20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– The question that I wish to ask the Treasurer arises from a request that has been made to me on behalf of a mutual hospital in the district that I represent to ascertain whether the hospital can be relieved of the pay-roll tas. Will the Treasurer, in considering any remissions of taxation, give special consideration to mutual hospitals in relation to pay-roll tax?
– I can only promise the honorable gentleman that the matter will be considered in due course in connexion with the Government’s budget proposals.
– Some time ago, the Treasurer, in a statement to the House, indicated that an elaborate scheme had been devised by private companies under which the Treasury was being, if not defrauded, at least deprived of large sums of revenue. The right honorable gentleman said that the. matter was being investigated, that subsequently the Government would introduce a bill .to amend the appropriate.’ legislation, and that the amendment would have retrospective effect, so that the Treasury could catch the people who had sought to defraud it or deprive it of a sum of revenue which ran into six figures. Will the right honorable gentleman say whether that matter has been considered by the Government? If -i* has been considered, what action does the - Government contemplate ? If no action is contemplated, was the statement of the right honorable gentleman only a dramatic announcement intended to defend him against a justified’ attack that was then being made upon him by some leading daily newspapers iri this country 3
– The attack to which tho honorable member has referred was’ most unjustified, as the effluxion of time has proved. The Government has taken administrative action in this matter. When I made my statement, I said that the Government proposed to introduce legislation that would operate from the date on which the statement was made. The matter will be considered, and dealt with in due course.
– ils the Minister acting, for the Minister for the Interior aware that a number of ceremonial Japanese swords and other relics of the Japanese surrender in 1945 have been withdrawn from public display at ‘ the Australian War Memorial? Can the honorable . gentleman . say on whose authority those relics, which are of considerable public interest; have been hidden away? Were they withdrawn to avoid offence to the Japanese diplomatic mission now in Canberra? Did the mission ask’ the memorial authorities to hide the relics? Will the Minister take steps to ensure that this kid-glove approach to” the subject of post-war relations with Japan shall be abandoned and that these’ legitimate’ war relics shall be brought out for display immediately?
– I shall refer the’ honorable member’s inquiries to the Minister -for the Interior and will ensure that he is provided with a reply.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service tell the House what action has been taken in connexion with the .International Labour Organization decision on the principle of equal pay for work of equal value performed by women? Has he communicated with the States on the matter, or has any conference on the subject been arranged?
– I recently answered . a question by the right honorable gentleman on this subject. My reply then contained the information that had been supplied to me by the Department of Labour- and National Service. Frankly, I’ assumed from, that information that the States had been contacted for the ‘purpose of obtaining their views on the subject. In fact, such a long time has’ passed since the discussion took place at Geneva that it was a reasonable assumption to make. I believe that the States have been asked for their views but that those views have not been fully ascertained yet. However. I shall certainly inquire what has happened and will furnish the honorable gentleman with any additional information I obtain.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, refers to the Joint Organization funds involved in an action, known as the Poulton case, brought in the High Court by private wool-buyer*. Regardless of the final outcome of that case, certain. private wool-buyers, in their original contracts, - agreed to refund to wool-growers any dividends that were paid in respect of wool delivered to them by wool-growers. Is tho Commonwealth prevented from paying direct .to the woolgrowers concerned the moneys to which they are entitled? Has the Commonwealth approached the buyers concerned with a view to reaching some agreement on this subject? If not, will it do so?
– The honorable member was good enough to let me know that he proposed to address this question to me. I am not aware that any private wool-buyers or wool-dealers agreed, in their original contracts with wool-growers, that the growers should be entitled to any profits that were distributed subsequently in respect of wool supplied by those growers through dealers for appraisement. In general, the Australian Wool Realization Commission, which acts for the Commonwealth in making Joint Organization profit payments, has been prevented from paying to wool-growers profits on wool submitted through dealers, because it was necessary to give an undertaking to the dealers interested in the Poulton case that, pending the completion of that case, the profits concerned would not be paid to wool-growers. However, in certain instances, by arrangement with the dealers concerned, the commission has made profit payments to growers whose wool was aubinmitted through those dealers. In each instance, it is a matter of negotiation with the dealer concerned rather than with the growers. If the honorable member has a specific case in mind and will give me full particulars of it, I shall arrange for the Australian “Wool Realization Commission to examine the case and hold discussions with the dealer concerned, with a view to ascertaining whether, by arrangement with the dealer, payment can be made to the wool-grower before the Poulton case lias been completed.
– Some observers claim that, since the death of Stalin, there has been a greater friendliness by Russia towards the Western democracies. Is the Minister for External Affairs prepared to express his view on that matter?
– In recent weeks, there have been several rather unusual instances of an apparently altered attitude bySoviet Russia to the democracies, but the pattern has not been consistent. Although there is some evidence of a greater friend liness, about a week ago a very violent attack upon the bona fides of the democracies was made in the United Nations by Russia. Speaking for myself, I accept the possibility at least that under the new regime, Soviet Russia proposes to adopt a less hostile attitude towards the democracies. Events will prove whether Russia does, in fact, intend to do so. I am perfectly willing to regard what has happened as a genuine effort to reach a situation under which international communism and the democracies will be able to live side by side. I shall maintain that attitude of mind until it is proved to be wrong.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House whether any investigations have yet been made at the Long Range Weapons Establishment at Woomera to ascertain whether the vote for the Communist candidate in the recent South Australian election was indicative of the existence of a Communist pocket in that high security area or the expression of evidence of a united front by the Liberal party, the Australian Country party and the Communist party ?
– I have had the great good fortune to see the reports relative to this matter. They do not establish the existence of a Communist pocket at Woomera, nor, I regret to say, do they lend any support to the second suggestion made by the honorable gentleman.
– Does the Prime Minister mean he regrets that he has to say so?
– Yes; my regret is that I have to disappoint the honorable member for Darling.
– Last week I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question about the price of cornsacks, and he replied that an averaging system was being “investigated. Has ho any information to give to the House about that investigation?
– I have no information to give to the House about the matter at the present time, but I assure the honorable member for Canning that I am actively pursuing it.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that the adequate care of the mentally ill is beyond the financial capacity of the State governments, and that, accordingly, treatment can be neither enlightened nor conducive to recovery? Will the Minister consider the provision of additional finance to the States to permit a proper social approach to this problem? Alternatively will he confer, as a matter of urgency, with State Ministers for Health in an effort to relieve this grave position?
– The care of the mentally ill is essentially a State function under the Constitution. During the regime of the Chifley Government, an agreement for five years was reached on this matter. “ When that agreement has expired, the position will bo examined again.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Is it tho intention of the Government to be represented at the unveiling by Her Majesty tho Queen of the memorial erected at Runnymede to those airmen who gave their lives in the defence of their country and whose graves are unknown? If it is the intention of the Government to be represented at that ceremony, will the right honorable gentleman consider the advisability of sending a small delegation selected from Australian war widows to represent Australian mothers the names of whose sons appear on the roll?
– The suggestion will bo examined at once.
– As the ratification of a new international wheat agreement is a matter for the Australian Government, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state whether the Go vernment indicated its own opinion on the price, or whether it left that matter entirely to the representatives of the growers ?
– The Government had its own opinion about the price at which wheat should be sold under a new international wheat agreement. The Government consulted the growers on the matter, and the judgment of both the growers and the Government has been identical on that subject at all stages of the negotiations.
– In view of the conflicting statements that have been made about the prospects of a new international wheat agreement, is the Ministor for Commerce and Agriculture in a position to make an authentic statement on the progress of the negotiations?
– I could make a statement that would be useful, only if I revealed the actual movement of prices in the process of negotiation, but it would be entirely wrong for me to do that, because that information is the property of not one government, but of all the governments that have participated in the negotiations. Therefore, all that I am able to say is that out of most protracted, trenchant and hard negotiations, the gap between the price the importers are willing to pay and the price desired by exporters has been narrowed. It is to-day measurably narrower than it was a week ago. It is not narrow enough for me to feel entitled to say that I am highly confident that an agreement will result. Nor have I much hope that an agreement will result. The Australian Government is presenting its viewpoint daily and strongly on this matter.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether it is a fact that, at a recent meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, which consists of State and Federal Ministers, three States agreed to a proposal for a home-consumption price for wheat of 15s. a bushel and that he used his vote to defeat the proposal?
– The allegation is without a vestige of foundation.
– Has the attention of the Minister for External Affairs been directed to the conditions regarding the appointment of u Secretary-General of the United Nations? Has he anything to say about the deadlock which seems to have been reached in the appointment of a successor to Mr. Trygve Lie?
– The appointment of a Secretary-General of the United Nations requires the unanimous recommendation of the Security Council, and the matter is then transmitted to the General Assembly. Considerable difficulty has existed for a period because Soviet Russia has exercised its right of veto. This is between the fiftieth and sixtieth time that the right of veto has been exercised by Soviet Russia. Amongst the individuals whose names have been considered in relation to the appointment of a successor to Mr. Trygve Lie is Mr. Lester Pearson, the Canadian Minister for External Affairs. He has been accepted by, I think, nine out of the eleven members of the Security Council. Soviet Russia, of course, being the principal objector. The permanent members of the Security Council - that is Britain, Eni nee, America, China and Soviet Russia - have met privately in an effort to resolve the deadlock, but so far without success. Australia is not immediately and directly concerned in the matter, as it is not a member of the Security Council, but I think I am right in saying that of the various individuals who have been mentioned as possible Secretary-General of the United Nations, Australia would most certainly like to see Mr. Lester Pearson receive the appointment.
Mr. Griffiths having ashed a disallowed question,
-Order ! The honorable member’s question is out of order.
– I ask for leave to make a statement arising out of the question asked by the honorable member for Shortland.
Leave not granted.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Shortland asked a question that was loaded with innuendo and propaganda. You, Mr. Speaker, I think as a result of an interjection by the honorable member himself, ultimately ruled the question out of order. Surely the Minister for Labour and National Service should not be precluded from answering a question that has already gone out to the public over the air, merely because the question was later ruled out of order.
– The Standing Orders are perfectly clear in stating that questions shall not be based on press paragraphs. The honorable member for Shortland himself said that his authority for the statements contained in his question was the Sydney Morning Herald. and ho held up a piece of newspaper, which I saw. His question was therefore out of order. If the Minister for Labour and National Service desires to answer it, Le has one of two courses open to him. He may again ask for leave to make a statement at the end of question time, or lie may deal with the matter during the debate on the Supply Bill 1953, which is before the Committee of Supply.
– In view of your ruling, Mr. Speaker, would you now examine the Standing Orders that govern this particular matter, because it is apparent that your ruling could be abused by honorable members who could ask questions loaded with propaganda against the Government, which you might allow as being perfectly in order. “When the Minister concerned rises to reply, a member who had asked a question could produce a newspaper and say to you, in relation to his question. “ I have quoted from this newspaper”. According to the Standing Orders, you would immediately have to rule that question out of order. Now this is likely to he abused considerably in the future, because of your ruling, and I request you to examine the Standing Orders to ascertain whether there is any way in which such abuse could be eliminated.
– My colleague, the honorable member for Shortland, did not quote from a newspaper. The figures that he mentioned were queried by the Minister, and in order to enable the Minister to answer him, he indicated the source of his information.
– The figures are untrue.
– Then the newspaper report is untrue, and the honorable member for Shortland is not at fault. It was not through a desire to misrepresent that the honorable member mentioned the figures, because they were published in an authoritative newspaper.
– I rise to make a personal explanation as I have been misrepresented. Last week in this House I mentioned the official figures of those receiving the unemployment benefit. I said that 30,000 people were then receiving that benefit, and that the number was being reduced by more than 2,000 a week. As against that statement the honorable member for Shortland said that80, 000 people were drawing the unemployment benefit. Therefore. I have been misrepresented.
– Order ! On the matter raised by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, I have made my views known from the Chair repeatedly. I have pointed out that 90 per cent. of the questions asked in this chamber under the present system are strictly not in accordance with the Standing Orders. My desire is to have the Standing Orders altered so that all questions will be written out the day before, appear on the notice-paper, and then be read by the honorable member who desires the information. The Minister who is to answer the question will then be in a position to give his consideration reply. That desire has not yet been acceded to. The remedy is in the hands of the House. I have indicated the remedy repeatedly, and when honorable members are prepared to adopt my suggestion I shall be content.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Navy. It is noted that a second naval air station is to be established at Schofields, 20 miles north of Sydney, while the present station, H.M.A.S. Albatross, is at Nowra, about 100 miles south of Sydney. In the event of the Australian Naval Board realizing the advantage of having a northern base, will consideration be given to the naval facilities that could be readily available at the airfield at Maryborough, which was selected and operated as a base by the Royal Navy in Warld War II? If not, does the Australian Naval Board propose to establish a Sydney line in naval air arm defence preparations?
– The Government is fully aware of the very great strategical important of Maryborough to Australia. The only two places contemplated at present for the establishment of air stations on land are, as the honorable member has said, at Nowra in New South Wales and at Schofields. just beyond Richmond also in New South Wales. I ‘did not know that the Royal Navy had used Maryborough as a station, but I shall request the Australian Naval Board to specially investigate this matter to ascertain whether it intends to establish a naval station there in the near future because I am fully seised of the importance of Maryborough. The importance of Maryborough has been recognized in relation to civil aviation and the efforts of the honorable member for Wide Bay during the past eighteen months to convince me of its growing strategic importance have not fallen on deaf ears.
– Has the Prime Minister received from the Government of New South Wales a copy of the terms of reference of the royal commission it has appointed? If so, do they contain the name of a Minister of this Government, and, if not, has the right honorable gentleman received an explanation of the reason why the name of the Minister concerned has been deleted from the terms of reference as originally announced ?
– Oddly enough, from first to last, I have received no official or unofficial information at all from the Government of New South Wales in connexion with the royal commission, but through other channels I have secured a copy of the terms of reference as now approved. They contain no reference to my colleague.
– That is one way of putting it. ‘
– Before the New South Wales election, while the campaign was in progress, . as the honorable member knows, the name of my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs was included in the .then announced terms of reference. That was done while the campaign was in progress in New South Wales. It was a most contemptible act, as it turned out in the result. When the election was over my colleague’s name was dropped from the terms of reference. In other words,, when the election was over it was conceded that there was not a shred of evidence to warrant an investigation into his conduct. I am bound to say, and I take this opportunity to say it, that this was one of the most reckless and contemptible smear attempts I have ever seen in the course of my life. I do not excuse the Government of New South Wales by blaming somebody in this House. Let that Government itself take the responsibility for deliberately besmirching a man who, as every honorable member of this House knows has an impeccable record, for the purpose of gaining political advantage during an election campaign. Having damaged his reputation and having got its advantage, it then crawled out of the business by dropping his name altogether, admitting publicly that his name should never have been mentioned.
– I direct the attention of the Treasurer to a matter that I have raised on a. number of occasions in this House.
Conversation being audible.
– Order ! There is too much conversation, especially across the “ Irish Sea “ beyond the end of the table.
– My question refers to the taxation of refunds of superannuation paid to retired public servants who had returned to duty in the Public Service during the war and shortly thereafter. I have referred to this matter on a number of occasions but as far as I know it has not . been satisfactorily settled. The Treasurer may remember that a particular case which I brought to his notice related to a man who returned to the Public Service for a period of eight or nine years and as a result lost superannuation amounting to more than £1,000. The superannuation withheld from him was subsequently refunded but approximately £250 was deducted for taxation purposes.
– Order ! What is the question?
– Has the person concerned received a refund of tax? If not, lias the Treasurer investigated the case, as I asked him to do, in order to ascertain whether the individual concerned is entitled” to repayment of the £250 which was deducted from the amount due to him?
– I shall have the matter investigated and will supply the honorable member- with an answer as expeditiously as possible.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service supply the House with’ information about the employment situation at the beginning of this year and at the present time, respectively?
– I can state the position both in general terms and also in some detail. I refer the honorable gentleman, and any other honorable members who may be interested, to the full and detailed survey of the. employment situation that I released last week. It is the practice of the Department of Labour and National Service to compile a monthly review of the labour situation, and that review presents a detailed story of the position, throughout Australia. I can now bring the story up to date by supplying facts based on the. -latest available figures. During the last six weeks, the number of persons registered for employment with the Department of Labour and National Service has declined by over 15,000. Over the same period, the number of persons receiving unemployment benefit payments has declined by about 9,000. In Queensland, where there is normally a slack period at this time of the year, the number of persons in receipt of unemployment benefit has decreased during the last few weeks. The general situation appears to be one of steadily strengthening demand for labour throughout Australia. Unhappily, it is still true thai: most of the unemployment, relatively small though the proportion is for the whole of Australia, is in New South Wales. In other States, there is so little unemployment recorded as to be negligible by tho standards of any industrialized country.
– The question that I wish to ask the Prime Minister arises from the following statement, which the right honorable gentleman made on the 3rd August, 1945, when he was Leader of the Opposition: -
There is no constitutional doubt that the Commonwealth can make available substantial sums in aid of educational reform and development.
In view of that statement and the present unstable situation of education, not only in New South Wales but also in every other State, is the Prime Minister now prepared to make substantial sums available to the State governments in order that the youth of Australia may be properly educated and that the urgent need for additional school accommodation in New South Wales may be satisfied ?
– I am glad to be reminded of my views on the provision of substantial sums for education. I air happy to tell the honorable member that this Government has been providing substantial sums for the purposes of education. It is providing to the universities, through the State governments, an annual sum which now exceeds £1,000,000. Furthermore, this is the Government which provides the funds for a scholarship scheme in Australia, which now costs almost £1,000,000 a year.
– The question that I direct to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is supplementary to a question that I asked him last week in relation to the availability of agricultural machinery and other products essential to primary industry. The Minister then made passing reference to the supply of wire, wire netting and steel fencing posts. ls ho in a position to indicate specifically the extent of the increased output of these agricultural requirements, which are urgently needed ?
– Since I answered the honorable member’s question last week, I have obtained precise figures, which show the extent of the additional production of these essential agricultural requirements, which has resulted from the adoption of the Government’s economic policies and from its general administration. I am able to tell the honorable member that production of steel posts, which are urgently needed, increased from 2,000,000 in 1953, to 3,500,000 last year, and it is expected to reach a total of 7,000,000 this year. Production of barbed wire, in 1951 was 8,900 tons. This year, 17,200 tons will be produced. Two years ago, 12,900 tons of plain facing wire was produced. This year, the output will be 21,000 tons. Whereas 12,600 tons of wire netting was produced two years ago, the total this year will be 17,600 tons. The curve will continue to go upward.
– My question to the Prime Minister relates to an answer given earlier by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, in which he claimed that the provision of a sufficient number of steel posts was one of the brightest jewels in his crown of achievements during his reign. Has the Prime Minister drawn the attention of the Minister to the announcement that he issued recently on behalf of the National Security Resources Board in which he stated that some material and equipment shortages still remained to be overcome, especially in steel posts ? Is the House to believe the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, when he says that ample supplies of steel posts are now available, or the Prime Minister, when he states categorically that there is still a shortage of steel posts?
– As usual, the honorable member for Yarra is too clever by half. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture did not say that there was an abundance of steel posts. He said that there had been a very remarkable improvement in the .production of steel posts since the preceding Labour Government was thrown out of office. That is the whole point. Of course, we have not sufficient steel posts, but we have ten or fifteen times as many as we had a few years ago.
– “Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture tell the House when and where the proposed conference on the sale of Queensland tobacco leaf will take place? “What interests will be represented at the conference?
– Conferences on this subject have been proceeding for about six weeks. The Minister for Trade and Customs and I have represented the Government, and others present have included representatives of the Queensland Tobacco Leaf Marketing Board and representatives of the tobacco manufacturers. These conferences have had such success that a substantial measure of agreement has already been achieved. In fact, under the terms of the agreements readied, a large quantity of Queensland leaf has been sold. The conferences have reached a point at which only one outstanding matter remains. That matter is the composition of a complete marketing agreement for Queensland tobacco leaf. I shall go to Sydney this afternoon in order to preside at a conference between representatives of the Queensland Tobacco Leaf Marketing Board and the chosen representatives of the manufacturers, at which we shall try .to bring these negotiations to a definite conclusion. The negotiations have already brought us to a conclusive point in respect of the sale of unsold leaf that was produced in Queensland last year. The conference this afternoon will try to produce an enduring marketing arrangement by agreement between the parties and without any compulsion by the Government.
– Can the Minister fur Supply tell the House whether he is able to allocate further defence contracts to Australian industries? I know that the Government has gone to considerable lengths in the past to give assistance tn local industries and that this has been of great help to industries which suffered from the effects of a temporary recession. Even though that critical situation has passed–
– Order ! What is the question?
– Will the Minister still endeavour to place defence orders in Australia so that Australian industries and workers can benefit from them?
– The honorable member has raised this issue with mc several times previously, particularly on behalf of industries in the electorate of Corio. The Contract Board, under thu instructions of the Government, constantly keeps in mind the desirability of allocating, wherever it can, defence contracts to good Australian industries so as to maintain, employment in those industries. Only last week, I signed ( a contract for about £165,000 worth of Australian-built tractors. I think the tractors were built in the electorate represented by the honorable member. In, T think, the same week, I signed another contract for the supply of about £250,000 worth of Australian-made tyres. Within a day or two, another contract was let by my department for about £67,000 worth of Australian-made textiles. At. all times we do our best to ensure that good Australian firms shall bo given defence orders, so that good Australian workmen can be kept in employment.
