred to the fund is dependent on the yield of the pay-roll tax and since this is likely to be lower than the budget estimate, the amount to be transferred to the
National Welfare Fund will also be lower than the figure shown in the budget. Expenditure in respect of international development and relief will fall short of the budget estimates, partly because about £500,000 less will probably be expended on Korean relief and about £4,500,000 less than was estimated will be required under the Colombo plan.
As I said in my recent statement on the economic position, it is not possible yet to forecast exactly what the outcome of the 1951-52 budget will be. Even at this stage in the financial year, it is not possible, to make precise forecasts of revenue collections. For the reasons I gave in my statement on the economic position, however, revenue from income tax will be appreciably lower than the estimate. Collections of sales tax and pay-roll tax and the revenue of the Postal Department will also be lower. On the other hand, customs and excise revenue will certainly exceed the budget estimates. As honorable members will recall, the budget provided for a surplus for the year of £114,500,000. It seems certain that the actual surplus will be less than this, possibly by a substantial amount. I shall, however, make a more detailed statement on this subject when the financial results for the year, particularly on the revenue side, can be determined more accurately.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
Sir ARTHUR FADDEN (McPherson-
Acting Prime Minister and Treasurer) [3.57].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
In my second-reading speech on the Appropriation Bill in respect of ordinary services, which I have just concluded, I indicated that it was necessary to seek an additional appropriation of £16,560,000 for capital works and services. This bill will give effect to that appropriation.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In Committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Sir Arthurfadden) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an. act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for war pensions.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. Brie J. Harrison do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
Sir ARTHUR FADDEN (McPherson-
Treasurer) [4.2]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide £34,000,000 out of the Consolidated RevenueFund for the payment of war pensions. The measure is similar to that submitted to the Parliament from time to time for the purpose of appropriating from revenue an amount for payment into a trust account to enable pensions to be paid in accordance with such rates as are approved by the Parliament. The expenditure on war pensions is showing a continuous increase, as the following table indicates : -
The amount of £34,000,000, which is now requested, will cover approximately a year’s expenditure at the present rates. The bill hasno relation whatsoever to the rates of pension or to conditions under which pensions are paid. It merely authorizes the provision of funds for the trust account from which war pensions are paid.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 13th May (vide page 234). on motion by Mr. Anthony -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of this bill is to amend the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act 1940, which, incidentally, was introduced by you, Mr. Speaker, when you were Minister for Commerce. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony), who represents the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) in this House, outlined the objective of the bill in a brief second-reading speech, which, in my opinion, did not fully explain the provisions of the legislation. However, I should like to express to the Minister my appreciation of his action in making available officers of the Department of Shipping and Transport and the Repatriation Department in order to enable me to obtain a good deal more information about the measure.
The bill proposes to amend the original act in three ways. First, certain provisions in the original act with respect to pensions will be altered. Secondly, benefits provided in the National Security (Medical Benefits for Seamen) Regulat ions which were promulgated in 1943 and are still in force will be incorporated in the original act. Thirdly, certain decisions of Cabinet with respect to seamen during the last war will be made statutory. The original act was, in many respects, analogous to an act passed by the British Parliament.
In order that the provisions of this bill may be properly understood by the House, I point out that the original act was mast comprehensive. The purpose, as the title indicates, was -
To make provision for the Payment of Pensions and for the making of other Payments in respect of Australian Mariners who suffer Death,. Disablement, Detention or Loss as a result of the Present War, and for other purposes.
The act had relation solely to Australian mariners who were injured in the course of the war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. Provision was made for the payment of pensions to injured seamen, andI think that it may be legitimately said that, to the degree that a mariner suffered injuries as a consequence of the war, the pensions and allowances that were payable under the act had precedence over benefits payable under the Seamen’s Compensation Act.
I shall now deal with the second purpose of this bill, and in doing so, I direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that the National Security (Medical Benefits for Seamen) Regulations were promulgated in July, 1943. They have been continued year after year since the cessation of hostilities by the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act and are still in existence. Under those regulations, mariners who were injured as a result of war action while they were carrying out their duties, were eligible for medical,surgical and hospital benefits, and funeral benefits were payable in respect of deceased seamen. Provision was also made for the return passage of an injured mariner from an overseas port to Australia. Under this bill, the provisions of those national security regulations will become a part of the statute law, after which, presumably, the regulations will be repealed.
I have said that this bill amends the scale of pensions in the original act, and incorporates in the act the provisions of the National Security (Medical Benefits for Seamen) Regulations. There is a third purpose, however, and that is to place in the act certain Cabinet decisions made during the wax. Some of those decisions were very important. One was to bring within the scope of the act Australian mariners who, during the war, saw service on ships not registered in Australia. Cabinet decided also that pro vision should be made for grants of furniture to certain beneficiaries under the act, for the payment of education benefits, in respect of children, and gratuities to widows who remarried. The bill now before the House will incorporate those decisions in the principal act.
Having explained the purposes of the bill, I should like to deal in detail with some of its provisions in order that honorable members may properly appreciate the alterations that are being made. Clause 4 is important. It incorporates in the act the Cabinet decision relating to seamen who rendered service in ships registered outside Australia. The principal act covered only persons serving on ships on the Australian register. Clause 4 adds to the definition of “ Australian mariner “ the following : - (aa) any master, officer or seaman employed under agreement, or any apprentice employed under indenture, in sea-going service, in a ship registered outside Australia, who was, or whose dependants were, resident in Australia for at least twelve months immediately before his entering into the agreement or indenture ;
Honorable members will see therefore that to qualify for the benefits of this legislation, the mariner or his dependants must have been resident in Australia for at least twelve months prior to entering into the agreement or indenture. Incidentally, I point out that sub-clause (2.) of clause 4 reads -
The amendments effected by paragraphs (a) and (e) of the last preceding sub-section shall be deemed to have come into operation on the fourteenth day of April, One thousand nine hundred and forty-three.
So the new provision has a limited application; but no such limit applies to mariners who during the war were injured as a result of enemy action while serving on Australian vessels. In respect of mariners injured as a result of enemy action while serving on ships registered outside Australia, the benefits of this legislation commence only on the 14th day of April, 1943, which was the date on which the Cabinet decision was made.
I direct the attention of the House also to certain peculiarities in the provisions of this amending legislation relating to pensions. Clause 7 deals with pension rates, and whilst it is quite clear that those rates conform to the provisions of the Repatriation Act, certain anomalies appear to exist.For instance, the clause provides for the payment of a pension, not exceeding £4 4s. a fortnight, to a dependant other than the wife or child of an Australian mariner. The pension payable in respect of children of an Australian mariner in the event of his death is fixed at £2 4s. a fortnight for one child, or, if the number of children exceeds one, £2 4s. a fortnight for the oldest child, and £1 ls. a fortnight for each, other child. Should a mariner be totally incapacitated, the payment is £1 3s. a fortnight in respect of each child. Therefore the pension payable in respect of children varies from £1 2s. a week down to Ils. 9d. a week. It seems rather anomalous that the rate should vary so much for children in the one family.
Perhaps a more startling anomaly is to be found in sub-clause (8.) of clause 7, which provides that notwithstanding anything contained in the previous subsection, where a mother of the children of a deceased mariner is dead, the rate of pension payable in respect of each of those children shall be £4 a fortnight. I make no complaint about that amount, but there again we find differentiation in payments. I understand that the pension rates are in conformity with the Repatriation Act, but I point out that under workmen’s compensation legislation the payments in respect of children - most of our compensation legislation provides for separate payments for wives and children - are at a flat rate. That principle might well have been observed in fixing pension rates under this legislation and under the Repatriation Act.
There would appear to be some peculiarity also in the provision relating to the payment of pensions to mariners themselves. Section 26 of the principal act provides that when a pension . is granted, its payment cannot be made retrospective for a period longer than three months. Although section 26 is being amended by this legislation, no alteration is being made to its back payment provision. Clauses 15 and 16 will amend two other sections that relate to the retrospective payment of pensions. Sections 51 and 52 provide that pensions or allowances granted on appeal or reapplication, and cancelled or relinquished pensions or allowances that are regranted, may.be (paid retrospectively for three months. That term is to be extended to six months. I suggest that the provisions for the back-dating of pensions and allowances should be made uniform throughout the measure. However, as I understand that the bill embodies the principles that have been applied already under the Repatriation Act, I do not propose to move for an amendment of the bill, I merely suggest that the provisions of sections 26, 51 and 52 of the act should be identical in relation to retrospectivity. The bill provides for the alteration of the schedules to the principal act so that the pensions specified in them shall be brought into line with those for which the repatriation legislation provides.
Certain provisions of the bill may be regarded as new, although they arise from Cabinet decisions that were made some time ago. Clause 12 provides that a woman in receipt of a pension as the widow of an Australian mariner, who remarries, may be paid a gratuity equal to 26 instalments of the pension at the rate payable immediately before her remarriage. The clause also applies to women who are in receipt of pensions under the terms of section 19 of the act, which relates to de facto wives.
Parts IV. and V. of the principal act will be repealed. They refer to allowances in respect of the detention of mariners as a consequence of enemy action and compensation for war damage to effects. The reason that has been advanced in support of this provision is that every case that conceivably could be dealt with under Parts IV. and V. has already been determined and that there is no likelihood of fresh claims being made. Medical, surgical, hospital, sustenance, and education allowances and benefits for mariners and the widows and children of mariners are now payable under the terms of certain national security regulations. The bill does not deal specifically with such payments, but provides that they shall be dealt with by means of regulations issued under the act. I assume that, when such regulations are promulgated, the appropriate national security regulations will be repealed. The same procedure will apply in relation to grants of furniture to mariners who are blinded or totally and permanently incapacitated as a result of war injuries, and to widows, separated widows and de facto wives of mariners. The bill, generally speaking, will bring the existing act and the relevant national security regulations up to date.
I refer two matters that arise in connexion with this legislation to the Government for its consideration. The act refers to World War II., but, since the termination of hostilities, we have read occasionally of events that have occurred as a direct result of that war. From time to time, ships have struck vagrant mines with resultant loss of life and damage to property. There may be single mines, or even unknown mine fields, in Australian waters still. It is doubtful whether seamen injured as a result of the explosion of such mines would be eligible for compensation under the terms of this legislation because, as I have said, it relates specifically to World War II.
– Could they not receive compensation under the ordinary workmen’s compensation law ?
– Yes, but the provisions of the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act may be more generous than are those of the ordinary compensation legislation. The governments that were in office in 1940 and in 1943 considered that this legislation was much more favorable to seamen injured as a consequence of war service than was the seamen’s compensation legislation. That might well be taken into consideration.
The second matter that I suggest might be considered by the Government is an extension of the provisions of this legislation, or of similar legislation, to cover Australian mariners who may be injured as a result of the Korean war. I do not know whether any Australian mariners have yet suffered injury or lost their personal effects as a consequence either of enemy action or of the actions of the United Nations forces in Korean waters, but, if such cases do arise in the near future, provision should be made, either by amending the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act or by Cabinet decision, to ensure that those mariners will be treated equally as well as mariners who were injured during World War II.
A return that I have obtained from the Repatriation Commission indicates that, in respect of incapacity, payments are being made under the act to 30 mariners, eleven wives and five children, and that, in respect of the death of mariners, payments are being made to 92 widows, 58 children, eight widowed mothers, one other mother and one sister. Payments are being made to a total of 206 persons. The annual liability in respect of those persons is £22,300. In addition, 78 widows are in receipt of a domestic allowance. The allowance was paid first at the rate of £1 a fortnight, but from October, 1951, it has been paid at the rate of £3 4s. a fortnight. At the later date, the annual liability in respect of the payment of domestic allowance was £6,490. It can be said fairly that this legislation has been of tremendous value to Australian mariners and their dependants, and that the amendment of the act on the lines proposed in this bill is wise and necessary.
In conclusion, I desire to make reference to the wonderful services that were rendered during World War II. by the members of the mercantile marine of Australia and of other countries. Those nien were not members of the armed forces in the sense that they were enlisted members of either of the three regular services. They kept intact the lines of commerce between Australia and other parts of the world. On every occasion when they went to sea, they were faced with the most deadly peril. Many of them lost their lives, or suffered great hardships when their ships were torpedoed and they were adrift on rafts or lifeboats, on some occasions for weeks at a time. It is a tribute to the Australian mariners that, notwithstanding the terrors, hardships and difficulties with which they were faced, they were at all times ready to take their ships to sea and to do their best to ensure that shipping services should be maintained between Australia and the rest of the world. The Opposition commends the bill to the House, and hopes that it will be carried.
– in reply - I thank the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) for his very careful analysis of this measure, and for his helpful and constructive remarks. The honorable gentleman made certain suggestions which I shall bring to the notice of the appropriate Minister. He referred to the desirability of extending the provisions of the legislation to cover Australian seamen who may be injured as a result of the war in Korea. Such a situation would have to be met when it arose. I do not think that any Australian merchant ship is now engaged in the Korean operations. I have no doubt that if an Australian seaman was injured in those waters, special consideration would be given to the matter. In general, the purpose of this measure is to extend to Australian seamen who suffered war injuries the advantages that are extended to members of the armed forces under the repatriation legislation. That sums the matter up in the simplest and most direct terms.
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.
Debate resumed from the 7th May (vide page 74). on motion by Mr. Beale -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– by leave - In committee, I shall move two small amendments to the bill. The first is designed to correct a typographical error, and the second to make an alteration of the definition of the. word “ aluminium “. The second amendment is considered necessary because greater precision is desired. Copies of the amendments have been circulated to honorable members.
– The Opposition supports this measure. In essence it is a bill to supplement and extend an act of the Parliament that was passed in 1944, during the term of office of the Curtin Government. The purpose of that legislation was to establish an aluminium industry in Tasmania, by agreement between the Commonwealth and Tasmania, and to make the industry a success so that we could exploit the raw material resources of this country. It is interesting .to read the debate that took place in 1944. Although ultimately the measure was accepted, some honorable gentlemen opposite, who were then members of the Opposition, were extremely critical of the advisability of establishing an aluminium industry in Australia. They pointed out the apparent excess of world supply over world demand at that particular time, which was towards the end of the war, when it was believed that there would not be sufficient future demand to support the industry in Australia. The figures that the Minister cited when he introduced this measure show that those fears were not well grounded and that the Australian aluminium industry has progressed so far that the date of production can now be fairly accurately assessed. The industry will be of tremendous importance, not only to Tasmania, but to the whole of the light metal industries of Australia. I believe that the Minister recognizes that it will probably be as important in the development of our defence potential as is the steel industry.
I do not wish at this stage to do more than indicate a few of the outstanding features of the legislation. First, it is important to remember that the aluminium industry is a joint enterprise of a pioneer character that has been undertaken by two governments, and that it was strongly criticized when it was first mooted.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) was one of the critics of the proposal, which was also strongly criticized by other people. The late Hon. J. A. Beasley, who was then Minister for Supply, took a very prominent part in the inauguration of the industry, and it is very satisfactory to the Opposition to know that, as a result of the experiences of this country since that time, this Government realizes the intimate relationship that this project has to our national defence and to our industrial development generally, which is itself an integral factor in defence. A great deal of work has been done in Tasmania, in connexion with this project and allied projects, in which the two Labour administrations, those of Mr. Curtin and Mr. Chifley, took a prominent part. Many new Australians have contributed directly and indirectly to the progress of the industry. The first point that I wish to emphasize is. that this- is a joint government concern which is admittedly successful and. is ako admittedly very likely to be more successful in the future. The industry should be regarded as now having been established.
The second feature worthy of note is that of successful co-operation between the Commonwealth and a State. It was essential to have such co-operation. Tasmania needed the industry and the Commonwealth needed the power from Tasmania to establish it. Here we have a very practical and successful application of the principle that should govern relationships between the Commonwealth and the States.
Another important feature of the establishment of the industry in Tasmania is that of decentralization of our defence potential. It i3 extremely important that an essential project like the production of aluminium and other substances of a like character should be carried out at a point to some degree remote from the more vulnerable parts of Australia, so that our defence industry as a whole will not be open to concentrated attack in war-time. The decentralization of an essential industry is important not only to the people of. Tasmania but also in relation to the security of the nation. The defence aspect is perhaps the most important aspect of the project. In the opinion of the Opposition, the establishment and maintenance of such projects is a vital requisite of a sound defence of this nation. As a result of bitter experience in. World War II., when we were isolated from overseas supplies, we realized the importance of developing our industry generally. Through the efforts of the Australian people in war-time, our industry was developed to the stage at which it became an important contributing factor to the allied war effort. The fact is that this Government, which has had so much to say about the limitations and defects of State undertakings, is correctly adopting the principle of State ownership of certain important basic industries. Its change of view in that matter is in accordance with the facts of the situation. That is all to the good.
In some aspects of its activities the Go- vernment has departed from that principle, but the fact that emerges from a consideration of the defence industrial problem is- that it is impossible to dogmatize in advance about the most efficient way in which to conduct industries that are related to our. defence needs. We have always to consider what is to the bes* advantage of the nation.
The amendments that the Minister ha*mentioned are designed simply to correct a clerical error. The substance, of the bill is the intention to increase the Commonwealth’s participation in the project, extend the industry and, in the light of experience and of the prospects of the light metal industry of Australia, to keep it associated with defence. In short, the bill adopts the principle of the measure that was passed in 1944 during the Curtin regime. In view of these circumstance? and facts the Opposition can do no other than support it. The Government’s recognition of the value of the work that was done in 1944 by members of an opposing political party is implicit, if nol explicit, in the Minister’s speech.
– No doubt the Government will welcome the support of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), because I have no doubt that it waa well meant, even if it is not very helpful, since it consisted of a large number of generalities. I consider that we should apply our minds to the hard facts of this situation, try to review them and see exactly what the position is. In clause 8 of lie bill it is proposed that the Commonwealth shall subscribe another £4,250,000 towards the cost of establishing the aluminium industry in Australia. Consideration of that aspect of the bill should lead us to a general examination of the overall picture in relation to the aluminium industry. We cannot study the overall picture of the Australian aluminium industry separately from the overall picture of the world aluminium industry. I understand that it was in 1941, during the regime of the first Menzies Government, that the proposal to establish this industry was first made. That is a fact that the Leader of the Opposition has conveniently forgotten. In 1941 there was indeed a considerable world shortage of aluminium. I have examined the relevant figures, which show that in the years immediately prior to the beginning of World War II., the. annual world production of aluminium was about 750,000 tons. Under the stress of war it rose rapidly. In 1943 it reached almost 2,000,000 tons a year - a very substantial increase. Prom that time forth it declined, even in the later years of the war. By 1946 the world production had fallen to its pre-war level of about 750,000 tons. There was then a glut of aluminium throughout the world but the pressure of re-armament resulted in the development of another shortage. The rate of production is not so high now as it was in 1943 but it is not very far from it. There is still a shortage of aluminium but the best opinion on the subject is that it will not be a continuing shortage. The American, publication, Business Week, of the 27th October, 1951, printed an article which read as follows : -
The biggest chunk of new aluminum output is due during the second part of 1952. By the middle of 1953 there should be enough aluminum for everybody. By then, as members of the industry will tell you, “the salesmen will he knocking on doors looking for customers “.
That is not solely an American opinion. In the British Economist of the 3rd November, 1951, there appeared an article headed “ Sufficient Aluminium “ which expressed a similar opinion, and from a number of sources that I have consulted I have learned that although there is a shortage at present it will terminate by the end of 1953. New plant will increase Canadian production of aluminium by 500,000 tons a year and Canada produces what is probably the cheapest aluminium in the world. By the middle of 1953 the United States of America will have achieved a production rate of about 1,300,000 tons of aluminium a year which is twice as much as it was producing when the Korean conflict began. There is a shortage; there was a glut; and it seems as though there will be another glut but because of the expanding use of this metal it may not be a continuing glut although it will be a significant glut, none the less.
Aluminium should have been stockpiled while there was a glut during the term of office of the Chifley Government. At present, aluminium is worth about £200 a ton. At the time of the glut it was worth about £150 a ton. But even if it had been bought at £200 a ton, the expenditure of the amount that the Government proposes to expend on the construction of this plant would purchase a stock-pile of aluminium equal to three years output by the proposed plant running at full capacity. Stock-piling is not possible now, but it is likely to become possible during 1953.
