20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m. and read prayers.
– Is the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) in his place?
The honorable member for Darling Downs not being present,
– I have to inform the House, that I have received a telegram which purports to have come from the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) and which is couched in particularly unparliamentary terms. Further, the telegram appears to have been given to the Brisbane press before it could have reached me, and to have been published in Brisbane on Saturday last.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
Two telegrams dated, respectively, 23rd and 26th August, 1952, together with copies of the following newspapers: -
Courier-Mail, Brisbane,6th and 16th August, 1952;
Brisbane Telegraph, Brisbane, 23rd August, 1952;
Age, Melbourne, 25th August, 1952;
Argus, Melbourne, 25th August, 1952; and
Sun, Melbourne, 25th August, 1952.
The only conclusion that I can draw if the honorable member for Darling Downs is the author of the telegrams, and if he were responsible for the matter which appears in the newspapers, is that he has been engaged for some weeks past in a campaign of deliberate opposition to the Chair and the authority which L exercise by a vote of this House in this building, T ask the House to take notice of it.
- Mr. Speaker, the matter referred to by you is one that I do not feel competent to discuss because I have not seen the documents that you have tabled. In common with other honorable members I should like to see them before I offer an opinion. The honorable member for Darling Downs is not present, but he will be here after dinner. Naturally, you would desire to hear the honorable member in relation to matters that may arise from the examination of these documents, therefore, at this stage, I do not propose to address myself to the matter.
I propose to ask for the leave of the House to make a statement on the whole question of parliamentary undersecretaries after question time. That statement will not be directly associated with the matter to which you have referred, Mr. Speaker, which apparently concerns a course of conduct on the part of one honorable member.
– I have had notice of the general nature of the statement that the Prime Minister intends to make later, but I suggest that at some, stage before that statement is made the documents mentioned by Mr. Speaker, of which we at present know nothing, be brought to the notice of the House, because their contents may be of some importance to honorable members.
– The documents have been tabled. They are public property.
– It has been suggested that the documents that you regard as important might be read to the House, without determining the. matter that you raised because that is solely a matter for the honorable member concerned.
– -It is a matter for the House to decide whether the documents are to be read.
– I suggest that the documents be read or that you, Mr. Speaker, should direct that the documents be read.
– I shall not direct that they be read, but it is competent for any honorable member to have read anything that is tabled.
– Perhaps the documents could be open for inspection.
– They are open for inspection by any honorable member.
– My question to the Minister for the. Army relates to a national service trainee who contracted poleomyelitis at Woodside training camp on the 5th October, 1951. As a result of that disease he was absent from his employment from the 12th November, 1951, to the 4th January, 1952. During that, time he was not paid by his employer, the Municipal Tramway Trust of Adelaide, nor by the Department of the Army. Following upon a letter received by his mother dated the 5th December, 1951, and signed by the investigation officer at Keswick Park, he was advisee! to lodge a compensation claim to the Department of the Army. The matter has not yet been settled, and the trainee has not heard any more about it. Will the Minister expedite the finalization of this matter because it has been under consideration by the Department of the Army for nearly twelve months?
– I say advisedly that, to my knowledge, the honorable member has not correctly stated the position. We have had great difficulty in getting this young man or his people to make a claim for compensation. If the honorable member will give me the particulars of the case I shall have the matter investigated, although 1 am quite satisfied that there has been no delay anywhere in the Department of the Army.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services whether, when a person in receipt of a pension enters a hospital and receives hospital benefit under the Commonwealth scheme, such payments are taken into account as income by the Department of Social Services, with a consequent reduction of the pension.
– All moneys that are received from friendly societies by pensioner inmates of hospitals under the Commonwealth’s hospital scheme are disregarded in the assessment of income.
– On the 28 th May last, I asked the Minister for Social Services whether arrangements were being made between the United Kingdom and Australia for reciprocity in social services benefits. The Minister replied that an officer of his department was conducting the necessary negotiations in the United Kingdom. Can the honorable gentleman inform me whether an agreement has yet been reached? If it has not been reached, can he state when it is likely to be arranged?
– As the honorable member for Franklin has indicated, discussions have been taking place between officers of my department and representatives of the United Kingdom Government on the formulation of an agreement for a reciprocal arrangement between the two countries in respect of pensions. The Director-General of Social Services, Mr. Rowe, and a departmental officer, Mr. Fyfe, have been in the United Kingdom during the last three or four weeks for that purpose, and a most satisfactory stage has been reached in their negotiations with the United Kingdom. Of course, any agreement on that matter will require the approval of the United Kingdom Government and the Australian Government. Until the draft proposals -have been brought to Australia and submitted ‘to Cabinet, it is impossible for me to announce when the agreement can be completed, but I assure the honorable gentleman that the date will be as early as we can make it.
– In April, 1951, the Australian Director-General of Social Services attended the seventh session of the United Nations Social Committee in Geneva. Has .the Minister for Social Services yet received a report covering the deliberations of the committee, and, if so, will he place the report before the House for the information of honorable members ?
– I have seen the report which, like other reports of the kind., is released through the Department of External Affairs. I shall discuss the matter with the Minister for External Affairs, and I feel sure that the report will be made available to honorable members.
– The question I ask the Minister for the Navy has arisen out of representations made on behalf of the Labour Council of New South. Wales by Mr. Kenny and Mr. King, who have specially visited Canberra in connexion with the matter. Will the Minister do his best to ensure that an agreement between the management of Cockatoo Docks and the New South Wales Labour Council is enforced? This agreement was entered into between the Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company Limited and the Labour Council, through its disputes committee, and it was designed to bring the conditions of work at Cockatoo Docks into line with the conditions prevailing in the other great naval dockyard at Garden Island. Eighty-five per cent, of the work done by the Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company Limited, and 100 per cent, of the work done at Garden Island is for the Royal Australian Navy. Will the Minister endeavour to ensure that that agreement will be brought into effect so that disparity and discrimination as between the work at the two dockyards will be removed in the interests of industrial peace.
– The management of Cockatoo Docks is in the hands of the Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company Limited. That is a private corporation. Any agreement entered into between the trade unions, or the New South Wales Labour Council, and the management of that dockyard is the concern of the parties and is not primarily a concern of the Australian Government. If a conciliation commissioner has refused to certify the agreement, I do not think that the Government can take any action to compel him, to do so. However, I shall give further consideration to the problem and, if I find that I can do anything along the lines suggested by the Leader of the Opposition, I shall be happy to inform him accordingly. I should like to make the position of the Government in this matter clear. It does not intend to interfere with the management of the corporation, and it considers that the problem is entirely outside its jurisdiction.
– Will the Treasurer inform me of the progress that has been made with the repayment of superannuation contributions that were deducted from the salaries of retired public servants who were recalled to duty during the war period? Have all claims been duly met? What action has been taken regarding those former public servants who were affected by the legislation that was enacted last year hut who died before their claims for refunds could he submitted to the Treasury?
– I shall have the matter investigated and shall supply to the .honorable member the information that he seeks.
– Can the Treasurer nay whether the Government has given consideration to increasing the rate of pension of superannuated Commonwealth public servants? If it has considered the matter does it propose to take any action?
– The matter that the honorable member has raised involves a question of policy about which an announcement will be made in due course.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether any decision has been made to restrict the purchase of materials for the telephone branch of the Postal Department. If such a decision has been made, will the PostmasterGeneral ensure that the purchase of materials for use in country centres shall he given priority over purchases for city areas, where alternative communication services are available? If there is to be a. complete, cessation of the purchase of materials for any considerable time, is it not likely that the telephone branch will be like a butcher’s shop without meat?
– In an organization as large as the Postal Department it is impossible to cease buying materials. Purchases are going on all the time. In fact, the department has placed orders ahead for several years in many instances because, unless it did so, it would be unable to obtain materials when it needed them. Supplies that were ordered two or three years ago are still coming forward and will be adequate for the needs of the department, having regard to the funds that are at its disposal. There has been no substantial reduction of departmental works. Last year the department expended about £28,000,000 on new works of all kinds, and the amount to be expended this year is approximately the same.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that many hotels throughout Australia have for some time been charging their so-called guests 6d., and sometimes more, for unit telephone calls? Is it not a fact that departmental regulations prescribe 4d. as the maximum unit fee that may be asked for the use of telephones in hotels, restaurants and shops? If this is so, will the Minister ensure that, henceforth, the law will be observed, and thereby protect telephone users in hotels against such illegal, unjustified and irritating profiteering?
– I shall have all aspects of the matter that the honorable member has raised investigated.
– In view of the differences of opinion that exist on the number of unemployed persons in the community and the serious effect that increasing unemployment can have on the economy of Australia and the lives of the people, will the Prime Minister allow the Leader of the Opposition to examine the records of the Commonwealth Employment Service in order to ascertain the real’ number of persons unemployed in Australia ?
– If the Leader of the Opposition asks me for any information that is available from Commonwealth sources on matters of this kind, I shall be very happy to supply it to him.
– I direct a question to the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service supplementary to the question that was asked by the honorable member for Darling. In view of the Minister’s repeated statement that 31,000 jobs are still unfilled in Australia and of his persistent refusal to notify honorable members of the whereabouts of those jobs because of the departmental secrecy that exists on this matter, I ask him to inform the House why those positions are not advertised in the metropolitan press and in the suburban free newspapers in accordance with the practice that has been in operation by his department over the past seven years. If the department has any intention of reverting to that practice, when can it be expected to do so ?
– Last week I advised honorable members of the reasons why we were not prepared to make available to them, or to the public generally, the names of employers who placed requests for workers with the Commonwealth Employment Service. Employers, if they wish to do so, can publicize vacancies that they have available. I shall ascertain whether, previously, the department advertised vacancies and, if it did so, why the practice has been discontinued. If it has been discontinued, I shall see what steps can be taken to revive the practice.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and I point out, by way of explanation, that a statement published last week-end is to the effect that there are more rural workers in Australia to-day than there were in the 1930’s. That information is in conflict with a statement that was made recently by the Minister. Can he give me any information about the actual position?
– I have stated, in broad terms, that there are 40,000 fewer workers in rural employment to-day than there were twenty years ago. ‘Mr. Withall-
– Order !
– A gentleman who ia connected with the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia has endeavoured to show that my statement is incorrect, but a reference to information compiled by the Bureau of Census and Statistics confirms the accuracy of it. The official records show that the number of permanent workers in rural industries is now 40,000 less than in 1931-32. To the number now employed the gentleman to whom I have referred added 92,000 seasonal’ and temporary workers, but he omitted to add temporary and seasonal workers to 1931-32 figures.
– My question to the Minister for Health arises from the present unsatisfactory position in Queensland in relation to the attitude of the State Government to the federal health scheme. Will the Minister inform the House on the present position of the Queensland Government in relation to the hospital benefit? Will he also say how Queensland can participate in the proposed hospital benefit agreement? Would Queensland gain materially by so participating?
– The position is best explained in a telegram which was sent to the Premier of Queensland on the 18th August by the Prime Minister. It stated -
Reference your letter 19th June and telegram 4th August regarding hospital benefits agreement, the Commonwealth has removed the restriction imposed by the Hospital Benefit? Act of the Chifley Government which prevented State Governments from making any charge in public wards. The Commonwealth now offers to enter into an agreement conditional on State making arrangements acceptable to Commonwealth whereby hospital revenues will be increased. The Commonwealth is prevented by pharmaceutical benefits legislation passed by Chifley Government from paying pharmaceutical benefits in public wards. Commonwealth has offered to repeal this embargo on the negotiation of a new agreement.
Up to the present that telegram has noi been answered officially as far as I can ascertain, although I believe that, certain statements have been published in the press. The benefit that Queensland would gain from participation in the scheme would be substantial. At present, Queensland is receiving about £1,000,000 under the old agreement. Under the new scheme it could receive £2,500,000 or £1,500,000 more than it is receiving at present. That is on the basis of the insurance being 6s. a day. If it is on the same scale as that adopted by the Labour Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Cahill-
– It will be about £8,000,000.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman is beginning to make a speech.
– The honorable member asked me to state the advantages that would accrue to Queensland.
-Order ! Apparently it is taking a long time to answer the honorable member.
– The honorable member asked me for details about the position of Queensland under the scheme and I have stated them fully. The amount per capita of population that the Australian Government would give Queensland as a result of a new agreement would be about 48s. compared with the present amount of 21s. a head. That would be the highest rate that is paid to any State.
– My question is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Lawson. Will the Minister for Health inform the House whether it is a fact that, if the Queensland Government accepts the Commonwealth health scheme, present and future patients in public wards of Queensland hospitals will suffer financially as a result of the acceptance? Will the Minister say whether the policy of the Queensland Government has been, by means of restriction and suppression, to drive private hospitals in that State out of existence?
– I am not sure whether the policy of the Queensland Government has been to drive private hospitals in that State out of existence. I do know, however, that when I was officially shown over the maternity wing of the Brisbane General Hospital, I was told that originally there had been in the wing three public floors and one private and intermediate floor, but that the people had demanded that there should be three private and intermediate floors and one public floor, so eager were they to get into wards in which they paid.
– What rot !
– That is absolutely true. Whether patients in public wards of hospitals in Queensland will be worse off depends entirely upon the policy that is adopted by the Queensland Government. With the exception of Queensland, every State has either concluded an agreement with the Commonwealth in respect of this matter, or is in the process of doing so. Under the terms of the agreements, patients who have insufficient means to pay for treatment will be treated free of charge. The Commonwealth is making available, in respect of pensioners who occupy beds in public wards, an additional 43. a day, over and above the amount of 8s. a day which is already paid in the States that have signed agreements. The fees charged to other classes of patients in public wards are such as can be covered by an insurance premium of ½d. a day.
– 1” ask the Minister for Health whether statements that have been made to the effect that persons in public hospital wards must make a payment for their hospitalization in order that the State governments concerned will be ab’.e to obtain the Commonwealth subsidy under the Commonwealth hospital scheme, are correct? If so, do the statements refer to the 8s. a bed a day only, or to the 12s. a bed a day which has been mentioned by the Minister?
– In those States with which agreement has been made, a total payment of 12s. a day will be made in respect of public ward patients who are insured. The payment in. respect of uninsured public ward patients will be 8s. a day.
– Supplementary to the question asked by the honorable member for Bowman, I ask the Minister whether, in view of his statement that Queensland is now the only State which remains outside the Commonwealth hospital benefit scheme, he will consider paying an early visit to that State in order to make fully known to the people of Queensland the details of the hospital benefit to which they are entitled and of which they are at present being deprived as a result of the attitude of the Queensland Government?
– My experience i.u other States is that the scheme is speaking for itself, so there is no need for me to go to Queensland to speak about it. I understand that a gallup poll * bowed that in every State there was a substantial number of people in favour of the scheme, and the highest’ percentages in favour of it wore among Labour voters.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health, which is supplementary to the question asked by the honorable member for Dawson- r
– I rise to order. If my memory services me aright, the Standing Orders provide that only one supplementary question is allowed.
– Only one supplementary question is allowed to elucidate tin answer. A second supplementary question is out of order.
– Will the Minister for Health state whether, for Queensland to participate in the Commonwealth health and medical benefits scheme, it will be necessary for public hospital authorities to impose a means test on patients who enter public wards? Will lie also say whether it will be necessary for the patients to pay for hospital accommodation or treatment in public wards? Is it not a fact that public hospital accommodation and treatment in Queensland is at present, and has been for the last 35 years, free to public ward patients, and that under this Government’s health and medical benefits scheme the Minister proposes to put the public health clock back 35 years?
– The hospital position in Queensland is the same as it is in other States. Since the beginning of World War II. practically no hospital building has been undertaken, notwithstanding the fact that the population has increased by approximately 25 per cent. As a result, the demand for treatment in public wards has greatly exceeded accommodation, facilities and rich people are squeezing more and more poor people out of public ward beds of hospitals where there is no means test.
– I ask the Minister for Health to state the position of Tasmania with regard to the hospital benefit agreement. Would any financial gain accrue to Tasmania if that State signed an agreement? Was a decision on. this matter made without previous* discussion or warning?
– I am pleased to be able to inform the House that, as 1 was entering the chamber to-day, 1 received a telegram from the Premier of Tasmania in the following terms: -
My Government approves in principle of an agreement on the Commonwealth Government’s hospital scheme and will be pleased to send officers to a conference to work out necessary details. Please advise convenient date for such conference.
I immediately directed my officers to telephone the Premier and fix a date for the conference. The amount paid under the old hospital benefit scheme to public and private hospitals in Tasmania last year was approximately £225,000. Under the new scheme Tasmania could receive £625,000, or an increase of approximately £400,000. If Tasmania signed an agreement the value of the hospital subsidy plus insured benefit in that State would be increased from 19s. to 44s. per capita. Tasmania would then be in a position second only to that of Queensland, if Queensland joined the scheme.
– -I ask the Minister for Health a question concerning medical services for unemployed persons, and my question is rendered more urgent by the announcement to-day of additional thousands of dismissals. The question relates to persons registered for unemployment benefit, which indicates that they have no income. Can the Minister inform me whether general medical practitioners treat registered unemployed persons free, of charge on production of their unemployment cards? If not, will the Government arrange to reimburse doctors for such treatment, as it does in respect of medical treatment received by pensioners? Otherwise, how are such unfortunate sick, unemployed persons to receive necessary medical attention?
– I think that the position at the present time is exactly as it was during the eight years of Labour government. However, I shall ascertain the position and let the honorable member know what it is.
– I also direct a question to the Minister for Health, in order to clear up some misunderstanding. As the Australian Government, by means of special payments to the States, provides special free hospitalization for pensioners in all State hospitals, does the Australian. Government impose on State governments any restriction in respect of the persons for whom the State governments may provide free hospital services? Does this Government impose conditions on State governments which accept the hospital benefit scheme ?
– I shall reply to the last question first. The new agreement relieves the States of a limiting condition which interfered with their collection of revenue. That condition has been removed for the last eighteen months. Et is entirely a matter for a State government whether or not it imposes charges in respect of beds in public wards. I have noticed that every State Premier who has accepted the scheme has made a definite- statement to the effect that no condition will he imposed to the detriment of the indigent persons concerned. The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is, “ No “.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been directed to the repeated requests that have been made recently by school committees, mothers’ clubs and educational authorities to Victorian members of this Parliament in relation to the lack of school facilities in Victoria in which there is an implication that the .Commonwealth has a responsibility to make adequate funds available to the Victorian Government for educational purposes? From my personal knowledge, I can say that the Communists have now jumped on to this band-wagon.
– Order ! The honorable member must ask his question.
– Will the Treasurer clarify the position of the Commonwealth with respect to the provision of finance to the Victorian Government for educational purposes?
– My attention has been drawn to the matter that the honorable member has raised. Obviously the representations that he has mentioned are a part of a campaign against the Aus, tralian Government. The implication is being made that the Victorian Government is not providing adequate educational facilities because it cannot obtain sufficient loan moneys. Honorable members are well aware that education is primarily a State responsibility and that the. Victorian Government should provide funds for that purpose from resources that have been made available to it. Those resources include a special grant by the Commonwealth of £7,000,000 in excess of the sum which. Victoria was entitled to receive under the statutory formula for determining reimbursement of income tax payments to the States. The Victorian Government also has access to its portion of loan moneys that were made available as a result of the unprecedented action of this Government in guaranteeing to the States the sum of £225,000,000 in respect of the financial year 1951-52 and the Commonwealth’s action in undertaking to contribute the sum of £135,000,000 in respect of the current financial year towards State loan requirements. No responsibility for lack of . educational facilities in Victoria can rightly be placed upon the Commonwealth. I am consoled by the belief that when Victoria again has the pleasure and privilege of exercising power to impose income tax, much of the ground upon which misrepresentation of the kind that the honorable member has mentioned will be removed.
– By way of preface to a question that I address to the Minister for Social Services, I wish to say that I have received persistent representations from women’s organizations in Queensland that use be made of
Queensland’s share of moneys made available by the Australian Government in respect of the emergency housekeeper service. I understand that the Department of Social Services has had correspondence with the Queensland - Labour Premier about this matter. Has the Queensland Labour Government been asked to administer that State’s share of these moneys? Has it refused to administer the fund for the benefit of Queensland women ? If so, is it possible to have the money made available for this purpose under the administration of the Department of Social Services? Will the Minister take immediate steps, if necessary, in that direction?
– Assistance is given under the emergency housekeeper service to any organization which will provide such a service, if it has the approval of my department, but the actual allocation of money to these organizations within a State is the responsibility of the State authority. For some reason best known to itself, and which I am bound to say I cannot follow, the Queensland Government has consistently and now finally refused to participate in the scheme. However, in order that the women of Queensland may not be denied the benefits of the scheme, the Government intends to make moneys available for this service through my department. We are at present discussing ways and means and details, and we hope to put the scheme into operation in Queensland at the earliest opportunity.
– Will the Treasurer say whether it is a fact that the widespread loss of confidence in Government securities has been caused by his refusal to accept Commonwealth bonds in payment of probate duties and income tax? Has the loss of confidence been accentuated by the fact that investors who lent money to the Commonwealth at per cent, interest would lose from £12 to £15 of every £100 of loan if. through sickness or any other reason they were obliged to sell their bonds before the date of maturity? Has the Chamber of Com merce at Young requested the right honorable gentleman to adopt the suggestions that are implied in these questions?
– The honorable member knows, or should know, that all aspects of loans that are raised by the Australian Government on behalf of the States are determined by the Australian Loan Council.
– My question is based upon the statement which is constantly made by the Treasurer to the effect that questions about loan matters may not be asked in the House, as that subject is the responsibility of the Australian Loan Council. Will the right honorable gentleman inform me who is the secretary of the Loan Council, and who is the official spokesman of that body? If questions about loan policy may not be asked in this House or, apparently, in the State parliaments, to whom is the Loan Council responsible ?
– The honorable member for Fremantle has based his question on wrong premises. I have not said at any time that questions about loan matters, or the Australian Loan Council should not bo asked in this chamber. I have said that loan raisings, and the conditions pertaining thereto, are matters entirely for the Loan Council.
– Can the Treasurer inform me which States voted in favour of increased interest rates when the Australian Loan Council recently discussed that matter, as a result of which the interest rate on Commonwealth loans was raised to 3£ per cent.? Can he also tell me how the Australian Government voted on that occasion?
– The proceedings of the Australian Loan Council ure confidential.
– I understand that the general secretary of the Graziers Association of New South Wales has complained that neither his association nor the Graziers Federal Council has been consulted regarding the five-yea.r food production programme that hps been
Announced by the Government. Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House whether any organizations were taken into consultation by the Government in the formulation of this plan?
– The observations of Mr. Ick-Hewens secretary of the Graziers Association of New South Wales, to this effect are correct. I have not consulted his association. The food production and export industries target that has been agreed upon was worked out by the Commonwealth authorities and the six State Ministers for Agriculture, who acted in close consultation on both the political level and the official level, in the light of their knowledge of what it was physically capable to achieve. I also entered into particular discussions with the representatives of the various industries concerned. The dairying industry has been most closely consulted, and I shall be in consultation with representatives of the wheat industry in Canberra on Friday. I consulted representatives of the tobacco industry in Canberra during last week, and I have been in consultation with authorities in the meat industry, through the Australian Meat Board, upon which the Graziers Federal Council has a representative. Within the last fortnight representatives of the National Farmers Union, of which Mr. Ick-Hewens’ organization is a member, waited on the Prime Minister. Subsequently the permanent head of my department spent some hours explaining to them in precise detail particulars of the food expansion target that has been suggested. In view of the multiplicity of primary producers’ organizations in this country, some of which are mutually competitive, it would be quite impossible to consult all of them. Both I and my predecessor in office have had the experience of consulting federal organizations and of entering into agreements with them, only to find that subsequently those agreements were denounced by some of their associated organizations. If the primary producers of Australia want to continue to enjoy full consultation with governments, they must so organize themselves as to make it possible for governments to consult them with confidence If the secretary of the Graziers Association of New South Wales has any constructive suggestion to make, I shall be most grateful for it, but, up to date, I have seen nothing but sniping tactics on his behalf.
– Is the Treasurer aware that a large number of people are evading the payment of taxes; that legal action against known evaders cannot be taken by the Deputy Commissioners of Taxation because the investigation branches of their organizations have insufficient staff ; and that investigation of all but the most serious and flagrant cases of evasion is postponed? In view of the facts that the payment of taxes is of importance to the whole of the community, and that payment of the full amount of taxes due is inescapable by salary and wage earners, because their assessable incomes are made known to the Taxation Branch by their employers, will the Treasurer take immediate action to ensure that his taxation machine shall be fully manned so that all persons who are escaping the payment of taxes for which they are liable shall be made to meet their full obligation?
– I assure the honorable member that I have been in frequent consultation with the Commissioner of Taxation about this matter. The Taxation Branch has a very efficient staff. It conducts investigations conscientiously and efficiently, and it will continue to do so. But, recently, some of the staff have been engaged in watching and listening to certain proceedings which may result in substantial sums being recovered by the Taxation Branch.
– As the Prime Minister has intimated that the Government is prepared to return taxing rights to the States, will the right honorable gentleman consider introducing legislation that will make possible a more just distribution, especially to Victoria, of money collected as petrol tax under the present formula?
– I think I am correct in saying that the allocation of the receipts from the petrol tax has been discussed at each conference of Commonwealth, and State Ministers sin.e this Government has been in office. That subject was certainly discussed at the most recent of those conferences, which was held on the 7th and 8th July last. The Government then stated that it would adhere to the provisions of the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act 1950, and indicated that it did not propose to change the present basis of allocation.
– Is the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration aware of the widely publicized allegation that members of the Polish National Democratic Party, which is under the control of exiled Polish leaders with head-quarters in London, are holding secret “ Hate Australia “ meetings in Sydney and Melbourne. The Sydney meeting place is in Redfern? Will the Minister check a further allegation that Polish immigrants are being told by the members of this foreign political party that they must never regard themselves as new Australians, but always as Poles ready for a triumphal return to Poland when the opportunity offers? Finally, will the Minister have a security check made of the Sydney publication Polish News, with a view to action being taken to suppress the publication of propaganda unfavorable to Australia and Australians and designed to stir up continual unrest among new Australians who have arrived in this country from Poland?
– I have had my attention directed to some such report, but I do not know whether it is the same one as that to which the honorable member has referred. I noticed that the allegation was made in two ways in the same report. One statement was that some gentlemen from Poland, who were enthusiastic Polish nationals supporting the Polish Governmentinexile in London, were telling their members that they must not come to love Australia too much, because it was hoped that when the Russians were driven out of Poland they would return to that country. The same report contained another suggestion that this socalled campaign was being fomented by Communists. I do not know which allegation is true, but I have already given instructions that the matter be investigated and I hope to be able to supply the honorable gentleman with a full reply in the course of a few days.
– Can the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the House how many assisted immigrants are at present accommodated in holding centres throughout Australia and receiving the unemployment benefit while they are awaiting employment? Is it a fact that another shipload of assisted Italian immigrants arrived in Australia earlier this week? Has the Government the necessary number of jobs available for those persons? If the Government has jobs’ for the assisted immigrants, what is to be the’ position of Australians who are at present unemployed?
– -I shall obtain the information for which the honorable gentleman has asked, and advise him of the position at the earliest possible moment.
– By way of explanation of a question that I shall ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture I point out that, in spite of suggestions that dairy-farmers are restricting output, there is an increase of the output of dairy products in some centres, and an aggregate butter production of approximately 185,000 tons.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is giving information.
– I ask the Minister whether that increase will earn us an additional amount of approximately £20,000,000 of export income, and whether the extra export income will be of value to the community?
