20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mb. Speaker (Eon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question, which is addressed to the Prime Minister, relates to a statement made in this House last week by the honorable member for Mackellar in which the name of my colleague, the honorable member for East Sydney, was mentioned. The honorable member for Mackellar suggested that he bad been informed by some person that another person - a fourth person - had made a statement reflecting upon the honorable member for East Sydney and relating to a matter that had been inquired into some years previously by a royal commission at which the honorable member for East Sydney had given sworn evidence. Will the Prime Minister, in the interests of the House, investigate the substance of the suggestions of the honorable member for Mackellar which have no weight whatever and cannot be so regarded? However, in view of the wide publicity given to theBe statements because they were made in this House, will the right honorable gentleman, after be has perused the papers relating to the matter, ascertain whether steps can be taken to vindicate the honorable member for East Sydney, or to give him an opportunity to vindicate himself?
– I have not yet had a opportunity of studying the statements made in the House as mentioned in the right honorable member’s question, but I propose to do so soon. I shall then be in a position to form an opinion about what the procedure should then be. I think that I should say that I am not very devoted to the idea of royal commissions about statements made ‘in this House, because the last time the honorable mem ber for East Sydney made an allegation in the chamber, and Mr. Curtin appointed a royal commission to investigate the matter, the honorable member for East Sydney, so far from supporting his allegation, claimed that he could not be called upon to give evidence about it. However, I agree that the whole matter is an important one, and one that should be considered with care and a sense of justice. For example, in connexion with these matters that were raised, I have gleaned from newspapers - but from no other source - that my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs, who is a man of high reputation, has been named, is about to be named or may be named in a royal commission to be set up by Mr. Cahill, the Premier of New South Wales. Nobody has told me this although I am the head of the Government in which Senator O’sullivan serves. The closest inquiries in relevant quarters indicate that the mention of his name arose from the fact that in some obscure publication, issued by a man named Brown, allegations were made against Senator O’Sullivan. In the following week they were precipitately and thoroughly withdrawn because the alleged investigator found that he had been barking up the wrong tree. I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition will agree that it is monstrous that a responsible Minister of the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia should even appear to be put on trial on the withdrawn say-so of a man who represents that kind of sheet.
Mr. Pollard interjecting,
– The honorable member for Lalor and I think about this in the same way. I have not been told that these damaging references to Senator O’Sullivan in the public press have been withdrawn. I hope that they will be withdrawn, but I make it quite clear that if the game is to be played that way, my colleague will not go into the royal commission unsupported. Nothing that should be made known will be hidden, and we shall not be troubled by the result.
– In the absence of the Treasurer, I ask the Prime Minister
– Order ! The Prime Minister can hardy be expected to answer for the Treasurer.
– It is a question of policy.
– Order ! If the question relates to policy, it should be addressed to the Treasurer.
– It is not a matter of Treasury policy. Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to the fact that the Canadian Government recently reduced taxation and that the reported reduction was much publicized in Australia?
– Order ! Is the honorable member basing the question on a newspaper report?
– No. Did the reduction of 11 per cent. in the taxes imposed by the Canadian Government represent merely the removal of special taxation that had been imposed during the preceding year? Will the Prime Minister arrange to give the House some detailed comparison between the rates of tax now ruling in Canada and those applicable in Australia?
– I shall be very happy to do as the honorable member suggests. He realizes - I am sure that he has it in mind - that while the much publicized reduction of taxes in Canada, which I am sure must be very comforting to all concerned, amounted to, I believe 11 per cent., the reduction which we made in the then existing taxes last year was the equivalent of 9 per cent.
– Is there an election pending in Canada?
– The honorable member was not present during the last budget debate in this Parliament. If he thinks that this Government, like himself, is a volcano that exhausts itself in one blow, he is quite wrong.
– Yesterday, I asked the Prime Minister a question about the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held in Canberra last week, to discuss uniform taxation. The right honorable gentleman promised to make a statement to the House on this matter to-day. In view of the national importance of this statement, will he postpone the presentation of it until to-morrow?
– It has not proved practicable, in any event, to have the matter ready to-day. I agree with the honorable member for Petrie that the widest possible information should be made available on this matter, and, therefore, I propose, as the result of an arrangement made by the VicePresident of the Executive Council with the courteous consideration of the honorable member for Melbourne, who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, to make the statement to-morrow evening.
– I address to the Minister for External Affairs a question supplementary to the one I asked last week regarding the retired journalist whom he has appointed as Australian Minister to Egypt. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that his statement, to the effect that the gentleman concerned was not retired’ from the Sydney Morning Herald on account of ill health, was categorically denied by that journal this morning? If, as the Minister claims, the gentleman concerned did not retire on account of ill health, but, on the contrary, is in good health, can the right honorable gentleman offer any information why the Sydney Morning Herald should have denied his statement about the good health of the gentleman concerned and insists that he had been retired on account of ill health ? Is it true that his retirement was occasioned by the fact that the gentleman in question was relieved of his post on the newspaper because of the fulsome praise he was giving to the Minister for External Affairs, which did not suit the policy of the newspaper ?
– I discussed this matter with Mr. McClure Smith, and he assured me that he had not retired from the Sydney Morning Herald for reasons of ill health.
– The proprietors of the newspaper say that he did.
– I think that the person concerned is the best judge of the reason why he retired from the newspaper. The remainder of the honorable gentleman’s question is facetious. I am not conscious that I have ever benefited or suffered at the hands of the Sydney Morning Herald.
– I should like to know whether the Prime Minister will take up with the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Minister for the Army, the Minister for the Navy and the Minister for Air an injustice which, I think, is being inflicted upon yoting men who are called up for national service training. The case that I submit to the right honorable gentleman is as follows: - A young man who was called up in South Australia for national service training, was required to travel to Ballarat, where he was to join a Royal Australian Air Force establishment. No kit was issued to him until he arrived at Ballarat, and, therefore, be had to travel’ in’ his own clothes.
Shortly after his arrival at the Royal Australian Air Force establishment, the hut in which he was quartered was destroyed by fire, and at the same time his clothing was destroyed by the flames. The Department of Air has advised the trainee, and the Minister for Air has also informed me, that the department does not hold itself responsible to recompense him in any way for the destruction of his clothing. Will the Prime Minister take this matter up with the three services with a view to ensuring that men who are called up for service and whose clothing is destroyed by fire through no fault of their own, will receive adequate compensation for their loss?
– The Minister for Air will answer the question.
– I shall inquire into the position described by the honorable member for Port Adelaide in the first part of his question, and ascertain whether or not the recruit, or national service trainee to whom he has referred, had to go to Ballarat from South Australia in his own clothes. “With regard to damage by fire, the position is that the Commonwealth does not accept responsibility if fire damage to the clothing of an individual occurs otherwise than in the course of duty, or as a result of his being required to take his personal clothing to the place when he is on duty. That practice has obtained during the life of this Government, and it was followed during the life of the preceding Labour Government. In fact, I think that it has been a common rule ever since the defence forces have been in existence. We have already given this matter the fullest possible consideration, and do not intend to give it further consideration at this juncture. I shall examine the first part of the honorable gentleman’s question and give him a detailed answer.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General, and I refer to the intention of the Government to erect a national regional broadcasting station at Albany in Western Australia. Will the- Postmaster-General explain why Canberra, which already had one national station, was given a second station in priority to Albany, which is the centre of an area with more than 5,000 licence-holders, and has no satisfactory national or commercial service? Will the Minister take this factor into consideration and press on will all possible speed with the construction of the station at Albany?
– The question of priority does not affect this matter. A decision has been made to provide a national broadcasting station for Albany, but difficulty is involved in determining the most suitable site for it. This is a more complex task titan was the case at Canberra. A survey is being made at Albany at present, and I believe that it is almost completed. The work of erecting the station will be proceeded with as soon as possible after I receive the report of the engineers who are making the survey. I point out also that Albany, as “ the honorable member knows, is one of the places in Western Australia which have been chosen for the issue of commercial broadcasting licences. Although I have held a commercial licence available for Albany for about twelve months, local residents have not yet come together .and decided that they can take it up. I have requested specifically that the holders of the licence be local residents instead of city interests. I understand that residents are now forming a company, but it has not been possible to issue the commercial licence yet.
– Is the Minister for Air aware of the discontent that exists amongst servicemen stationed at Manns Island, and the wives and relatives of such servicemen in Australia, because the mail service to the island is restricted to one delivery weekly? As it is claimed that the mail service to the island operated thrice weekly during the war, will the Minister investigate the matter with the object of providing an improved service and giving satisfaction to the men concerned and their families ?
– The honorable member’s question is based upon a misunderstanding of the facts. There is a twice-weekly mail service to Manus Island at present.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs a question in relation to his recent announcement that M. Jean Letourneau, the Minister of State of the French Government in charge of relations with the Associated States of Indo-China, will visit Australia next month as a guest of the Commonwealth. In view of the growing importance to Australia of South-East Asian affairs and the increasing interest taken in those affairs in this Parliament, will the Minister endeavour to ensure that the distinguished visitor shall be invited to Canberra at a time when the Parliament is in session so that honorable members, particularly members of. the Foreign Affairs Committee, may have the opportunity to meet him?
– The tentative programme of the distinguished French Minister, M. Letourneau, is now being drawn up in consultation with the French Ambassador. I hope very much that the programme will result in M. Letourneau having at least two days in Canberra. He will meet the Prime Minister and other members of the Government, and I hope that arrangements will be made to enable him to meet also as many members of all parties in this House as possible. I shall certainly bear the honorable member’s request in mind and endeavour to arrange for M. Letourneau’s programme to be extended so as to permit at least the members of the Foreign Affairs Committee to meet him. I understand that this will be the first visit to Australia by a French Minister of State, and I hope and believe that M. Letourneau will be given the warmest possible welcome by all parties represented in this Parliament.
– My question to the Minister acting for the Minister for the Interior arises from repeated representations that I have made in relation to Commonwealth-owned houses at Cessnock. The’ last information that I received on this subject was that the New South Wales Government was to be offered the right to administer these houses. However., the buildings include prefabricated houses .for which the rental has been fixed at £3 19s. ‘6d. a week, which is considered to be too high, with the result that they are unoccupied. Many local miners wish to rent or buy them if possible. Has the Minister received any word from Mr. Olive Evatt, the New South “Wales Minister for Housing, about the matter? The persons concerned in the West Cessnock area, where those homes are, and which is in my electorate, are anxious to obtain a decision on the matter, but up to date they have had no satisfaction. In view of the urgency of the matter can the Minister say whether he has received any further advice from the New South Wales Minister for Housing?
– As the honorable member knows, I visited that area myself, and I understand that negotiations have been undertaken with New South Wales in relation to the administration of the houses. I am not u ware of the stage the negotiations have reached, but I shall make inquiries about the matter and advise the honorable member.
– In view of complaints from certain local manufacturers regarding inadequate supplies of ingot copper, and a reported surplus of that commodity at Mount Morgan, will the Minister for Supply arrange for an early investigation to be made into the overall copper supply position in Australia?
– I must confess that I was not aware that a shortage of ingot copper exists in any particular area. My knowledge of the matter leads me to suppose that there is at present a surplus of copper production in Australia. The matter that the honorable member has raised also concerns the Minister for National Development, and we have been having discussions about it. I think that the Minister for Defence Production is also interested in it. I undertake that the three Ministers concerned, and probably some others, will discuss the matter and see what can be done in the direction indicated by the honorable member.
– Is the Minister for Social Services aware that many Australian men are deprived of the benefits of age and invalid pensions because their wives earn just sufficient to make themineligible for such pensions. Those men are thus denied, not only payment of suchpensions, but also medical, hospital and pharmaceutical benefits as well as many other State benefits. In view of the extremedifficulties these people are experiencingwill the Minister consider adopting the same attitude to applicants for age and invalid pensions as is adopted towards applicants for sickness benefits; that is, that the male breadwinner of the family is not debarred from his own particular benefit by the income of his wife ?
– I should like to point out that a requirement for the issue of an invalid pension is that the person concerned shall be incapacitated to the extent of So per cent. That has always been, more or less, the law of the land. The point that the honorable member has raised is an interesting one, and I shall give it consideration.
– Can. the Prime Minister assure the House that when federal works are contemplated they are decided on the merits of each individual case and not, as would appear to be the practice in some States, on whether or not they are in an electorate represented by a Minister?
– They most certainly are decided on merit. The largest work being carried out on a great scale by this Government is in the electorate of a member of the Labour party in this House.
– In directing a question to the Minister for Health I refer, by way of explanation, to page 15 of the book called National Health that was issued recently over the Minister’s signature. On that page, which deals with the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, the question is asked-
When did it start?
The answer given is -
In September, 1950.
Is the Minister aware that on the 5th April, 1944, this House passed a bill, known as the Pharmaceutical Benefits Bill, which incorporated the features of the scheme and represented its original introduction. If the Minister is aware of that fact, will he advise the House why the information has been wrongly presented in the book to which I have referred, and whether he will correct the error in the interests of the people who may receive the book?
– In the minds of the people of Australia, there is only one pharmaceutical benefits scheme in this country. It is the scheme that is in universal operation now. At the present time, under that scheme, every doctor in Australia is prescribing and every chemist in Australia is dispensing life-saving drugs. The scheme that was evolved previously did not work. There were never more than 155 doctors prescribing under it. I think that the highest sum ever expended under it in any one year was a sum between £100,000 and £200,000. That rate of expenditure was declining rapidly. The scheme was a futile “ wash-out “.
– When consideration is being given to the report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission that recommended a curtailment of broadcasts of the proceedings of the Parliament, will the Postmaster-General give full attention to the need to re-establish in the public mind the prestige of the Parliament, which appears to have declined as a result of the continuous broadcasting of our proceedings and the use on many occasions of the broadcasting facilities as a vehicle for the dissemination of pernicious propaganda rather than intelligent debate ?
– Order ! The honorable member must not reflect upon the House.
– The determination of the nature of broadcasts from the Parliament, the time to be allotted to such broadcasts and kindred matters is not the prerogative either of the Australian Broadcasting Commission or of myself. Those matters are considered by a joint parliamentary committee, which consists of members of all parties. I think that you, Mr. Speaker, are the chairman of that body. Doubtless the committee will give consideration to the views upon parliamentary broadcasts that have been expressed by the Australian BroadcastingCommission, and will come to a decision upon them.
– Does the PostmasterGeneral think it wise that an important part of the broadcasting services of the nation should be subordinated to the needs, real or imaginary, of this Parliament ? Does the ‘ Minister subscribe to the view put forward by the Australian Broadcasting Commission that at least two transmission lines in each State are essential for the presentation of a balanced national programme and that while the proceedings of the Parliament are being broadcast, one line in each State is taken up for the parliamentary broadcasts during the best listening times each day, which means that a balanced national programme cannot be maintained while the Parliament is in session? Will the Minister examine my proposal that control of the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings should bo transferred to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, including authority to decide how often and how much of the proceedings should be broadcast?
– I think it is proper that, after several years of experience of broadcasting the proceedings of the Parliament, a review should be made of the best way of presenting the service to the public. The more appropriate authority to determine such a matter is the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee. The fact that, while the Parliament is on the air, listeners who are not particularly interested in parliamentary debates are denied the programmes which would otherwise be broadcast to them, must be carefully considered. I cannot conceive that there is any likelihood that authority over the broadcasting of the proceedings of the Parliament will be transferred to the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral able to give any reason for the apparent . reluctance of Government supporters to have the proceedings of the Parliament broadcast this year?
– I have not noticed any such reluctance on the part of Government supporters. As a matter of fact I am firmly of the opinion that the more people who can hear the proceedings of the Parliament the stronger will be the vote for Government candidates at the next election.
– My question relates to the quality of the bread that is available to the Australian community. 1 address it to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who is the senior Minister concerned with the export and the internal consumption of Australian primary products. Would it be possible for the Commonwealth to hold a meeting with the States to discuss the very bad quality of the. bread that is supplied throughout Australia? Every bread advertisement carries an announcement tha’t either a vitamin or some other substance is added to bread in order to enrich it. Is that addition necessary because the quality of flour has deteriorated? Is it related to the report of an agricultural scientist, who told us in the Sydney Morning Herald the other week that Australian flour is lacking in protein content by 9 per cent. ? If that be so, what can we do about it? The bread that is available in my electorate is the horror of the housewife. She puts it in the crock for the week-end, and it has a purple beard by Monday.
-Order ! The honorable gentleman is getting outside the scope of a question.
– There is a fungoid, growth on the bread. Is it a fact that the quality of flour has deteriorated owing to the practice of not blending hard milling, wheats with soft milling wheats? Bread is an important food, and its quality is the concern of the medical fraternity as well as. of consumers. Will the Minister do his best to deal with this important subject, and see whether we can get a good, standard loaf of bread that will last at least a day without growing a beard ?
– The honorable gentleman has referred to me as: the Minister responsible for the export and the internal consumption of our primary products.
The responsibility of the Commonwealth in respect of primary products relates essentially to exports. The consumption within Australia of primary products and manufactured products is essentially a matter for State administration and State legislation. Standards in respect of bread,, milk and other commodities are specified in the pure foods legislation of the various States. I do not deny that the point raised by the honorable member has substance, but it is outside the legislative and administrative jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. The State parliaments could prescribe higher standards for bread. Within the administrative authority of the Australian Wheat Board, provision is made for flour mills to procure, entirely on their own initiative, higher types of wheat by paying a very small premium for them. In fact, that is commonly done. Therefore, I suggest that the honorable member might first ask the question of the New South Wales Government.
– My question to the Minister for Health is supplementary to that of the honorable member for Parkes. Bread is more important now in the diet of Australians than it used to be because of the high cost of meat, fruit and other foods. Is it a fact that Australian bread, in appearance, flavour and nutritional value does not compare favorably with bread manufactured in the United Kingdom and continental countries? Even though this matter may be outside the jurisdiction of the Parliament, will the Minister call for a report on it, and if Australian bread is as I have indicated will he inform the Parliament accordingly ?
– I shall have information obtained about the quality of bread in various countries and let thehonorable member know the result of my inquiries.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. In view of the appointment of the royal commission on television, and the obligation that rests on the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to advise on and control, any television system established following the commission’s report, will the Minister indicate when the Government proposes to fill the long-standing vacancy on the hoard? If no early appointment is proposed, will the Minister say why the Government considers such action unnecessary in view of the fact that under the Broadcasting Act the chairman of the board has absolute control over the board by his exercise of two or three votes of the members of the board?
– An appointment to the vacancy on the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is under consideration at the present time.
– I understand that parliaments of the British Commonwealth are to be represented at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth the Second in London this year. Will the Prime Minister give consideration to the inclusion of representatives of the Legislative Councils of the Northern Territory and Papua and New Guinea in that representation?
– The matter of the representation of the territories is now being discussed by the Minister for Territories and myself, and we hope to reach a conclusion quite soon.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation consider granting free air travel, say twice yearly, to exservicemen who have been awarded the Victoria Cross in World Waa* I. and World War II. ? I have in mind the case of one Victoria Cross winner of World War I. who spends the greater part of each year in hospital. He has interviewed me on a few occasions and I have previously raised this matter in the House. Mr. Speaker, if you will allow me, I will mention his name - it is Mr. Bede Kenny, V.C.
– Order !
– The Government does not itself administer any airline upon which concession travel could be granted. There are a number of airlines in Australia, but Trans-Australia Airlines, which is the Government airline, does not operate under direction of the Govern ment. It operates under the management of a commission which does not take directions from the Government on concessional rates: fares or matters of that kind. Therefore, the matter is out of my province.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether any decision has yet been made about the proposal for a temporary extension to the Toowoomba aerodrome? If the investigations have not yet been finalized will the Minister take steps to expedite this work, as the matter is now becoming one of urgency? Is the Minister aware that Queensland Airlines have undertaken to contribute an amount towards the cost of the provision of this temporary runway, which could be used to take DC3 aircraft, pending the construction of the new airstrip proposed by the Department of Civil Aviation ?
– I am not in possession of the information that the honorable member has asked for, but I shall secure it and let him have it.
– As a preface to my question to the Prime Minister on Japanese war criminals, may I say that Shigeo Tanabe, the deputy chief of the Japanese repatriation board, stated in Tokyo last week that the Japanese Government expected that all war criminals on Manus Island would bereturned to Japan this year. As only some of the war criminals are scheduled to finish their sentences this year, is it proposed to return all these war criminals to Japan?
– No decision has been made by the Government. The problem generally of what is to be done with the Japanese war prisoners is still under consideration.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question about a matter that is occupying the minds of a considerable number of people who purchased bonds during the war, and afterwards, as a patriotic gesture to assist the conduct of the war and fight inflation. Is it a fact that people were influenced to invest their money by advertisements that stressed the security and ready negotiability of the bonds, and were thus led to believe that their money would be readily available to pay income tax, deposits on houses or meet any emergency that might arise? Is it also a fact that the Government has since depressed the money market with subsequent loan issues at higher interest rates and has thus prevented people from cashing their bonds or has compelled them to lose heavily when realizing their bond holdings -
– If this is a question then I am a Dutchman.
– Is it further a fact that the Government, after depressing the market, has been able to use the sinking fund to buy back the bonds at a huge discount? Will the Prime Minister take this matter up with a view to ensuring that justice is done to thousands of people, many of them in poor circumstances, who put their money into war loans?
– I shall have the records perused to ascertain whether any of the misrepresentations alleged by the honorable member were made by my predecessors.
– In reference to the Prime Minister’s interjection about whether this was a question, I may say that I have done my best to keep all questions within the limits imposed by the Standing Orders. However, I feel that I have had very little support in my efforts from private members or even from the Ministry.
– In view of statements that have been made about the quarantine laws which will prevent horses being brought to Australia for the proposed Olympic- Games in 1956, will the Minister for Health state whether representations have yet been made for any relaxation of the present regulation to meet the special requirements of intending competors.
– Horses are allowed into Australia only from Great Britain, Northern Ireland, New Zealand and the Republic of Ireland. The reason that they are not allowed in from other countries is that horses in such countries are subject to certain diseases which we have been fortunate enough to keep out of Australia for 160 years. There is no intention to relax the quarantine measures which have proved so successful.
– Some days ago I asked the Prime Minister for’ information concerning a warning issued by the New South Wales police in connexion with a cheque upon which it was claimed that the forged signature of the Secretary to the Treasury appeared. The Prime Minister said that he had no knowledge of the matter, but promised to make inquiries. Would he indicate when I may expect to receive an answer?
– As soon as possible. I am not in a position to give it to-day.