I have not been able to ascertain the cost of running the proposed plant but I have obtained figures concerning the capital costs of aluminium plant generally. In the United States of America the capital cost of integrating facilities which are defined as power, bauxite, alumina and aluminium is about 1,250 dollars a ton for each year of output. In other words, there must he a capital expenditure of about £550 in order to have a production of a ton a year. In view of the estimated output of the proposed plant of 13,000 tons a year the proposed capital expenditure of £7,250,000 prima facie is not unreasonable, but it would appear on closer analysis that the capital cost in respect of each ton of output will be not less than twice the corresponding overseas cost because the Australian figure does not include capital expenditure on power and other auxiliary plant. However, I consider that the construction of the plant is justified, first because of its defence value. It might be better to stockpile aluminium than to undertake this work, but in addition to a stockpile, Australia should have its own plant. Secondly, it is desirable that this should be constructed as a pilot plant for the extension of the industry. So far as I am aware, Tasmania has not the facilities for any very great expansion
Of production, because its hydro-electric power is not unlimited. If there is to be any large-scale production, it must be keyed either to New Guinea water power or to the brown coal-fields of Victoria. The American aluminium company, Alcoa, is using brown coal for power at its new plant, because facilities for the generation of hydro-electric power in the
United States of America are becoming depleted. The Alcoa plant, however, will not be able to match the costs of the Canadian company which still has abundant hydro-electric power. So, although the Victorian proposition might be worth further investigation in view of American experience, if there is to be any great expansion of Australian aluminium production I consider that it will have to be keyed to New Guinea water power. The Tasmanian project may well be justified, however, as a pilot plant.
Whilst these circumstances justify the construction of the plant, they do not prove that the need for its construction is urgent. Aluminium production depends mainly on electric power. It is a great power eater. The production of a pound of aluminium requires about ten kilowatt hours of electricity. In other words a ton of aluminium requires an output of about 2£ kilowatt years of electricity at 100 per cent, load factor. The proposed plant will require, in its first phase, about 30,000 horse-power, and I think that an additional 13,000 horse-power will eventually be needed, a total of 43,000 horse-power. That is reckoned on nearly a 100 per cent, load factor. The economy of Tasmania has already been distorted by power shortages. Consequently, I ask whether it is desirable to put this additional load on to the Tasmanian power supply before that supply has been sufficiently increased. The zinc industry in Tasmania requires an additional 13,000 horse-power. Zinc production is not only important for defence, but also a means of adding to our foreign balances. It is required for the production of galvanized iron, which is important to primary industry, and the quantity of zinc produced determines what supplies of sulphur and fertilizer will be available from Tasmanian works. Very soon another 30,000 horse-power will be needed for the aluminium sulphate scheme which will consume large quantities of electricity. At Boyer the newsprint plant, that was installed at a cost of more than £4,000,000, is idle for lack of power, and the present production of newsprint at Boyer is less than 40 per cent, of the plant’s capacity. It should be noted that we have to import newsprint.
The paper mills at Burnie need 8,000 horse-power, the carbide works need 2,000 horse-power and the board mills 3,000 horse-power. Moreover, there is a shortage of about 15,000 horse-power required for miscellaneous demands. Some farms in Tasmania are not able to have electricity connected because power is not available. The miscellaneous demand for power is increasing at the rate of about 15,000 horse-power a year. At present in Tasmania power is in critical short supply, and therefore we must think carefully before we place an additional load upon that State’s already limited power resources.
Let us consider new electric power which may become available in Tasmania, and which may determine our policy in this matter. The first new power station will be at Tungatinah, where a plant of five turbines is to be installed, each capable of producing 35,000 horse-power, or a total of 175,000 horse-power. The first turbine will probably start turning about twelve months from now, and three more in the following year. It may take considerable time to get the fifth machine into production. In addition to that source of power, there is a station at Trevallyn constructed in conjunction with the proposed aluminium works, which will produce about 112,000 horse-power, and it is hoped that that station will come into production within from two to two and a half years. Those two power stations, omitting the fifth turbine at Tungatinah, will produce about 250,000 extra horse-power for Tasmania. However, that figure has to be calculated at only about 50 per cent, load factor because the water to turn the turbines continuously at their most efficient rate is not available, nor is it likely to be available. It may be that there will be exceptional floods which will allow a higher load factor, but it would be folly to rely on more than average rainfall. In those circumstances it would seem that in default of unusually wet seasons there will be a continuous power shortage in Tasmania when the aluminium plant at Bell Bay comes into full operation. The 43,000 horse-power at nearly 100 per cent, load factor which would be needed to produce aluminium at the full planned scale of 13,000 tons a year will make Tasmania, almost inevitably, short of electric power for some years. After the Tungatinah and Trevallyn schemes the next proposed scheme will not come into force for at least four years. That is the “Wayatinah scheme which it is estimated will produce 200,000 horse-power, with a high-load factor. . Therefore, we must consider whether we are justified in starting up the aluminium works, or at least engaging in full-scale production before thi Wayatinah power becomes available.
It is necessary for us to study hard facts before we proceed further with the Bell Bay scheme. We are justified in pressing on with the construction of the plant at a reasonable rate, not perhaps at its present rate, and not perhaps working overtime at Bell Bay, but going ahead and being ready to operate at full scale when the power station at Wayatinah is ready to come into production or in case a run of unusually wet seasons should make more power available in Tasmania before Wayantinah has been completed. In the meantime we should stockpile aluminium during 1953 from ‘ available world sources. It is essential that Tasmania should have adequate power. The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) said that this proposed aluminium plant will save Australia about 5,000,000 dollars, or about £2,750,000 a year, in foreign exchange. That is quite true, but has he thought of the losses of foreign exchange which are being suffered by reason of the fact that existing factories in Tasmania are not working at anything like their full capacity? Let us consider the newsprint plant at Boyer. The major part of that plant is idle because power cannot be supplied. About 45,000 tons of newsprint are not being made each year because of insufficient power. That lost material alone, which is worth about £80 a ton in Australia, represents over £3,500,000, or if we subtract the cost of the imported pulp which is necessary in the processing of Australian wood, it still represents £3,000,000 a year. That sum is greater than that which the Minister says he will save when the aluminium industry is working at full capacity.
Apart from the newsprint, which is, perhaps, the biggest single item, there is also zinc, ammonium sulphate and other products of a like nature. Furthermore, the farming community in Tasmania may be entitled to a little better deal than it has been getting in the way of supplies of electricity. Considering this matter purely in the light of the figures, one must come to the conclusion that whereas it is desirable to press on with the construction of the aluminium plant - and the policy of the Government on that aspect of the matter is fully justified - the Government would not be justified in operating the plant until power is available and it can be operated at peak capacity without starving vital Tasmanian industries and primary producers of the electricity that they need.
I apologize for having wearied the House with so many .figures, but I do not think that the case can be put adequately without a reference to the figures and the facts. Two things seem to emerge as corollaries to the proposition that an aluminium industry be established at Bell Bay. They are, first that the full scale operation of the aluminium plant at Bell Bay should be deferred until the Tasmanian power situation allows it to be operated. As far as I can ascertain that means until the plant at Wayatinah comes into operation unless there should be a run of unusually wet seasons.. Secondly, we should press on as fast as possible with the development of hydroelectricity in Tasmania. Tasmanian hydro-electricity is the cheapest and most readily available source of power in Australia and its development should be fostered. In the present circumstances its development will depend on the success of a £3,000,000 loan for which approval was given to the Hydro-Electricity Commission by the Australian Loan Council, and which is to be raised on the market in the coming year. I appeal to the Government to ensure, by its use of credit facilities, that that particular loan shall be filled, because it is one which will increase production, increase our export surplus, and help to get us out of our foreign exchange difficulties. I believe that when one considers the amount of foreign exchange which we have to spend each year because of the power shortage in Tasmania, one has to take a realistic view of the situation and follow the two principles that I have endeavoured to enunciate.
.- I was somewhat vocal on this subject when the original legislation was introduced by a Labour government. There is, therefore, little purpose in a further recital of the unhappy circumstances in which that legislation was enacted. It was born of political despair. It was the direct result of a political promise made in the hope of favours to come. The favours did not materialize, of course, and so much interest in the subject was lost that the late Mr. Chifley made an attempt to get one of the cartels of the world to take the project off his hands. To-day, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) graciously consents to the passage of this bill, thereby agreeing to the continuation of unsound economic practices.
I am amazed that this Government is prepared to continue a purely socialistic enterprise. Private interests, which should he, allowed to take over the production of aluminium, could operate much more effectively and efficiently than can the Australian Government, regardless of its political colour.
The original act was placed on the statute-book with a flourish of trumpets in 1944 “ for war and other purposes “. The lamentable excuse for its introduction was that the project must be carried on in Tasmania because of the existence in that State of cheap electric power, which, in fact, did not exist then and does not exist to-day. The Opposition of the day contended that the whole situation was a completely false one. The then Government went through the formula of appointing a commission which was vested with all the red-tape authority usual in the circumstances and charged with responsibility to discover facts which were already well known to every one else in Australia. The commission was hamstrung in its operations from the beginning. It was required to investigate the economics of the industry, but it was also informed that regardless of costs or economic values, the project would have to be established in Tasmania. That was because of a promise given to that State before a general election, at which the Australian Labour party succeeded in wresting one seat from its opponents. Its victory turned out to be a hollow one because the successful candidate did not prove as amenable to discipline as had been expected and did not seek re-election at a subsequent general election. Apparently even he could not tolerate the methods of his party.
At the time that the original measure was introduced, the members of the Government did not know the first thing about bauxite. They were infants in the matter. The present Leader of the Opposition had charge of the bill, in ‘the absence, through illness, of the late Mr. Beasley, the then Minister for Supply and Shipping. The right honorable gentleman turned verbal somersaults in the House at that time. He did not know that the gun was loaded, but when so informed, he had the graciousness to suspend further consideration of the matter until he had considered the factors which had been referred to by myself and other honorable members. Nevertheless, a promise had been given to Tasmania, and the then Government was obliged to honour it.
I am amazed at the attitude of the present Government, some members of which previously stated that they would not have a bar of this project. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who was then the Leader of the Opposition, said that economically it had some bad odour about it, and that he would have nothing to do with it. Yet the Government is not only proceeding with it, but also is making it worse. Previously, Tasmania was required to provide £1,500,000 of the necessary amount of £3,000,000, the Commonwealth being obliged to supply the remaining £1,500,000. Tasmania would have incurred annual interest payments of £60,000, which would have been added to the cost of the ingots before a penny return could have been received from their sale. The proposition was wrong before it started, and it is still wrong. Yet, we are now proceeding to provide an additional £4,250,000 from Commonwealth funds.
The Tasmanian bauxite is so inferior that it is classed as “ C “ grade ore, whereas Victoria has some of the highest grade bauxite in the world. In addition, it is present in greater quantities than in Tasmania. New South Wales possesses 20,000,000 tons of ore of 38 per cent, or 40 per cent, alumina content. The Gippsland ore is of 50 per cent., whereas the Tasmanian ore is only of 28 per cent, and 30 per cent. Yet, the smelting plant is being sent to Tasmania. If the ore smelter is set up at Bell Bay, it will mean that the bauxite must be taken by train to ports in New South Wales and Victoria, loaded into ships, unloaded on arrival in Tasmania, and the ingots subsequently transported to Sydney for fabrication purposes. I cannot see that that is an economic method. In my opinion, the reducing plant, the chemical plant, and the power equipment necessary should all be integrated on the mainland, where the ore is available. At the present time it is proposed that the various stages of production of aluminium should be spread over New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania. There appears to be no rhyme or reason for doing so.
Perhaps the Government is continuing with this project, because the commission has expended so much money in its investigations that it would be a colossal waste of public money to terminate its functions. Apparently the Government is obliged to perpetuate the argument that it is necessary, for defence purposes, to establish the plant at Bell Bay, an explanation which is so childish that it makes me shudder for the future of Australia. A Labour Minister has said that if we had a reducing plant in New South Wales, one in Victoria and another one in Tasmania, the enemy would have three places instead of one to destroy. Instead it is proposed to set up the plant on a river which a blind pilot could follow on a dark night. He could easily blow the whole establishment to pieces. That argument was solemnly presented by the honorable member who was Minister for the Navy in a previous government. That is what that Government called economics, and with that policy the present Government is persisting, instead of giving private enterprise a chance. I know of a firm in Melbourne that for nine years was denied by those in control of capital issues the opportunity to establish an aluminium industry in Australia. Had it been allowed to go ahead we should to-day be reaping the benefit. What is now proposed is a further instalment of the policy which was begun as a political stunt nine years ago. Given reasonable opportunities by the Government, private enterprise would be able to produce aluminium more cheaply, more efficiently and with greater certainty than any government, no matter of what kind, can ever hope to do. Look at what government enterprise has meant in the past.
– Yes, look at the Postal Department.
– Yes, the Postal Department, the railways, and all other government enterprises. In most of them a dozen men are employed to do what any ordinary business man would employ only two persons to do. That system will be perpetuated in the aluminium industry if the Government’s proposals are adopted. I realize that at this late stage it is of little use to appeal to the Government to reconsider its decision, and to invite one of the great mineral-producing firms to take on the job. Private enterprise would not tolerate a system under which bauxite was transported to Tasmania, smelted there, and then transported to the mainland again. The Government says that it is proposed to import bauxite from the East Indies. The bauxite obtainable from that source yields 1 ton of aluminium to 4 tons of ore. Bauxite of the same quality is obtainable in Victoria. The excuse for importing bauxite from the East Indies is that it is desirable to conserve Australian stocks of bauxite for defence purposes in an emergency, but if the proposed works in Tasmania were to go flat out producing aluminium it could not even make a hole in the Australian bauxite deposits in 500 years. I am sorry that the Government proposes to perpetuate the farce which was begun by a Labour Government. I cannot think of one factor in favour of the Government’s proposal except that under it we may get some aluminium at some time in the future. This project has already been under way for nine years, and some aluminium may be produced in another nine years.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) has taken us back to the Georgian era. Some of his arguments are actually pre- Victorian, particularly those in which he expressed his hostility to government enterprise. His opinions on that subject are well known. The proposal with which the bill deals was, in the opinion of the Chifley Government, an important departure from existing practice, but that departure was justified by our experiences during the war, and by the need to encourage the development in Australia of an aluminium industry, having regard to the importance that aluminium plays as a component of many materials needed in time of war. Before the beginning of the second world war we imported all the aluminium that we needed. We knew that there were big deposits of bauxite in Australia. We knew that in the Tambourine Mountains in Queensland, bauxite was being used as metal for road making. We also knew that there were deposits in New South Wales and Victoria. We knew that the deposits in Tasmania were not as good as those elsewhere, but we decided that it was necessary to establish the industry, even before the end of the war. Various sites were examined. The honorable member for Gippsland was vocal in his claims on behalf of his own district. He was entitled to do everything he could to have the industry established in Gippsland, and I am sure that if the Chifley Government had accepted his representations, and established the industry in his electorate he would not have been worried by the fact that the industry was a government undertaking. Hitherto, the honorable member has supported the present Government without a whimper, and his present condemnation of the Government’s proposal arises from the fact that the industry is to be located in Tasmania. There are good reasons for that. Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia have suffered disabilities through federation. If it is argued that it is not a good thing on economic grounds to establish a great aluminium undertaking in Tasmania it can be argued with equal force that it is economically unsound to establish a great oil refinery in Western Australia. On the ground of simple economics it might have been better to place the aluminium industry somewhere closer to the sources of supply, but the long-range view is that the setting up of the industry in Tasmania will help that State to maintain its population. At present, the population of Tasmania is 250,000, and there were as many people there 50 years ago. During that time, the populations of Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia have increased very considerably. During the last 50 years, the population of Australia has increased from about 3,500,000 to 8,500,000, but the population of Tasmania has remained almost static. Therefore, it is necessary for the Commonwealth to enter into arrangements of the kind now proposed. Already at the aluminium project at Bell Bay about 2,000 persons are employed in preparatory work, and more than that number will be employed when the industry is in operation. Eventually, the aluminium ingots that are produced at Bell Bay will be fabricated there, and it will not be necessary to transport them elsewhere for manufacture. If we are to develop Australia we must encourage the decentralization of industry and of population. Every member of the Australian Country party ought to be an active supporter ofthat policy, not only at election time, but at other times, also. I admit that Gippsland should bn developed. I believe that Gippsland, as well as some other parts of Australia, could best be developed by setting up new States, that is, by giving them regional autonomy. That, however, is another question. Certainly, Gippsland is one of the neglected parts of Australia, as is the western part of Victoria, and the south-eastern part of South Australia. In this country we have great centres of population which draw tribute from, all the rest of Australia. It can certainly do no harm to Gippsland to have the aluminium industry in Tasmania. If the Government were not prepared to develop the industry in Tasmania, the chances are that it would be established in a capital city. Some places in Australia are overdeveloped and others are underdeveloped. This bill is a good one because it does something to encourage Tasmanian development, even if it is at the expense of the taxpayers of Australia. It cannot be said with truth that the development of the big city areas in Australia is economic. The transport of milk hundreds of miles to feed city populations is far too costly, and it is no more uneconomic to take bauxite from the mainland States to Tasmania to be manufactured than it is to take food hundreds of miles from country districts to feed the city dwellers. The argument that has been advanced by the honorable member for Gippsland is parochial. It was intended to make him popular in his own electorate rather than to be a worthwhile contribution to this debate. The honorable member took his own Government to task by stating that this was a purely socialistic venture, that it was a travesty of sound economic practice, and that he was surprised that the Government had introduced the measure. When he said that private enterprise could do the job better than the Government lie surprised honorable members on the Opposition side of the chamber most of all. They wonder now whether he will call for a division and divide the House on the measure, because the Opposition intends to support the Government on this proposal. I suppose the honorable member for Gippsland and the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) can inform honorable members what is meant by the phrase, “giving private enterprise a chance to do the job “.
Where would private enterprise do this work? Would it be done in Tasmania or somewhere else? Where would private enterprise get the money to do the job? Would it be able to raise the £4,000,000 which is mentioned in the bill as the cost of the undertaking? The chances are that private enterprise would not be able to get the money, and the Capital Issues Board would be entirely justified in refusing the funds in view of the fact that the Australian Government and the Tasmanian Government are sharing the development of the scheme. The Tasmanian Government wants the scheme, and I think that this Parliament should help the smaller States as much as it can. By smaller States, I mean those that are smaller in terms of population. Unfortunately, most of the bigger States have the smallest populations1. The total area of Queeusland, Western Australia and South Australia is much greater than that of New South Wales and Victoria, where 6,000,000 of Australia’s S,500,000 people live. I interjected once during the speech of the honorable member for Gippsland that apparently he regarded the Postal Department as a venture that had failed. He is so antagonistic to all forms of government enterprise that he indicated that he would sell that department and other departments as well if hu could. He is not the only tory enthusiast with similar ideas.
-Order! The honorable member is getting well away from the bill.
– I thought, at first, sir, that you were objecting to me calling some of the honorable members on your right tories. The honorable member for Gippsland said that the output of the Tasmanian project could not make a hole in Victoria’s supplies of bauxite in 500 years. That is a complete banality. This venture in Tasmania will use up all the supplies that the plant is capable of absorbing, but fortunately for us, deposits of bauxite are to be found widely throughout Australia. No doubt other industries will be established from time to time by private enterprise, and perhaps by governments, and will be ancillary to this big. venture in Tasmania. Some honorable members opposite may describe the proposal as socialistic if they will. This is one of the most important contributions that have been made to the national development of Australia, lt should be supported and I am amazed that anybody in this country and particularly in this Parliament should be breathing Georgian era economics at this time to oppose such development.
.- One does not expect to hear the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) support legislation that is brought forward from the Government side of the House. However, there is every reason why he should support the bill that is before honorable members because he made it plain, and has never hidden, the fact, that while the Labour party is in office, it should engage in as much socialistic enterprise as possible. He knows that once a socialistic enterprise is established, to replace it with private enterprise is difficult. That is the position that faces the Government with regard to the aluminium industry. The project was established as a socialist undertaking and must be carried on as such if aluminium is to be obtained for Australian industries. Figures show that Australia must have an abundant supply over the next two years, and it may be necessary to increase the amounts that are available in years to come. That is difficult to forecast. One cannot follow the possible trends for a long time ahead because of the different metals that are being used constantly in new alloys. The bill that is before the House provides for the expansion of the new aluminium industry in Tasmania. I join with others in regretting that we have to look to Tasmania to expand this industry. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has proved that Tasmania is short of electric power and will continue to be short of it for a long time. The economics of the aluminium industry show conclusively that seven-eighths of the cost is absorbed in electric power. Therefore, an abundance of cheap power must be available.