– I think it ia correct to say that the prospect of a good season in the dairying districts of Australia, combined with confidence in the future of dairying on the part of dairyfarmers, will result in a very much increased total production of dairy products this year. That increased total will provide a substantial increase of the volume of dairy products available for export. I am not in a position to give the exact value of the prospective increase, but no doubt the honorable member has made a correct estimate. The increase will be of tremendous benefit to this country in relation to the balance of payments problem.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to threats by the major oil companies of Australia that they will not deliver oil to certain country districts unless authority to increase the price of oil is obtained through the State Ministers administering prices control? la the event of that threat being carried out, or of an attempt being made to carry it out, will the right honorable gentleman give an undertaking that the resources of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, in which the Commonwealth owns a controlling interest, will be used for the purpose for which the organization was first instituted, to defeat this attempt by the oil monopolies to black-mail the people? Possibly, the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited could supply adequate petrol to the primary producers in country centres if the other companies refuse to supply them.
– I have not seen a reference to the threat referred to by the honorable member. I shall discuss the honorable member’s question with the Minister who deals with these matters to see whether he knows anything about the threat.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation state whether there has been heavy retrenchment of staff in Qantas, Trans-Australia Airlines and Australia National Airways Proprietary Limited ? Is this retrenchment the result of the policy of rationalization recently decided upon, and will the efficiency and safety of the airlines he impaired?
– There is no likelihood that the efficiency and safety of airlines will be impaired by any action which may be taken regarding staff, because those aspects are watched very carefully by the Department of Civil Aviation. The regulations have to be observed irrespective of staffing arrangements. The policy regarding retrenchments was determined individually by the various companies according to the volume of their traffic. Traffic has declined on all the airlines, and certain staff adjustments have been made in consequence. However, the adjustments are not the result of agreement between the airlines; they have been undertaken in the ordinary course of business.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation say whether it is true that, since the Government agreed with Australia National Airways Proprietary Limited to rationalize air services, Trans- Australia Airlines officials’ have been directed to see that passengers are charged 6d. for each cup of coffee at air termini, although coffee was previously supplied to ‘ passengers free of charge? Is it also true that passengers are now restricted to one piece of barley sugar each at the beginning and towards the end of each trip? Is it true that Trans-Australia Airlines has cut out poultry lunches previously served to passengers ?
– The honorable member has now given three separate items of information.
– Is it true that Trans-Australia Airlines has discontinued supplying newspapers free of charge to passengers ? Is it also true that the organization has ceased to provide fruit juices with meals, and has discontinued the practice of supplying each passenger with a route map and with Trans- Australia Airlines advertising matter.
-The honorable member is giving information.
– I shall now ask my question. How does this apparent domination of Trans- Australia Airlines by Australia National Airways Proprietary Limited with respect to services to passengers fit in with the Government’s professed belief in the virtues of healthy competition ?
– I do not think that it is an attribute of healthy competition for a passenger to be permitted to grab a handful of barley sugar instead of taking only one piece. If anything can be done to restrict the tendencies of passengers in that direction, it seems to me to be worth doing. The intention is that a passenger should have only one piece of barley sugar at a time. Barley sugar is supplied for the use of passengers when aircraft are taking off or landing. If passengers wish to chew a little more, I shall suggest to the management of Trans-Australia Airlines that, in certain circumstances, toffee apples might be provided. I do not know of any arrangement between TransAustralia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited concerning the provision of free cups of tea and poultry. I think that the service provided to air travellers by both organizations is probably better than that provided by any other airline in the world.
– Can the Minister for the Interior inform me whether it is a fact that officers of his department, who are associated with Federal Members’ Rooms, have been directed to keep a record of trunk-line calls made by members of this Parliament, and that such record is to include the name of the person to whom the call is made? If that is a fact, will the Minister state why such a direction has been issued?
– It is not a fact that instructions have been issued to the degree referred to by the honorable member, but a check is kept on trunk calls made by honorable members in order that they may check their telephone accounts when they are Tendered, which is twice a year. That check is being kept because I have very good reason to believe that people other than members of this Parliament are using members’ telephones.
– Pursuant to Standing Order 17, I lay on the table my warrant nominating Mr. McLeay to act as Temporary Chairman of Committees when requested to do so by the Chairman of Committees.
– by leave - During my recent absence abroad questions arose about the constitutional and parliamentary position of parliamentary under-secretaries. Mr. Speaker offered an opinion, and the matter has been raised in the House. I therefore think it my duty to explain the problem, so that there may be no question about the view which the Government takes of the appointment and functions of these honorable members.
First of all, I want to say that the position of these gentlemen is in no way to be determined by the particular description applied to them. The issue is one, not of words, but of substance. Assuming that, as the head of the Government, I desired to provide parliamentary assistants for Ministers, it would have been possible in theory to do this in at least three ways. In the first place, the proposed assistants might have been described as “ Assistant Ministers “ and sworn of the Executive Council accordingly. I have never believed this to be satisfactory, for the position of an Assistant Minister in the Commonwealth has always been one of some ambiguity. In the second place, following the practice of the House of Commons, these gentlemen might have been described as parliamentary private secretaries. The office of parliamentary private secretary is wellknown in the House of Commons. The select committee of 1941 described a parliamentary private secretary in these words -
Being co-opted and appointed by the Minister personally, lie is not the holder of an office or place of profit from or under the Crown.
Clearly, the question whether such a parliamentary private secretary was appointed by an individual Minister- or by the Prime Minister is not crucial. The third possibility was to appoint parliamentary under-secretaries. In the United Kingdom such functionaries are appointed under statute and receive indicated salaries. They are in fact junior Ministers, though they do not sit in Cabinet.
With the approval of the Cabinet, I decided that we should appoint certain members of the House to assist Ministers, and to describe them as parliamentary under-secretaries. The terminology is, as I have indicated, not important. The members concerned are paid no salary and perform no executive act which a Minister is by law required to perform. In brief, they cannot sign executive minutes, nor can they under any act of this Parliament be substituted for the Minister himself. The parliamentary under-secretary receives no payment beyond his salary as a member of Parliament. “When he is performing some service for the Minister to whom he is attached he is naturally re-imbursed for the expenses reasonably incurred in the course of that performance. His duty is, under the direction of his Minister, to make inquiries, to conduct correspondence when authorized to do so and, from time to time, to receive deputations on behalf of his Minister. There is no novelty about this. Our predecessors in office very properly obtained the services of private members for similar purposes in a variety of departments and on a variety of occasions.
Mr. Speaker has raised the question whether the appointment of a private member under these circumstances constitutes his appointment to an office of profit under the Crown. My colleague, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), has already stated to the House the view of the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer), who has advised that in his clear opinion a parliamentary undersecretary does not in law hold an office at all, still less an office of profit under the Crown, and that his appointment is in all respects constitutional. With this opinion I entirely agree. It would be strange indeed if the opinion were otherwise. Several members of this House perform duties which are of a special kind. We have for many years had Government and Opposition Whips. Until the recent legislation, following the Nicholas Committee’s report, .Government Whips have always been provided for out of the Cabinet fund. Nobody thought that such a Whip occupied an office of profit under the Crown, because the simple fact was that he owed no duty to the Crown, except that which he owed in common with other members of the Parliament. He had, in fact, a responsibility to his own Ministers and party in the Parliament, and was remunerated accordingly.
The Speaker of this House has for very many years received a salary beyond that of private members. Yet nobody has suggested that he holds an office of profit under the Crown, because the historic truth is that the Speaker is not, as such, a servant of the Crown, but the servant and spokesman of this House. For a long time, and certainly for many years before legislation was passed on the matter, the Leader of the Opposition has occupied a recognized position in this House and has received payment beyond that of a private member. The leader of the third party when in Opposition, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition have also been recognized by this Parliament as persons entitled to special recognition and ultimately remuneration, not because they are the holders of an office under, the Crown, which they are not, but because they have a special position in relation to this Parliament and a special duty to some, and perhaps all, of its members. It will be not inappropriate for me to add that each of these functionaries has occupied a room or rooms in this House upon the entrance to which there has appeared a description of his particular post.
It has never been suggested that the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the leader of the third party when in Opposition, or any of the Whips, has become disqualified under the Constitution by reason of his appointment. But, quite recently, it has been suggested that a parliamentary under-secretary in sharp distinction from the other gentlemen to whom I have referred, is disqualified as the holder of an office of profit under the Crown. As I have indicated, the Government completely rejects this view, and for two reasons. The first is that the parliamentary under-secretary does not occupy an office under the Crown, but has in fact a position analogous to that of a parliamentary private secretary in the House of Commons. The second is that if, contrary to our clear view, he is to be treated as holding an office, it is certainly not an office of profit. True, the parliamentary under-secretary is awarded travelling expenses as a fair recompense for what would otherwise be out-of-pocket expenditure in the performance of his work. But so are many members of this Parliament. Take, for example, the chairman of the Public Works Committee. He receives no additional salary, but he receives an expense allowance. Nobody has ever suggested that he holds an office under the Crown, because everybody has recognized that his duty is a duty to this Parliament. Similarly nobody can seriously suggest that a parliamentary under-secretary who owes his duty to his Minister has some duty of his own to the Crown, though he is not of the Executive Council and has no responsibility for advising the Crown other .than that which he shares in common with all other members of this House. # It may be said by Mr. Speaker that the title “ parliamentary ‘ under-secretary “, by strict verbal comparison with the corresponding post in the House of Commons, connotes a ministerial qualification. The answer to that would be that it is the substance that matters and that the Fords are not important. It is true that in Great Britain, where many of the great officers of State are described as the Secretary of State for . Foreign Affairs, or Commonwealth Relations or the like, the term “ parliamentary undersecretary” has a special significance. This is no doubt true. It would have been quite possible for us as a government, and for those of our predecessors who have made comparable arrangements^ without any change in the projected duties, to describe, for example, the honorable member for Canning as a “ parliamentary secretary “, as a “ parliamentary private secretary “, or as a “ parliamentary under-secretary “. But these are mere questions of nomenclature on which the selection is obviously and solely a matter for the government of the day. We decided, in pursuance of former practice, to adopt the term “parliamentary under-secretary “ and to that term we propose to adhere. Whatever the description may be, it is abundantly clear that the member concerned does not hold office under the Crown and does not hold an office of profit under the Crown.
I consider that, having said this, 1 should clear up two further points. I have never suggested that a parliamentary under-secretary, sitting in hia place in the House, should be given the right to answer questions on behalf of a Minister. I would think such a practice most undesirable, for Ministers are concerned with the administration of their departments for which they are answerable to the Parliament, and no secretary, parliamentary or otherwise, can perform this duty for them. Indeed, I think it should be made clear that under this system a parliamentary under-secretary is not a part of the Government so as to preclude him from criticizing or discussing the Government on appropriate occasions. It would be obviously improper for him to attack the administration of his own Minister. But as a member for his own electorate he is at complete liberty to address questions to other Ministers, and to offer his views on the floor of the House as his own judgment may dictate.
Having said all this, I want to take the opportunity of putting to the House a view which I think will be well understood by all of those who are or have been Ministers, whether they sit on the Government or Opposition side of the House. The duties of office have become tremendously complex in modern times. The work of a Minister does not begin and end on the floor of the House. The bulk of it takes place outside the Parliament altogether. There may very well be occasions when a Minister, having had settled by Cabinet important questions of principle, is authorized to bring a bill before the Parliament. It would be of great assistance- to that Minister if his parliamentary under-secretary could, during the committee stages of the bill, sit at the table and relieve his Minister in the discussion of clauses and amendments as they arise. We would therefore think it an extremely useful thing if the Standing Orders permitted a parliamentary under-secretary to sit at the table and to relieve his Minister from time to time in the committee stages of bills. It is not a matter which I am to-day asking the House to determine, because it. is .most appropriately a matter for consideration by the Standing Orders Committee. I shall take a suitable opportunity of inviting that committee to consider this problem and to make a recommendation to the House about it.
I shall not need to say to honorable members generally that nothing could be more calculated to give experience to private members of this House, both in the legislative and administrative field, than an effective use of the parliamentary under-secretary system. It would help to preserve continuity of administration and it would afford avenues of information which under our present circumstances tend to be shut out from many able members of this Parliament.
As I understand that Mr. Speaker feels that he should, have some direction from this House on this matter, I propose to move not only that this statement he printed hut also that this House approve of its contents.
One minor question remains to be dealt with. As I have already indicated, it has come to my notice that a question has arisen “whether a parliamentary under-secretary should have the description of his post placed upon the entrance of his room in this House. I want to make it perfectly clear that it seems to me and to my colleagues quite appropriate that, in addition to doors in this building upon which are written the words “Leader of the Opposition”, “ Deputy Leader of the Opposition “ Leader of the Country party “, “ Government Whip”, “Opposition Whip” and the like, there should also be inscribed upon the door of a parliamentary under-secretary, for the information of those who have public business to transact, the fact that he is a parliamentary under-secretary, together with some indication of the identity of the Minister with whom he is associated.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
Parliamentary Under-Secretaries - Ministerial Statement, 27th August, 1952, ;md - by leave - I move -
That the paper be printed and that the House approves its contents.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has just made a very important statement which covers a wide field and deals with many matters, with some of which we can readily agree. However, the statement contains a number of propositions with which .the House should not agree. Therefore, the House should reject this motion. It is correct, as the Prime Minister has said, that a number of positions to which he referred are not offices of profit under the Crown. For instance, who could say that the position of Whip, whether Government or Opposition, is an office of profit under the Crown? It is nothing of the sort. The Government Whip and the Opposition Whip are officers who are responsible to the Parliament. They are not emanations of the Crown, and therefore we would accept the Prime Minister’s view about them. Similarly with the exalted position of the Speaker of this House. The Speaker holds an office of profit, as do the Government Whip and the Opposition Whip, but none of those office-holders holds his office under the Crown. Those officers owe no duty or obedience to the Crown. They are officers of the Parliament.
The substantial question is whether the position of parliamentary undersecretary is a position that is referred to in section 44 of the Constitution as an office of profit under the Crown. The Constitution, in section 44, specifically exempt? members of the Executive Government who are Ministers of State. They hold offices of profit under the Crown, but are specially exempted from the prohibition upon members of the Parliament from holding offices of profit under the Crown. The parliamentary Under-Secretaries., according to the Prime Minister’s statement, are not mentioned in .the list of exemptions in section 44 of the Constitution. The Prime Minister said that it might be desirable to have them sitting al the table during the committee stages of bills. Of course it might be so desirable, but we are not concerned with that. We are concerned only with the one question that I have detailed to the House.
The statements of the Prime Minister on that important point are in direct, contradiction with a statement made by Mr. Speaker as long ago as the 22nd May. I shall not repeat the reasons that he then gave for his opinion, because they have since been mentioned at some length, but I submit that it would be completely wrong and foolish for the House to issue a blanket endorsement of the statement the Prime Minister has just made. especially in view of the fact that honorable members as yet have not had an opportunity to study it. Honorable members are asked to accept not a portion of the Prime Minister’s statement but the whole of it, and to approve of all that it contains. I suggest that the statement should be very carefully scrutinized because so far from destroying a ruling given by Mr. Speaker, it seems in part to give support to some of his reasoning, as I shall try to show. To give assent to the motion now before the House would be simply to rebuke Mr. Speaker, because the statement shows that the Government completely rejects his opinion upon an important question of constitutional law and practice, and that would be a serious thing to do unless the matter were fully worked out and carefully considered by the House in all its aspects. In addition, a resolution of this character would have no effect legally. It could not prevent the matter from being challenged in the only quarter where the issue could be finally determined, which is in the courts. Therefore, the adoption of a resolution declaring that the House accepted all the contents of the statement by the Prime Minister would be a wrong act and, in the circumstances, a foolish act.
Now I shall deal with some of the details of the Prime Minister’s statement. The right honorable gentleman said that the appointments could have been made in three ways. First, the parliamentary under-secretaries could have been appointed as members of the Executive Council. Of course that is so. Tha Constitution provides for such a contingency. By appointment to the Executive Council, these honorable members would have assumed their place in the Government, and that would have been a situs tion for which the Constitution provides. To say that the Government might have done it that way is only to say that the appointments might have been made correctly and without any prospect of a challenge. Secondly, according to the Prime Minister, the situation could have been made analogous to that of the parliamentary private secretaryship system that is in vogue in the Parliament at Westminster. That i3 correct. But why was that course deliberately rejected by the Government?
Because it was not intended to be analogous to the situation in the United Kingdom ! Everybody knows that. These men were not appointed by particular holders of offices under the Crown, such as the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. They were appointed, as the Prime Minister has said, by the Cabinet. But each parliamentary private secretary in Great Britain, as I understand the position, is appointed by a Minister as a personal officer and is paid by the Minister for doing such work. To say, therefore, that the appointments could have been made in other ways simply amounts to a failure to face up to the issue. What do these honorable members do. Why were they appointed? Do they hold an office of profit, and, if so, is it an office of profit under the Crown? They are the significant, questions.
The Prime Minister, quite logically from his point of view, has said that they perform some service for their Ministers. That is partly correct. Each of these gentlemen, acting for a Minister, no doubt performs services for the Minister. However, I venture to suggest, without expressing any final view, that, on the facts before us, there is a strong reason to support the view of Mr. Speaker that they are also performing a service for the Crown. Indeed, in the correspondence that they sign, they describe themselves as parliamentary under-secretaries to ecu-tain Ministers. Even the function of dealing with requests by other honorable members is a Crown function - a governmental function. That is not a personal service rendered to a Minister such as might be rendered to a Minister by a private secretary. I submit that these honorable gentlemen have held themselves out, in some respects, as holders of office under the Crown. That is why they insist upon the description of parliamentary under-secretary The seriousness of the position is shown by the Prime Minister’s statement that they are not entitled to criticize the Ministers whom they ave assisting That is contrary to all the functions of a member of this Parliament. It is because an honorable member is not merely entitled, but bound, to criticize any Minister that he holds his office quite separate from the office” of Executive councillor and Minister of State.
– He might decide to agree with his Minister.
– Of course, but the point to which the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) must address his mind is the statement by the Prime Minister that it would be wrong for such an honorable member to ask a question of the Minister whom he is assisting or to engage in any criticism of him. That is the very kind of thing that the Constitution has been designed to prevent. Tinder the Constitution, honorable members are free, and in fact bound, to criticize Ministers if they think fit, except if they hold office in a government and, in that respect, there is a responsibility to the Parliament as a group.
The facts of the situation are made even clearer I submit, by the final statement of the Prime Minister, in which the right honorable gentleman has referred to the matter that brought this dispute - if I may call it such - to a head. That issue is the right of a parliamentary under-secretary to have the description of his office placed upon the entrance to his room in Parliament House. The matter in dispute is whether a parliamentary under-secretary shall have placed on the entrance of his room, not the number of his room for identification purposes, but the description of the office or public position that he fills. I submit that the cause of the dispute itself is a piece of evidence that these honorable gentlemen hold office. The next question is whether it is an office of profit. You, Mr. Speaker, recently referred the House to a case in which it was held that the payment of expenses is sufficient to constitute an office of profit.
– Is that the opinion of the Leader of the Opposition?
– That is the opinion that was put before us in the case to which Mr. Speaker directed attention.
– All honorable members will be interested in that.
– Honorable members generally are in a different position from that of the three honorable gentleman whose position is under discussion. The interjection is merely a red herring drawn across the trail. Every member of this House holds an office of profit, but it is not an office of profit under the Crown in the case of private members.
– Why not!
– Because honorable members are not responsible to the Government and owe no duty to the Crown. They are here, if they are not members of the Government, as critics of the Crown or supporters of the Crown. They are completely free. A free parliament is of the essence of parliamentary government.
Every honorable member holds an office of profit. The party Whips, the leaders of the parties, and you, Mr. Speaker, hold offices of profit. The ultimate question is whether these offices of profit are held under the Crown. What is the truth of the matter? I submit that the statement by y°u> 31r. Speaker, has not been cut down by the Prime Minister’s statement this afternoon. On the contrary, we find support of Mr. Speaker’s view in the Prime Minister’s statement. Do the parliamentary under-secretaries hold office? Well, they purport to hold office. The Prime Minister has frequently made the error in this Parliament of expressing final opinions on constitutional law. Sometimes he has been correct, and sometimes he has been wrong. Therefore, this matter should be most carefully considered by the House. So far from destroying the view that was expressed by Mr. Speaker at an earlier date, the Prime Minister’s statement to-day contains not one sentence that cut it down in any respect. The House has been asked, not to support a specific motion* but to adopt all the contents of a lengthy statement, in which many assertions are correct hut in which the relevant assertions are in dispute. I submit that it would be incorrect to deal with the matter in the summary way that has been proposed and, therefore, that the motion ought to be rejected.
Mr. CALWELL (Melbourne) [3.59^. - This matter arose when, on the 22nd May, I addressed a series of questions to you, Mr. Speaker. I asked first whether, in your opinion, parliamentary under-secretaries were officers of this House or of the Crown. You replied - [n my view the officers! concerned fire not officers of this Parliament, they are officers of the Crown. f also said -
I should like to know any reasons that you may desire to advance in regard to any derisions that you have given.
To that inquiry you replied -
My view of the situation is that the appointments are unconstitutional, that no Minister has the power to delegate his authority to anybody and that any administrative act made by or done by a parliamentary undersecretary is unconstitutional and illegal. Furthermore, I hold the view that a member itf this House who accepts a position as an under-secretary,- renders himself liable to the vacation of his seat under the Constitution, and also liable to the penalties entailed for wrongfully holding a seat in this House, having accepted an office of profit under the Crown.
Then, Mr; Speaker, yon went on to say - lt is also my view, and I have stated it in the right quarters that the position of the under-secretaries lias not been altered bv the failure of the Government to pay them salaries.
I have never been able to discover exactly where the right quarters were, but that is your own terminology, Mr. Speaker. Then you continued -
The test is that the office has been accepted ;ind not that the holder of the office has made a profit. I further hold, and I have said so, that the payment of expenses to these honorable members is completely unconstitutional and unlawful.
Since that date, the matter has been raised .several times. Over the week-end, or at some recent period, some action was taken which caused this matter to be discussed again by the Cabinet. In his statement to-day, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has invited the House to say that you, Mr. Speaker, were completely wrong in what you have stated as your opinion on the matter. The right honorable gentleman said, in effect, that you do not know anything about the subject. Further he said ‘that the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) does know all about it, and that the Attorney-General holds the position of the under-secretaries to he completely valid in law. The Attorney-General did say that he had been advised to that effect by the distinguished law officers of the Commonwealth of Australia. Who are those distinguished legal luminaries? The same people advised the Chifley Government that the legislation for thenationalization of banking was constitutional in every respect. The High Court of Australia disagreed with them in regard to certain provisions of that legislation. Those same distinguished lawyers advised the Menzies Government that the Communist Party Dissolution Act 1950 was valid in all respects, but six judges out of seven in the High Court had no difficulty in deciding that the whole of that act was unconstitutional and invalid. The same people have advised this Government that the Defence Preparations Act 1951 is perfectly constitutional. That act is under challenge at present. Maybe the High Court will declare that it, too, is invalid. Those distinguished lawyers could be Ayr ong three times and right on a fourth occasion. They could also he ‘ wrong four times.
I believe that the High Court should be given an opportunity to decide this issue in accordance with the law. You, Mr. Speaker, have suggested that that course should be followed. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) raised the matter some little time after I first raised it and you, Mr. Speaker, suggested that action should be taken. The honorable member for East Sydney had asked whether you or the Government or the Parliament could initiate proceedings in the High Court. It would be far better to allow the position to be decided by the High Court regardless of its effect on the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the whips and all those other important people whom the Prime Minister this afternoon was pleased to designate as functionaries. We should have the position decided finally. But th? Prime Minister has made no attempt to have the High Court decide the issue. Instead the right honorable gentleman has said, in effect, “ Let us have a resolution of the House “. There is a similarity between the course that the Government now suggests and the ‘action taken by Dr. Malan in South Africa recently. The High Court in South Africa declared Dr. Malan’s legislation on racial laws to be unconstitutional, but Di Malan said, in effect, “ “We will constitute a High Court of the members of the Parliament, and they will decide all these constitutional issues in future “. The Government does not ask the concurrence of the Senate in the proposal contained in the motion now before the House. It suggests that the House of Representatives should make a decision by a majority vote and that everything will then be all right, lt will not be all right. The matter cannot be left there. A resolution of this House cannot be challenged before the High Court of Australia but an act of Parliament can be challenged.
In referring to action that was taken by the British House of Commons on the report of a select committee in 1941, the Prime Minister said that the position of undersecretaries in Great’ Britain was regularized by statute, or that it was decided, by statute. Let lis have a statute of this Parliament establishing the office of under-secretary, and then it will bc open to challenge in the High Court. It is competent now, of course, foi” any citizen to take the matter to the High Court and have the issue determined. Going to the High Court on such matters however, is a costly business, but the Government, having decided to pursue a certain, course, ought at least to make =u re that it is acting constitutionally. The Prime Minister, in arguing his ease, said that the Government’s predecessors in office appointed assistants to Ministers. It is true that during the war period and only at that time - not, of course, that the point of time makes Any difference in the matter - some busy Ministers asked certain honorable members on their own side of politics to advise them how they should act in certain matters. Those honorable members were paid a daily allowance of £2 2s. when they were away from their homes. Those payments were purely out-of-pocket expenses. The honorable members concerned were given no office at all and they did not attempt to answer any question in the Parliament, nor did they sign any documents on behalf of their Ministers. They did not designate themselves as under-secretaries, or associate themselves in any administrative way with the Ministers with whom they were associated*
– One or two were called liaison officers.
– I think the Prime Minister would have got out of his difficulty if he had not exhibited this great craving for honorific titles and if he had not wanted to class one honorable member as Under-Secretary to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and others as under-secretaries to other Ministers by way of a solatium for their feelings which had been wounded because he had not made them full Ministers. He may have had some such motive. The Prime Minister is agile mentally and he knows how to get around opposition, but as the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has told him, his views on constitutional law have not always been accepted by the tribunals of this country or by the Privy Council. That is not to say that the Prime Minister necessarily was wrong. The Privy Council could have been wrong in relation to section 92 of the Constitution when it refused to take his advice in 1936. The High Court qf Australia could have been wrong on other occasions, too, but under the Australian Constitution, the High Court is the body that finally decides questions of the constitutionality or otherwise of our laws. Under the written Constitution, the High Court is what somebody has described as a “ super legislature “. In Great Britain there is no High Court to determine matters such as those relating to office of profit under the Crown in violation of some constitutional provision. An act of the British Parliament can cover the position. In Australia, it cannot be so covered. I think- that the Government should not allow the matter to remain where it is. If it agrees to the motion against the mass wisdom of- the Opposition forces in this Parliament, the Government should still state a case in the High Court and have the matter resolved. Of course, it may be necessary for the Government to seek an amendment of the Constitution. We may have to face that position some day. The Prime Minister’s statement is a mixture of truth and error. The Opposition supports that which is true in it, but will not support the error. The statement contains a lot of sophistry, and we shall not vote for the motion and thus endorse every word that is contained in the document. The Prime Minister, who is a great lawyer, has said, Mr. Speaker, that you are wrong, but an equally distinguished lawyer in the person of the Leader of the Opposition is not so sure that you are wrong. The fact that two great lawyers disagree upon the matter is a reason why-
– The Leader of the Opposition did not disagree with my statement; he did not give any reasons.
– Apparently, ‘the Prime Minister did not hear the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition. Despite what the House may do on the motion, the position, Mr. Speaker, in your view, still remains as it was when you answered my question on the 22nd May last. This is not the end of the story, but only the beginning of the second chapter of the story.
– I rise to order. I submit that it is not competent for the House to accept the motion in the terms that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has submitted it. The motion reads -
That the statement he printed and that the House approves its contents.