– Will the Minister for Health state whether it is a fact that a number of prefabricated houses, imported from Europe and landed in Western Australia, were in whole or in part burned and destroyed as a safety precaution against the introduction of the sirex wasp? I observe that honorable members opposite find my question a a subject for mirth. There is nothing to laugh about in it. If it is a fact that the houses were burned and destroyed, has the Australian Government made a claim against the supplying company for any losses sustained? Further, when may we expect to have tabled in the House the reports of the committee of inquiry into the importation of infested timber, which has now been sitting for more than twelve months ?
– Replying first to the last part of the honorable member’s question, as I told him yesterday the report will be tabled after the Government has considered it.
– Nearly twelve months have elapsed since it was promised.
– The report has only recently been received. I shall inquire into the other matters raised by the honorable member.
-I address a question to the Prime Minister. Has consideration been given to the desirability of Australia conforming to the decision made by the United Kingdom Government to grant an amnesty to war-time deserters at the time of the Coronation?
– I read of the United Kingdom proposal in the newspaper this morning. I do not know whether any particular consideration has been given to such a proposal by the Australian service departments. I shall direct the attention of the Minister for Defence to the representations made by the honorable member.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Territories, relates to the sale of government ships, known as the Papuan coast fleet of seven vessels, which operate in New Guinea. Will the Minister inform the House of the reasons why the ships were sold and the price received by the Government for them. Does he intend to submit a report to the House regarding their disposal ?
– The ships in question are coastal vessels of small tonnage which have been operating on the coast of Papua and New Guinea. For quite a long time it has been made known that offers would be received for any or all of the vessels. An offer which was above the book value of the vessels was received, and as they had previously been operated at a loss it seemed to be to the advantage of the Australian taxpayer for the Government to accept it.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table reports of the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Copies of the reports are not yet available for circulation to honorable members.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That, until theend of March next, unless otherwise ordered, the House shall meet for the despatch of business, in addition to the days fixed by Standing Order 38, on each Friday at 10.30 a.m.
Debate resumed from the 18th February (vide page 34), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Is there any objection to that course?
Honourable Members. - No.
– I was about to suggest the adoption of the procedure proposed by the Minister. A similar practice was adopted when the parent measures were before the House.
The principal alteration of the law contemplated in these measures is designed to make sure, by expressed definition, that control of pearl fisheries and fisheries generally in Australian waters shall extend to waters surrounding the territories of Australia and beyond their territorial limits. That point was discussed when the House debated the earlier legislation. Honorable members on this side of the chamber then pointed out that there was danger that governments might take too narrow a view of the constitutional power in relation to the regulation of fisheries in Australian waters beyond the territorial limits. My conception of Australian waters beyond the territorial limits is that they include not merely the waters of the States of Australia and extending beyond the 3-mile limits of those States, but also to places such as the Northern Territory, which is an integral portion of the Commonwealth. I suggested then the breadth of the power.
A glance at the map should be sufficient to convince us that Australian waters include the waters between Australia and New Guinea, even though a portion of those waters may be outside the territorial limits of either the territory of New Guinea or the State of Queensland. I believe that a broad, comprehensive view of the power would be taken by the courts in these days, when the status of Australia as a nation in the world, with special responsibilities in the Pacific, is recognized. The proposed amendment simply declares the constitutional power, and makes it clear that the fisheries which can be and will be regulated under this legislation will extend to waters beyond the territorial limits of all the territories as well as of the States which comprise the Commonwealth of Australia. That provision means that fisheries beyond the territorial limits which can be regulated under this legislation include fisheries outside the territorial limits of the northernmost islands of the trust territory of New Guinea and the Admiralty Islands. A power of a very wide and comprehensive kind is actually exercised now by virtue of our present legislation, which the constitution permits, and every Australian court would recognize.
The international position is linked very closely with that matter. I pointed out last year, when the Fisheries Bill 1952 and’ the Pearl Fisheries Bill 1952 were under consideration, that it is extremely important that, parallel with this legislation that gives power to regulate and license fisheries, we should make sure that the fishing expeditions from other countries, particularly Japan, should be regulated by national agreement. In my opinion, one of the weaknesses of the Peace Treaty with Japan was the fact Japan merely undertook to negotiate with Australia on this matter, and to consider the kind of agreement that should be made. I do not think that the protection that Australia has under the treaty is equivalent to the protection upon which Canada successfully insisted, in relation to Canadian fisheries beyond the territorial limits of Canada. The United States of America secured similar protection. When we considered the Fisheries Bill 1952 and the Pearl Fisheries Bill 1952 last year, this matter was in the air, but now it has become important, because we know from the press that pearling fleets are about to leave Japan with the object of fishing in waters quite close to Darwin and Melville Island. Japanese fishing expeditions have also been operating off the northern Admiralty Islands in waters that are really Australian waters and covered by this legislation.
I emphasize to the Minister how important it is that, parallel with this constitutional legislative power which we are exercising, the government should bring to finality an agreement with the Japanese Government so that Japanese fishing expeditions will not come into Australian waters except under a system of complete regulation. We must avoid a situation that occurred in World War II., when many Japanese fishermen had to be interned, and General MacArthur ordered that they should not be permitted to return to Japan, because they possessed such a thorough knowledge of every nook and cranny of the coastline of the Northern Territory, Queensland and the islands to the north of Australia. The Opposition agrees with this bill, but points out that its provisions will be useless unless they are accompanied by a successful attempt on the part of the Government to regulate the series of expeditions which the Japanese aTe making into our waters. It would be unthinkable that Australian fishermen would be allowed to fish in waters so far north as Japan, which is thousands of miles from this country, yet Japanese fishermen come into Australian waters. The Peace Treaty with Japan contemplates, at any rate, a firm agreement between Japan and Australia about the rights of Japanese fishermen in our waters.
The matter of the important Antarctic fisheries also arises. I have no knowledge of the latest reports, but Japanese whaling expeditions for years after the conclusion of World War II. failed to conform to the regulations for the conservation of whales.
– Was Japan ever a signatory to the International Whaling Agreement ?
– Japan always asserted that its nationals were entitled to fish in Australian waters right up to the three mile limit. The Constitution clearly gives us the power to prevent such operations beyond territorial limits, and the modern doctrine of international law has developed until it is fairly well recognized that nations have every right to protect their own fishing industries and security, and expand their sphere by regulation and control beyond the three mile limit. It is of supreme importance that an agreement be reached with Japan on these matters as soon as possible. It appears that the Japanese will not make an agreement, and that Japanese expeditions will continue to come south to exercise their rights, as was the case before 1941 when war with Japan broke out. The Opposition agrees to this legislation, but considers that it is essential to make it clear that the statutory power denning the limits of this regulation under the Fisheries Bill 1953 and the Pearl Fisheries Bill 1953 is commensurate with and equal to the constitutional power. This power is vast, but the Government must ensure that it is exercised. I do not mean that the power should be exercised aggressively, but it should be used for the protection of our own fisheries in the north, and for the security of Australia.
.- I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) a series of pertinent questions on the matters now under consideration when the Fisheries Bill 1952 and the Pearl Fisheries Bill 1952 were before the House last year. The purpose of the legislation now under discussion is to make clear the jurisdiction of the Australian Government with respect to the three mile limit. The Minister, in his second-reading speech on this bill, made the following statement : -
The Act operates in waters outside territorial limits. However, some doubt has been felt whether the act, as framed, is in sufficiently wide terms to cover waters outside the territorial limits.
All of us are concerned with that point. I want to help the Government because this is a sticky business which is of great importance to Australia. We should be informed clearly at the earliest possible moment of our rights and authority in relation to the policing of waters adjacent to our shores, to]
The Japanese have, had access to Australian waters-, for many years. Japanese divers have been predominant in the pearling industry, and Japanese vessels have scoured the coastline of northern Western Australia and the Northern Territory. This matter cannot be cleared up too quickly because the Japanese, in their small boats, are able, not only to traverse the coast, but also to go considerable distances inland along creeks during high tides, and thus their crews are able to consort with the aborigines and gain a lot of information about Australia which we consider they are not entitled to gain. Every effort should be made to prevent this from happening. The Minister has not explained the situation sufficiently. I am sure that he and officers of his department must have had long discussions about the probable effects of the two measures that we are considering, which are not wholly self-explanatory. Therefore, I ask him to supply the House with additional information when he makes his speech in reply at the close of this debate. This is a delicate matter to discuss thoroughly but, in view of the danger to Australia that arises from the activities of Japanese pearl-fishing fleets, I hope that earnest consideration will be given to my remarks. Having listened carefully to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, who has a wide knowledge of international affairs, I am convinced that the right honorable gentleman is not happy about the present situation. I shall wait with interest to learn whether the Minister believes that the two measures that we are discussing will provide Australia with the security to which it is entitled.
– Like other members of the Opposition who have spoken, I believe that we can have no serious objection to these bills, but this debate provides us with an opportunity to discuss a number of important matters that are involved. First, honorable members should realize that Australia, unlike some other countries, has not yet concluded an agreement on fishing with the Japanese Government. I do not know whether this is due to laxity on the part of the Australian Government, or whether the
Government has attempted to reach an agreement with the Japanese Government and has failed. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) should give the House all available information on this point when he closes the secondreading debate. Japanese pearling fleets are already moving southward from their home bases, and an agreement should have been reached between the two governments before they even contemplated setting sail. Those fleets are coming to the pearling beds adjacent to our northern coastline near Melville Island and Darwin. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has already reviewed the legal constitutional position of Australia in this matter. I repeat that the Australian Government and the Japanese Government should have concluded an agreement in relation to pearl fishing before the Japanese fleets left their bases. Now there appears to be little hope that such an agreement can be made before the vessels begin their operations in Australian waters.
The people of the Northern Territory are gravely concerned about this matter because they have had previous experience of the operations of Japanese pearling fleets in Australian territorial waters, particularly during the years immediately prior to “World “War II. They have been most unfortunate in their dealings with the Japanese. Earnest consideration should be given to three aspects of the activities of the Japanese in Australian waters. The first aspect relates to our security. It is too late now to worry about any knowledge that the Japanese may acquire of our northern coastline, because the damage has been done already. They know more than we do about that coastline. Therefore, it would be of no use for us to say at this stage that steps should be taken to prevent them from learning anything more about it. However, ‘ other security considerations are involved. Considerable development has taken place in northern Australia, and we should take this fact into consideration. Another important aspect of the reappearance of Japanese fishing fleets affects the natives who inhabit the area adjacent to our northern coastline. Here again we have unhappy recollections of former occasions when the Japanese operated in that region. “We know that the native peoples invariably suffered from any contacts that they had with the Japanese. Many atrocities were perpetrated by Japanese crews in northern Australia. Native women were enticed on board Japanese vessels and were prevented from leaving them. “We do not want to hear of such abuses again, and we do not want the tribal customs of the natives to be interfered with.
The difficulties of policing our coastline and the adjacent waters are readily apparent. We can forbid Japanese fishing crews to land on our shores, but it will be easy for them to do so if they wish. There is no coastal patrol of any description along our northern coastline. We had such a patrol formerly, but the Government, in its wisdom, saw fit to order a cessation of its activities. I do’ not know why it did so. Our coastline for 2,000 or 3,000 miles westward from Torres Strait to a point past Broome is entirely unprotected at present. As I have said, we once had a coastal patrol operating in these waters but it is not now operating. There is also no aerial patrol operating in the area. We know that the state of our Air Force at Darwin is deplorable. It is quite incapable of patrolling the north, even if it wanted to do so, but I shall not go into that matter at length. I think that we have only two aircraft at Darwin that are capable of going out on patrol, but they are kept there for air-sea rescue work only. It is time that the Government took some action to see that an adequate patrol is reintroduced in the north to protect not only our security interests and the interests of the natives, but also the national interest in the pearl beds themselves. We are quite capable of working our own pearl beds for our own advantage. It is wrong to say that we cannot operate them without the assistance of Japanese pearlers. That fallacy has been exploded, although some master pearlers in the north are willing to use Japanese divers because the Japanese are prepared to take risks that the ordinary Australian native diver is not prepared to take, attempt to keep it alive. It is admitted that the Japanese diver wins more pearl shell because of the risks that he takes, but I do not think that we should encourage that sort of thing. Whatever the Government intends to do about the regulation of the operations of Japanese pearlers in our north, our interests in our own fishing beds should be protected, and any wealth that can be derived from them should be available to Australia and Australians alone.
.- I beg the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) to appreciate fully the Opposition’s attitude to these two bills, which are being taken in conjunction because the subjects of fishing and pearlshell fishing are allied, as it was outlined by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). Our attitude is that while we agree in principle with the bills we have grave misgivings about the future of this country is sufficiently safeguarded, both in relation to the aspect of the development of our fisheries and our pearl-shell industry and the aspect of defence that is involved in these deceptively simple measures. In the first place the Leader of the Opposition pointed out that the Constitution gives us very wide powers in regard to fishing within what are loosely termed our territorial waters. He also pointed out that the whole international trend, disclosed at a series of conferences that have taken place since the formation of the United Nations, is that nations which have a proprietary interest in the fishing fields off their coasts extend the limits of their sovereignty to include the areas in which fishing is profitable. We have, within the purview of our Constitution, every right and power to follow suit, and I beg the House to consider that more mature nations than Australia, in point of time, that have dealt with the fisheries problem, have insisted on their rights in regard to fishing grounds. The Canadians insisted on their rights in regard to salmon and the Russians insisted, in the most punitive terms, on their rights in regard to Japanese fishing in Kamchatkan waters and off the north of Hokkaido, and in relation to fisheries elsewhere. The point appears to be that, despite conventions to control international fishing activities, we have not been able to get the Japanese to admit that the whole of the Pacific
Ocean is not an open poaching ground. I understand that we have no patrol vessel to deal with infringements by the Japanese on our fishing rights. Such failures to protect our interests are part of the story of Japanese poaching.
I mention whaling to illustrate the actions of the Japanese. After the war, because of the difficulties that Japan had in feeding its population, the Japanese were permitted to equip and despatch whaling expeditions to the Antarctic. The result was that numerous whale carcasses were destroyed, the International Whaling Convention was overthrown, and there was an absolute riot of whale-catching by the Japanese. Many years ago the Americans were forced to take effective action against sealpoaching by the Japanese off the Californian coast. The story is the same in all particulars in respect of Japanese fishing activities off the coasts of other nations, including Australia. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, these fishing fleets drift thousands of miles from Japan right down to our northern approaches in search of fish and pearl shell. I think that we have been childishly unaware of the implications of the position in regard to our pearlshell industry. Before the Japanese bombing attack on Darwin every newspaper in the land screamed out the story of Japanese infiltration in the Northern Territory, as the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), who is a resident of the territory and is well aware of the position, has said many times in this House.
Interlocked with the trading problems dealt with by the bills is the matter of our national protection and I think that this should be well considered. There are also other problems involved in the issue. One of them is in relation to the isolated areas in which the Japanese move on our fishing and pearling resources will be made. To indicate that the leopard does not change his spots, and that the arrogance of the Japanese has not abated since the war, I quote the following extract from a newspaper report that emanated from Tokyo : -
A fleet of more than 20 small Japanese ships is reported to be preparing to sail on March 15 for a pearl-fishing expedition to the Arafura Sea.
The Arafura .Sea lies immediately north of Australia.
A Japanese Foreign Office spokesman (Mr. Mitsuo Tanaka) said yesterday that Japan would not hesitate to send the expedition, since she was within her rights in exploiting all resources on the high seas.
Mr. Tanaka also said, according to the report, that the departure of the expedition might be delayed, but he felt that although Japan was ready to discuss the situation it must demand its right to fish in the open seas of .the world. Because of its teeming millions of population and the desire to get fish to feed them, Japan has continually encroached on the legitimate preserves of other nations. I do not think that this subject needs to be flogged to death in this Parliament, but there are some precautions that we should take. I should be prone to accept the conclusions of the honorable member for the Northern Territory, who knows so much about this matter, and the views of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson), who also knows a great deal about the Northern Territory and also about the pearling industry at Broome. It all boils down to the simple proposition of whether we have protected ourselves and taken advantage of the rights and powers that are available to us under our Constitution and in the accepted principles of international law, to see that in certain areas the wealth available in and under the sea in the way of trochus shell, beche-de-mer and so on, is made available to the nation adjacent to the fields, which is Australia, or whether we have foolishly let a great opportunity slip through our fingers.
Much may be said about the skill of the Japanese as pearl divers, but I have learned from my reading and also from conversation with the honorable member for the Northern Territory that natives are being trained in the Northern Territory now for that very work. If we have lost the initiative in Broome and the adjacent areas to a great degree there are other parts of the western and northern coast of Australia where we should see that we protect our rights. “We should ensure that we do not lose the initiative at Thursday Island and other beds that are not yet fully dredged of the precious mother of pearl. These places should be protected for the Australian community. It is just a case of hard business against a very hard protagonist. Australia is well ahead of other nations in regard to adherence to agreements reached at international conventions, but the Japanese have a very bad record as poachers. I am not embarking on a hate campaign against them. Sooner or later we shall have to accept their presence around us and with us, but for the time being let us be conscious of the facts of the position and take every advantage of the legal and natural justice of our claims in relation to fisheries. We must ensure - I am certain that it could be done without drastic amendments to the bills - first, that the waters under which lie the profitable products covered by these measures are safeguarded as an asset to the Australian community; and secondly, that the fleets of sampans that come southwards will work, not as poachers, but in accordance with the conventions. I do not know how the Government could enforce the implementation of its decisions when it has not even a ferry boat in those waters. The first thing to do is to get some sort of patrol system operating in the north again. If we do not do so, we shall again be asking little Japanese skippers, who perhaps are officers of the Japanese naval reserve, to chart our coasts. A thrust southwards by the Japanese may be made again. From the commercial and international aspects, there would be justice in a claim for the control by us of pearl shell and trochus even up to within 50 miles of our coasts. We do not know the extent of our pearl shell and trochus assets yet, but let us preserve them for this developing nation.
I commend to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition. The right honorable gentleman has said that we must watch the position warily. The measures may give rise to hazards which the Government should keep closely under observation. We must maintain the security of Australia; we must preserve our commercial rights; and we must deal with a former opponent fairly in this business, not sentimentally, and in a manner that would result in us being done in the eye in the future as in the past.
.- The honorable member f or the Northern Territory (Mr. Neilson), who speaks with considerable knowledge of this subject, referred to security, native welfare and our national interest in the pearling industry. Those are important matters, which should receive the attention of the Government. It is strange that no agreement has yet been reached with the Japanese Government in connexion with the activities to which these measures relate. We have entered into agreements with other countries, but Japan, a nation that is of vital concern to us in this connexion, has not been called upon to sign an agreement. The effect of Japanese pearling activities upon the security of this country is a matter that vitally affects all Australians. Prior to the outbreak of World War LT., Japanese pearlers in our coastal waters obtained valuable information that was used to the detriment of. our countrymen during the war. We appear to have left ourselves open to a recurrence of that state of affairs. In the absence of adequate safeguards, Japanese pearlers might again take advantage of their operations in Australian waters. The security aspect of the matter has been stressed by the honorable member for the Northern Territory, quite rightly, because, when all has been said and done, the Northern Territory and Western Australia will be most affected by the operations of Japanese pearlers. I should like the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) to give an assurance that adequate safeguards -will be provided in this connexion, and to explain why no agreement has yet been concluded with the Japanese.
Our national interest in the pearling industry cannot be overlooked. That industry could be a great advantage to this country. The wealth of our northern waters should be reaped by us, rather than by the pearl fishers of other nations, especially of Japan. I believe that we rushed too hurriedly into the signing of the Japanese peace treaty, and it may be that, under this legislation, we shall grant prematurely to the Japanese certain rights that could “well be delayed for :a considerable time. I do not wish to perpetuate old hatreds, but many of us believe, that, at any rate for a certain period, Japan should be called upon to do -penance for many ‘ of the crimes that it committed against us. Under this measure, we may be rushing to do certain things that could well be left for a considerable time. I view with a certain degree of concern the readiness of members of this Government and of sonar- other people to rush into agreements or arrangements with the Japanese people, without having taken full and adequate precautions to protect Australian interests. The general tenor of the speeches delivered on these bill3 by honorable members on this side of the House is that we must ensure that Australian interests will be protected adequately, first, under the amendments proposed by the measures, and secondly, under any agreement entered into with Japan.. The Government has an obligation to provide effective safeguards for security reasons for the protection of the pearling industry and to give practical support to the proposals that have been advanced by the honorable member for the Northern Territory, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) and other honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber who have a close knowledge of the various factors involved in this matter.
I hope that the Minister will take those comments into consideration. I believe that the points that have been raised are important, and that they should be considered carefully by the Government before finality is reached upon any agreement with the Japanese, particularly in relation to pearling operations in Australian waters.
.- In considering these measures, it is important to realize that they, and the two principal acts, are not directed specifically at Japan, but are designed to deal with a problem that may arise from time to time in connexion with the operations of nationals of countries other than Australia. It so happens that, in the past, the people of other nations who ha-va engaged in pearl fishing and other type3 of fishing in Australian coastal waters have been, in the main, of Japanese racial extraction. Therefore, it is assumed by some people that this legislation is specifically directed at the Japanese people. More important still, there is in the minds of the Australian people, very naturally, the thought that perhaps this Government and its predecessor have not acted as strictly in conformity with the. necessities of this problem as they should have done. The two principal acts, which were enacted last year, provided a set of safeguards and a set of rules and regulations to be observed by the nationals oi any country that operated in Australian territorial waters, or even in Australian extra-territorial waters. Nevertheless, there is still a feeling that, in the main, they are directed at the Japanese people. That is very natural. The Australian people remember that during the last conflict, people of the Japanese race inflicted frightful atrocities upon Australian troops and Allied troops. One has to ask: Will that always be a racial characteristic of the Japanese? In passing, let me mention that, whilst the tendency of the great mass of the Australian people is to say that it will always be a racial characteristic of the Japanese people, my attention was directed recently to a very admirable article published in one of the Melbourne newspapers. In that article Dr. C. E. Bean, the distinguished Australian war historian, stated that the bestial characteristics so shockingly exhibited by the Japanese during the last war are not exclusive to any people on this earth, and probably would not again appear in the Japanese. We view, these measures from that viewpoint. In essence, they are directed to policing and preserving Australia’s fishery wealth in territorial waters for the Australian people to the degree that they are entitled to it. The bills are also directed to ensure that any people who chose to fish or exploit Australian fisheries or pearling grounds shall do so under conditions laid down by the Australian Parliament. Therefore, the Government should ensure that the conditions under which our fishing areas may be exploited shall be rigidly observed by the nationals who enter those waters, and also by our own nationals in respect of labour and certain other conditions. It is also desirable to ensure that this
Government shall be enabled to put its own regulations into force. The Government should also ensure at the earliest possible time, in view of past neglect by all Australian governments and of the fact that Japanese expeditions are already on the way to certain fishing grounds, that some agreement is entered into between the Japanese Government and the Australian Government in regard to operations in our coastal waters.