As the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) has said, the supply of bauxite is not such an important factor. We must have bauxite and where it comes from is not so important because it is a relatively cheap mineral to mine, it is easily transported and its cost in comparison with the cost of finished aluminium is relatively small. Throughout Australia there are large deposits of rather highgrade bauxite. I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne that industries should be decentralized: They should be established in places where they will be used to the best advantage. It would be particularly stupid to establish the aluminium industry in New South Wales in an industrial area. It would be more ridiculous to establish it in Victoria. As honorable members know, there is a very great shortage of electricity in that State, and it will continue for some time.
– I could not agree more wholeheartedly with the honorable member.
– I am glad to have that admission. The electricity supply position in both of those States is very bad. We must have adequate supplies’ either of water or very cheap coal in order to meet the electricity requirements of the aluminium industry without reducing the supply of electric power to other essential industries. If the aluminium industry were established in Victoria other essential industries would have to suffer cuts in power. The same, comments apply to New South Wales. In Tasmania, where the Australian Aluminium Production Commission is establishing its plant abundant electricity is available from the hydro-electric scheme. Such schemes. have been proved throughout the world to be best suited .for the supply of electricity for aluminium production.
I trust that the Minister will bear in mind the possibility of the establishment of the industry in the Northern Territory, where large deposits of bauxite have been discovered, and in Queensland, where suitable deposits are known to exist. As it seems likely that we shall have to produce aluminium in Australia for many years to come, I direct the attention of the Government to the possibility of utilizing the phenomenal rise and fall of the tide at Broad Sound, near St. Lawrence on the Queensland coast, as a means of generating electric power. Engineers have already investigated a scheme for the generation of electric power by harnessing the tide at Broad Sound which rises and falls 24 feet. By placing weirs on some of the creeks in the proximity of Broad Sound and establishing a generating plant it would be possible to generate, electricity more cheaply and with less interruption than by the hydroelectric system. Although some early experiments in the generation, of tidal power have failed I believe that the latest American experiments in the Bay of Fundy have paved the way for the establishment of inexpensive schemes for the generation of electricity by that means. In Queensland good harbours are situated in close proximity to the bauxite deposits, and the labour problem there, and in the other less populous States, is not so great as i I; is in New South Wales and Victoria. Should the use of aluminium in Australia diminish a few years hence electricity from tidal electric generation schemes could be utilized to boost the production of other industries established in the areas served by them.
I have also discussed the possibility of the generation of cheap electric power in conjunction with power generated from the huge coal deposits at Callide. I have been informed that it is economically possible to trap the run-off of water from the dividing range in Queensland as it passes through the Callide valley and to use it for the production of electric power in conjunction with power produced from Callide coal which can be obtained for approximately 6s. a ton. Coal suitable for the production of electric power can be obtained from the Callide field. Indeed, Victoria is able to meet its electricity demands to-day only by the use of Callide coal. I trust that Victorians are truly grateful for that assistance. Cheap coal and an abundant water supply in Queensland would enable electricity to be generated and transmitted to Gladstone, which is one of the finest natural harbours on the Australian coast-line. I trust that the Minister will closely examine the possibilities of developing the aluminium industry in that area.
This Government believes in decentralization. It does not believe in putting all its eggs in one basket. If we are facing a state of emergency, we should promote the establishment of industries in strategic positions where they will be most useful, and at the same time be protected against attack. I trust that the suggestions I have made for the future development of the aluminium industry will be closely considered by the Government. This bill will have served its purpose if it does no more than teach the people of Australia, particularly the members of this Parliament, how dangerous it is to allow a socialist government to control the affairs of the nation. Once a socialistic enterprise is established, it is very difficult to get rid of it. The fact that a government which is opposed to socialization has had to introduce a bill of this kind will, I trust, spur on the efforts of those who are resolved to do everything in their power to ensure the socialists shall be kept out of office in this
Parliament. If the bill does no more than that, it will achieve its purpose.
Mr. Duthie having been given the call,
– May I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that this is an appropriate hour at which to suspend the sitting?
– It is now only 5.47 p.m. Is it the wish of the House that I leave the chair at this stage?
Government Supporters. - No !
-The honorable member for “Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) will proceed with his speech.
– Honorable members on this side of the House have no objection to the honorable member for Wilmot commencing has speech at 8 o’clock.
– When I asked if it were the wish of the House that I leave the chair at this stage, about a dozen honorable members on my right said “ No “. I then called upon the honorable member for Wilmot to commence his speech.
– I suggest that the sitting be suspended until 8 p.m.
– There would be no objection, Mr. Speaker, if you left the chair at this stage.
– Is it the wish of the House that I suspend the sitting until 8 p.m.?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
Sitting suspended from 5.J/3 to 8 p.m.
.- This bill seeks to amend the Aluminium Industry Act 1944 with respect to the financing and administration of the project to establish the industry in this country. Some time ago, it became obvious to the Premier of Tasmania and to this Government that the sum of £3,000,000 that was originally appropriated for this purpose would be inadequate. There are three main reasons for this development. The first of them is that the cost of the project was originally underestimated; the second is that the Government has decided to increase the output target from 10,000 to 13,000 tons of aluminium ingot annually ; and the third is the increase of the cost of labour and material and also of equipment that is being obtained from the mainland and overseas. Under this measure the Australian Government will finance the scheme to its conclusion. Tasmania has not been asked to bear any of the additional cost that will be involved under the new scheme.
– Tasmania was asked, but replied that it could not do so.
– That is an interesting admission. It is obvious that Tasmania cannot afford to finance any portion of the additional cost because its allocation of loan money has been too severely curtailed. ‘ In those circumstances, seeing that the venture was undertaken conjointly with the State, it is the duty of the Australian Government to accept that responsibility. The original estimate of the cost of the project has now been increased from £3,000,000 to £7,250,000, and the Commonwealth alone will be responsible for the additional cost of £4,250,000. When the principal measure was introduced in 1944, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who, at that time was Attorney-General, said -
There are some unpredictable factors and it is possible that the original estimate may be substantially increased.
That prediction has now been proved to be true. Under this measure, it is also intended to alter the composition of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission which is in charge of the project. Whereas under the principal act that body consisted of two representatives of the Commonwealth and two representatives of Tasmania, it will be reconstituted to consist of five members, of whom four will represent the Commonwealth and one will represent the State.
Clause 7 of the bill appears at first glance to be of minor importance, but it contains dangerous possibilities from the point of view of the Labour party. Section 9 of the principal act reads -
The sale or disposition of the whole or any part of the undertaking of the Commission shall not be effected unless approved by resolution passed by both Houses of the Parliament of the Commonwealth and by resolution passed by both Houses of the Parliament of the State of Tasmania.
Under clause 7 of this measure that section will be repealed and the following provision will be substituted for it: -
A sale or disposal of the undertaking of the Commission, or of an interest in that undertaking, shall not be effected except with the approval of the Parliament.
If, at any future date, a Liberal government in this Parliament should decide to sell this enterprise, as it decided to sell the Commonwealth shipping line, that provision would relieve it of any necessity to consult the State Government in respect of such a decision.
– Mr. Cosgrove agreed to that provision.
– If that is so, I can only conclude that the Government pulled the wool over his eyes. This Government is caught between two fires, each of which is burning fiercely. During the last general election campaign, candidates of the Government parties promised to desocialize industry, but since it assumed office the Government has retained important socialist enterprises that were established by Labour governments, such as Trans-Australia Airlines, the whaling industry, the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority, and the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, but, at the same time, as a sop to big business, it is trying to sell the Commonwealth shipping line. I repeat that the provisions of clause 7 of the bill will enable a future Liberal government, with a majority in both Houses of the Parliament to dispose of this industry as a going concern to private enterprise, and the Tasmanian government of the day will have no voice whatever in the matter. I stress the significance of that clause.
This project was conceived during the regime of the first Menzies Government, but it remained for Labour to clothe that idea and give effect to it. Following the general elections in 1943, Labour introduced the principal measure the preamble to which read as follows: -
A Bill for an Act to approve and give effect to an Agreement made between the Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania with respect to the Production, for the purposes of Defence, of Ingot Aluminium, and for other purposes.
That measure was introduced by the former member for West Sydney, the Honorable J. A. Beasley, who was then Minister for .Supply. It was decided to establish the industry in Tasmania, but at that time the actual site for the project had not been selected. The Commonwealth and the State agreed to share the cost of the project which was then estimated at £3,000,000. A commission of four persons was set up, and was empowered to acquire land, buildings, plant and equipment; to obtain supplies of bauxite and alumina; to determine the process to be used in the manufacture of aluminium; to engage personnel and to undertake necessary research in connexion with the development of the industry.
The government of the day decided to establish the project in Tasmania principally for two reasons. The first of them was the availability of cheap electric power ; and the second was the availability of a deep-water port to facilitate the landing of supplies of bauxite from overseas. As 4 horse-power of electric power is required to produce a ton of aluminium ingots, the production of 10,000 tons of aluminium ingots will involve the consumption of 40,000 horse-power of electric power. Originally, the cost of electric power required for this purpose was estimated at one-tenth of a penny a unit. An increase of one-tenth of a penny a unit of the cost of electric power will mean an increase of £10 a ton of aluminium ingot. It was estimated that world production of aluminium ingot in 1944 involved the consumption of 12,000,000 horse-power of electric power.
Three important points emerged from the second-reading debate that took place when the original measure was introduced. The first of them was that there was wide-spread cynicism concerning the possible demand for aluminium products in the post-war period. Supporters of this Government, who were then in Opposition, said that the demand would not be substantial and that it would be wasteful to establish the industry in this country. Secondly, widespread cynicism also existed with respect to the annual production target of 6,000 tons of aluminium ingots that was set at that time. I ask honorable members to note now that this Government proposes to boost production to 13,000 tons a year. Yet, in 1944, members of the Liberal party and of the Australian Country party declared that the industry could not produce 6,000 tons of aluminium per annum. They expressed cynicism then about the pro- duction target, and voiced vicious criticism of what they described as a socialist enterprise, the tentacles of which would work their way into every industry, home and office. To them socialism was a Frankenstein monster, and a breaker of harmony, which would turn Australia into a Communist country. The Liberal party and the Australian Country party won the general election in 1949 with the catchcry of “ combat socialism “. The honorable member for Balaclava at that time, Mr., now Sir Thomas, White, who is the Australian High Commissioner in London, delivered one of his usual tirades against socialism when he opposed the Aluminium Industry Bill in 1944. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) also made a speech that was a monument of irresponsibility. He expressed great bitterness towards the enterprise. Indeed, his criticisms on that occasion were so interesting that I am unable to refrain from reminding the House of them anew. Of course it is his custom to make speeches in this chamber, and promptly to forget them. On the 28th November, 1944, he said-
The facta placed before the House speak for themselves; and, obviously, it is simply a. case of the Government indulging in a Ramble with £3,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money. . . . This gamble is doomed to failure.
He asked why the bill had been introduced, and proceeded -
Is it to bring another Government-controlled business into being as a part of the plan of nationalization of industry? Is the Government saying: “Here is something which private enterprise may establish as an industry ii nd we are getting in first”? The Government should make it clear whether this measure is a part of its socialist programme or the honouring of its promise of a bribe.
He also stated -
The Government, which has heavy commitments in the conduct of the war for social services and in post-war planning, cannot afford to waste money. It has no right to waste £1,500,000 of the taxpayers’ money in a venture of this nature.
Referring to the aluminium industry, he said -
T believe the Government by venturing into this field will throw into the gutter £1,500,000 of the taxpayers’ money.
Yet he supports this bill, although he expressed the opinion a few years ago that the Government, by venturing into the production of aluminium, would merely throw £1,500,000 of the taxpayers’ money into the gutter.
– This bill will save taxpayers’ money from being thrown into the gutter.
– Members of the Liberal party and of the Australian Country party have changed the opinions that they expressed when they were in Opposition. They execute a complete volte face when they support this industry now, because in 1944 they uttered bitter, sarcastic and vicious criticism of this industry, which they described as a socialist enterprise. Indeed, in this matter, the only honest nian among Government supporters is the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), and I consider that if he is true to his conscience, he will have to leave the chamber during any division on this bill. He criticized the Government unmercifully this afternoon for its decision to complete this venture.
What has been the demand for aluminium since the end of World War II.? The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), in his second-reading speech, gave us soma interesting information about the demand for aluminium products. He said -
As nearly all our ingot is at present obtained from Canada, this will mean a dollar saving of something like £5,000,000. At present we are consuming somewhere between i 0,000 and 15,000 tons, and consumption is bound to rise. As aluminium is a metal highly in demand as a substitute for copper, steel and other metals, and is also increasingly used in the building industry, to use a colloquialism, it is a “ natural “ for increased consumption.
– A good speech.
– It is a good speech; but I remind the Minister that some of his colleagues, who now support the bill, bitterly opposed the establishment of the aluminium, industry in 1944.’ Later developments in the industry are interesting. Early in 1949, a site for the project was chosen at Bell Bay, which is situated on the east side of the Tamar River, in the electorate of Bass. Work began on the project in that year, and approximately 500 men are now employed on the site. Buildings have been erected, machinery is being constantly landed from overseas., and installations are being commenced.
Deliveries are also being made by manufacturers at a steadily increasing rate. Contracts were let for steam and electric boiler plant, heat recovery equipment, crushing and grinding plant, alumina digestion plant, calcining kilns and operating gear, classifying and thickening equipment, large electric sub-station transformers, all rectifier plant, major crane installations for handling materials at the wharf, and other handling equipment in the works, process and workshop cranes, ventilating equipment, fabricated component parts of alumina furnaces, cathode linings, and machine tools for maintenance workshops. Some of that equipment has already arrived, and other machinery is on the way.
– Thanks to this Government.
– The Minister is becoming as enthusiastic a socialist as we are regarding the development of the Australian aluminium industry. New roads have been constructed to meet the requirements of the project, and all the concrete foundations for many big buildings have been laid. The Agricultural Bank of Tasmania contracted to erect 250 houses at Georgetown, which is situated about 4 miles nearer to the mouth of the Tamar River than is Bell Bay. The one-hundredth house was completed last week. From that information, honorable members will realize that the project is going ahead as fast as the materials for it are received.
I was interested in the speech of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) about the hydro-electric requirements of the aluminium industry. The honorable member, when he discussed that subject, ventured into a new field, and endeavoured to give Tasmanians some information about the development of our hydro-electric schemes. Unfortunately for him, the only details that were correct were the names of the power stations, and the sources of power. He was far astray with other matters. One of his comments indicated that Tasmania would draw upon its existing supplies of hydro-electric power for the Bell Bay project, which, accordingly, would eat into the power that is required for farm?, homes and industries. That statement is entirely incorrect. The Hydro-electric
Commission of Tasmania is building a new power station at Trevallyn, which is situated near Launceston, for the Bell Bay works. That station will generate electricity to produce about 43,000 horsepower. The demands of the Bell Bay project will not eat into the existing sources of hydro-electric power in Tasmania. The waters of the South Esk River are being tapped before they flow into Cataract Gorge. The South Esk, which is one of the longest rivers in Tasmania, is joined by Lake River at Longford, and will give an excellent supply of water for the project. A French firm is making two tunnels, one of which is two miles long and the other a mile long, through two hills in order to bring the water from the dam on the river across country to the big turbines in the station alongside the Tamar River on the West Tamarroad. From that station power will be taken by big pylons down the west side of the Tamar, in my electorate, and across the river at the narrowest point to Bell Bay. Those facts are the complete answer to the comments of the honorable member for Mackellar, who said that Tasmania was experiencing black-outs and could not supply its own power needs. Our only concern is the rainfall, over which, unfortunately, we have no control. An assured water supply will be required at Bell Bay and for this purpose the Tasmanian Government is developing the North Esk scheme. The water will be carried by pipe-line for 45 miles past Launceston and down the east side of the Tamar to the aluminium works. Coal and limestone will also be needed and Tasmania can supply both. The Tasmanian Government is playing its part and Tasmanians generally are glad indeed that the Australian Government is going ahead with this socialist enterprise. The provision of coal, water, and electricity will give widespread employment. Tasmania has been called the Cinderella State of federation; to-day it faces the prospect of being left like a shag on a rock by the sale of the Commonwealth shipping line. The decision to proceed with the aluminium industry, therefore, is deeply appreciated in Tasmania and the Government of that State is doing its utmost through the Hydro-Electric Commission, the Water Supply and Drainage
Board, and other instrumentalities, to render every possible assistance.
Where is the bauxite to come from? This matter was raised early to-day by the honorable member for Gippsland in his denunciation of the Government. The original intention was that in peace-time bauxite should be obtained from the Netherlands East-Indies, from Inverell, in New South Wales, and possibly from Gippsland, which is not a very great distance from Tasmania across Bass Strait. Should outside supplies be cut off in war-time, Tasmania’s own bauxite supplies would be able to keep the industry going. Admittedly Tasmanian bauxite is not of a very high quality, but neither is the Gippsland bauxite, and the Tasmanian bauxite will be readily available in case of emergency. The acquisition of the Glen Davis cracking plant for the aluminium industry in Tasmania will be of great advantage. I realize that many people, including, of course, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) are very anxious that the plant shall not be moved from its present site. I should not like the Glen Davis shale oil projects to be closed down because it is a valuable industry which gives employment to many people. It is another government enterprise. However, if the Government decides to sell the cracking plant in spite of the hostility with which the proposal has been received in many quarters, we shall be glad to have the plant at Bell Bay. Without it, aluminium ingots produced at Bell Bay will cost an additional £4 a ton. I have heard a rumour within the last few hours through the “ grape-vine “ that there is a chance that the plant will not go to Tasmania, but the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) gave to the Premier of Tasmania a solemn promise that it would be available.
– Who told the honorable member that?
– I invite the Minister to deny that when he replies to this debate. It is a very important matter. The Government is in a quandary. Pledged to de-socialization, it is confronted with the necessity to pour money into a socialist enterprise. Your 1949 election promises are now catching up with you.
– Order ! The honorable member will address me and not the Government.
– I did not know that you were interested in the matter, Mr. Speaker. In any case, I am sure that you were listening to what I was saying. This Government owes its existence mainly to its policy of de-socialization. Now, it finds itself in the fantastic situation of having to allocate another £4,250,000 to a socialist enterprise established in 1944. “When you go out on the platform again remember this-
– Order! The honorable member must address the Chair.
– I am sure that many honorable members opposite agree with the honorable member for Gippsland that the Government is in a cleft stick and we are wondering how those honorable members will vote on the proposal. We in Tasmania shall be eternally grateful for the Labour government’s vision in deciding to give life to an idea that was first propounded by an anti-Labour administration in 1941. The aluminium industry gives promise of being not only of great economic benefit to Tasmania, but also of great value to the Commonwealth as a whole in time of war and in time of peace.
– When legislation dealing with the establishment of the aluminium industry was last before the House, Australia was at war. Even at that time there was considerable opposition to socialist enterprises such as this, and the very difficulties that now face us were freely predicted. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) spoke of the great success of this undertaking. Its success has been so great that after requiring an initial expenditure of £3,000,000, it now requires a further £4,000,000 of public money. The Government is not in a cleft stick. Its action in this matter is dictated by defence considerations. When this proposal was first mooted, we were reaching the end of the second war to end war. To-day we find on our horizon a menace that is probably greater than any we have ever had to face. Defence is once again a foremost consideration. The whole conception of - the establishment of the aluminium industry in this country was based on defence considerations. If defence needs were a paramount factor at the end of the last war, how much more important are they to-day in the light of the huge expenditure on war preparations that has been undertaken in almost every other country. One of the greatest tragedies of World War II. was the sacrifices that men of the merchant marine were called upon to make in order to bring to this country, after the outbreak of hostilities, essential war materials which either should have been accumulated here in the peace years or should have been produced in this country.