– Has the Minister for Social Services studied the case to which I directed his attention last “ Grievance Day “, of an invalid pensioner whose pension was cancelled despite the fact that he was suffering from incurable cancer, blindness and the effects of two strokes, and who was told, in effect, to get to work. Unfortunately, he died shortly afterwards. Has the honorable gentleman taken appropriate action to prevent the recurrence of such heartless treatment of pensioners?
– The case to which the . honorable member has referred is under investigation now. Obviously, the opinion of medical practitioners is required, and such opinion is being sought at the highest level.. When I am in a position to do so, I shall inform the honorable member of the result of the investigation.
– On the 3rd March last, I asked a question about the provision of social services on a reciprocal basis with the United Kingdom Government. Now that an agreement has been reached on this matter, is the Minister for Social Services in a position to inform the House when payments to British pensioners are likely to commence? Can he also state whether an agreement has been reached with the Minister for Health and the British Medical Association for the extension of the Government’s free medical scheme to British pensioners?
– I recall that the honorable member for Banks has taken quite an interest in this matter in the last few weeks. It is impossible for me to state exactly when this agreement will begin to operate. I hope that it will be signed within the next few months by the Prime Minister when he is in England. Our idea at present is that the agreement will come into operation towards the end of this year. British people in Australia affected by the reciprocal agreement will receive all the benefits that are available to people in the United Kingdom, and vice versa.
– Is the Minister for Social Services aware that, although the Department of Social Services has offices in Victoria at Bendigo, Ballarat and Hamilton, residents of north-west Victoria have to travel long distances to visit those offices and that they are isolated as far as the department is concerned? With a view to solving this difficulty, will the Minister give consideration to the establishment of an office of the department at Mildura, in northwestern Victoria ?
– I shall be pleased to consider the suggestion made by the honorable member.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether the Commonwealth has power to prohibit the publication in the States of comic strip3 and other scurrilous kinds of literature? Are dollars being made available for the importation . of such literature into Australia?.
– The Commonwealth has no authority over what may bo printed or produced in any State. It can., of course, determine the degree to which dollars are made available for the importation of any literature. I cannot inform the honorable member offhand whether any dollars have been provided for the importation of literature of the kind to which he has referred. I think it unlikely that dollars have been made available for that purpose, but I shall confer with the Treasurer upon the matter, and later I shall supply the honorable member with the information for which he has asked.
– A fortnight ago, I referred to the future of the Australian sulphate of ammonia industry and the difficulty of disposing of the output of the government factory at Ballarat. Will the Minister for Defence Production be able to make a. statement on this subject before the conclusion of this session nl period ?
– I shall not be able to make such a statement before the conclusion of this sessional period. The subject is receiving the consideration of the Government at the present time..
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Supply, relates to the reward payable to the discoverer of the uranium field at Rum Jungle. Will the Minister say whether an additional sum has been paid since he made the last statement upon the matter to the House? What is the total sum that has been paid? Can the honorable gentleman assure the House that that payment, and all other similar payments, will be free from income tax?
– Mr. White, the discoverer of one of the main uranium deposits at Rum Jungle, was paid originally a sum of .1,000. A little later, he was paid another £7,000. Only the other day, the Government had great pleasure in despatching to him a cheque for £17,000. Mr. White has received a total, and a maximum, payment of £25,000. The reward is tax free, as are all rewards of this kind. . We hope sincerely that Mr. White’s good fortune will encourage other people to go and do likewise.
– Has the Minister for Air received a report about the alleged off-loading from an aircraft of two gallant officers of the Royal Australian Air Force, so that berths could be made available for two Japanese to travel to Australia? If the allegation is well founded, will the Minister assure the House that there will not be a repetition of such an incident and that gallant Australian servicemen will not be offloaded from aircraft in future to make room for Japanese or other ex-enemy nationals?
– ,So far as it lies within the power of the Minister for Air to do so, I shall certainly ensure that every preference will be given to Australian servicemen who are returning to this country from Korea or Japan. -I point out to the honorable member that his question should have been directed, not to me, but to the Minister for Civil Aviation. I point out also that, when the two officers concerned in the incident were asked whether they had been off-loaded so that Japanese could travel in the aircraft in which they had intended to travel, they refused to make any statement upon the matter. Inquiries are being made to ascertain whether there is any truth in the report. If the inquiries establish the accuracy of the report, I shall refer the matter to the Minister for Civil Aviation. I stress that this Government has the greatest concern for the welfare of Australian servicemen and ex-servicemen. Those honorable members who listened to the speech that General Bridgeford delivered in the precincts of this building within the last few clays realize that the Government is doing everything possible to ensure that arrangements for the welfare of our servicemen in Japan and Korea shall be maintained at the highest possible standard.
– As the match industry in Australia is in imminent danger of destruction as a result of the heavy sales tax and excise duties imposed upon matches, will the Treasurer consider whether he can recommend to the Government that an immediate reduction of those duties be made so that the Australian match industry will not be totally destroyed ?
– Obviously, the question involves a matter of Government policy.
– Will the Prime Minister ascertain whether the Australian National University is an authority of the Commonwealth within the terms of the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act? I refer particularly to the provision which relates to continuity of employment?
– Order ! I think that a matter. of law is involved in the question.
– Yes, but I appreciate the interest of the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory in the matter, and shall obtain from the appropriate department some advice on the point for him.
– My question to the Prime Minister relates to British exservicemen who were prisoners of war in Japanese hands, and now reside in Australia. I point out, by way of explanation, that those men have been prejudiced by their immigration to Australia, because they do not qualify for the special payment made to British ex-servicemen who were formerly prisoners of war, and who still reside in Britain. Will the right honorable gentleman represent their position to the United Kingdom authorities with a view to ensuring that some benefit will be granted to them ?
– I should feel some embarrassment ‘if I were to offer advice to the United Kingdom Government about the treatment that it extends to its own citizens. Such a matter would be most difficult. The honorable member for Flinders knows how we have treated our own ex-servicemen who were prisoners of war in the hands of the Japanese, and I indicated recently, in reply to a question by the honorable member for Angas, an extension of what we had been doing for them. However, it is beyond our duty to deal with United Kingdom ex-servicemen, and I should scarcely feel that it was within my rights to make representations to the United Kingdom Government on a matter with which it is quite familiar, or to offer my view about what it should do.
– Will the Treasurer indicate whether the Government has changed its mind about its refusal to assist the Queensland Government to develop the Burdekin Valley? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that tho Queensland Government is doing its utmost to proceed with the scheme with its very limited financial resources? Can the people of North Queensland expect a statement from the Treasurer during the forthcoming Senate election campaign similar to that contained in his policyspeech in 1949? If those people can expect a similar statement, will the right honorable gentleman indicate whether there is any prospect on this occasion that the promise will be honoured?
– I state emphatically that the promise made in 1949 was based on wrong premises as the result of deception that emanated from the Queensland Government. That Government asserted that an arrangement had been entered into with the Labour Prime Minister, the late Mr. J. B. Chifley, under which 50 per cent, of the then estimated cost of the construction of the Burdekin Dam, £29,000,000, would be provided by the Commonwealth. No suck undertaking was given in writing, by inference, or in any other way by Mr. Chifley. He made that clear in an unequivocal statement in this House. The honorable member for Herbert should know that tho basis of the £29,000,000 scheme was the utilization of 25,000 acres of land to yield 25 tons of sugar cane an acre, or a total of 625,000 tons of cane. That output “would yield 100,000 tons of sugar, but, of course, the processing of the cane would require the erection of three mills. Not one penny was provided for that purpose in the estimated cost of £29,000,000.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Joske be appointed to fill the vacancy now existing on the Printing Committee.
– As chairman, I present the sixth report of the Printing Committee.
Report read by the Clerk, and - by leave - a adopted .
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) - by leave - agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of section 11 of tho Australian National University Act 1.946-1047, the House of Representatives elect Mr. Beazley and Dr. Donald Cameron to be members of the Council of the Australian National University for a period of two years from the 1st July, 1953.
– As Chairman I present the following report of the Public Accounts Committee: -
Second report for the year 1952-53 - Variations in annual appropriations under Section 37 of the Audit Act .1001-1952.
Ordered to be printed.
Report oi’’ Public Works Committee.
– I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following work : -
Proposed erection of Taxation Office Building at Brisbane, Queensland.
I should like to explain to the House that the investigation of this work has presented considerable difficulty. It was necessary to take a great deal of evidence owing to the widely divergent opinions expressed by some of the witnesses. The. members of the committee have worked together conscientiously, and have spent much time in studying the evidence and the problems involved. The committee appreciates the concentrated efforts brought to bear, in the course of their work on the project, by the able and expert professional officials of the departments concerned. In addition, the committee particularly desires to record the excellent and valuable assistance given in an honorary capacity by eminent private witnesses who have willingly given of their time, knowledge and wide experience in order to assist the committee and to ensure, in the interests of Australia, that the expenditure proposed is wisely and economically planned. In this investigation the committee has been able to co-ordinate the requirements of the various departments in Brisbane, and to recommend provision of adequate accommodation for the staffs concerned, whilst at the same time eliminating duplication and unnecessary accommodation, with an immediate saving of approximately £1,750,000. This is only the latest of a long list of valuable investigations carried out by successive committees during the years in a conscientious, quiet and effective manner, without the publicity that would emphasize the importance of their investigations. Many of the past inquiries have shown that reduction of expenditure is not the only objective, or even the main aim, of the committee’s work. Recommendations for alterations and additions to plans have, on occasions, added to the proposed expenditure, but have resulted in much more useful and efficient projects. In addition, the very fact that a proposal is to come before the committee, ensures that careful designing and preparation are given to the plans, so that the Committee is enabled to carry out the functions prescribed for it under the Public Works Committee Act. The committee carries out its important functions with a maximum of economy, as an expenditure of £2,000 per annum has covered the cost of fees and air travel during all the years of its existence.
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1936- 1952, as amended by the Taxation Administration Act 1963.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Earlier this month I announced the Government’s intention to sponsor important alterations to the provisions relating to self-assessment of provisional tax which would have the effect of making selfassessment completely optional. The main purpose of this bill is to give effect to those decisions of the Government. Honorable members will recall that less than twelve months ago, to meet insistent demands, a system was introduced to enable provisional taxpayers to adjust the tax to accord with fluctuating incomes. The broad objective of this reform was welcomed on all sides. Since the introduction of that legislation, however, there has been criticism of the compulsory provisions on the score that it is impracticable for many taxpayers to estimate a year’s income until after the year has ended, and that to insist on it being estimated would place upon those taxpayers an onerous burden. Since the plan has been in operation the Government has carefully watched its effects on provisional taxpayers and the businesses of their agents, and has come to the conclusion that some modifications can well bo made whilst retaining the main virtue of the alteration namely, the elasticity necessary to meet unexpected fluctuations of income. In the light of experience of the scheme in operation, and bearing in mind the steadier levels of incomes now as compared with a year or two ago, the proposal to make selfassessment optional can, it is thought, be completely justified. The proposed relaxation will apply to assessments based on incomes of the year ended the 30th June, 1952, already issued, and will also apply to future assessments. If a .pro: visional taxpayer is satisfied to pay the tax assessed on the basis of last year’s income, he may do so and no question of penalty will arise. All that he needs to do in such a case is to pay on or before the due date the sum shown in the notice issued by the department.
Alternatively, if he knows or believes’ that his income this year will be lower than last year’s income, he may estimate his income and assess the tax on the lower income. There must, of course, be some safeguard against the misuse of the voluntary system of self-assessment; otherwise, there would be a great temptation to some taxpayers to postpone tax payments by wider-estimation of incomes. The safeguard proposed in this bill is that any one who under-estimates his income by more than 20 per cent, shall be liable to an extra payment by way of penalty. There will be no penalty unless a taxpayer chooses to self -assess on an estimate of income lower than four-fifths of last year’s income and also lower than four-fifths of the amount that his current year’s income proves to be.
Any taxpayer who knows that his income will be higher this year than last year may, if he so desires, recalculate the amount of provisional tax to accord with his higher income, but he is not obliged to do so and no penalty will be incurred if he does not do so. He may pay the provisional tax as assessed by the department, and leave adjustment until next year’s assessment has been received. These important modifications of the selfassessment plan will undoubtedly make for simplification in the tax system and will, I am sure, be appreciated by provisional taxpayers.
There is another clause in this bill which I desire to explain. It relates to stocks held in the winemaking industry, including the distillation of spirits from wine. As honorable members well know, in calculating the profits of a business for income tax purposes, the value of trading stock at the beginning of the year and the value of trading stock at the end of the year are taken into account. For such purposes, the law as at present enacted provides that trading stock may be valued at cost, at market selling value or at replacement price. In the winemaking industry, however, it has been a matter of trade practice, year after year, to value stocks at a standard value for each gallon of unfortified wine, fortified wine, brandy and fortifying spirit. This standard value does not completely comply with any of the values as contained in the act. Stocks held at the end of the year, as a general rule, comprise mainly wines and spirits which have not been sufficiently advanced in maturity to be in a marketable condition. It is fairly common knowledge that the whole process of maturation extends over several years and, in many cases, it involves the addition of grape spirit or blending with other types of wine before the product is ready for sale to the consumers. In other words, winemakers at the end of each income year hold considerable stocks which are not in a marketable state.
It is considered that the existing provisions of the income tax law do not suitably meet the peculiar conditions of this particular industry, and having carefully examined the circumstances surrounding the standard values adopted by winemakers, the Government has decided that returns and assessments based on those values should not be disturbed. The winemaking industry must be considered in conjunction with the grape-growing industry. The industries are interwoven and interdependent. If winemakers were forced to value stocks on the ordinary basis in the period of maturation, not only would they be faced with disaster, but the stability of the grape-growing industry would also be threatened. The clause that I have just explained will not only validate the values adopted by winemakers in their income tax returns for past years, but it will also authorize standard selected values for stocks in future years. There is precedent for the proposed action in the existing provisions relating to the natural increase of livestock.
It has always been realized that to attempt to enforce the same requirements as apply to normal trading stock to natural increase of live-stock, would impose an intolerable burden upon livestock owners. Consequently a system of selected standard values is permitted. The scheme now proposed for winemakers* stocks is, in essence, similar to that enacted for natural increase of livestock.
For the purposes of stocktaking at the end of the current income year - 1952-53 - winemakers will be given an opportunity to select a standard price per gallon to be applied in the valuation of each class of their, trading stock. The selected values will, however, be required to be not less than the following minimum values : -
and will apply in future years. The proposed method of valuation will not, of course, vary iri any way the amount of net income on which, the winemaker will ultimately pay tax. When his stocks are sold, the difference between the selected values and the proceeds of sale will he reflected in his taxable income. In view of the unique circumstances of the winemaking industry and its close association with the grape-growing industry, I commend the proposed basis nf valuation to the House as a practical measure designed to preserve equity as between the revenue and the taxpayers concerned.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tom Burke) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to authorize the Commonwealth to guarantee the repayment of certain loans to lie made hy the Commonwealth Bank of Australia to the Queensland Tobacco Leaf Marketing Board.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill lie now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to authorize the Australian Government to guarantee the repayment to’ the Commonwealth Bank of loan moneys advanced by that bank to the Queensland Tobacco Leaf Marketing Board for the purpose of assisting growers of unsold tobacco leaf of the 1951-52 season’s crop. In October last, and again in February this year, my colleague the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) and I conferred with representatives of the Australian tobacco manufacturers and the chairman of the Queensland Tobacco Leaf Marketing Board on the marketing problems of the Queensland tobacco industry. Our discussion 2-evolved round the long-term marketing problems of the industry, and the failure of the Queensland auctions in 1952 to clear all the available leaf from the 1951-52 crop.
Following these talks, the board, with the support in principle of the Queensland Government, submitted a proposal for an advance by the Australian Government to the board, so that the board in turn could provide loans to the individual growers against their leaf which is in the hands of the board. .It was proposed that the advances by the board, to the growers would be on the basis of the valuation of their individual consignments of usable leaf, which totalled about 400 tons, and that the advances would be deducted by the board from the proceeds of sale coming into its hands. It was agreed by the board that leaf which could not be. regarded as usable would be excluded. The 400 tons that I have mentioned is not, therefore, the full quantity of the unsold 1951-52 crop leaf in Queensland. The board itself, after our negotiations, excluded about 130 tons as usable and has since agreed to exclude a further small quantity.
The chairman of the board, in submitting the proposal, pointed out that the leaf in question has been held for some time and that many of the growers concerned were in desperate financial circumstances. The chairman of the board stressed that the provision of some temporary financial assistance to those growers was essential in order to tide them over pending the receipt of proceeds from the incoming 1952-53 crop.
The matter waa considered by the Government, which was satisfied that the plight of growers was as serious as it had been represented to be by the board. The Government undertook, therefore, to make such immediate arrangements as would be necessary to ensure that the growers concerned should obtain financial accommodation pending the receipt by them of the eventual realizations from the reoffering of the leaf concerned. Under the decision taken, the Government has arranged with the board that the funds provided by tho Commonwealth Bank, under a guarantee given by the Commonwealth Government, shall be used to make immediate advances to the growers who have unsold leaf from the 1951-52 crop, which is considered to be usable. The Government realizes that some of the leaf may he left unsold, but that factor was taken into account in fixing the initial advance at 50 per cent, of the board’s valuation of the leaf. The Government has agreed to meet any deficiency between the amount advanced to an individual grower and thi; total proceeds from the sale of his leaf on which the advance is made. Whether there will be such a deficiency will depend on how much of his leaf is unsold.
The Government has agreed further that the growers’ advances may be increased to 70 per cent, of the appraised value on suitable grades of leaf. This means, of course, that the unsold stocks will have to be adequately graded for the purpose of determining the grades eligible to qualify for the additional 20 per cent, advance. This involves not a complete re-grading by leaves, but, where necessary, a re-sorting by “ hands “, the technical or trade term for a bundle of leaves, of those bales, which include a mixture of grades. The amount that will be required for this extra advance has been allowed for in fixing £100,000 as the maximum sum to be lent to the board by the bank under the Government’s guarantee. In these special circumstances, the Government has been impressed by the need to assist the board in meeting abnormal costs associated with the handling of the unsold portion of tha 1951-52 crop. It considers that growers’ returns should not bc unduly depressed by these abnormal charges or costs and it ifr: McEwen has accordingly decided to relieve thu board of such charges up to an amount of £4,000.
This approach to the problem presented by unsold leaf of the 1951-52 crop has been decided upon against a background of reasonable expectation of achieving a future marketing arrangement designed to ensure full disposal of subsequent crops at satisfactory prices. In the talks that I have had with growers and manufacturers both have made considerable concessions. As a result, I am hopeful that future marketing will be characterized by: - («) the exclusion of low-grade unusable leaf; (b) careful grading of the balance; and (t) the use of a common schedule of grades by sellers and buyers.
– Is it a fact that 30 per cent, of the crop has been discarded ?
– It is not u fact. The Government would not know the percentage discarded on the farm. That is a matter for the growers. Nothing like 30 per cent, of the leaf submitted by growers to the board for sale has been discarded by the hoard.
Further negotiations are directed towards securing a method of attaching agreed reserve prices to the grades of tobacco offered for sale which would then be virtually underwritten by the buyers. Success is not guaranteed, but the progress made has been quite considerable - both sides showing a readiness to negotiate in good faith.
The Government, in all of its discussions with the growing and the manufacturing sides of the tobacco industry, has aimed at the establishment of the sort of marketing arrangements that will result in an expansion of tobacco-growing in Australia. The Commonwealth and the States, through their representatives in the Australian Agricultural Council, have agreed that the area under tobacco should be increased to 16,500 acres, including 10,000 acres in Queensland which is the dominant tobacco-growing State. Many growers, and indeed some State governments, have-felt that a course could be adopted by the Australian Government which would provide a quick and simple solution to all the problems of the Australian tobacco-growers. Broadly stated, the idea canvassed is that the Commonwealth should, by use of its customs and excise powers, impose an absolute compulsion on Australian manufacturers to buy the whole of the Australian crop at prices that are satisfactory to growers. In particular, these proposals involve suggestions of restriction upon imports of tobacco until the Australian crop has been purchased; or the conditioning of import permits by a requirement that a stated quantity of Australian leaf should be bought as a condition precedent to the issue of an import permit; or that some wide gap should bo established between the costs of Australian and imported leaf by either a higher customs duty or a differential excise. This is not the occasion on which to examine such proposals in detail. But I can say that courses of action of that character have been considered. To some there are obstacles such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade or the provisions of the Ottawa Agreement, which, in respect of British duties, require that no new protective duties shall be imposed and no existing duty shall be increased on United Kingdom goods to an amount in excess of that recommended by the Tariff Board. The avenue of an approach to the Tariff Board is always open to the industry but it has not been availed of in recent years - possibly because the industry already enjoys a protection of up to 100 per cent. The Government has taken one step. Under the customs powers it has doubled the percentage of Australian leaf which must be blended with imported leaf in order that imported leaf may become entitled to a lower rate of duty. Many growers who are .anxious about the condition of their industry have complained that that action was not taken early enough or that the percentage increase is not as high as it might have been. The situation can bc described in simple terms. The Government will, as a matter of policy, use this device to ensure a demand for blending for all Australian leaf suitable for that purpose in excess of the quantity of Australian leaf which is manufactured unblended. Having stated that as a matter of definite Government policy, there remains only the mathematical question of the percentage that can be prescribed, having regard to the quantities available, the period of maturation between the timo when the leaf is produced and when it is suitable for manufacture, and the level of the total Australian demand for tobacco of all classes.