It is very rarely that I commend a government of an opposing political party, but I commend this Government for having proposed amendments to the legislation to ensure that the measures that were enacted last year shall be used more effectively. During the committee stages of the bill I should like the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) to explain why it is necessary that a pearl-shell diver shall be licensed while the trochus or beche-de-mer operator is not so required. I do not know why a distinction has been drawn between these two kinds of divers or swimmers. Together with my colleagues. I support the measure.
– in reply - The two bills at present before the House are designed to make doubly sure that the intention that was embodied in legislation passed by the Parliament a few months ago shall be effective. Subject to minor matters, the two amendments are designed to make it clear that the legislation extends to Australian waters beyond the territorial limits of the territories of Australia. Our present legislation is applicable to Australian waters beyond the territorial limits of the mainland.
– What exactly does that mean?
– In certain circumstances our laws operate within three miles of our shores. In the realm of international law the extension of a country’s laws beyond the three mile limit is arguable according to standards and precedents. These measures are designed to extend the authority of the Australian Parliament to areas very much beyond the three mile limits, generally described as Australian waters. Those waters will be exactly defined in proclamations issued under the authority of this legislation. The purpose of these measures is to enable the proper supervision of the shell fish and the swimming fish in waters adjacent to the Australian mainland and our territories. I should not think of offering a contrary view upon law to that of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), but I do not think that he fully conveyed to the layman what he had in his mind when he was giving an opinion about this legislation. He said that the Constitution empowers the Commonwealth to legislate in respect of certain remote waters. That is quite true. The Parliament is given power under the Constitution to legislate to the three mile territorial limit, and constitutional power is not required to enable the Parliament to legislate in respect of an Australian in a foreign country. However, any such legislation would not inherently confer upon us the power to enforce such laws. That is the point that the right honorable gentleman did not bring out clearly. The Constitution gives us an unquestioned right to legislate in respect of Australian citizens, but in order that our legislation shall have any validity in remote waters over Australian and other nationals it must be designed in conformity with international law as well as Australian law.
All this is preliminary to the negotiation of an agreement, first with Japan, and perhaps later with other nations. It would be untenable for Australia to seek to persuade the Japanese to limit, purely by voluntary agreement, their activities in waters in respect of which we have not taken power to limit the activities of our own nationals. Therefore, this legislation is the first step to ensure that we shall have a sound basis for negotiations with the Japanese by first ensuring that we shall have certain power over our own nationals and, to the degree that international law permits, over the nationals of other countries. It is regrettable that almost every honorable member opposite who has spoken on these measures, excluding the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and the Leader of the Opposition, has branded the Japanese as people we should fear and hate.
– Why were there not any speakers from the Government side of the House?
– I shall deal with that question later. I suggest that Opposition members introduced a wrong and dangerous atmosphere into the Australian Parliament.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I did not make any such statement in my speech.
– I do not want to misrepresent the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) or anybody else, and if the honorable member for Kalgoorlie did not make any such remarks, then I exclude him from my observations and express regret that I included him in them in the first instance. However, other honorable members of the Opposition raised the matter of fear and hatred of the Japanese, and created a wrong atmosphere in this House of the Australian Parliament. If we are to live in peace with our neighbours, we must impress upon them that we have no need to fear or hate any country, and we must indicate in good faith that we hope to reach understandings with the other peoples of the world which will enable us to live together in harmony. There has been too much talk by honorable members opposite about wars that have their origin in trade. On behalf of the Government, I want to make it crystal clear that there is no such element in this legislation. The legislation is intended solely to lay a foundation for the proper conservation of shell fish and swimming fish in the Australian waters, whether territorial or beyond territorial limits. It is an historical fact that although the Australian Constitution has empowered the Australian Government to legislate in respect of such matters as this for 50 years, no government has done so. It has remained for the present Government, probably belatedly, to be the first Australian government to initiate legislation to empower the Commonwealth to exercise this kind of control over the waters contiguous to our mainland and territories. All that has nothing to do with encroachments upon our mainland. Encroachments have occurred in the past, and they may occur in the future, but the present laws- covering most of those matters will be reinforced, further by this legislation, and regulations under the legislation, which will make it an offence in. certain circumstances for Australians or foreigners to perform certain acts in our waters.
It is not proper to compare the circumstances of present-day policing of laws with those, which existed in the 1930’s. The aeroplane was not much used in the 1930’s and we had to rely on small patrol launches like Larrakia. I can assure the House,, and the people, that there will be a system of observation and policing quite adequate to ensure that the laws of this Parliament will not be infringed by Australians or foreigners. The Leader of the Opposition reminded the House that Canada and the United States of America had. reached an agreement with the Japanese, which he described as “ satisfactory “. That occurred before the conclusion of a peace treaty. Canada and the. United States of America may have taken a. better course than the course that we have taken, but the right honorable gentleman was Deputy Prime Minister of Australia for four years after the conclusion of hostilities in the. last war. He took no steps, before that Government relinquished office similar to those, taken by Canada and the United States of America, which he has described as satisfactory.
– The agreements had not then been concluded ; they were- still in the transitional stage.
– To which agreements does the honorable member refer?
– To the general agreements on fisheries-
– There is no- general agreement on fisheries now. Certain agreements on fisheries were made between. Japan and Canada and the United. States of America.. They were negotiated by the Governments of those countries during the period when the Leader of the Opposition was Acting Prime Minister of Australia. For reasons which were, no doubt, good and sound, the right honorable gentleman did not choose to. negotiate a. similar agreement on. behalf of Australia, nor did this Government choose to take steps to do so prior to the conclusion of the: Japanese peace, treaty. A clause, of the treaty specifically provides that a. signatory power may call upon Japan, to negotiate an agreement in relation to the- matter. We have taken prompt steps: ta get the Japanese to negotiate with us with a view to the. conclusion of such, an agreement. I understand that, the Japanese are willing to commence the negotiations in April. We have suggested that: Canberra is the proper venue for such negotiations to take place.
– Bring them down here !
– I appeal to. the honorable, member not to say “ Bring them, down here ! “. We do not desire to adopt an attitude of dominance in this matter. We invited the Japanese to come to Canberra. As the agreement will deal with fishing in Australian waters we believe that the National Capital of Australia is the proper place in which the negotiations should proceed. In asking the Japanese to come to Canberra, we have not adopted the attitude of a victor placing his heel on the neck, of a defeated enemy. We have no desire to perpetuate an- atmosphere of enmity towards the Japanese. I hope that the Australian people will not regard our attitude as betraying the softness of a “ sucker “’.
This legislation was introduced because the legal advisers of the Government informed us that our legislation should be made more watertight. The principal amendments in the bill are designed to that end. The bill contains other subsidiary amendments.
The honorable member for Lalor has asked why there should, be a difference in the licensing of what; may be termed a “ dress “ diver and a “ skin “ diver. Originally, provision was made for the licensing of persons engaged in diving for pearl shell,, beche-de-mer, and. other sea products referred to in general terms in the legislation,, but: we apparently overlooked the fact that: Australian natives and Australian nationals are engaged in skin diving in. shallow waters along our coasts to collect beche-de-mer. There is no need to insist that a native shall obtain a licence for such diving. Where we need these conservation provisions to apply no commercial diving’ for pearl shell is engaged in -other than in diving dress. ~M.t. Po lt art). - Is there not danger of depleting beche-de-mer “ beds ?
– The Commonwealth or the States have complete legislative authority to protect our beche-de-mer beds.
I commend the bill to the House. I assure the Parliament and the people that there will be no delay and no softness on our part in engaging in the negotiations with the Japanese. We shall embark upon them in a spirit not of animosity but of amity. It is not our intention to exclude an island people from engaging in the kind of occupation that our forefathers ranged the world to engage in, but we shall see that the agreement contains adequate provision for conserving the resources of the ocean in the waters close to Australia and its territories, and that the provision is given effect by a combination of law and agreement and is backed, in due course, by the mechanism of control and policing necessary to ensure that it shall be properly carried out.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read -a second time, and reported from committee without amendment ot debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 18th February (vide page 3’5), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 18th February (vide page -31), on motion by ;Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be -noV read -a second time.
..- This measure provides for an appropriation of £3’7,-000,000 out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to be paid into <a trust account to enable the Government to meet its war pensions liabilities. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), in his second-reading speech, indicated to the Parliament that it was essential that the provision of that amount of money should be approved by the Parliament if the liabilities of the Government in respect of war pensions were to be met. It is regrettable that the right honorable gentleman did not state that the Government intended to appropriate a larger sum than £37,000,000 for this purpose. A close examination of the appropriations for war and other pensions clearly indicates that, during the last few years, war pensioners have been placed in a position of substantial disability as compared with other sections of the community. The wages of workers are varied by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to meet variations of the cost of living. The salaries and allowances of members of parliament have moved upwards as inflation increased. Business people, as their costs increase, pass on increased charges to the public. In some instances, bond holders have received higher rates of interest on their investments. All of this movement has taken place in order to meet the galloping inflation that has been a feature of the economic life of Australia since this Government took office in 1949. Of all the people in the community, war pensioners have been severely handicapped because insufficient appropriations have been made by the Parliament to cover their needs.
When the Treasurer read his brief second-reading speech he itemized the war pensions appropriations that have been made during the last four years. The right honorable gentleman blandly informed us that the figures were a3 follows : -
At first glance, one would oe inclined to say, “During the last four years the Menzies Government, which has been responsible for protecting the economic destinies of Australia, has been exceedingly generous. It has increased the annual appropriation for war pensions from approximately £22,000,000 to approximately £36,000,000 “. These figures would undoubtedly have a tremendous appeal to the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who would boast of them to his ex-servicemen constituents.
– Is the honorable member looking for trouble?
– No, and the honorable member will not give me anytrouble. It is obvious that I am getting under your skin.
– Order ! The honorable member must address the Chair.
– I do not forget the propaganda disseminated by honorable members opposite about war pensions when I was a member of a government. If the present Government had acted in accordance with the precedent established by Mr. Curtin in 1943, and had appointed an all-party committee of this Parliament to consider anomalies in the administration and payment of war pensions, the current appropriation for war pensions would be very much larger than it is. The Government regards £37,000,000 as a very generous appropriation for war pensions. What are the facts? When the Chifley Government was in office the basic wage had begun to rise slightly. In August, 1949, it was £6 7s. In October, 1949, it rose above that amount by a few shillings. The basic wage at present is £11 lis. a week. That extraordinary increase in a little more than three years is due to the fact that in the intervening period the costs of commodities that constitute the basic needs of life of every human being, but particularly persons on the lower ranges of income including war pensioners, has risen substantially. No doubt Government supporters will claim that the increase of the appropriation for war pensions from £22,000,000 in 1949 to £37,000,000 this year is a generous gesture to the recipients. Such a submission will not satisfy me. The increase of the appropriation is not .so generous, proportionately, as is the increase of the basic wage granted under arbitration court awards. In truth, the war pension has not kept pace proportionately with the increase of the basic wage since 1949. I do not pose as a mathematician, but if my figures are correct-
– Order ! The honorable member’s remarks are not related to the bill.
– I am not dealing with the rates of pension.
– The honorable member is dealing with the basic wage, which is not even remotely related to the bill.
– If you, Mr. Speaker, and I were obliged to live on a war pension, we would know that it was completely inadequate.
– The honorable member and I have to live together in this House.
– I have been making only a passing reference to rates of pension.
– The honorable gentleman is very slow in passing.
– The appropriation for war pensions has not kept pace proportionately with the increase of the basic wage during the period to which I have referred. That is a reasonable passing reference, Mr. Speaker, and I shall not expand it unduly. Those are the facts, and they become more illuminating when we examine the latest report of the Repatriation Commissioner, which accentuates my contention that the value of the1 war pension is receding in relation to the basic wage.
– Order! This bill does not deal with war pension rates or the basic wage. The honorable member should confine his remarks to the matter of whether or not the amount of the appropriation is adequate.
– I realize that, Mr. Speaker, but I should like to point out that the appropriation is inadequate.
– Order ! The honorable member may not do so by referring to the rates of pension.
– My complaint is that the amount of the appropriation is too small. A few moments ago I referred to the report of the Repatriation Commissioner. I do not want to prejudge your decision, Mr. Speaker, but I should like to point out that the need for a larger appropriation for war pensions is accentuated by the fact that the total number of war pensioners in 1949 was 289,771, whereas it was approximately 354,000 in 1951. Therefore, on two counts, the appropriation is inadequate. Those counts are, first, that the shocking inflationary conditions have reduced the value of the war pension in relation to the basic wage, and, secondly, that the number of war pensioners has increased by approximately 64,000 between the 30th June, 1949, and the 30th June, 1951. The Opposition supports the bill enthusiastically, but expresses its grave regret that the amount of the appropriation is so completely inadequate. I also regret that the forms of the House debar me from discussing pension rates, or from moving that the amount of the appropriation be increased. The Opposition supports the bill-
– Does the Opposition support the bill after all the complaints that the honorable member has made about it?
– We know that if we were to oppose the bill successfully, the Government might resign, and the payment of pensions would be unduly delayed. I emphasize the Opposition’s view that the pension should be increased so that the amount may reflect increases granted to persons who work under arbitration court awards. People who are able to demand high prices from the consuming public determine their own standard of living But the standard of living of the war pensioner is determined by the Government. Let this section of the community be given comparative justice.
My criticism of this bill has been fair. It is most regrettable that the Government has not seen fit to appoint an all-party committee on repatriation, as the Curtin Labour Government did, in order to remove this subject from the sphere of party politics. Had such a committee been appointed, some formula might have been evolved, in the light of experience gained since 1943, which would have enabled recipients of war pensions to enjoy the higher standard of living to which they are undoubtedly entitled.
– The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said that he did not pose as a mathematician. I accept his estimate of his own ability, and shall not argue that point with him, because I am firmly convinced, after having listened to his speech, that he has not done himself an injustice. When the honorable gentleman was in his heyday as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Chifley Labour Government in 1949, the appropriation for war pensions was £21,000,000. The appropriation proposed in this bill is £37,000,000. That is an increase of approximately 60 per cent. According to the honorable member’s figures, the basic wage has increased by less than 50 per cent, in the same period.
– That is not so.
– The honorable member for Lalor said that the basic wage was £6 7s. a week in 1949 compared with £11 lis. at the present time.
– Is the right honorable gentleman a mathematician?
– That is an increase of less than 50 per cent.
– The increase is nearer 100 per cent.
– I agree, unfortunately I have consulted the wrong figures. The honorable member for Lalor gave an explanation that created the wrong impression. I remind him that the rates of pension at the present time are considerably higher than the rates granted by the Chifley Labour Government.
– Order ! I shall not allow a discussion on rates of pension.
– I am not discussing them, and I know that you, Mr. Speaker, would not permit me to discuss them, but I stress the point that the increase of rates is reflected in the appropriation of £37,000,000. Indeed, the appropriation now under consideration is the direct outcome of a request made by ex-servicemen’s organizations that the rate of pension should not in any circumstancesbe tied to the basic wage. The honorable, member for Lalor knows nothing of the internal policy of those organizations, which request our help on matters of. this kind.
– That is not true.
– I assure the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) that it is perfectly true. The Returned. Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s1 Imperial League of Australia does not approve a system under which the pension would’ be tied to the basic wage, because the result would be that the pension, would fluctuate with upward and downward movements of the basic wage.
– “Will the Vice-President, of. the Executive Council answer a. question?
-Order! Interjections are disorderly.
– I should discuss- the matter, with the honorable member if I were permitted to do so. The honorable member for’ Lalor has made- a comparison that cannot be sustained. However, I need not deal with this matter at. great length. The figures speak for themselves. The appropriation for war pensions made by the Chifley Labour Government in 1948-49 was £21,000,000, and the appropriation now proposed is- £37,000,000. That, in. itself, is a remarkable increase. Of course, it does not meet with the approval of the honorable member for Lalor,, who, sitting in Opposition, and having, no responsibility, would like the amount to be doubled or even trebled. “We expressed similar views, on occasions, when we sat in Opposition. I suggest that the honorable member for Lalor has voiced his criticism in the hope of gaining party political advantage. I am happy to know that he is prepared to accept the bill, and be thankful for a sum of the magnitude’ that the Government is providing for the ex-servicemen who so richly deserve it.
f4.£!.]’. - The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) professed to be astonished when the honorable member for Lalor (Mr: Pollard) announced that the Opposition would support this bill.,, even- though he bad criticized the amount of the appropriation. The honorable member for Mallee knows perfectly well that the. ground of. the criticism of the honorable’ member- for Lalor was that the appropriation, was not sufficient to; enable the payment: of. pensions adequate to meet the living, costs, of recipients. The honorable member for’ Mallee knows equally well that the only effect of successful opposition of this bill’ would be. to> prevent pensioners, from, obtaining; ey.en the amount that the: Government has appropriated, for them.
– Lousy as it is, we have to support it.
Mr-. ALLAN FRASER.- The honorable member for Banks (Mr.. Costa) has summed up the position, in most expressive language. We have to- support the. bill inorder to ensure that the pensioners will get something.. The honorable member for Mallee is equally well, aware that it is not, within our power.,, under parliamentary procedure, to move: that, the amount of the appropriation be increased. The position, therefore, is, that the- Labour party supports this measure’ on the ground that it will give something to, war pensioners, but, at the same time, we contend, that the appropriation is not nearly sufficient for their requirements.
The Vice-President of the Executive Council. (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) declared that, the honorable member for Lalor had proved, himself to be an inaccurate mathematician,, and said that the computations produced by the honorable gentleman showed’, in fact, that the increase of the appropriation for war pensions since 194S was proportionately greater than the increase in the cost of living during that period as measured by Arbitration Court awards. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, who dared to question the mathematical ability of the honorable member for Lalor, then produced figures im an endeavour to justify his contention. He showed that the appropriation for war pensions- was £21,000,000 in 1948, whilst the amount of the appropriation for the’ current financial year was- £37,000,000.. which he. described as am increase: of 60’ per cent.
– Approximately 60 per cent.
-I shall allow that figure., I accept the mathematical computation that £37,000,000 is approximately 60 per sent, greater than £21,000,000. However, the right honorable gentleman proceeded to say that the basic wage during the same period increased, by only 50 per cent., whereas Ihe Government had increased the pension by 60 per- cent. That is not so. I shall present the figures again so that the right honorable gentleman may recognize his error. In 1948, the weighted average of the basic wage for six capital cities was £5 16s. The honorable member for Lalor, incidentally, mentioned the rate for 1949, which was £6 7s. The weighted average of the basic wage for six capital cities to-day is £11 lis. Neither the Vice-President of the Executive Council nor the honorable member for Lalor needs to be an expert mathematician to realize that twice £5 16s. is £11 12s. Therefore, since 1948 the cost of living, as measured by the basic wage, has increased by practically 100 per cent, whereas, according to the Minister’s figures, the pension has increased by 60 per cent. The Government stands indicted on those figures.
The organized workers of the community, businessmen and others are able to obtain a measure of justice when living costs increase by applying to theArbitration Court, to prices authorities, or to other tribunals which establish wages and prices. But this Parliament is the arbitration court of the war pensioners, and their only means of obtaining justice is to appeal to it to persuade the Government to act on their behalf. The Vice-President of the Executive Council argued that a 60 per cent, increase of their pension rate was sufficient to compensate them for an increase of the cost of living by just under 100 per cent. I was amazed to hear a supporter of the Government interject, “ Hear, hear !’ “’, when the right honorable gentleman said- that the Government had been exceedingly generous in- dealing- with- war pensioners.
– It has been, generous.
-The honor.able member repeats the applause. What would this Government consider to be mean and insufficient if it considers a pen: sion increase of. 60 per cent, to- be sufficient compensation for a cost of living increase of 100 per cent.?’
– The Labour Government reflected precisely that view.
– The fact to which I want the honorable member to give his attention, in order that we may claim his support, is that the figures demonstrate that the living standards of war pensioners have seriously declined during the last four years.- Their straggle for existence has been greatly intensified because the increase of their pensions has not corresponded with the actual increase of the cost of basic necessities as measured by the” Arbitration Court.
Mi-.. Jeff Bate. - I think it has.
– Order! This debate is a:gain becoming- out of hand. I ask the honorable member for EdenMonaro to return to the subject of the bill.
– I agree, Mr.. Speaker, that there need, be: no further discussion of the simple fact that war pensions have increased by only 60 per cent, over a period, during, which the cost of living,, according to official calculations, has increased by 100 per cent.-
– And the: number of war pensioners has increased by 62,000.
– Order ! The number of pensioners is not dealt with in the bill.
– But the proposed appropriation refers to a number of pensioners. I am directing the attention of the Government to the inadequacy of the appropriation, that it proposes to make. After all’, that is all that the Opposition., can do. We cannot move for an increased appropriation, but we can put to the Government the reasonswhy the proposed appropriation should be increased. Surely it is legitimate for us tff point out that the” Government is now required to provide’ for 62,000’ more pensioners’ than there were” in 19’48> and, therefore’, that- there is every ground for requesting- it- to increase’ the” amount of the” proposed appropriation. I repeat that the demonstrated increase of the cost of living since 1948 and *the greatly increased number’ o£ war pensioners who have come under the care and control of the Government justify a much higher appropriation than the Government contemplates. In making our appeal to the Government, we point out that this Parliament is the only instrumentality to which war pensioners can look for justice. They cannot go before an Arbitration Court or a prices commissioner.
I agree with the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) that a government looks upon these matters differently from an opposition. No doubt he was correct in saying that the Labour party, when it was in power, saw good reasons why it could not accede to the requests that were made by the Opposition of that time for an increase of the total appropriation for war pensions. But that fact does not in any way invalidate our present arguments. In fact, it strengthens our case because, if the present Government parties realized in 1948-49 that the total appropriation for war pensions was insufficient, they must realize now, in the light of the figures that have been produced, that the present provision for war pensions is woefully insufficient. Therefore, I hope that our case will be carefully considered by the Government. The Opposition cannot hope to influence the Government to increase the amount of the proposed appropriation, but the facts ought to be put in the hands of supporters of the Government, so many of whom are ex-servicemen, to be used as a potent weapon with which to compel it to increase the sum to an amount reasonably in accord with the minimum standard established by the Labour Government for war pensioners, a standard which, according to statements made by members of the present Government parties, was not adequate even then and which has since, owing to its serious decline, inflicted severe hardship and suffering on pensioners.