It is not usual for a motion for the printing of a paper to be submitted in that way. As the matter involves a constitutional point, it does not come within the jurisdiction of this House. TheHouse cannot accept the motion as framed, because the House cannot constitutionally validate the action with which the statement deals. The matter lies solely within the jurisdiction of the High Court; and if the court should declare the action to be unconstitutional, the motion becomes unnecessary. Standing Order 31S reads - 318. On any Paper being laid before the House, it shall be in order for a Minister to move forthwith that the Paper bt- printed:
The Prime Minister, in the motion that he has submitted, has gone beyond that standing order. He has asked the House to endorse something about which it is clear from his statement that he, as a constitutional lawyer, entertains some doubt. In those circumstances he cannot place upon the House the onus of validating something which he believes may or may not be constitutional and by such action deny to the High Court jurisdiction in a matter that comes solely withing its jurisdiction. On those grounds, I submit, Mr. Speaker, that the motion is not in order.
– I rise to order. The standing order to which the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) has referred relates to the characteristic, or typical, motion “ That the paper bo printed “. It is not required that notice be given of such a motion. The Standing Orders expressly provide that such a motion may bn moved forthwith. It was because I was departing from that form that I asked, for leave to submit my motion. Otherwise, my motion would have had to be the subject of notice and be considered at some later date. That is why I asked for leave ; and I was granted leave to move my motion in the form in which I moved it. It would be difficult, indeed, for Mr. Speaker to uphold the point that it is not competent for this Parliament to offer an opinion on the question of parliamentary undersecretaries because that is a matter outside the jurisdiction of this Parliament. To a large degree, this business has arisen from the fact that Mr. Speaker ha? made it a parliamentary matter by passing judgment on it on the occasion referred to.
– The Prime Minister asked for leave to move a. certain motion, and that leave was granted unanimously. So far as 7. am con cp mod that ends the matter.
T4.14]. - The circumstances in which th, Prime Minister (Mr. Menizes) made the statement now before the Chair and which the House is invited to approve, are important. Although the statement occupies many pages and consists of many hundreds of words, it seeks, in effect, the approval of the House for the undoing of a decision made by you Mr. Speaker, a reversal of a judgment that you have expressed and the endorsement of the Hon se of an act bv one honorable member in defiance of your authority. Your inda-mert in this matter and your statement to this Parliament were given several mouths ago and, until now, have remained unchallenged. During the whole of that period no Minister bus risen to move that the statement made by you should be disapproved. For a period of several months the House has given its complete approval to the statement made by you, Mr. Speaker, and it is perfectly clear that the issue would not have arisen to-day but for the fact that one honorable member attempted to defy your instructions. That is the sole reason why this matter has come before us this afternoon. The House is not now being asked to express an opinion upon some academic question, because for some months past it has accepted the judgment and ruling of Mr. Speaker in this matter. As the statement by the Prime Minister shows, the House is now being invited to endorse defiance of Mr. Speaker’s order by an honorable member. The degree of that defiance is shown in the newspaper clippings and telegrams which you, Mr. Speaker, tabled this afternoon.
– Order! Those matters are not now before the House.
– Should I not be in order in referring to them ?
-N o. The question before the Chair is that the paper be printed and its contents approved.
– The final paragraph of the statement refers to the question of whether a parliamentary under-secretary should have the description of his office placedupon theentrance to his room in this building. This afternoon, you, Mr. Speaker, tabled certain documents relating to that matter and I wish to refer particularly to that aspect. The fact is that an honorable member acting without the authority of Mr. Speaker, and ignoring the statements that Mr. Sneaker had made, caused the title of parliamentary under-secretary to be painted on the door ofhis room which, incidentally, that honorable member had taken for his own use without the authority of Mr. Speaker. That fact is shown the documents that have been tabled. When Mr. Speaker caused the particular inscription to be obliterated, the attempt of that honorable member to undermine Mr. Speaker’s authority–
– I rise to order. I submit that the honorable member is attempting to get around your ruling, Mr. Speaker. The Chair has ruled that the matters referred to in the documents that were tabled this afternoon cannot be the subject of discussion at this juncture, but by the device of referring to a passage in the Prime Minister’s statement relating to the inscription of the office of parliamentary under-secretary on the doors of certain offices in this building, the honorable member is attempting to ignore that ruling.
– I have no desire to restrict the debate in any way if I can avoid doing so. It is still my opinion that we should not have a debate upon the actions of an honorable gentleman who is not present. However, I cannot overlook the fact that the Prime Minister, in his statement, a copy of which he was kind enough to let me have in advance, has said -
As I have already indicated, it has come to my notice that some question has arisen as to whether a parliamentary under-secretary should have the description of his office placed upon the entrance of his room in this House. I want to make it perfectly clear that it seems to me and to my colleagues quite appropriate that, in addition to doors in this building upon which are written the words “ Leader of the Opposition “, “ Deputy Leader of the Opposition “, “ Leader of the Country Par ty “, “Government Whip”, “Opposition Whip”’, there should alsobe inscribed upon the door of a parliamentary under-secretary, for the information of those who have public business to transact, the fact that he is a parliamentary under-secretary and some indication of the identity of the Minister with whom he is associated.
– Do you rule, Mr. Speaker, that that reference in the Prime Minister’s statement entitles the honorable member to open up a discussionabout the conduct of the honorable member to whom you have just referred?
– No.I do not say that.
Mr.BEALE. - As I understand the Prime Minister’s statement, he did not refer to a particular honorable member but specifically referred to the description of the office of parliamentary undersecretary being placedupon certain doors in this building. On the table are documents which refer to a particular member; they include the telegrams that passed to and fro, and the member’s statement. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro has referred to the documents on the table. I submit that he is not entitled to do so.
– I rise to order ! Since the physical fact of the painting of a name on a door is an intrinsic and indeed almost the substantial part of that document, would not the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) be in order if he confined his remarks to the meaning and implication of that physical act and Mr. Speaker’s personal relationship to it?
– In my view the honorable member is perfectly entitled to debate and discuss anything that he likes in connexion with the act of putting on or taking off titles from any door in the House. I have ruled that, at this stage, he is not entitled to debate the merits or otherwise of anything that any honorable member has done, and in particular one honorable member to whom I referred this afternoon. By the Prime Minister’s statement I should say that it is perfectly clear that some question has arisen. He must have had a certain case in mind.
– I shall abide by your ruling, Mr. Speaker. The House has been asked to approve of the statement by the Prime Minister to the effect that the names and titles of parliamentary under-secretaries shall be placed on the doors of offices that are occupied by the parliamentary under-secretaries. irrespective of what any honorable member has done during the last few days, the fact remains that if the House resolves the matter in the affirmative the House will thereby give its approval to the repainting of a name on a door of an office in this House, in defiance of the authority of Mr. Speaker. Therefore a much more important issue is before the House than the mere academic question of the correct position of the parliamentary under-secretaries. Honorable members should be fully aware of the importance of their vote. If the question is resolved in the affirmative the authority of Mr. Speaker will be undermined in the public estimation, and the effect will be to nullify the action that Mr. Speaker has recently taken. Honorable members should be very jealous of the reputation and prestige of their presiding officer, and of the dignity of his office. Great public attention has been focussed on this matter and if the motion is carried the one clear impression that the public will gain will be that the House has refused to support the authority of Mr. Speaker and has endorsed the action of an honorable member who has defied his authority. This matter is of such importance thatI doubt whether honorable members will approve of a motion that will have such serious effects.
It has been stated that the duties of the parliamentary under-secretaries are entirely separated from the duties of Ministers. However, the work that is performed by the parliamentary undersecretaries, and the letters that they sign indicate that they are occupying positions similar to those of Ministers, and that they enjoy the authority of Ministers to speak on behalf of the Government.
– That is utter nonsense.
– The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) will probably change his mind when I read to the House an extract from a letter that was signed by a parliamentary under-secretary. Recently I made representations to a Minister on a matter of great public importance. Subsequently I received a reply, not from the Minister himself, but from his Parliamentary Under-Secretary. It was on the Minister’s note paper, but did not state that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary had been asked to reply on behalf of the Minister. It began, “ I acknowledge receipt of your personal representations “. The letter then set out government policy and answers to various questions that I had asked. The Parliamentary UnderSecretary obviously acted in place of the Minister and on behalf of the Government. He signed the letter “Parliamentary UnderSecretary to the Minister for . . . “ It is quite” clear that there is no necessity for a parliamentary under-secretary to state that he is the deputy of the Minister. In this instance the terms of the reply would make it appear that I had addressed my representations to the Parliamentary
Under-Secretary, because there was no reference in his letter to the Minister. In effect, he was the Minister. Thi3 is conclusive evidence of the position that parliamentary under-secretaries occupy in the affairs of this Government.
The Prime Minister has asked the House to endorse the placing of the titles of the parliamentary under-secretaries upon doors of this House. Surely if we -approved of that action the inference gould be drawn that the Parliament, and particularly Mr. Speaker, had recognized that the position of parliamentary undersecretary had been duly constituted. The fact is, however, that Mr. Speaker regards the position as unconstitutional. He is the guardian of the rights and privileges of members of the Parliament.
The reason why members of Parliament are prohibited from accepting offices of profit under the Crown is clearly understood by all honorable members. If they were not so prohibited the parliamentary institution would be completely undermined. Mr. Speaker has endeavoured to protect the parliamentary institution and the independence of private members. I cannot imagine that Mr. .Speaker would allow himself to remain in the impossible position in which he would find himself if this motion were carried. The effect would be to set. aside his authority. Mr. Speaker’s ruling has remained unchallenged for many months and I cannot imagine that the House will now allow his authority to be undermined by approving the motion that has been submitted by the Prime Minister.
– I rise to order ! In effect, the motion that has been moved by the Prime Minister is a motion of dissent from the ruling that was given by Mr. Speaker during last May. The right honorable gentleman has attempted to deal with this matter other than in the manner prescribed by Standing Order 1.01, which reads - lt any objection is taken to the ruling of the
Speaker, such objection must be taken at once and in writing, and a Motion of Dissent moved, which, if seconded, shall be proposed to the House, and debate thereon shall proceed forthwith.
Tie obvious purpose of the motion proposed by the Prime Minister is to ask the House to dissent from a ruling given by you last May. In my opinion, the Government should have taken action then. Obviously, the motion is out of order.
– I direct attention to the fact that the Prime Minister foreshadowed a motion, obtained the leave of the House to move it, and then moved it.’ In those circumstances, there can be no substance in the point of order.
– I rise to order. The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) has suggested that to obtain leave to move a motion is the same as to suspend the Standing Orders. I do not think that, view can be sustained.
– No standing order has been suspended this afternoon. The Prime Minister asked for leave to move a certain motion. The motion was -
That the paper be printed, and that the House approves its contents.
The passage of that motion would in no way affect the position under Standing Order 101.
– I rise to order. You have said, Mr. Speaker, that the leave granted to the Prime Minister this afternoon has not affected the position under Standing Order 101. Therefore, it appears that the motion i3 out of order, because the Standing Orders have not been complied with. This is clearly an attempt to override a ruling given by you.
– It was an opinion, not a ruling.
– Some time ago, Mr. Speaker, you reached a decision about whether or not you should recognize parliamentary, under-secretaries. and you announced that decision to the House in the form of a ruling. It was, in the clearest terms, a ruling from the Chair in pursuance of the authority conferred upon you. The standing order cited by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) clearly covers the point. Is your ruling that the motion at present before the House is out of order and cannot properly he moved unless a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders be proposed and -carried ?
– That is not my ruling. The Prime Minister sought the leave of the House to move a certain motion, which is an unorthodox motion, and the House unanimously granted him leave to do so. The motion is that this statement be printed, and that the House approve its contents. That is all there is in it. I have already said that the position under Standing Order 101 will be unaffected by the passage of the motion, if it be passed.
– Under what standing order has the motion been moved by the Prime Minister?
-It has been moved by leave of the House. Leave of the House to do certain things may be granted at any time, provided it is granted unanimously. On this occasion, the House was unanimous.
– This afternoon, we have been treated to a display of hypocrisy that must be without’ parallel in the history of this House.
– Order ! That is an unparliamentary expression.
– This afternoon, we have witnessed the spectacle of members of the Opposition rising, one after another, and saying, in the words of a famous playwright, “Oh, wise and upright judge”. They are the same gentlemen who, to our knowledge, have, for the best part of two years, been saying exactly the opposite of that whenever they got a chance to do so without infringing the Standing Orders.
-Order ! My conduct and my rulings arc not under discussion.
– We have been told by ibc honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), in the most Uriah Heep-like -tones - I hope that is not an unparliamentary expression - that in no circumstance? must we undermine the authority of Mr. Sneaker. This motion does not seek to undermine the authority of Mr. Speaker. I remind the House that, in the past, members of the Opposition have again and again moved motions of dissent from rulings by Mr. Speaker. If those motions were not intended to undermine the authority of Mr. Speaker, then I do not know what they were intended to do.
– What rubbish!
– Order ! I ask honorable gentlemen to maintain order. Rather serious issues are at stake. Completely irrelevant interjections such as “What rubbish!” are not helpful. I think we should get on very much better if each speaker were heard in silence.
– From the point of view . of the Government, this is a very simple matter. Some time ago, Mr. Speaker offered an opinion from the Chair. I well remember that he disclaimed that it was a ruling, and that he said it was an opinion. It was an opinion which, as the Speaker of this House, he was, certainly in his view, entitled to express. He expressed it. It was an opinion to the effect that the appointment of parliamentary under-secretaries was unconstitutional. I need not go into details about offices of profit and matters of that kind. Mr. Speaker, for his own good reasons, reached the conclusion that such appointments were unconstitutional. That view was not shared by the Government, by the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer), or by the law officers responsible to the Attorney-General. We said so then. Now, in the course of time, and for one reason and another, the matter has cropped up again. Therefore, the Prime Minister has submitted a motion which expresses the Government’s view.
– It is designed to direct Mr. Speaker.
– It is not designed to direct Mr. Speaker about anything. The motion expresses the view that the Government holds, and invites the House to adopt that view, which is that the appointment of parliamentary undersecretaries is constitutional. If I may be whimsical for a moment, all that the Government is saying is that it is wellknown that Mr. Speaker is a good Speaker and also that he is a good farmer, but it may well be that he is not as good a constitutional lawyer as he is a Speaker and a farmer. Our view, supported by our law officers, is contrary to the view - not the ruling - which Mr. Speaker expressed to the House. We have put our opinion to the House, and have asked the House to adopt it as its own opinion.
Why have we done so? It has been indicated more than once by Mr. Speaker that he welcomes the views and the guidance of this House. He has said on many occasions - and, if I may say so in his presence, he is to be applauded for it - that he is the servant of the House, and is guided by its resolutions and decisions.
– He is also the protector of the rights of members of the House.
– Mr. Speaker has reminded us that this is a serious matter. I am endeavouring to put the view of the Government to the House, and I should be obliged if honorable members would give me a chance to do so. This matter involves constitutional issues of no mean importance. It involves our history, because whatever decision we reach will be recorded and, in due course, will become part of our parliamentary and constitutional history. We invite the House to give Mr. Speaker guidance on this matter. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has asked why the Government has not introduced a bill. There is no necessity to do so. The honorable gentleman has said if the Government does not bring in a bill, the matter cannot be tested.
– I did not say that at all.
– Why not refer it to the High Court?
– The matter could be referred to the High Court if, in due course, a person challenged the constitutional position of parliamentary undersecretaries on the ground that they had been paid expenses, or something of that sort. Machinery exists for the matter to go to the High Court. There is no need to bring in a bill. We believe, or at any rate we houe, that Mr. Sneaker will be guided bv the view of the House. The Government is asking the House to express its view, which is a very simple thing for the House to do. The way in which this matter has been turned into a party-political matter, and the way in which members of the Opposition, after two years of a spate of criticism of Mr. Speaker, are now trying to set themselves up as the great defenders of Mr. Speaker, make me sick.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) has misrepresented me as having argued that to move a motion of disagreement with Mr. Speaker’s ruling is to defy the authority of Mr. Speaker. I said the opposite. I should never contend for a moment that a resolution of this House expressing disagreement with Mr. Speaker’s ruling would be a defiance of the authority of Mr. Speaker. I said that a member of this House ‘has publicly defied Mr. Speaker, although not in relation to the procedure of this House, and that this House should not endorse that action.
.- This situation has become completely unsatisfactory and very highly confused. The motion of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has rendered the position still more unsatisfactory, and the statements of the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) have made it even more confused. The Minister has pointed out to us that this matter raises, in his own words, “constitutional issues of no mean importance “. Yet he asks us to give expression to our views in a formal motion and thereby resolve this great constitutional issue. It is clear from the words of the Minister, and from the statement of the Prime Minister, that whatever action the House may take to-day will not resolve the situation. It is clear that we have here a constitutional situation that ha.= been in major doubt for a long period. Mr. Speaker expressed his view on a matter, and whether it constituted a ruling or not, it was a clear statement. The House and the Government tacitly accepted that view oi”, at least, they took no positive action to test it or to tender evidence that it was wrong. We were given a contrary view, and were told that it was not the view of the AttorneyGeneral or the Government, but of officers advising the Attorney-General.
That situation continued until to-day, when the Prime Minister introduced an eight-page document and invited the House to subscribe to it in full by passing die motion that he proposed. There are some queer inconsistencies in the Prime Minister’s statement. He stated that it was his view that parliamentary undersecretaries should not be permitted to answer questions on behalf of Ministers. Fie said that such a procedure would be improper. He also said, in effect, however, that it was quite proper to give the parliamentary under-secretaries the status of Ministers when bills were before the Parliament. There is no essential difference between a Minister answering questions and answering matters that may be raised in debate at the committee stage of a bill. The purpose of a Minister at the table, when speaking in reply at the committee stage of a bill, is to answer questions on the bill, deal with matters raised on it, and give an authoritative statement, as a member of the Executive Council, regarding the Government’s intentions, the purposes of the bill, and the consequences that might flow from it. The Prime Minister to-day, far from lessening the functions that should be attributed to parliamentary undersecrei : ar les, extended vastly the functions that they are to perform. He proposes, in fact, to put them in the position that he said earlier is not proper. I remind the House that he said that it would be quite improper for parliamentary” undersecretaries to answer questions on behalf of Ministers even, I assume, when the Ministers concerned were not in the chamber. On top of that, he said that it was quite competent for a parliamentary undersecretary to sit at the table at the committee stage of a bill, and answer complaints from members of the. Opposition, or Government supporters, regarding the consequences ‘ that might flow from a bill or other measure before the Parliament.
As I have said, this issue will not be resolved by any action we may take here, because it will still be subject to test in the High Court. As the Minister for Supply has stated, it is fairly normal procedure for constitutional matters to be tested before the High Court, but in this instance unusual consequences could flow from a High Court decision on the matter. In a normal constitutional test case the Government is the defendant. In this instance, individual member* of the Parliament would be the defendants.. In a normal case the Government promotes the defence of the case before theHigh Court, and suffers any penalties that may be imposed by the court if the case goes against it. But this matter is entirely and vitally different. It will not be the Government that will promote the defence, if an action is taken against individual members of the Parliament. Individual members will suffer any penalties that may be imposed, but their suffering will result from an action of the Government. It will not be the Minister for Supply whose seat may be declared vacant, however fortunate such an action might be for the Parliament. The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Davidson), the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) and the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse), not the Government or the Minister for Supply, will suffer the penalties if a case is decided against them. It will not be the Minister for Supply who will have to pay the penalty for wrongful occupancy of a seat in this House, which I understand to be £100 for each sitting day that elapses after the commencement of the offence, if the decision is against the Government in this instance. The honorable member for Canning, the honorable member for Darling Downs, and the honorable member for Calare will have to take the consequences of Government action if this issue were tested in the High Court and decided against them. The Minister for Supply has said that this is a matter of no mean constitutional importance, and we claim that, in view of the . possible effects of a decision on it by the High Court, it is impossible to dispose of the matter in the way that we are being asked to dispose of it now. The consequences that may arise to the three honorable members concerned and to other members of the Parliament who may be appointed as parliamentary undersecretaries, are such as to render it impossible for us to dispose of the issue by the means proposed. Finally,, if the system of appointing parliamentary undersecretaries is to be. established and maintained and, possibly, widened, there is only one authority in Australia, one court of final appeal, that can set the seal of approval on the practice. That authority is the High Court, not the Parliament, not a motion of this House, not a minor amendment of standing orders to say that parliamentary under-secretaries may sit in the places where Ministers may sit. To put the whole thing in order, to give it constitutional permanence, it will be necessary for it to be ruled on by the High Court. That is the only authority which can resolve the question finally for us and remove the complexity that has arisen. Yet the Government resolutely refuses to state a case to the court. “Why? It is of no use to say that, if the Government will not state a case to the court on the matter, no such action will arise, because I believe that any individual in the community may initiate such an action. “We say that, because of the consequences that could flow from the launching of such an action, the Government is ill advised in the action it has taken to solve the problem. We say that the Government cannot solve it by the method that it is attempting to use to-day. By using this method it will succeed merely in providing a temporary patchwork solution of the problem, and in administering a very real slap to the presiding officer of this House, who has rights and responsibilities not only regarding the manner in which he conducts the business of the House but also regarding the allocation of rooms in this building.
.- Mr. Speaker–
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
A motion not seconded may not be further discussed and no entry thereof shall be made in the Votes and Proceedings.
I take it that if the question cannot be further discussed, it cannot be voted on.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The original question having been put to the voices,
Question put -
That the paper be printed, and that the House approves its contents.
The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Orders. The right honorable gentleman will attend to that matter later.
Message reported transmitting Estimates of Expenditure for Defence Services for the year ending the 30th June, 1953, in lieu of the Estimates transmitted on the 6th August, 1952.
– I move -
That the message, together with the accompanying Estimates, be printed and referred to the Committee of Supply. .
When the Estimates of Expenditure were presented to this chamber on the 6th August last, the provisional sum of £200,000,000 for’ Defence Services had not been allocated by the Department of Defence. Consequently, the Defence Estimates were shown as a lump sum. The allocation of the amount of £200,000,000 has now been made.
-Order! I think that this matter should he considered, not in the House, but in the Committee of Supply. However, if the Treasurer has not a lengthy statement, he may proceed.
– The provisional Defence Estimates have accordingly been withdrawn and replaced by the detailed Estimates for Defence Services. I emphasize, however, that the total sum of £200.000,000 provided in the “budget for the financial year 1952-53 for Defence Services has not been altered.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation if revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund sums for the purposes of financial assistance to the State*.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That £sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. Eric ,1 . Harrison do prepare and bring in a bill u> carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden. and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize the payment to the States of a special financial assistance grant in 1952-53 to supplement the amount payable under the existing tax reimbursement legislation. The precise amount payable to the States in 1952-53 under the formula contained in the tax reimbursement legislation will not be known until later in the year. L is estimated, however, that the grant, under the formula will be approximately £108,S00.000. The need of the States for financial assistance over and above the amount payable under the tax reimbursement formula was considered at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held on the 7th July last, when the Commonwealth offered to make a supplementary grant to the States sufficient to bring the total payment for 1952-53 to £135,000,000. As the amount payable under the reimbursement formula was estimated at £108,800,000, this offer involved a special financial assistance grant to the States of approximately £26,200,000.
At the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, the Premiers were invited to indicate the manner in which they considered this additional amount should be distributed among the States. Four of the Premiers took the view that it should he distributed in the same proportions as the tax reimbursement grant, whilst the Premiers of Victoria and Tasmania desired the additional amount to be distributed on the same basis as the special financial assistance grant paid in 1951-52. That grant was distributed among the States according to their respective financial needs in that year. After some discussion, it was proposed that the amount of approximately £26,200,000 should be distributed according to the tax reimbursement formula, but the Commonwealth offered to make additional payments to Victoria and Tasmania which would give to each of those two States the same’ amount as they would have received had last year’s basis of distribution been adopted. It was estimated that the additional payments to Victoria and Tasmania would amount to £900,000, thus increasing: the special financial grant to approximately £27,100,000, and the total of tax reimbursement and special financial assistance grants to approximately £135,900,000. This proposal is now incorporated in the bill I have just introduced. The total payments which it is estimated will be made to each State in 1952-53 as a result of the legislation now proposed are compared in the following tables with the total payments made to each State last year : -
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tom Burke) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill foran actto make provision for the grant of financial assistance to the States in connexion with the administration of the control of prices and rents.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. Anthony 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) [5.14]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Since 1948, when the States assumed responsibility for control of prices and rents, the Commonwealth has each year made grants to reimburse them the cost of administering these controls. The present bill provides for an extension of this arrangement during 1952-53. The States have requested the extension, and the Government is prepared to grant assistance for another year. As honorable members know, the constitutional power to control prices and’ rents resides with the States, and it is their responsibility to decide the extent and duration of these controls. Since 1948, the States have gradually reduced the area over which price control is exercised, but there is still a substantial range of goods and services subject to control. The Government believes that they should not be hampered by financial considerations in carrying out this function. As occurred under previous legislation, the States will, during the course of the year, be made advances to meet their expenditure. The advances will be adjusted after the close of the year on audited statements of actual expenditure. It is estimated that the grants will amount to £1,087,000 this year, compared with £937,000 in 1951-52.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tom Burke) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message)-:
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) “greed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the National Welfare Fund Act 1943-1950.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. Kent Hughes do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir ARTHUR Fadden, mid read a. first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Cn presenting the 1952-53 budget, I informed the House of the Government’s proposal to amend the relevant legislation to provide for an appropriation from Consolidated Revenue to the National Welfare Fund each year, beginning “with the financial year 1952-53, of an amount equal to expenditure from the fund in that year. This bill provides for the amendment of section 5 of the National Welfare Fund Act 1943-1950, which makes appropriations from Consolidated Revenue to the National Welfare Fund.
Honorable members will recall that the impropriation to the National Welfare Fund was last considered by the Parliament in i950, concurrently with proposals for merging income tax and social services contribution into a single levy. On that occasion a formula was embodied in the National Welfare Fund Act which was designed to ensure for the fund an income approximately equal to what the income would have been had social services contribution continued to be levied separately. In explaining the formula at that time I mentioned that a number of possible alternative methods had been examined, but that the particular method proposed appeared to be the one most suitable. It was recognized, however, that the formula was not ideal ; its sensitivity to variations of pay-roll tax collections, which can produce variations nearly five times greater in the total appropriation to the fund, was appreciated.
Now in the light of experience of the operation of the formula and its actual results, the Government has concluded that there is a good case for replacing it by some more certain determinant of the amount of the annual appropriation to the National Welfare Fund. In particular the Government is concerned because the formula is not capable, as 1 shall show, of producing an income for the fund appropriate to all situations.
Under the formula, the total appropriation to the fund is directly related to pay: roll tax collections; that is, to aggregate earnings. This direct relationship could mean too great a contribution from revenue under some conditions, such as, for example, when aggregate earnings are rising because of a larger volume of employment or rising rates of wages and salaries, and expenditure from the fund if remaining relatively stable or even declining. Under a different set of conditions, however, such as if aggregate earnings were falling, the contribution from revenue to the fund would fall at a time when expenditure from the fund might well be heavy. Thus the weakness of the present formula is that the income for the fund which it produces is directly and solely related to aggregate earnings and has no regard to likely calls on the fund1 in varying circumstances.
In further examining the matter, the Government has had in mind that past excesses of income over expenditure have established, in the National Welfare Fund, an adequate reserve for the continued payment of social services and health benefits, for which purpose the fund was originally established. During the four years that ended on the 30th Tune, 1952, the balance in the fund increased by £115,000,000 to £185,000,000.
Thus, in looking for a more suitable method of determining the fund’s income, the Government has decided on the simple one of paying into the fund each year an amount equal to the payments out of the fund. The advantages of such an arrangement are as follows: -
The amendment of section 5 of the National Welfare Fund Act embodied in the bill will ensure for the fund an annual appropriation from Consolidated Revenue equal to expenditure from the fund; it will preserve the existing balance of £185,000,000 in the fund and will permit the balance to grow each year by the amount of the income from its investment, which it is estimated will be £1,800,000 in J.952-53. It will also mean that expenditure on social services and health benefits will be accurately reflected in the budget itself.