I give to the House and the industrial! unqualified assurance that the percentage prescribed and the timing of the increases in the percentage are the result of statistical calculations made by the Department of Trade and Customs. Having regard to the points which I have mentioned, the Government’s policy is that the prescribed minimum percentage will be increased as the statistical position makes such a move practicable.
Apart altogether from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade or the Ottawa Agreement, I am certain that the long-term interests of the Australian tobacco-growing industry will not be served best by the employment of a blunt, instrument by the Government - that is, by the taking of Customs action to compel the purchase of all Australian leaf regardless of its quality and regardless of the tastes of Australian smokers. A wellmeaning action along these lines was taken in the depression years, when a steep increase of the Customs duty led to a sudden and tremendous increase of Australian production, mostly by people unskilled in the industry, and resulted, to a large degree, in the abandonment of care in production even by those experienced in the industry. I can say from personal experience, as one who represented one of the biggest tobaccogrowing areas in Australia in the ‘thirties - the Ovens Valley, in Victoria - that that “ blunt instrument “ approach caused more loss and suffering to thousands of growers than I could ever wish to see repeated.
The Minister for Trade and Customs and I have brought growers and manufacturers together, and my colleague has taken action to double the prescribed percentages. The Minister for Trade and Customs has already announced that, from the 1st April, 1953, manufacturers will have to blend 6 per cent, of Australian leaf in cigarettes, and 10 per cent, in tobacco, if they are to qualify for the lower rate of duty. I, out of ray experience and administrative responsibility for marketing, have been engaged in negotiations with growers and manufacturers to achieve an agreed marketing arrangement. ‘ Officials of the Department . of Commerce and Agriculture - with the head of the department, Mr. Crawford, devoting a great deal of time to these negotiations - have achieved important progress. Mr. Short, the chairman of the Queensland Tobacco Leaf Marketing Board, has at the same time fought for and defended the growers’ interests with great devotion. Nevertheless, he and the board have approached the whole matter of an improved marketing arrangement in a most realistic manner. The representatives of manufacturers have been not less helpful and forthcoming in their willingness to devise and be parties to a new marketing arrangement.
In this atmosphere I have felt a growing confidence that tho final outcome of the negotiations will be agreement upon a new basis of marketing of such a character that growers will be able to look forward to expanding production with an assurance of satisfactory returns for the efficient producer, that there will be an increasing availability of Australian leaf of types satisfactory to Australian manufacturers and acceptable to Australian smokers, and that there will be a progressive relief from the call upon our overseas funds, both dollar and sterling. I have seen most of the Australian primary industries, in their day, in dire straits, but I remember that, by similar processes of negotiation between growers and governments, and, where necessary, processors, the dairying and wheat industries, the dried and canned fruits industries and others have been placed on a basis of real stability. Knowledge of the industry concerned, patience, goodwill and mutual confidence have been the ingredients which have solved the problems of each of those industries, and the same ingredients will solve the problems of the tobacco industry. This industry, of course, has unique problems which do not lend themselves to any simple solution.
This Government believes that all experience goes to show that the industry, both on the growing and the manufacturing side, will be more happily and satisfactorily based if stability can be achieved by a negotiated arrangement between the parties rather than by arbitrary conditions imposed by the Government. As I informed the Houseearlier to-day, I shall preside over a conference between representatives of the Queensland Tobacco Leaf Marketing Board and the manufacturers in Sydney this afternoon, when, I hope, it will he possible to reach agreement upon a new marketing arrangement. Although this bill is concerned only with the urgent problem of assuring the growers of the tobacco held by the Queensland board of some immediate return on the unsold leaf,. I have thought it necessary to refer in passing to the longer-term problem so that honorable members may realize that this Government’s concern for the welfare of the tobacco industry is not merely an interest in relieving the immediate hardship of the growers. I commend the hill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Pollard); adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Philip McBride through Mr. Francis) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Defence Act 1903-I952_
Bill presented, and read a first time..
– by leave - I move -
That thu bill be now read a second time.
Under regulation 31 of the Defence ForceRegulations made under the Defence Act,, the Secretary-General of the AnzacAgency of the Imperial War Graves Commission is authorized to establish cemeteries, and, amongst other things, toarrange for the erection of headstonesand the covering of graves. A legal’ ruling has been given that regulation 31 does not authorize any action with regard’ to the bodies of members of the defenceforces who die otherwise than on service.. The graves of ex-servicemen, whose deathsoccur subsequent to discharge but which are accepted as the result of .war service, qualify for treatment as war graves.. In view of the legal ruling to which I have referred, the Imperial War Graves
Commission cannot, in certain circumstances, proceed with the erection of headstones and the covering of graves as desired by the Government.
It is not possible to change the terms of regulation 31 without a prior amendment of section 124’ of the Defence Act, which enables the making of regulations. This bill proposes the insertion of a newparagraph in sub-section (1.) of section 124 which will empower the making of regulations covering the maintenance of, and other work in connexion with, the graves of members of the defence forces who have died while on service or as a result of service. It is a simple measure, and I hope that it will he accorded a speedy passage.
– The bill, which relates to an important matter that affects the deepest feelings of relatives and friends of dead ex-servicemen, is obviously necessary. The Opposition supports it.
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.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harbison) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave bc given to bring in a bill for an set to provide for the validation of collections of duties of customs under Customs Tariff Proposals
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now road a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to validate until the 5th December, 1953, the collections of Customs duties made under Customs Tariff Proposals No. 7 and Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Proposals No. 2, which were introduced into the Parliament on the 5th March, 1953. Owing to the limited time available since the proposals were introduced, and the anticipated ending of the present sittings, it has not been possible to bring down the customary bills for the enactment of the proposals. Consequently, it is desirable to introduce this bill to validate duty collections pending the further consideration of. the proposals by the Parliament.
Honorable members will appreciate that this is purely a machinery measure. Every opportunity will be afforded to them to debate the proposals fully as early as practicable.
.- I listened with interest to the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), who told us that, unfortunately, owing to limitation of time, it had not been possible to bring down the bills necessary for the enactment of the Customs Tariff Proposals to which this validation measure relates. That is a severe reflection upon the Government. An important matter of this kind should not be held in abeyance while a few members of the Government rush off to the Coronation. Apparently, the Government thinks nothing of postponing the consideration of important tariff proposals. Its conduct is reprehensible. However, the Opposition realizes that Australian industries must be protected. Primary producers and consumers generally, as well as manufacturers, have certain rights. Therefore, the Opposition will not delay the bill if the Minister will give an assurance that the Parliament will be afforded an opportunity to debate these customs tariff proposals later.
– in reply - I thank the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) for his courtesy in giving an assurance tha.t the Opposition will not delay the passage of the bill. The honorable member said that secondary industries must be protected. Of course, the purpose of the bill is to protect secondary industries. It will validate the collection of customs duty under the Government’s tariff proposals and thus will assist secondary industry in accordance with the Government’s policy. I am pleased to assure the honorable member that the House will be given an opportunity to debate the. proposals in detail at a later stage. I have vivid recollections of occasions in the past when measures to validate customs tariff collections were introduced by the Labour Government and forced through the House with such indecent haste that honorable members were not afforded an opportunity to discuss the proposals in detail.
– That is not true.
– It is perfectly true. Not until this Government came into power did the discussion of tariff schedules become an established feature of the business of this Parliament. The Government will provide the House with an opportunity to discuss the schedules to which the bill refers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Rill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill -by leave - read a third time.
Messages Intimating Agreement by Senate.
Messages received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the House of Representatives in the following bills: -
Apple and Pear Organization Bill1953.
Wine Overseas Marketing Bill 1953.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 20th March(vide page 1493).
Mr.CREMEAN (Hoddle) [12.15].- In the course of this debate, a great number of extravagant claims have been made by apologists for the Government. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) said that this Government had done more for the working people of Australia than had any other government in the history of the Commonwealth. The best answer to that extravagant claim is supplied by the results of Federal and State by-elections that have been held since the beginning of 1950. They indicate the general opinion of the people, which will be made manifest at an appropriate time.
When we study the sorry history of this Government - a history of promises extravagantly made and ignominiously broken - we see the real reason why the stocks of the Government have depreciated. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) said that we should infuse a little realism into the debate, but all that he did in his contribution was to give an exhibition of slavish lip-service to the Government that his party supports. When we get down to readily ascertainable facts and to things that really matter, we can see how far the Government has succeeded in honouring the promises it has made. It is easy to say that on some occasions promises cannot be honoured because of changed circumstances, but the essence of realism is to approach a promise with a clear recognition of its implications and with a determination to honour it. This Government has failed to honour the promises that it has made. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is making a series of broadcasts entitled “Man to man “. In one of these broadcasts he posed the question, “ How much sounder is the Australian economy now than in 1949?” It is significant that, in that broadcast, the right honorable gentleman made no reference to the things that are important to the Australian economy. He did not refer to deflation, unemployment or the unduly severe burden of taxation.
– That is so, but he did not refer to the things that matter to the working people. They are interested in what their wages will buy and whether their jobs are secure. On the admission of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) employment conditions now are only slightly better than the depressed conditions that obtained during the preceding eighteen months. Apologists for the Government say that the employment position is satisfactory, but in the industrial centres of this country more men have registered as unemployed and are receiving the unemployment benefit, more people are in part-time work, and more people are dreading the future, with its uncertainty of employment. Other honorable members on this side of the House have dealt fully with employment, and have revealed the failure of the Government to deal satisfactorily with that important phase of our national life. 1 want to deal with an aspect of taxation that has not yet been discussed during this debate. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), in the course of his remarks, said that the Government had a plan to reduce taxation, stop by step. He pointed out that, in the last budget, taxation was reduced over a wide field, and that the sales tax was reduced upon a wide range of articles. What is the general picture! Let me quote from a bulletin, issued by the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia, which contains the following statement -
In 1038-39, the. per bead taxation of the Commonwealth was £17 19s. 6d., and taxes as a percentage of national income were 16.5%. In the subsequent years, up to the defeat of the Labour Government in 1949, per head taxation increased until, in 1949, it was £69 13e. 3d., with all taxation taking 23.45% of the national income.
That increase is understandable. A war had been fought, and that war had to be paid for. But the period from 1950 until the present time has been a period of peace, although I admit that the Government has been confronted by certain postwar problems. In 1950-51, taxes in Australia, were levied at the rate of £99 14s. 7d. a head, and total tax collections represented 26.61 per cent, of the national income. In 1951-52, the figures increased to £116 14s. lOd. and 30.8 per cent, respectively. In 1952-53, taxes were imposed at tho rate of £101 for every man, woman and child in Australia, and total tax collections represented 29.7 per cent, of the national income. In those circumstances, can it bc said that the Government ha; honoured the promise to reduce taxes that was made by the Treasurer in 1949? *T.h** right honorable gentleman, in the policyspeech that he delivered then, said -
If the socialists are defeated, rates of taxation, both direct and indirect, can, and will bc, steadily reduced. In short, our policy- is to progressively reduce the taxation of individuals and of commodities in genera.!.
To-day, sales tax collections represent a payment of £44 a year by every family unit in Australia.
– Order! Th». honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I want to put the record straight upon one or two matters. The honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean) compared the taxes imposed in 1939 - the last complete financial year before the war - with what he would have us believe are the crippling taxes imposed to-day. But the conditions that obtained in 1939 are not comparable with present conditions. To-day, we aro confronted with problems arising from the financing of the last war and the aftermath of that war. Those problems are aggravated, not only by the Korean campaign but also by the general international tension. In the current financial year, we have had to find £200,000,000 for the defence and security of this country. T ask honorable members to compare that sum with the £9,000,000 that was expended upon defence in 1938-39. To-day, owing to tho general desire for. social security, we have to find about £164,000,000 a year for social services. That is about ten times more than the £16,000,000 that was required for that purpose in 1938-39. Does the Opposition advocate that present expenditure upon social services should be reduced? Pressure is being applied, not only to this Government, but also to governments throughout the world, not to reduce social services but to increase them. We are expending about £148,000,000 a year more upon social services now than in 193S-39, and about £191,000,000 a year more upon defence - which is an inescapable and irreducible item of expenditure. On those two items alone, present expenditure is necessarily abour. £340,000,000 a year greater than in 193S-39. Does the Opposition suggest that expenditure upon cither social services or defence should be reduced to make present conditions comparable with conditions in 193S-39? We are compelled to make provision for an expenditure of approximately £60,000,000 a year upon interest payments and sinking fund charges in respect of loans raised to finance tho war, and upon rehabilitation, repatriation and ex-servicemen’s pensions. It is ridiculous in the extreme to compare the taxes that were imposed in 1938-39 with those imposed in 1952-53 without comparing also the financial commitments of the Commonwealth in each of those years.
It has been asserted repeatedly that this Government has broken its promise to reduce taxes. What does the record show ? When I ask that question, I refer, not to a record that I have compiled, but to a record prepared by a committee consisting of Commonwealth and State Treasury officials, who conferred on several occasions, and presented a report to a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers convened to consider the resumption of the imposition of income tax by the States. The report embodies the unanimous conclusions of the officials who attended that conference, and is signed by the Secretary to the Commonwealth Treasury, and the undersecretaries to the Treasuries of the respective States. In 194S-49, the last complete financial year in which the Chifley Government was in office, a man with a dependent wife and two children, in receipt of a taxable income of £500, paid income tax of £21 9s. At present he pays £8 14s. Yet, the Opposition claim’s that this Government has not reduced taxation.
But that is not the complete story. His tax of £8 14s. is made possible by various sorts of beneficial concessions granted by this Government. I remind honorable members that we abolished the cumbersome rebate system, and reintroduced a system of direct deductions. Family allowances and concessions in respect of medical and dental expenses and life assurance premiums were increased, and an allowance in respect of expenses incurred on education was introduced. I shall not discuss those concessions in detail, but the comparison between the position in 1948-49 and at the present time is perfectly clear. Yet, our critics have the audacity to claim that the Government has not reduce,d taxation. Had it not been for the war in Korea and the. necessity to improve the condition of our defences, which were in a parlous state when we assumed office, we would have been able to grant further reductions of taxation. A man with a wife and two children in receipt of a taxable in- come of £800 a year paid tax of £77 19s. in 1948-49, whereas at present he paysonly £46 6s. A man with a dependent wife and two children in receipt of a taxable income of £1,000 per annum paid £129 6s. in 1948-49 and now pays £83 4s. A man with a dependent wife and two children in receipt of a taxable income of £1,500 per annum paid £294 9s. in 1948-49 and now pays £208 3s. So the story goes on. The position is revealed in its proper truthful form by the report of the Commonwealth and State Treasury officials to which I have referred.
Other figures clarify a position that is not understood by many taxpayers.. Despite the undeniable reductions of tax. they claim that they pay more tax to-day than they did in 1948-49. The reason is that they have more taxable income.
– The economic policy of the Government has brought it about.
– The basic wageincreases have placed them into higher income groups for taxation purposes.
– The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) would not understand the truth. It is foreign to him.
– Order !
– I shall show why many people have greater taxable incomes to-day than they had a few years ago, and why the national income has increased. That position is due entirely to the economic policy laid down by the Government. It was temporarily unpopular, but is recognized to-day as the best thing that has happened for this generation, and for generations to come. I direct attention to the following news item in to-day’s issue of the Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial -
The managing director of the Ford Motor Co. of Australia (Mr. Charles A. Smith) said yesterday that the upsurge in Australia’s prosperity was most apparent on his return after four months abroad.
Mr. Smith has been studying latest developments in the motor industry in America ana Canada.
He said that he was more convinced thi,,ii ever that the future of Australia offered greater opportunity than anywhere else.
The change during his absence was very encouraging. Employment was rising, the spending power of the people was greater, and there seemed to be more efficiency and enthusiasm among both management and labour.
The motor industry was surging ahead all over the world, and the importance of road transport to the economy of all modern countries was becoming more evident.
That opinion was expressed, not by a member of the Liberal party, but by a leading industrialist. I shall now analyse why people are paying more tax to-day, despite the fact that rates of tax had been reduced. The explanation is that people have higher taxable incomes. The figures tell their own story. In 1948-49 there were 2,831,000 taxpayers, but in 1951-52 the number had increased to 3,482,000, a difference of approximately 650,000. Those people are taxpayers because they are in receipt of’ taxable incomes. That fact, incidentally, gives a lie direct to the criticism that this Government has not taken effective action to preserve, a state of full employment. We have found work for the people, and the result is shown by the fact that 650,000 more people are paying tax now than paid tax in 1948-49. Let us also examine the movement of the grades of income. The test to be applied to taxation is not the amount that is taken as tax but the amount that is left. When this Government assumed office, 1,956,000 persons paid tax on taxable incomes up to £f>00 a year. That number has now declined by approximately 640,000 to 1.315,000, although the number of taxpayers in that period has increased by about 650,000. What is the explanation of that change? Thousands of people have not obtained exemption from taxation.
– They are unemployed.
– If they are unemployed, they do not pay tax. When this Government assumed office, approximately 712,000 persons were in the group in receipt of taxable incomes between £500 and £1,000 per annum. At present about 1,636,000 are in that group, an increase of 920,000. Those figures answer all the ill-informed criticism about high taxation levels. When we assumed office, approximately 109,000 persons were in the group between £1,000 and £2,000 per annum. The number is now 417,000. The comparable figures for persons in the income group between £2,000 and £5,000 are 46,000 and 93,000 respectively. The fact that the number of taxpayers has increased by 650,000 in the period to which I have referred indicates that our economy and our employment policy are sound.
I shall now deal with some misstatements and misconceptions about the treatment by this Government of the States. Too much ill-informed criticism has been voiced about the assistance that this Government has granted to them, and the whole position has been misrepresented. This Government knows that the people of Australia should not be divided by artificial boundaries, aud recognizes the necessity to assist the States in circumstances in which they have got themselves. The extent to which ive have given practical support is evidenced, if evidence is required, by the official figures in the report of the Commonwealth and State Treasury officials to which I referred a few minutes ago. I emphasize as strongly as I am able that of all the taxes which we have collected and for which, incidentally, we have received the odium, .at least 20 per cent, is returned to the States. In those circumstances, we are virtually the trustees for them. About 20 per cent, of all the taxes which we shall collect during the current financial year will be returned to the States. I want the fact to be realized that the tax reimbursements to the States are made in conformity with a statutory formula upon which the Commonwealth and the States unanimously agreed.
Silting suspended, from to 2.16 p.m.
– I wish to give the lie direct to accusations that have been made to frequently, and. sometimes wilfully, regarding the treatment of the States by the Commonwealth. The Government realizes, and accepts, the fact that the people of Australia must be dealt with as being one people not divided by artificial State boundaries. We recognize that, as a federal government, we have a responsibility to the entire Australian people. We could not, in those circumstances, allow the internal finances of the States or, indeed, their overseas commitments, into “which they had entered without any regard to the problem of where and how the money to meet them was to be found, to react on the national and international integrity and reputation of Australia. Wo realized that, whilst the States have been responsible for placing us in a very difficult position as a result of the overseas commitments into which they have entered, we could not allow the existence of a condition of a flairs whereby the States - certain of them in particular - would have to repudiate their contracts and commitments. As a responsible and honest government, therefore, we took an over-all Australian view of the matter and assisted the States at the expense, temporarily, of our own political popularity.
I repeat that under the tax reimbursement formula certain obligations were placed, not only on the Commonwealth, but also on the States, which had agreed to the distribution formula unanimously. That formula was not to be static. It was established on a basic amount that was to be adjusted in accordance with the movement of wages and populations in the States. When this Government took office in 1949-50 the States were entitled, in that financial year, under the formula, to £62,500,000 in reimbursement of tax. Despite our limited and definite legal obligation to reimburse the States by that amount only in respect of the taxes that we had collected on their behalf, we gave them £70,500,000 or £S,000,000 more than was required by the formula.
– The increased amount did not meet the increase of costs that the States had to face.
– I shall deal with increased costs directly. In the following year, 1950-51, the States were entitled to £70,400,000 under the formula. We gave them £90,400,000 or £20,000,000 more than the amount to which they were entitled. In 1951-52 they were entitled to £36,400,000. We gave them £120,000,000, or £33,600,000 more than their legal entitlement. In the current financial year their legal entitlement is £108,800,000. Wo have allocated to them £135,900,000, or £27,100,000 more than their entitlement. In other words, the grants made by this Government to the States arc three times as high as they were under the Chifley Government which preceded it in office. In three years this Government has given the States about £80,000,000 more than they should have received under the formula.