.- I was not a member of this House in 1948-49, and therefore I am not in a position to comment on the decisions that it made at that time. However, it seems to be apparent that the Opposition in 1948-49, like the present Opposition, made political capital with its tongue in its cheek. I realize, Mr. Speaker, that the debate has wandered away from the terms of the bill but, as a powerful argument has been presented with considerable histrionic ability in order to indicate that the cost of living should be related to the proposed appropriation for war pensions, it is only fair and just that I should state the factors that govern departmental decisions in these matters. The great weakness of the argument in relation to the cost of living is that a vast number of the war pensioners for whom the Government proposes to appropriate a sum of £37,000,000 do not depend entirely upon their pensions. In fact, 170,000 base-rate pensioners earn normal award wages. It is not true to say that these pensioners are dependent upon their pensions for the maintenance of their lives. The fact is that the base-rate war pension is a form of compensation made available to ex-servicemen for injuries that they sustained in time of war and which, though they are of a nature deserving of a pension, do not render the pensioners incapable of earning almost normal livelihoods. Should a pensioner’s injuries render him incapable of earning a normal livelihood, he may have himself classified as a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman.
-Order! Like previous speakers, the honorable member is departing from the subject of the bill.
– I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker. My sole reason for having done so is to answer the charge that has been made by honorable members opposite. The important fact is that totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen, who depend entirely upon their pensions for the maintenance of life, have been granted pension increases that are much greater than those made available to other base-rate pensioners.
The Government has increased war pension payments until its commitments in this field have been raised from a total of £22,000,000 annually to £36,000,000 annually. Doubtless it has been influenced by the increase of the cost of living, but it has had regard for the fact that many thousands of war pensioners are not completely dependent upon their pensions. Of 220,000 war pensioners, 190,000 are able to earn a livelihood. That reduces the number of pensioners who are dependent on their pension income to 30,000. This fact should be considered in relation to the amount of the proposed appropriation. I support the remarks that have been made by other Government supporters, and in particular I stress the importance of the views of exservicemen’s organizations to which the “Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) has referred. These organizations do not want the rate of war pension to be related to the basic wage, because such an association would lead to variations of the pension both upward and downward, with the result that, in times of depression and low standards of living, when the recipients would need their pensions most, the rate would be at its lowest level. I support the bill.
– The Opposition’s attack upon the inadequacy of the proposed appropriation of £37,000,000 for war pensions is not irresponsible but is based upon many important considerations. The Opposition has a direct responsibility to ensure that the maximum amount that the nation can afford to provide for the assistance of ex-servicemen and their dependants shall be made available for that purpose. That responsibility is not lessened by the fact that 180,000 of the total number of war pensioners are able to earn wages in addition to their pensions. The test to be applied to this measure is whether or not the amount of £37,000,000 proposed to be appropriated is the maximum amountthat the nation can afford to provide for the help of those who were prepared to sacrifice their lives for it. The point is whether a much larger sum could be made available to give effect to the wishes of ex-servicemen’s organizations. I have not heard one Government supporter, not even the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), suggest that any ex-serviceman’s organization has indicated to any member of the Government that it is satisfied with the job that has been done. Until such satisfaction is indicated by exservicemen’s organizations no government can truly be happy about its efforts on behalf of ex-servicemen. The Government gives the wheat-grower a say about the amount that he is to receive for his product. In my view the war pensioner is entitled to at least the same consideration from the nation as the wheat-grower receives.
– Where is the relationship?
– The wheat-grower, the wool-grower, and even the dairyman have a very big say in respect of the amount that they receive for their products.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is getting right away from the bill.
– You allowed the Vice-President of the Executive Council to argue along certain lines, Mr. Speaker, and you allowed the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) to make reference to the views of ex-servicemen’s organizations, so surely I am entitled at this stage to place before the House the views of other organizations that are concerned about the expenditure of government moneys.
-Order ! The method by which war pension rates are determined is not under discussion.
– I agree, but when you look-
-Order! I have given a great deal of latitude, and if honorable gentlemen wish me to apply the Standing Orders I shall do so.
– There are broad aspects that have to be considered in relation to the expenditure of this amount of £37,000,000. I, for one, consider that that amount is not sufficient to enable provision to be made to meet individual cases that come to my notice every day and cases to which the honorable member for St. George referred, I know that that honorable member will agree with me. Thousands of exservicemen from World War I. are being forced to work at a time of life when continuing to work will shorten their lives, simply because of the inadequacy of their war pensions. Large numbers of such cases are brought to my notice. Every honorable member in this chamber knows that there are many deserving cases in his own electorate which call for an increase of pension to ex-servicemen of World War I.
-Order ! Pension rates are not under discussion.
– Does the honorable gentleman refer to service pensions or war pensions ?
– I am referring to war pensions. The VicePresident of the Executive Council made the point that under no consideration would ex-servicemen’s organizations accept the tying up of war pension rates with the basic wage. I have before me a report from the Sydney Morning Herald which shows that not all branches of ex-servicemen’s organizations are of the opinion credited to them by the VicePresident of the Executive Council. I accept the accuracy of the Sydney Morning Herald-
– And the Tribune.
– That is a filthy accusation !
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may not use that language.
– The remark of the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) is offensive to mc and I want it withdrawn.
– The honorable gentleman must first withdraw his own remark.
– I withdraw my remark, but the reference by the honorable member for Mitchell to the Tribune is distasteful to me, and I demand that it be withdrawn.
– I have no hesitation in withdawing the interjection that I made.
– The quotation from the Sydney Morning Herald reads -
The annual State Congress of the Returned Servicemen’s 1/eague yesterday protested against the new rate of pensions announced in the Budget.
– Order ! Pension rates -are not under discussion.
– I am merely answering the arguments of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. Hie report continued -
Tt said that pensions-
The pronoun refers to the New South Wales Branch of the returned servicemen’s -league.
– But that is not the federal body, and it cannot dictate policy to the federal body.
– The report reads -
It said that pensions should bear the same ratio to the basic wage as in 1921 and that they should be adjusted annually in accordance with the rise and fall of the basic wage.
– Who said that?
– The New South Wales branch of the returned servicemen’s league.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is attempting to evade my ruling, because he is getting right down to the question of how pensions are to be fixed, and that matter is not dealt with in the terms of this bill.
Mr. E. JAMES HARRISON.Surely, Mr. Speaker, I am entitled to reply to the Vice-President of the Executive Council. He made a point about the relationship of this appropriation to the total appropriation, and it is to that aspect that I intend to relate my remarks. The New South Wales branch of the returned servicemen’s league, at its last annual conference, decided to support a certain principle regarding the ratio of war pension to the basic wage. If that principle were given general application, substantially more than the amount of £37,000,000 to be provided under this bill would be necessary. I repeat that ex-servicemen’s organizations are just as entitled to express their point of view in relation to war pension rates as are wheat-growers and woolgrowers in relation to the prices they are to receive for their products. After all, those organizations are in the best position to know the needs of ex-servicemen. Any honorable member who maintains contact with ex-servicemen’s organizations in hrs electorate, as I do, would admit that this amount of £37,000,000 will go nowhere near to meeting requirements. Ex-servicemen point out, as the honorable member for St. George has also pointed out so capably, that a war pension is designed to be compensation to exservicemen for pain, inconvenience .and other disabilities arising ‘out of war service. Whatever the political colour of a government may ‘be the number of men who, in their old age, find themselves suffering from disabilities that they believe to be war-caused increases by thousands every year. Those men consider that they are justly entitled to pensions in respect of disabilities that they believe to have resulted from war service. The money to increase war pensions should be found somehow because every one of the 6,000 or 8,000 applicants who have been refused war pensions has a genuine belief that his complaint arose from, war service.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is now trying to to open up the subject of entitlement to pension.
– What I was about to put was that the amount of £37,000,000 to be appropriated for war pensions this year is not sufficient to provide for men who have been denied entitlement to war pensions, but who genuinely believe that they are entitled to them. The real test is not whether the Government is expending more on war pensions this year than it did last year, or than some other government did in the past. The allocation should guarantee to ex-servicemen the pensions to which they believe they are justly entitled. There is room for greater understanding on the part of the people who have .the job of .determining how this money shall be expended. I know that a great political argument can be based on a comparison of the proposed expenditure on war pensions of £37,000,000 this year with the sum of £18,000,000 expended for that purpose in one recent year, but the .point is whether the amount ^proposed for expenditure this year will do the job that should be done. Every honorable member who is honest would admit that he knows of cases of men who are morally entitled to war pensions but have been refused them. When I consider a bill of this kind my thoughts turn to those men. Let us, particularly for the sake of ex-servicemen of World War I., inject some flexibility into the methods by which eligibility for war pension is decided. If a man is prepared to risk his life in the defence of his country, when he returns from the war he should be given those things to which he is justly entitled as a result of any disability from which he suffers due to his war service. I know that claims for pensions are dealt with on the grounds of physical incapacity, physical inconvenience and the like. One group of pensioners will receive no extra payment as a result of the operation of this measure. For that reason alone, I say that the proposed appropriation is insufficient. I ask honorable members to bear in mind that 180,000 disabled exservicemen are still working, although they should be relieved from the necessity to do so. Many of them have another two or three years to go before they will become entitled even to the “ burnt-out “ pension. Surely every honorable member knows of ex-servicemen who will not be assisted by this proposed appropriation. The Opposition says that, the proposal is inadequate, not in order to gain political advantage but because it realizes that there are thousands of returned servicemen who are entitled to a little more assistance than could be given to them from this sum of £37,000,000.
– All honorable members desire that justice shall be done to people who receive war pensions. A comparison ha3 been made of the £22,000,000 that was appropriated for this purpose during the last year of office of the Chifley Government, and this proposed appropriation pf £37,000,000. If we bear in mind the decrease of the value of money since 1948 and the increase of the number of people who are entitled to participate in the benefits of appropriations of this kind, we must all be satisfied in our minds that the justice that we believe should be done to war pensioners will not be achieved under this measure. The value of money to-day is only a half of what it was in 1948. On that basis, the appropriation should be at least £44,000,000. In addition, the report of the Director of Repatriation has indicated that 65,000 more people are entitled to participate in benefits of this kind. Therefore, if we want to do .justice to war pensioners, we should make the appropriation £58,000,000.
The members of the Opposition” will support the bill, because we do not want to delay the grant of this benefit, meagre as it is, to war pensioners, but we complain about the inadequacy of the proposed appropriation. I appeal to the Government to bear in mind the figures that I have cited, and I urge it to try to treat war pensioners more justly when other bills of this kind are introduced.
.- The honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) referred to the treatment of ex-servicemen by the Chifley Government in 1948. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) will recall that he, as a returned serviceman, was most dissatisfied with the degree of consideration that was given by that Government to the proposal in relation to pensions that was advanced then by ex-servicemen’s organizations. The appropriation that was made in 1948 was not sufficient to enable pensions to be paid at the rate that ex-servicemen’s organizations considered to be adequate. I know that the honorable member for Parkes put up a great fight within his own party for an increase of the appropriation, which was positively niggardly. Ex-servicemen’s organizations were only some of the organizations that combined in 1949 to ensure that the Chifley Government should be put out of office, in the hope that its successor would treat exservicemen more favorably.
The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) read a newspaper report of a statement made by the Sydney branch of the returned servicemen’s league, if there be such a branch, to the effect that pensions should be related to the basic wage- I remind the House that the federal executive of the returned servicemen’s league has always been adamant that pension rates shall not be tied to the basic wage. The Sydney branch of the returned servicemen’s league, if there be such a branch, was not competent to make a statement of that kind to the press, because the constitution of the league provides that no branch shall make a press statement. The statement to which the honorable gentlemen referred may have expressed the view of a branch of the league, but certainly it did not express the overall view of the league, or of any other’ ex-servicemen’s organization of which I have knowledge. I have a considerable knowledge of the opinions of all ex-servicemen’s organizations in this country, with the exception of the Australian Legion of Ex-Servicemen and Women, an organization in which I am not particularly interested.
The honorable member for Blaxland said also that a number of ex-servicemen were obliged to continue to work because their rates of pension were not sufficient to cater for their requirements. The honorable gentleman was under a misapprehension. He mixed two kinds of pensions. This proposed appropriation is in respect, not of service pensions but of war pensions. War pensions are paid to ex-servicemen to compensate them for a disability, and the rate of payment is based upon the limitation that the disability imposes upon earning capacity. The war pension is not intended to be a payment that will enable an exserviceman to live without working, if he has no other source of income. If an exserviceman has a certain degree of incapacity, he becomes entitled to the pension payable to a totally and temporarily disabled man or to a totally and permanently disabled man. Therefore, the point made by the honorable member for Blaxland was not applicable to this case.
I consider that the proposed appropriation is based upon a fair computation of the rates of pension and the number of recipients, and that it will be sufficient to meet the present requirements of pensioners. Contrary to the statement by the honorable member for Blaxland, all ex-servicemen’s organizations, with the exception, perhaps, of the Australian Legion of Ex-Servicemen and Women applaud whole-heartedly the repatriation measures that have been introduced by this Government. Although I move constantly in returned servicemen’s circles. I have not heard any criticism of the pensions for which provision has been made by this Government.
– Order ! The honorable member must deal with the bill.
– I was dealing with a statement made by the honorable member for Blaxland. The proposed appropriation of £37,000,000 will be sufficient to meet the requirements of ex-servicemen. I consider that the suggestion of honorable members opposite that it be increased is only a political gesture.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on. motion by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 19th February (vide page 145), on motion by Mr. Beale -
That the following paper he printed: -
Immigration programme - revision - Ministerial statement.
– I regret that I shall have to speak about this matter as I propose to do to-day. I fully supported the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), when he was Minister for Immigration, in all his plans to increase the flow of immigrants into this country. I did that because I believed that it was incumbent upon us to increase our population, both by natural means and also by immigration. Having supported the previous
Labour Government’s policy on immigration, which has been continued by the present Government, I regret that it is now necessary for me to advocate an alteration of that policy. Last year the Labour party fully considered the. matter of immigration, and the general feeling among members of the party was that we should restrict immigration to those who are nominated by persons already resident in Australia who guarantee employment and housing to the new arrivals, and the wives and families of immigrants who are already established in Australia. Although such a modification of our policy will restrict the flow of immigrants. I believe that under our present economic conditions it is necessary. Apart from a few Italians who have caused disturbances, the immigrants who have most criticized our policy are British tradesmen. To illustrate that submission I desire to mention the experience of a Scottish-born friend of mine who, with his wife, visited Scotland last year. He is a good Australian, but visited his homeland for the same reasons that most of us like to return home. While he was in Scotland he sent me a copy of a newspaper printed and. distributed in the town where he was residing. That newspaper published a trenchant criticism of the Australian immigration system, and the article was likely to interfere with the flow of immigrants and injure the good name of Australia. That would indicate that there are many people in the United Kingdom who, although having the welfare of Australia at heart, are willing to criticize our immigration system.
Many British immigrants were told by the authorities in the United Kingdom that if they emigrated to Australia they would be able to obtain a home of their own within a short time. Consequently, a number of people sold their furniture, and in some cases their dwellings, in order to come to this country. I am not criticizing the Minister for Immigration about this, but I consider that the enthusiasm of some of his officers in England have led them to give prospective immigrants a highly coloured picture of conditions in Australia. I have seen some of the publications distributed by the Australian Government in England, and
I must say that, if. I had been an immigrant, they would have led. me to believe that I would be able to get a home, of my own in Australia within a reasonable time, and be able to live under similar conditions to those which I had left.. The Minister for Immigration recently indicated that British immigrants would be able to leave their hostels for homes of their own after about twelve months, and that European immigrants would be housed after about two years. However, about eight or nine months ago I visited an immigrant hostel in my own electorate and. spoke to- a British tradesman and his wife. He had served in the British Navy, and was an excellent type of citizen. His wife was the kind of woman we need in Australia.. He brought his wife and three children out because he was- under the impression that he could get work at his own trade, which was carriage building. He applied for work at Islington, in South. Australia, and was told that there was no demand for men of his trade in Australia. After endeavouring for some time to get a job commensurate with! his skill, he finally had to take a labouring position with Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited. They told rae that they had expected to get their own home,, and that they certainly did not wish to live the communal hostel life that they were forced to endure. They complained about the food served to them at the hostel, and, although it would have suited me’, doubtless the way it was served and the general’ living conditions were objectionable to people who had not had to live in that fashion in their’ homeland.
A few weeks ago I met the man again and he told me that he had recently bought his own home,, having paid £600 or £700 deposit, but that he did not know whether he would ever be able to pay it off. However, he said that he and his wife and family were now quite satisfied with Australia. That little example will illustrate how important it is’- that the immigrants #nd their families should be housed- properly. However, the majority of immigrants have not enough money to pay the deposits required for the purchase of a house. At present there are many houses, available irc South Australia, because recently the Premier of that State announced, that his Government had hundreds of prefabricated timber houses on hand that it could not sell because, of their high price, and that they were to be let at £2 15s. a week. Those cottages could have been, sold if people had had about £750 to put down as a deposit, although in some cases only £250 was required as deposit on a. house costing £2,750. Immigrants could not afford to buy those houses. The practice adopted at the immigrant hostel at Gepp’s Cross, in the Sturt district of South Australia, should be followed all over the Commonwealth. The State housing, trust has taken over the administration and control of the hostel and installed electric stoves in the flats, thus enabling the immigrants to do their own cooking, and to prepare meals that are to their liking. Some months ago the immigrants at Gepp’s Cross asked me to visit the hostel and to examine the conditions under which they were living. After making an inspection T realized at once that they would not be satisfied until provision had been made to enable them to look after themselves. More than one-half of the residents of the hostel are now housed in flats suitably equipped with cooking facilities and it is hoped that the remaining one-half will be similarly accommodated within the next few months. Only by these means will our immigrants be made happy and rapidly become assimilated into our Australian community. If they are given proper accommodation and facilities they feel that they have become members of the community, and’ they quickly become good:, satisfied Australian citizens. Most of them look forward to the day when they will have homes of their own.
During the period of” office as Minister for Immigration- of the honorable- member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell)1 thousand’s of displaced persons- were brought to- Austrafia from Europe. Most of them had been accustomed to some’ form of camp or hostel, life. Om their arrival here they were- provided with accommodation which was better than that to- which they had been accustomed:. In those years, few complaint’s- were made about the accommodation provided. Many of those1 immrgrants have since built small houses of their own, which, although far below accepted Australian standards, will be turned into comfortable dwellings as the years go by. I trust that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) will profit by the mistake that this Government has made in the. past in housing British tradesmen in hostels.
We should do everything possible to make the newcomers in our midst happy and contented. It is regrettable to- se* constant references in the newspapers to demonstrations made by dissatisfied immigrants. These demonstrations will do nothing to further the immigration scheme and the evils that give rise to them should be remedied. The most recent issue of the Sunday Herald contained the following report under a Melbourne date, line:1 -
A hostile mob of 830 Italian, migrants hooted and jeered as they left Spencer-street station in a special train for Mildura tonight.
I do not want to weary honorable members by reading the whole of the report. I merely point out that one of the immigrants concerned stated that he had had only one month’s work in three since he arrived’ in Australia. The men were assured of three months’ fruit picking at Mildura but they are apprehensive about the future. A similar position exists in South Australia. About two- or three weeks ago a trainload of immigrants left Adelaide for Renmark to engage in fruit picking there. Although they were happy to undertake, the work, they were worried about their future after the fruitpicking season had ended, particularly about the threat of unemployment during the winter months. Fears of that kind have been expressed by immigrants in all States of the Commonwealth. Recently,, at the Prison Gate Brigade Home, in Adelaide, disgruntled immigrants were involved in a nasty disturbance.. The. immigrants asked that they be given an. assurance of continuous work or be sent, back to the countries from, which they came.
A balanced, programme of immigration necessitates the making- of proper arrangements, not. only for the employment, temporally housing- and assimilation, of immigrants ©a- their arrival in Australia, but also- the- provision of suitable permanent housing accommodation for them. They should not be expected to compete with Australian citizens in. the limited housing market now available.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has- expired.
.- I, too, am intensely interested in the subject of immigration. I have asked several questions in this House in an endeavour to relieve the hardships imposed upon immigrants who work in the coalmining areas of New South Wales but I have not been able to elicit any information from the Government. I am concerned principally about the position of British immigrant coal-miners employed in my electorate who- are housed in Nissen- huts’ which were originally used in Great Britain for the Bevan boys who were conscripted to work the coalmines there. I have previously’ described these huts as outsize tanks. They are of the igloo type, and are constructed of iron which makes them entirely unsuited to Australian climatic conditions. Most of the huts are leaking badly. Complaints about them have come principally from British immigrant miners in the Cessnock, Belmont and Kurri Kurri areas who are playing a very important part in increasing coal production. For these huts the unfortunate men are charged a rental of £2 15s. a. week, plus 10s. a week for furniture which consists of a. small table, two single beds and an ice chest ! In an endeavour to have their grievances rectified the men have held numerous meetings which have been, attended not only by myself but also by representatives of the miners federation. When the Minister acting for the Minister for the Interior (Sir Philip McBride) visited the Cessnock area on one occasion he was shocked by the conditions under which the men were living: He reported the matter to the Minister for Immigration, who in turn passed it on to the Department of the Interior, which has since conducted negotiations with, the New South Wales Government with, a view to remedying the defects in the huts. This morning I asked whether a reply bad been received from the New South. Wales Government on the. subject but I could obtain no- infformation. Some honorable members opposite have- sought to gain’ a political advantage by asking questions relating to British immigrants in my electorate. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean), who has interested himself in this matter has been more successful in obtaining information about it than I have. Obviously, the honorable member is given information so that when it is published in the press and in association with the name of the honorable member the people will infer that “ Old Rowley “ is not doing his job. I appeal to the Government and to honorable members opposite generally to play the game.
As honorable members are aware until I became a member of this Parliament I was a coal-miner. When I was working in the mines petty stoppages of work were always taking place for one reason or another. Since British immigrants have been employed in the mines, petty stoppages have been almost eliminated. The British miners, who have done a splendid job for Australia, should not be penalized by having to pay exorbitant rent for accommodation in huts which I have described as nothing more than exaggerated tanks.