The Tasmanian undertaking is an essential defence project, and the proposal to increase expenditure upon it by £4,250,000 should be considered in this House free of party political bias. Taunts about socialistic enterprises will not ‘help us to arrive at a wise decision in the best interests of the country. The choice of a site in Tasmania has been criticized. I acknowledge that, in 1945, when the original measure was introduced by the late Honorable J. A. Beasley, on behalf of the Labour government of the day, I and other members of the Opposition, in the circumstances existing at that time did not see entirely eye to eye with him. However, the situation has changed since then. A sum of £3,000,000 has already been expended, and I would oppose any proposal to abandon the undertaking or transfer it to the mainland. I do- not believe that aluminium ingots could be produced anywhere else for the low cost of a penny for four ingots. Representatives of New South Wales and Victoria have said that the factory should be established in those States, but their claims are flimsy. We have only to consider the desperate situation in relation to power supplies in those States, where blackouts occur continually, in order to realize that the industry could not’ be operated efficiently within their boundaries. A total of £230,000,000 is to be expended on the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric project in order that the existing industries of New South Wales and Victoria shall be able to obtain continuous power supplies. The only sensible course open to us, in present circumstances, is to turn to Tasmania. That State, fortunately, would be more remote than other States from the danger of direct enemy attack in the event of war. The decision to establish the aluminium industry there was wise. The hydro-electric power potential of Tasmania provides opportunities for the development and expansion of other important industries.
Electric power is of vital importance to Australia, and we must do everything possible to facilitate the generation of electricity for industrial purposes. The Powell Dufferin report, which was prepared at the request of the Australian Government, stated that Australia had great untapped resources of coal that could be used for the production of power. In the opinion of the experts, our coal deposits exceed previous estimates and are not likely to become exhausted in the foreseeable future. They are convinced that coal will provide the cheapest source of power in Australia. The report referred to deposits at Blair Athol and elsewhere in Queensland that have not yet been fully explored. However, our need of aluminium is urgent, and we cannot wait for mainland States to overtake the lag in electricity generation. We must proceed with the factory that has been commenced in Tasmania. This i3 not the first attempt that has been made to establish an aluminium industry in Australia. A Liberal- Australian Country party Administration engaged in negotiations with the Australian Aluminium Company Proprietary Limited, which, planned to operate a factory at Wangaratta in conjunction with its establishment at Granville. However, that was a war-time undertaking, the principal object of which was to process old aluminium. Honorable members recall that appeals were made to housewives throughout Australia to collect aluminium kettles, pots and pans to be processed for use in the war effort.
The present undertaking in Tasmania is the only project that has been launched for the production of aluminium from the raw bauxite that is to be found in New South Wales. Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania. It will meet Australia’s requirements and. will also contribute to the stocks of other countries in the southern hemisphere. An efficient aluminium production industry is essential to us in this time of international stress. Reference has been made to the great North American project. I have had the great privilege of inspecting the colossal industrial establishment of that organization, which originally was expected to be capable, of supplying the needs of the world. However, the demand for light metals has increased at an astonishing rate, especially under the pressure of defence preparations in all countries. Although production in the United States of America has increased considerably, it is still far below the level of the world’s 2-equirements and we have no certainty that we should be able to obtain from that country all the aluminium that we should need in the event of an outbreak of war. For the purpose of maintaining its output, which has exceeded the most optimistic expectations of the experts, the North American industry actually imports bauxite from Dutch Guiana. Critics who have mentioned the expense of shipping bauxite from the mainland to Tasmania should keep that fact in mind.
Unfortunately, the cost of establishing the plant in Tasmania, and the probable costs of production, have risen far beyond the original estimates. The costs of transport, particularly by sea, are rising steadily. Because of these changing factors, it has been necessary to increase the original estimate of £3,000,000 to over £7,000,000. This is attributable chiefly to the economic drift that has occurred in recent years. The introduction of the 40-hour week and other developments in industry have forced up the costs of materials so steeply that the original estimate, which was prepared after the most careful examination, has had to be more than doubled. Furthermore, the Government, having regard to the vital importance of aluminium, has extended the scope of th, undertaking so that the potential output, will be increased. The scheme has passed through many vicissitudes. It was undertaken as a war-time project and now. after a period of uneasy peace, we must press on with it in order that we may be capable of meeting the challenge that” has been thrown out to the democracies. T hope and trust that it will be successful so that Australia will have all the aluminium that it will need in peace or in war.
– It is interesting to compare the attitude that the Government parties have adopted towards this bill with that which their members adopted in 1944, when they were in Opposition, to the Aluminium Industry Bill that was introduced then by a Labour government, of which I was a member. When that measure was introduced, they thought that the establishment of an aluminium industry in this country would be one of the best things that could happen in Australia, and apparently they still believe that that is so, but to-day some honorable gentlemen in the Government ranks have criticized that industry as being a socialistic venture. In my opinion, it is essential that we should develop an aluminium industry. I know that the Government in which I was Minister for Air came to the conclusion that if we wanted to develop an aircraft industry in this country we should be able to draw necessary supplies from internal sources. I believe still that that is so.
I am interested to know what is to be done with the cracking plant at Glen Davis. Let me say at once that I am not eager for that plant to be removed from Glen Davis, and that I believe further consideration should be given to permitting it to remain there, because Glen Davis is the best place for it. But if the plant is to be removed from Glen Davis, the Government should assure the House that it will be sent to Tasmania, because much capita] expenditure would be avoided if it were used there. Paragraph 24 of the report of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission for the period from the 1st July, 1950, to the 30th July, 1951, reads as follows: -
Glen Davis Thermal Cracking Plant (Refinery) .
Petroleum coke, an essential ingredient of the electrodes used in the aluminium reduction process, is at present obtainable from only one source in Australia, the Glen Davis Shale. Oil Refinery or cracking plant, and owing to world shortage the Commission has not been able to procure it overseas. With the public announcement early this year of the Government’s intention to close the Glen Davis works and transfer the refinery unit to Bell Bay, the Commission anticipates that not only will supplies of this essential material be assured, but that the co-ordination of oil refining operations with those of the aluminium plant will enable a capital saving of the order of £200,000.
It will be agreed that that saving would be of considerable benefit to the aluminium industry. The paragraph continues -
This would be effected by the utilization for heating of the large volume of waste gases from the refinery plant, enabling the Commission to dispense with expensive equipment necessary for firing its boilers with coal and its calcining plant with producer gas. Substantial production savings also are foreseen in the elimination of freight charges on coke supplies which would be available near the site. As the Commission’s boiler plant would supply steam necessary for operations in the oil refinery, that unit also would benefit in reduced capital expenditure.
Paragraph 25 of the report states -
Finality in regard to action for removal of the refinery plant is now awaited.
The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) has not yet given to the House an assurance that if the cracking plant is removed from Glen Davis - which I hope will not occur - it will be sent to Tasmania, where it will be of great assistance to the aluminium industry. In view of statements that have been made from time to time, the House is entitled to an assurance upon that matter. The report of the commission covers many matters and illustrates what could be done. I read it with great interest, and was certain that the Government would pay attention to it.
Let me emphasize the point that was made by the honorable member for Willmot (Mr. Duthie) about the proposed alteration of the provisions that relate to the constitution of the commission. Section 6 (1.) of the Aluminium Industry Act 1944 provides -
The Commission shall consist of -
two members representative of the Commonwealth, one of whom shall be the Chairman; and
two members representative of the State of Tasmania, one of whom shall be the Vice-Chairman.
This measure proposes that the commission shall consist of five members, of whom four, including the chairman, shall represent the Commonwealth.
– Tasmania has only onefifth interest in the project now.
– Tasmania has a great interest in the matter, because the industry has been established in that State. In 1944, the Labour Government that was then in power took the view that the proper attitude to adopt was to give to Tasmania adequate representation on the commission and to give to the Commonwealth, which was supplying most of the money, a majority of the members.
Expenditure upon this socialistic venture has leapt from £3,000,000 to over £7,000,000. The enterprise will be a great expense to Australia. That increase of expenditure, even if extra plant is to be acquired to make the industry more productive than was originally intended, shows that the Government, although its supporters decry socialism, is prepared to expand the industry because it knows that such an undertaking is essential to Australia. Enterprises that are essential to the country should be owned by the Government. I have always maintained that the Commonwealth should have complete control over transport, and that it should never relinquish that control, lt appears that the Government has been converted to that view lately. Although honorable gentlemen opposite talked about what they were going to do with Trans- Australa a Airlines, the Government has not yet given any information to the Parliament about the arrangements that it has made to maintain that socialistic venture, which has .been a great success.
Often we have to call upon a government to establish industries which, in the beginning, will not be highly profitable. . A government is in a better position to do that than is any other body. If an industry is regarded as essential - and the Government, by introducing this bill, has shown that it regards the aluminium industry as essential - that industry should be established, irrespective of whether it will be a profitable undertaking. The way should not be left open for this or any other government to sell the aluminium industry, on site, as it were, without having consulted the Tasmanian Government, at whose request the plant was placed in Tasmania.
– The Tasmanian Government has consented to this provision.
– The Tasmanian Government may have consented to it, but you have not yet answered the charge by the honorable member for “Wilmot that you have pulled wool over the eyes-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must address the Chair.
– Perhaps I strayed a little from the path in my reply to the Minister’s interjection. The Aluminium Industry Act 1944 provides that the commission shall consist of two members representative of the Commonwealth, one of whom shall be the chairman, and two members representative of Tasmania, one of whom shall be the vice-chairman. This measure proposes that the commission shall consist of four representatives of the Commonwealth and one representative of Tasmania. I do not believe that that is adequate representation for Tasmania. The Parliament should not permit a state of affairs to exist in which this industry, when operating successfully, could be sold at the whim of the Government, without reference to the Parliament. This bill will enable the Government, if it so desires, to hand over to private enterprise a going concern that was established by the Commonwealth. It is regrettable that the measure is framed in that way. If an industry is one that should be conducted by private enterprise, it should be established by private enterprise. But this Government is not game enough to suggest to private interests that they should undertake projects of this kind. Perhaps some private interests hope that when the industry has been placed upon a successful footing, the Government will hand it over to them, in the way in which it has threatened to hand over other Government enterprises. I express the hope that in this instance the Government, as it has done in connexion with other undertakings established by the Labour party, will decide that, after all, socialism is not such a bad thing.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is whether this industry should have been established in Tasmania or Gippsland. As one who lived for a long time in Gippsland I agree with the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) that there are good resources of bauxite in that area. However, all those matters were given weighty consideration and it was believed that while the resources of bauxite could be sent to Tasmania and utilized there, the proper place for their treatment was at Bell Bay. I can understand the feelings of the honorable member for Wilmot in relation to this matter. Possibly the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick) will express similar feelings. I am sure, however, .that any proposal to establish the industry on the mainland instead of in Tasmania would have been wrong. It has already been shown that the necessary power is available in Tasmania on a basis that will lead to no interference with the development of primary production. As a consequence, the industry should be able to produce a satisfactory output of aluminium as soon as it gets going. The production of aluminium is considered to be essential for many industries, particularly the aircraft-manufacturing industry. The possibility of war, which the Government has exploited on many occasions, although other authorities like Mr. Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, say it is a receding possibility, makes it necessary for us to be as self-reliant and well-provided for as possible. As a member of the Opposition I shall be prepared at all times to support any plan for the proper development of the aluminium industry, but I wish it to be recalled that, when the proposal to establish the industry in Australia was first introduced by the Chifley Government, it was the object of a great deal of criticism from honorable members opposite, many of whom now find themselves in the unenviable position of having to support this bill and to admit that the plan to establish the industry in Tasmania was well conceived and for the benefit of the nation. I do not like the bill in its present form, but I venture to suggest that those honorable members know that the bill should be, and must be, passed in order to provide Australia with an industry without which it would not be capable of meeting its future requirements.
.- It is difficult to understand why the honor- able member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) is so exercised about the fact that in future there is to be only one Tasmanian representative on the Australian Aluminium Production Commission as against four Commonwealth representatives. Surely it is only reasonable that that should be the ratio of representation, since the Commonwealth has a four-fifths interest in the aluminium project. My Tasmanian colleague, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), contributed little to the debate except to take us with him on an excursion in Tasmanian geography. Whilst he may be good at geography he is not so good at figures. The figures that he cited in relation to the output of the Trevallyn scheme were not correct. The Hydro-electric Commission’s own brochure on this subject states that each of the four reaction turbines at Trevallyn will have a capacity of 28,000 horse-power. The total capacity, therefore, will be 112,000 horse-power, not 43,000 horse-power as the honorable member for Wilmot said. The best parts of the honorable gentleman’s speech were those which contained quotations from the speech of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) and the speech of the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), who has done a great deal during his term of office to help this project. The honorable member made a passing reference to the volume of work that had been contributed by the Tasmanian Agricultural Bank. I think the less he says about that subject the better, because if ever there was a need for a royal commission of inquiry into administration, that need exists in relation to the affairs of that bank.
I support the bill, because I believe that aluminium should be manufactured in Australia, and especially at Bell Bay. I am generally not in favour of government enterprises, but this project has already advanced so far that it would be unreasonable and uneconomic to jettison it at this stage. In its original form it was undoubtedly a part of a socialist plan. We know that all Labour governments, whether Federal of State, set out to control as much heavy industry as possible. That policy has resulted in a great unbalance between primary and secondary industry. Primary industry lias had to sutler because Labour governments have a fetish about developing secondary industry, the result of whichis that labour has been drained away from the production of the food that the whole world so urgently requires.
I turn now to some of the statements that were made by the honorable member for .Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) about the power position in Tasmania. It is true, unfortuna’tely, that we are already short of power in Tasmania and that the aluminium project will require no less than 43,000 horse-power if it is to achieve an annual output of 13,000 tons by the end of 1954. It is also true, as the honorable member said, that other industries, such as the Boyer paper mills, have not been able to use plant valued at millions of pounds because they have not been able to obtain sufficient power. The electrolytic zinc industry, which is important not only to Tasmania but also to the whole Commonwealth, is short of 13,000 horsepower. I could mention other Tasmanian industries that are in a similar position, but the honorable member for Mackellar Kas given us plently of information on that subject. It is admitted that the Trevallyn scheme has been started specially to supply power to the aluminium project at Bell Bay; nevertheless, the power position in Tasmania is so acute that the original reason for the establishment of the aluminium industry in that State has ceased to exist. That reason was the availability of power, but it can no longer be said, at least for the present, that Tasmanian power is the drawcard. However, I am in favour of the continuance of this project because it will ultimately mean much to Tasmania as -well as to the rest of the Commonwealth. It took this Government to make real progress with the project. The scheme was first launched under the Chifley Government’s 1944 legislation, but only in the last two years has. substantial progress been made at Bell Bay. It is now hoped, provided the necessary electric power is available, to have the plant in full production by the end of 1054.
The lack of electric power in Tasmania to-day is a serious indictment of the Cosgrove Labour Government. In 1929, experts advised the Tasmanian Government that the then rate of increase of population, with a consequent expansion of industry, would cause a shortage of power unless steps were taken to increase the supply. Those warnings were completely ignored and only recently was any effort made to enlarge the existing power production schemes and to commence the Trevallyn scheme for the supply of power to the aluminium industry. Unfortunately, the past neglect of the power position in Tasmania has been at the expense of primary producers and ordinary householders. Even now in Launceston, at the peak periods of power usage, one can scarcely read under ordinary electric light, so heavy is the load that the power system is forced to carry. There is no doubt that there is a great power potential in Tasmania, The water power resources are enormous. It is considered certain that 2,500,000 horse-power can be economically developed. The generating plant so far in commission has an output of only 255,000 horse-power but it is hoped that present construction will increase this output to 542,000 horse-power by 1954. I think that that is an optimistic estimate. I have personally inspected the Trevallyn project and have noticed a feature which it has in common with all government jobs. It has been said that it has been through lack of funds but there is no proper leadership there, and it is not uncommon to see a band of twenty men sitting idle waiting to be directed to work. I am informed that a qualified engineer employed on the project merely attends to a diesel motor which he starts each morning; at lunch time he turns it off; after lunch he starts it again and he turns it off again when the men stop work. I believe he is paid over £1,000 a year and is not allowed to do any other duties. If the State government were concerned about the economic operation of this undertaking it would reduce the enormous waste of man-power in evidence there and elsewhere and might then be able to carry out its programme within its own budgetary scheme.
I have mentioned the potential power that is available in Tasmania. Undoubtedly hydro-electric power is the cheapest power, and, therefore, Tasmania is the ideal place for this aluminium project. Seven-eighths of the cost of producing aluminium is incurred in generating the necessary power. It takes ten kilowatt hours or ten units of electricity to produce 1 ton of aluminium. It must be admitted that the Trevallyn project was especially advanced in order to suit the acceleration of the work at Bell Bay, and in this respect I think that some credit must be given to the Cosgrove Administration. The establishment of this industry in Tasmania will serve to decentralize Australia’s heavy industry. Bell Bay is strategically situated from a defence stand-point. Being a few miles from the mouth of the Tamar River, it is well protected and it is an ideal deepwater port. There is adequate provision, including a turning basin, for the largest ships. These factors make Bell Bay an ideal site for this industry. Naturally, it is important to Tasmania’s general development to have this industry in the north of the island. It will help to absorb a great deal of the State’s expanding labour force and, in the long run, I can visualize nothing but good coming from its development.
It has been stated by one or two honorable members that the scheme, because of its socialist origin, should be abandoned, but I would remind those honorable members that this Parliament is committed to its implementation by existing legislation and, in the general interests of defence, it must be proceeded with. According to the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) the plant will produce 13,000 tons of aluminium, a year by the end of 1954. No doubt the works will be ready to produce that quantity, but whether sufficient power will be available to enable them to do so is questionable. Nearly all Australia’s aluminium ingots come from Canada and the establishment of these works will result in a saving of about 5,000.000 dollars a year, and that is very important. At present, Australian consumption of aluminium fluctuates between 10,000 and 15,000 tons a year so that it would appear that we shall be able to supply nearly all our own needs when this industry is in full production. Of course, aluminium is in great general demand. It is used extensively in the manufacture of materials for defence, in aircraft production and in building, and it is very important in certain cases as a substitute for copper, steel and other metals. For that reason I am most anxious that this industry shall be developed as quickly as possible.
.- The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick) is indeed a man of strange contradictions. First, he said that he was not in favour of government enterprise and that the establishment of the aluminium industry in Tasmania was yet another step in the socialist plan. He then stated that he would support the bill before the House. The honorable member spoke against the socialization of industry, but I do not think that private enterprise has ever suffered from more control than from what it has suffered since this Government came to office. Some time ago the honorable member stated that he would vote against the Government if it introduced a measure to interfere with Trans-Australia Airlines. The honorable member who has so strongly criticized the aluminium project and other government enterprises, has the option of travelling by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited or TransAustralia Airlines and always uses the government airline.
– Order ! I am not going to allow a debate on that subject.
– I mention that circumstance in order to illustrate the contradictions in the arguments of honorable members opposite. When this industry was established honorable members opposite passed comments concerning it similar to those that have been made by the honorable member for Bass. The then Government was criticized on the ground that the enterprise would result in wasteful expenditure. Is there any wonder that Government supporters are now uncomfortable in their support of this measure? Quite clearly they are eating the words that they spoke a few years ago. Now the Government must acclaim the foresight of a Labour administration which commenced a project which, in the words of the Minister, should receive the approval of all honorable members because it is a work of great national importance.
Although Government supporters have criticized socialized industries, no honorable member opposite has indicated that he will oppose the granting of the £4,250,000 that is required to bring this industry into full production. The honorable member for Bass criticized the manner in which a certain tunnel had been constructed for the purposes of this project. In an excellent speech, earlier in the debate, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) made it clear that the work criticized by the honorable member for Bass had been performed by a private company, which was responsible, as a contractor, for the major part of it. Is there any wonder that to-day we were amazed by the contradictions in the speech of the honorable member for Bass and by the assaults made by the Government on many great enterprises that are of benefit to the nation ?