I shall now examine the degree of assistance in respect of the budgetary positions of the various States that has been given by the Commonwealth. Before doing so, I remind the committee that the State railway systems, and the losses incurred on their operation, are matters that are entirely the responsibility of the States. Wo have taken from the States the responsibility of inflicting taxes. We have also’ taken, with that responsibility, all the odium connected with it, of course there is no thanks 1 But for losses ‘ incurred on State railways the States would have enjoyed substantial budgetary surpluses during our term of office, as a result of the increased grants that we have made to them. Indeed, in the three years ending on the 30th June next we will have given the States sufficient reimbursement grants to enable them to incur substantial losses on their railway services and still show balanced, or nearly balanced, budgets. The figures for the last three years in respect of the budgetary results of the States are as follows: - 1950-51, deficit of £70,000; 1951-52, deficit of £3,170,000; 1952-53, estimated deficit of £1,090,000. The total of the deficits for all the States in those three years is therefore estimated to be £4,330,000. The totals of the State railway deficits in the same three years were as follows: - 1950-51, £21,500,000; 1951-52, £23,360,000; 1952-53, £19,860,000, or a total of £64,720,000. Excluding the railway deficits, the budgetary results of the States in the same period would therefore have been as follows: - 1950-51, surplus of £21,430,000; 1951-52, surplus of £20,190,000; 1952-53, surplus of £18,770,000. The total surpluses would have been £60,390,000. Those figures show the impressive degree to which we have generously assisted the States at tho expense of temporary political unpopularity to ourselves as a Government.
The people of the ‘States are Aus.tralians all and are divided from each other by artificial boundaries only. If we had not assisted thom as we have done, chaotic economic conditions that would
Iia ve affected employment would have occurred throughout the nation.
I turn now to another matter that has been far too often wilfully misrepresented. I refer to the enormous increase of borrowings by State governments in regent years, which is shown by the figures of actual borrowings. In 1946-47 the borrowing programmes of all the States totalled only £29,100,000, despite the fact that after the war deterioration of property and the results of delay in maintenance work aud of development occasioned by the war had to be offset and overtaken. The amount of £29,100,000 in that year was the amount approved by the Australian Loan Council, upon which the States have a preponderance of votes, and therefore of control. In the following year the State borrowing programmes were stepped up to £4S,800,000. In 1948-49, the last complete financial year in which the Chifley Government held office, the programmes totalled £52,200,000. In the financial’ year in which we took office the programmes totalled £74,800,000, to which they had been increased from the total of ‘ £29,100,000 in 1946-47, when the necessity for expeditious development, reconstruction and re-orientation of public utilities was most evident and necessary. In the year 1950-51, the first complete financial year in which we had responsibility, the total loan programmes of the States increased to £139,400,000. In 1951-52 with amounts for housing included, they increased to £225,300,000. In the present financial year the States, by their majority of votes on the Australian Loan Council, voted for loan programmes totalling £247,500,000. They were told at the time of the meeting of (lie council that that amount of money could not be obtained on the market. They recognize that fact now. Consequently, on the basis of availability, we have to provide, and help them to provide, £190,000,000.
I shall now refer to special assistance that we have given to the States in addition to the increased reimbursement grants to which I have referred. The figures in relation to Commonwealth advances to the .States for housing provide ample evidence, if evidence he required, of the degree to which this Government has generously and wisely assisted the States in respect of the general housing position in Australia Those figures do not take into account the work of the War Service Homes Division or of other instrumentalities. In 1947-4S, a total of only £13,300,000. was advanced by the Chifley Government to the States for housing, despite the lag in home-building and the deterioration of property that had resulted from the war. In 1948-49 the Chifley Government advanced a total of £14.500,000 to the States for housing. When we took office at the end of 1949 we immediately increased the total to £17,200,000 for the financial year 1949-50. For the financial year 1950-51 we increased it to £21,600,000, and in 1951-52 to £26,500,000. In the current financial year we are providing £30,000,000 to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement.
I turn now to special assistance that we have given in order to enable the States to carry on. I wish it to be realized that we have turned over the whole of the loan market to the States. Circumstances forced us to do so. We have done so to such a degree that we are unavoidably following the unorthodox method of financing our own capital works out of revenue, and inflicting unpopular taxes to enable us to do so. We are also financing the whole of our defence requirements out of revenue, not because we want to do so, mrt because it is inevitable that we should do so under the circumstances. These two items amount to an expenditure of more than £300,000,000. Imagine how popular we could make ourselves as the result of reduction of taxes if we did not have to meet those requirements out of revenue.
During the last two years this Government has taken the unprecedented action of assisting the Australian Loan Council borrowing programmes to an outstanding extent. In 1.95.1-52 the Government gave assistance to the States by underwriting loans which cost it £152,900,000. We underwrote loan programmes to the amount of £225,000,000 in order that the
States might carry out their works, that chaotic economic conditions might not prevail within the States and that they might not have to repudiate commitments and so damage the good, name of Australia. We did that because the States were not able to meet the commitments that they had unwisely and unwarrantedly entered into without any thought of where the money was to come from. We underwrote State loan raisings to the amount to which loan raising would fall short of loan programmes, and arising out of that underwriting transaction we had to find £152,900,000. I remind the people of Australia that that sum is within £1,000,000 of the whole of the taxation that we had to inflict, unpopularly and inescapably, on the people in order that the good name of the States could be maintained and, as a consequence, the good name of Australia could also be maintained. The £152,900,000 represents 6S per cent, of the total State borrowing programmes. In other words, the Australian Government, by its unpopular but inescapable measures, had to find 68 per cent, of the total borrowing programmes of the States.
In the year 1952-53 we gave special assistance to the States to the amount of £.1.35,000,000 which represents 71 per cent, of the total borrowing programmes of the States. In the face of that, the States still have the audacity to accuse the Commonwealth of imposing crippling taxation. The States remind me of a receiver of stolen goods. They aided and abetted the Commonwealth in doing what it had to do in their own interests, then accused the Commonwealth of imposing crippling taxation.
Mr. Tom Burke interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) will refrain from keeping up a running fire of comment on the Treasurer’s speech.
– It is useless to ask the honorable member for Perth to stop interjecting, because he is incapable of doing so. Now let us consider Commonwealth assistance to the States for roads. That assistance has been rendered to the States in addition to assistance in respect of loan raisings. As a result of the new Commonwealth aid roads legislation introduced in 1950, when we had the first opportunity to deal with this matter, the Commonwealth aid roads payments to the States have more than doubled in the past five years. Excluding £600,000 set aside for defence roads and road safety, the payments to the States have increased as follows: - In 1947-4S, under the Chifley Government in which the Leader of the Opposition (Dr, Evatt) was an important member, the total payments were £6,158,000. In 1948-49 the payments were £6,908,000. In 1949-50, the first year of our administration, the payments were £S,S52,000. In 1950-51 the payments were £12,816,000, and in 1951-52 the payments were £14,800,000. In 1952-53 it is expected that the amount to be paid to the States as aid for roads will be even more than that paid in 1951-52. Those sums are in addition to the amount of £600,000 that has been set aside for defence roads, and arterial roads that have some association with defence.
In addition to al) the foregoing assistance we have undertaken to make payments for the encouragement of meat production. For the Channel country in Queensland we’ provided £225,000 in 1950-51, £105,000 in 1951-52, and this year our contribution will be £350,000. We have also provided money for the Callide-Gladstone road so that Callide coal production may be increased. I suggest that that is sufficient information not only to give the lie direct to the accusations that are too often made about our neglect and disregard of our responsibilities towards the States, but also to constitute a record that is a credit to any government. The present Government has done more for the ‘ States than has ever been done by any other government since federation. Moreover, we have given our assistance to the States in a practical way. In some respects we have made ourselves temporarily unpopular because of what we have done, but we have followed our course of action with the full realization that we represent the whole of the people of Australia regardless of the division of those people by the artificial entities called States.
.- The speech of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has covered considerable ground and has occupied much time. I do not consider that it will require as long to reply to it, because the Treasurer did not face up to the facts of the situation. He drew a comparison between taxation rates in 193S-39 and the present time, but I suggest that that comparison was not fairly based. When considering this Government’s record, and the administration of the Treasurer, we must commence by a review of the circumstances under which the Government assumed office and the right honorable gentleman became Treasurer. He became Treasurer because of certain definite promises that were given to the people. I shall not weary the committee with a narration of all the promises, in relation to taxation, that were then made, many by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), but three times as many by the Treasurer. The substance of them was that the two Government parties bound themselves to reduce taxation, both direct and indirect.
– We have done so.
– I shall show what the Government has done. The important point that the Treasurer did not address his remarks to, is the series of promises about full employment and the purchasing power of the £1 by which the people of Australia were duped. When the late Mr. Chifley was Treasurer of this country, the present Treasurer subjected him to attacks which, for ferocity, have had no equal in the history of the Parliament. Every taxation law introduced by Mr. Chifley was condemned by the Treasurer, who pledged himself, if ever he attained office, to reduce taxation both direct and indirect. To-day, he has treated the committee to a. comparison of the rates of taxation upon the income of a man who earned £500 a year. He asked honorable members to consider the 1948-49 rate of taxation on such a man’s earnings, and to compare it with the rate of taxation to-day. By this comparison he attempted to prove that there had been a reduction of taxation. All that he did was to prove that the taxation of the previous Labour Government was less severe than that of the present Government. I shall give one example to prove that statement. Consider a basic wage earner - a man with a wife and two children. His wage is fixed on the “ C “ series index, and provides his family and himself with a bare sufficiency for living. Under the Chifley Government that man paid no taxation at all, but to-day, although he has . exactly the same purchasing power as he had during the regime of the Chifley Government, he has to pay £18 16s. a. year in taxation.
– That is just not true. The Leader of the Opposition is a dishonest advocate.
– That basic wage earner has to pay 7s. a week tax, and that example is typical of all the income tax ranges. Moreover, the Treasurer overlooked the fact that because of the Menzies-Fadden inflation of prices a person whose standard of living to-day is the same as it was during the Chifley regime has to get much more money than he got in those days. That is the answer to his statement that taxation has not increased. The fact is that taxation has increased throughout the whole of the income tax range.
Let us now consider the percentage of the national income which the Government has taken from people by way of taxation. In 1951-52, which was the last year of which we have a record, the Government took no less than £919,000,000 out of a national income of £3,238,000,000. That is 28.4 per cent, of the national income. Such a proportion has never been taken by any government before this one in the whole history of Australia, even during the most critical years of the war.
– We allocated £S0,000,000 more to the States, and financed our capital works out of revenue.
– I do not need any assistance from the Treasurer in making my speech. I am fully aware of what this Government has done for the States. The Government has taxed the people of Australia but has not given that money to the States. It has lent it to the States, and is drawing interest on it. The Government did not tax the people to give money to the States, but because, having done nothing for the people for eighteen months to reduce inflation, in its horror budget of 1951-52 it said, in effect, “ We must take purchasing power away from the people of Australia. At every stage and at every level the people must not be allowed to have this purchasing power “. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) went further than that and said that sales tax was imposed on the products of certain secondary industries for the very purpose of preventing them from continuing in existence or from prospering. That Minister said to an association quite recently, in a speech which has been quoted before-
– He did not say it.
– He certainly did say it. Ho said, “ They hate us for it, hut we did it because we thought it was necessary “. The Treasurer brought in a deliberately deflationary budget while being warned by the Opposition that such an action must lead to recession, and, indeed, it did lead to recession.
Sir Arthur Fadden interjecting,
– Does the right honorable gentleman object to the word “ recession “ ?
– Order! Honorable members must allow the Leader of the Opposition to speak without interruption
– That word has been used by the supporters of the Government, both in this chamber or outside of it. A recession was brought about by the Treasurer’s budget. The Treasurer also spoke of the States. He did one of the most dangerous things in the history of Commonwealth finance. He deliberately manipulated the rate of interest on public loans in order to make loan raising impossible for at least twelve months.
– The statement made by the Leader of the Opposition is absolutely untrue. It is politically dishonest and he knows it.
– Did the Treasurer support such a policy at a meeting of the Australian Loan Council?
Sir Arthur Fadden interjecting,
– Order! The Treasurer must cease interjecting. The committee is becoming unruly and honorable members on my left are not assisting in the maintenance of order.
– Under the Chifley Government the rate of interest was maintained at 3£ per cent, and every loan floated by that Government was a success.
Sir Arthur Fadden interjecting,
– I ask the Treasurer not to attempt to excuse himself. This Government, and particularly the Treasurer, was a deliberate party to the raising of the interest rates to the high level that prevails to-day which has made full employment absolutely impossible of achievement. Other promises made by the leaders of the anti-Labour parties were also completely dishonoured. The Treasurer promised to reduce taxation and lower the cost of living by increasing the value of the £1. What did the right honorable gentleman do? He placed before the people a graph which purported to show that the value of thu £1 had decreased from 20s. in 1938 to 10s. in 1949. On the same footing, what is £1 worth to-day ? It is not worth more than 4s. 6d. Indeed, under the administration of the Menzies Government the purchasing value of £1 has reached the lowest level in our history. Because of the policy applied by the Treasurer in relation to interest rates and other aspects of his economic policies the building industry has been depressed and we have reached a state in which full employment no longer exists.
– The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired, but if no other honorable gentleman rises he may take his second period of ten minutes.
– As no honorable member has risen, I shall take my second period. The building industry is a key industry and is an indication of unemployment.
It has always been so regarded by those who have studied the subject of unemployment. That fact was stated in the white paper on employment presented by Mr. Chifley, and was accepted without criticism at that time. We had full employment in Australia from 1942 until the present Treasurer presented his budget in 1951. Day by day since then pathetic attempts have been made by the Government to show that the percentage of unemployment in Australia is not as bad as it is in other countries. Whatever it has been it cannot be denied that since this Government has been in office we have not had full employment. The Government has also broken that promise. But that is not all. Let us examine some of its’ other promises that have been broken. A few days ago the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), in a brilliant speech, analysed the employment situation and showed us that in his own electorate housing construction under State and private enterprise has been held up as the result of the policies applied by the Treasurer. The honorable member showed us that in Fairfield, Liverpool and other centres in his electorate house construction has been delayed and that there has been a definite recession in the home-building branch of the building industry. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) admitted that to be true and also that the Government had failed to put value back in the £1.
– I rise to order. Is it in order for the Leader of the Opposition to make a deliberately misleading electioneering speech?
– Order! The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) will apologize to the Chair for having made that remark.
– I apologize.
– The honorable member only said the word “ myxomatosis “.
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) will also apologize to the Chair for his interruption. If a third honorable member offends while the Chair is speaking, I shall name him. The honorable member for Parkes must rise in his place and apologize for his offence.
– I apologize.
– No point of order is involved in the submission by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). The Chair is not responsible for the correctness or otherwise of statements made by honorable members. An honorable member who has been improperly accused of having made a statement has his remedy by way of personal explanation.
– Everybody knows that the Minister for External Affairs publicly stated in Sydney that the Government had failed to carry out its promise to put value back into the £1.
– I again rise to order. Is misrepresentation to be the order of the day?
– Order ! I have already dealt with the matter.
– The statement to which I refer was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald as having been made by the Minister for External Affairs during the Bradfield by-election campaign. It has not been corrected, and it is true.
– It is not true. I ask you, Mr. Chairman, whether you intend to allow the Leader of .the Opposition to continue . these misrepresentations. He knows very well that I did not make either of the statements be has repeatedly accused me of having made. I have already told him privately that I had not done so.
– The Minister has still not raised a point of order, though I am bound to say that when an honorable member denies having made a statement it is customary for his denial to be accepted.
– The right honorable gentleman was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald to have made this statement. If he was incorrectly reported, he should have made a public correction. Not one member of the committee will deny that the value of the £1, instead of having been restored, has been diminished to such an extent that the MenziesEa elden £1 is worth less than one-half of the value of the Chifley £1. Each successive basic wage adjustment has proved that the £1 is diminishing in value and that the Government has repudiated its promise in this connexion.
I come now to the treatment meted out to the States by this Government, which has completely repudiated the ‘Commonwealth and States Housing Agreement. The honorable member for “Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) gave us facts and figures to show that the building programmes of the States-
– I rise to order. Is the Leader of the Opposition permitted to quote from a Hansard “ pull “ of another honorable member’s speech?
– He is not doing so.
– The Leader of the Opposition has in his hand a “ pull “ of the speech of the honorable member for Werriwa, and he is obviously quoting from it.
– I am not quoting from it. I am merely directing attention to the undoubted fact that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement has been deliberately repudiated by this Government. The Government’s repudiation of its promise goes far beyond that. The Treasurer, in his policy speech, said -
We will build many more hospitals in town and country. In respect of pensions, existing rates will at least be maintained and their true value increased by increasing their purchasing power.
The true value of pensions has diminished in proportion as living costs have risen. In regard to the building industry the Treasurer said -
Constant employment in the building industry will be maintained by slum clearances and by reconstruction in slack periods.
The Government has not carried out that point of its policy.
In his contribution to this debate the Treasurer has completely failed to justify his economic policy. He is responsible for the present unemployment in Australia because of the shifty financial policies he has applied. As a cure for unemployment he has established a pool of unemployed persons, which should not exist in this country where so much developmental work still remains to be done. The Treasurer has referred to the money which the Commonwealth has provided for the States, but his arguments show that he completely misunderstands the position. He believes that he should have the right to tax the people without honouring his obligations to the States. What does it matter who carries out the duties of government so long as they are carried out for the benefit of the people? The right honorable gentleman again threatens, as he did six months ago, to abolish uniform income tax. Does he still hold the view that the system of uniform income tax should he abolished ?
– Yes. The right honorable gentleman does not want it to be abolished because he is a socialist.
– Under the uniform income tax scheme a person or a company who earns a profit of a certain amount pays the same taxation irrespective of the State in which he resides or the company operates. The retention of the scheme is vital to continuance of fair competition in industry and of just treatment of individuals. As the Prime Minister admitted a couple of weeks ago, the abolition of uniform income tax will mean substantial increases of taxation imposed on every individual and company in Queensland and Western Australia. So much for the Government’s treatment of the States and its proposals to abolish the uniform income tax scheme.
I shall contrast some aspects of the Chifley Government’s budgets with the present budget. Let us consider first the Treasurer’s imposition of sales tax. No Treasurer has taken larger amounts from the people in sales tax than has the present Treasurer ; yet during the Chifley Government’s regime it was he who complained that that Government taxed everything from the cradle to the grave. He condemned sales tax root and branch, and in every speech he made on the subject he said that it was his objective to get rid of it altogether. In spite of that, collections of sales tax this year are estimated to amount to more than £$8,000,000, or far more than the collections made in any year since the tax was first imposed. Income tax has been doubled; social services contributions Iia ve been almost doubled; excise has been increased by SO per cent. ; and the pay-roll tax has been practically doubled by the present Treasurer. The only item of revenue in respect of which collections have been reduced is customs duty, and that has occurred only because of import restrictions placed on goods entering Australia.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman’s second period of time has expired.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has just launched an attack on the Government, which he accused of having broken all the promises which it is alleged to have made. He has endeavoured in general terms to prove that the economic position of Australia is now a great deal worse than it was in 1949. The right honorable gentleman failed to take into account -the changes in events that have occurred since the joint policy speech was delivered by the leaders of the Government in 1949. It is true that in their joint policy speech they said that if they were elected their aim was to reduce taxation. They said that they would work to that end. At that time nobody could have foreseen that Australia would be involved in a war in Korea or that the international situation would so deteriorate that it would become necessary to provide £200,000,000 for defence. Nobody could have foreseen that confidence in the loan market would be so weakened that the Commonwealth could not raise sufficient money to meet the works commitments of the States. All these factors have made it impossible for the Government to reduce taxes as it hoped to do. Nevertheless, it was able to make substantial tax reductions.
If honorable members opposite will examine the budget they will see that there are virtually only three ways in which substantial savings can be made in order to provide reasonable tax relief. One is to reduce the defence vote.
I do not believe that any Opposition member seriously believes that the Government would entertain such an idea. The second major budget commitment is in relation to the provision of social services. Surely the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters would not suggest that age and invalid pensions and social services payments should be reduced. The only remaining major way in which, under present conditions, taxation can be reduced is by a restoration of confidence in the loan market. This Government has done more to bring about such a restoration of confidence than any Labour government is ever likely to do.
The Leader of the Opposition gave us examples of the tax imposed on a taxpayer with a wife and three children. He failed to mention that during the administration of the Chifley Government a taxpayer’s commitments were divided into two parts - income tax and ‘ social services contribution. Under the Chifley Government, such a man as the Leader of the Opposition referred to had to pay a social services contribution as well as income tax. This Government has amalgamated the two charges, and, therefore, income tax includes the social services contribution. Another criticism of the Treasurer by the Leader of the Opposition was based on the rising interest rates for government loans. In view of the right honorable gentleman’s obvious knowledge of the facts, that attack was unfair. Like everybody else in this chamber, and, I hope, like a great proportion of the outside public, the Leader of the Opposition knows that interest rates on loans are fixed by the Australian Loan Council. The Treasurer has informed us of that fact at least a dozen times in recent months. Solely for propaganda purposes honorable members opposite refuse to acknowledge the fact. The State governments command a predominance of voting power at meetings of the Australian Loan Council, and loan interest rates were increased as a result of a decision made by the council.