The Government has erected a number of prefabricated houses in the mining areas which it has offered to miners at the exorbitant rent of £3 19s. 6d. a week. They are still unoccupied. I understand that the Government is now prepared to hand over these houses to the State Government. I asked a question on that subject this morning, but I could obtain no information about it. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later hour.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 18th February (vide page 34), on motion by Mr. Anthony -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony), in his secondreading speech, gave a glowing account of this bill, but, in the end, he was forced to admit that it was merely an interim measure that would provide statutory authority for the establishment of television services in Australia. I propose to show that the bill could have been described more aptly in this way: “A bill to pretend to do something definite about television after years of delay on the part of this Government “. Whilst pretending to set up a dual system, such as we have in broadcasting, the Minister has taken arbitrary powers which could lead to the creation of a dangerous monopoly for one or two groups which he favoured. That is the effect of the bill. The Minister may, in his graciousness, allow the Australian Broadcasting Commission to operate a television programme, or authorize a person or company to operate, television services. The bill contains a series of bare, unrelated powers which are not connected with any plan except the statement made by the Minister in his second-reading speech. There has never been anything like this bill in this Parliament.
In the mechanics of television, we are lagging behind other countries, because this Government has never been able to make up its mind. It has permitted itself to be influenced, and, indeed, is still being influenced, by pressure groups of various kinds. Television is the willo’thewisp. From time to time there is a little show of activity - not too much, but a little - then the subject is again pigeonholed. I assert that the Government, in introducing this measure, is not genuine. It hopes to gain a party political advantage by pretending to do something. Therefore the bill is a sham.
Television is not a new discovery. It is 50 years old in Great Britain. The British Broadcasting Corporation started on television in 1932, and adopted the present 405-line standard for regular programmes in 1937. The war set television back for equipment reasons, because in dealing with television we are dealing with one of the most important defence industries, which is now broadly described as electronics and which played such a vital part in the winning of the war, particularly in connexion with radar. Television has been making tremendous headway since the fighting ended in 1945, and is now a major industry in the United States of America. It is in operation in Canada, France, Italy, West Germany, Holland, Sweden, Norway and many of the countries of South America.
What has been done in Australia? A broad scheme - not a final one, because television was still in the experimental stage - was laid down by the Chifley Government, but the present Government has simply talked, and is still talking, about television, and has not done anything to give the people a service. This bill will not take us a step nearer television. The Chifley Government authorized the establishment of television, and appointed the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to deal with the matter. A senior technical officer of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, who is now a member of the board, was sent round the world to investigate television systems, and report on the standards that should be adopted here. The Chifley Government determined specifications after an exhaustive examination of the services in operation in the United Kingdom and the United States of America, and it was decided to introduce what is known technically as the 625-line standard as against the 525-line used in America and the 405-line in Britain. I can only form a judgment on the basis of reports and my own reading on the subject, but I think that the scheme, had it been adopted, could have placed Australia in the lead on the technical side.
The Postmaster-General in the Chifley Government called for tenders as long ago as the 11th August, 1948, and they closed on the 20th January, 1949, for the immediate establishment of television stations in the six capital cities. Had they been established, they would have given services to 60 per cent, of the people. It was then estimated that the service would be in operation by January, 1951. Eleven Australian and overseas manufacturers submitted tenders to supply and install the equipment. Additional information had then to be obtained. The Government was about to accept the tenders when one of the firms issued a writ claiming that the acceptance of the tender would be unlawful. That action caused a major delay. The board and the Postmaster-General’s Department submitted further recommendations for the acceptance of tenders covering the six capital cities, and the matter was held in abeyance pending the general election in 1949.
The present Government announced that it proposed to permit privately owned stations to operate television services. The Government asked the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to submit a report on the way in which stations should be licensed, and the board submitted a memorandum to the Postmaster-General in February, 1950, indicating alternative ways of carrying out its policy. That occurred nearly three years ago. If the Government had had a plan, it could have gone ahead; but it failed to go ahead. On the 27th June, 1950, the Postmaster-General announced that, instead of carrying out the Labour Government’s plan for the commencement of television services in the six capital cities, there would be, in the beginning, only one station - a national television station - in Sydney. He also indicated that the Government was prepared to grant one commercial television licence for Sydney, one for Melbourne and “ in any other capital city where it felt that the applicant’s capacity to provide the service justifies the issue of a licence “. What an expression ! The Government would give a licence to a commercial enterprise if everything was all right. The statement was completely vague. The Government announced those as what it called “ firm decisions “, and promised then that television would be in operation in Australia within the next two years. In the meantime other countries were going ahead with the establishment of their services.
More delays occurred in Australia. The Government promised to introduce a bill dealing with television in 1950. Nearly three years later, it introduces this bill, which the Postmaster-General has described as an “ interim step “. The Government also decided in 1950 that the tenders submitted in 1948 were out of date, and, accordingly, new specifications were framed on the 7th September, 1950, for a single television station in Sydney. Once again, manufacturers were involved in considerable expense and research work; but nothing has since been done. The tenders are again out of date. If the Government ever did decide to go ahead with the matter, tenders would be called for a third time, and the old routine would have to be gone through. The truth is that the Government has stalled on these matters, and has involved manufacturers, local and overseas, who have submitted tenders’, in considerable expense. They were asked to submit firm tenders, and they did so. In view of the alterations of price levels since that time, because every body knows that prices have skyrocketted in the interval, all those tenders are no guide at all to present-day expenses.
The next step in the tortuous history of this matter was taken when the Tele vision Advisory Committee was appointed in December, 1950. The chairman of that committee was the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Mr. Boyer, and the members were the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, Mr. Fanning, and the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, Mr. Chippindall. The committee recommended that a special mission on television be sent abroad to study what was happening overseas. It was only another excuse for delay, as Mr. Fanning and the chief technical officer of the board had already been overseas for that very purpose. There were no representatives on that important mission of any interests other than the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Postmaster-General’s Department, and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. The members of the mission were away for five months, and, according to an announcement made at the time, returned to Australia in May, 1951, with all the latest technical information. Meanwhile, the tenders were still in the pigeon holes, and dust was accumulating on them.
An active campaign of propaganda then began to develop. The next thing we heard of television was the visit of the Postmaster-General to ‘South Africa. Actually, that journey was not associated with television. He was engaged on another important mission relating to civil aviation. However, it was announced -subsequently that he would extend his travels and study television on behalf of the Government. He had the opportunity to do so, and on his return to Australia said that he “had all the answers “, and did not want any more inquiries. He submitted his views to Cabinet, but was overruled. He opposed the idea of a royal commission to investigate television, but the Government appointed a royal commission for that purpose.
Why has the Government introduced this bill? I have already given my description of it, and I do not propose to discuss its provisions. Obviously it simply gives to the Minister a power under which he may grant a monopoly to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, if he so wishes, by not granting any other licences for the operation of television services. I am speaking now of the bare legal power. Under the provisions of the bill, the Minister could give. a monopoly to any commercial station. No plan is involved in it. The Government is really frightened that it will offend some one. It thinks that if it issues a licence to one interest it will offend another interest. So it will ! The Government is afraid that even the national television service will alienate some supporters. Therefore it has appointed a royal commission to inquire into television, but it has not asked the commission to submit its report within any specified time. It need not make its report for twelve months, eighteen months, or two years. Some kind of policy should be laid down on these matters. I do not offer any personal criticisms of the members of the royal commission. I point out that the terms of reference have not been made wide enough to meet the present situation. I need give only one example to prove this to the satisfaction of any fair-minded person. The commission is asked, first, to report on the number of “national and commercial television stations which, in its opinion, can bc effectively established and operated, having regard to the financial and economic considerations involved and the availability of suitable programmes. Tinder that term of reference, the commission could report that it considered that there should be only one television station, at any rate for an ‘experimenta’l period of a number of years. How can we, in the circumstances, proceed to discuss this bill, which gives the PostmasterGeneral unlimited power to grant as many licences as he wishes?
No member of the royal commission has a knowledge of the technical aspects of television except perhaps the chairman of the broadcasting control board. He is not a technician in the sense that he is a scientist, but he has been a member of the board for some time. The third member of the broadcasting control board,. Mr. Ogilvy, resigned from his position at least two years ago and his place has not yet been filled. All the proceedings of the board since, then have been null and void, because the statute provides for a membership of three. The Government has treated this matter with extraordinary casualness. The PostmasterGeneral was asked a question in the House today about the vacancy caused by Mr. Ogilvy’s resignation, and he replied that the Government was considering the matter. It has been considering the matter for a couple of years now! It seems to me at first glance that everything that has been done by that board since Mr. Ogilvy resigned - not that it has done very much - represents just so much wasted effort. That is how broadcasting in Australia is being administered under this Government.
There is to be nobody with judicial experience on the royal commission. Somebody like, the former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, Sir John Latham,, a completely independent man able to assess evidence,, should have been appointed to it. Such a member would have been extremely helpful. I do not criticize the chairman who has been selected, Professor Paton, but the fact is that he lacks the qualifications and experience of a competent jurist. Certainly the membership of the commission does not include anybody with knowledge of the practical aspect, of the entertainment industry, and television must be regarded to some, degree as an entertainment although not: entirely so. If it were merely an entertainment,, of course, it would not. be worth having. It. must provide something more than entertainment. None of the Government’s appointees has been associated with the. operation .of a television station anywhere as. far as I know.
– Does the right honorable gentleman want the experts to be appointed to the commission, or does he want them to be called to give evidence before it?
– It was announced, to-day that people could write to the commission to make suggestions, and I imagine, therefore, that they will not be called as witnesses to give evidence. Thus, the task of the. commission will not be entirely that of assessing evidence, and it would be advisable to include in its membership somebody who has knowledge of the technical aspects of television.
The Church of England Primate, Dr. Mowll, recently had this to say about television -
Television is undoubtedly the most powerful force in determining the outlook and standards of- children that has appeared in the last century.
Surely the churches have a completely detached view of this matter. They have no commercial interests to serve, and one might reasonably have expected them to be represented on the commission. In fact, I made a public statement to that effect recently on behalf of the Labour party. The membership of the commission will not include an educationist, because the distinguished professor who has been appointed chairman is a professor of law, but is not in the ordinary sense an expert in the specialized technical field of education.
– He is Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne.
– I am aware of that. I am not criticizing him, because I realize that he is a very able professor of law as well as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne. He has been appointed to administer a certain aspect of the university’s work, but he does not pretend to be an authority in the specialized field of education. The membership of the commission does not include any representation of industry, on behalf of either management or the trade unions. The membership consists, so far as I can judge, of a representative of each State. Most of the members are’ supporters of the present Government.
– That is wrong.
– That is my opinion. There may be exceptions, but the comments that have been made by some of them suggest that they are supporters of the Government. That does not disqualify them from serving on the commission, but the Government should have achieved a balance instead of heavily loading the commission in its own favour. There should be representation of the other side of politics as well.
If the purpose of the inquiry is to make sure that we shall avoid mistakes that have been made in other countries, there would have been merit in bringing experts to Australia from overseas. I have in mind men like Sir Ernest Fisk, who is one of the greatest television experts in the world. However, the commission consists of only one representative of each State. Apart from the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the members will have to acquire the basic knowledge essential to an understanding of television. The appointment to the commission of the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is open to grave question because one of the directives to the commission is that it shall approve standards which the board must obey. The result of the Government’s decision is that the report of the commission will consist of the combined opinions of six members. How much time those members will be able to devote to the affairs of the commission is a matter of considerable doubt. The chairman has an assignment in London next May, and he must prepare for that. Therefore, there will be delay. The commission should be required to make its report within a specified period of time. Its terms of reference are a condemnation of the Government, because they cover the ground that the Government tried to cover in its pronouncement of policy in 1950.
Will the Government give an undertaking that it will accept the findings of the commission, even if they run counter to the views of the Postmaster-General? If not, what purpose will the commission serve? Such a measure of confidence should be reposed in it by the Government if it is to make some definite con tribution to the future of the television industry in Australia. The bill lacks a plan. It does not specify the conditions under which television may be conducted in Australia. It states no principle. Under its terms, we could have a commercial monopoly or a government monopoly. The Minister appears to suppose, if his second-reading speech is a reliable guide, that the alternative to a government monopoly conducted by a statutory corporation like the Australian Broadcasting Commission is a completely commercial undertaking. That is not so. An illustration, which is not far-fetched, immediately springs to my mind. The Government might decide to give a television broadcasting licence to one of the great churches because of the effect of television on the people from the point of view of education and moral guidance. The granting of such a licence would be a guarantee that the programmes broadcast under its authority would be properly conducted. Nobody would call that a commercial venture, even though the church conducting the television station might have to make charges for advertising. I have cited this hypothetical case only for the purpose of emphasizing my point that it is wrong to imagine that, in the absence of a government corporation like the Australian Broadcasting Commission, there must be some completely commercial organization operating solely for profit.
The bill contains no policy. It merely specifies legal powers under which either monopoly television or competitive television may be given the signal to go ahead. It will not promote the development of television in Australia in any way, and it does not satisfy any of the questions that arise in our minds when we consider the granting of television licences. It leaves the whole matter entirely in the air and leads to no conclusion. It contains no statement that will bind the Government. Let us consider one point of detail that must be dealt with sooner or later. Who will operate the government stations if television licences are made available for such stations? The bill refers to an authorized body “. But what will be the authorized body? Is it to be a political instrument of the Government?
Under the terms of the bill, the PostmasterGeneral will be able to make his own terms and conditions. He will be given an open cheque. Clause 4, which refers to the granting of licences for commercial television stations, confers the widest possible arbitrary powers upon the Minister. The provisions in relation to the granting of licences for such an enormously important service should specify definite conditions. Why should not the terms be laid down in the bill? A special authority should be established to deal with the granting of licences. This matter is too important to be made the subject of absolute unfettered ministerial discretion. How long will a television broadcasting licence endure? There is no specification in the bill. There is no provision to govern the number of licences that may be issued to one organization. It will be possible for the Minister to grant a monopoly to one organization of private stations or to a single group of interests. There is no limit to the number of stations that may be operated under the control of one organization. There is no provision for the payment of licence-fees, either by viewers or by television broadcasters. If there are to be no such charges, the fact should be disclosed. But nothing is disclosed in the bill. There is no plan in it.
The Postmaster-General merely asks the Parliament to grant to him, through this measure, complete autocratic powers to impose his own terms and conditions in relation to television. The Parliament should not grant such powers to him at this stage. It should be asked to consider a .clear, specific and fully disclosed plan. In fact, a refusal by the Parliament to pass the bill would not delay television in any way. Neither will the passage of the measure accelerate its establishment and development. It’ is still possible for the Government to accept a tender from those that were submitted originally. Furthermore, it could call for additional tenders if it wished to do so. Either the royal commission is unnecessary or the bill is premature. This attempt bv the Government to have an independent inquiry into the number of licences that should be issued is incompatible with its pretence that licences may be issued under the terms of this bill as the Postmaster-General thinks fit.
The findings of the royal commission, if they are worthwhile and based on evidence, should be the basis of legislation passed by this Parliament. The findings of the commission must be either accepted or rejected by the Government. But that should not end the matter. They should then be considered by the Parliament. Either the inquiry by the royal commission .should be abandoned, or this bill should be withdrawn. The Government cannot have it both ways. The bill appears to be one of a series of delaying tactics employed by the Government because it cannot make up its mind. The majority of the Government’s supporters in this House are sceptical of the measure.
The experimental stage of television in Australia has been too long delayed. The plan to establish experimental stations in the six State capital cities has been abandoned, although it would have been implemented if the Chifley Government had not been defeated and would have given a practical start to television in Australia. This bill should be subject to safeguards. It should include watertight provisions against the use of television in the political field by the government of the clay. We have had some experience of the political use of normal broadcasting during the last couple of years under the regime of this Government. Government supporters may laugh, but it is a fact that, since the present Government has been in power, it has been very difficult for the Labour party to obtain the right to reply over national stations to statements on political matters that have been made over the same stations by representatives of the Government.
– The right honorable gentleman is given more broadcasting time by the Australian Broadcasting Commission than anybody else.
– Nothing of the sort. The Minister is becoming too selfconscious. National station broadcasts every Sunday night are full of statements by the honorable gentleman, not always consistent with one another. He has been granted ten times as much broadcasting time over national stations as has been granted to any other Minister or member of this Parliament. However, I pay tribute to the commercial broadcasting stations, which have given to the Opposition the right, which has so often been refused by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, to reply to Government statements. In fact, political control of television would be extremely dangerous, as everybody who is aware of experiences in connexion with television during the recent United States presidential election campaign will agree. Television is vitally important to the nation, and we must have equality of opportunity so far as that aspect is concerned. Everybody realizes the importance of television programmes and of their impact on the home and on children. Television is an entirely new medium for home education and entertainment, and those in charge of that portion of the administration should have powers, broadly speaking, the same as those that reside in the authorities responsible for the supervision of film entertainment, to which television has a great resemblance. I am not advocating repressive action. I do not want to destroy television in this country before it is properly started, but we must recognize that the entertainment that television provides is brought right into the home. I am critical of monopoly, particularly in connexion with a new instrument like this. By “ monopoly “ I also mean exploiting combines, because it is possible to get exactly the same result by a series of combinations for the same purposes. Vested interests might grab all the economic opportunities at the expense of the public, thus leading to exploitation. I think that there should be real competition at the manufacturing end. The Chifley Government sought to ensure that by calling for tenders. Manufacturers must be entitled to access to patents on reasonable terms. As it is, internal agreements in this field could force prices up to a tremendous height. At the transmission end there must be safeguards against monopoly control.
Tie real future of television lies in the balanced presentation of services catering for every section of the community. The guiding principle must be service to the community, and not merely profit. There must be real competition in that sense, because .there must be facilities for adult education. The adult mind is entitled to share in this form of education to an even greater degree than is the child mind.
I referred to the importance of television from the point of view of the churches. I should like to give the House some quotations from the important royal commission on television in Canada. That tremendously important, inquiry was presided over by the present Governor-General of Canada, Sir Vincent Massey. I give the House the quotations to provide an illustration of the factors that must come into the plan when the plan is made, although my point is that this bill gives no plan whatever. The statement made in the report was that, to provide television network facilities on a national basis in Canada - and I suppose, in size, Canada would be fairly comparable to Australia - would cost from 35,000,000 dollars to 50,000,000 dollars. The same report says -
A much more difficult question has been raised by the development of coloured television. If it can be successfully developed it is likely to replace black and white transmission entirely.
The same authority also said -
Television in the .United States is essentially a commercial enterprise in advertising industry. The sponsors^ endeavouring to give a majority of the people what they want, frequently choose programmes of inferior cultural standards, thinking that they will attract the greatest number of viewers.
Those are comments on the American scene. It may well be that the future for Australian television will be neither the system adopted in the United Kingdom nor the American advertising system described by the Canadian Royal Commission. That is a matter to be considered by this House. The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall), who has a close interest in this matter, had some questions to ask about it. They were as follows : -
Can commercial television anticipate sufficient revenue from commercial sources to carry itself?
Can non-commercial television recoup its operating costs from listening fees? If .so, when and at what listening fee?
Who of the probable applicants .should get licences to operate television commercially?
Are present commercial broadcasters, as the President of the Federation infers, entitled to prior rights?
The honorable member for Paterson also said -
American television offers an average of twelve hours a day. Britain feels that four hours a day exhausts the useful television material available to the British Broadcasting Corporation from all England’s resources. How much can Australia provide?
He concluded -
When all these questions have been examined, prudence could well demand the introduction of television in Australia on an experimental basis only.
I offer no opinion on these questions. I merely submit that wider the most favorable conditions there will be a good deal of trial and error - expensive error - in television.
The question is, what should be done with a bill of this character? Consideration of it by this House cannot be adequate at a time when the Government has established a royal commission before which all the experts will be invited to give evidence. We should have the benefit, not so much of the report that will be made by the commission, but of the evidence given to the commission on which the report will be based. That makes common sense, because the very issues before the royal commission overlap with the issues that we have to determine here. It is of no use to have an act of Parliament that says that the Minister may grant to any one he chooses a licence to conduct television. If it is not intended that that authority be exercised, then the giving of it to the Minister is completely misleading. It amounts to a pretence.
I move -
That all words after “That” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “this House declines to proceed with the second reading until the matters contained in or arising from the bill are impartially investigated and a report thereon furnished to the House and that, for such purpose, the terms of the Royal Commission on Television issued on the 11th February should if necessary be extended, its personnel increased to secure broader and more effective representation, and the evidence and the report made available to the House not later than 11th May, 1953 “. « That will give three months for the commission to make its report to the Government, and so to the House. I shall explain the points of my proposal. The first means that the House is entitled to the report and is, more particularly, entitled to the sworn evidence on which the report will be based, and that the terms of the royal commission should be made clearly to cover matters contained in this bill, by which I mean the dual system of licences which the Minister favours, and my own personal view is that that may well be, and probably will be, the ultimate result.
– What is the right honorable gentleman’s view as Leader of the Opposition? ,
– I shall ask the PostmasterGeneral a few questions after he has replied to the debate. One question will be whether he is in favour of this royal commission which he denounced but which he is now supporting. The second point is that the terms of the royal commission should clearly cover the question of the statutory power of licensing contained in the bill.
The next point in the amendment states that the personnel of the commission should be increased to secure broader and more effective representation. On behalf of the Opposition I made a statement about the representation of technical experts on the actual royal commission, and representatives of the churches and of industry, and I have made similar comments in the course of this debate. Those are matters which should precede a decision by the House. At the same time every attempt should be made to expedite the proceedings of the royal commission in the way that I have attempted to outline.
I submit that my proposal is borne out by the facts that I have endeavoured to put before honorable members.
– Is the amendment seconded ?
– I second it.
– We have just listened to a remarkable speech, indeed a very painful speech. It was painfully delivered and was very painful to listen to, because we could not help thinking while listening to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) spouting this mass of verbiage in an attempt to work out time, how different would have been his approach, if, after having said in a statement to the press that we should have national and commercial television stations, he had not suffered a very severe and sharp rebuke from his own Deputy Leader in this House, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), from the president of the Labour party, and finally to-day from caucus itself. How different his speech would have been had he not been subjected to that embarrassment, because it is noteworthy that the right honorable gentleman made no reference to the principles contained in the bill. He moved an amendment which, like Gilbert’s “ flowers that bloom in the spring”, has nothing to do with the case. When the right honorable gentleman began his speech he used some words with which I propose to deal, because I think that before we get down to an examination of principles, we should expose the right honorable gentleman in all the hypocrisy he has used in dealing with this matter. He said that this bill pretended to do something. What has the right honorable gentleman been doing since he made his statement to the press to which I have referred? He has been pretending! He pretended throughout the 40 minutes of his speech to-night. One could not call him the “ Young Pretender “, but he is certainly the “ Great Pretender “. He said that we had yielded to pressure groups. Here is a man who aspires to become Prime Minister of this country in due course, who says, “ I believe in dual licensing with regard to television “ and then yields to the pressure of his deputy leader, and of the president of the Labour party and finally, to-day, meets his final humiliation from his own caucus. Now he has to come into the House and eat his words. He is a leader who is shown the way to go by his own rank and file. He leads his party from behind. He says that this bill is a sham.