Is not this but another instance of the Government having become the victim of its own propaganda? It has become the victim of its propaganda that it would put value back into the £1, that it would abolish all controls, that it would not establish any more socialized industries, and in relation to a thousand and one other matters. The Government has not honoured many of its preelection promises. Therefore, to-day we have the spectacle of this Government, the members of which have seen the aluminium industry built up and made successful by a Labour government, maintaining that the industry is a major factor in our defence preparations. In 1944, when £3,000,000 was invested by a Labour government on behalf of the people, some honorable members who are to-day on the Government side, criticized the proposal as a socialist venture. I shall read what the then honorable member for Balaclava, Mr., now Sir Thomas, White, said at that time. In Hansard of the 17th February, 1949, volume 201, at page 490, he is reported to have said -
My advice to the Government is to scrap the project immediately and thereby save £3,000,000. By the expenditure of £1,000,000 sufficient aluminium could be purchased to provide adequately for our defence requirements for many years to come. . . . No businessman in the Cabinet should think of launching out into another enterprise if he knew by so doing he would place existing enterprises in jeopardy. No one in Australia is crying out for aluminium, but everybody wants steel.
After that statesmanlike presentation of the then Opposition’s criticism, he was rewarded with a knighthood and a transfer to London as Australian Ambassador.
– Order !
– I mention that only in passing.
– Order !
– I am endeavouring to show how completely the Government has become converted to the belief of the Labour party that an aluminium industry should be established in the interests of Australian defence. It is significant that honorable members on the Government side can never be pleased with government enterprises. If the enterprise does not make a profit they want to sell it and if it does make a profit they say it is too successful and they still want to sell it. We all remember the Commonwealth shipping line, which, according to honorable members on the Government side, was a socialist venture like the aluminium industry.
– Order !
– That shipping line made a profit of £700,000-
– Order ! I shall not allow an argument concerning the Commonwealth shipping line to develop during the debate on this bill. The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill and a circumscribed area round about it.
– I was making passing reference to these matters. I was speaking of the Government’s criticism of certain projects such as the aluminium industry, and was instancing projects like Glen Davis, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and Trans-Australia Airlines.
– And a dozen and one other projects.
-Order! If the honorable member proposes to stand in his place and defy my ruling I shall have to act. No honorable member is better able to follow my rulings than is the honorable member for Grayndler.
– I shall abide by your ruling, Mr. Speaker. I had no intention of flouting it. I submit that the Glen Davis project is within the scope of this debate because it is another activity which the Government is winding up, and certain of its machinery is required for the aluminium project in Tasmania. My purpose in mentioning these matters is to bring home as forcibly and as clearly as I might the policy of this Government in respect of certain enterprises. But it has now reached the end of its tether and finally has to admit that certain socialized industries such as the aluminium industry must on occasions be established, irrespective of the party in power, in the interests of defence and of the people generally.
This industry was established in 1944 by a Labour government, in the face of severe criticism and at the cost of £3,000,000. It is estimated that by 1954 it will be producing about 13,000 tons of ingots each year. To-day, the Government proposes to sink into the industry a further £4,250,000 in order to place it on a sound footing. At this stage we agree to the proposals that have been made by the Government. Certain criticisms have been levelled at the Government in regard to the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, but we agree that this project should be fostered as an integral part of our defence effort, and as an industry that will function in the interests of the people. In this time of financial crisis the proper functioning of this aluminium industry would save Australia approximately 5,000,000 dollars a year. That is an important matter, and it brings home very clearly the great foresight of the Labour Government which established the industry in the face of much ill-advised criticism.
I support the measure because it is an indication that from time to time it is necessary to establish government enterprises, and I trust that the success of this great industry will be an indication to those who sit in Government that there are certain industries which must be controlled by the Government in the interests of defence and of the people. It is with a great deal of pleasure that I saw honorable members of the Government side giving lip service to a great undertaking that was established by a Labour government and was so strongly criticized when it was first proposed.
– in reply - This has been a very interesting debate, but it has presented a strange spectacle of a government measure receiving Oppotion support. I suspect that that has occurred not from the purest of motives, but because honorable members opposite brought in the original bill to establish the industry in 1944. The measure has been criticized by several honorable members on the Government side, again from motives that are not entirely logical, but because they criticized the original measure in 1944. My withers are unwrung about this matter, and I am prepared to accept the situation of the aluminium commission, a project that is only partly completed, as I find it. That is exactly what the Government has done, and why the Government has brought before the House these proposals for a large additional contribution to enable the industry to be set afloat.
I shall now reply to various criticisms of the measure and I shall deal with the matter solely on its merits. I am obliged to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) for his support of the bill. It is not completely true, as the right honorable gentleman stated, that the Australian Labour party started this proposal. A Labour government introduced legislation in 1944, but it was the Menzies Government in 1941 which first made the decision to establish an aluminium industry in Australia.
– It did not do anything about it!
– Of course it did not. That Government went out of office in 1941. From 1941 to 1944, when Labour was in office, nothing was done about the proposal. Then, in 1944, the Curtin
Government brought a bill before the House. I shall deal with the provisions of that measure at a later stage.
In the course of his address, the Leader of the Opposition said that this Government, having found that the venture is .a “ successful “ one, is proceeding to carry it to a conclusion. If he means that it is successful because almost £3,000,000 has already been committed and that the Government is required to provide an additional £4,250,000, I am bound to disagree with him. That is not my idea of success. “We found that the initial costs were seriously underestimated.
– That is understandable.
– I do not know that it is understandable that the original estimates should be totally wrong, as they were. What is understandable is that costs have risen steeply since those days. That is one important factor. I do not wish to deal with this matter on the basis of praise or blame of any government, commission, or group of men who were trying to do their best. I am prepared to let that aspect belong to the past and will content myself by saying that we found that if this project was to be continued at all, £4,250,000 would have to be expended on it. We decided to spend that sum.
The Leader of the Opposition suggested that because the Government made that decision, it has, as a matter of high policy, accepted the principle of Stateownership of undertakings. With great respect to the right honorable gentleman, and to anybody else who enunciates such a proposition, it is rubbish. The Government is merely dealing with the problem as it found it. The problem consisted of an industry which was supposed to have been commenced in 1944,. but which had been scarcely developed at all between that time and 1949, when the present Government came to office: By 1949 or 1950 we were committed to an expenditure of almost £3,000,000, and we then found that a great deal more money would have to be expended. In such circumstances, I suggest that it is not a matter of whether one is a socialist, or of whether one believes in a State-run aluminium industry. It is a matter of whether the project will be thrown down the drain or an attempt made to make it a working and payable proposition. In the interests of the nation, we decided to continue the job and try to make it pay.
I heard the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) say that his party believes that aluminium production is an industry that ought to be run by the Government. I do not agree with tin honorable gentleman. It is true that this Government is establishing an aluminium industry, but the honorable member might just as well say that the steel industry should be run by the Government. All that I can say is, “ God help the steel industry if it is ever left to a government “. It will be a sad day for Australia if that great industry should ever be overtaken by such a fate.
The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) stated that clause 7 of the bill, which proposes to repeal section 9 of the principal act and to provide machinery for the sale or disposal of the project, contains a trap. The honorable member complained that the clause has been worded so that only this Parliament will have to be consulted in connexion with any such sale or disposal, and that the Parliament of Tasmania will not need to be consulted. There are two answers to that proposition. The first is that the Premier of Tasmania, Mi-. Cosgrove, freely consented to these alterations. As honorable members are aware, he is a Labour Premier. He and I had no difficulty in reaching agreement on all of the matters mentioned in the agreement and in the bill. His signature, with mine, appears on the amended agreement. Shortly, he will introduce in the Tasmanian Parliament identical legislation in order to ratify this supplementary agreement. I suggest that if it is good enough for the Premier of Tasmania to agree to the proposals which are put forward in clause 7, surely it is good enough for honorable members opposite. The second answer to the proposition of the honorable member for Wilmot is that Tasmania’s interest in this undertaking is now vastly diminished. Originally, the State held a 50 per cent, interest and contributed £1,500,000 for the purposes of the commission. The ratio of contribution is now one-fifth by Tasmania and fourfifths by the Commonwealth. The suggestion that there is something sinister in the proposal is completely disposed of by those two answers.
The honorable member for “Wilmot also made reference to the shale oil refining plant at Glen Davis and the question of its transfer to Bell Bay. I do not think that this is the appropriate place for a full discussion of the Glen Davis project, but I point out that its winding-up became necessary because it was a hopeless enterprise and was losing £6,000 a week of the taxpayers’ money. That sum takes no account of sinking fund payments or capital charges. The undertaking had to go, and all reasonable men agreed that its termination was necessary. In the course of the subsequent discussions, a suggestion was made by my advisers and myself to the effect that the cracking and refining plant might be taken over, transferred to Bell Bay and used, with certain advantages, in conjunction with the refinery projects there. One advantage of that course would be that the waste gases from the refining processes, which at present go into the air, could be harnessed to heat the boilers at Bell Bay, which would save approximately £25,000 worth of coal a year. If the proposition were a workable one it would result in a substantial saving in the final cost of aluminium. The crux of the matter, and the real point which persuaded us to transfer the plant, if practicable, was that it is not possible to make aluminium without petroleum coke. The refining processes at Glen Davis provide the only source of petroleum coke in Australia. No other plant produces such coke, which is also difficult to obtain in other parts of the world. In order to preserve an essential supply, it was necessary to keep the cracking plant working in one place or another. There have been agonizing delays in disposing of the project, partly because of the reluctance of the New South Wales Government to co-operate with us, as we hoped it would do.
– Order ! The Minister must not develop the question of the disposal of the Glen Davis plant.
– I would not have raised the matter at all had not honorable mem bers opposite asked me express questions about it. I merely seek to indicate that the Government is still endeavouring to work out a scheme which will provide supplies of petroleum coke. Indeed, we intend to see that it is available to the Australian Aluminium Production Commission if possible. If it is practicable to harness the refinery plant to the aluminium project, well and good. We shall then refine crude oil, which will mean the production of approximately 18,000,000 gallons of spirit a year. One of our major difficulties is that some one will have to distribute that spirit, and the Government has no wish to enter the petrol distribution business. I answer the queries of the honorable member for Wilmot and the Leader of the Opposition on these matters by saying that they are receiving consideration.
May I answer a few comments made by some of my colleagues on this side of the House, I shall first answer my old and respected colleague, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), who has expressed opposition to the venture. I rather think it is a matter of his memory being too strong for him, and of his being unable to forget the old controversy of 1944. I did not have the privilege of being in the Parliament then, so I am free from any taint of prejudice in this debate. I know that certain criticisms were offered, and it may be, as was then said, that the legislation providing for the setting up of an aluminium industry in Tasmania was put through the Parliament hurriedly in order to help Mr. Claude Barnard win the Bass seat. I could not care less. That contention may be justified or not, but we are not now dealing with those circumstances. We are dealing with a project upon which £3,000,000, has already been expended. That money will be wasted if we do not carry the project to completion. The honorable member for Gippsland discussed bauxite deposits which exist in several places throughout Australia, including Inverell, in New South Wales. It has been argued that we ought to establish an aluminium reduction plant near the Nymboida Gorge, the waters of which could be used to provide electric power. There are also valuable bauxite deposits in
Gippsland, and we have been told that we should put the reduction plant in that district, and that brown coal from Yallourn could be used to provide power. The fact is that when this Government came into power the project at Bell Bay, in Tasmania, was already partly completed, and the time had gone by when it might be removed elsewhere. We were bound also in honour and in law to proceed with the undertaking. We had entered into .a solemn agreement with the Tasmanian Government, and mutual statutes had been enacted by the Commonwealth Parliament and the Tasmanian Parliament. For those reasons, I submit that the political thrust and parry of 1944 should no longer be allowed to have any bearing upon the question which is before us in 1952, and that we should now carry this valuable undertaking to its conclusion.
I now pass on to the comments of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), one of which had some sub.stance. He said that the Chifley Government might have bought aluminium cheap in Canada, and stored it for future use. I have been informed that industries which are users of aluminium advised the Government to do so, and pointed out that aluminium ingots were being thrown into the Great Lake in Canada for storage because the metal could not be sold profitably. The Chifley Government did not see fit to accept the advice, although it would have been a good thing if it had done so because we should then have had a stock of aluminium bought at a low price. That, however, has nothing to do with the question whether the aluminium plant at Bell Bay should now be completed.
The honorable member for Mackellar also mentioned the possibility of developing hydro-electric schemes in New Guinea. It is true that this Government has entered into an arrangement with the Government of the United Kingdom to embark upon a programme of exploration in New Guinea for the purpose of surveying the water resources of that territory. We hope that, as a result of the survey, valuable hydro-electric potentialities will be revealed. If, in due course, power stations are set up it will be an encouraging prospect for Australia and for our economy. It may be that in the future the extremely promising bauxite deposits which have been discovered in the vicinity of Arnhem land in the Northern Territory will be developed, and the ore treated in New Giunea, where aluminium ingots will be produced some day for use in Australia and other parts of the world. All that, however, is for the future, and it does not touch the question whether we should throw down the drain £3,000,000, which has been already committed on the aluminium project in Tasmania, or whether we should develop the project as efficiently as possible in order to make it pay. I am for the latter proposition, which I recommend to the House as strongly as I can.
Another contention of the honorable member for Mackellar was that neither I nor any other Minister had discussed the probable cost of producing aluminium at Bell Bay. I would not be so foolish as to say how much it will cost to produce aluminium, but we have in the service of the commission some very experienced engineers, chemists and businessmen. We have as general manager a very highly qualified constructional and chemical engineer who was appointed to the post recently by the Government in order to give additional drive to the project, and to bring it into production. His advice is that it will be possible .to produce aluminium at Bell Bay at a competitive price. At present, the price of aluminium is about £200 a ton. Nobody knows what it will be tomorrow or the next day. In forming a judgment one can only be guided by statistics and probability, and we have been advised that we shall be able to produce aluminium economically and in competition with producers elsewhere.
The honorable member for Mackellar advanced another proposition with which I could not possibly disagree more completely. It was unsound and fallacious. He said that there was a shortage of electric power in Tasmania, for which reason we should not set the £7,250,000 aluminium project in operation because it would draw 40,000 horse-power from the Tasmanian grid system. He said that action should he deferred until there was sn ample reserve of electric power for all Tasmanian industries. He did not state the position correctly, and his conclusions were, therefore, erroneous. It is true that there is a shortage of electric power in Tasmania at the moment, partly due to abnormal drought conditions. When I was in Tasmania I was taken to the hydro-electric undertakings at Tungatinah and Butler’s Gorge, and I noted how the two years’ drought had reduced the volume of water. It may be, too, that power resources in Tasmania have been strained, but the situation is being improved. The Trevallyn project, which it was not intended to begin at this time, has been advanced by arrangement with the Premier of Tasmania so that when we begin production at Bell Bay in 1954 additional electric power will be available. Even if that work is not completed in time, extra power will be available from the Tungatinah project. When I discussed the matter with the Premier of Tasmania I told him that I had heard stories of a shortage of power. I told him that it was essential and, indeed, practically a condition of our agreeing to make this further contribution of £4,250,000, that sufficient power should be available, and he assured me most specifically that it would be available when we were ready to begin production. I accept that assurance, which, I am convinced, was given in good faith, and with knowledge of the facts and circumstances. It would be an impertinence for this Government to dictate to any other government on whether it should give power to this mill or to that project. Once assurances had been received from the head of the Tasmanian Government that power would be available we decided to go ahead with the project. That completely answers the criticism that the Government should not have started this scheme until it had received an assurance that ample power would be available.
I shall briefly review the history of the scheme because there has been much misunderstanding, perhaps because honorable members did not hear my secondreading speech or had other reasons for their criticism. This is not a matter of party politics. I regret that the honor able member for Wilmot has introduced party politics into the debate and that the honorable member for Grayndler has endeavoured to make political capital out of it. This project had either to be thrown on to the scrap-heap or finished. Those were the alternatives. The Government believes that the only business-like thing to do is to finish the scheme and make it work. Once we have made the project pay we can consider its future. Some honorable members on the Government side of the House have referred to the Bell Bay scheme as a socialist enterprise. When it is a working proposition we can consider whether private industry would be interested in it and whether the public of Australia would be prepared to make a contribution to a great public venture of this type. I think that that would be a very good move. I am not in favour of exclusive government direction of this great enterprise. If public investors are in it and if experienced business men, chemists and engineers and others have a personal interest in it, that will be a guarantee that it will be efficiently run. One approach would be to try to interest the public in it financially but the time is not opportune to do so because nobody would touch it at present with a 40-ft. pole. When it is a working proposition, the sensible attitude to take would be to try to interest the public in it.
– Give it away!
– ~So. One does not give away a paying proposition. If the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) is troubled about the suggestion that the public should be encouraged to come into it, I remind him that the late Mr. Chifley, when he was Prime Minister, did not look on this scheme with dismay. There are on record proposals by the Labour Government involving the very suggestion that I have mentioned. They did not come to anything, but the government of the day was definitely interested in what might happen to this project when it became a working proposition by way of allowing the people to have an interest in it. So if any of my colleagues fear that forever and a day this project will be run as a socialist or a government enterprise, let not their hearts be troubled, if I may put it that way.
The day may well come when weshould have the scheme working and showing good results and may get businessmen and the public generally interested in it.
In 1941 we decided, as a government, to start this project but we went out of power before a start was made. The Labour Government looked at it and in 1944 decided to go ahead with the proposal. I do not blame the Labour government of the day for the delay because it had a war on its hands. The necessary legislation was presented to the Parliament and it was agreed to.From 1944 to 1947, not enough was done. Initial planning was necessary, but in those days a deadly inertia towards the scheme was apparent. In 1949, it was obvious that the scheme was travelling too slowly if it was ever going to amount to anything. When I became the Minister for Supply, I had the project closely examined. To the Government’s dismay, it found that an enormous extra sum of money had to be contributed if the scheme was to be completed. The Cabinet considered the proposal, and, for reasons that I have indicated, reached the decision that the extra money should be found and the scheme completed. On instructions from the Government, I met the Premier of Tasmania, Mr. Cosgrove, and asked him whether his Government was in a position to contribute an extra amount to maintain its half share. The Australian Government was prepared to continue the scheme on a fiftyfifty basis. Mr. Cosgrove said that Tasmania was not in a position to do so. The Australian Government decided, as I have indicated, that it would continue with the proposal and would contribute the needed £4,250,000.
The demand for aluminium is rising in Australia. As I have already said in my second-reading speech, the increase in the demand for aluminium in Australia cannot be stopped. At present, Australia uses 3 lb. of aluminium a head of population annually. In the United States of America the average per capita consumption is 15 lb. Australia is one of the lowest consumers of aluminium in the world, but consumption is bound to increase. In other countries even bridges are being made of aluminium and Australia will also make bridges of it in due course. Aluminium is a metal with a great future. Present consumption is between. 10,000 and 15,000 tons. It was apparent that consumption would grow as Australia developed. The cost of importing 13,000 tons of aluminium is about 5,000,000 dollars a year. The Government believed, as recent events have served to emphasize, that the importance of balancing payments was also a reason for making Australia as selfsufficient in the supply of aluminium as possible. Such action was also essential so that supplies could be secured in the event of war. Honorable members have referred to the danger of a submarine torpedoing ships off the coast of Tasmania and in the vicinity of the Tamar River, where Bell Bay is situated. That is not the problem of the Government. Its worry is concerned more directly with the danger of long-range submarines torpedoing ships which are carrying aluminium on the way across the Pacific from Canada, our main source of supply.
So, for one reason or another, the Government has gone ahead with the project. It has established a village at George Town, near Bell Bay. The Australian Aluminium Production Commission has built many of the houses remarkably cheaply under highly efficient direction and management. The Government hopes to have the industry in production at the beginning of 1954.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Incommitee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Beale) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a hill for an act to amend the AluminiumIndustry Act 1944.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 -
Section seven of the Principal Act is amended by inserting after the word “Agreement” (wherever occurring) the words “, as amended by the Supplementary Agreement “.
Amendment (by Mr. Beale) agreed to-
That all words after “ amended “, first occurring, he left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following paragraphs: - “ (a) by inserting after the word ‘Agreement’” (wherever occurring) the words ‘, as amended by the Supplementary Agreement’; and
by omitting the words ‘ingot aluminium’ and inserting in their stead the words ‘ aluminium in primary form, including aluminium in the form of ingots, rolling and extrusion billets and wire bar’.”.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 7 (Sale or disposal of undertaking or interest therein).