The amendment of section 3 of the act, which is also proposed in the bill, is not of any significance. The Parliamentary Draftsman is merely taking the opportunity to remove from the act a definition . which, because of amendments of the original act, is no longer necessary.
I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tom BURKE) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Kent Hughes) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to authorize the raising of moneys to be advanced to the States for the purposes of housing.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Kent Hughes and Mr. Eric J. Harrison do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Kent Hughes, and read a first time.
– I move -
That thu bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize the raising of loan moneys totalling £30,000,000 to finance advances to New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act 1945. The works programme approved by the Australian Loan Council for the current financial year provides for the sum of £30,000,000 to ibo allocated for the erection of houses under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. This allocation represents an increase of £3,450,000 on the actual advances of £26,547,000 to the States for this purpose in 1951-52. In the seven years that ended on the 30th June last, advances totalling approximately £1.11.000,000 had been made by the Commonwealth under the agreement. To the end of June, 58,000 dwellings had been commenced under the agreement in the four States referred to. Of those, 47,000 had been completed and 11,000 were under construction at that date. During the year that ended on the 30th June last, 9.300 dwellings were completed, of which one-third were in country areas.
When the Australian Loan Council met recently, the amount required by the States for housing purposes was £30,000,000, hut when it became necessary to reduce the total amount of loan moneys, the amount allocated for housing was £21,?20,000. However, the Australian Government has considered the economic condition of the building industry an’l has decided to grant to the States ari addition*)] £S.180.000 in order to bring the total housing programme under the agreement up to the original amount of £30.000.000.
The total sum of £30,000,000 is to be allocated to the various States as follows: New South Wales, £12,100,000; Victoria, £11,270,000 ; Queensland, 63,730,000; and Western Australia, £2,900,000. Honorable members will appreciate that although South Australia was in the first instance a signatory to the agreement, that State has never operated under the agreement. In August, 1950, Tasmania withdrew from the agreement, and that is why only four States are affected by the provisions of this bill. The additional amount of £8,180,000 granted by the Commonwealth will be used by the Commonwealth in conjunction with the States to assist with high priority activities such as food production, coal-mining, power projects, transport, and defence production. The Commonwealth, in consultation with the States concerned, is at u resent preparing a programme of housing to be financed out of the additional housing grant. In addition, the Commonwealth is providing large amounts for war service homes and for housing in Commonwealth territories and for immigrants. In total, probably £60,000,000 of the Commonwealth funds will be expended on the housing programme this year. This bill merely deals with the allocation of £30,000,000 under the housing agreement.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Kent Hughes) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to authorize the raising; of moneys for the purpose of financial assistance to the State’s in connexion with war service land settlement.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. .Kent Hughes and Mr. Eric J. Harrison do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Kent Hughes, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for the raising and expending on war service land settlement of loan moneys amounting to £6,000,000. The Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Acts of 1950 and 1951 authorized the raising and expending of loan moneys amounting to £9,625,000. Expenditure to the 30th June, 1952, was £8,982,000, leaving a balance of £643,000 at the beginning of the current financial year. Expenditure during the twelve months ended the 30th June, 1952, was £6,350,000, of which £5,120,000 was new money and £1,230,000 was the reexpenditure of repayments received during the year of amounts expended in previous years. The proposed appropriation is required to meet an estimated expenditure on war service land settlement of £6,000,000 in 1952-53. This will be supplemented by £1,800,000, which it is estimated will be received during the year from repayments of advances made previously to settlers and from similar sources. It will also permit the balance of £643,000 at the 30th June, 1952, to be carried forward to meet expenditure in the early months of the financial year 1953-54.
In the principal States of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria the money that is received from war service land settlement by the State governments is not always re-used for the purposes of war service land settlement as it is in the agent States. For example, Victoria ha? made a profit of £1,000,000 on the sale of stock and wool and frOm other sources connected with the acquisition of land for war service land settlement. Although the Victorian Government has stated that it lacks capital for the purposes of war service land settlement, that £1,000,000 has been paid into the Consolidated
Revenue of the State of Victoria and has not been re-invested in war service land settlement.
– .How was the profit of £1,000,000 made?
– There is often a lag of two or more years between the acquisition of an estate and its subdivision and allocation to war service land settlers. Naturally, the operation of the estate continues during that period and a profit may be made from such a source as the sale of wool or stock. Nobody will object to the estates being operated at a profit during this period, but it is a pity that such profits are nut re-invested for the purposes of war service’ land settlement.
– The exservicemen are charged more for the land than the original purchase price.
– How much the ex-servicemen pay for the land is determined by the States. In the agent States the amount debited against the settler is. never greater than the cost of the estate.
– Where do the profits come from in that case?
– If profits were made from war service land settlement in the agent. States, they would come from the same source as they come from in the principal States - from the production of the estate while it is awaiting subdivision.
Under the arrangements that have been made in connexion with finance for war service land settlement, the Commonwealth has undertaken to provide funds for capital expenditure in the agent States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania and the amount appropriated under this bill will be advanced to those States for this purpose. These advances will be used by the State governments for acquiring, developing, and improving land for subdivision into holdings for allotment to war service land settlers, for providing the settlers with working capital and finance for improvements, and for the acquisition of stock, plant and equipment. The Governments of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland have the responsibility of pro viding the capital for war service land settlement within their own States. That system was instituted at the request of the governments of those States, which indicated that they wanted to handle their own war service land settlement, and did not want the Commonwealth to enter the field except to bear an equal share of any losses incurred. In that connexion it is interesting to note the amounts expended in the State since the war service land settlement scheme came into operation in 1945. Since the inception of the scheme, New South Wales has expended about £21,000,000. Victoria about £19,000,000, and Queensland about £1,600,000. The Queensland expenditure, as far as is known to the Australian Government, does not include the cost of the acquisition of land. The Government has provided £8,100,000 for South Australia, £12,360,000 for Western Australia, and £3,670,000 for Tasmania. The total sum provided by the Commonwealth since the inception of the war service land settlement scheme in 1945, to the 30th June, 1952, is £25,411,000.
– That is the total sum expended in connexion with the war service land settlement scheme?
– Yes, the expenditure in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland amounts to about £1,250,000, and the remainder of the money has been expended in the three agent States.
– The New South Wales Government has expended more in its State than the Commonwealth has expended on war service land settlement throughout Australia.
– That is not so. New South Wales has expended £21,000,000 and the Commonwealth has expended approximately £25,500,000.
– That is level pegging.
– In a way it is, but the Australian Government is seriously concerned because the amount being made available by the principal States for war service land settlement is decreasing. I believe that everybody will agree that war service land settlement should be completed at least within the next three years, at which time it will be about ten years since the war ended. Ex-servicemen are getting older, many have drifted into other occupations and I am certain that it will be the desire of everybody that war service land settlement should be completed within a decade after the end of the war.
– Why does not the Government make more money available to the States?
– The principal States did not want any Commonwealth interference; they wanted to organize their own schemes. Only the three agent States elected to. accept the original Commonwealth offer. The three principal States refused it on the ground that they wanted to administer their own schemes. It is a disturbing thought that whereas the money originally allocated by the principal States for war service land settlement amounted to 6 per cent, of the total loan moneys available, it has been steadily decreasing and is now only 3 per cent. In other words, the principal States, particularly New South Wales and Queensland, seem to be allocating a lower and lower order of priority to war service land settlement.
– That is not true.
– It certainly is true, as can be seen from the figures.
– The Australian Government is financially starving the States.
– Surely it cannot be said that the States are being financially starved when it is realized that in the last two years they have had three times the amount that was allotted to them in the last two years of the preceding Labour Government. Whatever might have been the amount allotted to the States, the percentage of the money available to them that has been set aside for war service land settlement has decreased from 6 per cent, to 2 per cent. War service land settlement is being granted a lower priority in the non-agent States as time passes.
– That is misrepresentation.
– What I have said is perfectly correct, and the figures are there so that he who runs may read.
– Why does the Minister not tell the whole story?
– I shall tell the whole story. I shall detail the position in three States which insisted on controlling their own war service land settlement schemes. In New South Wales no new acquisitions will be undertaken in the current year. About one-half of the £2,000,000 that has been set aside in that State for the resumption of land will be devoted tq meeting commitments for properties now in the process of acquisition. No finance will be provided for dwellings or motor vehicles, and settlers will have to use farm buildings as temporary homes. All other advances will be strictly curtailed. In Victoria no new land will be acquired to provide more farms. No money is to be allotted for any advances whatever under the single unit farm purchase scheme. No development will be undertaken in the Heytesbury Forest area. The £2,000,000 that has been made available for State farms will be expended largely on purchases now in process to provide for between 264 and 284 new holdings.
– What is the sum allocated in New South Wales?
– Four million pounds has been allocated in Victoria and £2,000,000 in New South Wales. The number of new holdings which, as I have said, will be between 264 and 284 in Victoria, will be considerably less than the average of 314 a year since the inception of the scheme. Provision is being made for houses on holdings, but advances for farm buildings will be curtailed. The latest advice from Queensland is that only £676,500 will be allocated for war service land settlement, including road construction. It is reported that the Woandoan-Taroom project is to be abandoned and the Agricultural Bank’s maximum loan has been fixed at £7,500 as against the estimated requirement of from £10,000 to £13,000 for each farm.
– What is the total number of holdings?
– One thousand eight hundred and three holdings in their original state were approved by the Commonwealth for acquisition. That land was subdivided into 6,694 farms for war service land settlement, and the holdings that have been allotted to the present time number 5,317. By leave, I incorporate the following table in Hansard: -
– How many applicants in the various States are still waiting for holdings ?
-I cannot say.
– There are more than 15,000 applicants waiting in New South Wales alone.
– I think that the number of applicants has decreased from what it was originally. Not more than 50 per cent, of applicants have as yet been provided with holdings. The Commonwealth intends to increase the sum that it will supply to the agent States. Last year the amount was increased by more than £1,000,000, and this year it will be further increased by £1,500,000. Conversely, the amount being expended by the Governments of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland has decreased. Financial assistance to all the States for non-capital expenditure - for example, living allowances for settlers, writing down the cost of holdings, interest and rent concessions and so on - estimated at £1,652,000 for the present financial year, will be met by the Commonwealth from Consolidated Revenue.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Haylen) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Anthony, through Sir Earle Page) agreed to -
That leave begiven to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Overseas Telecommunications Act 1946.
Bill presented by Sir Earle Page, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is essentially a machinery measure. Its object is to amend a number of the provisions of the Overseas Telecommunications Act 1946. In part, the purpose of the proposed changes is to modify in the direction of greater flexibility the inter-governmental machinery established under the agreement set out in the first schedule to the 1946 act. The other changes proposed relate to the domestic administration of the 1946 act, and have been found to be desirable in the light of practical experience of its administration during the last five and a half years. Neither they nor the proposed changes in the first schedule agreement modify the general structure or principles of the 1946 act. As it happens, the amendments relating to the intergovernmental machinery are proposed in the earlier part of the amending legislation, and the amendments relating to the administrative provisions of the principal act are proposed in the succeeding clauses. I propose, therefore, to explain the amendments under these two general headings. In doing so I shall be able to deal with the amendments in the order in which they are presented in the bill.
I shall preface my remarks on the amendments with a few comments concerning the 1946 act. This act, as honorable members will know, was introduced by a previous government, and its purpose was to give effect in Australia to the recommendations of the British Commonwealth Telecommunications Conference held in London in 1945. In broadest outline, the proposals of the conference were that a group of autonomous national bodies should be established by the member nations of the British Commonwealth, to take over, operate and develop the external wireless and cable systems of the Commonwealth and Empire, and that the telecommunications activities of these national bodies should be co-ordinated through a central representative body to be known as the Commonwealth Telecommunications Board. The 1946 act authorized the execution on behalf of the Australian Government of an inter-governmental agreement embodying these proposals, the form of the agreement being that set out in the “first schedule to the act. In addition, the act established the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia), defined the status, powers and functions of the commission, and authorized it to take over and operate the wireless and cable services at that time operated in this country by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and Cable and “Wireless Limited respectively. Similar action was taken by the other British Commonwealth governments within their respective territories. The partner governments, by whose representatives the conference proposals were put forward and by which the proposals subsequently were accepted, were the governments of the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, India and Southern Rhodesia.
The general structure contemplated in the agreement set out in the first schedule to the 1946 act has now been in existence and operation, in progressive stages of implementation, for roughly five years. Its overall object, as is stated in the recitals to the act and the agreement, is the promotion and co-ordination of the efficiency and development of the telecommunications services of the British Commonwealth and Empire. The Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia) is the national body established in Australia in pursuance of th<? conference proposals, and as such is the Australian unit in the group of national bodies by which the telecommunications services of British Commonwealth countries and British colonies are now operated. The central co-ordinating body, the Commonwealth Telecommunications Board, came into existence in May, 1949. It replaced an earlier body, the Commonwealth Communications Council, which, for the preceding two years, had been performing the board’s functions on an interim basis. The board to-day consists of a chairman appointed by the partner governments jointly, and members representing the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, India, Ceylon, Southern Rhodesia and the British colonies and protectorates. Pakistan is represented on the board by an observer.
Turning to the amendments proposed in the bill, I come first to those relating to the inter-governmental machinery established under the agreement to which Australia’s adherence was authorized by section 7 of the 1946 act. Clause 4 of the bill proposes to effect these amendments by repealing and replacing section 7 of the principal act, and substituting for the original first schedule agreement the agreement set out in the first schedule to the bill. This agreement itself incorporates certain changes as compared with the original first schedule form, and clause 4 of the bill proposes that approval he given to the further changes set out in the second and third schedules to the hill. All these changes represent the outcome of prolonged mutual consultation by the partner governments, and all have been assented to by these governments. In the interests of inter-governmental cooperation within the British Commonwealth of Nations, I hope that, in the circumstances, this House will have no hesitation in accepting them.
The changes which the agreement set out in the first schedule incorporates have been necessitated by constitutional developments within the British Commonwealth. These changes have broadened the agreement to provide for the admission of new governments as partner governments and the withdrawal of governments from the partnership. They have been effected in the revised agreement by the addition of new clauses which have been numbered 9 and 10. One or two purely consequential amendments have been made to bring other clauses of the agreement into conformity with these changes. The main clauses in no way affect the spirit or substance of the agreement, and the House will not, I think, need to be reminded of the constitutional changes that have made them necessary. I merely say that it is clearly in the interest of the British Commonwealth as a whole that the communities within the Commonwealth, which, during the last few years, have assumed the status of independent nationhood, should be able to become parties to the agreement if they wish to do so. Ceylon has already taken this step, and Pakistan, though not at present formally a party to the agreement, is working in close co-operation with the other partner governments on telecommunications matters and is represented on the Commonwealth Telecommunications Board by an observer.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– Since the revised form of the first schedule to the agreement was established, certain further changes have been accepted by the partner governments. The first of these amendments, in the order in which they are dealt with in the bill, consists in the substitution of a new clause 7 for the clause 7 set out in the third schedule to the agreement itself. The terms of this new clause 7 are given in the second schedule to the bill now before the House. Its purpose is to authorize altered financial arrangements for meeting the cost of maintaining the common-user system of submarine cables and wireless services through which communications are maintained between the territories of the partner governments. The form of the new clause 7 was adopted after lengthy inter-governmental discussion, and the changes which it incorporates are regarded by the Australian Government as sound and necessary. Broadly, their effect is to provide that the costs of maintaining the common-user system shall be shared by the national bodies in proportion to their net revenues from year to year, subject to a number of adjust ments agreed upon with a view to making the general principle equitable in its application in particular cases. As all the partner governments, including the Australian Government, are in agreement on the matter, J do not propose to take up the time of the House by going through the new clause in detail. The arrangements contemplated in the original clause 7 would not have worked out satisfactorily in practice, and those by which they are to be replaced, represent what is at present thought to be the best answer to the problem. Under, clause 6(2.) of the new first schedule to the agreement, they can be modified from time to time by agreement of the partner governments if experience indicates that modifications are necessary.
The second group of amendments by which the partner governments have agreed to modify the first schedule to the agreement comprises the amendments set out in the third schedule to the present bill. These amendments provide for a modification of the arrangements under which remuneration is payable to the chairman of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Board and the alteration of the title of the board’s chief executive officer. The agreement as set out in the first schedule to the bill provides that the chairman shall receive a remuneration of £3,500 per annum. The amendment fixes the salary of the chairman a! £2,500 per annum, but provides that a chairman whose permanent home is outside the United Kingdom may be paid an overseas allowance at a rate not exceeding £1,000 per annum if and as long as the partner governments consider such an allowance to be appropriate in th,circumstances of the case. The amendment affects paragraph 12 of the second schedule to the agreement. The salaries and allowances of the chairman and members of the board, I may add, are met by proportionate contributions made towards the board’s expenses by all the national bodies participating in the agreement. The other amendment within this small group changes the title of the board’s chief executive officer from “ Director-General “ to “ SecretaryGeneral “. It affects paragraphs 8(1). 8 (2), and 17 (4)’ of the same schedule. Sub-section (3.) of the new section 7 set out in clause 4 of the bill proposes that these changes be approved.
All theBe amendments to the first -schedule to the agreement and its schedules have been 1 confirmed by the Australian Government, and this decision was signified- to the Commonwealth Telecommunications Board, the United Kingdom Government and the other partner governments earlier this year. The object of the Government in proposing the amendments is to place this approval on a statutory basis. As I have mentioned, they continue a policy established by a previous government, and I suggest that in all the circumstances they should be acceptable to both sides of the House.
In accordance with the plan which I outlined in my opening remarks, I come now, Mr. Speaker, to the second group of amendments proposed in the bill. These amendments all relate to the administration of the principal act within Australia. For the most part they are minor in nature, and where this is the case it will, I hope, suffice to indicate them briefly. The first of these amendments is proposed in clause 5 of the bill. Its object is to modify section 18 (3) of the principal act, which prescribes the conditions under which appointments shall be made to the commission’s service. The amendment arises from the difficulty which the commission, in common with most other organizations, has experienced during recent years in recruiting junior officers for its staff. As the act stands at present, the commission is required to conduct a prescribed entrance examination for the admission of junior officers to its service, and the same entrance examination must be conducted in all States of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth’s legal advisers are of the opinion that this requirement would not be satisfied by the marking of papers submitted by candidates for the leaving certificate and other school-leaving examinations, as is done in recruiting junior officers for the Public Service. The commission is in consequence placed at a special disadvantage in the labour market, in that it must hold a separate examination additional to the leaving certificate examination. While there are no many employment opportunities available in the Commonwealth and State public services, and with other employers both public and private, great difficulty has been experienced in persuading young men who have passed the leaving certificate examination to sit for the additional test which the act requires.
To overcome this difficulty, it is proposed to re-make sub-section (3.) of section 18 of the act, and to incorporate in the re-made sub-section a provision enabling examinations conducted by universities or other public examining authorities to be prescribed as examinations for appointments to positions or classes of positions in the commission’s service. This will enable the commission to take into its service applicants who have passed the leaving certificate examination or other approved school-leaving examinations, and will place the commission on equal terms with other official and private organizations seeking recruits at the school-leaving standard. It will in no way lower the entrance standard prescribed by the act. In all the circumstances, I suggest, this is a reasonable proposal. It will not deprive the commission of the power to hold a separate Commonwealth-wide entrance examination if and when the labour supply situation makes this possible.
The second amendment in the general group which I am now discussing is proposed in clause 6 of the bill. Its object, Mr. Speaker, is to authorize the recognition of long service furlough claims made by certain of the employees of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited who were taken over by the commission from that company when the commission was constituted in 1946. These claims were based in sub-section (12.) of section 18 of the principal act, which provides, inter alia, that in determining the conditions of employment of the employees taken over from the company the commission shall take into account any pension, superannuation, retiring allowance or furlough rights accruing to the employees in respect of their service with the company, and shall, subject to the approval of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, make such allowance for those rights as, in the view of the commission, is just. The purport of the claims was that service with the company prior to service with the commission should be recognized for purposes of eligibility for long service furlough, and that recognition for furlough purposes should also be accorded to immediately preceding service with Commonwealth or State instrumentalities. The Government has examined these claims carefully, and is satisfied that they are reasonable. It is also satisfied that they can “be recognized consistently wilh the principles upon which the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act 1943-1944 is administered.
Broadly the position in the matter is that some of the employees taken over by the commission from the company in 1946 had been taken over by the company from the Commonwealth in 1922, and under the agreements made between the Commonwealth and the company at that time had their furlough rights preserved to them. These employees are accordingly eligible for furlough in respect of their service with the company between 1922 and 1946.
– What does that mean?
– It means that employees who have been in the service since the beginning will have a chance to get long service leave and furlough. The other employees taken over by the commission from the company in 1946, numbering in all about 440, did not bring with them fully established furlough rights in respect of their service with the company, but prior to their transfer to the commission had been given an assurance that the company had a long service furlough scheme under consideration. This scheme was subsequently implemented, and accorded to the employees then in the service of the company furlough rights broadly corresponding to those enjoyed bv employees of Com.monwealth authorities under the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act 1943-1944. The employees who joined the service of the commission represented to the Government at the time that they would have received these rights if their service with the commission h°d been a continuance of their service with the company. and requested on this basis that they should he given retrospective furlough rights’ in respect of this service. They were assured by the government of the day that this claim would receive consideration. The claim was later examined and approved by the government then in office, and the approval has since been re-affirmed by the present Government, subject to legislative confirmation.
In taking this decision, the Government had regard to the fact that during the period while the coastal, island and international radio services were operated by the company the employees engaged in the telecommunications activities of the company were, in effect, performing a Commonwealth function under the agreements entered into by the Commonwealth and the company in 1922, 1924 and 1927 and under licences issued under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1905-1936. I am satisfied that these considerations afford a basis for the recognition of furlough rights in respect of service with the company as from the 8th May, 1922, the date on which the operation of the Commonwealth wireless services were transferred to the- company. If this principle is accepted, it follows from the principles upon which the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act is administered that prior service with Commonwealth and State instrumentalities should also be recognized for furlough purposes, in instances in which the service with the company was continuous with this antecedent governmental service. The Government accepts this view. To give effect to these proposals, clause 6 of the bill provides for the insertion of a new section, to be numbered 18a, in the principal act. The new section will authorize the recognition of service with the company as from the 8th May, 1922, for purposes of eligibility for longservice, furlough, and will also authorize the recognition for the same purposes of prior service with Commonwealth or State instrumentalities. The furlough will be granted on the scale laid down in the Commonwealth Employees’- Furlough Act 1943-1951, and the cost will be borne by the commission. All employees of the commission are eligible under the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act for furlough in respect of their service with the commission as from the dates upon which that service commenced. The proposal embodied in proposed new section 18a is reasonable, and I recommend it to the House. The Government has also given consideration to a claim that the employees of Cable and Wireless Limited who were taken into the service of the commission should be given retrospective furlough rights in respect of their service with that company. These employees, however, came into the service of the commission under conditions differing in some particulars from those under which the commission took over the former employees of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. For present purposes, the main points of difference were that they had no actual or prospective furlough rights while they were with Cable and Wireless Limited, and it was impossible to see any basis upon which Cable and Wireless Limited could be regarded as an “ authority ‘’ for the purposes of the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act. For these reasons the view was taken that their claim could not be recognized. The distinction was a difficult one to dra w, but, having regard to all the facts, the Government took the view that it could not be avoided. If and when the matter can be dealt with consistently with the general policy of the Commonwealth on furlough matters the Government may be prepared to re-examine this view. The necessary flexibility is being provided for in the amending bill, which proposes the incorporation in the principal act of a new section enabling the . furlough rights of prescribed classes of employees to be dealt with by regulation. The Government cannot, at this stage, see its way clear to go further on this matter.
The next amendments contained in the bill propose that the constitution of the promotions appeal board provided for in section 23 of the principal act be broadened to enable the commission’s officers to be represented on the board at differential salary levels. These amendments will be effected by amending section 23 in the terms of clause 7 of the bill. As section 23 stands at present, the promotions appeal board consists of an independent chairman, a representative of the commission and a representative of the employees of the commission. Experience has shown, however,- that this arrangement is not altogether satisfactory. From the standpoint of all concerned it would be preferable for the officers to be represented on the board by two members, one of whom would sit with the board when appeals against provisional promotions in the lower salary ranges were being heard and the other when appeals were being heard against promotions in the higher salary ranges. -This arrangement would bring the composition of the board into alinement with the constitution of the corresponding promotions appeal boards in the Commonwealth Public Service, and would be in keeping with present-day ideas concerning the representation of employees on such bodies. Clause 8 of the bill seeks to amend section 24 of the principal act which fixes the retiring age for female officers employed by the commission at 60 years, but provides that any such officer may be retired by the commission after attaining the age of 55 years, or may herself elect to retire at the latter age. However, the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, to which .officers of the commission may contribute, makes no provision for payment of pensions to female officers before they reach the age of 60 years. Moreover, no provision in the Superannuation Act contemplates the payment of an actuarially reduced pension when a female contributor is retired between the ages of 55 and 60 years. In these circumstances, it is proposed that section 24 be amended to eliminate the references to retirement of a female officer at 55 years, or between the ages of 55 and 60 years, and to replace these references by a single provision for the retirement of any such officer at the age of 60 years. This would bring the section into conformity with the corresponding provisions of the Public Service Act and the acts under which most other statutory bodies operate.
Clause 9 of the bill seeks to modify section 31 of the principal act, which establishes the disciplinary appeal board and defines its composition and functions. As in the case of the promotions appeal board, it is desirable that the constitution of this board should be amended . to enable the officers of the commission to be represented on it at differential salary levels. Therefore, it is proposed that there should be two officers’ representatives, one to sit with the board when the appellant officer occupies a position in the lower salary ranges and the other when the appellant occupies a position in the higher ranges. Such an arrangement, as I mentioned in relation to the proposed amendment to section 23, would be in accordance with the practice followed in the Public Service, and would be in keeping with present-day views on these matters. Under clauses 10 and 13 it is proposed to repeal sections of the principal act which no longer have any operative effect, whilst clause 11 seeks to effect a consequential amendment. Clause 12 seeks to clarify section 42 of the principal act. The view of the Commonwealth’s legal advisers is that the intention of this section would be made clearer by the insertion of the words suggested. This is a formal matter, but it has a bearing upon the determination of the commission’s powers and functions in relation to those of authorities operating under other acts, and the change is desirable for the sake of administrative clarity and precision. Clause 14 seeks to repeal section 78 of the principal act. Under this section, the commission is required to transmit or receive, free of charge, meteorological telegrams to or from Commonwealth meteorological offices or stations in Australia and meteorological telegrams exchanged with ships at sea. The effect of the’ section is thus to include in the cost of operating the commission’s services costs which are incurred on behalf of the Meteorological Branch of the Department of the Interior. As a matter of accounting, it is preferable that these costs should be borne on the votes of the Department of the Interior, where they will be reflected more logically than in the accounts of the commission. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), concurs in this change, which will involve no additional expenditure.
As I said at the outset, the bill is essentially a machinery measure. The changes which it proposes would clarify and facilitate the administration of the principal act. Insofar as they affect questions of principle, they accept and extend principles which were introduced by a previous government.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from the 21st August (vide page 597).
Remainder of proposed vote, £718,000.