– So it is .’
– Order ! The honorable member for Lalor must not interject.
– Honorable members and the country can judge that observation in its true sense. How unfortunate that the right honorable gentleman should have used the word “ sham “, because the whole of his speech to-night has been a sham. I propose to show later that that is so. In copious verbiage, which he read to save himself time and embarrassment, he related the circumstances that led up to this bill, but he failed to give the highlights of the history. I hope to give them to the House later. This is a classic example of a man who, by contortion, succeeds in facing both ways at once. In the case of Siamese twins, sometimes an operation is performed. The operation in this instance has been rather successful, because it has succeeded in dismembering the body and in getting the gentleman to face one way. That of itself is an achievement. The -honorable member for Melbourne, for whom I have a great regard because he, at least, believes in the principles of his party-
– Come and kiss him.
– Forgive me if I do not take advantage of that offer, because the honorable member apparently finds greater solace in kissing immigrants. He is an unashamed socialist. He is a staunch upholder of Labour’s policy. If there is a man I like in politics, it is one who stands four square for the policy of his party. I have no time for people who try to undermine their party, or are prepared to sell out their party in order to gain political advantage. Therefore, I have a regard for the honorable member for Melbourne. T have great sympathy for him when I find that he has to correct his leader so often with regard to the policy of the Labour party - his leader who seeks to cheer chase from time to time. The honorable member for Melbourne, who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, has decided that he will stand up for that plank in the Labour party’s socialization platform from which it has never departed, and from which it never will depart. He is an unashamed socialist. He is a practical socialist. Therefore, when he says that he affirms that the intention of the Labour party is to nationalize television, I accept that that is the policy of his party, and that it is a policy from which the party will not depart. So, when the Leader of the Opposition talks about building monopolies, he talks with his tongue in his cheek, because there could be no greater monopoly than the socialization of television or of broadcasting, which is the main plank of the policy of the party that he leads. The Leader of the Opposition will adopt any stratagem to curry political favour. He will even defy his own party. He has a record for doing so. He has done so, not only in connexion with television, but also in connexion with the Communist legislation. He defended the Communists in the courts of this country, and his own party took him to task for doing so.
I point to these matters in passing because it is as well to examine the points of history that the right honorable gentleman conveniently forgot to mention when he was dealing with this subject. He poses now as a moderate, and presents his party as a kind of whitewashed socialist party. The Blackburn interpretation was not good enough for him, and now it has been widened by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). But the important point is that, although the Labour party has indulged in some kind of a white-washing process in regard to its policy, it has never rescinded the socialization plank to which every member on the other side of the House, before he faces the electors, is pledged to (rive effect. I have tried to show that, although there are some people within the party who are staunch upholders of Labour’s principles, the leader of the party is prepared, like the successful captain of a windjammer, to trim his sails to any wind that blows. The leopard cannot change his spots. The right honorable gentleman cannot change his blots - and he has many - in regard to the handling of the political situation from Labour’s point of view.
Now, as a crowning indignity, caucus has dumped him. It has forced him to come into this House and swallow his words. Caucus has told him that there is a junta, greater than the elected representatives of the people, which decides the policy of the Labour party. Caucus has blindly accepted its decision and disciplined its leader. He has come into this House in a most embarrassed state, and has endeavoured to convince the people, by moving an amendment of this nature, that he considers the bill is not necessary. That was not what he said when he made his statement to the press. He has come into the House in an endeavour to save his face. At the direction of his party, he has eaten the leek. He has my sympathy. I am sorry for the right honorable gentleman, but he must remember that he has brought this upon himself.
I have pointed out that this is only one of a series of embarrassments that the Leader of the Opposition has had to put up with. What is the history of this matter? I said that I would endeavour to give the House some of the highlights of that history. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), upon his return to this country from overseas, made a statement in which he outlined the Government’s policy. That policy is that there shall be national and commercial stations. It has been published to the world. It was stated in our last policy speech. The Postmaster-General re-affirmed it. On the 24th November, the honorable member for Melbourne, who is, as I have said, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the custodian of the socialist plans of the Labour party, made a characteristic statement to the press. We heard what he said about TransAustralia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. He said that, when the Labour party was returned to power, it would tear up the agreements that had been made with those organizations. On the 24th November he stated that the next Labour government would promptly cancel all television licences issued by the Menzies Government. He went on to say -
Labour will oppose the passage of all legislation to allow a private enterprise to debauch the minds of grown-ups and children in the way American television companies do. The Labour party made television a government monopoly and it will keep it that way, even if greedy interests think they can change the situation to their own advantage.
Honorable members on both sides of the House will acknowledge that that is an indication of the dictatorial attitude that every socialist adopts in dealing with the people. The honorable gentleman, in characteristic fashion, said that when Labour was in office it would force the people to listen to the programmes that it wanted them to listen to and to look at the programmes that, it wanted them to look at. He. said, in. effect, “ When we have the. opportunity to exercise those powers, by George, we shall do so. If you, the Government, dare to give to the people of Australia the right to choose their own radio and television programmes, we shall destroy that freedom when we are returned to power “. The Leader of the Opposition, this great jurist, this learned gentleman steeped, in the law, who seeks to express the fairness that comes naturally to- him as a result of his long association with the law, revolted at that statement by his deputy. He forgot that he was leader of the socialist party. He thought that he was still on. the High Court Bench, dispensing justice and fairness.. He thought that he was still the custodian of the freedom of the people. How disillusioned he must be to-day! On the 25th November, the day after his deputy had spoken, he made a statement. He did not wait for two or three days to go by. He did not wait to consult his party. He was exalted by a desire to preserve the liberties of the people and to give them a free choice, as was his wont when he was on the High Court bench. Without thinking, recking little, he said -
Australia will probably rely upon a dual system in which the Australian people will own a service and commercial stations will also do so. This will be along the lines of the present broadcasting system.
The right honorable gentleman, as a great champion of the liberty and freedom of the people, said, “ Those are the things that I shall do “. But his deputy said, “ You may be the leader of the party, but there is a junta behind us that is greater than you, and which has no need to face the electors. It has laid down our policy, and that is the policy to which you must give effect “.
So the right honorable gentleman forgot the freedoms of the people, he forgot justice and he forgot the rights of the poor man. He sought his own political advantage, and he said, “ I am sorry. I am prepared to do what you want me to do, provided you will let me be leader of the party. That is what I want. I am not concerned to stand for principles when my position, is at stake. To me, the position is much more important than principles “.. The honorable member for Melbourne went to. a former- PostmasterGeneral’, Senator Cameron-, and said, “ Look here, Cammy, old boy, we cannot let the leader get away with this, because he is wrecking- the party. Be a good boy and come in with me. W e will break this fellow down “. That is what happened. Senator Cameron came in, supported the honorable member for Melbourne and administered a rebuke to the Leader of the Opposition. That was followed by a very sharp rebuke from Mr. Reece, the federal president of the Australian Labour party - the federal president of the body that decides the policy of the Labour party. The Leader of the Opposition was being steam-rollered. He was being brought into line - not. reluctantly, I admit, because if he had not. done so he would, have ceased to be the leader of his party. Mr. Reece said -
It has generally been accepted- that Labour is opposed to the exploitation of television by commercial interests.
That was an. understatement. That policy was enunciated in a bill that was sponsored by the Chifley Government. The whole thing was cut and dried, and there was no getting away from it. I say, with great respect, that it was only the political ignorance of the Leader of the Opposition that got him into this trouble. Although he was Attorney-General in the Chifley Government, and although he was the person who drafted legislation that put the policy of the Labour party upon this matter beyond reasonable doubt, apparently he forgot that legislation. Or did he think that his own personal interests were of. far greater importance than were the interests of the party that he represented? Honorable members can decide whether they believe that the right honorable gentleman, who was responsible for the drafting of the legislation to which I have referred and is steeped in the. law, forgot so important a matter. Everybody knows that, despite the Blackburn declaration and the subsequent watering down of that declaration, the policy of the Labour party is still socialization, as it was when it sought to socialize the banking system of this country. The
Labour party is still a socialist party and is still wedded’ to the principles of socialism. It has embarrassed and shamed its own leader in this House and before the country. So strong is the socialist feeling in the Labour party outside this House that it is prepared to revile anybody who dares to dispute those principles, and it has even reviled its own leader.
– The Liberal party was reviled by the people at the recent general elections in New South Wales.
– I suggest that the previous Labour Government was reviled by the people when it sought to introduce the socialization of banking in this country. The people will not easily forget that socialization is still the policy of the Labour party. The electors will feel a certain amount of satisfaction in remembering, after the debate on this bill has concluded, that the Leader of the Opposition, that moderate gentleman who has declared that he will not take any socialistic steps against any organization unless it adversely affects the people generally, is still a member of the Labour party, and that whatever action that he may take in the future will be decided by a junta behind the party. The right honorable gentleman may go put to the people and mouth his promises and cajole and mislead them, but when a bill is presented to the Parliament by a future Labour government he will not be the man to make the ultimate decisions. The people should always remember that. The honorable member for Melbourne has made his position perfectly clear, and he would not be Deputy Leader of the Opposition unless he subscribed to the socialist policy of the Labour party. In order to put that statement beyond reasonable doubt, let me say that when a colleague of his in the last Labour Ministry said in 1945 that he would not allow people to own their own homes because he would not make little capitalists out of them, the honorable member for Melbourne said, in effect, “I am and always have been anticapitalist “.
– Hear, hear !
– Of course the honorable member for Melbourne says “ Hear, hear ! “, but it is well that all
these facts should be remembered by the people because the honorable member for Melbourne is a practical and unashamed socialist. In 1948, Senator Cameron, who was then Postmaster-General - and I ask honorable members to take careful note of this matter, because it fits into the socialist pattern - sought to take complete control of the Australian Broadcasting Commission system. Drunk with power, he considered that it was impossible that the people should not accept the Labour Government’s promises at their face value. Consequently, he described a measure that he brought down as one which would give the Minister almost dictatorial powers. Let us consider who drew up that measure. It was the present Leader of the Opposition. Who supported the measure and who gave the Minister dictatorial powers? Almost all the honorable members who sit on the Opposition benches gave him those powers. In other words, the Opposition advocates that listeners to broadcast programmes or viewers of television should listen to or view only what a socialist government would allow them to. The Opposition would allow the public no choice. The people would be required to look at what the socialist party wanted them to look at, and to listen to what the socialist party wanted them to listen to - and, by George, they would like it! If they did not that would be just too bad, because the Minister would have dictatorial powers and would ensure that if the people did not bow to his wishes they would get nothing else. Contrast that Labour policy with the policy of the Menzies Government, that every citizen should have the right to choose his own programme. It is essential we should not be a regimented community, and that our people should still be able to exercise their free choice. This itch to control influenced the Labour party when Mr. Chifley sought to direct people to work in such a way that no person would have had the right to choose his own business or employment. On a certain occasion he said that people would have no right to live in their own homes continuously, they would be transported, in great communities if necessary, to centres where work was available.
The people should remember that they will have no choice in a socialist community and will not be able to exercise their free will.
– No such statement was ever made.
– It was quoted in this House by me.
– It was not.
– It certainly was, and the words that I used are almost the identical words used by Mr. Chifley on that occasion.
– It was never said, and you, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, are even now qualifying his original statement.
– Order !
– The honorable member for Lalor (Mi”. Pollard) can read Mr. Chifley’s words in Hansard and prove to himself that what I have said is correct.
– It is not correct.
– I suppose that SO per cent, of the listening public to-day listen to commercial stations in preference to national stations, but the Labour party would deny them any choice. The Opposition would say, “ There are national stations for you, take them and like them “. The Opposition would even- go so far as to nationalize Bob Dyer and Jack Davey.
– ¥e would nationalize the Vice-President of the Executive Council.
– Order ! The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin).
– The advantages and disadvantages of television, and its effects on children and adolescents, have been considered by the Government. I have seen television in England and America and I know the pitfalls that must be avoided. The public has discussed these matters at great length, and consequently the Government has, rightfully and deliberately, refrained from laying down conditions under which television will be conducted until the views of the people have been heard. Hence the Government set up a royal commission to investigate the whole matter. The Leader of the Opposition apparently would have added two church representatives to the members of the royal commission because if he had put one church representative on the commission he would have had to add a second. He would also have added employers and trade union ‘ representatives and experts. We would have had a royal commission of all generals and no privates. Half the community would have been on the royal commission. The tribunal set up by the Government will take evidence from all interests. What I have said must make it abundantly clear to . commercial radio stations throughout the country that their position is now just as precarious as was the position of the banks when the socialists sought to nationalize banking. In the light of what has happened through the Labour party humbling their leader by force majeure, they should take notice of the signs of the times. They should notice that the Labour party, feeling an upward surge of elation because of State election victories, is again advocating its socialist principles to the detriment of all those interests which stand for freedom in this country.
– J am glad that I was here before the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) began to speak, because otherwise I would not have known the nature of the bill being debated by the House. So many subjects and personalities have been thrown into the debate by the Minister that the Opposition has been given the impression that he believed he was being televised for the amusement of those who could not be amused by any other means. His unfortunate display to-day is not in keeping with the high office that he holds, and it is not to his credit that he should have delivered a futile diatribe on a completely serious matter. He has acted like a person who has something to hide, and he has chosen rather to rant than to face the rational charges made by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). The Minister has not attempted to answer those charges, and has discussed everything but the bill before the House. Eather than follow that unworthy example I propose to discuss the measure now before honorable members. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) said that we all agreed that television should be made available to the Australian people. Indeed, clause 3 of the bill sets out that the Postmaster-General may make television stations available. As the Leader of the Opposition said, the bill does not indicate when this clause shall have effect. In other words, there is nothing specific as to time in the measure. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has made no reply to that charge. I do not accept the premises of the Postmaster-General, and I suggest that after the House has heard my reasons for saying that it will agree that they are good ones. Not only has the PostmasterGeneral left open the date upon which this legislation shall come into operation but he has also failed to indicate how much further it will widen the disparity between the city and country amenities, a matter that is of such great significance at present. Perhaps he could reply to those charges later. In any event, I do not agree that television services should be introduced immediately.
Let us ask whether the present is an acceptable time to introduce a great service such as television. The PostmasterGeneral said that there was merely a difference of opinion about detail. What he means by “ detail “ is quite vague. “ Detail “ may be some matters upon which the Leader of the Opposition has already touched - that is whether there are to be national stations only or a dual system. The Government has a majority in the House but recent State elections have indicated that it certainly has not the confidence of the people. There has been ample illustration of that fact. The Government has a very doubtful moral right to introduce a measure of this kind into the Parliament at present. When it is about to hand over office to another government it is pretending that it is about to establish a principle which will have far-reaching effects on the economy of Australia. That, however, is quite a minor point compared with another question of detail that must be cleared up. I refer to the state of our economy. I pause to repeat the question I asked earlier : Is this a suitable time for the introduction of television in Australia? To that question there can be but one emphatic answer. In answering it I could not be more emphatic than was the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) in October, 1950, when, by analogy, he spoke of our “ muscle “ and “ fat “ categories in constructional work. The right honorable gentleman will remember that he then described television as “ fat “ and called upon us, to use his own words, “ to concentrate on providing muscle “ - he described muscle as the construction of basic materials and “ to cut out all this nonsense about ‘ fat ‘ “.
– It was quite a good speech.
– I agree with the right honorable gentleman. However, he had no sooner given that advice to the House than he went on to say that we must introduce the “ fat “ in small quantities, implying that a little bit of “ fat “ might then be introduced. That was the most illogical portion of his speech. The first part of his speech was sound, but the advice he subsequently tendered was completely illogical.
– The honorable member would do well to quote the whole speech.
– If the right honorable gentleman wishes me to do so, I should be prepared to quote from it extensively in order to prove the truth of what I have said. He cannot claim that our economy has improved since he made the statement. If I remember aright, only a few weeks ago the basic wage was raised by another ls. a week, so that the inflation that already existed when the right honorable gentleman made the statement still goes on. The Government, in taking this step, notwithstanding the excellent advice given by the Minister for National Development in the speech to which I have referred, has placed its members, particularly the Minister for National Development, in a very peculiar position. To speak of the cultural value of education by television, when the States are starved for school buildings and teachers - the very means by which people can be made sufficiently literate to understand the value of or to use television intelligently - to indulge in an orgy of spending, for entertainment while urgent hospital building is at a complete standstill, and to advocate the provision of amusement “ fat “ while our economy is such that we cannot raise a necessary loan, is- to cast this Government in the rok of Nero. It is simply fiddling while the House of the Commonwealth is being brought almost to a state of destruction. The Government might very well look into that aspect of television. After Ministers have heard a number of Opposition speakers discuss this bill in terms of the economic position of Australia they will be prepared to give a very attentive ear t’o the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition.
To establish television in Australia is to talk in terms of millions of pounds. It is immaterial to our economy whether those millions of pounds are provided by the Government or by private enterprise. That which is urgently required will be set back because of the action taken by the Government in providing amusement “ fat “ about which we have heard so much. Industries which are in serious need of all the basic materials will be retarded as the result of this venture in television. Let me give one illustration of that. The writer of an article published in Teleview in December, 1950, states that on a site at Gore Hill selected for the Sydney station, a 500-ft. mast was to be erected, and that, because of space limitations, the mast would be a self-supporting structure with a base of about 50 feet square and using about 150 tons of steel. As honorable members well know, steel is one of the commodities that is very urgently needed for public works of all descriptions, and a mast is but a small item in the huge works that will be involved in the construction of television stations.
I have been led to believe that Mr. Arthur “Warner and his son, Mr. Graham Warner, the directors of Electronic Industries Limited, made a proposition to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to establish television in Australia and that the company was prepared to build three stations and connect radio relays which would cost many millions of pounds. The company indicated that it was prepared to raise the necessary money by public subscription, but that if difficulties arose as the result of the operation of the capital issues control the company had the necessary funds to finance the construction of the stations. The September, 1952, issue of Teleview states that the company was tossing television guided bombshells at the Government as fast as they could be turned out. The company placed before the Government a farreaching scheme which, in the opinion of the Prime Minister, represented “ an entirely new approach to the television problem “. The scheme itself was a simple one. Electronic Industries Limited offered to build television stations in all capitals immediately and link them with a microwave relay system. If the Capital Issues Board stood in the way, Electronic Industries Limited had the cash necessary to erect stations in the three largest capital cities. As a final master stroke Warners offered to hand over the network to the Government at cost price for a national service, thus overcoming objections from many sources to the introduction of a commercial system. That seems to have been a most remarkable proposition to come from private enterprise because television would undoubtedly become a government monopoly; but these people had so much confidence that they felt that they could submit their scheme to the Prime Minister with a reasonable chance of having it accepted. Thus, television would take millions from our economy, and vital materials urgently needed to meet our immediate needs would be diverted to “ fat “ in the form of amusement. There can be no justification for the immediate introduction of television. Our overall economy is obviously No. 1 priority.
I have been informed somewhat authoritatively that television links between Sydney and Melbourne will cost up to £7,000,000. I have also been informed that, for a similar amount of money, approximately 600 additional telephone channels could be provided between those two cities. Less than 100 channels are now available. I do not think that any one would have difficulty in deciding which of the two represents a “ muscle “ service and which represents a “ fat “ service. Does not all this prove rather conclusively that an inquiry, particularly an economic inquiry, should precede the introduction of such a measure as that now before us? That is precisely the proposition placed before the House by the Leader of the Opposition. Whichever way we look at the matter, television will greatly affect our economy and no scheme of this kind should be brought before the House until it has been made the subject of a proper economic inquiry.
– The Leader of the Opposition has said that six television stations would now be in operation if the. Labour Government had remained in office.
– I do not want to bc told what somebody else has said on this subject. I am making my own statements in regard to it. To make matters worse, it will be observed that the royal commission appointed by the Government to inquire into this matter does not include an economist in its membership. If the Government had any appreciation of its responsibility to protect the Australian economy it would have included an economist in the membership of the royal commission. It is true that an accountant has been appointed, but an accountant is not necessarily an authority on economics. The appointment of an economist to the commission is most essential.
Australia is a young country, sparsely populated and with a poorly balanced economy at present. Television was first established some years ago, but it is still in the experimental stage. More advanced countries which can afford to experiment in television are doing so. In the United States of America a great deal of experimental work is being done in colour television. It seems likely that when colour television has been perfected earlier methods of televizing programmes will be scrapped. This country can scarcely afford to experiment in colour television, having regard to the peculiar circumstances that pertain here - an unbalanced economy, a small population, very great distances and the poor services which we can provide. As I reminded the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) earlier, it will not be possible for the Government to provide television services for people in rural areas. The breach between city and country will be still further widened. People will como from the country to the cities so that they may enjoy the benefit of this new type of amusement. The effect of the introduction of television on our economy is a most important consideration. Whilst I contend that this country cannot afford to indulge widely in television at the present time, it is still less able to afford to indulge in a system that will have to be scrapped once experiments in newer fields have been conducted successfully. Quite a feature is made of the importance of television for defence purposes. In my opinion, it would pay us handsomely to send our radar experts and other technicians abroad for training in preference to establishing a huge television octopus that could be a contributing factor to upsetting the balance of our economy. Our technicians could obtain up-to-date training abroad for our defence purposes. It would be unreal to establish a huge television service in Australia merely in order to provide additional training in defence measures for our technicians.
In conclusion, I make the following points : - An inquiry into the effects of the introduction of television on our economy should precede the granting of the authority sought in this bill. That statement cannot be controverted. In the light of the last budget, it is clear that the national economy cannot afford the luxury of television at the present time. From the standpoint of common sense, this small nation must be content to wait until nations more powerful can pass on to us a system that is closer to perfection than television has yet reached. When this has happened, Australia can decide to do what the Postmaster-General has been pleased to describe as “ details “. We can then determine whether we shall accept the remarkable offer of the Warner interests. We shall also be required to make up our minds whether or not we shall have a dual system. All those considerations force me to come to the conclusion that we must not take any risk of bringing the Australian economy nearer destruction than is the case at present by the development of fat instead of muscle.