In the few minutes at my disposal, I intend to discuss some aspects of budget expenditure in relation to tax reductions. To my dismay, I have heard suggestions that Australia, should reduce its defence expenditure. I know that, in recent weeks, there has been a widespread hope that the change of administration in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics will tend to ease the international situation. However, events have not justified such optimism, and it would not be prudent to reduce our defence expenditure materially at this stage merely in order to give some temporary tax relief to the Australian public. Nevertheless, I believe that we should review very carefully the defence vote expenditure in order to ensure that we shall obtain full value for our money. We should be provided with protection in return for the money and effort that we devote to the task of defence. For the purposes of illustration, I refer to the present policy of building our naval strength around a carrier force. Having regard to the strategic situation of Australia, I consider that a carrier force does not provide the best means of naval defence. As far as we can judge, the naval threat from the only potential enemy that we envisage - Russia - is a submarine attack upon shipping around our coast. Protection against such a threat can best be provided by large numbers of small ships operating in conjunction with shore-based aircraft. The cost of equipping an aircraft carrier is staggering. We have to pay about £400,000 for each carrier-borne aircraft. Honorable members will readily appreciate, therefore, the value of the defence effort that we put into each vulnerable unit in the form of an aircaft carrier.
– This Government gave away 200 aircraft.
– They were obsolete machines and were of no use to Australia. There might be some reasonable ground for establishing a carrier force in Australia if that force were to be regarded as a contribution to Empire defence. However, I believe that even that policy would be wrong at the present stage. We should make sure that our local security is’ provided for before we launch out and make any big contribution to any outside theatre. It may be argued that a submarine menace postulates the necessity for having sea-borne aircraft to protect our shipping, but I am convinced that an examination of that argument will prove its falsity. If we had a density of shipping as great as there is in the Atlantic Ocean, which would force us to have convoys, I should agree that carrier-borne aircraft would be necessary for the protection of the convoys. However, no enemy submarine would bother to patrol the open seas in the Pacific Ocean or the Indian Ocean because the targets would not be sufficiently attractive. Submarine hunting grounds around Australia will be in the vicinity of the coastline and at our focal ports, and these areas could be covered more efficiently by shore-based aircraft than by seaborne aircraft. We should divert expenditure from the provision of a vulnerable force of carrier-borne aircraft to the provision of large numbers of small anti-submarine vessels to operate in conjunction with shore-based aircraft in order to ensure the best possible protection against naval attack. We have not yet gone too far in the development of our naval programme to prevent us from retrieving the position even at this stage. If the Government is prepared to review the naval programme, I am sure that it can arrange with the United Kingdom Government to exchange our aircraft carrier commitment for something which is more suitable for Australia’s defence, notably small ships and shore-based aircraft of the Neptune class. By that means I believe that, without increasing our defence vote - which, goodness knows, is a big enough burden - we can materially improve our naval defences having regard to the geographical and strategic position of Australia.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- I am very reluctant to inflict myself upon the House at this stage, but I point out that, on Thursday last week, my name was placed on the list of honorable members who wished to speak on this bill. Only the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) had placed his name on the list before my name was noted. However, I have not had an opportunity to speak on the measure.
– Order ! The honorable member cannot discuss the secondreading debate at this stage.
– I have not had an opportunity to discuss the bill at all. I have been offered fifteen bob for my speech, undelivered.
– The honorable member should take the money.
– I have not taken it for the simple reason that I believe my speech would be of greater value than that. A strike is definitely pending in the coalmining industry, but I have been deliberately prevented from speaking in this place.
– Order ! The honorable member cannot discuss the bill in those terms. He must relate his remarks to the motion for the third reading of the bill.
– I am objecting to the motion that the bill be now read a third time, on the ground that I have not had an opportunity to speak. I arranged with Mr. Deputy Speaker to have my name placed on the list of speakers, and it was included second only to the name of the honorable member for Leichhardt. There were no other speakers on that list. Afterwards, Mr. Speaker, I found that you had been given a list of speakers on which my name did not appear.
– Order ! The honorable member must not discuss the proceedings on the motion for the secondreading of the bill, or anything connected with them. He must confine his remarks, at this stage, to the motion for the third-reading of the bill.
– I do not like to be gagged when I attempt to put my views on a matter of this kind before the people of Australia, especially when I believe that serious trouble may occur to the coal-mining industry owing to the action of the Government, through the Joint Coal Board, in closing collieries and causing unemployment in the industry.
– At the present time there are about 500 vacancies in the coalmining industry in New South Wales.
– That is true, but miners who are out of work now would have to sell their homes and break up their families if they went to the other districts in which those 500 vacancies exist. The Joint Coal Board proposes to allow machinery for the extraction of pillars to be installed without adequate precautions having been taken to ensure the safety of miners. I am an advocate of mechanization of the coal-mining industry. After a visit overseas, I submitted a report in which I expressed myself as being in favour of such mechanization. But this Government, through the Joint Coal Board, is permitting the coal-owners to install machinery without taking adequate precautions to safeguard miners. The 500 men who will fill the vacancies about which the Minister spoke just now will commit suicide in mines where pillars will be extracted without precautions being taken to prevent the roofs of the mine workings from collapsing. The miners say that they are. prepared to accept the mechanization of mines only if they are protected from injuries arising from the installation of machinery, but they are not getting that protection. The coal-owners are not trying to negotiate with miners’ representatives. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) spoke of the millions of pounds that are to be made available for the construction of a road from the coast to the Callide coalfield, to enable coal from that field to be exported from Queensland. But what has the Government done to ensure the efficient working of the greatest gas coal seam in the world? In certain parts of Great Britain and Germany, I have seen 95 per cent, of coal seams extracted, but we are extracting only 30 per cent, or 35 per cent, of the rich Greta seam. Generations to come will curse us for the way in which we have murdered that rich seam. This is a matter that the Government should immediately raise with the Joint Coal Board.
– Does the honorable member know that at the present time the Joint Coal Board, the miners federation and the employers are discussing this very matter? The miners federation said that it was willing to discuss the question with the coal-owners.
– That is all right, provided that the coal-owners will take adequate steps to prevent roofs from collapsing and injuring or killing hundreds of miners.
– They have already given that assurance.
– Probably it will be conceded that I know something about coal mines. During the time I was working in the coal-mining industry, I saw too many accidents. I had to carry too many of my mates out of coal-mines and break to their -relatives the sad news of their death or injury. Before I should consent to the extraction of pillars by machinery without adequate safeguards against injury, I should tell the miners to stop out of the mines. The Government can prosecute me for that statement, if it likes to do so. It will be on record in Hansard that I said that I should advise the miners not to agree to the extraction of pillars by machinery until action was taken to prevent roofs from collapsing. I have spoken on this matter before. I am sick and tired of repeating my remarks.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 18th March (vide page 1254), on motion hy Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition wishes to discuss this measure and other related measures that will come before the House later, but we understand that, if we attempt to do so, the Government will apply the closure. We believe that the degree to which the Government’s actions and lack of action have discredited it in the eyes of the people will be amply demonstrated in the near future. During the debate on the Supply Bill (No. 1) 1953-54, we voiced our objections to the Government’s policy, and indicated how, in our opinion, tha Government could have done better than it has done. I shall say no more, because the Government has determined brutally to use its majority to prevent further debate on the measure. We do not desire to hold the Parliament up to ridicule, or to delay the proceedings of the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 18th March (vide page 1256), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 18th March (vide page 1256), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 18th March (vide page 1257), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 18th March (vide page 1257), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 18th March (vide page 1258), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of this short bill is to overcome an apparent legal disability to which the Auditor-General has referred in his latest report. That official pointed out that no parliamentary appropriation of loan funds had been made, and that, in consequence, it was not legally correct to appropriate balances remaining in the Loan Fund for ordinary revenue purposes. Procedures are provided in order to ensure that the Parliament shall have full control of the moneys paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and that money shall be paid from the fund only when appropriated by the Parliament. The bill gives effect to a legal necessity, and the course proposed is only common sense. It would be silly if we kept an unexpended balance in the Loan Fund, upon which we paid interest, and at the same time, raised moneys by treasury-bills or other means to meet a temporary deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The bill also provides that moneys so borrowed shall be repaid before the end of the financial year. These borrowings and repayments will not affect the legal obligation to make contributions to the National Debt Sinking Fund. This legislation, therefore, is wise.
I do not wish, in the remarks that I am about to make, to be critical for the purposes of party political propaganda, because the loan position concerns the whole country. If loans do not succeed, the holders of bonds suffer, unemployment develops, and financial disequilibrium occurs. For that reason, we all have a responsibility to ensure that no action taken in the Parliament will cause loans to fail. However, the primary responsibility for the success of loans rests squarely upon the government of the day. I dismiss immediately the story that the Australian Loan Council is responsible for the determination of interest rates and the volume of loan raisings. I know that, technically and perhaps legally, the Australian Loan Council is responsible for those matters, but I ask the House to consider for a few moments the preeminent position of the Commonwealth.
– Order ! The honorable member’s remarks are well outside the scope of the bill.
– I suggest that this is a loan bill-
– No, it is-
A bill for an act to make provision with respect to temporary deficits in the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
It is not a loan bill.
– I point out, with respect, Mr. Speaker, that the bill refers to the balance in the loan fund. If loans cannot be raised successfully, there will be no balances in the fund to meet a temporary deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund. I submit that the scope of this debate should not be limited in the way you have indicated, because the bill clearly deals with loans, and this subject is of transcendent importance. I respectfully suggest that you permit fairly wide latitude in this debate.
– I have examined the bill carefully, and I shall not permit the House to debate loan raisings, because that subject is not covered by the title or the contents of the measure. The nearest the bill approaches that matter is in clause 5 which provides -
Moneys borrowed by virtue of the last preceding section shall be repaid in the financial year in which they were borrowed.
The money to which the bill refers has already been raised on the loan market. The bill has nothing to do with the raising of that money. The honorable gentleman has rightly stated that if the moneys have not been raised, they cannot be used for the purposes of the bill.
– I must bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but for the reasons I have indicated, I consider that it would be valuable to the country if you would permit a discussion along the lines I have suggested. I do not desire to reflect upon your ruling but if the debate is to be restricted as you have stated, all I can say is that we agree with the technical purposes of the measure, hut roundly condemn the loan policy of the Government. In the right place at the right time, I shall discuss that matter at greater length. I believe that the Government will feel the result of its tragic failures in this regard at an early date.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 19th March (vide page 1394), on motion by Mr. Beale -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mi. TOM BURKE (Perth) [3.41].- Naturally, this bill will be debated at length by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who is now entering the chamber.
Mr. Tom Burke having resumed his seat,
– Order ! Before I call the Leader of the Opposition, I remind the House that the honorable member for Perth had commenced his speech.
– May I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage ?
– I do not think that the honorable gentleman may do so in the circumstances. He received the call from the Chair to resume the debate on behalf of the Opposition, and, therefore, is entitled to speak for three-quarters of an hour.
– It may assist the House and you, Mr. Speaker, if the honorable member for Perth indicates that he wishes to discontinue his remarks. We on the Government side will have no objection if the call is given to the Leader of the Opposition.
– I think I mentioned to the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) that I desired to speak briefly while the Leader of the Opposition was outside the chamber.
-I understand the motives correctly and fully, but I also understand the Standing Orders.
– Other businesswas disposed of more rapidly than we had expected. We did not think that the Atomic Energy Bill 1953 would be before the House so soon.
– I think) that, in the circumstances, Mr. Speaker, you might permit the Leader of the Opposition to begin his speech now.
– I am quite willing to do so, but the House must realize that the honorable member for Perth was the first honorable member on my left to receive the call, and, therefore, is the member of the Opposition who is entitled to speak for three-quarters of an hour.
– I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition wishes to speak for three-quarters of an hour.
– I thank the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) for his assistance in this matter, and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) for holding the fort for me while I was obtaining my papers on this important bill. My notes were in my room, and I temporarily left the chamber in order to get them.
This bill relates to the law to be in force, or to be declared in force in Australia in relation to atomic energy. The Minister has explained, in his secondreading speech, that this bill will consolidate and clarify, to some degree, but will not alter, the main enacting provisions of earlier legislation relative to the control of atomic energy and ba’sic materials of atomic energy. Various clauses of the bill embody the terms of the original act, which was introduced by the Chifley Labour Government in 1946 simultaneously with legislation introduced in the United Kingdom and other countries. Legislation in relation to atomic energy and its utilization, and the obtaining of raw materials, particularly in the territories, was also introduced last year. The main difference between this bill, and the earlier legislation, is in respect of the security measures to be brought into force in relation to atomic energy. and the substances from which atomic energy is derived. The Opposition has examined the measure and considers that it should be supported. Certainly drastic penalties are prescribed in it, but they relate to offences that are clearly described, and, in each case, include an element of intent or guilty knowledge which is of so serious a character that it may well be called, and, I think, fairly can be called, treasonable intent. That is to say, the offences are offences in relation to the disclosure of information with intent to prejudice the defence of the Commonwealth. Such intent to prejudice the defence of the Commonwealth implies that the person performing an action with such intent has either the intent to sabotage our defence or is actually engaged treacherously in assisting some power hostile to this country. That is the essence of clauses 44, 45 and 46. Heavy though the penalties to be provided for offences of the character that I have indicated may he, some countries no doubt have even more drastic penalties, and therefore no objection can be raised to the legislation on the score of severity of penalties.
I wish to elaborate on that matter a. little so as to make the Opposition’s attitude clear. I shall take clause 44 (a) by way of illustration. That clause provides as follows : -
A person who, -whether lawfully or unlawfully, has knowledge of . . . or has in his possession … a document, or any information, which is capable of convoying, or is or includes, restricted information -
shall not, with intent .to prejudice the defence of the Commonwealth publish it, or communicate, give, transmit or disclose it to some other person.
I have not taken every instance mentioned in the clause, but shall deal merely with a typical instance. The vital phrase in the clause is “ restricted information “, which, of course, refers to secret information, the disclosure of which would be detrimental to the defence of the Commonwealth. Under this clause a person is forbidden from publishing or communicating such information with intent to prejudice the defence of the Commonwealth. In other words, if, having information of a restricted character, which is confidential and secret inform a- tion from a defence point of view, he publishes it or communicates it, not accidentally, but with intent to prejudice defence, he is liable to a very heavy sentence upon conviction. Clause 45 and clause 46 each contain the same necessary ingredient of “intent to prejudice the defence of the Commonwealth “ which is, in effect, an intent of a treasonable nature.
– Which is . punishable by death under section 24 of the Crimes Act.
– Yes, as a maximum. As long as that ingredient of intent is in the law there can be no suggestion that the law will apply to innocent or accidental disclosure, or disclosure under some physical compulsion, but only to disclosure with actual intent to prejudice the defence of the Commonwealth, which is as serious a matter as could be imagined.
I turn now to clause 47, because some attention has been given to it by honorable members. I should .like the Minister for Supply to follow my argument at this point, because I think I shall give a correct, analysis of the provision. Under clause 47 (a) it is not necessary to show that the accused person - was guilty of a particular act tending to show an intent to prejudice the’ defence of the Commonwealth and, notwithstanding that no such act is proved against him, he may bc convicted if, from the circumstances of the case, his conduct, or his known character as proved, it appears that he acted with intent to prejudice the defence of the Commonwealth; .
It seems to rae that that clause declares something that is already the practice in all the criminal courts of Australia in cases in which intent is a necessary ingredient of the offence. That is to say, it is not necessary to prove a particular act.
– That provision has been in British law since 1S73.
– It is a matter of inference from the conduct or circumstances, all of which must be proved by evidence. The jury would be told of these matters and it would be open to it to infer such an intent from the circumstances. Even without clause 47 (a) that would be the position provided these matters come lawfully into the field of evidence. As a matter of fact, as the Minister for Supply has pointed out, that provision has existed, I think without any alteration, since the enactment of section 78 of the Crimes Act, which deals with cases of espionage, in relation to some aspects of which offence intent is also a necessary ingredient. It is not usually possible to infer absolutely an intent from some particular act, and the surrounding circumstances must be considered. Clause 47 (b) simply provides that - if it is proved that a photograph, sketch, plan, model, article, instrument, appliance, noteor othe r document, or any information, which is capable of conveying, or is or includes, restricted information,has been dealt with by that person in a manner referred to in paragraph (a) of section forty-four, section fortyfive, or section forty-six of this Act otherwise than under lawful authority, it shallbe deemed, unless the contrary is proved, to have been so dealt with with intent to prejudice the defence of the Commonwealth.
That is to say, if it is established by actions that have been proved in court before a jury by proper evidence, that a photograph or information has been dealt with otherwise than under lawful authority, then the person has to show that the act was not done with intent to prejudice the defence of the Commonwealth. The clause, therefore, relates only to the handling of information, documents or materials unlawfully. If a person is found to be in possession of documents, substances, photographs, implements or designs and is unable to show that his acquisition of them was lawful then, and only then, will the provisions of this clause operate. If he can show that he is lawfully possessed of the article or articles concerned, then this provision will not operate. If he cannot show that he is lawfully possessed of them the inference is that he has acquired them unlawfully, and he ought to explain how he came by them. That is all that the clause means. It is very like the law in relation to stolen goods, or of recent possession in connexion with the law of larceny or theft. Recent possession in certain circumstances, which are unexplained, is evidence of the larceny or theft itself.
I turn to a matter that the Minister should examine very carefully in relation to the administration of this legislation, because the whole of these final sections which deal with security are aimed at protecting the defence of the country and taking no risk in connexion with matters the disclosure of which might be detrimental at the least, or utterly disastrous, to the nation in certain circumstances. The subject-matter to which these offences relate is “ restricted information “. One has to turn to clause 5 for an interpretation of “ restricted information “. Some of the “ restricted information “ clearly conies within the rules, or what should be the rules, in relation to the protection of defence secrets. Clause 5 includes, inter alia, as a definition of “restricted information “-
The production, manufacture, testing or use of atomic weapons;
Clearly that definition is correct. Care will have to be taken, however, in the administration of legislation, to ensure that the early stages of the production of the raw materials from which fissionable material is made, and the use of atomic energy for industrial purposes, are not unduly hampered. It is certain that these raw materials at some stage will be used in this country for commercial purposes. I ask the Minister to remember the obligation of the Government to look ahead to that stage. Some countries will be dependent to only a small degree upon atomic power, because they have other and extensive power resources. But Australia is a country where the use of atomic power for industry might be of tremendous help in our physical development. The laws of some other countries tend to show that security applies to substances when they are fissionable, but I realize perfectly that it is difficult to draw the line precisely and say that up to a certain stage there should be no attempt to prevent disclosures of information. Clause 5 (2.) enables the Government or the Minister to combine absolute protection of information about secret processes, with the fullest possible disclosure of information that can be disclosed without endangering security. That clause provides that information is not deemed to be restricted provided it has been published in scientific or technical literature or in a public statement made or authorized by or on behalf of the Atomic Energy Commission or a Minister of
State, or if the Minister or the commission has determined that the information can be published without prejudicing the defence of the Commonwealth. In other words, it will be within the competence of the Government and the Atomic Energy Commission to disclose regularly and systematically such information as can be disclosed without endangering security, and which ought to be disclosed in order to assist the exploitation of raw material.
– We are going to set up machinery to do that.
– I do not think it could be done by amendment of this bill. I think it has to be done in the way the Minister mentions. I suggest also to the Minister that “ restricted information “ which, I understand, is called “ classified information” in the United States of America, and which is information that is not restricted in the United States of America or the United Kingdom, might be made available as soon as it safely can be made available through administrative action under this bill. That will permit of two things. It will encourage people who are interested in searching for the raw materials or whose business it will be to transport the raw materials, and at the same time the country will be protected against any disclosure thai might be dangerous to our security. That kind of policy should be directed to ascertain whether these matters can be revealed as soon as possible. The background of the bill involves tremendously important problems. The discovery of uranium in Australia will affect, particularly, the development of the Northern Territory. My colleague the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), and other honorable members, have been very active in endeavouring to ensure that no act shall be omitted which might assist in the defence of the nation, in the development of its commercial interests in relation to power and in directly benefiting the Northern Territory which is a vital part of this continent. In one sense the Northern Territory may become more vulnerable because of its uranium resources, but its increased value to the nation as a whole will outweigh that consideration. It is greatly to the credit of the Chifley Government that, in 1946, it foresaw the development of the Northern Territory by this means. The first discoverer of uranium, Mr. White, made his discovery during the regime of the Chifley Government.
– The discoveries were made in September, 1949.
– Quite so. Work has been extended since that time, of course. This matter is of great importance to our defence effort and can be of supreme importance to the future development of our power resources. The deposits of uranium in the Northern Territory will play a large part in the development of that vital part of this continent which, together with north Queensland and the north of Western Australia, will be able to contribute enormously to our future welfare.
The view of the Opposition is that the security provisions in this bill, although they will provide drastic penalties, are justified. All the penalties have reference to disclosures of secret information, where the disclosure has been made with an intent to prejudice the defence of the country or to injure it. The proper administration of all the other clauses of the measure will be of vital importance. The duty of the Government, the Minister for Supply and the Atomic Energy Commission will be to ensure that as much information as possible is disclosed, so that discovery and development will be assisted, without the slightest risk of injury to the defence and security of Australia.