.- The ramifications of the Parliament have developed to a degree that was undreamt of by the fathers of federation. The annual cost of the Parliament now exceeds £1,000,000. Not only that fact but also the fact that the budget involves an annual expenditure in excess of £1,000,000,000 would make the founders’ of federation turn in their graves. The people are vitally concerned about these facts. Consequently, more detailed information should be presented to the Parliament in order to ensure that governmental expenditure shall be effectively supervised. I wholeheartedly support the submission that the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) made during the debate on the budget that fuller details of the items in the Estimates should be presented to the committee. It is all very well for the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to say in an airy fashion, as he did, according to newspaper reports, in a speech that he made a few nights ago to members of the Retail Traders Association in Tasmania, that if Australians wanted to expend less than £200,000,000 on defence in the current financial year they could get some one else to do the job for them. The Government could effect considerable economies not only under important headings of defence but also under other important headings if it took members of the Parliament as a whole more into its confidence. Since the numerical strength of the Parliament was increased, the members of both Houses do not have as much opportunity as they formerly enjoyed to speak during debates. I am sure that many honorable senators would, welcome an opportunity to perform useful service. The Senate of the United States of America has established various committees to deal with subjects a.s unrelated as foreign affairs and crime. They perform a very useful function. Many rank-and-file members of the United States Senate serve on them.
During the war period a number of committees was established by the Australian Parliament to deal with matters associated with war expenditure. “While I was privileged to serve on the “War Expenditure Committee its activities resulted in hundreds of thousands of pounds being returned to the Treasury. When one large organization heard that the committee proposed to investigate certain aspects of its dealings, it promptly refunded to the Government an amount of £100,000 which it had overcharged for certain materials. In another instance the committee was instrumental in having £48,000 refunded to the Treasury by an organization that had been working on the cost-plus system. There is evidence that to-day similar things are taking place in the United States of America. Because the government of that country considered that it had been mulcted of considerable sums of money, particularly by the major oil companies, it appointed a grand jury to inquire into their monopolistic tendencies. Before the Australian Government decides to sacrifice its shareholding in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, a committee composed of members of both sides of this chamber should he appointed to inquire into the activities of the major oil companies in this country. During the war period I was a member of a secret committee that inquired into vital defence matters. It wa3 part of the committee’s function to inquire ‘into the activities of major oil companies who were using their influence to prevent lubricating oil from coming into Australia under the lendlease system. Ultimately the committee saved the taxpayers of . this country millions of pounds. It took evidence on oath. During its inquiries it found-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden). - Order! The honorable member should confine his .remarks to the remainder of the proposed vote for the Parliament.
– With respect, Mr. Deputy Chairman, I am endeavouring to show that greater use could he made of the services of the rank-and-file members of the. Parliament. For instance, a parliamentary committee could he appointed to inquire into the unemploy ment situation in this country, a matter with which we are all vitally concerned. The only way in which the facts can be gleaned is by a properly constituted committee taking evidence from officers oi the Commonwealth Employment Service and other persons who are closely in touch with unemployed persons. Likewise, a committee of the Parliament could inquire into various aspects associated with our national development. Much has been said about our unguarded north. It is tragic to think that the Government has no plan to increase our northern defences and to deal adequately with our unemployment and immigration problems.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! National development, immigration and unemployment cannot be dealt with at present. . They may be dealt with only when the proposed votes for the appropriate departments are being considered.
– Again, with respect, I submit that the committee system should he dealt with during the debate on the proposed vote for the Parliament. I have made only a passing reference, to the subjects that you have just mentioned, but I shall go into details when the appropriate proposed votes are before the committee. The Foreign Affairs Committee is a one-sided body.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! Foreign affairs may not be dealt with during the debate on this proposed vote.
– Will the Chair tell me what I can deal with ?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- The honorable member may refer to the administration of the parliamentary departments.
– I submit that I should he allowed to deal with the subject of parliamentary committees. The services of parliamentary officers were available to the committees that functioned during war-time, and no extra expenditure other than reporting, printing and other incidental expenses would be involved if additional parliamentary committees, composed of rank-and-file members, were appointed. Much useful information could be elucidated. For instance, in relation to foreign affairs-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order ! Foreign affairs can be dealt with later.
.- In the opinion of most honorable members, for some months the dignity of the Parliament has suffered greatly because of the controversy that has arisen between Mr. Speaker and the Government. I think it is correct to say that at the present time the dignity of the Parliament has suffered so much that it has become almost a laughing-stock among the general public. Names have been painted on doors and then have been rubbed out. Doors have been locked.
– I think we should get Mr. Speaker in.
– I think he should be in the chamber while this matter is being discussed. I regret that we are in committee and that he is not present.
– If the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) were to make a formal request for Mr. Speaker to be present, I should not resist it.
– Obviously, I cannot raise the matter of this proposed vote while Mr. Speaker is in the chair. But now we are in committee and you, Mr. Deputy Chairman, are occupying the chair. Therefore, I have no alternative but to raise the matter now, although Mr. Speaker is not here. I would, prefer him to be here, but he is not, and it cannot be helped. Undoubtedly the dignity of the Parliament has suffered very greatly in the eyes of the people as a result of this controversy. On one hand, Mr. Speaker, who is the highest officer of the House, has given it as his official opinion that certain honorable members, by virtue of positions that they have accepted from this Government and of the profits that come therefrom, have forfeited their right to sit in this chamber, and, on the other hand, the Prime . Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said that he intends to take no notice whatever of Mr. Speaker’s opinion, and does not propose to have the matter settled in one way or another. To-day a resolution was passed which confirmed a statement issued by the Prime Minister, but we are still in the same position.
– I rise to order. This matter has been discussed in the House to-day, and has been settled by a resolution of the House. Therefore, I submit that any attempt to raise it in committee now is entirely out of order.
– I wish to raise two points of order; first, that the committee has no knowledge of what has happened in the House; and secondly, that Mr. Speaker allocates rooms in this building in his capacity as vice-chairman of the Joint House Committee. The proposed vote for the Joint House Committee is at present under consideration. I submit that the honorable member for Yarra is in order.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- I uphold the point of order taken by the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison). The honorable member for Yarra must not traverse a previous debate, especially one that took place in the House.
– In deference to your ruling, Mr. Deputy Chairman, I shall not traverse a previous debate, but I shall refer to incidents that have occurred in relation to parliamentary undersecretaries and their right to continue to sit in the Parliament. It is not proper for the Government and honorable gentlemen opposite to laugh this matter off. I think that the majority of honorable members came to this Parliament with a high sense of the importance of their duties as members of Her Majesty’s legislature for the Commonwealth. The decisions that we make here can take away people’s lives, property and liberties. They can affect the lives of the people in a thousand and one ways. They are very important and serious decisions. Although we must have relaxation occasionally from our deliberations, it is highly important from the point of view of the people of Australia that never at any time should we forget the power and authority that is wielded by the Parliament, and by us, as members of the Parliament. It would be wrong to continue to treat this matter as a joke, in the way in which it has been treated by the Government during past months, and indeed, also, up to a point by Mr. Speaker himself. It is time that something was done about it. I expected that Mr. Speaker, when the House recorded a vote adverse to him, would feel that he had no alternative but to tender his resignation. To-day, a vote was taken in this chamber-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order ! The honorable gentleman is referring to something that occurred in the House. The committee has no cognizance of it.
– Surely, in the interests of this institution, in the interests of parliamentary government itself and in our own ‘ interests, we should endeavour to reach some finality on this matter. We should not have the highest officer of the House, the man appointed to guard its rights and those of honorable members, expressing the opinion that certain honorable gentlemen have forfeited their right to sit in the Parliament, and are liable to very heavy penalties if they continue to do so, and the Government saying that it intends to take no notice of that opinion and to do nothing about the matter. ‘
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Yarra is referring again to an incident that occurred in the House to-day. A decision was made, not by the Government but by the House. I submit that the honorable member is entirely out of order, and is deliberately misrepresenting what occurred then.
– I rise to order. Mr. Speaker stated specifically this afternoon that whatever the House decided had no reference to rulings that ho had given or opinions that he had expressed previously. Therefore, I submit that the honorable member for Yarra is perfectly in order in discussing opinions that Mr. Speaker has expressed upon matters other than those decided by the House this afternoon.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- I rule that the honorable member ‘for Yarra is out of order in discussing in committee something that occurred in the House.
– I rise to order. Doubtless, in the proposed vote now under consideration provision is made for the payments of £500 a year that are being made, or are to be made to the parliamentary under-secretaries, or, failing those payments, at least the expenses incurred by those honorable gentlemen. Therefore, I submit that the honorable member for Yarra is in order in discussing their appointments and activities.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- I am sure the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) will be interested to learn that no provision is made under this head for the payment of the mythical sum to which he has referred.
– I rise to order. Standing
Order 71 begins as follows: -
No member shall allude to any debate of the same Session unless such al’u ion be relevant to “the matter under discussion.
The matter under discussion is the Parliament and the conduct of the Parliament. I submit that the honorable member for Yarra is in order in referring to the previous debate on this matter so far as it is necessary for him to do so to make his point.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - I have already ruled that the honorable gentleman is not in order.
– In view of the fact that you are so intent upon protecting the Government in this matter, I have no alternative but to pass on.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.Order! I am intent upon protecting parliamentary procedure in this chamber. The honorable member for Yarra will withdraw that statement, and will apologize to the Chair.
– I withdraw and apologize. Some people- disguise their devotion to the protection of parliamentary institutions and of the Parliament in a very strange way. Those of us who are really concerned with the dignity of this chamber as a legislative assembly believe that any conflict that occurs between a responsible officer of the Parliament and the Government should be resolved as soon as possible, in the interests of parliamentary institutions and of the people concerned. However, as you have ruled out of order any general discussion on the incidents concerning the parliamentary under-secretaries that took place to-day, I can only say that they have at least had one good effect in that they have brought two Ministers into the chamber. Every honorable member on this side of the committee has, on many occasions, noted the complete absence, during the course of debates, of all members of the Ministry except one Minister who sits at the table.
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Chairman. I should like to know where, in the Estimates, an amount of money is shown as being made available for the purpose of bringing Ministers into the chamber to listen to debates.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! The honorable member for Yarra should keep to the Estimates.
– I desire to voice my protest at the cavalier treatment of this Parliament by the members of the Ministry. I suppose that, apart from question time, and debates on items in which the Prime Minister himself is personally interested, we never see him in this chamber at all, and I shall also Bay, in relation to the majority of the Ministry, that apart from question time, when any Minister is likely to be asked a question, and part from debates on particular bills with- which they are particularly concerned, we never see other Ministers in the chamber. I consider that the time has come when more consideration requires to be given to the protection of this chamber as a deliberative assembly. Indeed, our main function, as elected members of this institution, is to endeavour to pass legislation for the benefit of Australia and Australians. Nowadays the nature of legislation is largely settled in party rooms and not in the Parliament as such. Our next major function is to ventilate grievances and bring matters to the notice of Ministers in order that they may be dealt with. But what opportunity has a member of the Parliament to carry out that function? Certainly we on the Opposition side have, very Tittle chance of affecting the nature of legislation. The decisions on legislation are made in the party room and the back-benchers opposite are steamrollered into supporting them. Even if we had the eloquence of the Archangel Gabriel we should not be able to affect a change in legislation. So I suppose one of the few functions left to us is the ventilation of grievances on behalf of our constituents, by raising matters when the motion for the adjournment is before us or during the course of debates on measures. But of what use is it to raise grievances, when the Minister concerned is not in the chamber? Nobody can seriously suggest to me for a moment that Ministers read Hansard. Therefore, we are, in effect, talking only to the audience that listen in on the air, and possibly only to the air itself. I consider, therefore, that it is time that members of the Government realized their responsibilities to this institution and spent a little more time in the chamber listening to the grievances that honorable members voice on behalf of their constituents. If they did so they would assist considerably in making this institution serve the country as it should serve it. I also feel very strongly that the head of the Government, the Prime Minister, should be expected to spend more time in this chamber. I realize, as every honorable member realizes, the tremendous burden that a Prime Minister has to carry, but he accepts that burden. He is the Prime Minister and his function is to be here for at least a reasonable proportion of the time that the chamber meets. Since I have been a member of this Parliament, the only occasions on which I have seen the Prime Minister in the chamber have been at question time and occasionally when a division is taking place or when he has had ‘to make a speech himself. We are entitled to expect the Prime Minister and his Ministers to spend more time in the House listening to the ventilation of grievances.
– Shortly, of course, we shall not see them here at all.
– Yes. shortly they will all be so busy in the electorate of Flinders trying to stave off the inevitable that we shall not see them at all.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Mr. W. M. BOURKE (“Fawkner) T8.44]. - The honorable member for Yarra (“Mr. Keon) has pointed out some of the inadequacies that are associated with the working of this Parliament, due to the cavalier manner in which the Government treats private members and the Parliament itself. I . wish to point to the possibility of the serious deadlock that may arise in the functioning of the parliamentary machinery in the difficult years ahead, which should cause concern to all honorable members. Before referring to that subject, however, I shall refer briefly to the work of people about whom the public hears very little and about whom the press publishes very little, but who are really responsible for the fact that the wheels of this Parliament continue to turn and the institution to function efficiently. I refer to the numerous officials and officers of the Parliament. Without specifying any names, T. mention the Clerk of the House and the staff which works under him, the Parliamentary Reporting Staff, the staff of the Library and the various attendants, all of whom perform their duties unostentatiously, capably and efficiently. All honorable members will agree with me that the ready co-operation of all those officers, both men and women, is of great assistance to them in the conduct of their parliamentary duties. Therefore, I. should like to take this opportunity to pay a tribute to them and to express my personal gratitude for the assistance that they give me arid, I am sure, all other honorable members.
I turn now to the grim prospect that lies ahead of us because of deficiencies in the Constitution, whereby our parliamentary machinery may become, if not unworkable, at least unwieldy. Section 1 - of the Constitution provides as follows : -
The legislative power of the Commonwealth <hall be vested in a Federal Parliament, which dial’ consist of the Queen, a Senate, and a House of Representatives, and which is hereinafter called “The Parliament,” or “The Parliament of the Commonwealth.”
Although we have this bicameral system, the Senate is placed in an inferior position to the House of Representatives. The Senate does not control the Government, because the Government is responsible to the House of Representatives. If a government is defeated in the Senate, that does not matter very much so long as it commands a majority in the House of Representatives. It is the House of Representatives which makes and unmakes governments. In addition, the Senate is in an inferior position to the House of Representatives because of the operation of section 53 of the Constitution, which provides as follows : -
Proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys, or imposing taxation, shall not originate in the Senate.
The Senate may not amend proposed law? imposing taxation, or proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government.
The Senate may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people.
Section. 53 further provides -
Except as provided in this section, the Senate shall have equal power with the House of Representatives in respect of all proposed laws.
The Senate is placed in that inferior position under the Constitution, but, despite that fact, it is in a position to clog the workings of the parliamentary institution to a degree that can be damaging to the nation. I ask honorable members to cast their minds back to the general election in April last year which followed the double dissolution. Both Houses of the Parliament went to the electors. By a strange freak in the Constitution, for the inclusion of which I suppose there was a reason at the time that document was drawn up, although both Houses were elected at the one time when last year’s general election took place, on the occasion of the next, general election for each House the Senate and the House of Representatives will have to face the electors at different times. This will mean that the people will be faced with the expense of two general elections instead of one. That curious, anomalous and unfortunate position has arisen because section 13 of the Constitution provides that some senators shall be elected for three years and some shall be elected for six years. Then, in curious legal phraseology, the section provides as follows : -
For the purposes of this section the term of service of a senator shall be taken to begin on the first day of July following the day of his election, except in the cases of the first election and of the election next after any dissolution of the. Senate, when it shall b”e taken to begin on the first day of July preceding the day of his election.
As the result of that curious provision the term of office of senators who were elected for a three-year term at the general election which was held in April, 1951, following the double dissolution, commenced their term on the 1st . July, 1900. After they have served their term of office they must face the electors and be re-elected or replaced by senators whose term will commence on the 1st July, 1953. Thus, a Senate, election must be held before the and of June of next year. A different position exists in relation to the election of members of the House of Representatives. Section 28 of the Constitution provides that every House of Representatives shall continue for three years from the first meeting of the House. In the case of members of- the House of Representatives the commencement of the three-year period is not back-dated. As their term of office commences from the first meeting of the new Parliament, an election of members of the House of Representatives will not be held until about the middle of 1954. Apart from this strange constitutional anomaly, as the result of which we shall have two elections instead of one, in view of the present attitude of the people towards the misdeeds of the Government it seems likely that at the Senate election, which will be held before June of next year, the Labour party will win a majority of seats in each of the six States. At the general election that followed the double dissolution last year the Government parties held 32 seats and Labour 28 seats in the Senate, but having regard to the position in relation to the number of retiring senators and of those who will retain their seats, eighteen members of the Government parties and twelve members of the Labour party will continue to sit after the election next year. That, leads to the very interesting possibility that if the Labour party wins a majority of Senate votes in each of the States Labour will gain three out of five of the vacant seats in each State, or a total of eighteen, and the Government parties will gain the remaining two seats, or a total of twelve. The Government parties with their eighteen remaining ‘ senators and twelve newly elected senators will thus have a representation of 30 senators, and the
Labour party with eighteen new senators and twelve remaining senators will also have a representation of 30 senators. There, we have the frightening prospect-
– Does the honorable member forget that the party of which he is a member introduced the legislation which will bring about the result of which he complains?
– This Government, which has been in office for quite a time, has had ample opportunity’ to amend the law, but it has made no attempt to do so. The Constitution also provides that the President of the Senate shall exercise a deliberative vote but not a casting vote, and when the votes are equal the question shall pass in the negative. That means that the Menzies Government, which may continue in office until some time in 1954, will, at least for some period after the Senate election, be faced with the prospect of a deadlock between the two Houses of the Parliament.
In view of the attitude of the people towards this Government, which will undoubtedly be reflected in the Flinders byelection to be held shortly, we can assume that the Labour party will win the election for the House of Representatives in 1954. In that event the new Labour Government would be faced with the position of an evenly divided Senate. If the Labour party did not’ win a majority of the Senate seats the Labour Government in the House of Representatives would be faced by a hostile Senate majority and recourse would again have to be had to the horribly cumbersome procedures laid down in section 57 of the Constitution governing a double dissolution. Because of the unsatisfactory relationship between the two houses of the Parliament, and because of cumbersome and unsuitable procedures laid down in the Constitution for resolving disagreements between the two houses, the people are likely to experience a long series of emotions for both the Senate and the House of Representatives, possibly followed bv double dissolutions. These events may take place at a time when, because of the gen era 1 international situation, and the seriousness of our internal position, it is. most essential that the Government should have control of both houses of the Parliament.
The Government should not wait until a situation such as I have envisaged arises. This is a very serious matter, which should be given immediate attention. I suggest that the problem be considered without delay by an all-party committee, which should be asked to consider the role that the Senate should play in the parliamentary machinery of this country.
– Abolish it!
– We must decide the means by which disagreements between the two houses of the Parliament shall be resolved. If we cannot work out a satisfactory method of resolving disagreement between the two houses of the Parliament which will enable the Senate to play a worthwhile part in our constitutional set-up, consideration should be given to the abolition of the Senate, as the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has suggested.
Now that we are running into difficult economic times the reduction of the cost of government has become a matter of greater urgency than it has been at any other period. Most thoughtful people will agree that the Parliament should tackle this problem without delay. In an earlier speech on this subject, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), referred to the Senate of the United States of America, from which our Senate derives its name and upon which our Senate was largely based, and he pointed out that it plays an adequate and worthy part in the constitutional function of that country. He reminded us that the United States Senate plays a very important part in the formulation of the foreign policy of that country.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) has made a valuable contribution to this debate, and I am sure that the Government will give serious consideration to the matters that he has raised.
– I rise to order. In view of the opinion expressed by Mr. Speaker regarding parliamentary undersecretaries, is the Chair entitled to hear the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) ?
– Very funny, indeed !
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - The answer to the question asked by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) is in the affirmative.
– It will give me great pleasure to deal with the honorable member for Yarra in a few moments. Before I do so, I remind the honorable member for Fawkner and. his colleagues that the double dissolution last year followed a cunning move on the part of the previous Labour Government when it introduced the system of proportional representation for the election of the Senate in 1949. That Government denied to the people a fair chance to elect a Senate under the new system, and engineered the election to a large degree, bo that many honorable senators were able to retain their seats. Of course, the Labour Government deliberately ignored the policy of the Labour party, which advocates the abolition of the Senate.
– Is the honorable gentleman in favour of the abolition of the Senate ?
– The honorable member for Yarra seized the opportunity afforded by broadcasting to deliver trenchant criticism of Ministers. He should have paused before he cast the first stone, because he is one of the few members of this chamber who is not in his place for the full six and a half hours a day.
– The honorable member is not in the chamber to see me.
– I keep my eyes open. The honorable member for Yarra did not take his seat in this chamber until February, 1950, and, therefore, may have no knowledge of the time spent by Labour Ministers here. However, he should know that Ministers in any government have duties to perform which keep them in their offices for the greater l -art of the day. They come into the chamber when the opportunity presents itself, and they are available in their offices to honorable members who desire to discuss with them the business of the Parliament or of their electorates. The honorable member for Yarra, who has had considerable experience as a member of the Parliament of Victoria, should know that it is highly improper for a Minister and a private member to converse audibly in the chamber. Obviously, a private member who wishes to confer with a Minister about a matter affecting his electorate must go to the office of the Minister for that purpose. However, the honorable gentleman “ put on an act “, and said that the work of the Parliament was not being carried out in a correct manner.
I propose to make a suggestion for the alteration of the sittings of the Parliament. I am a firm believer- -
– In the 40-hour week?
– Yes, in the 40- hour week; but I doubt whether the honorable gentleman believes in it. I believe that every hour in bed before midnight is equal to two hours in bed after midnight. The system of transacting business that keeps honorable members continuously in this chamber until midnight is wrong. I realize that it is the policy of the Opposition to drive, drive, drive all the time in an endeavour to wear the nerves of Government supporters, particularly Ministers, and cause some disruption. I also realize that the expense associated with the conduct of this Parliament is considerable. With the advent of the motor car and aeroplane, we are living a little too fast, and certain sections of our electorates expect us to be in this chamber during the week, and to attend functions in our constituencies during the week-end. As the end of a session approaches, we endure the ordeal of all-night sittings, and are making preparations to rush away from Canberra when the House rises, so that, in all the circumstances, proper attention is not given to the transaction of the business of the Parliament. The honorable member for Yarra has mentioned that matter.
– Will the honorable gentleman now say a few words about parliamentary under-secretaries
– They arc all right. As honorable gentlemen, particularly
Opposition members, are great advocates of the 40-hour week, I suggest that we practise what we preach. I have ascertained that honorable members sit for approximately 23 hours a week in the actual performance of their duties in the chamber.
– How many weeks a year?
– We do not sit for many weeks of the year, but I point out that a member of the Parliament has numerous duties to perform in his electorate. The electors could be educated to the realization that if we sit for five days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., exclusive of Wednesday morning when party meetings are held, more business would be transacted with greater rapidity and efficiency than is possible under the present system. The Parliament, instead of meeting for three or four sessional periods a year, could settle down to two periods of reasonable duration, and in the recess, honorable members could be in their electorates or near their homes for a great part of the year. They would still give better service to the people, who, when all is said and done, “ foot the bill “.
It may be said that if such a system were adopted, honorable members would not be able to spend week-ends at their homes during a sessional period.
– That would not hurt them.
– I .am in complete agreement with the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). Let us consider the situation at the present time. Most honorable members, if they desire to spend the week-end in their electorates during a session, are obliged to travel for the greater part of Friday, if the House rises on Thursday evening, or for the greater part of .Saturday, if the House rises on Friday; and they are travelling for the greater part of Monday in order to be in Canberra for the meeting of the House on Tuesday. Therefore, they may have only one or two days at home. A member of the Parliament could give great satisfaction to the people in performance of his duties here if the House met on five days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
One objection that may be voiced to my proposal by some Ministers is that there would be no time for meetings of Cabinet. Under present conditions, Cabinet meets on Tuesday morning before the Senate and the House of Representatives assemble, and probably again on Wednesday morning, and occasionally at other times when Ministers are available. If the House were to sit five days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Cabinet could meet on four evenings from 8 o’clock to 10 o’clock, and Ministers would have one free evening in the five. They would not be so weary as they are to-day, and would be able to give greater consideration to the various problems that require’ their attention. I have discussed this matter with other honorable members, and I have reached the conclusion that the sooner a more sensible system of sittings than we have at present is adopted, the better it will be for everybody. The Parliament of Queensland seldom sits at night. I realize that if the House sat from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., people who listen to the broadcasts of the. proceedings, or who are in attendance here, would be deprived of a source of interest and pleasure; but after all, honorable members are not paid to provide entertainment for those who listen to our speeches over the air or who view us from the galleries in this chamber. We are paid to do a job, and the best way in which we can perform it is to transact the business between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., when our minds have not been dulled by lack of sleep. I consider that, ultimately, the system that I have suggested will have to be adopted. When it is. there will be two sessional periods each year, and honorable members will be able to spend the recess in their electorates.
.- -I understand perfectly well the tender solicitude of the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamiliton) in the matter of ministerial absences from the chamber, because he is obviously in thin air at the moment, and his chances of preferment or otherwise depend on the presence or absence of certain gold letters on the door of his office. It ill becomes the honorable member to deliver such a ponderous and pontifical lecture to the honorable member for
Yarra (Mr. Keon). Surely the honorable gentleman is aware that an honorable member, no matter how junior he may be in this chamber, is entitled to be jealous of the rights and privileges of the Parliament. In our youth, we were informed by our forebears of the great traditions of the British Parliament. And who is the keystone in this arch of democracy, the crowning achievement of the people’s will that expresses itself in this Parliament? It is the Speaker of the House of Representatives. I see in Mr. Speaker, and I have no doubt every other honorable member does also, the very embodiment of the rights and. dignity of the Parliament. We should be ever on the qui vive to prevent his authority from being undermined, and to ensure that the respect which is his due is paid to him. Therefore, I resent very, strongly any metaphorical slap in the face that the Speaker may receive. It does not matter what may be said about the constitutional position of parliamentary under-secretaries, or what the legal niceties of the situation may be. There is one outstanding and incontestable fact - Mr. Speaker has absolute and supreme control of the physical environments of this Parliament. Who is there to deny it? Where is the modern Cromwell who to-day would say, pointing to the mace, “ Take away that bauble ! “ ? If such there be, let him rise in his place and be seen. Let us recall those idols of our boyhood, those defenders of freedom, such as Pym, Hampden, and other giants of old. When we find such a giant in our midst to-day, let us welcome him and uphold his authority. Above all, let us recognize his authority over the physical environments of the Parliament, including the corridors, the press gallery, and the various rooms of the building. Let us recognize that he is the absolute master here, and let no one intrude in his province, whether it he with brush or pen or other weapon.
I am in deadly earnest. There are threats to democracy in this Parliament as well as in the world outside, and if we once open the door, even to a minute extent, we may permit our enemies to enter. Then a state of anarchy might ensue, and who knows who might stalk the corridors in the dead of night, either to remove or to add letters of gold? Let me tell you, Mr. Deputy Chairman, what you, as a wise politician may already know from your own experience, that the people outside see a greater significance in the happenings here than we in our places are sometimes able to recognize. We are shaping destiny to-night. A famous Australian poet has expressed himself on this topic, and I crave your indulgence, Mr. Deputy Chairman, to repeat his words -
With a lordly sniff the Speaker bold
Had turned from the door in scorn -
Unless Ming moves these letters of gold
I’ll give him some cause to mourn. “ Bring a key, a brush the Pharlap so crude
The churl from the Downs to smite
All artists so rude, while I’m in the mood.
We’ll send to the vaults this night.”
On that note I end.
.- I shall not attempt to make to this debate a contribution similar to that of the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens), but I propose to mention two matters. I thought I detected in the utterances of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) a certain flippancy when he was referring to the by-election for the electorate of Flinders. I protest against the honorable member’s remarks which were, I believe, in the worst possible taste. It is less than 48 hours since the death of the honorable member for Flinders,and only yesterday sympathetic references to his death were made by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). Therefore, it is to be regretted that another member of the Opposition should now see fit to make flippant references to the Flinders by-election, even before the funeral of the late member for that electorate has taken place.