.- It is not often that such a simple measure as the Television Bill 1953 introduces a subject so complex and full of difficulties, and even dangers or gives rise to so much deliberate misunderstanding on the part of the Opposition. After all, the bill is simple enough. First, it merely authorizes the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) to make available television stations for operation by the Australian Broadcasting Commission or some other approved authority. Second, it makes possible the licensing of commercially-supported television stations. Third, it restates the authority of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board as set out in the Broadcasting Act with respect to the establishment and control of this proposed new industry. With the one exception of permitting the introduction of commerciallysupported television, all the other matters should not worry the Opposition one bit, because members of the Labour party tell us that they believe in a government monopoly, and furthermore, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is their own creature. Therefore, Opposition members are really complaining that this bill constitutes a re-statement of Liberal faith in this particular matter.
The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has said that this bill confers on the Minister the right to create a monopoly in television. I consider that the opportunity might be taken, as it should be taken, to find out what the Labour party has done with respect to handing round broadcasting licenses when it has been in a position to do so. The measure of control which the Australian Labour party or its friends exert in the broadcasting industry of Australia, surely provides the best of all reasons to indicate the urgent need to take control of these matters out of the hands of the Minister and ve3t them in a completely independent authority.
This bill is merely an enabling measure. It is a statement of Liberal faith in private enterprise in this newly developing field of television. Why does the Labour party claim the exclusive right to state its political faith in this House? We have heard many of the most damaging statements that it has been our lot to hear falling from the mouth of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, about the air lines, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and broadcasting. If it is right and proper for members of the Opposition to voice their political faith in such a destructive way that they destroy the confidence of investors in industry, surely they are on very poor ground in attempting to deny us the right to express our political faith .through the medium of this bill. The only departure that it makes from the present situation is that it proposes to authorize private enterprise to enter the television field. We may assume that this bill does not commit the Government to grant license immediately, or in the near future, for the operation of television, commercially or otherwise. The measure merely removes the prohibitions of section 103 of the Broadcasting Act of 1942, which provided that the Minister should not grant licenses for television, frequency modulation or facsimile except on the recommeddations of the Standing Committee on Broadcasting. For all practical purposes, that committee has been replaced by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. Any subsequent steps must now await the report of the royal commission on television which the Government has seen fit to appoint.
When my good friends opposite tell us the details of the system which should be introduced, surely they overlook the fact that the Government is fully appreciative of the difficulties which reside in this particular problem, and accordingly, has appointed the royal commission, which is about to begin its work. The commission will answer in full the complaints voiced by the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews), who would like to know when television will come into operation in Australia. The evidence given before the royal commission will give us the finest possible indication of the proper time for the introduction of the television service. As one who advocated an inquiry into television on the widest possible terms of reference,
While members of the Labour party express concern about the delay in the introduction of television, other people are expressing equally valid concern about the educational, cultural, and economic aspects of this great problem. Without a reasonably intelligent and carefully-made assessment of the difficulties into which we may step, no government is entitled to incur great expenditure on television. Of course, we have sent some missions abroad in order to obtain information about television services in other countries. I doubt the use of them. We have not seen any of their reports, and, consequently, we cannot express a careful opinion on them. Our particular problem is based oh the population, and the disposition of the population. We must also examine the financial resources of the country available to support television. The Leader of the Opposition has done me the honour to quote certain published material which I contributed to a Sydney newspaper in which I asked certain questions. I think that they are quite reasonable, and I hope they will be examined by the royal commission. I asked whether non-commercial television can sustain itself from licence-fees, and whether the commercial television industry can see hope or reasonable expectations of sufficient revenue to maintain a four hours’ service daily with programmes of a good standard. The matter of resources must be examined most carefully. In Great Britain, the British Broadcasting Corporation has control, of television and the programmes are limited to four hours a day. The British Broadcasting Corporation considers that the period of four hours constitutes the limit of useful programme material available to it each day. We do not overlook the fact that Great Britain is probably the home of theatrical talent. The United States of America, with equal resources of talent, has an average of about twelve hours’ television per station each day, but not all the material is of the same standard as that presented by the British Broadcasting Corporation. Therefore, we should ask ourselves how many hours of reasonable programme material can Australia provide from its talent resources, what standards can be maintained, and at what cost the programmes can be made available to the general public. These considerations will affect the whole cost structure of the television industry. They constitute one of the great grounds upon which the Government is completely justified in appointing a royal commission to inquire into television.
All these matters lead to a most important consideration, which has an intimate association with the position of commercial television. I pose a question, and I hope that the royal commission will elicit an answer. Can the commercial broadcasting industry see any hope of getting sufficient revenue for its maintenance? Advertising revenues available in this country, or, for that matter, in any other country, must bear a definite relation to the market for the advertised products and services. The amount of money available from advertising allocations in Australia is not unlimited, and it will not be increased with the mere emergence of an additional advertising medium. It is quite probable that the introduction of commercial television will call for the withdrawal from other media of certain advertising revenue. I cannot help feeling that one of the advertising media that will feel the draught, if television on a commercial scale gets under way, must be the present commercial broadcasting system.
It is quite evident that we shall not be able to maintain many commercial television stations, and it is also evident, on the technical facts alone, that the country areas will not have a television service for a long time. Frankly, I should hesitate to introduce a new system too early, when the vast majority of the Australian people will get nothing from the new medium, and less from the medium on which they now depend as heavily as the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) has indicated. Beyond all these questions lie many technical questions that the royal commission will have to answer. Most people do not’ seem to realize that the heart and core of this problem is in the technical aspects of television. I should like to know what television channels are to be made available for use in Australia. Will they be grouped, or widely separated on the frequency spectrum? If they are to be widely separated, we shall raise for ourselves technical and economic problems in relation to the manufacture of television receivers. It is an interesting fact that many experts in the commercial broadcasting field have said, that they have already chosen sites for television stations. The receiving aerial for a television set must be highly directive in order to be effective and, unless all our transmitting stations are grouped within a reasonable radius, we shall lose the entire directive effect of our receiving aerials. These considerations are not immediately apparent to those who look upon television as merely another branch of the electronic art, but they will have a vital effect on the service that Australia will enjoy. The Leader of the Opposition has quoted my statement that, when we have considered all these aspects of television - programmes, cost, and technical problems - we may well decide that all we can embark upon in Australia for the time being is some limited form of experimental television. I repeat that statement now. This will answer the objection by the Opposition that the Government is rushing into television before it knows where it wants to go. It has appointed an organization which, I hope and trust, will tell us where we ought to put our feet for safety in this relatively uncharted field. I do not believe that anybody in Australia knows all the facts about all the aspects of television that I have mentioned. Therefore, I believe that the royal commission is essential.
I hope that the Government acted sincerely when it appointed the commission and that this .body will make a genuine attempt to solve the problems of the new industry and to lay the foundations for future legislation. If television is to be dealt with in a slipshod manner on this occasion, we shall not be able to conduct a. new inquiry next year. I confess that I was concerned when I read statements made by the chairman of the royal commission. Professor Paton is reported, first, to have said that the commission is not a royal commission in the true sense of the term but is merely a committee set up to take evidence and ‘ to advise the Government. That statement has resulted in understandable confusion in a very important section of the electronics industry. The subject of patents may have to be considered, as the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out. Should that question come before the royal commission, it will be necessary for the .commission to be empowered to take evidence from witnesses on subpoena and to command the production of documents. Therefore, it is important to know whether this body is merely a committee or whether, in fact, it is a true royal commission endowed with all the powers of a royal commission. I hope that the Government will take the earliest opportunity to clarify this point.
– It is a real royal commission.
– I am glad to hear that assurance. Perhaps the Minister will repeat it to Professor Paton. The professor has said also that he wants to do a quick job. I should be much happier if he had said that he wanted to do a thorough job, because despatch and efficiency do not necessarily go together.
I reject the suggestion by the Opposition that a miserable time limit should be imposed on the work of the royal commission, and I am gravely concerned to learn that the chairman proposes to go abroad in May. This will lead inevitably to a situation in which the work of the commission will be curtailed, there will be unnecessary delays, or else it will have to continue its work in the absence of the chairman, which would be an entirely unsatisfactory situation. Having noted that the chairman has already said that the commission will carry on despite the unavoidable absence of one of its members, it appears to me that he has arranged for it to continue with with its work while he is overseas. This gives rise to doubt concerning the reliance that we shall be able to place on the findings of the commission. I make no bones of my view that the Government would have been wise not to appoint Professor Paton under these conditions, or that Professor Paton would have been wise to reject the appointment.
Another ground for lack of confidence in the commission is the fact that no technical man has been appointed to it. I have the support of Mr. H. E. Beaver, the president of the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations, who has said that he doubts whether the royal commission members can carry out their terms of reference because none of them have any technical knowledge. In his opinion, the crux of the entire matter centres on the technical side of television. I concur in that view. I do not, believe that it will be possible for the commission to interpret properly much of the technical evidence that will be given before it. It is true that it will be able to obtain technical advice, but surely the senior technical body in this country, the Institute of Radio Engineers, would have been well pleased to submit a panel of members from whom the Government might have chosen a technical man for appointment to the commission ! It seems also that the Government has succumbed again to the wretched f formula of balanced State representation. The time has come when we may reasonably expect to be able to find a group of good Australians who are prepared to set aside parochial interests and give their services and talents to Australia for the solution of a national problem. It may be true that balanced representation of the States will pacify some small minds, but we need the best brains to examine what may be one of the most complex problems that we shall have to deal with for the next few years. Notwithstanding all these deficiencies, I believe that the establishment of the royal commission was the only step that a responsible government could have taken.
It is evident that, whatever findings may be reached by the commission, a black cloud will continue to hang over the future of television in Australia, if only for the reason that the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy, the honorable member for Melbourne, are not pulling on the same rope. I recall a minority report of the Gibson broadcasting committee in 1942, in which, with other members of the parliamentary committee of that day, the honorable member for Melbourne made the following declaration: -
We have signed the above report and desire to state in amplifi cat ion of our views that we believe that the whole of the broadcasting system should be nationalized. The platform of the Labour party to which we subscribe contains a plank to that effect.
At least, as the Vice-President of the Executive Council has pointed out, the honorable gentleman has the virtue of being consistent. He believes in the platform of his party. I wonder whether the Leader of the Opposition, who finds himself obliged not to subscribe to this policy, has in fact signed the party’s declaration. Apparently the right honorable gentleman wants to lead television into that dual system which operates so satisfactorily in the field of radio broadcasting to-day. He has even gone so far as to raise some constitutional difficulties against the establishment of a television monopoly. It seems to me that some obligation rests on the right honorable gentleman to begin a campaign, private though it may be, to alter the platform of the Labour party and throw out the socialization objective. It is not astonishing, in view of this confusion of opinion within the Labour party, that its federal president, Mr. Reece, finds himself dancing round the ring like a referee trying to order the contestants to their corners and scared to step out for fear that they will resume hostilities. I was interested to hear from the VicePresident of the Executive Council that the position has been finally resolved within the Labour party and that a decision has been given against the Leader of the Opposition, who has been publicly disciplined, and in favour of the honorable member for Melbourne, who has his eye not only on the Labour party’s policy but also on the seat which the Leader of the Opposition hopes to occupy on this side of the House at some future time.
I am happy to support the bill. 1 believe that, notwithstanding any opposition to television that may arise in Australia, we cannot honestly lay claim to being a progressive industrial country and, at the same time, deny the application of its modern scientific principles. Nevertheless it is wise to proceed carefully. As I have said, I offer no firm opinions on any of the problems involved in the development of television. I leave these matters to the royal commission and trust that it will do a thorough job in placing the new industry on sound foundations for the future benefit of Australia.
.- The further the debate on this bill proceeds, the clearer it appears that the approach of the leaders of the Australian Labour party to it is eminently sound and logical. The Opposition has suggested that the royal commission should report upon all aspects of television before the Parliament makes a decision. I have listened very attentively to the reasons that have been given by Government supporters for the introduction of the bill and they appear to me to be most inconclusive. In fact, the bill itself is premature and stands condemned in the words that were spoken by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) in his second-reading speech last week. When the Postmaster-General first introduced the bill, he said that it had been introduced by the Government for the purpose of asking Parliament to endorse the general principles on which it should develop television in Australia. It proposed to adhere to the principles which had been applied to successfully to sound broadcasting. According to the
Postmaster-General, all that this bill proposes to do is to reaffirm a principle. I am at a loss to understand why that principle should be reaffirmed at this juncture because the Postmaster-General added -
After the report of the royal commission lias been considered, the Government will make definite plans for the introduction of both national and commercial services and will bring down a more comprehensive measure so as to give Parliament the opportunity to debate detailed proposals for its establishment and regulation of those sen-ices.
Seeing that the Government proposes to have a full-dress debate on this matter after the royal commission has given its findings, 1 am at a loss to understand why we are having what I might term thu first instalment. Obviously, it is not necessary, because the Government will be influenced to a great extent by the findings of the royal commission. So far, despite the perorations and rantings of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), I have been unable to discover a legitimate reason for the introduction of the bill. Ob v:ously the Government is trying to gain some political advantage from it, but the speeches that have been delivered in sup port of the measure will do nothing tn achieve, that end. The Government has not advanced any sound reason for the bill.
The Postmaster-General said that the royal commission would inquire into the conditions under which the Australian television service would be conducted, and he gave details of six aspects of television that the royal commission would investigate. As the royal commission is to bp asked to bring to light all the different aspects of television about which the Government is not clear, the terms of reference obviously are not wide enough. The amendment proposes to remedy that position. I cannot understand the Governments opposition to it, because television will have such a profound influence upon the daily life of the Australian people that we should make every endeavour to sift all the evidence so that we may develop a system as nearly perfect as possible.
The most contentious question relating to television at the moment is not included in the commission’s terms of reference.
That is the question of dual control. Why has not the royal commission been asked to take evidence upon the necessity or otherwise of dual control? The amendment that has been proposed by the Opposition would provide for that. The royal commission should also call evidence from people in all walks of life so that points of view that may not be evident can be brought to the notice of the Government. This royal commission should have extended terms of reference so that a full and open inquiry will be possible. If the Government agreed to that course, evidence should be submitted as to how commercial television has operated in the United States of America. The royal commission should have information upon the operation of television on a commercial basis. The Government has intimated that the television scheme that it proposes to inaugurate will be half on a commercial basis, and before we embark upon it we should learn as much as possible of the experience in the United States of America, where private control of television has had full sway. The Government has refused to do that. If th<? royal commission took evidence on tha effects of commercial television upon the minds of the people of the United States of America, it would be informed of the desperate effort that has. been made by sponsors to cut the costs of the television programmes. Complaints have been published in daily newspapers about the standards of the commercial television broadcasts in the United States of America. We should sift that evidence before we reach a conclusion here. But the Government has reached important conclusions without taking evidence through the royal commission at all. The royal commission should consider the effect that television will have upon the future pattern of Australian life, and particularly upon the children and young people. It should also be asked to examine whether Australia, with its underdeveloped primary and basic industries, can afford at present to devote a sizeable slice of the national income to television. I shall not express an opinion on that point one way or another, because I have not sufficient evidence at my disposal, but the matter is one of great significance. If the royal commission could take more complete evidence, a decision would be reached that would meet with the approval of the Australian people. Because of the cost involved, honorable members on the Government side have asked themselves whether the Government should introduce television at this time. According to press reports, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) strongly criticized the Government’s proposal. He is reported to have said -
Television was a luxury Australia could not afford. The idea was to reduce taxation but television would tend to increase it. . . . Once started television costs would run into millions. Revenue from television licences would nowhere near cover the costs. . . . How many families would be able to afford more than £100 to buy a television receiving set. . . . The Postmaster-General would be better employed trying to provide telephones for the thousands of people on waiting lists.
They are the thoughts of an influential private member on the Government side. Probably there are other honorable members among his colleagues who think along similar lines. The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) expressed the opinion a few minutes ago that there are several aspects of the royal commission about which he is not pleased, and said amongst other things that there ought to be a thorough investigation into all aspects of television. He considers that such an outcome cannot be expected from the royal commission as at present constituted. It can be seen, therefore, that even Government supporters themselves are not entirely happy with the Government’s proposals. In view of that fact, what would be lost by the Government’s acceptance of that amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, which is designed to throw the whole matter open for wide discussion, and increase the membership of the royal commission to enable a close examination to be made of the opinions of all the experts and of competent witnesses in all walks of life? Taking all these facts into consideration I am at a loss to understand the necessity for the bill itself. In my opinion the Government is guilty of undue and unecessary haste.
I do not know whether the royal commission as at present constituted will take into consideration, although it certainly would under the Opposition’s proposals, the high capital and operating costs involved in television. As far as I can gather the coverage of television in Australia will be limited, for many years, to metropolitan areas and their environs because of those high costs. The honorable member for Paterson himself said so. To maintain existing wireless programmes at existing standards in country areas, while television is operating in the cities, will prove extremely costly, because advertisers will not continue to buy time on ordinary wireless programmes in the country at the rate at which they now buy it, but will use the television networks in the cities as their main advertising medium. Consequently we shall have complaints from country listeners about the lower standards of the radio programmes that will be supplied to them as a result of the overshadowing of ordinary wireless transmission by television. Broadcasting stations in country areas cannot be expected to run at a loss in order to maintain existing standards if their advertising revenue declines to any great degree. That is only one of the important aspects of the introduction of television. Has the Government considered that aspect? It would certainly be considered if the Opposition’s proposals were accepted. This matter is of vital interest to country radio listeners and I should be interested to hear the views on it of members of the Australian Country party among the Government’s supporters.
I turn now to the expense of establishing and operating television. I agree with the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews) that the expense of establishing television in this country at the present time when all sorts of national projects are being stultified through lack of money is a matter of vital concern. Vital works projects in my electorate and in the Darebin electorate, including hospitals, are being abandoned through lack of funds. The construction of one public hospital in my electorate had to be abandoned when the work had reached ground level because of lack of money, and the hospital committee has no idea when further money will be made avail- able in order to enable the work to proceed. It is a national scandal when thickly populated districts like Preston and Northcote in Melbourne cannot get sufficient money to build an important hospital at a time when the Government proposes to expend millions of pounds on television, without having had a comprehensive investigation made of the whole matter. Television requires new capital equipment for transmission and for home reception, which is altogether different from the equipment at present used for wireless broadcasting. In addition to the high capital cost for equipment and the provision of elaborate studios, the cost of the programmes themselves is astronomical compared with the cost of radio programmes. An army of workers is necessary behind the scenes in order to make a television broadcast possible. An official of the British Broadcasting Commission has stated that the cost of running a television programme is ten times as high as the cost of running a radio programme. “Why cannot the Government have a comprehensive examination made of those aspects, instead of a limited examination which is to be carried out by a commission under limited terms of reference ?
It costs the British Broadcasting Commission more than £2,000,000 a year to provide 30 hours of television a week. Its transmission consists of the same programmes broadcast over five stations each with an effective radius of 50 miles. There are 106 television stations in the United States, where the operating costs are 113,000,000 dollars a year. It is generally expected that Australian television stations will operate for only four hours daily, but it will cost more to provide such a television service in the eastern coastal belt of Australia, with its great distances, than television programmes now cost in Great Britain. The reason is that expensive relay equipment will be necessary to cover the great distances involved. Relayed television requires stupendous expenditure on equipment. Even in the small area of England the financial burden is heavy, and in Australia it will be infinitely more.
The Government is rushing into this matter without taking expert advice on it.
If wo accept the premise, as I think most of the television authorities in Australia do, that we shall limit television broadcasting to four hours a day, existing radio programmes will still be necessary outside of those four hours, not only in the country areas, which will have no television, but also in the city areas. Country people will desire their present radio services to continue and therefore very heavy financial commitments will be required to maintain present programme standards.
I hope that the royal commission will give close consideration to the question of who is to finance television services. Irrespective of whether we have dual control or public ownership, the community will have to pay in the long run. A publicly owned system will be financed by listener’s licence-fees. For the listener’s licence-fees to cover the cost of transmission they would have to he so high that no government would be game to impose them, and therefore it would be necessary to finance publicly owned television partly from revenue or loans. A privately owned television system would be paid for by increased prices for goods advertised on television programmes, but the manufacturers of goods would meet the cost of television sponsored programmes by raising the price of the goods to the consumer. Television could lead to a reduction of the price of commodities only if the advertisements resulted in an increase of the sale of the goods advertised, but the smallness of the Australian market and the high cost of television advertising would rule out that possibility. It is idle, therefore, to think that the public will not have to pay for commercially operated television. The plain unvarnished fact which has to be recognized by this Parliament is that we shall not be saving money by establishing a dual system. Television will have to be paid for by the man in the street whoever runs it, and from that point of view it does not matter what system is adopted. The mere fact of having commercial television stations will not mean, as some people think, that television viewers will get something for nothing, because that is far from the truth. Only by extending the terms of reference of the royal commission, will it be possible to sift thoroughly all the aspects of this problem. It is clear that regardless of the form in which television is launched in this country, its introduction will place a crushing financial burden upon the community. The only section that would gain from its immediate introduction would be the electronic industries. Perhaps, as the honorable member for Darebin has suggested, those interests have brought pressure to bear upon the Government arid have succeeded in pursuading it to introduce this measure so hastily. Television can be introduced into Australia at an early date only at the expense of other projects. Despite the forced optimism that the Government supporters invariably exhibit whenever its economic policy is criticized, our economic future is uncertain and unpredictable. Not only governments but also private enterprise are experiencing difficulty in raising sufficient funds to finance urgent projects. In such circumstances, the Government should have sufficient prudence to refer all aspects of this problem to a royal commission for investigation. The Government has acted precipitately in introducing this measure.