– I support this most important measure. I believe that the establishment of a centralized organization, in the shape of the Atomic Energy Commission, to control all aspects of atomic energy in Australia from the mining of uranium to the final disposal of the fissionable material, is a great step forward. The commission will supervise the prospecting for and the mining of the ore, the concentrating of the ore, its transportation, research into the methods of ore dressing, the exporting of the final product and the use of that product for the production of commercial power or atomic weapons. This bill will apply only to the Commonwealth territories. The States will be left in full possession of all their powers in respect to atomic energy and uranium, except perhaps in time of war or threat of war when our defence powers might be invoked to put the full control of this most important matter into the hands of the government responsible for the security of Australia. In South Australia, where the energetic Premier has already made the greatest possible use of his uranium ore reserves, the State will still be able to conduct its own affairs. The Atomic Energy Commission has been modelled, through the efforts of the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) and his staff, on similar ‘bodies in Great Britain, the United States of America, Canada and South Africa, but the measure is based more closely on tho Canadian legislation than on any other. As the Minister for Supply has said, and as has been developed by the Lender of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), certain stages in the process of the release of atomic energy necessitate complete secrecy. Severe penalties have been provided for the infringement, of the terms of the bill. Those penalties are necessary because of the military potential of uranium, and also because, in the development of our future plans for the utilization of uranium oxide, it will be necessary for us to lean rather heavily, in the early stages, on the experience and knowledge obtainable from Great Britain and the United States of America. The penalties provided in this bill are similar to the penalties provided for infringement in similar legislation in Great Britain, Canada and the United States of America. If we had not taken appropriate action to preserve secrecy in this country, the United States of America and Great Britain might not have had the same confidence in our ability to preserve atomic secrets as they have in their own governments.
The establishment of a single authority to control the uranium in Commonwealth territories is most important. The United States of America, Great Britain and Canada have the advantage of us insofar as control is concerned because in those countries there is a unitary form of government, whereas our system is that of federation, with a division of powers between Commonwealth and States. I hd constitutional position in Australia rnakes necessary the closest co-operation between the Commonwealth and the State governments. That co-operation is being sought, and will continue to be sought. We can now anticipate the orderly development of the sources of atomic energy in Australia. In the ordinary course of events it is probable that we shall not concern ourselves with the development of atomic weapons - at any rate for some appreciable time to come - but we should be most concerned with the development of atomic energy for commercial power. Our sources of power in Australia are by no means unlimited. We have no oil in commercial quantities. Our hydro-electric power potential is limited by our relative scarcity of rivers and, consequently, we can never expect more than a small proportion of our total power requirements from hydro-electric sources. Our coal supplies are considerable, but are geographically limited, in so far as large quantities of good coal are concerned, to New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. Therefore, the industrial development of Australia, being based upon coal, is limited by transportation problems. Coal has to be carried sometimes hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles to the point of use. Those three sources of power being limited, it is not impossible that atomic energy may, in due course, assume considerable importance for Australia. Therefore, I expect that the Minister for Supply will direct his activities, and those of the Atomic Energy Commission, towards obtaining atomic energy for commercial purposes.
Professor Baxter, who is ViceChancellor of the University of Technology of New South Wales, and Dr. White, who is the chief executive officer of tha Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, are visiting Great Britain within a month or two to investigate the whole position of atomic energy research, particularly the provision of power for commercial purposes. They will also investigate the lines of research directed towards the commercial use of atomic energy upon which it might be proper for Australia to concentrate. Great Britain is straining its resources in many directions because of threats and menaces that have been directed against it. It is occupying itself to a considerable degree with the development of atomic energy for military purposes, and I believe that our contribution should be in the development of atomic energy for commercial purposes. It is not proposed by the Government, or the Minister for Supply, that the Atomic Energy Commission shall be built up into a very large organization. It is proposed to make every possible use of existing agencies such as the Industrial Chemistry Division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, tha Bureau of Mineral Resources, possibly the universities, and those units of private enterprise in Australia that have the requisite experience and facilities. The Minister for Supply and the Atomic Energy Commission propose to utilize to the full all such existing instrumentalities for the pursuit of their most important ends.
Having mentioned the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, I desire to put on record the fact that several years ago that organization started to interest itself in fissionable materials, and that a number of its scientists were sent to Harwell, in England, to work in this unique scientific direction. They were required to gather experience, which is by no means common in the community, in respect of the use of atomic energy and its scientific development. For a considerable time we have had at Harwell a group of Australian scientist officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, whose services may be readily availed of for the continuation of research in atomic energy, particularly its commercial application. I expect that those officers would be. available to continue their researches either in the service of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization or, at the instance of the Minister, in that of the Atomic Energy Commission. A great deal of research work, has been undertaken in recent years by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization on uranium ores from
South Australia and, more recently, from Rum Jungle. Generally speaking, uranium ore differs from other ores in that different processes must be worked out for the treatment of uranium ores from each locality. A great deal of work has been done by the Industrial Chemistry Division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization on uranium ores from Radium Hill and Rum Jungle. I place on record my appreciation of the value of the scientific work done by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in this connexion.
General Stevens, or as he now prefers to be called, Mr. Stevens, has been selected as chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. If I may be permitted to introduce a .personal note, I may say that General Stevens and I were closely associated during “World War I. in 1917 and 1918. Since then he has had a most distinguished career. He was good enough to accept appointment as permanent head of the Department of National Development a couple of years ago, a position which he continued -to hold until I relinquished that portfolio. The Government is to be congratulated for having selected a man of the common sense, energy, balance and drive of General Stevens to fill the unique position of chairman of the commission.
– What salary will he receive?
– That is not my affair. I am sure that it will be none too much. I congratulate the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) for having introduced this measure. Perhaps I have a little more knowledge than is possessed by honorable members generally about the amount of energy and enthusiasm the Minister has displayed in bringing the various strings together and tying them up in this comprehensive measure. The bill represents a great step forward and indicates that we are on the threshold of a period in which Australia will he put on the map because of its association with these modern and possibly devastating developments in connexion with uranium ore.
– I join with the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in supporting the bill before the House. If I have any criticism to offer of it, it is that the measure was not introduced two years ago. Delay in its introduction has retarded the development of deposits in the Northern Territory, which would otherwise have been capable of rapid development. There has never been any doubt in my mind that only an authority such as the proposed Atomic Energy Commission can adequately develop and control the mining of uranium and the production of atomic energy in the interests of the people of Australia. It is refreshing to note that the members of the Government who are most bitter in their condemnation of anything that savours of interference with the sacred rights of private enterprise are now supporting the stand taken by the Opposition in regard to this matter.
– We are not supporting the Opposition. We are supporting the bill.
– In introducing the bill the Government is supporting a principle for which the Opposition has always stood. The Government now realizes that in the national interest control of atomic power must be vested in the people.
For a long time the Governments of the United States of America and Canada have realized that fact and nobody can accuse them of being socialistic in their outlook. In 1946, the Labour Government, under the leadership of that great Australian, the late Ben Chifley, foresaw the tremendous importance of atomic energy to this country in the years to come, and it is a tribute to the foresight of that great man that the legislation which was placed on the statute-book by his Government has remained unaltered in any important respect. That legislation vested in the Australian Government all material, either above or under the ground, from which atomic energy could be extracted, and gave the initial impetus to the search for uranium, thereby directly resulting in the discovery of the Bum Jungle deposits by Mr. John White. Jack White, as Ave all know him in the Northern Territory, told me that the publications issued by the Bureau of Mineral Resources at that time, coupled with radio talks on the subject of uranium, enabled him to identify the ore when he located it. But for the initial work of the bureau the deposits at Rum Jungle would still be undiscovered. It must never be forgotten that it was the Chifley Government legislation that gave the necessary impetus to the search for uranium that resulted in the discovery of the Ruin Jungle deposits and authorized the payment of the reward of £25,000 to Jack White for his discovery. It was under the provisions of that legislation that Jack White received his final payment of £17,000 as announced by the Minister for Supply this morning.
If ever an event in the history of Australia will be remembered it will bc the discovery of uranium in the Northern Territory Ivy Jack White. Australians everywhere will remember his name with gratitude. No monetary reward could indicate the value of the discovery to the nation. I ask the Minister to consider ways and means of honouring him for his work by linking his name either with the Rum Jungle deposits or with some other venture associated with the production of atomic energy.
It is seen that the bill before the House embodies in the Chifley legislation the requisite machinery to establish an atomic energy commission to consist of three members and to provide for the security of the projects which the Commonwealth will control. I know the chairman of the commission only by repute, and that is very favorable. I assume that the Government would have closely considered the qualifications of the other members of the commission and has found them equally suitable for the work they will be called upon to do.
The functions of the commission will apparently fall into five parts: First, to control research and mining in the initial stages, and treatment of the ore; secondly, to control disposal of ore until treatment is practicable; thirdly, utilization of atomic materials for the benefit of Australia: fourthly, research into various aspects of atomic industries; and fifthly, to police security’ precautions.
I wish now to deal briefly with research in the mining of uranium in the Northern Territory. The Atomic Energy
Commission must have as its aim the encouragement and speeding up of the search for uranium ore, not only in the Northern Territory, hut also in adjacent territories of the Commonwealth and in other parts of Australia. As far as the Northern Territory is concerned - I speak with some authority on that matter - I wish to impress upon the commission the need to formulate a policy under which prospectors will he guided in their search for uranium ore and, when they make a discovery of some importance, they will know what to do with it, and under what conditions they will he allowed to mine it and dispose of it. Such information should he readily available to all prospectors.
I suggest that it would be worth while for the commission to provide in the Northern Territory, either free of charge or at a low rate of hire, geiger counters to assist prospectors in their search for uranium ore deposits. I suggest that following discoveries prompt inspections be made by officers of the Department of Supply so that their degree of importance can be assessed. “We have had unfortunate experiences already. Prospectors who have found uranium have* had to wait for officers of the Bureau of Mineral Resources to inspect the deposits, after which, apparently, no further action has been taken. Prompt inspections of deposits should be made, and, when necessary, immediate financial grants should be provided for prospectors to enable them to develop the deposits to a stage at which the bureau, or the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, can accurately determine the value of their discoveries. Such action is necessary in order to put an end to the delays that have occurred up to the present. I assume that, where the value of deposits warrants the expense, rewards will be paid to successful prospectors. .Such rewards, too, should be paid without delay.
The first tasks of the commission will be to define a policy to cover the search for and the mining of atomic ores, and to fix prices and the conditions under which ore will be acquired. Various syndicates have discovered uranium in the Northern Territory, but they have not been informed what will happen if they begin to mine the deposits. The Minister for Supply appears to have no power to authorize them to go ahead with mining operations. At any rate, if such power does exist, the, Government has not laid down a policy in respect of the purchase and the price of uranium ore. The explanation may be that marketing and the fixing of prices are related to the agreement concluded recently between this Government and the Atomic Energy Commission of the United States of America. However, the fact remains that development of uranium deposits has been delayed for as long as four years. It is time that the Government made arrangements with the American authority for the sale of Australian ore to that body at a price that will encourage prospecting in the Northern Territory and elsewhere. All sorts of rumours about the price agreed upon by the Government and the Atomic Energy Commission of the United States of America are current, and I should like the Minister for Supply, if possible, to put an end to speculation on the subject. There is uneasiness in the Northern Territory as a result of a rumour that the price that has been agreed upon is only a fraction of the price that the American commission is paying for the domestic product. If there is any truth in that story, the development of Australia’s uranium resources will be seriously prejudiced. Indeed, unless the price agreed upon is sufficiently high to encourage searchers, the future prospects of the uranium industry in the Northern Territory and elsewhere in this country will be gloomy in the extreme. Important deposits of uranium that have been discovered’ in the Northern Territory are at least equal, if not superior, to any deposits that have been found in other countries. The new industry will be of great value to the nation in many ways. It will give an impetus to development such as could not provided by other means.
Successive governments’ of various political shades have merely tinkered with the development of the Northern Territory in the past. Only since uranium and other minerals of vital strategic importance have been discovered there have serious efforts been made to develop northern Australia. The eyes of all Australians are focussed on the north to-day. Unless we protect that region by increasing the density of its population and developing it in every possible way, the security of the nation as a whole will bc jeopardized. Thus, the development of our uranium resources must be accompanied by many other kinds of progressive activity. We must encourage all forms of development in order to protect both the uranium industry and the nation as a whole. The Australian Atomic Energy Commission must keep this factor firmly in its mind. Security, of course, is all-important. The Leader of the Opposition has stressed the uneasiness of some honorable members about the Government’s security proposals. We acknowledge that security measures must be taken and that wide powers must be conferred upon those who will be responsible for security, but common sense must prevail at all times in the exercise of those powers. I ask the Minister for Supply to assure the House that common sense will be the guiding factor in relation to security activities for the protection of this vast new industry. High-handed action could retard 1.11 (3 future development of the Northern Territory and react to the detriment, not only of that important region, but also of the whole of Australia. The proposed commission can do much for the development of atomic energy and, therefore, fo: the future of Australia. For that reason. 1 join with my leader and my colleagues in supporting the bill.
Mr. WENTWORTH (Mackellar) I 4.38]. - I agree with most of the comments that, have been made by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), although I think that, if the Government deserved to be criticized in any way for its past actions, it, would be for reasons that are the very opposite of those that the honorable gentleman has advanced. We have been a little slow to reverse some of the principles that were laid down, in good faith perhaps, by the former Labour Government, and the arguments employed by the honorable member for the Northern Territory clearly prove that statement. This bill is not devoted to more socialization. It is a measure which will make possible the development of the private section of the uranium industry. lt provides for the individual prospector, the kind of person who was so rightly and properly commended by the honorable member; The bill, with the administrative apparatus for which it provides, represents probably the most important single event in the history of this Parliament. It is a vital bill, and its introduction has given me greatpleasure. My pleasure arises, first, from the terms of the bill, secondly, from the fact that the Opposition supports it - because a matter of such national importance should not be debated on party lines - and, thirdly, because the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) said in his second-reading speech that, although the bill represented a forward step, it was an experimental step in which his administration would have the necessary flexibility. The bill will take us into unknown territory, and flexibility, above all, i:s desirable. The Minister said -
Experience may show that amendments are necessary, but we believe we have produced a fair and powerful piece of legislative machinery to shape the future of Australia in the most, important field of uranium and atomic energy.
That statement was true and significant. It was an earnest of the Minister’s intention to provide for future administration of the most flexible and advantageous character.
Atomic energy is of vital importance to the whole world, and to Australia in particular. We naturally think of its possible peaceful applications after the more urgent issue of atomic weapons has been mercifully swept aside, as we hope it soon will be. For Australia, tinpeaceful uses of atomic energy are of special significance because, as the Minister for External Affairs (Mr.- Casey) has pointed out, Australia’s power resources are sadly inadequate at the present time. With some diffidence, I suggest that atomic heat may be of great importance for the purification of water supplied and the production of fresh water from saline waters. If I were to venture a prophecy I should say that, of all the peace-time applications of atomic energy, this probably would be the first to have, an economic appeal in Australia. Until we can produce electrical energy directly from atomic transfusion Without going through the thermal cycle, we shall simply produce heat from the fission process. Heat is produced in large quantities and very cheaply. Therefore, it is possible that we shall be able to produce heat from uranium cheaply enough to justify the establishment of large distillation plants which might, in the years to come, after present techniques have been further developed, make possible the provision of pure water supplies on a large scale to areas that are now arid. It is always easy to be fanciful and prophecies can be made to appear ridiculous by the inarch of events. Nevertheless, I consider that the first peaceful application of atomic energy in Australia is likely to be the provision of water supplies by the means that I have suggested.
The development of atomic energy is of particular importance to Australia also because in this country, as tho honorable member for the Northern Territory has pointed out, we appear to be abundantly provided with uranium, the primary source of such energy. Our uranium deposits are as yet untapped. We know them only superficially and 1 agree with the honorable member for the Northern Territory that one of the great tasks of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission will be to ensure that we know them more thoroughly. However, even what we know seems to indicate that these deposits may constitute the greatest single source of national wealth for Australia. Preliminary investigations indicate that Arnheim Land, and that part of the Northern Territory which lies within -200 miles of Darwin, are potentially the greatest uranium-producing areas in the free world. Only recently we received news from South Africa, whose uranium resources appear to be much less than those of Australia, that an investment of £4’7, 000,000 sterling in uranium plant is already under way and that the national income of that country will be tremendously increased as a result of the venture. It may be that in uranium lies Australia’s great future source of wealth, because there can be no doubt that as technology proceeds - again, I speak not of this year or of next year but of decades ahead - uranium will become increasingly valuable, and perhaps will be the prime raw material of the commerce of the world. A country which is as abundantly blessed with it as ours is may have within its borders the greatest single source of national wealth in any country - a source of wealth rivalling, and perhaps even outdoing, the oil resources of the United States of America. But these matters are still in the stage of speculation. We cannot say that this is so. We can say only that there seems to be a reasonable probability that it is so. Until more survey work and more prospecting work has been done - I agree with the honorable member for the Northern Territory that the prospecting work will depend largely upon the efforts of individual prospectors - we cannot say for certain whether this wealth is real or is only a mirage. The prospects are good, but certainty is not here yet.
Probably the House will agree that, important as the ultimate peace-time application of atomic energy may be, the more urgent considerations, unhappily, are those in relation to the use of atomic energy as a weapon. Only our atomic preponderance stands as a shield between us and Russian attack. Nothing else in the world at the moment can ensure world peace or our survival. That is how important it is. All atomic power depends upon uranium supplies. Without uranium, there can be no atomic power. That remark applies not only to the fission bomb, which is the traditional atomic bomb, but also to the more highly developed fusion bomb - the hydrogen bomb that we are talking about now - because even a hydrogen bomb cannot work without an atomic bomb to trigger it. The remark is true even though thorium and other minerals can, in some instances, be used as substitutes for uranium, because thorium can be used as a substitute only when an initial amount of uranium is available. For these reasons, uranium is of crucial importance, not only to Australia but also to the world generally. It is of crucial importance, not only to our survival but also to the survival of free men everywhere. Our prime duty is, within the minimum time, to get the maximum amount of uranium into the arsenals of the free world.
In so doing, we shall run no Wl of depleting our uranium, resources. The resources of which we already know are so large that anything that we drew from them in the next few years could nor, reduce their significant magnitude. If, in the future, things do not turn out as we expect, and if the new discoveries for which we confidently hope are not made, there will he. ample time to reverse our policy, without in any way impairing our national possessions. I know that propaganda to the contrary is being circulated. I know that some people, perhaps innocent people, have been saying that we should not impair our uranium resources in the next two or three years. J. have traced some of that propaganda to sources that previously were linked with pro-Soviet propaganda. I know that it is repeated innocently by many people who have the best of motives, but I assure the House that its origin is in the Soviet, and that its objective is to prevent us from sending years and to America during the next few years, and to increase the vulnerability of the free world and the Russian chances of victory. Nothing that we can do in the next few years can impair significantly the total uranium resources in Australia.
I repeat that uranium is the bottle neck of the atomic preparations of the free world. Therefore, the immediate problem that confronts the House is to make available the maximum quantity of uranium in the minimum time. That is not. the ultimate problem. The ultimate problem involves all the matters that are so clearly and justifiably set out in this bill, but it is not the immediate problem. lt. is not, something that lies before us in 39.13 and 1954. During those years, by all means let us do everything that we can to prepare foi’ the peaceful use of uranium. Let us acquire skill, knowledge and plant. Let us do all those things that are set out so properly in this measure. But we must not let those things deflect us from our main objective. About one-tenth of the entire defence budget of the United States of America is expended upon atomic preparations. I venture to predict that the proportion would be far higher than that if it were not for the fact that the Americans realized that, no additional expenditure would be of any use because they could not get the raw material, uranium, necessary to sustain an expanded programme. Their programme is limited, not by what they desire to do but by the uranium that is available. It is not illogical to expect that in Australia well over 10 per cent, of our defence budget should be devoted to the development of uranium resources. If we want to allocate our defence vote in such a way as to obtain the greatest defence potential from the money expended, we must increase the proportion of defence expenditure allocated to the uranium programme.
In many ways, the second-reading speech of the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) was even more important than the bill itself. The bill will establish very powerful and very good machinery, but that machinery will be unable to function without a proper policy. Therefore, I was pleased to hear the principles enunciated by the Minister. I commend them to the House and to the country. The bill proposes the establishment of a commission of semiindependent status, but amenable to the needs and necessities of Government policy. I agree that, in a matter such as this, some provision of that kind is justified. Mention has been made of the personnel of the commission. The commendatory references to General Stevens were justified. The other two members of the commission should also commend themselves to honorable members. Professor Baxter has had great experience of the metallurgy of uranium, and of uranium extraction. He was one of the people associated with the production of uranium in the 3940’s, before the end of the war. He is a most suitable man for the job for which he has been selected. After all, the obtaining of uranium metal is one of the great tasks that lie before us. Mr. Murra)’, as a mining engineer, commands the respect of the mining community. It is not a bad thing that this commission, whose immediate job will be to obtain uranium, will be so weighted on the mining side.