From the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) we heard a sanctimonious and propaganda-laden speech that was full of political humbug. I am not particularly interested in the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin), who has always been regarded as, perhaps, a greater play actor than the honorable member for Yarra. I object very strongly to the charges made by the honorable member for Yarra against members of the Cabinet. I believe that if an analysis were made it would be found that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) spends less time in the chamber than do most Ministers, including the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), although the responsibilities of the Leader of the Opposition are not so great as are those of any member of the Cabinet. The remarks of the honorable member for Yarra on this topic were quite uncalled for. Ministers have most onerous duties to perform, and the increasing weight of their responsibilities is evident when we compare the position now with what it was before the war. In 1939, the budget provided for the expenditure of £94,000,000. The present budget provides for the expenditure of more than £1,000,000,000. This year, the Department of Social Services will expend nearly twice as much as was provided in the whole budget of 1939; yet. it was suggested by the honorable member for Yarra, with the apparent approval of other members of the Opposition, that, the responsibilities of government are no greater now than they were before the war. The defence programme this year provides for the expenditure of over £200,000,000, and yet it is suggested that Ministers who are responsible for the expenditure of that money should have plenty of time to spend in this chamber. Under the heading of Repatriation–
The DEPUTYCHAIRMAN. - Order ! That comes under another item.
-I appreciate that, but when ministers are under attack because they do not spend more time in thechamber, I think I am entitled to point out the heavy responsibilities which devolve upon them.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - That can be done during the debate on other items.
– Much of the time of Cabinet Ministers is taken up with interviews with members of the Parliament, particularly with members of the Opposition. Honorable members opposite would be very incensed if Cabinet Ministers refused to see them when they were in Canberra. We should then hear a howl of protest to the effect that Ministers would not afford honorable members an opportunity to state their cases, which. in general, represent complaints from constituents. When one thinks also of the deputations which wait on members of the Cabinet, one appreciates that there is every justification for Ministers 11Ot being in the House at times other than question time, the adjournment debate, and when bills concerning the departments which they administer are before the House.
The honorable member for Yarra stated that honorable members do not have an opportunity to make their protests if Ministers are not here. I have just been called to order because I was not, perhaps, dealing strictly with the proposed vote being considered by the committee, but if we were engaged in the second-reading debate of the bill as a whole, how would it be possible for honorable members to make general protests, to the twenty Cabinet Ministers, about particular matters? Honorable members are provided, under the Standing Orders, with opportunities at question time and during the adjournment debate to state their objections to the conduct of Ministers. It is ridiculous for the honorable member for Yarra or any other honorable member opposite to criticize those who have the full responsibility of governing this country and are governing it to the satisfaction of the people.
– Referring to the proposed vote of £2,500 for standing and’ select committees, I draw the attention of the committee to the very valuable eighth report of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, which, I take it, is one of the committees covered by the proposed vote. In doing so, I intend to point out to honorable members one or two matters which I believe would be of advantage to this chamber. There has been considerable discussion to-night about the duties of honorable members. in relation to the Parliament and to the legislation that is passed by this Parliament. In h modern community it is recognized that it is necessary for a new form of legistlation. described as delegated legislation, to exist. The enactments so made have virtually the effect of law. although honorable members frequently have little opportunity to scrutinize them. I sug gest that if they are to scrutinize them they should be provided with adequate information on which to do so. Members of the House of Representatives are not provided with adequate information, although certain theoretical safeguards are provided. It is true that if an honorable member of this chamber or of the Senate feels that a regulation infringes liberties or goes beyond the power of the act under which the regulation is made, he may move for the disallowance of that regulation. That safeguard would be worth while if honorable members were aware of the purport of such regulations.
I have received to-day a bundle of statutory rules which cover regulations made under the Defence Preparations Act 1951, regulations dealing with passports, immigration, with special reference to the guardianship of children, conciliation and arbitration, two sets dealing with Australian military regulations, amendments of the trade mark regulations made in 1913, amendment of the patents regulations made in 1912, amendment of the copyright regulations made in 1913, amendment of the designs regulations made in 1906, and amendment of arbitration regulations affecting the Public Service made in 1921.
Apparently honorable members are expected to be in attendance here at all hours of. the day and to scrutinize every piece of legislation passed by this Parliament, and also the regulations and ordinances made thereunder, since Federation. It is very difficult for honorable members to keep abreast of the regulations that are made from time to time.
I draw the attention of the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) to the eighth paragraph of the report of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, which is in these terms -
To assist the Committee in its work, a copy of every regulation anil every ordinance is forwarded to the Committee accompanied by a departmental explanation setting out, first, the effect of the regulation, and secondly, the reason for enacting it.
In mv opinion the Government could extend that privilege to every member of this chamber. When such regulations arc sent out, an explanation on their purport should be made. Apparently the Regulations and Ordinances Committee is provided with a kind of devil’s advocate. The ninth paragraph- of the report states that -
To further assist the Committee in its work since 1945 a legal adviser has been appointed at a present fee of 250 guineas per annum. The legal adviser is supplied with copies of all departmental explanatory statements, and he, in turn, submits to the Committee his own report on each regulation and ordinance. These reports are of great, value to the Committee. [ suggest that they would be of great value also to the members of the House of Representatives.
If the Government provided honorable members with explanations concerning regulations, such as those issued to the members of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee and also to members of the Cabinet, together with the opinions of the legal adviser to the committee, honorable members would be in a better position to exercise their right to scrutinize such regulations.
– I think that at this juncture I, as Minister at the table, should have something to say, although obviously I am not in a position to act as custodian of the House. That is the right and prerogative of Mr. Speaker. However, [ consider that a little self-criticism is not amiss occasionally. Honorable members must not forget that when they criticize the Parliament and parliamentary procedures they are also criticizing themselves, because they are the Parliament, and they can alter its procedure. The procedure in relation to regulations has been established by successive governments and was observed by the Government which preceded this one. The rules of the House permit an honorable member to move for the disallowance of any regulation to which he objects. The use of the debate on the Estimates to criticize the practice of the Government in regard to regulations is certainly an abuse, of the rights of honorable members in this committee.
The rules for the conduct of business in this chamber were formulated by the Standing Orders Committee, which consists of honorable members from both sides of the chamber. That committee is without prejudice and it has designed the Standing Orders ‘ so that the House may conduct its business efficiently and with necessary despatch. In the proceedings of the Standing Orders Committee, party feelings are forgotten. When the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) found that the Standing Orders restricted certain of his observations, he immediately decided to launch an attack on Ministers, possibly because t, by rising to order, frustrated him in his efforts. He charged Ministers with not being in attendance in this chamber. It ill becomes the honorable member to speak in those terms. When I sat in tb* previous Opposition of hallowed memory, the Government bench was singularly devoid of Ministers with the exception of one who, as I am, was the VicePresident of the Executive Council, find who carried out his duties much more efficiently than I have carried out mine, particularly in the application of the “ gag “. Ministers find administration much more complex now than it has been in the past and they cannot be in attendance in this chamber every hour of the day. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in particular, ha? very onerous duties. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) is very seldom in his place. Do I cavil at that? Of course not - because I know the duties of the Leader of the Opposition. But how much greater are the duties of the Prime Minister?
Do not let us try to turn this matter to our political advantage. The honorable member for Yarra is hot in the chamber himself at the moment. All honorable members go out of the chamber from time to time and they are within their rights in doing that. However, the honorable member also said that this Parliament is not’ a deliberative assembly but a joke. He alleged that decisions were made in the party rooms and that members were “ steamrollered “ into enforcing them. I well remember that when the anti-Communist legislation was introduced into this chamber the honorable member for Yarra rebelled against the orders of his party, but was soon “steam-rollered” into position.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order ! T&e Minister is not in order in referring to that matter..
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Deputy Chairman. But in view of these facts what right has the honorable member for Yarra to complain that party meetings determine the business of this Parliament !
I remember an old saying that when the devil was ill, the devil a saint would be; but when the devil was well, the devil a saint was he. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) said that he wished that the scheme of proportional representation in> the Senate could be altered because it could lead to a succession of double dissolutions. When the honorable member’s party was in office it succeeded in gerrymandering the Senate into a certain position. On that occasion [ used some of the arguments that have been used by the honorable member for Fawkner. But the Labour Government decided to take action to preserve its majority in the Senate. That was when the Labour party was well. Now that it is ill it does not entertain the same ideas. Et is pleading for some consideration to overcome the illness from which it is suffering. The honorable member said that if the decisions of the Senate could not be co-ordinated with those of this chamber, then the Senate should be abolished. The abolition. of the Senate is on the platform of the Labour party.
– What has that to do with the bill before the committee?
– HARRISON.- The honorable member for Fawkner has raised these points in this committee so they should be answered. The honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens) made a delightfully satirical speech. I would not say that he made a joke of the Parliament, although he contributed a great deal of levity to the proceedings. It was a delightful speech. I enjoyed it immensely. The honorable member for Yarra must not become so pompous. He must not look down his nose and accuse other honorable members of making a joke of the Parliament. It is only a little while since lae and the honorable member for Gellibrand both experienced the steam-roller tactics of their own party so the honorable member for Yarra is hardly in a position to accuse other honorable members of making a joke of the Parliament. I know that, the honorable member for Yarra comports, himself very seriously. He does not mix lightly and easily. He takes all matters very seriously and believes that nobody must transgress. I suggest that after he has been here a little, while longer he will have mellowed and may become as humorous as the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward).
All honorable members are responsible for the passing of the Estimates and, if they wish to indulge in self-criticism, then let them do so. But they should not allow that criticism to take the form of an attack on the Government. They should remember that in criticizing the Estimates they criticize themselves.
:- The most charitable comment that might be made on the speech of the Vice-President of . the Executive Council and Minister for Defence Production (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) i3 that it was entertaining. The Minister’s most notable and effective contributions to the debate in this chamber are made when he rises with due dignity and moves that the question be put. In comparison with the VicePresident of the Executive Council the previous occupant of his post was a mere novice in moving that motion. It. is not unusual to hear the Vice-President of the Executive Council criticized, for being absent from the chamber. I recollect certain headlines that were splashed across the pages of the New South Wales press on one occasion to the effect that he and certain other Liberal members were rarely, if ever, in their electorates and still more rarely in the Parliament. Indeed, one of the Minister’s own electoral branches passed an admonitory resolution to that effect. One of the reasons why certain honorable members of the Opposition are sometimes absent from the chamber is the cheerful nature of the speeches that are delivered by the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) ! He may be said to occupy the position of chief mourner in this debate, and he lived up to his reputation.
The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) stated that certain Ministers did not attend in this chamber as often as they should, although he agreed that they are usually in attendance at question time. No doubt you, Mr. Deputy Chairman, will agree with me that even though the Ministers are here at question time their answers to questions that concern many contentious matters are most unsatisfactory. To pursue the matter raised by the honorable member for Yarra, I draw the attention of the chamber to the fact that in the estimates for the Parliament will be found estimates of expenditure for salary, postage and various other matters connected with the carrying out of honorable members’ duties. I desire to know whether amounts of £500 per annum for the payment of parliamentary under-secretaries are included in the estimates of the amount to be expended for parliamentary salaries. 1” also desire to know whether in item C of Division 2. Other Services, provision has been made for the conveyance of parliamentary underscaretaries and their luggage while in Canberra. It would also be interesting to know whether provision has been made in the estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department in respect of expenditure on the offices of parliamentary undersecretaries as mentioned in the Nicholas report. At page 19 of the report of the committee inquiring into the salaries and allowances of members of the National Parliament, it is stated -
Subject to the proper interpretation of section 44 of the Constitution we recommend that an Under-Secretary or an Assistant Minister be paid an additional salary of £500 per annum.
Without passing any comment on the proceedings of this Parliament of which you, Mr. Deputy Chairman, because of your official position, would have no knowledge, I may say that to-day there was a Dr. Malan aCt on the part of the Government. The Government decided that as the Constitution did not suit it« purpose, it wo”ld set up its own authority and say, “Despite what the courts mav say, we have decided that this i:- ih” position “We accept, and every- thing in the garden is lovely “. In those circumstances I now desire to know whether provision has been made in the Estimates for the payment of £500 per annum to parliamentary undersecretaries.
– The honorable member knows that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated to-day that no salary was being paid to the parliamentary under-secretaries. Or possibly the honorable member was not in the House at the time.
– If it is constitutional to pay salaries to the parliamentary under-secretaries why are they not being paid?
– It is not constitutional.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council knows that the action taken to-day by the Government will not protect the parliamentary under-secretaries from having their seats declared vacant because they hold offices of profit under the Crown. If parliamentary under-secretaries are entitled to the payment of £500 per annum, why should they not be paid that sum? If they are not being paid the money, surely the honorable members concerned are afraid to take it because they know that if they did they would be accepting payment in offices of profit under the Crown, and that their positions would be unconstitutional. To-night we heard one of the parliamentary undersecretaries speak-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - I think that the honorable member also heard me rule that this matter cannot be dealt with at this time.
– I would not flout your ruling for a moment, Mr. Deputy Chairman. I was endeavouring to convey that I have a genuine concern about the proposed expenditure as shown in the Estimates. I am greatly concerned about the payment of allowances to parliamentary under-secretaries, and I will be doubly “concerned if it transpires that the honorable members in question are working on a non-union basis and doing the job without nay when they are justly entitled to remuneration. As an ordinary member of the Parliament I desire to know whether the Dr. Malan act that we witnessed in the Parliament to-day-
– I rise to a point of order. The allusion made by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) to the Dr. Malan act of this Parliament is objectionable. The Parliament made a decision of the whole House and in saying what he did say the honorable member was casting a reflection on the Parliament. I assume that you, Mr. Deputy Chairman, will not allow a reflection to be made upon the Parliament.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! The point of order raised by the VicePresident of the Executive Council is upheld. The honorable member for Grayndler may not reflect on a vote of the House.
– I accept your ruling, but unfortunately I cannot substitute the name that I would like to substitute for the act that I have mentioned, because that also would be unparliamentary. I ask the Government whether this contentious matter could be cleared up, both for the benefit of honorable members and for those who are closely concerned with these offices.
– Perhaps the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) could be brought into this matter.
– Yes, perhaps he could participate. His comments would be not only informative, but also of great benefit to this chamber. I sincerely trust that there will be a review of this whole matter. Are parliamentary undersecretaries’ salaries included in the estimates of expenditure for the Parliament, and are their out-of-pocket expenses also included? If these honorable members are entitled to a salary is it being paid, and if not, why ar6 they not receiving it in accordance with the Nicholas report, which made a certain recommendation, subject to its constitutional validity? I suggest that if the Government is not paying the £500 per annum to the honorable members in question it is afraid to do so, because the resolution that this Parliament passed to-day will not bear constitutional investigation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order I The honorable member cannot comment upon that act of the House.
– J hope that neither Mr. Speaker (Mr. Archie Cameron), nor any other honorable member, will consider my remarks to be a reflection on himself or on the proceedings of the Joint House Committee. It is a purely personal opinion, and I believe that it is my right, as a member of the Parliament and as a member of the Liberal party, to express that opinion.
– Is the honorable member still in the Liberal party?
– The Liberal party has so far given me the opportunity to express my views free from party control. That is something that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) cannot say for his party, and it is one of the great benefits of being a member of the Liberal party. Some time ago a decision was made, I believe by the Joint House Committee, to exclude the press and certain other people from certain facilities connected with Parliament House. I had hoped and believed that this matter would have been brought up in this chamber before now. This Parliament is different in many ways from other parliaments throughout, the world, and decisions that are made concerning its functions should take all those differences into consideration. The representatives of the press employed at. any of the State parliament houses have the full facilities of a capital city within their reach. Such facilities are not available to journalists in Canberra. That fact should be taken into consideration. I do not say that necessarily the solution of the problem would be to accommodate them in the parliamentary dining-rooms or in a dining-room, attached to Parliament House. However, if the Parliament is not prepared to do that, it should either provide, or help the members of the press gallery to provide, such facilities within a reasonable distance of Parliament House so that they may obtain meals .at times that fit in with the conditions of their work.
– :Set up a “ Cafe de Fairfax “ !
– It is not a question of providing a “ Cafe de Fairfax “. It is a question of thinking on simple and, to my mind, sensible and humane lines.
I make it quite clear to honorable members that I have no particular brief for the representatives of the press. I consider that the newspaper article that precipitated their exclusion from the parliamentary dining-rooms was, to say the least, most unjustified. I should like to know whether the reports that members of the press gallery send to their newspapers are sometimes factually incorrect or whether their editors sometimes make those reports factually incorrect. There is not the slightest doubt that some of the stuff that is printed in newspapers is from time to time factually incorrect. I repeat that I hold no brief for the members of the press gallery. All I say is that, as long as they are admitted to this. Parliament as part and parcel of its organization, they should be given the consideration that is due to human beings. _ If they cannot be provided with facilities for dining at Parliament House, I sincerely hope that the Parliament will see its way clear to assist in some way to provide facilities for them in close proximity to Parliament House. I regret that the subject has not been aired in this chamber previously, because I believe that it should not have been neglected for so long. I accept a share of the blame for the delay. Had it not been for the fact that I decided personally that it would be inadvisable for “me to raise the subject, it would have been aired a long time ago.
– I pay a tribute to the great work that is being performed by members of the Hansard staff. “We have a tendency to criticize individuals and institutions and to overlook the good features of parliamentary life and of the persons who are associated with it. I am astonished that, up to the present, only one other honorable member has seen fit to pay a compliment to the great work that is done by Hansard reporters. Australians who listen to speeches that are made in this chamber and who later are privileged to read the Hansard reports of those speeches will agree with me that the Hansard reporters do a magnificent job. I think that some praise should be given to them. I now make a complaint concerning the late publication of Hansard numbers. Hansard reports, in order to be of real value, should be published as soon as possible after the speeches aremade.
– A daily Hansard in issued in Great Britain.
– That is so, and even in South Australia Hansard is published within a week after the debates take place. In Victoria, I have been informed, the reports are published’, two days after the speeches have been made. In Canberra, however, the delay usually is between three and four- weeks. Sometimes it is longer. The Estimatesshould have included some provision that would enable the Government to overcome this weakness. More staff will haveto be employed, more and better printing machinery will have to he installed, anl houses will have to be provided in order to accommodate the additional staff, if the printing of Hansard is to be expedited so that reports will appear within a reasonable space of time after debates have taken place.
I now pay a tribute to the great work that is done by the Clerk of the House. He is one of the great servants of the Parliament, and he has rendered invaluable service for many years both to private members and to Ministers. He shows Ministers how to introduce bills and guides them through the various stages of debate. He advises you, Mr. Deputy Chairman, on the course that you should follow and the decisions that you should make when points of order are raised by honorable members. I think we all haw noticed to-night the vacant look on your face whenever a point of order has beenraised and your apparent complete perplexity until you have consulted tb* Clerk. Furthermore, the assistance that he gives to you, Mr. Deputy Chairman, great as it is, is only slight compared with that which he gives to the Chairman of Committees, who is now overseas. Hecontinually advises the Chairman when he is present. If he did not do bo, goodness knows what would happen to proceedings in committee. Yet I find, on examining the Estimates, that this important officer, instead of receiving far more than is paid to the Chairman of Committees, receives only £2,400 a year. The Chairman of Committees i8 paid £3,050 a year,, and he does not know one-tenth as much about the Standing
Orders and procedure in committee as the Clerk knows.
– And that is true of the Deputy Chairman.
– The Deputy Chairman, I am sure, would be the first to admit that he does not know much about the Standing Orders and parliamentary procedure. The point is that this disparity of payments constitutes a gross injustice, and I should be pleased if you, Mr. Deputy Chairman, would use your influence with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to have the salary of the Clerk of the House reviewed. Perhaps the Prime Minister is not responsible for rectifying such injustices. If so, a grave omission occurred when the responsible persons did not see fit to -refer this matter to Mr. Justice Nicholas.
I revert to the subject of Hansard -because I have another complaint that [ overlooked at the beginning of my -speech. This complaint concerns the number of extracts from Hansard that are supplied to honorable members. The present rule is than an honorable member is entitled to obtain free of charge 35 copies of the report of every speech that he makes in this Parliament. I realize that it would not be possible to make available large numbers of all reports, but I consider that serious consideration -should be given to allowing a privatemember to obtain free of charge, say, 1,000 copies of any two speeches that he delivers in the course of a sessional period. This would enable the honorable member to advise the people of his electorate of the work that he is doing and the views that he is expressing on their behalf. Anything that assists in spreading information concerning the activities of the Parliament must strengthen the Australian system of parliamentary democracy.
I shall refer now to the provision of rooms for Ministers and for honorable members in Parliament House. I am -quite dissatisfied with the treatment that is accorded to some of my colleagues in “the allocation of rooms. Some action should be taken to ensure that sufficient rooms shall be available in this building to accommodate all private members fittingly so that they will be able to conduct their parliamentary business properly.
Recently, I saw a report that an undersecretary, without authority from anybody, took possession of a private member’s room and had his title placed on the door. If Ministers and undersecretaries continue to take charge of private members’ rooms, the present bad situation will become even worse. 1 should like to know whether the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who now occupies the position of Speaker, has any authority to protect private members in regard to that matter. Apparently up to the. present he has had authority and has exercised and is exercising it. I hope that nothing will be done to take that authority from him.
I shall now refer to the Parliamentary Library. I preface my remarks with a public acknowledgement of the great work that is done by members of the Library staff. I have found that nothing is too much trouble for the officers of the Parliamentary Library in meeting the requests of honorable members and the more one uses the Library, the more apparent becomes its worth. However, that does not mean that I agree entirely with all that is done by the Library Committee which controls the Library. I doubt very much the wisdom of the Library Committee’s expenditure of so large a sum as £12,500 on a copy of a duplicate of Magna Carta, particularly at a time when this Government is showing complete and utter contempt for the doctrines that are enunciated in Magna Carta. The Government would have done more good had it expended £12,500 in printing and distributing to every school child in the Commonwealth a copy of the text of Magna Carta instead of expending the money on the purchase of a copy of Magna Carta that was made 60 or 70 years after the original document was signed. In that way, the citizens of tomorrow would have been reminded of the great doctrines of Magna Carta, and when this Government or any of its successors endeavoured to filch from the people the great rights that it conferred they would be constrained to rise in a body and overthrow it.
I wish to refer now to the postage allowance that is granted to honorable members. I find it quite impossible to meet my postage commitments on the postage allowance that I am receiving and I ask the Government to review the allowance generally. I assure the committee that the volume pf my correspondence is increasing rapidly as more people realize that the time is near when the Labour party will be called upon to form a government. Many who did not write to Opposition members before are doing so now. They relaize from bitter experience that it is useless to’ write to members of the Liberal party, because the Government in office is quite callous l:u its attitude towards them and is completely unable to attend to their requirements. The honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) has informed me that he also is receiving a great volume of mail from people who formerly wrote to members of the Liberal party. They are now writing to honorable members on the Opposition side to tell them how completely disgusted they are with the present Government and to state their intention to vote for the Labour party, candidates at the next general election. They are asking honorable members on this side of the chamber to tell them whether the Labour party is prepared to assist them in their terrible troubles. Answering all such inquiries calls for much correspondence. [ think you will agree, Mr. Deputy Chairman, that your correspondence has fallen off now that the wool tax outcry has died down because electors are sick and tired of writing to you. They know that you are politically impotent and can tlo nothing for them. They are waiting only for the first opportunity to go to the ballot box so that they may reject you and put somebody more capable of doing the job in your place.
– As the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has endeavoured to persuade the people that the Government is callous, the time is opportune to remind the committee that it has provided pensions higher than those approved by any other government, and has taken steps to abolish the means test as it applies to civilian. blinded pensioners. The people of Australia are fair-minded, and when they hear the facts instead of baseless charges such as those that have been hurled by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, they will realize that this Government is more generous than has been any previous Australian government. The honorable member has been most unfair. The committee is discussing the Estimates for the Parliament, which is composed of the representatives of the people. According to my calculations, the upkeep of the Parliament and its officers costs the nation £1,200,000 a year. That is equivalent to about 3d. a head for each member of the population or a little less than a Id. a week. That is the cost of maintaining democracy in the Australian Parliament at a time when democracies are threatened all over the world. The guardian of the privileges of the people’s representatives is Mr. Speaker. Because he holds his distinguished office, he is the custodian of the rights and privileges of private members in this House, which draws inspiration from the traditions of the Mother of Parliaments in Great Britain. The chair in which he sits has above it a coat of arms carved from the timbers of Westminster Ha1! dating back k 1399. The chair is the insignia of the authority of the Speaker in the tradition of the authority of the Speaker at Westminster. At the base of the chair is an inscription that indicates that it was presented by the citizens of the United Kingdom to the people of Australia. At present, Mr. Speaker finds himself in the centre of a conflict. He is the guardian of the rights and privileges of honorable members, but he has been hard put to it to discharge that task. As a result of encroachment on the part of the Executive he has had difficulty in providing adequate accommodation for honorable members. That encroachment cannot be laid at the door of this Government. It stems from action that was taken during the regime of the Lyons Government. Owing to a physical disability, the then Prime Minister occupied permanent office accommodation in this building. As time passed, that example was followed by other Ministers, who established permanent office accommodation in this building for, not only themselves, but also their private secretaries and typists. Under House of Commons usage, Cabinet meetings are held at Downing-street and the offices of Ministers are also outside of Parliament House. Unless the conflict which now faces us in thi3 Parliament i3 resolved in the near future, injury will be done to the authority of the Parliament. The problem of providing adequate accommodation for honorable members is aggravated bv the fact that Parliament House, which, although it is comparatively large, is not large enough, is isolated in what I describe as a field, with the result that ancillary accommodation, such as that required by various staffs and by representatives of the press, is not available within its precincts. I appeal to Mr. Speaker and to the Government to solve this problem as quickly as possible. If wo are to observe parliamentary customs and usages in their entirety as is laid down in May, the authority of the Parliament in this matter should be completely vindicated. I take this opportunity to commend Mr. Speaker for his success in improving the discipline of honorable members and lifting the tone of proceedings in this chamber as well as that of the conduct of all who have occasion to use this building. In that task, he has shown great courage and thoroughness. He has not sought personal credit for what he has done. In fact, the actions he has taken have made him unpopular in certain quarters. All honorable members should recognize that he has done a splendid job in cleaning up certain matters that called for improvement. Where looseness was apparent, he has restored discipline and has thus increased the prestige of the Parliament.
The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), in an endeavour to be clever, criticized the way in which individual Ministers carried out their duties. Pairminded Australians will be able to judge his remarks. They know that if he, himself, were a Minister - 1 suppose he hopes to become one - he would, because of the heavy responsibilities that devolve upon Ministers, be unable to remain in attendance for long periods in this chamber. The honorable member reflet-ted upon the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), but he must be aware of the tremendous responsibility that devolves upon that right honorable gentleman. The Prime Minis ter is a man of outstanding mental attainments, and, on a number of occasions, the people have reposed their trust in him as the one man who, like Robert Walpole, who was Prime Minister of Great Britain for 30 years, can give a lead to the Parliament. The onerous duties that devolve upon’ the right honorable gentleman claim his direct attention for practically 24 hours a day. I cannot believe that the honorable member for Yarra was sincere when he made the remarks to- which 1 refer. He knows that the distinguished gentleman who formerly represented hi? constituency in this chamber was not called upon to carry half the responsibility that the present Prime Minister must shoulder as a result of the tremendous expalipton of the work of the National Parliament during the last’ decade and a half.
– The right honorable gentleman has a poor team.
– “The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has never been given a fair go in this country.
– By whom ?