As the Leader of the Opposition has urged, the royal commission should be asked to inquire into the effect upon the community of television programmes of flic type that are now televised by commercial stations in the United States of America. Undoubtedly, wo could derive much benefit from an investigation along those lines, particularly as the Government is determined to adopt the dual system. Responsible educational, cultural and religious bodies have expressed grave concern about possible developments in this phase of television. Reports from the United States of America reveal the level to which some commercial stations in that country are prepared to descend in order to increase, the popularity of their programmes. The chairman of the American Government’s instrumentality for controlling the allocation of wave lengths, licensing of stations and general broadcasting policy in an address which he delivered last year to the National Association of Radio and Television
Broadcasters criticized the failure of American television to make any positive offering in the fields of religion, agriculture and primary and adult education. He stated that the average station devoted 72 per cent, of its total time to entertainment but only .9 per cent, to religious and .2 per cent, to agricultural programmes. He also said that the average station devoted only 3 per cent, of its time to programmes of an educational type and 3 per cent, to discussions. Revelations about the standard of entertainment programmes televised by many American stations makes one lift one’s eyebrows. Recently, a visitor to the United States of America made a survey of programmes purveyed by television stations in Los Angeles and revealed that viewers of such programmes in one week, between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., were able to see as well as hear 91 murders, seven stage-coach robberies, ten thefts, four burglaries, two cases of arson, two gaolbreaks, two suicides, three kidnappings and one case of blackmail, whilst cases of assault and battery that were televised within the same hours were too numerous to mention. I should like to know whether the terms of reference of the royal commission that this Government has appointed will enable it to investigate this aspect of television programmes that are provided by commercial stations in the United States of America. It is the duty of the Parliament to ensure that the public shall be protected from programmes of that type which appeal to the baser human instincts. Before the Government finally decides to permit the introduction of television on a dual basis it should be guided by the findings of the royal commission with respect to the effect of television programmes generally upon children. It should not tolerate the introduction of any system that would permit the undermining of the moral and intellectual health of the community. Such safeguards are essential, particularly for the protection of the younger generation. The royal commission, in order to inform itself fully upon such aspects of television should be enabled to investigate the system that is now operating in the United States of America.
As an educational medium, television will strongly influence, for good or for bad, the habits and tastes of our future citizens, lt will help to mould or mar the character of our people. The social advantages and disadvantages of television should be fully considered before the Government reaches finality in this matter. Eminent authorities in many countries have expressed grave concern about the social effects of television. For instance, the New York Times, in a leading article, had this to say -
Television is influencing the social and economic habits of the nation to a degree unparalleled since the advent of the automobile. It is having its effect on the way the nation passes its leisure time - how it feels and acts about politics and Government, how much it reads, how it rears its children and how it charts its cultural future. This country has never experienced anything quite like it.
Having regard to the immense influence that television exerts upon the community the Government should, as the Leader of the Opposition has suggested, widen the terms of reference of the royal commission in order to enable it to investigate all aspects of the problem.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- By the irony of fate, this bill, which relates to television, a matter closely related to radio broadcasting, is being discussed in. so to speak, radio silence. While the Parliament is confused by the utterances of the Opposition, the listening public has not been given an opportunity to suffer the same confusion. * Quorum formed.’]* Having listened to the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and other members of the Opposition, I am still uncertain about what they really mean. Do they, as their speeches appear to indicate, desire that television in this country shall be killed and buried, and that we shall not have it at all? That has been the tenor of their speeches. They have not had one good word to say for television. If that be their attitude, they will encounter great difficulty if they try to reverse it and to introduce the type of television services that they obviously desire. They want television in the form of a government monopoly. I can understand why their differences of opinion have arisen. When the Leader of the
Opposition and his deputy cannot agree upon this matter, it is most difficult for their followers to reach agreement.
Some members of the Opposition have criticized the Government for its delay in introducing television services. The Leader of the Opposition said that when we took office there was a proposal to establish a number of television stations, that we proposed to reduce the number to one and that we did not do anything more about the matter. He said, in a doleful voice, that after three years, all that we had done was to introduce this bill. The honorable member for Batman (Mr, Bird) criticized us for undue haste. He said that we were rushing ahead too fast. The honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews) said he believed there should be a long delay in this matter and that we should not hurry, because many problems were associated with it. Where does the Opposition stand? The Leader of the Opposition criticized the Government for its delay in introducing television and said that we were not hurrying as we should do, but some of his supporters criticized us for undue haste and for trying to push ahead with something which they said was fraught with evil, gave rise to all kinds of problems, and probably was not in the best interests of the adults or the children of Australia.
The Leader of the Opposition said that television, which commenced about twenty years ago, had made some progress, and then had been held up by the war. It is well known that the greatest advances that have been made in electronics were made during the last war. A feature of war is that it stimulates scientific progress to a greater degree than does peace. It is unfortunate that very often we have to wait until war occurs before big advances in scientific fields can be made. After World War I., it was recognized that, during the four and a half years of that war, medical science made greater progress than had been made during the previous period of -fifteen or twenty years. Much the same can be said of the progress of television or electronics during the last war. The Leader of the Opposition said that television was necessary for defence, and that it. was essential for our technicians to be trained in electronics so that they could be well equipped to assist in the defence of this country. The honorable member for Darebin said that we should send our technicians overseas for training. Once again, there is a conflict of opinion among the members of the Opposition about the advantages of television and the manner in which television should be applied. Throughout the speeches that have been delivered on this bill by members of the Opposition, that conflict has been apparent.
The fact of the matter is that the Opposition wants television on its own terms. It wants television as a socialized government monopoly, and in no other way. Therefore, it believes that this simple bill, which purports to do nothing more than give the Minister the right to appoint commercial television stations, has to be knocked at all costs and in any way possible. The measure contains the usual definitions to clarify the text later on. In clause 3, it is proposed that the Postmaster-General shall be empowered to make television stations available for the transmission of television programmes provided by an authorized authority. In 1948, the Chifley Government introduced a bill to amend the Australian Broadcasting Act, but it was very careful that the bill should go only a part of the distance. It went so far as to refer to “ television stations and facsimile stations, and services of a like kind “. It was designed to ensure that those services should be provided by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, that the technical equipment and operation of such stations would be in accordance with certain standards, and that adequate and comprehensive programmes would be provided by the stations to serve the best interests of the general public. The measure did not go so far as to give the Minister the right to grant a licence to any commercial station to provide television programmes or facsimile programmes. That is the reason why this bill has been introduced. This measure is designed to give the Minister the right, subject to regulations made under the Australian Broadcasting Act, to grant to a person a licence for a commercial television station upon such conditions and in such form as he determines.
The Opposition has not voiced its real complaint about this bill which is, of course, that the Postmaster-General will be empowered to grant licences to commercial television stations. Honorable members opposite, in their mock fight against the measure, pretend to be opposed to the introduction of television into Australia because of economic reasons and the danger that television broadcasts will constitute to the minds of the people of this country. How absurd it is for the Opposition to say, “ “We oppose this bill because the Government has appointed a royal commission to investigate television, and the Government should wait until that commission has made its report before permitting the establishment of commercial television stations “. How absurd it is to say, ““We are opposed to the bill because we do not approve of the personnel of the royal commission. There are only six members instead of about two dozen”. Obviously, if the Government were to accede to the request of the Leader of the Opposition that the royal commission should include also a technician, a representative of the churches, a representative of industrialists, and so on, the royal commission would be so cumbersome that it would be unable to function reasonably and to assess rapidly the evident.’-‘ that will be placed before it.
Let us consider for a moment tinproposal that the royal commission should include a technician. I must confess that I do not agree with my colleague, the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall), in this regard. In any investigation of this kind, technicians are liable to be biased because of their specialized knowledge. Is there any reason why Mr. Osborne, who is chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, and is accustomed to dealing with technical problems, should not be capable of giving adequate consideration to whatever technical information is placed before the royal commission? I see no reason at all why a special technician should be appointed to the royal commission. Indeed, I see considerable danger in any such proposal because of the unintentional bias that all technicians seem to have in the direction of their own inclination. It is well known that a person who seeks legal advice can easily obtain entirely contradictory opinions from eminent legal authorities. The same may be said of technicians. Generally speaking, technicians develop their own individual lines of thought and, as the honorable member for Paterson has pointed out, technical conceptions of the development of television may be quite different from those of the layman. It is true that television is allied to broadcasting, but it has a totally different significance.
The Leader of the Opposition has suggested also that a representative of the churches should be appointed to the royal commission. Does he suggest that the present members of the royal commission are not capable of bringing Christian views to bear upon the matters that they will be called upon to consider? Does he believe that Mrs. Mary Foxton, who is president of the Western Australian Country Women’s League, is not capable of deciding whether certain aspects of television are suitable for the child mind ? I believe that all members of the royal commission are capable of exercising intelligent judgment on the evidence that will bo placed before them. The honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews) claimed that there should be an economist on the royal commission. Surely Mr. N. S. Young, who is a chartered accountant, is fully qualified to sum up whatever accounting evidence is placed before the commission. Bearing, in mind the terms of reference, I believe that the qualifications of the existing commissioners are quite adequate. Mr. Colin Bednall, for instance, is managing editor of the Brisbane Courier-Mail, and is fully compete. ‘< to assess evidence given in relation, ti, advertising and news services. The Honorable R. C. Wilson is a highly respected pastoralist and is eminently suited to be a member of the commission. I believe, therefore, that the personnel of the commission is beyond criticism. The terms of reference of the commission are as follows : - To inquire into and report upon -
any conditions which may be considered desirable to apply to the television broadcasting of -
It is so much humbug to say that the present royal commission will not be capable of dealing with those matters and should be enlarged. Whilst the Leader of the Opposition has complained that the Government has delayed too long in this matter, and some members of his flock are criticizing the Government for having rushed in with undue speed, the right honorable gentleman is now proposing that further delay should take place. The purpose of this bill is not to introduce television to this country but to empower the Minister to issue television licences to commercial stations. The Leader of the Opposition proposes that this action should be delayed. He proposes further that the royal commission should be instructed to make its report by the 11th May next. Allowing for the regular Easter break, which I am sure even the Leader of the Opposition would not deny to the royal commission, there would be only about a month’s working time for the investigation. How could any one possibly expect the commission to visit all the capitals of the Commonwealth, take and consider lengthy evidence, and issue its report by the11th May? It is the height of impudence to suggest to the Parliament that the amendment should be taken seriously. There is only one reasonable and logical course to follow, and that is to agree to the Government’s proposal contained in this bill that the Minister should be authorized to issue licences to commercial television stations.
Television services in this country should not be confined to one channel, but should be provided in much the same manner as the present broadcasting services are provided. We have been told that it is economically impossible for Australia to introduce television, that the cost of equipping stations is unreasonable and that we should do better to devote our energies to other matters. I admit that I have a lot of regard for that view. It is reasonable that if the Government is to spend money, it should spend it on these matters close at hand such as installing more telephone lines. I speak as a person who resides in one of the outer parts of the Commonwealth, and I know the disabilities of people in the country. They certainly believe that it would be better for them, and probably for all Australians, if they could have the amenities which have been denied to them for many years. If the bill is not agreed to it will leave the whole provision of television services in the lap of the Government, and the Government will then have to provide television services out of Government funds. Therefore, it is reasonable, logical, and right to give the Minister the power to grant licences to commercial stations and so take that burden at least off the public revenues. I wholeheartedly support the bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. O’Connor) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I rise to bring to the notice of the Government a matter that concerns a number of patients atthe repatriation general hospital at Concord. I have received statements from a number of the patients, and as the case could not be put better by myself, I propose to inform the House of the contents of those statements. The essence of the complaint is that there is no choice of dermatologist at the hospital, irrespective of the likes or dislikes or the confidence or lack of confidence of the patients. One specialist is in complete charge of all skin patients in this hospital. That state of affairs has existed for a number of years, and is not attributable to any particular Government. However, I consider that something might be done about the matter, in view of the protests made by the patients at that hospital. The dermatologist in charge is a man of high qualifications and great ability, but we suggest that in view of all the circumstances the unfortunate sufferers from skin complaints should be assisted. The case as set out by the patients is as follows: -
One of the main bones of contention is the fact that there is no choice of dermatologists irrespective of one’s likes or dislikes, confidences or lack of confidences, one specialist is in complete charge of all skin patients who enter this hospital. As four dermatologists see patients at the Grace Building it seems strange that only one of them visits Yaralla. It is the general opinion of the patients here that there should be a choice of specialists in the skin ward.
The skin specialist visits the skin ward once a week, for a period of two hours. During that short time he is expected to prescribe treatment for 38 ward patients, and up to 30 out-patients (that number being present on 10th February, 1953), the latter group having prior right to his services. It is the exception rather than the rule when he manages to see ten ward patients. It is not unknown for a patient who is not responding to treatment to go for five weeks without aid from the specialist.
A ward doctor, who apparently should spend approximately half his time in the skin ward, appears to have little or no power. He is unable to change treatments without the specialist’s authorization, even though this may mean that a patient may be receiving the wrong treatment for a week or more. It is little wonder that the patients generally see him but once a week, and that ward doctors become dispirited and stay for short periods only in this ward.
It is virtually impossible for a patient to discuss his condition with the specialist, and it is useless discussing it with the ward doctor. The specialist’sattitude is that the patient is to receive treatment without inquiry, even though the patient may know from previous experience that the treatment is detrimental to him. On one occasion recently a patient suggested that a change of treatment might be advantageous; the specialist ordered his discharge. However, two senior doctors declared his unfitness for such a discharge, and had him removed to another ward, out of the jurisdiction of thedermatological specialist.
It is oflittle use complaining to the Medical Superintendent, for he has admitted to a skin patient that he has no authority over the visiting skin specialist, who is in complete charge of the skin patients. It seems strange that, in a democratic country, there is no body within the hospital which has the necessary authority to hear impartially legitimate complaints, and, if necessary, to remove the causes for complaint.
Therefore it is no wonder that dermatological patients feel that they are being criminally neglected by repatriation and the medical profession.
Many of the patients at present in ward 31 (the skin ward) are acknowledged chronic cases (one having suffered from dermatitis for 30 years), yet not one has been classed as T.P.T. How long must a person have this disease before he is classed as incurable?
We would respectfully submit that the following reforms would not only reduce the average length of stay in hospital for the majority of patients, and would increase the percentage of cures, but would drastically reduce the cost per patient, a cost which is being borne by Australian taxpayers: -
We wish it to be known that we have no complaint regarding the nursing staff at the hospital. Nursing sisters, dressing orderlies and nursing aids are alike in their efforts to give us as much ease and comfort as possible, and it seems a great pity that their efforts are not matched by the medical profession.
This is a human plea on behalf of more than twenty of the patients of the particular ward under consideration, and I appeal to the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) to bring the matter to the notice of the appropriate Minister. There is no reason why this complaint should be brushed aside, as other complaints have been, by saying that the matter is under the complete control of the repatriation officials. The complaints that I have set before the House are well founded, and I believe that the Government should take the action that I have requested.
– I desire to refer to a paper that I read on Australia Day at the Summer School of the Australian Institute of Political Science, the subject being “ Australia and the Migrant “.
– I hope that the honorable member does not intend to go over that again.
– I could do so, with profit to every honorable member of this House. During that speech I made a strong criticism of various bodies of professional people in this country which have not co-operated with the Department of Immigration to help to assimilate European immigrants who hold academic degrees. My criticism was directed against doctors, dentists, lawyers, engineers, and quite a number of other groups. The Institution of Engineers, Australia, which has its head office in Sydney, has written to inform me that I did not state the position in relation to professional engineers fairly, and that I did not correctly outline the attitude of the institution in the matter of according professional status to new Australians with engineering qualifications. The secretary of the institution has stated that I must be unaware of the earnest endeavours of the institution to assist immigrants by evaluating their qualifications and co-operating with the Department of Immigration and the Department of Labour and National Service to place them in positions where they may follow their profession. The letter stated that a foreign qualifications advisory subcommittee, composed of six European new Australians with high degrees in physics and mathematics, had been formed to assist the board of examiners. That board was established to assist in examining all immigrants who fought recognition of their European degrees in Australia. I am pleased to be able to say that I accept the institution’s comment as completely factual, and I am sorry if I misrepresented its position in any way before the
Australian people. The institution is certainly doing a worth while job by helping the present Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) and the department to assimilate many new Australians. When I was Minister for Immigration in the previous Labour Government, no such co-operation, if my memory serves me right, was forthcoming, but during the last three years the institution has certainly thrown its full weight behind the generally accepted policy on immigration that has been pursued in Australia. I am glad that the institution is doing so, and I congratulate its members on the success that they have achieved to date. I only regret that other bodies of professional people in Australia have not been as co-operative as the Institute of Engineers, Australia. I make this statement because I want to keep the record straight. I do not want the officers and members of the institution to think that I have allowed any misrepresentation to lie any longer than was necessary to bring the matter to the attention of this House.
.-I wish to bring to the notice of the House certain facts in relation to the Commonwealth workshops in Hale-street, Botany. On the 15th February, the Sunday Sun and Guardian published the following article: -
Government property disappears.
Car engines listed as missing stock -
Auditors reveal workshop losses.
Inquiry by police.
Auditors’ inquiries have shown shortage of hundreds of items from stores at the Commonwealth workshops, Hale-street, Botany.
Thousands of pounds worth of car engines, parts, metals and materials have been written off as missing stock.
Supply Minister Beale yesterday promised police action on receipt of proof of the allegations. . . .
Hale-street workshops fitter Vic Whitham, of Anniversary-street, Botany, has furnished the Sunday Sun with a statutory declaration.
Many other allegations and comments were then made. On the 17th February, the Sydney Sun published the following report : -
30 DISMISSALS FROM WORKSHOP.
Some 30 men at the Commonwealth Workshops, Hale-street, Botany, have been discharged for improper conduct, ranging from theftto falsifying records, drunkenness and insubordination, Supply Minister Beale revealed to-day.
Subsequently representatives of the employees of the Commonwealth workshops in Hale-street, Botany, waited on me and requested me to place the true facts before the House. They claim that the employees are being stigmatized by inaccurate statements made by the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale). The deputation informed me that, during the term of office of the present ill-fated Government, there have been dismissed from those workshops one supervisor, for pilfering; one garage assistant, for pilfering; one mechanic, for forging a doctor’s certificate; and one man for drunkenness; and that six men have been retrenched because of shortage of work. I have been supplied with the names of the men who have been dismissed. The delegation stated that if the Minister for Supply knew of any more dismissals from those workshops he should table the names of the men dismissed. When men are retrenched they are given a certificate of service. The stigma thathas been caused by the Minister’s statements remains on the retrenched men, because when they present their certificate to the foreman or personnel officer at another establishment where they seek employment, they are unceremoniously passed out as soon as that officer finds that they have been retrenched from the Commonwealth workshops at Botany. I am greatly perturbed about this aspect of the matter and I consider that, in the interests of the men concerned, the Minister should make a full public statement on the matter.
I understand that a departmental inquiry has been ordered. Any one who has worked in a government department knows that a departmental inquiry adopts a hush-hush policy, in order to cover up inefficiency, and its reports are usually favorable to the officer in charge. The men are not satisfied to leave the matter to a departmental inquiry. They have asked, justifiably, for a public inquiry to be made into the charges of the Ministers. Failing a public inquiry, the Minister should make a full statement on the matter. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) will agree, I am sure, that the statements of the Minister for Supply concerning good, honest men who are earning their living should be corrected, because the stigma that now rests on them cannot easily be erased. Although supporters of the Government have preached almost daily about the necessity to increase production, statements such as those that have been made by the Minister for Supply only incite men to strike. The following report was published in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 18th February -
COMMONWEALTH WORKSHOPS INVESTIGATED.
The Minister for Supply. Mr. Howard Beale, said to-day that a Commonwealth official was re-organizing Commonwealth workshops. …
In view of the result of the re-organizing and rationalizing of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and TransAustralia Airlines, the men suspect that the officer who is re-organizing the Commonwealth workshops at Botany for the Minister is collecting all necessary data for the sale of those workshops to private enterprise. I believe that they have some grounds for their suspicions. In common justice to the men concerned, the Minister for Supply should make a public statement as soon as possible, giving the names of the 30 men that he claims have been dismissed since he has been in office, and the reasons for their dismissal. If the statements made by the Minister are proved to be untrue, they demand that he make a public apology. I trust that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), who is in charge of the House, will sec the justice of the claims of these men, many of whom are the fathers of big families. The Minister laughs at the notion that honest working men are the fathers of big families. I inform him that there are many big families in Botany, which is a workingclass suburb. The residents of Botany are good, honest citizens, who are always prepared to do their bit. I appeal to the Minister not to treat this matter with levity. Some of the employees at the. government workshops in Botany are the fathers of soldiers who are fighting in Korea. The stigma that has been placed ou the fathers of many of our Korean veterans will remain so long as the Minister for Supply is silent on this matter. All we ask is that the Minister’s statements published in the newspapers be refuted. If the Minister has made a mistake, he should be big enough to admit it.
– in reply - It is only courteous on my part to say to those honorable members who have raised matters for the consideration of Ministers who are not present in the House, that I shall see that their representations are brought to the notice of the appropriate Minister. The honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Fitzgerald) spoke of matters associated with repatriation. I seem to recognize- them as hardy annuals. I am sure that the Minister for Hepatization (Senator Cooper) is fully aware of the facts concerning those matters, but in case he is not, I shall see that the remarks of the honorable member are brought to his notice.
The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) has referred to an article published in the press about the government workshops in Botany. The honorable member says that he has received a request from a deputation representative of the men concerned that a public inquiry be held in place of the proposed departmental inquiry. I do not intend to comment on the extravagant statements made by the honorable member. They could be shorn from the general context of his remarks, but those of his utterances which were relevant to the matter will be conveyed to the Minister for Supply. -
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following answer to a question was drculate: -
As the Prime Minister is aware, Tasmania’s sea passenger traffic and much of its perishable freight cargoes are at the mercy of the Bass Strait steamer Taroona, which is often taken off the run for overhaul and repairs. Alternative shipping is never made available. In view of this and the growth of population in Tasmania, will the Government give consideration to the building by the Australian Shipbuilding Board of a faster passenger vessel for the run across Bass Strait, especially having regard to the Government’s stated policy of promoting competition on the ground that it is good for trade and business? -
The Minister for Shipping and Transport has furnished the following reply: -
The Bass Strait passenger vessel Taroona, like all other vessels, has to undertake surveys and overhauls at specified times to meet the requirements of the Navigation Act and Lloyd’s surveyors. In the past when the vessel “has been laid up both Tasmanian steamers and the Commonwealth have endeavoured to secure either by purchase or charter a substitute vessel. It has ‘ been found, however, that ships of a suitable type are not readily available. In 1951, during Taroona’s lay-up period, the Commonwealth Government subsidized a round trip voyage by M.V. Wanganella, the cost of which to the Commonwealth was £7,000. In the 1952 period negotiations had reached an advanced stage for the service to be maintained by Ormiston, but that vessel became involved in the margins dispute on the Galvin award and was prevented from, providing a substitute service. At the beginning of this year discussions took place between the Department of Shipping and Transport and Tasmanian Steamers Limited in the course of which the company intimated it hat! arranged for Taroona to undergo a running survey which, with the exception of a few days necessary to open up the main engines, would obviate the need for the vessel to be laid up during 1D53.
The following paper was presented : -
Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1968, No. 11.
House adjourned at ILS p.ni.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 February 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1953/19530225_reps_20_221/>.