The measure contemplates machinery that will ensure a proper balance between private enterprise and public control. In this matter, there is no possibility of separating the security angle from the other angles. Therefore, some degree of public control is right, proper and, indeed, inevitable. But there is also a place in it for private enterprise, because only private enterprise - I include individual prospectors - can develop our uranium resources quickly or with a speed commensurate with our opportunities. I agree that a proper price policy is vital, because unless we have such a policy uranium will not be produced in this country. It is worthwhile to remind the House that the price that we have hitherto offered for uranium is very low compared with, for example, standards in the United States of America. I admit that it is difficult to make a comparison between the two countries, because the American schedule is complex. Although the Americans pay different prices for uranium produced from different ores, it is fair to take the Colorado ore as the standard, because that ore accounts for about three-quarters of the production of uranium in America. At present, the United States of America is, after the Belgian Congo, the biggest producer of uranium in the free world, although there is reason to believe that it will be outstripped by Australia in the near future. Let us consider the price that is paid in America for Colorado ore containing onehalf of 1 per cent, of U308, or uranium oxide. Under the American schedule, payment for that ore is made at the rate of 44£ dollars per short ton of 2,000 lb. That includes an initial 10 dollars developmental bonus and a bonus for quantity. In addition, another 35 dollars a ton is paid for the first 1,000 tons of ore of this kind produced from any mine. As the Colorado mines are, in general, small mines in which the deposits are found only in little pockets, a very large percentage of the ore qualifies for the initial bonus. Probably the Americans are paying for such ore well over 60 dollars a ton on the average. They are paying that price for untreated ore at the pithead. They buy ore with a uranium content as low as onetenth of 1 per cent., and they pay a haulage allowance of 6 cents per ton mile upon the transport of the ore from the mine to the buying station. Let us compare that price with the price paid under standard Australian conditions, which happily, will be swept aside by the machinery established under this bill. In Australia, such ore would’ be bought at a gross price of £8 10s. a ton, which is equivalent to a little over 19 dollars. From that figure, we have to deduct the cost of treating the ore to bring it up to our standard grade of 5 per cent., and also the cost of either transporting the ore from the mine to the railhead or the cost of road transport south. One would be very lucky to receive a net price of S dollars a ton. I ask honorable members to compare that price with the average price of over 60 dollars paid in the United States of America. So the House will see that we are right out of line with world conditions. I have cited one example to illustrate that fact. Unless we bring our prices more into conformity with American prices, or world prices, we shall not get the production that we should obtain. I commend the Minister and Government upon their decision to act in this manner. Buying conditions should be reviewed, so that uranium of a reasonable grade, instead of the high grade of 5 per cent., will be acceptable. “We also need a forward guaranteed price, as is provided in the United States of America, where the minimum was guaranteed for ten years, and was subsequently increased.
In addition, buying stations, should be established. I particularly hope that a buying station will be established in the Northern Territory, so that prospectors and small miners in that area will have a ready market for their ore. I agree with the honorable member for the Northern Territory regarding a titles policy, so that persons will be able to invest their capital securely in a mine. This matter is contemplated in the bill, and the necessary machinery. is rightly and properly provided. It can be done in the Northern Territory without any constitutional difficulty, and I feel that the proper course to follow in the States will be to obtain co-operation between the various mines departments and the officers of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. I do not expect that there will be any difficulty in doing so, and I do not consider that any doubts regarding titles will remain to bedevil the Australian miner of uranium. I am certain that the machinery which will be established by this legislation will operate satisfactorily.
We need to encourage prospectors. This is one of the great things that the commission can do. There is one way of prospecting for uranium which is not so readily available in respect of other minerals. I refer to air-borne radiometric surveys, whereby a large area can be covered in a short time. I do not want to give the House the impression that a valuable deposit of uranium can be discovered from the air as easily as it is for me to refer to the matter. It is not so easy. But a careful aerial survey will delineate, not with certainty but with a high degree of probability, the areas which are worth further examination. The ultimate examination will have to be done on the ground, laboriously, by the individual prospector. A radiometric survey will show the areas which are worth examination in detail. The results of such a survey should be made available to the public so that everybody may know where it is 1)rot] table to look. If we do so, we shall be only following the example set us in the United States of America, and I venture to say that a much greater interest would be shown in prospecting here.
The Government has already shown its interest in this matter in three ways. The first is the exemption from income tax of the reward payable for the finding of uranium. When I was in the Northern Territory some months ago, I spoke to Mr. Jack Wright about his reward, and asked him what he wanted. He said, in effect, “Well, for heaven’s sake don’t let it be paid to me in a lump sum, unless I can be certain that it is free of income tax. If I am paid the £25,000 in one financial year, all of it will be absorbed by tax, and I shall also be liable for a slug for provisional tax in the next year”. There was some merit in what he said. I am pleased that the Treasurer, as the result of a conversation I had with him, was able to make that unequivocal and valuable announcement in the House that the rewards for discoveries of uranium would be free of income tax, as they should have been from the beginning.
The second way in which the Government has shown its interest is in respect of section 23p of the Income Tax Act, which exempts from tax the proceeds of the sale of mining rights by a bona fide prospector in respect of specified minerals. That section is most valuable, and I am gratified that the Government has brought uranium within the category of specified minerals. By so doing the Government has given a great potential impetus to prospecting for uranium. Thirdly, the Government introduced legislation last year to amend the Income Tax Act in order to exempt Australian companies and Australian individuals from income tax, within certain limits, with respect to profits derived from the production of uranium. Those concessions are most valuable, and the Government has been wise to grant them. I hope that they will be effective. But they can not be really effective until the price for uranium has been set at a reasonable level. That matter seems to be contemplated by the bill and, it appears that the Government policy will bear fruit.
Nobody can be more security-conscious than I am about this matter, but let us remember that it is futile to seek to maintain security about things that the enemy already knows. When we start to develop our technology of uranium power production in Australia, we may have secrets, but for this year and most of next year, the matter that we want to keep from the enemy is only the magnitude of our uranium production.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- This bill is a security measure, and one of its purposes is to establish an atomic energy commission. Restricted, as I shall be, on this vast subject, within the limits of the Standing Orders to which you, Mr. Speaker, confined the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), I must try to bring two imponderables together. I shall cogitate upon the whole awful problem of atomic energy in relation to its development for war and for industrial purposes in the future, and the reasons why we must provide the most efficient protective machinery for the preservation for our security, since we shall soon be an active producer of uranium, from which the atomic bomb is made, and which assists in the development of the hydrogen bomb.
Many honorable members on both sides of the House who were in Japan either before or after the explosion of the atomic bomb can measure the development of this awful weapon within the few years that have intervened between the atomic explosion in Nevada last Wednesday and the explosion in Hiroshima in 1945. In Japan an atomic bomb was dropped at the wrong time and in the wrong place, and there were defects in the scientific preparations, yet the bomb practically destroyed a city, and inaugurated a great controversy about the future of atomic warfare. The story of the casualties has been repeated so often that there is no need for me to add further gruesome figurative details to the horrors of war. The ravages so caused, the strange and absorbing chemical reaction, and the radioactive phenomena all have been recorded, but in common terms of flesh and blood, it was a horror flashed upon the people of the world. We have been, trying to evade or overcome it ever since.
The fact that the atomic bomb of that day is merely the percussion cap of the hydrogen bomb of to-day is a significant indication of how vast has been the progress in a few years in the preparation of weapons of death by means of atomic energy and guided projectiles. The budget of the United States of America has been mentioned by the honorable member for Mackellar, but I point out that the amount of money expended before and since World War II. on atomic research and the development of atomic energy and atomic weapons amounts to seven billion dollars. This astronomical figure can hardly be realized, any more than the true significance of the atomic bomb ran be grasped.
It is suggested, in the crudest and most savage terms, that the cost price of war, once you have mass production of atomic energy, can be reduced. By that statement, I mean that 100 or 500 bombers cannot cause the destruction that can bo caused by atomic energy applied to this most fearsome of modern weapons. This country, which has its own deposits of uranium, is to subject itself to what may be described as a “ two way stretch “, namely, the use of atomic energy for war, and for peaceful purposes. In the fullness of time, some formula may be devised for the general sharing of knowledge about atomic energy among all the nations. My second ‘ thought on these matters is the development of this valuable mineral in a vulnerable part of the Australian mainland. The third consideration is how to preserve this uranium for the democracies, who want this most vital mineral for the development of fissionable materials.
So, having accepted the position that soon there must be no wars or no humans, that we must have one world or no world, we divest ourselves of the philosophical arguments about the atomic bomb, and its arrival in this country, and are faced with the sobering fact that we have uranium in its crudest and rawest state, namely, the ore, and, therefore, must provide means, with the greatest despatch, for the preservation of that asset for the Australian nation and the democracies concerned. In the circumstances, I can best describe this bill as something to do with the thin red line of traitors, if I may paraphrase a famous old line.
Because of the very nature of those circumstances, the democracies’ concept, of the law is likely to be bruised by some of the provisions in this bill, but the Opposition has examined them and digested them, and has reluctantly but all the more sincerely approved the legislation. Eight million people in. this country need to be protected, from a. dangerously enterprising few who may desire to get someof our atomic secrets. At tin.* moment, it is only in a quantitive and a qualitive sense that the information available can be of any use to them, but in the next few years, a vastly different position may develop. The decentralization of the production of fissionable materials seems to be only logical, if we are to reduce the costs, and if the materials are to be used later for industry. Our energies at the present time are to be devoted to the stockpiling of materials for the making of destructive weapons of war.
In deference to you, Mr. Speaker, I shall not develop that theme. I shall examine the safeguards that have been provided in the bill to protect the foolish individual, or the individual who is caught up in a net that is only explainable by the stroke of circumstances. Very few provisions in the bill apply to that kind of individual, because of obvious difficulties. The question of intent can be twisted in such a way that it could be dangerous, and the onus of proof and the right of search also figure prominently in the measure ; but because of the urgent requirements of security, we must regard the particular section of this country to which the bill applies as a defence area. As such, it must be fully protected. The Leader of the Opposition analysed the bill and its legal application. He referred to the definition of restricted information. I should like to ask the Minister for Supply how he is going to get a firm definition of restricted information, because the question of what is restricted information will condition who will be prosecuted. Perhaps nobody will be prosecuted, but we do not know. The bill sets forth various ways in which such restricted information may be disseminated. It may be handed out as a photograph, communicated in writing, or whispered. It may consist of a substance, or of other things. The definition is important, since this bill has grown out of the experience of countries overseas, and has been made particularly tough by the decision of the Government with the support of the Opposition. We must ensure that foolish anomalies that can be corrected are not permitted to exist. I do not see how there could be any amendment of this legislation, but the question of what is restricted information is important, because on that definition hinge the problems that may arise. The Americans take a loose view of what is restricted information, in Congress at least. I have read transcriptions of Congressional debates and of broadcasts, and have read articles in overseas magazines which seem to go as far as possible, in fact, almost to the limit of security, in describing what has been done in rela tion to atomic energy. The American people are kept up to date about what is happening. For instance., there was an explosion of an “ atomic device “ in the Nevada desert last week, and the Sydney Morning Herald, to mention only one newspaper, carried on its front page a story which listed the following effects of the explosion : -
A house about- two-thirds of a ‘ mile away from the centre of the blast was destroyed. . . .
A house about one and a half miles away was more than 50 per cent, damaged. . . .
At 3,000 yards from the tower. A 1953 Cadillac sedan had its roof “dashed in “ . .
At 2,700 yards, a house was 50 per cent, demolished.
If that information was not known to be already in the hands of the Russians, then it would appear to me to deserve treatment as extremely restricted information. The measure of the strength of the blast from the epicentre, where it occurred, to the perimeter, seems to me to be one of the things that would be of extremely important scientific value to people who were seeking such information. Our opinions in relation to this matter are, of course, necessarily based on our very limited knowledge. The definition of restricted information is something to which the Minister should give careful attention in connexion with the establishment of the Atomic Energy Commission. He should consider carefully how far we are to follow an orderly system under which information is issued through the British Broadcasting Corporation, in the form of lectures, or whether the public is to gain its information from the scientific and semi-scientific documents that appear in the popular press. Or shall we receive from the Atomic Energy Commission reports, made to this House, of a more intimate and extensive nature? I dare say that the Minister knows the extent to which he can make this sort of information available to the public, and will watch it accordingly.
The next point to which I turn relates to the dissemination of restricted information, which is to be punishable on the highest level. What protections are to be provided against the misuse of this power? A person could acquire restricted information, and remove it or communicate it. The provision is all-pervading. It may refer to something that a person does not acquire, but which has been told to him. How would a person know to what degree information that had been given to him was restricted information? He might pass such information on in ignorance that it was restricted information. The administration of this provision will have to be sensible. Information in some instances will be in the same category as a piece of uranium taken away and passed on to another person. The whole matter seems to be full of difficulties, and unless it is most intelligently administered all sorts of trouble may arise. It must be administered intelligently because this Parliament is giving to the Minister, and to the commission, the right to protect us on the highest security level and for that reason, in peace, or in cold wars, as in shooting wars, we have to relinquish some of our democratic rights in order to enjoy these protections.
T turn now to the right of search. The Labour party, and, indeed, every party that has a liberal approach to democracy, abhors the right of search, but it must be included in this measure because of the f act that we are fighting the espionage of other countries. Current literature has given us a fairly good indication of how terrifying such espionage can be, and indicates where the traitors come from. A second, third and fourth reading of Rebecca West’s Meaning of Treason convinces me that it is one of the finest documentaries on this day and age that I have read. As a piece of reporting it is first class. It definitely sets out the states of mind that can arise in connexion with these things, which include the desire for publicity, or a messianic complex to save the world. Top level people in science, industry, chemistry and finance can become substantial traitors because of the complete malaise of their minds in relation to these things. The consequence is that when we are dealing with this most tenuous and most difficult form of sabotage we have to take extreme measures. The right of search must therefore remain in the bill. The Minister for Supply has told us how carefully he drafted the bill, and his words stand up to a factual analysis of the measure. In 1946, when such legislation first took tentative form along the lines that have been developed: by the Minister, the Chifley Government decided that there would have to be some sort of protection of the atomic resources already discovered, or that might be discovered in Australia. The first nebulous steps to gain such protection were taken in the 1946 legislation. Later on we found drastic legislation necessary in. regard to the Long Range Weapons Establishment at Woomera, and that legislation was passed without fear or favour to one side or the other. Out of it has grown the present legislation. The Minister, who has a legal mind, has built on its foundations, and in this bill is to be found a good deal of the Canadian legislation, a breakdown of some of the American ideas, and a whole excerpt from the espionage provisions of the Crimes Act, which is being adopted holus bolus as part of the bill. It is rather a horrifying part of the bill, because it deals with a horrifying crime. A penalty of twenty years imprisonment is not excessive for the offences with which the bill deals, and for that reason the . penalties provided have to be terrific.
This is not an easy measure. It is a. momentous measure and, quite apart from all the implications of atomic energy, it is an extremely strong security measure. At the present stage there is not much prospect that information about atomic energy of a character that would make it important to a spy, will be available in this country, because there is not much advanced scientific work taking place in Australia at the moment in relation to atomic energy.
The bill also relates to the establishment of an Atomic Energy Commission. The commission will consist of three very good men. The president of it will be General Stevens, who was well known during the last war and is a patriotic and reputable figure and a well known engineer. The commission will also include Professor Baxter, who has not been many years in this country. He is a distinguished technologist who has done yeoman work in the New South Wales
University of Technology and is acceptable to all sections of the community. He has a first rate mining engineer to back him up. One wonders, however, why the commission is not to include one pure scientist. I suppose that it does not include a pure scientist for the same reason as Clemenceau would not have soldiers in charge of his Ministry of War. He said that war was too serious a business for soldiers. Perhaps atomic energy is too serious a business for scientists.
– I presume the honorable member is referring to the inclusion of a nuclear physicist.
– Exactly. I should have thought a nuclear physicist would have been a member of the commission, but I am not complaining about the matter. It appears that, for the moment, a trio is considered sufficient, because we are still feeling our way in relation to atomic energy.
I turn now to the provisions relating to sabotage, which are important but are not new. Clause 49 provides as follows : -
A person shall not, without lawful authority, or excuse, destroy, damage, pollute, tamper or interfere with, or do an act which is likely to destroy, damage, pollute, or impair the efficiency of any real or personal property. . . .
The bill provides machinery for the development of uranium deposits, and illustrates a growing consciousness of the methods to be used in any developments that may come. It gives point and substance to the mining of uranium and defines the things that we must guard against on a security basis. The Leader of the Opposition has analysed, as I have tried to do, the definition of “ restricted information “ which is the basis of the security provisions in this measure, and the provisions regarding the treason that accrues from the dissemination of such information. He has also examined the question of sabotage, which is also dealt with in other legislation, and all the other provisions that go to make a tightly knit measure of security. I could talk about the industrial aspects of technology, but 1 do not think that it would be permissible to do so and I. content myself by saying that the bill is a very strong security measure. It has grown out of the pattern left by the Chifley Government, which provided similar measures of security. It begs no pardons where there are likely to be traitors, or potential traitors, and it makes it abundantly clear that in the possession of this country there is a valuable mineral that the world is seeking, that it has great security significance, and that every effort will be made by the government of the day, of whatever political colour it may be, to preserve that mineral for the people and for the use of the democracy that we support.
– The outstanding feature of the debate is a similar unanimity on both sides of the House about the urgency and importance of this measure. That is one of the healthiest things that I have seen for a long time, because it indicates that, upon the fundamental issue of the defence of this country and the development of resources associated with it there is a substantial measure of agreement. The intention of this bill is to safeguard the resources of Australia which can be used for the production of atomic energy, to ensure that those resources shall not fall into alien hands and shall not be dissipated, and to prevent atomic secrets from becoming available to the enemies of the country. Clause 17, sub-clause (4.), reads - (4.) The functions of the Commission specified in sub-section (1.) of this section shall be performed only -
for the purpose of ensuring the provision of -
We may say that the introduction of this legislation marks the beginning of a new era in our history. It may be regarded as potentially the most important development since the foundation of Australia, because we are now giving statutory recognition to the entry into world affairs of a new and particularly destructive source of energy. That energy can be used in remarkable ways for the benefit of mankind, or, alternatively, in remarkable ways for the destruction of mankind. It can be used for our effective defence, and it can be used against us if it is in the hands of our enemies. I do not propose to cover the ground that has been very fully covered by previous speakers. I merely wish to take this opportunity to refer to some of the information contained in an extract from the report of the President’s Materials Policy Commission as furnished to the President of the United States. It was released on the 23rd June, 1952. It is a remarkable report, and most thought-provoking. If considered in conjunction with the clause of the bill that I have read it should give rise to much serious thought. The report of the commission is silent about the sources ofuranium and atomic energy, but running through it is a very important implication to which this House will have to pay regard. The report reads, inter alia -
This country [the United States] took out of the ground two and a half times more bituminous coal in 1950 than in 1900; three times more copper, four times more zinc, thirty times more crude oil. The quantity of most metals and mineral fuels used in the United States since the first world war exceeds the total used throughout the entire world in all of history preceding 1914. Although almost all materials are in heavily increasing demand, the hard core of the materials problem is minerals.
And I remind honorable members that we are now dealing with a mineral that is not specifically referred to in this report. There is a reference in the report to the sources of energy, and I particularly refer to the striking remark that 30 times more crude oil had been used since World War I. than had been used in all the time before 1914. This commission was entrusted with the responsibility of reporting to the President of the United States of America on the likely consumption trend within the next 25 years, and the information that it has given is sufficiently important to draw attention to the enormous dissipation of our sources of energy. One does not need to take as long range a view as the famous scientist Darwin, the grandson of the great Charles Darwin, who forecast what would happen within the next 1,000,000 years. He said that the world’s coal resources would be dissipated within fifteen generations, but one merely needs to look ahead for the next 25 years to perceive that our sources of energy in this country may by then be largely dissipated. The report also stated. -
Demand for minerals as a whole, including metals, fuels and non-metallics, will rise most - about 90 per cent., or almost double.
Demand for timber will rise least - about 10 per cent. . .
In addition to the above, demand for energy in all forms will double: demand for industrial water will increase roughly 170 per cent. . . .
I referred to those matters because I desired to highlight the actual position in Australia. So far, we have not been able to discover any oil in economic quantities within Australia. We have extracted a limited quantity from shale, but that has not been a happy experiment. We have extremely limited supplies of water for the production of power. If we could make the most complete use of our hydroelectric power resources, exclusive of the power in the tides, we could, on a generous computation, provide only about 10,000,000 horse-power. However, Australia is one of the most backward countries in the world in the production of electric power, and we have practically no resources of oil. But I remind honorable members that in the words of the report -
All signs point to a re-emergence of coal in stronger and stronger demand, as supplies of petroleum and natural gas inevitably begin to decline. . . .