– By the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) for one. I remind honorable members that for practically a year after the Government assumed office the Treasurer, in addition to his own ministerial duties, assumed those of the Prime Minister, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) and the Minister for Defence Production (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) during their absence abroad. The Treasurer is a man of enormous drive. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison”), who is also Minister for Defence Production, has the onerous responsibility of being the Leader of the House. Despite what members of the Opposition may say to the contrary, the Cabinet is a capable team. Whilst the Australian Navy practically runs itself, the Minister for Air (Mr. McMahon), who is also Minister for the Navy, has done an excellent job in cleaning up the Royal Australian Air Force. All members of the Air Force speak highly of the job that he has done in that respect. My colleagues and I cannot be expected to remain silent when members of the Opposition make unfair attacks upon Ministers. The Government has laid the foundations for unparalleled prosperity in this country. A year ago it was confronted with the problem of low productivity. Workers in my constituency have admitted to me that at that time, while they were being paid a wage of up to £15 a week they were, in fact, earning only £3 a week because they were not given the opportunity to produce to their full capacity. . To-day, productivity is rising to a marked degree. The Government has brought about this improvement by the institution of the secret ballot in trade unions, which has removed Communists from positions of leadership in those organizations, and by giving a fair go to the primary producers.
.- So - seldom do I find, myself even partially in agreement with the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde ‘Cameron) that I do not hesitate to mark the occasion. I thoroughly agree with his view that it is time that Hansard was brought more up to date. The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Rate) and I have been making representations to Mr. Speaker along those lines, and I trust that our efforts will soon bear fruit.
One of the matters to which I desire to refer arises out of an article that was published over the signature if Rex Chiplin in the edition of the Communist journal, Tribune, of the 30th August, last; it dealt with certain happenings . in the lobbies in this building. It will be remembered that Chiplin was the Communist who boasted that he had suborned a high-ranking officer of the Public Service to betray to him Government secrets in relation to an alleged agreement with the United States of America. I saw him in Canberra on the day on which the present sessional period commenced. I do not know whether he was in Canberra subsequently, but I am inclined to think that ho was not here. In that article he stated -
Last week Wentworth W. C. had a long lobby discussion with Messrs. Frankovitch Oster and Dodd - three of the Yank uranium experts out here . . . Incidentally, W. C. and German scientist, Schleicher, had some long discussions at Rum Jungle during the (parliamentary recess:
The first sentence is most significant. 1 think that it was on Wednesday, the 13tm August, that I met the three American gentlemen in a lobby of this building. We subsequently had lunch together with some Government members.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order f Can the honorable member connect his remarks with the proposed vote for the Parliament ?
– I have referred to a happening in this building. The important factor is that the three gentlemen I have mentioned were virtually unknown in Canberra. They are new arrivals in this country. Upon inquiry from well-informed members of the press, such as Mr. Reid, I ascertained that they were not known in Canberra and would not have been recognized. This suggests that there is Communist espionage at work in this building, whether or not by an employee of the Parliament I am unable to say; I hope that it is not.. The significant fact is that these three gentlemen had a conversation with me in. a lobby of this building, and that that unusual occurrence was noted immediately by the Communist network inside this building. I venture to say that scarcely a member of the Parliament would have recognized the three gentlemen. Since the United States of America is interestedin the development of uranium in Australia, and the Soviet State is very much, concerned to stop such development,, it is fairly obvioUs that there is a fairly wide-cast espionage net. in this building which picked up this incident. The way in which it was picked upis worth thinking about by honorable members, because it suggests that something which should not be happening., is, in fact, happening in this building. The second sentence of the extract, although it refers to something that d;’l -“ot happen inside this building, issignificant because it may help us to assess what is happening in this building. When I was at Rum Jungle I had conversations with an employee of Czechoslovakian origin named Slice - not aGerman scientist named Schleicher - aswell as with many other people. It isevident that this uranium espionage network is operating not only in this building hut also at Rum Jungle.
It is important to remember that in this building we have authority to deal with members of the Communist party as we choose. Furthermore, our authority extends to the whole of the Australian Capital Territory. It cannot be too strongly stressed that section 122 of the Constitution confers on the Parliament unlimited sovereignty as far as the Australian Capital Territory is concerned. We have, in the Parliament, power to make such laws in regard to Communists in the Australian Capital Territory as we may think proper. The Tribune report of the incident in a lobby of this building, to which I have referred, reinforces in my mind the necessity to take action under our undoubted powers to exclude members of the Communist party from the Australian Capital Territory. I confine my remarks to actual signed members of that party. Mr.Rex Chiplin is a member of the Communist party and, as such, is a full and complete traitor. Is there any reason why we should allow him to enter the press gallery, the precincts of the chamber, or even the Australian Capital Territory, over which we have full authority? I remind the committee that, as far asRussia is concerned, the most important thing in Australia is to cut back the production of uranium. It is fairly certain, on the evidence that I have given, that there is in operation an active Communist espionage network, which is directed towards disseminating propaganda such as appeared in Chiplin’s article. If I may do so without infring- ing the Standing Orders–
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member for Mackellar in order in pursuing his present line on a discussion of the proposed vote for the Parliament ?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- As the honorable member for Mackellar has referred to an incident that occurred in a lobby of this building, he is in order.
– I have only one further remark to make, Mr. Deputy Chairman, and perhaps it is a little wide of the matter before the committee. It is, that we have the same authority over Communists in the Northern Territory, whereRum Jungle is located, as we have in the Australian Capital Territory.
Remainder of proposed vote agreed to.
Prime Minister’ s Department.
Proposed vote, £2,016,000.
– I wish to refer to the Estimates for the High Commissioner’s Office in the United Kingdom, which are of great interest to honorable members and to the people of Australia generally. When 1 began to examine the Estimates, I had in mind that 10,000 persons have been dismissed from the Public Service in this country, and I wondered what the position was abroad. I was particularly interested in the High Commissioner’s Office in London. I remind honorable members that recently we were told of a recipe for making tea, issued by somebody in that office, which amused Australians.
The number of persons employed by the Administrative Division of the Prime Minister’s Department has increased from 101 last year to 103 this year. The number of employees of the Audit Office has remained constant at 415. The total number of employees of the Public Service Board has decreased from 386 last year to 364 this year. The National Library will have 79 employees this year, compared with 74 last year. Each of those departments will have as much work to do this year as it had last year, and will have about the same number of officers this year as last year. I am amazed that, although the work that the High Commissioner’s Office in London will be required to do this year will be less than it did last year, the number of its permanent employees has increased from 304 to 374. It appears that there has. been a big increase of the employees listed under the item, “ Accountant, Shipping Officer and Officers of the Second Class “. The number has increased from 277 last year to 341 this year. The vote in respect of the salaries of such officers was £124,892 last year, but the proposed vote this year is £164,472. Honorable members will be interested to learn the reason for such a tremendous increase. Although the proposed vote for the whole of the Prime Minister’s Department this year is almost £41,000 greater than the expenditure last year, one item of expenditure by the High Commissioner’s Office in London has increased by nearly £40,000.
Last year, a great deal of work had to be done in London in connexion with immigration. I assume that .the High Commissioner’s Office there performs the duty of giving advice to people who desire to settle in Australia. But we know that the intake of immigrants will he reduced this year, as also will he the quantity of British exports to Australia and the sums of money handled by our officers in Britain. Nevertheless, there has been a tremendous increase of staff and expenditure in the High Commissioner’s Office in London. It appears that somebody there ,is building up a great staff. Although the Government has endeavoured to reduce administrative expenses in Australia and has dismissed public servants with whose services it could ill-afford to dispense, the number of employees of the High Commissioner’s Office has increased to the degree that I have stated. I do not know whether the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is responsible for the increase but, as the office is under the administration of his department, he must accept general responsibility for it.
T do not think that either the right honorable gentleman or any officer of his department can justify an increase of the permanent staff of the High Commissioner’s Office in London from 304 to 374 persons. The proposed vote for the payment of their salaries is £161,000. In addition, there are temporary and casual employees. Last year, they were paid £255,000, and this year the figure will be £220,000- -a reduction of £35,000. In view of the reduction of the volume of work required to be done by the High Commissioner’s Office in respect of emigration and trade, I do not think that the Government is justified in asking the committee to agree to an increase of expenditure there. I do not expect the Prime Minister to be familiar with every item that appears in the Estimates for his department, but the items under the heading “ High Commissioner’s Office - United Kingdom “ stand out glaringly The public servant”? in, this country who have been dismissed because the Government wishes to keep expenditure upon administration down to a reasonable figure will not be very happy when they learn that the number of Commonwealth employees in London has increased to such a degree. The committee is entitled to a full explanation of the reasons for the increase. We know that some persons who have returned from London speak glowingly of how they were treated at Australia House, but there are others whose remarks are in the opposite strain. I know that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), who has been in charge of the committee to-night, went to London as Resident Minister and tried to improve conditions at Australia House.
– It has never been the same since.
– I do not know whether or not it has never been the same since, but I do know that the gentleman who, as High Commissioner, followed him is responsible for quite a lot that is wrong at Australia House. Whilst I hold the High Commissioner responsible generally, I consider that the Prime Minister is really the responsible authority in relation to the expenditure on Australian representation in London. The. Government decided last year that the services of many public servants should be terminated, and gave instructions to that effect to the heads of departments. Yet it proposes to incur in London expenditure which many people -in this country consider to be unnecessary. Naturally, the thought of such expenditure being proposed at a time when people are being dismissed from government employment in Australia in order to reduce government expenditure makes me perhaps a bit more hot under the collar than I should otherwise have been.
Whilst I wish the country to obtain the greatest possible value from the service* of the Prime Minister, I am obliged to say that I doubt whether he is justified in incurring; the expenses that’ have been occasioned by the fact that so many persons have accompanied him on his trip* overseas. The Prime Minister may consider that he is in the best position to make the wisest decision on what expenses should be incurred in that connexion, but I question whether, at a time like this, when he is asking the heads of departments to reduce expenditure to the greatest possible degree, he is justified in expending the nation’s funds to the extent that he has done on hia visits overseas. The Prime Minister knows that I do not speak from personal animus, and that I wish the nation to get the best possible value out of his services, or the services of any other Prime Minister, but I have in mind the old saying that example is better than precept. I consider that at a time when the Prime Minister is asking other persons to reduce expenditure that is not absolutely essential, and even essential expenditure, and is therefore giving a precept, he could well set an example to the people. I have not sufficient time to discuss other aspects of the Estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department, but I consider that the committee should be fully informed in connexion with the proposed expenditure in London.
. - I should not have risen to speak now had not certain statements been made, with regard to Australia House, that are so far removed from actual fact that I have to rebut them.
– My statements were based on the actual figures in the Estimates.
– I shall deal later with the honorable member’s observations with, regard to expenditure. The fact is that the honorable member imported into his statement other alleged facts, and it is with those and with statements that were made by other honorable members, that I shall deal, in order to clear up, if possible, at this early stage of the debate, some of the misunderstandings associated with the matter. For instance, the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) spoke about something like 300 officials being employed at Australia House, and alleged that the Government was adding to that number. In a previous debate the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. McLeay) said that in 1951 the number of people employed at Australia House was 926. He was closer to the mark than was the honorable member for Port Adelaide, because he produced statistics.
– I cited the figures contained in the Estimates.
– The fact is that the number of employees at present engaged at Australia House is not 926 but 896. The latter number includes 112 scientific trainees whereas the number of scientific trainees included in the previous year’s figure of 926 employees was only 54. Therefore, the decrease of employment is even greater at Australia House than in the Public Service in Australia. That action follows certain recommendations that resulted from an investigation by the Public Service Commissioner, Mr. J. T. Pinner, and the Assistant Commissioner, Mr. K. E. Grainger, of Australia House. That investigation was made as a result of a recommendation that I made to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). The report made by the commissioner and his assistant contained certain recommendations with regard to procedure in Australia House itself, as a result of which reforms were put into effect and the problems of employment, space, conditions and remodelling were dealt with. It is interesting to note that certain economies were also effected, which, it is estimated, will result in an annual saving of approximately £60,000. Notwithstanding that saving, all the offices in Australia House have been modernized, modern office machinry has been installed and the place has been brought up to a highly efficient standard.
The honorable member for Boothby criticized the Australian News and Information Bureau in Australia House, and said that there were now 26 employees engaged in it. The number has actually been reduced from 26 to eighteen. That is a case in point of a reduction of staff in Australia House itself. Great structural alterations to Australia House have been carried out; proper office lighting has been installed, and the staff canteen has been modernized. The honorable member mentioned the standard- of attention given to visitors at Australia House. The whole of the ground floor, where most of the visitors go, has been entirely remodelled and Australian visitors are being well catered for. If the honorable member is interested I can show to- him some photographs of the new main hall, which will support my statements. Miss Strella Wilson, who is well known to all honorable members, is employed as a. receptionist at Australia House. She has a full knowledge of
Australia and Australian conditions, and can . take the necessary interest in Australian visitors.
As a part of the recommendations, for which I was mainly responsible, it was expected also that it would be possible to close Canberra House. Honorable members will recall that Canberra House was used mainly to accommodate the personnel in London of the various Australian defence services, and the renting of it cost the Government £26,880 a year. We are closing Canberra House and the transfer of staff from there to Australia, House should be completed by the end of the year. Honorable members will realize, therefore, that, contrary to the belief of the honorable member for Port Adelaide, great savings are being made at Australia House. I do not propose to indulge in a detailed explanation of this matter because Ihave referred to it on other occasions in great detail. I should like to quote the words of an unbiassed observer, Mr. Stephen Schofield, a Canadian journalist who visited London and wrote an article on Australia House that was published in the Ottawa Journal on the 15th April last. Under the heading, “ Canada House like an old barn “, Mr. Schofield had this to Bay about Australia House -
Canada House is a handsome building on Trafalgar Square. I always felt a little proud of it until to-day I strolled along the Strand, unto Australia House.
Australia House puts Canada House in the shade. It is like going into the drawing room of the Shah. It is bright and lavish. Marble staircases, with black and gold railings, wind gently up on each side of a vast hall, about three storeys high and brilliantly lighted. Huge marble pillars, ornate with gilded decorations, glisten under flourescent .lights around the ceiling. The elevator operators are young men, immaculately groomed.
Beyond the hall and under an arch, contrived of a big Union Jack and an Australian flag, is a lounge-reception-publicity room, also three storeys high, and in itself in area greater than all Canada House.
This Toom is brilliantly lighted on all sides. In the centre is an oval counter displaying M) or 50 books about Australia, not “ publicity but books comparable to Leacock’s “Sunshine Sketches”, Hutchison’s “Unknown Country”, Roberts’ “Northwest Pasgage” - well spread out on the .counter and behind lighted glass cases’. Two or three girls “stand waiting. . . .
Desks are nestled in individual nooks, each with a private lamp, on either side of the room. Further along are several sofas, freshly covered, smart. .
Airmailed newspapers (six days old) are set up on slanting shelves at eye-level, each under a flourescent light.
It is interesting to contrast those comments with Mr. Schofield’s views on Canada House, about which he had this to say -
Returning to Canada House, it seems like an old barn. Actually it is not. It is a fine old building with a handsome hall, marble pillars, marble floor, great iron doors studded with Maple Leafs. If you want to know anything about Canada the commissionaire will tell you or conduct you, certainly, and very politely.
But it is dark and dull. Dirty old chandeliers. Dim bulbs. Three burned out. Nothing fresh about the place. No young people, other than a few Canadians, anr! never more than half a dozen, in the reading room. No honest books on hand. Last month’s newspapers piled on a table. No money being spent. Not on the outside, anyway. The front and sides of the fine old building arc blotched with an overplus of pure filth and bird droppings. _ It simply means that towards being attractive in England, Canada doesn’t care. Australia does.
When honorable members attempt to deride Australia’s representation in the United Kingdom I cannot help thinking that the picture they paint of conditions at Australia House is equally as distorted as is that painted by Mr. Schofield of Canada House. It i3 regrettable that Australians seem to possess a queer quirk in their character which impels them to underwrite everything Australian. The honorable member for Port Adelaide has complained thai we are spending far too much money on Australian representation abroad. I have pointed out that great savings have been effected in our overseas expenditure. The honorable member has also complained .that too many persons are employed at Australia House. J inform him that fewer persons are employed on the staff of Australia House, than was the case in 1951. Another honorable member has complained that we are not spending enough money on Australian representation abroad and that Australia House is a morgue. I have read to him the opinion of Australia House expressed by an unbiassed observer. Instead of decrying our ventures overseas honorable members should give to them the support which they need to enable them to function efficiently.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) has said that I claimed that provision had been made for 374 employees at Australia House and that another honorable member said that the number of staff employed there exceeded 900. The Minister stated that the figures which he cj;ed were taken from official statistics, the implication being that those which I cited were not taken from an official publication. My statement was based on figures taken from page 132 of the Estimates with which we are now dealing. I said that last year provision was made for 277 officers under the item “Accountant, Shipping Officer and Officers of the Second Class “ and that in the Estimates now before us provision is made for 341 officers under that item. I said that last year the number of persons employed on the permanent staff of the High Commissioner’s Office was 304 and that provision had been made for 374 in these Estimates. I also made it clear that other persons were employed because, in addition to the proposed vote of £161,000 shown at page 132 of the Estimates, an amount of £220,000 was being provided for temporary and casual employees. The Minister has completely misrepresented me in this matter. I am well aware that the provision of £220,000 must cover a large casual staff. The Minister also misrepresented me when he said that I had complained about the amount of expenditure on Australia House. I made no reference to such expenditure. My remarks were directed solely to the increase of the staff employed at Australia House.
.- I was interested in the remarks of the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) about Australia House. I visited London during. his term as Australian Resident Minister in London and [ am pleased to be able to say that during his occupancy of that office Australia House was renovated and considerably improved. I believe that the right honorable gentleman did a very good job there. I regret that he should have read extracts from an article written by a Canadian journalist’ contrasting Canada House with Australia House. Canada House is an excellent building which is centrally situated in London. The officers employed at Canada House are undoubtedly obtaining for Canada the pick of the immigrants interested in settlement abroad.
I wish to deal with some aspects of the administration of the Public Service Board, which comes under control of the Prime Minister’s Department, particularly to the manner in which certain employees of the Department of Repatriation, who were brought under the jurisdiction of the Public Service Board a few years ago, are being treated. The salaries of many officers who have served in the department for more than twenty years are being regressed and they are being replaced by younger men. I instance the case of a very capable and competent officer who has served the department for more than twenty years. He was in receipt of a salary of £692 per annum, but his remuneration has regressed to £572 per annum. I consider that men who served overseas in World War I. and have given faithful service in the Public Service - 1 -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! The matter that the honorable gentleman is discussing is not relevant to the Estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department.
– It relates to the Public Service Board administration.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order ! Repatriation matters are not administered by the Prime Minister’s Department.
-Officers of the Department of Repatriation are subject to the Public Service Board, provision for which is made in the Estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.References to the Public Service are relevant’ to the proposed vote for the Prime Minister’s Department, but the honorable gentleman will not be in order in discussing repatriation matters.
– I contend that the Public Service Board has treated those officers badly by reducing their salaries. The men have served in the Repatriation Department for more than twenty years, and are still able to perform their duties efficiently. I hope that the Public Service’ Board realizes that the reduction of the salaries of officers, when they have attained 57 or 58 years of age, will impair their efficiency. Action should be taken to rectify that matter.
The estimated expenditure of the Prime Minister’s Department this year is considerably greater than was the expenditure during the last financial year. That increase was to be expected. After all, a committee, of which Mr. Justice Nicholas was chairman, recommended an increase of the salaries of honorable members and Ministers. In fact, certain of the recommendations of that committee were more than generous. A pension of £1,250 per annum is to be paid to an honorable member, who has held the office of Prime Minister, upon his retirement from the Parliament. I invite honorable members to compare that liberal pension with the paltry sum of £3 7s. 6d. a week that is paid to age and invalid pensioners. The Government should appoint a committee to examine the plight of the poorer section of the community.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! The honorable gentleman will not be in order in referring to pensions at this stage.
– I am appealing to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to improve the conditions of pensioners.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! I am appealing to the honorable gentleman to raise this matter when the proposed vote for the Department of Social Services is under consideration.
– And at that stage, the Chair will not allow the honorable member for Lang to refer to the pension payable to a former. Prime Minister.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order 1”
– I note that the provision for postage, telegrams and telephone services is substantially greater this year than was the expenditure last year, yet the stamp allowances of honorable members have been severely curtailed. Is the Prime Minister aware that honorable members are denied the right of attending to the affairs of their constituents because of the paltry attitude of the Go vernment in respect of the stamp allowance? The right honorable gentleman should be eager to ensure that honorable members shall have every facility to enable them adequately to represent their electors. However, my principal purpose in speaking this evening is to direct attention to the way in which, old “ Diggers “ of World War I. have been treated by the Public Service Board. *
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- 1 wish to bring to the notice of the House the serious position that exists at the establishment of the Cockatoo. Docks and Engineering Company Proprietary Limited on the waterfront in Sydney. T am pleased to see the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) in the chamber, as this matter concerns his department. The circumstances have been the subject of negotiation during the last twelve months. A conference of fourteen waterfront unions was held under the auspices of the Industrial Disputes Committee of the New South Wales Trades and Labour Council. At that meeting, it was pointed out that the Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company Proprietary Limited, of all the waterfront engineering shops, was the only establishment at which rates higher than were provided by the various awards were not being paid. In all the other shops, increments or rates varying from 15s. to 25s. a week in excess of the appropriate award rate were being paid to all employees. In view of that fact, the Industrial Disputes Committee sought a conference with the management of the Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company Proprietary Limited in order to seek to have that position rectified. Whilst no agreement was reached nor finality secured, the management agreed that it was regrettable that conditions of employment at its establishment were considerably inferior to those at Garden Island.
All the work at Garden Island is performed for the naval authorities. At Cockatoo Island Dockyard, 85 per cent, of the work is done on behalf of the Department of the Navy, and, through it, for the Commonwealth ‘ Government. Eventually, the conference was held in. an effort to obtain uniform conditions for the employees of all the engineering establishments on the waterfront and a simple agreement was reached. It provided that the Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company Proprietary Limited should pay to an employee an increment of 5s. on engagement, an additional 5s. at the end of twelve months’ service, and another increment of 5s. at the end of 24 months’ service. Under that agreement, the rates of pay of employees at Cockatoo Island Dockyard would be brought into line with those payable in all the other engineering establishments on the waterfront. It was also agreed that, in order to make conditions of employment at Garden Bland and Cockatoo Island Dockyard uniform, the periods of recreation leaveand sick leave for the employees of the Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company Proprietary Limited should be increased.
However, trouble has arisen because of the existence of an agreement made in war-time between the Government and Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company Proprietary Limited. That agreement, presumably, relates to costs, and I understand that it provides that no rates in excess of award rates shall be paid without the consent of this Government. The matter was brought to the notice of the Minister for the Navy, but apparently the Government was not prepared to agree to the increase of wages and the improvement of working conditions, unless the agreement was certified under section 37 of the Commonwealth . Conciliation and Arbitration Act. A conference was held with two conciliation commissioners, but for some reason that I cannot discover - certainly not for -justifiable reasons - they refused to certify the agreement. It has always been the practice of the court to certify agreements between employers and employees if those agreements were not made under duress, and this one certainly was not. Agreements when certified under section 37 of the act, become the equivalent of the awards of the court, the only difference being that the conditions provided by an agreement are never regarded as a precedent by the court when determining the conditions in any otherindustry. Thus, the certifying of the agreement in this instance would not have . caused any difficulty in regard to wages and working conditions in other industries which might be the subject of inquiry and determination by a conciliation commissioner.
The refusal of the conciliation commissioners to certify the agreement has caused a good deal of dissatisfaction. A conference which took place between Captain Hutchinson and the Minister for the Navy did not lead to an understanding. The matter was then placed in the hands of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, which endeavoured to bring about a settlement that would be satisfactory to all parties. The Australian Council of Trades Unions suggested that the unions affected, instead of insisting on the acceptance of the agreement regarding wages, recreation leave and sick leave, should press only for ratification of that part of the agreement relating to rates of pay. That proposal, reluctantly accepted, was also, I understand, turned down.
About 4,000 employees are affected. They have done everything they could do to bring about a settlement, hut the court has taken the stand that it will not vary the war-time agreement in such a way as to allow the new agreement to come into operation. At a mass meeting of employees yesterday a lengthy resolution was carried which indicates the grave dissatisfaction that exists among employees of engineering establishments on the Sydney waterfront, and that dissatisfaction may affect naval work. I quote the following paragraph from the resolution : -
It is agreed that the Labour Council officials should inform the Government and the Federal Arbitration Court that failure to implement the terms of the Agreement could lead to a refusal to perform naval work at Cockatoo Bocks.
An amendment was moved, but it was defeated, a fact which indicates that the men wish to avoid direct action. The amendment was as follows :J -
That a limit of one month he placed upon the time for negotiation and if at the end of that time no success has been achieved, a 24 hours’ stop work meeting to determine future action be held. lt is evident that the employees wish the dispute to be settled by negotiation. 1 have raised the matter now because I believe that naval work is important, and I believe that the wages and working conditions of the employees concerned should not be less favorable than are those of other employees engaged on comparable work elsewhere. It is the duty of the Government, when all efforts have failed to produce a settlement, to exercise such tolerance and understanding as will enable the difficulty to be overcome. 1 again point out that this matter has been the subject of negotiation for twelve months. I understand that numerous conferences have taken place between the Minister and the New South Wales Trades and Labour Council. An agreement has been reached, not under duress, and that agreement should be certified. [Extension of time granted..1 It was agreed that it was unfair and improper that rates of pay at Cockatoo Island Dockyard should be inferior to those paid to workers on Garden Island. I stress the desirability of ensuring that the matter shall be brought to a satisfactory conclusion that will reflect the amicable spirit in which negotiations have been conducted. It is not good that when employees and employers reach an understanding they should be frustrated by a refusal of the court to certify their agreement or, in this instance, by the failure of the Minister concerned to see that a satisfactory solution to the problem shall bc found.
– The facts are substantially as the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) has stated them to be, but I wish to make some corrections. The first relates to conditions of employment at Garden Island and at Cockatoo Island Dockyard. It is wrong to say that conditions at Cockatoo Island Dockyard are substantially worse than at Garden Island. When all factors are taken into consideration, such as rates of pay and the fact that 4s. a week is allowed for travelling expenses to Cockatoo Island, it will be found that conditions are substantially identical at the two places. I shall produce the figures for the honorable member, and he will be able to convince himself of their accuracy.
The honorable member was also mistaken in stating that the dispute had been taken up by the Australian Council of Trades Unions. All my contacts have been with Mr. J. D. Kenny, the! secretary of the New South Wales Trades and Labour Council, and with representatives of the trade unions concerned, but so far as I know, the Australian Council of Trades Unions has not come into the matter.
– That body made its approach to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt).
– I know nothing about that. It certainly did not approach me. I wish to explain the facts because I think that they should be before the House. For a long period of years Cockatoo Island Dockyard has been leased by the Australian Government to the Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company Proprietary Limited. That company has the sole management and control of the dock, which it runs as an ordinary company would run an industrial undertaking. I believe that it operates with great efficiency. I have been informed by most reliable naval construction experts that the work performed at Cockatoo Island Dockyard is equal to that carried out in any other part of the world, which is a great tribute to the employees of the company as well as to the management.
The Australian Government does not intervene in the management of Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and. it would be quite wrong for it to do so. I have been unable to find an instance of a Labour government having intervened. Succeeding governments have left the management of the dock exclusively in the hands of the management of the dockyard company. It is true that under paragraph 12 of a war-time agreement relating to prices and profits .negotiated between the company and the Australian government of the day, the provision was made that the company should not pay more than arbitration award rates of pay, or rates agreed to as the result of an industrial agreement certified under section 37 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, unless the consent of the Australian Go- (vernment had been obtained. It always has been the practice of the Australian Government to say, “We abide by arbitration. We shall not consent to a variation unless the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration or a conciliation commissioner agrees to it “.