– This clause seeks to alter the provision in the principal act that there should be no sale of the undertaking without the consent of the Parliaments of Tasmania and of the Commonwealth. It is now proposed to make the consent of the Commonwealth Parliament the only requisite to the sale or disposal of the undertaking. The Minister has told us that this amendment has been agreed to by the Government of Tasmania. I appreciate the fact that this is primarily a matter which concerns the State, but I should like the Minister to assure the committee, if he can do so, that there is no present intention on the part of the Government to move towards such disposal.
– I can assure the committee that I know of no present intention on the part of the Government to dispose of this venture. I have frankly told the Parliament what I believe to be the future of this industry. We have no intention to dispose of it at present.
Mr.DUTHIE (Wilmot) [9.55].- Why was there need to alter the principal act to dispense with the approval of the Government of Tasmania of any sale or disposal of this undertaking? If this clause is agreed to, the Commonwealth Parliament alone will have the final say about the future of the undertaking. Even if the Government of Tasmania bears only one-fifth of its cost it is my firm conviction that no logical argument can be advanced to justify the proposal that the consent of the Commonwealth
Parliament should be the sole requisite to the sale or disposal of the project. I am still not completely satisfied with the Minister’s statement that it would be a good thing if the public became financially interested in this undertaking, and if businessmen were put in charge of it. That statement could mean anything. It could mean that the Government favours the appointment of a businessman to take charge of a State enterprise, or it could mean that the Government is contemplating ways and means by which it could sell or dispose of the industry at a future date to some firm or company that has the necessary financial resources. The danger in this proposal should be apparent to all honorable members. As we all know, the aluminium combine known as Alco had full control of the production of aluminium throughout the world prior to World War II.
– No, it did not.
– Only after the Reynolds Company and the Kaiser concern had entered the industry in the United States of America were the tentacles of that great monopoly broken. We fear that Alco may make an offer to purchase this undertaking after it has been developed and that the offer may be accepted. If the principal act remained unaltered and a Labour government were in office in Tasmania when such an offer were made, our interests would be safeguarded. This clause leaves the road open for the Commonwealth to sell to the world-wide combine an undertaking upon which we propose to expend £7,250,000 of the taxpayers’ money. We contend that the Government sale of this industry to private enterprise after it had been developed at such great expense would be a moral crime, and a betrayal of the people’s confidence in it. I should like the Minister to state clearly the real purpose of this clause.
– In reply to the statement of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) that the Government might sell this undertaking to some combine. I can only say that pigs might fly. A complete answer has already been given to him. This proposed amendment of the principal act was freely agreed to by Mr.
Cosgrove, the Labour Premier of Tasmania. I suggest that if Mr. Cosgrove was perfectly happy about it, as he was, the honorable member might let his soul be at peace in regard to the matter. He may rest assured that if the extremely astute Premier of Tasmania thought that there wasanything to object to in the proposal, he would have pursued his opinion with vigour.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 -
The Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following schedule: -
Amendment (by Mr. Beale) agreed to-
That the proposed Second Schedule be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following proposed Second Schedule: -
Agreement made this twenty-sixth day of April One thousand nine hundred and fifty-two between The Commonwealth of Australia (hereinafter referred to as “the Commonwealth”) of the one part and the State of Tasmania (hereinafter referred to as “the State”) of the other part:
Whereas the Commonwealth and the State consider it desirable that the Agreement made on the eighteenth day of April One thousand nine hundred and forty-four between the Commonwealth and the State relating to the production in Australia of ingot aluminium (in this Agreement referred to as “ the Principal Agreement”) should be amended:
Now it is Hereby Agreed as follows:-
This Agreement is subject to approval by the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and the State and shall come into effect when so approved.
Clause 3 of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting the words “subject to the following conditions : - “ and inserting in their stead the words “The following provisions shall apply with respect to the Commission: -
by omitting paragraphs (a) to (f) (inclusive) and inserting in their stead the following paragraphs: - “ (a) the Commission shall consist of five members (including a Chairman and a ViceChairman) appointed in accordance with an Act of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, four of whom shall represent the Commonwealth and one of whom shall be nominated by, and shall represent, the State; “(b) the remuneration and allow ances of the members of the Commission shall be paid by the Commission; “(c) the Chairman shall preside at. all meetings of the Commission at which he is present and, in the absence of the Chairman from a meeting, the Vice-Chairman shall preside ; “(d) in the absence of the Chair man and the V ice-Chairman from a meeting of the Commission, the members present, shall elect one of their number to preside; “(c) at a meeting of the Commis sion three members shall form a quorum, and all questions arising shall be decided by a majority of the votes of the members present; “ (f) the Chairman or other member presiding at a meeting of the Commission shall have a deliberative vote and, in the event of an equality of votes, shall also have a casting, vote; ” (fa) the State shall contribute for the purposes of the Commission the amount by which the total of the sums so contributed by the State before this paragraph came into operation was less than One million five hundred thousand pounds; “ (fb) the Commonwealth shall contribute for the purposes of the Commission any further moneys required for those purposes up to an amount (inclusive of sums contributed by the Commonwealth before the commencement of this paragraph) of Five million seven hundred and fifty thousand pounds, and may, if it thinks fit, contribute moneys beyond that amount;”; and
by omitting paragraph (h) and inserting in its stead the following paragraphs: - “(h) any profits derived from the operations of the Commission shall be applied -
firstly, in payment, or in reduction rateably, of the amounts owing to the Commonwealth and the State respectively for interest debited in accordance with the last preceding paragraph ;
secondly, in repayment rateably of the amounts contributed by the Commonwealth and the State respectively for the purposes of the Commission; and
thirdly, unless otherwise agreed between the Commonwealth and the State, in making payments to the Commonwealth and the State in proportion to the totals of the amounts which were contributed by the Commonwealth and the State respectively for the purposes of the Commission ; ” (ha) the powers, duties and pro cedure of the Commission with respect to borrowing money, banking and keeping accounts shall be subject to regulation by the Parliament of the Commonwealth;”.
After clause 3 of the Principal Agreement the following clause is inserted: - “3a. - (1.) A sale or disposal of the undertaking of the Commission, or of an interest in that undertaking, shall not be made unless not less than three months’ notice of the proposed sale or disposal has been given by the Commonwealth to the State. “ (2.) If, after a notice has been given to the State under the last preceding sub-clause and before the sale or disposal takes place, the State notifies the Commonwealth that it objects to the proposed sale or disposal -
the sale or disposal shall not be made unless the Commonwealth has paid to the State the moneys contributed by the State for the purposes of the Commission and not previously repaid, together with any interest outstanding on those moneys; and
the State shall accept a payment offered by the Commonwealth for the purposes of the last preceding paragraph, and shall then have no further interest in the assets of the Commission or in the proceeds of the sale or disposal, and shall cease to be entitled to be represented on the Commission or to have any other rights under this agreement. “ (3.)In the event of a sale or disposal of the whole of the undertaking of the Commission as existing at the date of the sale or disposal, not being a sale or disposal to which the State has objected under the last preceding sub-clause, any moneys remaining in the hands of the Commission after discharging all its liabilities (other than any liability for interest payable under this agreement) shall be applied firstly in payment rateably of interest payable under this agreement to the Commonwealth and the State and secondly in making payments to the Commonwealth and the State in proportion to the totals of the amounts which were contributed by the Commonwealth and the State respectively for the purposes of the Commission.”.
Clause 4 of the Principal Agreement is amended -
by omitting paragraph (c) and inserting in its stead the following paragraph : - “(c) to produce or obtain supplies of all materials required for the production of aluminium ; “; and
by omitting paragraph (l) and inserting in its stead the following paragraph : - ” (l) to do all other acts incidental to, or necessary or expedient for, the exercise of the powers specified in the preceding paragraphs.”.
Clause 5 of the Principal Agreement is omitted.
– (1.) After clause 10 of the Principal
Agreement the following clause is inserted: - “ 11. In this Agreement, ‘ aluminium ‘ means aluminium in primary form, including aluminium in the form of ingots, rolling and extrusion billets and wire bar.”. (2.) The Principal Agreement is amended by omitting the word “ingot” (wherever occurring ) .
In all other respects the Principal Agreement is confirmed.
In Witness whereof the parties hereto have executed these presents the day and year first abovementioned.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments ; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
i’El:ING Conference - Dr. John Burton.
Motion (by Mr. ERIC J. HARRISON proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to say a few words about the intention of Dr. Burton to attend the Pacific peace conference in Peking which is not endorsed or supported by this Government. Quorum formed.] The conference at Peking has been called by Communists with whom Dr. Burton’s fellow countrymen are at war, and invitations to attend it have been addressed to Communists whether or not they are declared enemies of this country. I regret most sincerely that the object of the remarks that I am about to make should be, in particular, Dr. Burton, because I respect him as a man of principle, and as one with whom I have had more than a casual acquaintance. I have a certain liking for him. However, he was misguided when he was head of the Department of External Affairs. His influence on the foreign policy of this country was almost wholly evil. Were he a private citizen in the ordinary sense, I should not attack him; but he is not. He is now an aspiring politician, and seeks to carry on unofficially the work that he sought to do when he was responsible for implementing Australia’s foreign policy under a Labour government. He is a member of the Australian Labour party, which has endorsed his candidature for the electorate of Lowe at the next general election. What Dr. Burton says and does now will undoubtedly have great influence on Australia’s foreign policy, if, unfortunately, from the point of view of the welfare of this country, honorable members opposite find themselves on the Government benches in the future.
His attendance at the conference at Peking is embarrassing to his country and to all true Australians. It will be helpful to the Communists, who are our enemies, and to all who seek to divide us at the present time. Worst of all, his action is the logical result of the partnership that existed between him and the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), who is now Leader of the Opposition in this
House. We now see the fruits of the policy that that partnership laid down.
– Rubbish !
– Well, let us examine the circumstances. Dr. Burton is now, and always has been, the protege of the Leader of the Opposition. The right honorable gentleman was Minister for External Affairs in two governments in this country. When he assumed that office, Australia’s foreign policy was fairly straight ahead. Under it, we knew exactly where we were going. It was co-operation with the Empire, Great Britain, the United States of America, and our great allies in the recent war. When the right honorable member for Barton became Minister for External Affairs in the Curtin Government, n great change was effected in this country’s foreign policy. At this juncture, I have not sufficient time at my disposal to elaborate that point; but when honorable members on this side of the House were in Opposition, we frequently reminded him that under his policy, Australia became nothing but an international embarrassment and a nuisance to its friends. On almost every occasion of note, he came down on the side of those who, to-day, are our enemies. In this respect, I need only cite the case _ of Indonesia. As minor examples, I remind the House of the attitude that he adopted towards the Greek Government’s claim for the return of Greek children who had been taken en masse from their parents, and the case of Cardinal Mindszenty. Again and again, he supported or gave comfort to our enemies. He took the side of our natural enemies.
It was not surprising that having that outlook he was unable to work in harmony with the permanent head of his department. He removed that officer and appointed Dr. Burton in his stead. I do not deny that Dr. Burton had great ability; but his principal recommendation for such an appointment was that he shared the right honorable gentleman’s political and international outlook. I shall not weary the House by reciting the history of the right honorable gentleman and Dr. Burton when they were in control of our foreign policy. I merely repeat that they were a nuisance to the democracies and an assistance to our enemies.. Worse still, were the appointees for whom they found positions in the Department of External Affairs. In 1939. the Minister then in charge of that department gave a guarantee that members of its staff who enlisted in the armed forces during the recent war would not, as the result of their absence on war service, sutler any loss of seniority. That pledge was not carried out, because the right honorable- gentleman and Dir.. Burton appointed in their places young men who, in the majority of instances, should themselves have been in uniform, and whose main qualification for such appointments was that they were of the same political complexion as their masters. Furthermore, at that time it was made perfectly clear to employees in that department that the only road to advancement open to them was adherence to the policy, code of behaviour and principles of those who controlled the department.
It is extraordinary that Dr. Burton, who now springs to accept an invitation to attend’ the Pacific peace conference in Peking, the principal motivators of. which are at war with our allies, should have so easily cast off his diplomatic responsibility in the Public Service of this country. Honorable members will recall that when he was Australia’s representative at Colombo, he deserted that post and returned to Australia in order to gain a personal and party political advantage. He says now that he wants to go to China in order to find out the true position in Asia. I contend that he once had a post which imposed upon him a duty to ascertain the true position in Asia. But he deserted that post, and came home. If he wished to obtain that information, he should have stayed at his post, when he was in a position officially -to do his country some service. It is useless to say now that he wants to go to China in order to find out exactly what is happening, and to tell us a’bout the situation on his return to Australia. There are officers appointed by the responsible Australian Government whose duty it is to attend conferences which are properly convened among our allies or. for that matter, among countries that are at war with us. But the conference- which Dr. Burton proposes to attend is not. within either of those categories.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I contend that Dr. Burton is not an accredited representative of this country, and I should like to know whether or not he will attend that conference as a representative of the Australian Labour party.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman, if he persists in that conduct, will be dealt with.
– I rise at once, because it is obvious that the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) has been fed with a- mass of untruths and halftruths. Even the illustrations that he has given show his complete ignorance of thefacts. At the outset I desire to distinguish between the criticism which has been directed at Dr. Burton for his intention to proceed to the conference in China,, and the connected criticism of myself. First, I shall deal with the so-called peace conference in China. There has been an attempt, because Dr. Burton is a member of the Australian Labour party, to associate his visit with its policy. He has had no authority from the Australian Labour party to attend the conference. He has never been authorized to do so. Everybody knows that to be true.
– Did the Leader of thcOpposition know that Dr. Burton proposed to attend the conference?
– I knew about it only when I read the announcement in ^henewspapers last Friday morning. But I found that ‘beforehand, he consulted Ministers, including the Minister for Externa] Affairs (Mr. Casey) about the matter. He did not consult me. However, I want to make the point shortly,, sharply and clearly that-
– Did the Leader of theOpposition try to prevent him from, attending the conference?
– Please do not interrupt, me. I ask the Minister for Supply (MrBeale) to restrain himself for a moment.
Mr. Bryson interjecting,
-Order ! The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) is not assisting the Chair to maintain order.
– The position of Dr. Burton is within the jurisdiction ‘of the Labour party in New South Wales, the president of which has said that it is prepared to deal with the matter with a view to seeing whether the conference is business on which he should have gone. In my opinion, the one question about such a conference is this: Assuming the good faith of the Australian delegates and that they have the best motives in going to Peking, is it a conference at which the attendance of Australians, in the present circumstances, involves prejudice to the defence and security of this country? Does the presence of those Australians at such a conference in Peking at this time when China, although technically at peace with this country, is actually engaged in fighting against the United Nations forces, which includes Australians, involve the element of a security risk or a defence risk to this country?
Government supporters interjecting,
– I do not ask for an answer to those questions. If I have to give an answer to them, I should say, on the evidence that I have available, that the answer is “ Yes, it is a risk “. However, the facts are more fully within the possession of the Australian Government, because it is responsible for the national security. I contend that the Government, if it considers that the answer to the question is “ Yes “, has a duty to prevent Australians from attending such a conference.
– The Leader of the Opposition, when he was Minister for External Affairs, did .not prevent Australians from attending such conferences.
– Conferences of that kind were not held when I was Minister for External Affairs. But whether or not anybody else failed in his duty in such a matter, this Government has the responsibility on this occasion to take the necessary steps. But an attempt has been made to “ pass the buck “, and political opponents of the Government nave been slandered and criticized. The
Government has ample power to take the necessary action. Alibis for its nonintervention have been produced over and over again. The Government claims that it lacks power to prevent Australians from attending that conference.
Government supporters interjecting,
– Order! I ask the Leader of the Opposition to resume his seat for a few moments while I request the House to maintain order. A little heat may be engendered on this subject, and I demand for the Leader of the Opposition a fair opportunity to state his case.
– I am expressing my view about the issue. What is the Government’s view? The Minister for External Affairs should elaborate the statement which he made earlier to-day. Does he consider that the answer to my questions should be in the affirmative? Why does he say that Australians should not go to Peking, but that the Government will not take any action to stop them? Does the Government say: “We are responsible for the security of the country, but we shall not do anything to prevent Australians from attending the conference in China “ ? A Labour government, if it were of the opinion that the attendance of Australians at a conference abroad would be prejudicial to the national security, would prevent the delegates from proceeding overseas. I tell the Parliament that the Government has that power. Alibis are useless. The Government does not seem to care whether Australians attend conferences of this kind. Another conference, which was openly Communist, was held a few days ago. Some of the persons who attended it openly supported charges against the United Nations forces. Nothing could have been more detrimental to the national security. It was psychological warfare - propaganda of the worst kind. What does the Government think about it? So far as I am aware, Dr. Burton made his own decision to attend the conference in China, and had no consultation with any of his colleagues in the Labour party. He is not a member of the Parliamentary Labour party.
I come now to the criticism of myself, and the use of a weapon by an honorable member from whom we did not expect it. He called Dr. Burton my protege. The facts are that Dr. Burton was my private secretary from 1942 to 1943. He was an officer of the Department of External Affairs who was assigned to me. I, not Dr. Burton, was the Minister for External Affairs. He did what the Government and I decided should be done.
– “Who appointed Dr. Burton to the position of the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs?
– The Cabinet, of which I was a member, made the appointment.
Mr. Holt interjecting,
– Order ! I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) to maintain silence. The Leader of the Opposition is entitled to be heard without interruption.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has submitted the alibi that he has no power to prevent Australians from attending the conference in China. He has said, in effect, that the presence of Australians at such a conference is dreadful, but that he is powerless to prevent them from proceeding to Peking. According to the press, he has said that Dr. Burton is my protege. I ask the House to note the slur, the insinuation, and the suggested combination of our names. If a protege is a person who never does what his sponsor wants, Dr. Burton might be a protege of mine. He does not answer any other definition of the word, because, when he was a member of the Department of External Affairs, he carried out the orders of the responsible political head. I do not desire to deal with personal matters of this kind, but every member of the Opposition who was a Minister in the Labour Government knows that I have spoken the truth. The honorable member for Henty has attacked me. He said that the policy which Dr. Burton and I carried out was of assistance to the enemies of this country. “What a filthy statement to make ! Of course, it is completely untrue. He also cited the Greek children in an endeavour to support his case. “What is the position regarding them? I was responsible for the arrangement in accordance with which Greek children held in Yugoslavia were gradually saved and returned to their homes. He referred to Cardinal Mindszenty. I was one of the few persons who, in the United Nations, charged the people responsible for the treatment of Cardinal Mindszenty with having committed a complete breach of the United Nations Charter.
– The right honorable gentleman brought the matter before the United Nations.
– Yes, I raised the matter at the United Nations, but I did not receive any assistance at the time from members of the present Government.
– The right honorable gentleman also raised the matter of the Protestant pastors in Bulgaria.