After I had discussed this matter with my leader, the traditional practice was followed. I consider it to be perfectly fair and proper to say that we are not prepared to budge from that practice. Nonetheless, in deference to the wishes of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), as he stated them in a question that he put to me this afternoon, I shall again discuss the matter wth the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). I repeat that the management of the dockyard is under the control of the company, and that the Government is not prepared to intervene. As far as consent is concerned, our position is perfectly clear. We say, “ If you obtain the consent of the court or if a conciliation commissionercertifies the agreement between the company and the trade union leaders, we shall be perfectly happy to abide by it “.
I was not aware of the negotiation of an agreement between the company and Mr. Kenny or Mr. King. Apparently they came to an industrial agreement and endeavoured to have it certified under section 37 of the act, which was perfectly proper. They did not ask for our permission or consult us in any way. Apparently, after having negotiated the agreement, they went along to a conciliation commissioner and asked, “Will you certify this agreement under section 37?”, and the conciliation commissioner refused to do so. I do not know why the agreement was not certified, but I know that the Government could not intervene or say to the conciliation commissioner, “ You should change your mind because we consider that you have made a mistake”. I am not pre pared, and I think that the Government is nol; prepared, to endeavour to bring influence to bear on conciliation commissioners in this matter. I assure the honorable member that I’ have given to the matter most careful attention during the last ten months. I have been in more or less constant negotiation, not only with Captain Hutchinson and all the trade union leaders concerned, but also with my collegaue, the Minister for Labour and National Service. I have been unable to find a solution of the problem. However, I shall once again discuss the matter with my colleagues in order to see whether there is anything more that I can do.
.- Last week I asked the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), upon notice, whether contributors in South Australia to Blue Shield Hospital Benefits (Australia) -Limited, Community Hospital Benefits of South Australia Limited, and Ajax Hospital and Health Company are eligible to receive the hospital benefit of 4s. a day which is paid by the Government to hospital patients who are members of approved societies, and whether such companies are registered under the hospital benefit scheme, or whether any application for their approval had been received. Yesterday the Minister replied to the effect that persons who are members of those organizations are not eligible to receive payments from the Government, and that those companies are not registered as approved organizations, nor have they lodged application for registration. This matter has caused some concern in South Australia. The subject was raised in the State Parliament on the 25th June last, at which time it was stated that the Blue Shield Hospital Benefits (Australia) Limited, the registered office of which is at 40 Pirie-street, Adelaide, was registered as. a private company on the 6th March, 1952, that its capital consisted of 4,000 shares of £1 each, and that the paid-up capital was comprised of two £1 shares. Many high-pressure salesmen tire at work in South Australia urging people to enrol in these companies. If persons are not told directly that by contributing to the company they will become eligible to receive payment from the Government, the inference is that that will be the result. The State Government has been asked to introduce legislation to provide that companies set up for the purpose of providing benefits to people during periods of sickness shall be compelled to produce balance-sheets. Will the Minister or the Government have publicized all over Australia, and particularly in South Australia, the name? of registered companies or societies which, will provide a benefit of 4s. a day for members while they are in hospital? Such publicity will not be unjust to the many genuine, registered societies, which are performing a magnificent task in South Australia, and it is necessary, in fairness to the public. The people will not then be hoodwinked and taken in by means of a racket such as that which the three companies to which I have referred appear to be operating.
Last Friday, in Adelaide, the Marion Corporation had occasion to post 8,144 rate notices to residents of the Warradale area. The responsible corporation clerk appreciated that if he posted the letters on Friday afternoon the postman at Warradale would have to work all day Saturday to deliver them. He therefore decided to wait until Saturday morning before posting the letters, so that delivery would be effected on Monday. On Saturday morning an officer of the corporation went to the bulk postage department of the post office, submitted the letters and a cheque for £101 12s., and was amazed when he was informed that the post office was unable to accept cheques. It was then too late to obtain the assistance of the bank. During the week-end the officer of the corporation informed me of the happening and on Monday morning I contacted Mr. Chambers, the chief accountant at the General Post Office, who told me that the postal official had acted in accordance with instructions from the central office under which it forbade the acceptance of cheques unless guaranteed by a bank. He agreed with me that the cheque of a local government body should be acceptable and gave instructions that the corporation’s cheque should be accepted on the Monday morning.
I can understand why cheques cannot be loosely accepted, but the cheques of local governing bodies should not be questioned. When this corporation received about £300 in postal notes and money orders, the post office could not pay them in cash because it did not have sufficient money available at the time and it insisted on the corporation’s acceptance of a Postal Department cheque. I ask the Postmaster-General to ascertain whether it is not possible for reputatable bodies to have their cheques accepted when they post letters at a bulk postage counter.
.- I desire to speak on the subject of flood mitigation in New South Wales with special reference to the Hunter River Valley. In June, 1949, the Hunter River broke its banks, flooded the town of Maitland and the rich farm lands of the Lower Hunter and prevented access by road and rail. The flood, damage left a trail of damaged roads, scoured farms, lost production, and broken hearts. But there was worse to come. In 1950, and again in 1951, these areas were flooded again, because in the meantime, no remedial measures had been taken by the New ‘South Wales Government. The 1950-51 season was the wettest period on record in New South Wales in 50 years.
A few weeks ago - twice in succeeding weeks - Maitland and the Lower Hunter Valley were again completely inundated and water will lie over twenty square miles of rich farm lands for the next three or four months. Many areas have suffered 25 floods in three years. These have brought destitution to farmers who have repeatedly struggled to begin again. After each major flood, efforts have been made to relieve the lot of many people who have suffered personal loss and damage to their property; but farmers whose credit was good have been invited to strain their credit further in order to secure loans to make additional production possible. After three years of this sort of treatment the farmers in this area have reached the end of their financial and moral resources. The state of the river indicates that in the future anything more than normal rains will cause a flood and there is evidence to indicate that this will be a yearly occurrence. There is urgent need for flood mitigation if Maitland and the towns and farms of the Lower Hunter are to remain in production.
There is a good deal of confusion on where the responsibility lies for flood mitigation work, much of which is beyond the resources of local government organizations. It is generally supposed that because the Australian Government has asked for increased food and coal production it must of necessity undertake the responsibility of remedying any circumstance which inhibits such production. That is a superficial view of the matter. It suggests that State governments have no responsibility for works or services and the logical conclusion of that view is that State governments should be abolished. That is a matter for separate argument. While there are State governments it should he clearly understood in these areas that the responsibility for this sort of work will lie with them because they have sovereign rights within their own areas. The Australian Government has no authority to undertake public works on its own initiative.
Any doubts about the responsibility for performing this sort of work ought to be resolved by an examination of the history of the last few years. In 1947, the New South Wales Government set up a committee, which it designated the Hunter River Flood Mitigation Committee, to examine the whole question of flood damage and mitigation in the Hunter area. The committee furnished a report, which has been called the Huddleston report, after the chairman of the committee. In 1951, a hook was published over the signature of the New South Wales Minister for Conservation and Irrigation entitled The Hunter River - a Challenge Accepted. .More recently, the New South Wales Government set up the Hunter Valley Conservation Trust, which was financed by a rate levied upon lands in the Hunter district. It was immediately hamstrung by the State Government for its, functions were limited to those of an advisory body. The conservation trust was merely a buffer to stall action and save the State Government from well merited criticism for its failure to grapple with one of the greatest problems in New South Wales.
Twelve months ago I was able to arrange with the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to send a departmental officer, Mr. Hocking, to Maitland to report on this problem. Mr. Hocking wrote a very excellent report, which set out the measures proposed to solve this problem, but pointed out that the Australian Government had no authority to do the work. Mr. Webster, chairman of the Hunter Valley Conservation Trust, stated that if Mr. Hocking thought that he was going to do anything he was mistaken because the Australian Government had no authority. That statement clearly indicated that the responsibility lay with the .State Government.^ If Maitland is to have relief, the State Government must be made to shoulder its responsibility. There are plans in plenty, but it has been claimed that no money is available to put them into operation and that the wicked Australian Government is to blame because it has starved the State Government for funds. The State of New South Wales , is littered with unfinished or barely begun public works projects on which have been frittered away the moneys that would have remedied the Hunter Valley difficulty and and many other difficulties. Out of £160,000,000 that have been available for public works in that State no more than £3,000,000 has been spent on completed projects. The New South Wales Government has spent £3,500,000 on the purchase of the Balmain Electric Light and Power Company Limited for no benefit although that money would have been much better spent on the sort of work to which I have referred. The New South Wales Government is more anxious to give a high priority to the eastern suburbs railway, and so to increase its chances of securing large numbers of votes from the industrial areas of Sydney irrespective of whether it increases the already overlarge population of the city, than it is to complete the urgent and important’ works to which I have referred.
Because the New South Wales Government will not shoulder its own responsibilities, there seems to be a hope abroad that the Australian Government will do its job for it. It is important that there should be no misunderstanding among the people about Commonwealth-State relationships and the lack of constitutional power to enable the Australian Government to intervene in the affairs of States. I therefore suggest that the Prime Minister should make a statement to the House define clearly the relationship that exists between the State and the Australian governments in important matters of the kind about which I have been speaking. The natura] resources of New South Wales are being destroyed while its government presents dazzling plans to divert the minds of the people of the State from the imminent financial collapse of its own callous and incompetent administration.
.- I join the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) in making an appeal to the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) to take action about certain difficulties being experienced by employees at the Cockatoo Island Dockyard in Sydney. I appreciate the Minister’s position, but the sound case presented by the honorable member for Bendigo warrants his intervention. Unless prompt ‘ action is taken by the Minister, hold-ups may be expected to occur in important defence works. Although a number of technicalities are involved in the matter, it is most important to avoid industrial unrest and to give reasonable answers to the justifiable claims of the men concerned. The agreement mentioned by the honorable’ member for Bendigo has already been drawn up and only remains to be ratified. Its object is to bring the conditions of the men employed at the Cockatoo Island Dockyards into line with others engaged in the same industry in Sydney. Perhaps the Minister will review his decision and also review the comments that he made during the speech of the honorable member for Bendigo. He should consider whether there is not some way in which he can intervene in this dispute to meet the wishes of the men, the trade unions and the management.
I again bring to the attention of the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr.
McBride) the dissatisfaction that I feel should be aired about figures that have been given by the Government in relation to unemployment and the types of men who are seeking work. I refer particularly to the figures that relate to the metropolitan area of Sydney. I recently asked the Minister for information about the number of building tradesmen in each State of the Commonwealth, and in Australia as a whole, who were receiving unemployment benefit on the 31st December, 1949. I also asked how many were receiving unemployment benefit at the present time. The answer that I received, to-day is, “No statistics are available which would enable’ an answer to be given “. Frankly. I do not believe that answer. I consider that it is a deliberate attempt by the Department of Labour and National Service to cover up the fact that numerous building tradesmen are to-day seeking employment in New South Wales and the other States of the Commonwealth. The people of Australia are clamouring for houses, yet there are 60 to 80 carpenters a week clamouring for work at the head office of the Commonwealth Employment Service in Sydney. Surely the Minister does not expect me to believe that his department cannot specify the trades of the men who are seeking work. His department must know whether unskilled labourers, unskilled females, carpenters or fitters and turners are looking for work. I cannot understand why a responsible Minister should give me, in answer to a question, such a completely misleading statement of the position.
I know that the Government is covering up the unemployment position and that an iron curtain .has been placed around the Commonwealth employment office in Sydney. Thirty-one thousand positions are supposed to be vacant, but the Minister has told honorable members that he cannot reveal where the vacancies are situated. I have received a letter from his department that states that most of the vacant jobs are for skilled workmen. How does the Minister’s department know where the skilled personnel are if they do not register the trades of men who are seeking work? -How can the department give a carpenter a skilled job if it does not know whether a carpenter has applied for work? My remarks indicate that the Government is covering up the fact that unemployment is increasing on an unprecedented scale and that skilled carpenters and other building tradesmen throughout New South Wales are seeking work while people are clamouring for bouses. This scandalous state of affairs should be brought to the notice of the people, and the answer to which I have referred should be rejected by all honorable members of this House because it is a most misleading statement and one that the Minister should investigate. I intend to press my questions about this matter until I receive an adequate answer. I ask the Minister, now, how many carpenters, joiners and other building tradesmen and labourers are receiving unemployed benefit in the metropolitan area of Sydney. Why is the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service, or has officers, failing to supply information about the number of people who are at present seeking work? While the Minister is seeking an answer to those questions I ask him also to inform me of the proportion of the 31,000 jobs said to be available that can be offered to workers in the building industry in Sydney. If he will give me that information I shall be very glad to pass it on to those who apply to me for particulars about the employment that is available. People throughout Australia are gravely concerned about unemployment, and more seriously concerned because they know that the Government is withholding statistics, refusing to give information and giving misleading answers to questions . asked in the Parliament.
– And yet the Government is still bringing thousands qf immigrants to this country to swell the ranks of unemployed.
– Yes, under most unfair circumstances. The Government is bringing the immigrants to this country and then paying them a dole of 25s. a week, or, as has been done at Bonegilla, putting them to the old depression jobs of cleaning tip the camp or chipping grass at full award wages. I ask the Minister to re-investigate this matter and to discover the identity of the officer responsible for the answer given to me. I suggest that, if a better answer cannot be given to my question, it is high time that the Minister cleared out the officers who are preparing the answers to questions such as I and my colleagues have asked. I also ask the Minister to give factual reports about the 31,000 vacancies that are said to exist for workers, and to list the skilled work available and state its location, so that honorable memebrs can advise unemployed persons in the metropolitan areas where they can get employment.
.- 1 appreciate the difficulties mentioned by the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Faia-hall) about flood elimination in his electorate and the financial and moral responsibility of the State Government to carry out work to control flood waters. There is a need for a closer liaison between the State and Australian governments on the control of floods. This matter merits every consideration. The Government of New South Wales should not try to cloak its own shortcomings by complaining loudly that it would take action if only the Australian Government would provide the necessary funds. This is a story of which we have heard overmuch recently, and as an excuse for negligence it is entirely threadbare. The complex manner in which the State Government conducts its affairs is well exemplified by its attitude towards the need for action at Freeman’s Reach, near Windsor, on the Hawkesbury River, in the electorate that I represent. Considerable damage has been done there as a result of flood waters fretting the banks of the river. This process has been going on for some years and, unless it is checked, the whole course of the river may he altered ‘and many acres of some of the richest alluvial flats in the State may be destroyed. In that event, the township of Windsor, which now borders the river, would be separated from the stream by a distance of 2 or 3 miles. In 1949, the local council approached the State Government and asked it to buttress the banks of the river. Then a lively inter-departmental battle arose. The result has been the deferment of action. The Public Works Department disclaims any responsibility because the waters of the river at that point are tidal and, therefore, it contends that the job conies within the province of the Maritime Services Board. The Soil Conservation Service also, has a finger in the pie, and the Metropolitan “Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board lays some claim to having authority on the subject. Thus, four State authorities claim divided responsibility and the result has been that the work has never been taken in hand. Surely, the State Government should address itself to this task and establish harmony in the ranks of its departments and instrumentalities. I do not wish to dilate on this issue. My purpose is merely to demonstrate that the State Government, while clamouring for assistance from this Government, shows little desire to indulge in self-help.
Much good work has been done in the Mitchell electorate by the Flood Relief Committee both recently and on earlier occasions. As honorable members are aware, this committee administers a fund that is maintained by the State Government and this Government. The Australian Government has matched the State Government £1 for £1 and has displayed willingness at all times to continue to contribute on that basis. As one who has had considerable association with the officers of the committee, I am pleased to .say that they have approached their tasks sympathetically and with an earnest desire to be helpful. The members of the committee are Mr. J. Beale, M.L.A., Mr. L. K. Rath, Mr. J. H. Burkett, Mr. G. S. Jolie, Superintendent Clifford, of the New South “Wales Police Department, Mr. McGilvray, Mr. F. L. Hedges, and the ubiquitous and energetic honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate). These gentleman have devoted a great deal of time to the work of the Flood Relief Committee, and their efforts have been well directed within the bounds of the charter under which the committee operates. However, I believe that the committee has been hampered at times by the restrictions imposed on it by the terms of the charter. This joint agreement between the State Government and the Australian Government was brought into operation some years ago by the Chifley Government. I submit now that its terms might reasonably be re-examined in the light of events that have occurred this year. When the charter was framed, due provision was made for the claims of share-farmers. Nobody objects to this provision, but, from my experience, it is obvious that proper consideration was never given to the plight of owner-farmers. I am aware that provision is made for owner-farmers to apply to the Rural Bank of New South Wales for loans at a low rate of interest, but many owner-farmers do not wish to be saddled with the burden of additional loans, and, unless they do so, they cannot obtain help from the Flood Relief Committee. Special consideration should be given to their plight. The charter of the committee also does not provide for the needs of small businessmen who may sustain losses as a result of floods. I understand that several such businessmen in the Forbes district and others in tha Mitchell electorate have suffered flood losses but cannot obtain help from the committee.
– Who framed the charter under which the committee works?
– -The State Government and the Australian Government. It is a joint agreement. I appeal to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to reexamine the charter in the light of present conditions and to provide for the assistance of owner-farmers and small businessmen who suffer loss as a result of floods.
– A total re-organization of the staff of the Repatriation Hospital at Heidelberg in Victoria is taking place. The present, staff of the X-ray film section of the hospital consists of one male clerk on a salary range of £572-£692 a year, seven male clerks on a salary range of £524- . £620 a year, and two male assistants. The proposal is to replace them with one male clerk on a salary range of £572- £692, one male clerk on salary range of £524-£620, and six female assistants. The staff of the X-ray technical section consists of two males and one female assistant. The proposal is to replace them with three female assistants. There is one male clerk in the pathological section. The proposal is to replace him with one female assistant. There is one male clerk in the dental section. The proposal is to replace him with one female assistant. There are two male clerks in the pay office. The proposal is to replace them with one male assistant.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 28
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre- sented : -
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Order - Inventions and designs.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Defence purposes -
Newington, New South Wales.
Tamworth, New South Wales.
Papua and New Guinea Act - Ordinances - 1952-
No. 12- Fees (Surcharge, 1951).
No. 13 - Survey Marks, 1951.
No. 14- Building (Papua), 1951.
No. 15 - Jury (New Guinea), 1951.
No. 16- Shipping (No. 2), 1951.
No. 17 - War Deaths Registration, 1951.
No. 18 - Lost Registers, 1951.
No. 19 - Customs (General Import Duty) Ordinance Repeal, 1951.
No. 20 - Ordinances Revision (No. 2), 1951.
No. 21 - Native Economic Development, 1951.
No. 22 - Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Papua) 1951.
No. 23 - Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages (New Guinea) 1951.
No. 24 - Legitimation, 1951.
No. 25- Street Closing, 1951.
No. 26 - Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement), 1951.
No. 27 - Succession Duties, 1951.
No. 28 - Probate . and Administration, 1951.
No. 29 - Testator’s Family Maintenance, 1951.
No. 30 - Treasury, 1951.
No. 31 - Administrative Districts (No. 2), 1951.
No. 32. - Town Boundaries (New Guinea), 1951.
No. 33- Real Property, 1951.
No. 34 - Land Registration, 1951.
No. 35 - Cacao, 1951.
No. 36 - Evidence and Discovery (Papua), 1951.
No. 37 - Evidence (New Guinea), 1951.
No. 38 - Police Offences (Papua), 1951.
No. 39 - Police Offences (New Guinea), 1951.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Health- W. R. Horsfall.
National Development - H. S. TaylorRogers.
Repatriation - J. H. Smith.
Shipping and Transport - W. B. P.
England, S. W. Thomas, E. W. Whish.
House adjourned at 12.6 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
t asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What is the cost to date of the Australian National University.
– To date the Commonwealth has paid the following sums to the Australian National University: -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– As far as can be foreseen at present, no extra staff will be employed at Australia House for the coronation ceremonies.
d asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
The three ordinances in question were - (a)No. 2 of 1952- Customs (Rubber Export) Tariff Ordinance 1951. section 5 of which only was disallowed.
Commerce Board Ordinance 1951.
Export) Tariff Ordinance 1952.
In the case of (a), section 5 of the ordinance was disallowed on the grounds that, contrary to government policy, it appropriated revenue fora purpose which was not defined. In the case of (b), the ordinance was disallowed because it contained provision by which the marketing of any territory product could be brought under control at the direction of the Minister. The Government considered that controls should not be imposed unless they were necessary, and that, at the present time, there was no immediate necessity for control in respect of ‘ any territory product except copra. Because of the existence of the Australia-United Kingdom Copra Agreement, marketing machinery for that product is necessary, and this has been provided under the Papua and New Guinea Copra Marketing Board Ordinance 1952, which was subsequently passed by the territory Legislative Council. If and when it should become necessary to consider controls in respect of any other product, action will be taken by the introduction of a separate ordinance, thus giving an opportunity to residents concerned to voice their opinions through their representatives in the Legislative Council. In the case of (c), the ordinance was disallowed on the grounds that, contrary to government policy, it appropriated revenue for a purpose which was not defined, and that drafting defects generally in the ordinance were such as to make it unenforceable.
d asked the Minister for
Civil Aviation, upon notice -
-^- The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice: -
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice: -
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) Age and invalid pensions are granted from the first pay-day after the lodgment of the claim. (b) Widows’ pensions are granted from the date on which eligibility for pension arises, (c) Unemployment benefit is granted from and including the seventh day after unemployment commenced, or from the seventh day after benefit is claimed, whichever is the later. (d) Sickness benefit is granted from and including the seventh day after the incapacity commenced, provided application is made within thirteen weeks of that date.
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
How many applications fur telephones are outstanding at this date in (a) each State and
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) The outstanding applications for telephone exchange lines are as follows: - New South Wales, 42,450; Victoria, 22,658; Queensland, 2,082; South Australia, 6,226; Western Australia, 3,861; Tasmania, 2,636. (b) Total for Commonwealth, 79,913. 2. (a) and (b). Unfortunately this information cannot be obtained without checking all applications held in each State as well as those which have been satisfied’. This would entail considerable work and diversion of staff from their normal duties with consequent delay in handling applications. However, approximately 2 per cent, of deferred applications have been outstanding for more than seven years, due mainly to the need for establishing new exchangesor undertaking costly underground cable works in areas where the development is not great. The majority of the applications have been lodged within the past two years.
d asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
Mr. McBRIDE - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
e. - No statistics are available which would enable an answer to be given.
n asked the Minister foiHealth, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Mr.Cre an asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What amount of the 100,000,000 dollar loan negotiated in 1950 with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development had been drawn at the 30th June. 1952?
What were the amounts of interest and other payments at that date, and what is the rate of interest payable?
When will drawingson the additional 30,000,000 dollar loan recently negotiated commence?
When do interest payments and other charges commence on this latter loan?
What amounts have been drawn from the 30,000,000 dollar loan from the International Monetary Fund and what amounts of interest and charges have been paid on such loan?
What conditions govern the repayment of the 20,000,000 dollars previously borrowed from the International Monetary Fund?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Mr.Ward asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he have a statement prepared giving the following information with respect of the operation of the Capital Issues Control Board: -
.- The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What has been the amount of savings bank deposits recorded at the end of each month during the past twelve months?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The total savings bank deposits at the end of each month during the last twelve months were -
Mr.Ward asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What proportion of the receipts from land tax during the past five years was paid by the interests controlling (a) breweries, (b) newspapers, (c) banks, (d) insurance companies and (e) primary industry?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Statistics of the nature required to supply this information have not been kept in respect of years subsequent to 1941. The reason for this is that land values were pegged from 1942 to 1950. The extraction of statistics in respect of land owned at the 30th June, 1951, has been commenced, but these will not be available for some months. Some indication of the amounts of tax assessed to the various classes of taxpayers under pegged values may be obtained from Land Tax Schedule No. 6 which appears on pages 20 and 27 of the twentyfourth report of the Commissioner of Taxation. This schedule shows that the amounts of tax assessed on land held by individuals and by companies at the 30th June, 1941, were as follows: -
There is no separate statistical data available in respect of land tax paid by newspaper organizations.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - .
atkins asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following information : -
s. - On the 12th August, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked the following question: -
Is the Prime Minister aware that the South Maitland railway, which is the principal means of transportation of coal for gas- making, has been out of action through floods for the last three days? Has consideration been given to the many representations that have been made for the construction of an allweather railway line from Minimbah, through Cessnock to Morrisset on the main railway line to Sydney? If not, will consideration be given to linking the Richmond mae to Minmi railway at Blue Gum with the West Wallsend to Cockle Creek railway in order to ensure the regular transportation of coal required for gas-making purposes not only in New South Wales., but throughout Austral in.? There have been far too many floods in the Hunter District.
I now advise the honorable member as follows : -
The South Maitland railway line was blocked by flood from 1a.m. on the 8th August, 1952. to 1 a.m. on the 12th August, 1952; it was blocked again on the 13th August, 1952. Consideration has been given to the many representations that have been made for the construction of an all-weather railway line from Minimbah through Cessnock to Morrisset with the result that a route has been selected from Allandale through Neath to Dora Creek (length 20 miles). A trial survey is 75 per cent, complete and when finished a report and estimate will be submitted by the Director of Transport and Highways to the Premier of New South Wales. Consideration has been given also to link the Richmond Main to Minmi railway at Blue Gum with the West Wallsend to Cockle Creek railway and the road chosen for this route is from the Minmi Junction to the Co-operative Junction on the Newcastle Wallsend railway (length 4J miles). The trial survey is complete and the report nml estimate are now with the Premier of New South Wales.
Government Loans and FINANCE
– On the 19th August, the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) asked the following question : -
I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question which is of great, importance and urgency During his recent trip to London what action did the Prime Minister take in regard to the payment of £1.1,789,000 at 3* per cent. Australian Government stock which must be repaid mi the loth September? What is the present position regarding the conversion of this loan? fs it the intention of the Government to repay the whole of the loan from Australian sorely depleted sterling balances? ‘
I now advise the honorable member as follows : -
Arrangements have been made for meeting this obligation. With the approval of the Loan Council a cash and conversion offer was made in London in July last, the terms of the new loan being - Issue price 98, interest rate 4) per cent., per annum, currency eight to ten years. The loan was underwritten by
Nivison and Company and resulted in the conversion of £4,280,000 and thu obtaining of sufficient cash (f 7,509,758) to pay off nonconverters No recourse will be had to our London funds for this purpose.
s. - On the 19th August, the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis) asked the following question: -
Hat) the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to a booklet which has been published in. Melbourne by Mr. Ivor Evans entitled, The History of the Austraiian flag, in which the author represents the Australian Hag as having huon designed by himself! Is it a fact that there were five winning designs and no one person is officially accorded a preference or recognition above the other! If so, will the Prime Minister consider making a statement on the matter in order to correct any false impression which the publication may make? 1 now advise the honorable member as follows : - lt is true that a booklet entitled. The History of the Australian flag, has been published in Melbourne by Mr. Ivor Evans. 1 understand tha t Mr. Evans has published the booklet in an endeavour to interest- the people of Australia in the Australian flag and to afford them an opportunity of becoming more familiar with its history and significance.. Moreover, 1 understand that in order to achieve this purpose he has, at some considerable expense to himself, made the booklet available, without charge, to interested organizations and individuals. Official records disclose that the winning design for the Australian flag was chosen after a world-wide competition, in which over 12,1X10 designs were submitted for consideration. The prize, awarded for the winning design, was divided amongst five different persons who were -
Mrs. Annie Dorrington, of Perth.
Mr. L. J. Hawkins, of Sydney.
Mr. E. J. Nuttall, of Melbourne.
Mr. William Stevens, of Auckland.
Mr. Ivor Evans, of Melbourne.
No special recognition was given to the design submitted by any individual. I have received thi1 personal assurance of Mr. Evans that he tins never claimed to be the solo designer of the Australian flag.
d asked - (.he Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– See answer to your question on the same subject, dated the 14th August.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 August 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19520827_reps_20_218/>.