– Of course I did. However, this venom and malevolence pursue me, because from the beginning to the end of the last war, I stood up for the rights of this country. I did not want Australia to be a second-rate power if its servicemen did a first-rate job. I fought for the rights of Australia, and everything that I have done is known, and has hardly been criticized. Reference has also been made to the situation in Indonesia. A voluntary agreement was reached between the Dutch and the Indonesians. Certainly, we brought the matter before the United Nations, and many people criticized us for having done so, but ultimately the dispute between the Indonesians and the Dutch was settled by agreement between those two parties. Was not that arrangement better than the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives? The criticism that has been levelled at me is sickening. I have stated my view frankly. I do not like to rush into print and make critical comments about matters with which I have had nothing to do. I am pursued and harried although I am completely devoid of any knowledge of the matter. That is bad enough, but the offence is greatly aggravated when the honorable member for Henty - I do not think he believes what he claims to be true because he knows nothing of the facts - attacks me and says that I was an embarrassment to our friends and an assistance to our enemies. I could quote hundreds of statements to the contrary. At the conclusion of my tenure of office as President of the United Nations General Assembly, the heads of great nations such as the United Kingdom and the United States of America publicly thanked me for what I had done. Is it right that this campaign of persecution should be carried on merely because I am Leader of the Opposition in this Parliament? I think that it is scandalous.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Calwell) put -
That the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 23
I do not impugn the good faith of individuals without cause. I differ from them often, but I never impugn their good faith unless I have some evidence to justify my doing so. Perhaps the delegates to this conference, some of them acting on religious convictions, think that they will do some good. Let it be so. The prime question is whether the attendance of Australians at such a conference at such a time at a place which is a base, in the practical sense, for operations against the United Nations forces with which Australians are fighting against forces from China, involves an element of risk to the security or defence of this country. I suggest that the persons who ought to be able to say “ Yes “ or “ No “ to that question in the clearest terms are the members of the Government. It seems, prima facie, that the answer should be “ Yes “. I should not permit Australians to go to the conference if I were the responsible Minister. I should do everything that I could to prevent them from going, and I beg the House to take no notice of the assertion that there is no legal power to do so. There have been many alibis about this conference–
– There are just two aspects of this matter on which I wish to address the House because I have been brought into the discussion by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) both in a personal sense and as a representative of the Government. In the first place, the right honor able gentleman has attacked me becauseI have had the temerity to suggest that Dr. Burton is or was his protege. If the Leader of the Opposition now disowns Dr. Burton, this is the first time in their long public association that I have known him to do so, and I can only assume that he disowns him, not because he has not been prepared to acknowledge him before,, but because he finds him a very serious embarrassment on this occasion. I doi not rely on my own judgment. I am prepared to allow others to exercise their judgment on the facts of the association between the right honorable gentleman and Dr. Burton, which I shall state. ‘Dr. Burton entered the Department of External Affairs at the age of 26 years as a third secretary. I assume that he did not have his doctorate at that time, but that is immaterial. Almost immediately afterwards, he became private secretary to the right honorable gentleman, who was then the Minister for External Affairs. Within six years of having become a third secretary in a senior and vital department of government during a period of war, Dr. Burton, having in the meantime served as the private secretary of the then Minister for External Affairs, was appointed as the head of the department. On whose recommendation? On the recommendation of nobody but the right honorable gentleman himself, who was the parliamentary head of the department at that time ! It is common knowledge round this place that the association between them, which was an association of personal friendship, was deep - a very different association from the normal relationship that exists between a Minister and a departmental officer.
That is not a matter of discredit to the right honorable gentleman. He is entitled to form friendships and to make them as close as he likes. He was entitled, as a responsible Minister, to appoint over the heads of men who were, perhaps, more senior and more experienced, a man in whom he placed implicit trust. But let him not deny at this late stage that Dr. Burton was a man in whom he placed the most implicit trust and on whose judgment, intelligence and evaluation of situations he relied completely! How, otherwise, can he explain his elevation of Dr. Burton, at the early age of 32 years and at a time when this country was at war, to the most trusted position that it was within his power to fill? Then Dr. Burton went to Ceylon. “We all know of his dramatic return from that country to become the selected candidate for the Australian Labour party in a key electorate that the party hoped to win at the last general election. Does anybody imagine that the Leader of the Opposition had no hand in having Dr. Burton endorsed as the candidate for that electorate? More recently, Dr. Burton has fallen out of favour with the Victorian branch of the Labour party. That branch cancelled a meeting that he was to have addressed during the referendum campaign. But, notwithstanding that obvious gesture of disapproval by an important section of the Labour party, he was reendorsed as its candidate for Lowe. Did the right honorable gentleman have no influence in that matter either? I let the facts speak for themselves.
Now, the Leader of the Opposition has suggested that the Government is acting improperly in allowing Dr. Burton and other persons to travel overseas in order to attend a conference. Whatever the right honorable gentleman’s legal advice may be, the advice that has been tendered to me through my department is that the Government has no constitutional authority other than that conferred by the defence power - and that matter has not been put to me specifically - to restrict the free movement of Australian citizens in times of peace. This Government has always adhered to the principle that we should never restrict the movement of our own citizens in times of peace. That is the practice, not only of this Government but also, so far as I am aware, of the government of every British country. It is certainly the practice of the United Kingdom and Canada. Our policy is based not only upon a point of principle but also upon the advice that we have received from our security authorities. I make no apology for it. I am glad to think that a Liberal government stands true to liberal principles on an issue of this kind.
Opposition members interjecting,
-Order! If the House is not prepared to discuss this matter in an orderly manner, I shall leave the chair until such time ls the House is prepared to do so. Alternatively, I shall be forced to exercise the powers conferred upon me by the Standing Orders, which are well known to some honorable gentlemen.
– In this Parliament and in this country, the Leader of the Opposition has set himself up as a champion of freedom and of liberal principles. During the last referendum campaign, he attacked us on that basis, in season and out of season, and sought Australia-wide support for his views. The right honorable gentleman has talked about power to deal with these matters. When the Government parties asked the Australian people to extend the powers of the Commonwealth to combat the Communist menace, it was he who led the attack upon us, on the ground that he was trying to preserve the freedom of Australian citizens. But now, to save his political skin when he finds himself embarrassed by the actions of a protege whom he has so readily disowned, he has turned his back upon the principles that he preached to this country. He has said in effect, “If 1 were in your position, despite the fact that this is a time of peace, and notwithstanding that Ave have passed no legislation to deal with these activities, I should make Australia the first British country to restrict the movements of its own citizens overseas in peace-time if I disapproved of the purposes of their visits “. That is the stand that the champion of freedom and of high principles has taken on this issue ! It is for the Australian people and this Parliament to judge, if they care to exercise their judgment, whether the right honorable gentleman has been rightly described as a man who has a protege hanging around his neck like the albatross of old, or whether he is to be regarded as a champion of high principles.
.- To-night the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), under the cover of an attack on Dr. Burton, sought to make a most unfair, unprovoked and extraordinarily bitter attack upon the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). The statements that the honorable gentleman made were completely disproved by the Leader of the Opposition himself in a short recitation of his record as Australia’s Minister for External Affairs. The right honorable gentleman was the most distinguished Foreign Minister that this country has ever had.
Government members interjecting,
– At least, he is the only Australian who has been elected as President of the General Assembly of the United Nations. I can think of no other member of this Parliament who is likely to be elected to that position, at any rate during the next few years. My position in regard to Dr. Burton has been stated, quite unequivocally, and I have nothing to add. What the Leader of the Opposition has said about Dr. Burton acting upon his own initiative is entirely true. Dr. Burton consulted nobody. He acted on his own behalf.
– How does the honorable gentleman know that?
– I was not consulted by him. The Leader of the Opposition was not consulted by him. I do not know of any other member of the Labour party who was consulted by him.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! If honorable members are not prepared to conform with the Standing Orders, I shall have to act. I shall not concern myself with whether I act against honorable gentlemen who are sitting on the front benches. If my record is to be broken, I am prepared to break it to-night.
– The Leader of the Opposition has been attacked because, for a period, Dr. Burton was his private secretary and later was head of the department for which he was responsible. Dr. Burton was appointed to that latter position by the Chifley Cabinet, on the recommendation of-
Mr. Freeth interjecting,
– Order I The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) will leave the chamber.
The honorable member for Forrest accordingly withdrew from the chamber.
- Dr. Burton was appointed by the unanimous vote of the Chifley Cabinet. I accept my responsibility, as do other members of that Cabinet, for the appointment of a man who promised to be a very brilliant permanent head of a department. When the Chifley Government left office, Dr. Burton was appointed by the present Government as the High Commissioner for Australia in Ceylon. If there is anything wrong with Dr. Burton now, if there is anything as bad about him as the honorable member for Henty has suggested, it must have been known to the former Minister for External Affairs, who is now the Australian Ambassador in Washington. If Dr. Burton had not resigned his post in Ceylon and returned to Australia, unbeknown to the late Mr. Chifley, the present Leader of the Opposition or anybody else, he would still be the trusted servant of this Government as the High Commissioner for Australia in Ceylon, and all the attacks that have been made upon him to-night would not have been made.
An attempt has been made to tie the Leader of the Opposition up with Dr. Burton’s activities. The right honorable gentleman has been presented to the Australian people to-night as a man who. during the eight years that he held one of the highest posts in this country, misused his position and acted detrimentally to the best interests of Australia. Let an enemy of the Labour party and a man who has no sympathy with any member of it, certainly none with myself, give his testimony to the worth of the contribu tion of the Leader of the Opposition to the United Nations. In the Melbourne Sun. an organization upon which the honorable member for Henty worked at one time, Sir Keith Murdoch said on the 12th August, 1946-
Mr. Haylen interjecting,
-Order ! The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) will leave the chamber.
The honorable member for Parkes accordingly withdrew from the chamber.
– Sir Keith Murdoch stated–
I think Dr. Evatt has done a very great job for Australia. He is looked upon as a plucky man, possessed of an able and well-trained mind, and by Americans, particularly, as the champion of the small nations.
Americans, because they love a hero fighting against odds, applaud Dr. Evatt’s determination not to be awed by people or events. Wiser, cooler heads among them, as among other nations, might think some of his policies extreme. They think he clashes too often with the Russians and would get further with kid-glove methods, hut few are blind to his sincerity.
That is the opinion of a man who has built a big newspaper empire in this country, and who formerly employed the honorable member for Henty. The honorable gentleman would have us believe that his old master either did not know th-i qualities of the right honorable member for Barton or that he is a bad judge.
The Leader of the Opposition has been attacked by members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party since, in the early days of the war, he supported the late Mr. Curtin in his appeal for American aid without any inhibitions of any kind. He was attacked when he disagreed with the Churchill Government because the Curtin Government in 1942 decided to bring back to Australia three divisions of Australian troops for the defence of this country. He has been attacked repeatedly because he has stood for the principle of Australia first; but to-night he has been attacked because, it is alleged, he put the interests of Australia last. Honorable gentlemen opposite cannot have it both ways. The right honorable gentleman was the first Foreign Minister of any country to take with him to the United Nations, deliberating in Paris and New York, representatives of the churches. He took with him a high dignatory of the Church of England, an archbishop and a bishop of the Catholic Church, a representative of the Methodic Church and representatives of other churches, because he had some regard for spiritual values. Now he is being depicted as a man who has served the interests of Communist propaganda. The Standing Orders will not permit mc to say explicitly what I should like to say about these attacks, but I can say that the Leader of the Opposition has no need to be ashamed before the bar of history for what he tried to do for Australia when he was advancing its cause at the assemblies of the nations and protected its interests when other people would have subordinated them to their own. When I was Minister for Immigration and wanted to take some action, I took it, and if, at such a time as this, which is not a period of peace, as the Minister has said but, in the words of many of the Government’s own members, a period of no war or cold war, I had before me applications from people who wanted to leave Australia to attend conferences in enemy countries, that is, to go behind enemy lines, as I have expressed it before, I should have refused them passports and should have left them to challenge the validity of my action before the High Court. This Government is interpreting the law to suit itself. The Minister has the necessary power. Let him use it! But do not let him try to hide behind this spurious appeal to oldtime liberalism. Let him believe in the freedom of individuals, but let him also believe in the safety of his nation. If he believes the things that he and his party have said repeatedly, not only last September but also before that, he should have refused passports not only to the people now under discussion, but also to the five Communists who went to China recently. If he has the power to impound the passports of people who have gone to Europe and, without permission, have visited countries behind the “ Iron Curtain”, he can refuse passports to people who want to go behind the “Bamboo Curtain”. There is logic in that contention. I ask the Minister not to be misled by his legal advisers, but to be guided, for once, by one of the greatest jurists this country has produced, the Leader of the Opposition.
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) must take full marks for being the greatest contortionist of the century, because only a few days ago, before his defence to-night of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and, inferentially, of Dr. Burton, he made certain remarks, which were published in every newspaper in Australia, and were reported in the Melbourne Herald as follows: -
If Dr. John W. Burton went to Communist China to attend a “ Pacific peace conference “ he should resign from the Labour party, the party’s Deputy Leader, Mr. Calwell, M.H.R., said to-day.
That is, two days ago.
– I still stand by it.
-Order! The honorable member for Melbourne has already spoken.
– The report continues - “ No man can serve two masters “, said Mr. Calwell. “ No person can honestly belong to the Labour party and attend what, after all, can only be a Communist-inspired, if not Communist-controlled, conference to weaken the Western democracies in their struggle with the Communist world.”
When an honorable member on this side of the House took up the gage, and might reasonably have expected the support of the honorable member for Melbourne, we saw the greatest contortion act of the century on the part of the honorable member for Melbourne. Now
I shall turn more directly to Dr. Burton and his trip to China. First, it is necessary to go back a little to ascertain the background of the Committee for Peace in the Pacific. It arose from the visit to the Warsaw “ peace conference “ of Mr. J, R. Hughes, a member of the “ Politburo “ in Australia and secretary of the Federated Clerks Union of Australia. When Mr. Hughes returned from Warsaw he immediately threw himself into an effort to organize similar peace movements in Australia. One of his first of such movements was the Committee Against Japanese Rearmament. That movement was wound up and now a new organization, called the Committee for Peace in the Pacific, has been formed. Now, if the honorable member for Melbourne contends that Dr. Burton ought to get out of the Labour party if he proposes to go to such a conference as the Peking conference, what ought he to say about those who organized that conference and who are making it possible for Dr. Burton and his co-delegates to attend it? Who are the organizers of the conference? The president of the Committee for Peace in the Pacific, collecting funds to send delegates to Communist China, sending out appeals, of which I have seen copies, asking for 1,000 Australians to subscribe a guinea each, is no less a person than Mr. Olive Evatt, the Minister who is third in seniority in the New South Wales Labour Government. His co-sponsor in the matter is Mr. J. R. Hughes, the gentleman to whom I have, referred, who recently returned from Warsaw. They have put their names to documents that seek funds to .send Dr. Burton to Peking. Therefore, if what the honorable member for Melbourne says applies to Dr. Burton, who is not yet a member of Parliament representing the Labour party, how much more can it apply to those above him who now hold responsible positions in the Labour party? The Labour party cannot divorce itself, on the one hand, from responsibility for the acts of Labour Ministers, whether State or Federal, and say, on the other hand, that the Peking conference is a treacherous attempt to undermine the democracies, so that it can deal with the petty individual and let the big fellow go, because that is what the party’s attitude amounts to. So let the honorable member for Melbourne be consistent and say what ought to be done in respect of higher authorities to whom I have referred, and of whom there are many.
The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) made some remarks about the proposed conference. The most evil thing about that conference, from Australia’s point of view, is that the leader of the Australian delegation to it is a gentleman who was appointed by the Leader of the Opposition, when he was Minister for External Affairs, as permanent head of Australia’s Department of External Affairs. I refer to Dr. Burton. What must the United States, for example, think about the former permanent head of our Department of External Affairs, a man who is in the possession of information ,that has passed between allied governments, delivering himself into the hands of Communist China? I do not allege for one moment that Dr. Burton is a dishonorable man and will reveal the secret information that he has in. his possession. Perhaps people who know him personally may say that he would never do such a thing. The point is, what are the nations overseas, who are our allies, to be expected to think when an individual of that character can be promoted in a few years from the position of junior officer in a great department to permanent head of the department by the Leader of the Opposition, who, as Minister for External Affairs, embarrassed - I use the word embarrassed deliberately - the United States of America and Britain frequently. There may have been times when that was not the case, but in the main he embarrassed them frequently at discussions before the United Nations. The right honorable gentleman has given us some evidence of an instance when he did something about Cardinal Mindszenty. We also have some evidence of what he did in respect of the Dutch in Indonesia. On whose side did he come down when that struggle was going on? Why, it was Australia and India that intervened and cited Holland before the United Nations as having committed a breach of the peace in Indonesia. Who tried to have sanctions applied to
Spain, a Roman Catholic country, which was fighting communism? The Leader of the Opposition moved a motion to outlaw Spain from the rest of the democratic world which was not seconded in the Security Council and which was scathingly referred to by Britain and the United States of America. Who cost us Manus Island? Were all these acts committed accidentally, deliberately, or carelessly? Were they done in the interests of the United States of America and Great Britain and Australia ? Were they done by accident or in accordance with some policy that was known only to the former Minister? These circumstances must cause disquiet among the nations to whom Australia looks for assistance in its defence and from which we seek atomic information. The honorable member for Melbourne said that he could not understand how any man could belong to the Australian Labour party and attend a conference such as the one that is to be held in Peking. He said that no man can serve two masters. What has he to say about those individuals, high in the Labour movement, who have sponsored this conference?
.- The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) has made heavy weather of his attempt to bolster up the case presented by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett). It would appear from the Minister’s contribution to the debate that the speech by the honorable member for Henty was not an isolated attack by a Government supporter but a part of a deliberate plan of the Government to besmirch the name of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who was previously Minister for External Affairs. During the years when the Leader of the Opposition was Minister for External Affairs in a Labour government, he was commended in the press of the world and in assemblies throughout the world for the clarity of his viewpoint and for his constant determination to hammer out on the anvil of public discussion a new world organization to preserve world peace. All through those years the same sort of attacks were made in this Parliament as have been made to-night. The Government and its supporters have now tried to besmirch once more the reputation of one whom they plainly regard as the coming Prime Minister of Australia. Forced on to the defensive, and convinced that the present Government will not last long in Australian politics, Government supporters have risen from their back benches in order to attack the Leader of the Opposition.
The speech of the Postmaster-General was a deliberate and calculated attempt, by a process of association, to prove that the Leader of the Opposition did not give great service in world forums in the interests of Australia. The PostmasterGeneral referred to the honorable member for Melbourne as a great contortionist. What did the honorable member for Melbourne say? He said that he had made his statement concerning Dr. Burton plainly and unequivocally and that he had nothing to add to it. In reply to the statement by the honorable member for Henty, the honorable member for Melbourne quoted the viewpoint of one of the leading backers of the Liberal party, Sir Keith Murdoch, the proprietor of a great newspaper empire, who had paid a telling and eloquent tribute to the work of the Leader of the Opposition in the formative years of Australia’s external policy.
The Postmaster-General claimed that Dr. Burton, whatever his political leanings, left, right or centre, had been promoted rapidly in the Department of External Affairs because he was a favorite of the Leader of the Opposition. But the Department of External Affairs had only commenced to develop in wartime and in the post-war years. Other men progressed as rapidly as Dr. Burton. One of them sits in Parliament to-night. He is the present Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), who was a recruit to the Department of External Affairs from outside the Public .Service. He was promoted rapidly, possibly because he showed some aptitude, to a high position in which he represented the Labour Government. Will the Postmaster-General allege that the Minister for Territories was favoured by the then Minister for External Affairs in return for services rendered ? Obviously, the case of the
Postmaster-General falls to the ground. Dr. John Burton was a young member of the Public Service. He, as the Minister for Territories did, demonstrated his ability to assume a higher position and because the Minister recognized his ability he was promoted to the position that he occupied. It has already been stated in this debate that Dr. Burton, who had indicated his membership of the Labour party by standing for a selection ballot, was appointed by the present Government as Minister to Ceylon. In the turbulent East, with the growing nationalism throughout the Eastern world, the Government pinned its faith on Dr. Burton and appointed him to that high and responsible post. If the Government is not now satisfied that he was fit to carry out the duties of the position to which it appointed him, it has a great deal of explaining to do.
During the term of office of the Labour Government attacks such as those which have been’ made to-night were invariably made by rank-and-file members of the then Opposition. Such attacks were made by the then honorable member for New England, Mr. Abbott, against the then Minister for External Affairs. The Opposition of that time could not fault his work in the councils of the world. Consequently it made personal attacks on him and tried to belittle the personal sacrifices that he had made in order to enter this Parliament and play his part in world .affairs, perhaps because it feared the effect of his opinion on the middleclass section of Australian public opinion. The Government has indicated to-night that it has little regard for the subject of this debate. Government members have said little about the purpose for .which Dr. Burton has gone to this conference. They have said little of the danger, if any, that is inherent in a conference such as this. They have mentioned his name in order to gain a miserable and illusory advantage by besmirching the name of the Leader of the Opposition. The Government stands condemned by its own action.
The Leader of the Opposition did not say that this conference should not be allowed nor did he say that Australian delegates ought to be prevented from attending it. I think that he said that if he were Minister he would prevent persons from attending the conference, hut he also said that in view of the knowledge that the Government has at its command as to whether Australian defence would be prejudiced, it was the responsibility of the Government to make a decision which would preserve the integrity of our defence system. The security of Australia’s forces may be endangered. Therefore, it is for the Government to take action to prevent the departure of anybody from this country to attend such a conference. Nobody can take that responsibility from the Government, and the Government cannot evade it. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) said that the Government could not prevent people from going to such conferences, but that the defence aspect of the matter had not occurred to him. Is that not a most remarkable admission by a responsible Minister - that, at the present time, the defence power of the Government had not occurred to him ? Did he not realize that a war in which Australia was involved was in progress? On every occasion that this Government has been criticized, we have’ all heard Ministers and supporters of the Government say, “ There is a new development, there is a war proceeding in which Australian forces are engaged. Our budgets must be recast, the country’s economy must be altered because of the new impact of the war “. Yet a responsible Minister said to-day that he had not considered the defence aspect of a visit overseas such as this.
He said that the Government is powerless to act. The Government is not powerless to act; it is unwilling to act, just as it is unwilling to act in other issues both great and small. The Opposition says that the Government has a case to answer, and the Leader of the Opposition has none; that the Government has a responsibility to act, but that the Leader of the Opposition cannot act. Before the Government sets up its speakers, whether they be from the front bench or the back benches, it should satisfy itself, if the security of the country may be endangered, or if the security of our forces may be threatened, that it can act with some degree of courage.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– It is so seldom that I find myself in sympathy with the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) that I feel that I should mark the occasion. I sympathized with him when he was upbraiding the Government for its failure to stop people from going to a conference which, he said, according to the knowledge available to him., would be inimical to Australia’s interests. He thumped the table and bellowed, if I may say so-
-Order ! The honorable member may not use that term. The word must be withdrawn.
– Very well, I withdraw the word “ bellowed “. The Leader of the Opposition shouted like a Bull of Bashan, but when it comes to action he is a very Ferdinand of irresolution. It may be that the Government should pass legislation to give itself power to act in this matter, but what is clear beyond words is that the Leader of the Opposition has power himself to move for the expulsion of members of the Labour party who are concerned with this affair. It is clear beyond any dispute that the Leader of the Opposition, as the Leader of the Labour party, should move in that party for the expulsion of those who have organized what he says is, to his knowledge, a treasonable venture. I put it to him that if he has any sincerity at all, and if he is not to appear before the House and the country as a phoney-
Mr. James interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) will maintain silence.
– It is the duty of the Leader of the Opposition to move in the party for the expulsion of the president of the committee that organized this treasonable venture. As the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) has informed the House, that gentleman is the Honorable Olive Evatt, Q.C., M.L.A., a Minister in the New South Wales Government, and, I am informed, a brother of the Leader of the Opposition. No such insincerity has ever been seen in this House as that which became evident when the Leader of the Opposition rose, and, nl most with tears in his voice, said that Dr. Burton was not a member of the parliamentary Labour party and that the Labour party did not know what he was doing. Yet all the time the. whole affair had been organized by the right honorable gentleman’s own brother. May I suggest to the House that this is the measure of the insincerity of the whole of his speech. May I say to him, both as leader of his party, and perhaps in a more personal capacity, “ Anti-communism begins at home ‘’.
The nature of this conference was abundantly clear at the. outset. It was organized, as has been said by other speakers, by Communists. It was called by a lady who is vice-president of the Communist Government of China. Its purposes are those that have been so clearly described by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). There is no doubt about what this conference is for. It was meant to be a propaganda forum for the use of the Communist party. Some people may not have known that. Some people may have been ignorant of it, but there is one person at least who must have known; that is the gentleman who has been head of the Department of External Affairs. He cannot pose as a naive innocent. He must have known what it is all about. Furthermore, I think that he was in sympathy with some of the things that it is all about. I deduce that from some of his own published writings. I need not refer to the statement that he made upon his return to Australia from overseas in March, 1951. Let me merely refer to his signed article in A.T.M., of December, 1951, in which he stated -
Mr. Menzies was always opposed to the United Nations though he supports it now when it is being turned these days contrary vo thu Charter into an instrument of balance nf power tactics.
That is a Communist phrase applying (dearly, as the context will show, to the Korean decisions. It is not the only Communist phrase or Communist way of thought that has characterized Dr. Burton. ‘No doubt he will toy to bring forward an alibi. Perhaps if he is a Communist ho will be allowed to denounce Communists because that is part of the stock-in-trade of Communists. The Communist party allows some of its members to protect their identity by making anti-Communist party statements from time to time. It would not surprise me if Dr. Burton were to make an anti-Communist statement as a result of his attendance at this conference. If he did so, it would not prove anything to me, it would merely heighten the suspicions which must arise because of the fact that he has gone to the conference having made and sponsored the statements that he has made and sponsored during the last three or four months.
I now wish to refer to a more serious aspect of this affair. Looking back over the incumbency of the portfolio of External Affairs by the Leader of the Opposition, one finds behind the facade of anti-communism, erected from time to time with a certain amount of show and cunning, a guiding thread of proCommunist policy. It is remarkable, in retrospect, how often the things that the right honorable gentleman achieved fitted into what we have seen to be the Communist world pattern. It is remarkable how very often when he was antiCommunist in facade. he failed in his professed intent. One comes to the conclusion that perhaps throughout there was at his elbow an Alger Hiss. Honorable members will remember how the sick old President of the United States of America, President Roosevelt, was led into betrayal of the world at the Yalta Conference because there was at his elbow, as his confidential adviser, an undercover member of the Communist party, by name Alger Hiss. I think that it is entirely possible - indeed it is the only explanation which will do credit to the Leader of the Opposition - that at his elbow throughout his incumbency of the office of Minister for External Affairs there was some such person, who, although perhaps the right honorable gentleman did not know it, was guiding him and nudging him along Communist lines. I do not say that Dr. Burton was such a man. I am saying that the facte call for further inquiry and that Dr. Burton’s action in proposing to attend this conference,
Iia viner made the statements already attributed to him, must, of necessity, direct Hie inquiry towards himself.
.- The discussion of this matter has taken a most remarkable turn. Dr. Burton is a free Australian who is not under the control of the Opposition. Neither was he under the control of the Government until he proposed to leave the country in order to attend an international conference. Honorable members have witnessed an attack, by a government comprised of Ministers who possess all necessary power to deal with matters such as this, upon an opposition which has no power to do so. The attack is made because the Opposition has not taken certain action. I am sick and tired of listening to members of the Government, whenever the subject of communism is raised, repeating the same old attack upon the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). Apparently the object of such an attack is to disguise the fact that the Government has no more backbone than an intestinal tapeworm when it comes to dealing with Communists. Until its members are able to demonstrate to the House that they are able to handle the problem of communism, they should be the last persons to criticize the Leader of the Opposition or any one else. It is true that in some respects the powers of the Government are limited, but in many instances, including that referred to by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) in a question asked to-day, and that of an official of TransAustralia Airlines, the Government clearly has adequate power. Yet it consistently attempts to cover up its failure to take action by making constant attacks upon the Leader of the Opposition.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has said, in effect, “I stand for the freedom of people to travel abroad, and I am not going to be withdrawing passports all the time “. Nobody wants him to make a general withdrawal of passports. Personally, 1 wish to see as many people as possible travelling behind both the Iron Curtain and the bamboo curtain. Who would suggest, however, that the circumstances under which these people wish to travel to China are normal and that the normal rule should be applied ? These persons are going to China, which is waging war upon Australia. Chinese forces are killing Australian troops and airmen in
Korea. The invitation that came to them was, first of all, in the form of a denunciation of the United Nations forces because of the alleged waging of germ warfare upon the Chinese and Korean peoples. The preliminary paragraph of the invitation to. this conference in Peking made it obvious that a meeting was to be held behind enemy lines, in order to prepare Communist propaganda with which to arouse the people of Asia against us and to weaken our own morale. Would the Minister for Labour and National Service contend that if a conference had been held in Tokyo during the last war, and if Australians had been invited by the Japanese to attend it, he should not have restricted the vises because such action would be against his principles?
The honorable member for Henty asked a certain question in the House this afternoon. Then, in accordance with the traditional Government attitude towards the Leader of the Opposition, his comments were diverted to criticism of the fact that Dr. Burton is being permitted to attend a conference which is obviously a Communist stunt for the dissemination of Communist propaganda. The honorable member wanted to know what would be done about Dr. Burton. I suggest that the members of the Government are the only persons in this House who can do anything about him. Until such time as they are prepared to face problems such as this, they should not indulge in attempts to smear the Leader of the Opposition because of the activities of persons with whom the right honorable gentleman was associated in the past.
.- For some time past honorable members on this side of the House have been saying most definitely that this country is at war. Honorable members opposite have refuted that statement. If I am not mistaken, it was the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) who appeared in the High Court on behalf of the Communist party and succeeded in having the Communist Party Dissolution Act declared invalid on the ground that this country is not at war. Surely no honorable member opposite will deny that fact. According to the right honorable gentleman’s own statement to-night he has now changed his opinion. He challenges the Government and says, “You have the power to forbid the issue of passports, and you should forbid their issue because this country is at war I am glad that, even at this late hour, he has changed his opinion.
.- The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) has amazed me by distorting the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in a manner which one would not expect from his past record in debate. I remind the honorable gentleman that the Leader of the Opposition stated that if the Government is convinced that the presence of certain people at a conference in Peking endangers the security of Australian troops in Korea, the Government should take action. The right honorable gentleman made that statement precisely because a Government spokesman had taken the line that the presence of such persons in Peking would endanger the security of Australian troops.
As usual, the most fascinating contribution to this debate came from the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony). Honorable members will remember that when that honorable gentleman was in Opposition he made the welkin ring with two subjects. The first was communism and the numerous speeches on the then Council for Scientific and Industrial Hesearch, with which he damaged the reputation of this country abroad in regard to security matters ; and the second was food for Britain. He now speaks as a Minister of a government which has dismissed nobody from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization since it came to office, and which has a worse record in connexion with .food for Britain than any previous administration. It is a government which has delivered a damaging blow to the people of Great Britain and has created an unemployment problem in that country. That policy ought to qualify the Treasurer for the position of campaign director of the British Labour party, as the result of the recent municipal elections in Great Britain clearly indicates. In his fantastic distortion of historical facts regarding Indonesia, the Minister omitted to point out that the pressure exerted by the United States of America was the decisive factor in getting the Dutch out of Indonesia. The American leaders were actuated by their traditional and ignorant opposition to what they regard as colonial exploitation, and they continue to reveal the same prejudices in regard to Dutch New Guinea. The PostmasterGeneral expressed concern about the reputation of Australia in the United States of America. Recently, I read an article in Time, which is not a rightwing periodical. In that article surprise was expressed over the fact that an aeroplane had arrived in Hong Kong from Australia with 28 passengers, five of whom were trade union delegates on their way to attend a Communist-sponsored conference in Peking, and 23 were Australian officers going to fight in Korea. The reputation of Australia in the United States of America is being determined by incidents of that kind, reported and commented upon in a journal which is read by 3,000,000 Americans, and if the PostmasterGeneral is anxious about our reputation he should take some action.
The problem which we are considering to-night is that set by the action of Dr. Burton. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. “Wentworth) said that he did not think that Dr. Burton was naive or innocent. I do not know whether he is innocent, but he is certainly naive. It it difficult for me to believe that a person who is so brash is also sinister. The honorable member for Mackellar suggested that Dr. Burton was a sinister figure in the background, one who might he equated with Alger Hiss in the United States of America in his relations with President Roosevelt. Of course, it is great sport to go gunning for the late President of the United States of America, but this country and this Government have much reason to be grateful to the late President. Notwithstanding the points made by Chester Wilmot, it was not Roosevelt but Churchill who sponsored Russia’s dominant position in Poland.
Dr. Burton has at all times acted without consulting the Australian Labour party. When he decided to seek nomination for the Canberra seat, Mr. Chifley was not informed of it. No one in Australia knew anything about his decision to leave his post in Colombo, and return to Australia to contest a seat. The honorable member for Mackellar suggested that he came back to contest a key seat which he was certain to win. Dr. Burton did not take that view, and I am not sure that he was satisfied with the electorate assigned to him. I should not like to contest Lowe against anybody, even against the present Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) . Dr. Burton’s next action was in connexion with the proposed conference at Peking. 1 do not believe that the conference can have any direct effect upon any one in Korea. The conference will be the usual facade for Communist propaganda. I for one believe that Dr. Burton was really sincere when he said that it was deplorable that the world should be drifting into war, and that something should be done about it. I also believe him to be naive, and I have told him so more than once in conversation. I say very directly to Government back-benchers whom I congratulate upon having inflicted a defeat on their Government, a defeat from which Ministers are still smarting that the real point is that Dr. Burton, at all times, has publicly stated his views, foolish as I believe them to be. Some Government back-benchers hold views on war which they have not the courage to state publicly. If they did, they would not long survive politically.
.- The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) tried to divert attention from the real issue by telling us what he thinks the Government should have done. He says the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) restricted himself to arguing that if the Government believes that Dr. Burton’s attendance at Peking is inimical to national safety it should use the defence power to prevent his attendance. Actually, what has emerged from the debate is that the Leader of the Opposition will not, even to-night, state frankly where he stands in relation to Dr. Burton’s projected visit. Does he approve or disapprove of it? Even in this debate he has evaded the question. All he will say is that if the Government, thinks this or that it should do this or that. The real issue is the attitude of the Opposition towards a member of its party who is a selected candidate for the next election, and who insists upon going behind the Iron Curtain to attend an alleged peace conference sponsored by Communists. This is a matter of great political importance. The public is entitled to know where the Opposition stands upon it and, in particular, where the Leader of the Opposition stands. To use phrases which are often heard from the other side of the House in a debate on the motion for the adjournment, “ That is the question the Australian people are asking. That is what they want to know “. Where does the Leader of the Opposition stand on this question? We all know that the Opposition is deeply . divided on the question. The honorable member for Fremantle can laugh, but we have seen him to-night doing his best to cover up this very patent division in the ranks of his party. There is an important section of the Labour party which is determined, and rightly determined, I believe, to see that Communist influence is removed from the party. I applaud its determination, and wish it success. There is another important section, however, and it is well represented on the Opposition benches, which sees in the Communists the leaders of the left wing of the Labour party. That conflict of opinion within the Labour party has not yet been resolved, and we should like to know on which side is the Leader of the Opposition. I believe that he has been in the past the principal protagonist of the latter view. Since he has become leader of the party it is obvious that he has sought to play down that view. It was commonly acknowledged in the House and in the precincts when he became leader of the Labour party that he was trying to appear to have become moderate over night. However, he has found the sudden change of front somewhat uncomfortable, and he still will not come out. and say precisely where he stands. I recently asked him during question time whether he would explain his attitude towards the activities of Mr. Short, the leader of the Australian Labour party industrial group in the Federated Ironworkers’ Association, and his answer took the form of an attack on me as an “ anti-Labour “ person. We still do not know where he stands, nor do members of the Opposition know. Are they satisfied with him? The people of Australia are also asking where he stands. The House is concerned in this debate, not with the activities of the Government, but with the activities of the Opposition, and particularly with its attitude towards a selected Labour candidate who proposes to go behind the Iron Curtain.
– The Government has clearly indicated that it has no interest in the safety of Australia or in the question whether Dr. Burton should go to Peking or not. The Government is interested only in making political capital out of this debate. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), in his detrimental references to the Labour party in connexion with the protection of Australia, did not say anything at all about the responsibilities of the Government in relation to the recent case of a man who was permitted to go as far as Honolulu as a representative of the Government, and who was, admittedly, and was known by the Government to have been, the secretary of a branch of the Communist party a few years ago. The Government kept that man in his position in a government organization and sent him abroad. It. then has the audacity to compare members of the Labour party with the Americans. Does the Postmaster-General believe that the Americans would have allowed Dr. Burton to go to a conference such as the one that is under discussion ? If the United States Government was dealing with this matter, it would say to Dr. Burton that he could not - abroad to a conference that has been “instituted in the manner suggested b.y honorable members to-night. Dr. Burton decided to leave Australia without the knowledge of the Leader of the Opposition (“Dr. Evatt), but I understand that the Government had knowledge of Dr. Burton’s pending departure. It did not say to the Labour party beforehand, “Here is a man who intends to go away -to a conference like this. Cannot you do something to stop him ? “ The Government would not take that action. It wanted to throw mud over the Leader of the Opposition.
The Government and its supporters have belittled themselves. I do not know why they believe apparently that they have done something in the interests of Australia to-night. They have merely stirred up rancour and have tried to belittle the Leader of the Opposition, who has the complete confidence of the Labour party and of honorable members on this side of the House and is doing his best for this country. If honorable members on the Opposition side were able to attend meetings of the Government parties, I am confident that they would, find more supporters of the Government against the policy of their leader than are to be found in the Labour party in opposition to the party leader. Honorable members on the Government side know very well that they have to bow to the directions of their leader. I was astonished when this matter was brought forward, by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) . I had looked upon him as a man who believed in doing what was fair and right, and who was prepared to give his life if necessary for right and justice. To-night the honorable member introduced this debate in an endeavour to besmirch the reputation of the Leader of the Opposition. To make matters worse, Ministers have pursued the same course.
The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) asked what the Labour party was going to do about a man who was endorsed by it and who proposed to attend the conference that is under discussion. The Leader of the Opposition had previously stated that the executive of the Labour party in New South Wales, which is the responsible body in this case, would consider the matter and determine what should be done. I cannot understand the reasoning of honorable members on the Government side when they ask what the Labour party intends to do about a man who is an endorsed candidate for a seat in the Parliament which is not held now by the Labour party, yet refrain from stopping the same man from visiting the seat of government of a country which is fighting against Australians. It is time that honorable members on the Government side stopped slinging mud at the Leader of the Opposition. I believe that their attacks on the right honorable gentleman are born of desperation at the inability of Government members to get a man of the calibre of the Leader of the Opposition to act as Minister for External Affairs. Therefore, they try to pull him down. If the Government believes that the visit of Dr. Burton and others to Peking constitutes a danger to Australia, it should not ask the Labour party to withdraw an electoral endorsement. Instead, it should do its work, and deal with the people whom it believes to be a danger to the country. The honorable member for Evans also referred to Mr. Short as though the Labour party were backing that gentleman. Has the honorable member for Evans done anything to assist Mr. Short? Has he advanced anything on his behalf? If he has, I do not think that the honorable member should use that against the Labour party. I have complete confidence in the Leader of the Opposition. I do not agree with everything that he does, nor do I agree with every politician that I know. But the ability and achievements of the Leader of the Opposition for his country exceed the capacity of any member of the Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers . were pre sented : -
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs ( 5 ) .
Judiciary Act -Rules of Court, dated 12th April, 1952 (Statutory Rules 1952, No. 23).
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Commerce and Agriculture - E. L. Jenkins, D. B. Williams.
Defence - A. L. Greenwood.
Shipping and Transport - J. R. Hay.
Supply- J. E. Cl egg, F. F. Thonemann, W.E. Kelly, G. I. Lister.
Works and Housing - C. Bailey.
Whaling Industry Act - Second Annual
Report of the Australian Whaling Commission, for year 1950-51.
House adjourned at 11.46 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1, 2 and 3. I am unable to comment authoritatively on the experience of previous Labour governments of which the honorable member was a supporter.
l asked the Treasurer, upon notice - 1, Arc wholesalers obliged to pay sales tax within 21 days of the end of the month of sale? 2, Does this impose a heavy burden on wholesalers which has been added to by the extended field of application and the increased rates of sales tax? 3, Will he give urgent and sympathetic consideration to increasing the period to CO days or, preferably, 90 days as is the case in Great Britain?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has supplied the following information : -
e asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
2 and 3. It is not intended to alter the present arrangements for the distribution of free milk to school children. Provision has already been made for the States to suspend the scheme in times of milk shortages but this is entirely a matter for the States.
s asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
No records are kept by my department of the quantity or value of any particular drugsupplied as a benefit, it is therefore not possible to make a comparison between the quantity and value of certain drugs supplied under the present scheme with these same drugs supplied under the original scheme.
n asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
z asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
z asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1.Reports indicate that the area under wheat this season in Queensland may be greater than ever before.
z asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
Is it anticipated that jute supplies will be adequate to fulfil the requirements of the coming wheat season in Australia?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
There is an adequate supply of jute goods available in Australia to meet all demandsin the coming season.
s asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 May 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19520520_reps_20_217/>.