Petroleum and natural gas resources in the United States of America have already declined, and there is a certain amount of uneasiness in many quarters about the effect of the tremendous use of oil on the available supply. This report indicates that the power necessary to continue the normal development of the United States of America along the lines that it should proceed on, that is an increase of production of about 3 per cent, per annum, will increase the demand for electrical power from 389,000,000,000 kilowatt hours to 1,400,000,000,000 kilowatt hours. The deduction that I draw from this information, which has an extraordinary application to Australia for reasons that I have indicated, may be given point by these three findings of the American commission -
We can import larger quantities of materials from other nations of the free world on terms advantageous to huyer and seller.
I believe that the United States of America is at present putting those recommendations into practice. Australia is deficient in sources of power. Our water power resources are extremely poor in relation to our geographical area, which is roughly the same as that of the United States of America. Our coal resources are good, but our oil resources are virtually nil. Now we have discovered that we have been blessed with apparently extremely rich resources of uranium, and in an endeavour to protect them from being used by those who would manufacture destructive weapons for use against us, this measure has been introduced. . congratulate the Minister upon introducing it.
I suggest that there is an unanswerable case for the appointment of a commission to investigate the extent of our resources of power, and our general resources, so that at any time a complete picture of our resources will be available. I do not cavil against the steps that have already been taken, particularly those in conjunction with the nation to which we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude for preserving our national existence, but this matter is so important that if an agreement is ever contemplated to sell or dispose of uranium outside Australia, the agreement should be placed upon the table of the House before any governmental action is taken, so that it may be studied by all honorable members in the light of the effectively estimated resources of the country. I used the word “ effectively “ because I believe that any such estimate should be more than a guess. It should be ascertained by a proper geophysical survey. There are many minor sources of energy, but uranium is the greatest and most important. The discovery of uranium here may put Australia in a position that it could not otherwise occupy, because it has no supplies of oil. The possession of uranium may be even more important than the possession of oil, because it may give us an effective bargaining counter with those who have oil to sell. I say, as one who represents a rural constituency which is greatly dependent on oil as a source of energy, that Australia has been well and truly screwed by those who, in the past, have had control of oil sources outside of this country. The tremendous difference between the cost of oil and the price that has to be paid for it in Australia materially affects the cost of production, particularly of primary products. Now that we have one of the most powerful bargaining counters that the world knows of, I trust that in all future negotiations the Government will demand that the price of oil for use in Australia will be suitably lowered to offset our making available to our allies sufficient quantities of uranium to meet their requirements. I summarize the points that I have made in this way: First, there should be a full and searching investigation by a permanent commission into the resources of Australia, particularly its power resources. Secondly, every agreement covering the disposal of uranium ore should be tabled in this House and the fullest information given to us so that the members of this Parliament and of succeeding parliaments may have clear, and as far as is humanly possible, convincing proof that in making the agreements we are not jeopardizing the present generation or future generations. It is incumbent . on this Government to ensure that that factor is kept prominently in mind in all. negotiations for the disposal of uranium. We are not only responsible to the present generation, we are trustees and custodians for the generations of the future. In so far as this measure attempts to secure future generations as well as the present generation I -heartily commend it. I make these suggestions not in an obstructive spirit but rather in the hope that they will be noted by the Government when it is fashioning its future policy .
– I am unable to compliment the Government for its magnanimous attitude in regard to this matter. The circumstances in which this legislation has been introduced are well known to Government supporters. The Government has the requisite numbers to ensure its passage, but that situation will be speedily altered. I commend the purposes of the bill, but I condemn the Government for having so long delayed its introduction. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) declared that the introduction of this measure represents the most important single event in the history of this Government because it will break the bottleneck in the supply of uranium to the free nations of the world. Australians generally will share the concern expressed by the honorable member and they will applaud the plea by the honorable member for the Northern Territory that we got on with this work. They will also condemn the inexcusable delay of the Government in introducing the bill. One may well ask whether the Government is at long last awakening from its slumbers. The fell disease of sleeping sickness from which it is suffering is best illustrated by the fact that only now, four years after the discovery of uranium in the Northern Territory, has the balance of the reward due to the discoverer of the deposits . at Rum Jungle, Mr. Jack White, been paid.
– He did not want the money earlier. He asked us not to pay it to him. Why does the honorable member not stick to the facts?
– The interjection made by the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) does nothing to alter the facts. At Rum Jungle to-day one can see men spading uranium ore into 44-gallon drums. No practical steps are taken to treat the ore as it should be treated in this atomic age. The deposits are still in the exploratory stage and developmental work is proceeding at a snail-like pace at a time when Ministers often refer to the imminence of war. Not long ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) told us that there would be war within three years yet his Government, which professes to be interested in the defence of Australia, has proceeded with the development of these important deposits at a snail’s pace. War in three years and the development of atomic energy in Australia has reached only the stage that the Government has at long last brought before the House a bill to deal with it! In this atomic age priceless uranium, which exists in great quantity in the vast uninhabited lands of our north, can be developed only if proper incentives are provided for prospectors. Beyond the introduction of this bill, what has the Government done to encourage them? If it was concerned about the importance of uranium one would imagine that it would encourage prospectors, like Mr. White, to intensify their search for uranium-bearing areas by the granting of liberal rewards.
This Government has committed the country to a defence expenditure of £200,000,000 for the current financial year. The honorable member for Mackellar referred to the fact that onetenth of the budgetary provision of the United States of America has been set aside for the development of atomic energy. If this Government is concerned about the defence of Australia and its development, which is indissolubly bound up with its defence, why has it failed to take practical steps to develop known uranium deposits and to treat the ores obtained therefrom?
The establishment of the Atomic Energy Committee is not opposed by honorable members on this side of the House. We support the proposal and we condemn the Government for its inexcusable delay in bringing the measure before the House. It should be the aim of the Government to use atomic energy for the development of Australia, particularly of the vast areas in the north. The Opposition has very little fault to find with the security provisions in the bill. We merely express the view that no hush-hush policy should prevent the speedy development of the uranium - bearing areas or deter prospectors from seeking new deposits. It has been found in all countries that those who prospect for fissionable material or the ores from which such material is extracted are not guilty of breaching security provisions. The guilty men are usually found in higher places. Recent world events have proved that to be true. One wonders where security begins and ends. Only recently we were privileged to witness in the Senate club room the screening of a film which depicted the rich deposits and the building and other activities in the Bum Jungle area. If such a display is proper what sort of publicity does the Government object to? Opposition members believe that prospectors may be deterred from searching for ores from which fissionable material is made, lest they render themselves liable to prosecution because of some breach of the security provisions.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) dealt at length with the difficult position that confronts Australia as the result of the paucity of oil supplies. Our only indigenous oil supply is from oil bearing shale, but the industry for the extraction of oil from that source has already been killed by this Government. No useful flow oil has yet been found. As the Northern Territory has no local coal supplies it is all the more important that we should develop atomic energy for use in that vast area. The Northern Territory urgently needs a much larger population and is awaiting development. Industries should be established there as quickly as possible. I sincerely trust that when atomic energy plants have been perfected on a commercial scale they will be established in the Northern Territory and in the centre of the continent and not on the coastline. In the previous debate the Minister for Supply said that Australia was in a fortunate position in that it is not likely to be attacked by a strong maritime power. I hope that the Minister has since revised his views on the maritime strength of world powers. It would be an extreme act of folly to establish plants for the production of atomic energy along the coastline of Australia. We have heard of immigrants who have gone as far as Alice Springs in search of work. Men are vainly searching for work from one end nf the Commonwealth to the other.
– Get back to the bill.
– Statistics relating to employment made available by the Government from time to time prove that statement to be true. The Government, instead of tarrying as it has done in this matter, should offer attractive wages and conditions to induce men to go to the Northern Territory to ensure that all potential uranium-bearing areas are fully explored.
Sitting suspended from 6 to .8 p.m.
– Our only consideration should be the welfare of Australia. The defence and the development of this, our native land, must be paramount. I am not gravely concerned if I have disturbed the Minister for Supply. If I can prod him and the Government into promoting activity and development in the Northern Territory, I shall indeed achieve something worthwhile for Australia. Unless this Government takes positive action within the next few months, undoubtedly the people will replace it with a Labour government, which will use this measure as the basis for a programme that will achieve all the desirable results that this Government has failed so lamentably to achieve. Prompt action is required. For four years this Government has promoted only mediocre developmental activities in the Northern Territory. Nothing spectacular has been done. As I have pointed out already, the Government took four years to reward a prospector who found a great deposit of uranium. The Minister for Supply remarked, by interjection, that the prospector had not wanted his reward earlier. That is not what the prospector told me when I visited the Northern Territory recently. I remind the Minister also that the refusal of the Government to pay the reward promptly deterred other prospectors who were eager to search for uranium. These men are now searching for other minerals from which they expect to obtain greater and speedier rewards.
The Government also has taken four years to prepare this measure. I sincerely trust that it will be disturbed, and that it will throw overboard the primitive methods that have been employed up to the present in the search for uranium and in research into the uses of atomic energy. Mechanized methods must be adopted. An industry must be established to process uranium, not at Rum Jungle, but somewhere in the heart of Australia in a place that will be secure from attack, not only now, but also in the future for the benefit of later generations of Australians. The need for a fully populated Northern Territory is apparent to everybody. Nobody, either inside this Blouse or elsewhere, will deny the urgent need to populate that great area, which is now the stamping ground of roving blacks. It must be neglected no longer. If the Government wishes earnestly to deal with the problems of defence and national development, it will go ahead realistically and encourage prospecting for uranium. It must pay to the men who are engaged in. the industry the world parity price for this mineral. We obtain world prices for our wool. Why should we not obtain world prices also for our uranium? That principle should apply to every primary product. Labour, too, should receive its just reward. Members of the Australian Country party, I notice, applaud my statement that world parity prices should be paid for our primary products. I hope that they will commend my suggestion that justice be done to the men who are winning uranium in the desolate northern part of Australia and suffering all the hardships that fall to the lot of pioneers in any part of the world.
The value of uranium is incalculable. In peace, it can help to propel our engines and provide energy for a wide variety of other purposes that are essential to mankind. It can provide heat, and serve our interests in a thousand ways. The uranium that lies in the Northern Territory can also help us in time of war. However, “ peace hath her victories no less renowned than war “, and, if our atomic energy resources are fully used for the peace-time development of Australia, our security will be safeguarded. If the government fully appreciates the realities of the situation, it must do its utmost to promote the exploitation of our uranium resources and research into atomic energy and its uses. This bill provides the form, but, unless the Government has the spirit, it will be a worthless document and we shall revert to the state of affairs that the late John Curtin had in mind when he said that a former government was defeatist in outlook and in preparation. This Government has shown itself to be defeatist in outlook and in preparation. Four years have passed under its administration, but it has done nothing to develop the desolate area in northern Australia where rich deposits of uranium lie untapped. I hope that, at last, it will be forced by public opinion to mend its laggardly ways. I am deeply concerned about the security measures for which the hill provides and I hope that its sweeping powers will he wisely and justly used. Those powers must not be placed in the hands of bureaucrats who will become power-drunk. The Parliament and the Minister must ensure that our security shall be safeguarded and also that justice shall be done to those engaged in the uranium mining industry and the development of atomic research, whose efforts will benefit the entire nation.
– in reply - The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) is obviously suffering from a very painful and acute attack of the disease which was known to the Latins as cacoethes loquendi, which means, “ an incurable itch for talking “. The honorable gentleman has said much, but his grandiose phrases have amounted to exactly nothing. I shall deal with his comments later. First, I take the opportunity to say that the debate on this bill, with perhaps one or two exceptions, has done great credit to the Parliament. It has revealed that the National Parliament, when dealing with truly national issues, is capable of rising above party political propaganda and presenting facts and arguments for the benefit of the people as a whole.
– That, of course, excludes the honorable member for Macquarie.
– I have excluded him. Nobody suffering from cacoethes loquendi could ever be in that class. The debate has revealed that the Parliament, by and large, is the faithful servant of the people and has in its ranks a majority of members who, on truly national issues, are capable of thinking nationally and setting aside purely personal or party political interests.
-.Aiy Fraser. - That is very kind of the Minister.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) need not thank me. He has contributed nothing to the debate. I venture to say that, on this subject, he is not capable of making a useful contribution.
The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) put the debate on the right plane when he said that the bill dealt with a matter of great national import, which involved national security. The right honorable gentleman asked me for one assurance, which I shall willingly give him. He asked that, in dealing with the problem of “ restricted information “, the Government, through the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, should, if I may use a monstrous word, “ derestrict “ information as quickly and as regularly as possible. I give him that assurance. I agree with him that it is impossible to have a legal definition of the term restricted information “ in a highly technical, and scientific field, except in the way in which it is defined in the bill. This provision has been copied closely from the Canadian legislation on the same subject. As honorable members know, the Government does not pretend that restricted, or dangerous, information should not, with the passage of time, pass into the field of public property. We propose to release information from the “ restricted “ category as quickly and as frequently as possible. We shall establish an organization which will constantly make such information available to the public for the benefit of private enterprise so as to encourage it to engage in the development of atomic energy. Information will be released, provided that the interests of Australian defence are not prejudiced. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) struck, in a small degree, the same note as the honorable member for Macquarie.
– He made a very good speech.
– That is so if the honorable member is concerned, not with facts, but with propaganda. However, if we are concerned with facts and with the national interest, the. honorable gentleman made a very bad speech. It was the only bad speech that I have heard him make in this House. However, it was a minor effort, and I shall pass on to two notable speeches.
One was delivered by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). Everybody knows that he is interested in uranium and atomic energy.
– And in a lot of other matters, too.
– Yes, and, if I may say so in his presence without causing him embarrassment, he discusses them all intelligently.
– More intelligently than the Minister does.
– I am the first to admit the fact. I agree with the honorable member for Mackellar that there are substantial resources of uranium ore in Australia. That is one of the very satisfactory facts that has emerged from recent investigations. The discovery is no Bonanza, though many people have said that it is. Let us be clear about that fact for the sake of Australia’s welfare in the next ten years. However, the deposits are rich. They will secure Australia’s relations with its allies and make it an important country to other nations in the western world. They will help to develop the Northern Territory, and they will earn dollars for us, though not, perhaps, so many dollars as some people believe. In fact, the discovery of uranium, has been of great benefit to Australia.
– Nobody is arguing about that.
– Except the honorable member for Macquarie, apparently.
– He said that the Government was not moving fast enough.
– He spoke from the platform of his ignorance. I shall give honorable members an opportunity to judge whether we have moved fast enough or not.
The honorable member for Mackellar said that we must quickly establish a prices policy for uranium and alter the prices which were fixed some years ago by the Bureau of Mineral Resources on the basis of the prices then prevailing in Canada and the United States of America. I agree with the honorable gentleman. We also must establish a mining policy and a titles policy in’ order to encourage men to prospect for uranium. As late as last night, the Government deliberately and concurrently with the passage of this measure through the House, took a series of decisions to ensure that, in the very early future, we shall be able to announce to the world a policy that will tend to encourage private enterprise to go into the territory, prospect for uranium, mine uranium, and sell uranium. The question of a guaranteed price for a term of years is bound up with that policy. All of those matters have been considered by the Government and decisions have been reached upon them, which, I hope, will be announced shortly.
Turning to the problem of restricted information, I agree with the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) that we have spread our net widely. The definition of “ restricted information “ is a wide one. The term could not be defined in a more limited manner. We have defined it widely and made provision in the legislation to enable us to recede from the present strict situation as soon and as often as we can. That is what the Canadians did, and are doing. That is what we have done. We have copied the Canadian legislation largely, although this measure is not so severe and strict as theirs. We shall establish machinery that will ensure that any information that is no longer of a secret or restricted nature will be made known to the public as quickly as possible, so that the people will know what we are doing and, knowing it, will be encouraged to prospect for and mine uranium.
I agree also with the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) that uranium is only one of a dozen important minerals to be found in Australia. What we lack in oil may well be made up by other mineral deposits that we possess in this country.
Opposition MEMBERS - Hear, hear!
– I am glad that members of the Opposition are prepared to say, “ Hear, hear ! “ to that statement.
– Order ! I ask honorable members to refrain from loud conversation. There is a hum like a beehive in the chamber.
– Australian primary production does not depend entirely upon wool and wheat and other things that grow with the ebb and flow of the seasons. We have many primary products. Minerals are a very important part of them. I do not deny that preceding governments did something in this field, but I say that, since 1949, this Government has been dedicated to the proposition that the mineral production of Australia shall be developed, and that primary products in the form of minerals and metals shall be dug out of the ground, sold and exploited for the benefit of Australia and of our allies.
The honorable member for Macquarie, whom I have known since he entered the Parliament, is normally an amiable person. When he turns a debate that has been conducted at a very high level into a vehicle for purely party political propaganda, I look at him more in sorrow than in anger. It would not have been so bad if he had stuck to the facts, but he talked about delay in introducing the bill. He did not say a word about what happened between 1946 and 1949, when the Labour party was in power. The Chifley Government did not do a thing to develop our uranium resources. It did not introduce legislation to give taxation concessions to uranium prospectors.
Dr. Evatt interjecting,
– No such taxation legislation was passed by the Chifley Government. In 1946 it presented a measure upon atomic energy, and then sat down and did nothing until 1949.
– Uranium was discovered in this country before the Government came into office.
– Not a pound of uranium was discovered in a Territory of the Commonwealth until September 1949, just before the Chifley Government went out of office.
– We were in office then.
– Between August 1946 and September 1949, the Chifley Government did not do a thing in this connexion. If it had not been for the enterprise of Dr. Raggatt, of the Bureau of Mineral Resources, who published a pamphlet illustrating atomic materials and uranium-
– The Chifley Government published the pamphlet.
- Dr. Raggatt published it. What does the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) know about the matter? If that pamphlet had not been published, where would Mr. White have been? He has stated publicly that, but for Dr. Raggatt’S pamphlet which gave illustrations of atomic metals, he would never have found the uranium deposit that he did find. I have raised this matter only because the honorable member for Macquarie,- seeking to gain cheap political advantage, suggested that the Government had been guilty of delay in this matter. From 1946’ to 1949, the Labour party did nothing. We came into office at about the time that uranium was discovered. We pursued investigations in the Northern Territory, and some time afterwards a really important uranium strike was made. At the end of .1951, we invited American uranium experts to visit the country. We signed an agreement with the American authorities. We signed an agreement also with the Zinc Corporation for the exploitation of the Rum Jungle field for tcn years at profitable prices. Everything done in connexion with uranium in this country has been done, not by a Labour Government but by this Government. I repeat that I should not have bothered to refer to this matter but for the fact that the honorable member for Macquarie sought to suggest, quite falsely, that this Government had done nothing about uranium.
– All you have is a hole in the ground.
– It sounds as if the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has a hole in his head.
– He has nothing in his head. Since the 1st January, 1952, there has been a miraculous development of uranium resources in the area in which the Zinc Corporation has operated. Uranium ore is being mined now. In a few months, it will be mined in large quantities. In a few more months, a treatment plant will be erected and great quantities of uranium oxide will be produced, not as a result of the efforts of the talkers on the other side of the chamber, who did nothing from 1946 to 1949, but as a result of the efforts of the Menzies Government.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! There is a tendency for the House to become a little lively to-night. I ask honorable gentlemen to take charge of themselves. That will save me the trouble of doing so.
– I admit that I have contributed to the liveliness, but when it is suggested that, during the short time that we have been responsible for the development of our uranium resources, we have not acted promptly, I feel entitled to speak vigorously in defence of the honour of the Government. What is the future of atomic energy and uranium in Australia? As we view the matter-
– Tell us, too.
– I do not mind telling some people, but it is a question of their degree of receptivity. We have introduced this measure in the belief that it makes provision for the quickest way to get the maximum production of this vital mineral from the earth of Australia, and for the best way of turning that mineral into a metal and selling it to our allies, as we have already agreed to do, at very satisfactory prices and under satisfactory conditions.
– There is nothing marvellous about that.
– There is nothing marvellous about it, but we did it, and the Labour party did not. We have made arrangements to ensure that, within a measurable term of years, this important mineral will be used as the source of atomic power for industrial purposes. Now that the tumult and the shouting has died, I say that, whatever the personal views of honorable members may be about this or that aspect of the matter, mid notwithstanding how some persons may seek to twist the facts for propaganda purposes, we have introduced a powerful piece of legislation designed to do what everybody wants to be done - to exploit uranium for the benefit of the nation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee: (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Beale) agreed to -
That it is expedient’ that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bil] for an act relating to atomic energy.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
– Clause 5 is one of the vital clauses of the measure, because it conta ins the definition of “ restricted information “. The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) has said that this is a bill which, in some respects, breaks new ground, and if it is ascertained in the future that it is necessary to amend the legislation, consideration will be given to such amendment. In view of that assurance, I regard the bill as satisfactory, although I am a little afraid that, in the operation of it, some difficulties may arise. We want to be able to make public the greatest amount of information. I accept the Minister’s assurance that information will be released whenever possible. In view of that assurance, I am happy about the immediate operation of the measure. But it may be necessary at some future date to re-restrict certain classes of information. I refer particularly to information in categories (a), (/)) and (c) of the definition of “ restricted information “. It is noteworthy that geological information as such is not included in those categories. Nevertheless, the kind of determination which will have to be made under this provision will- be for the release of all information in categories (a), (b) and (c) with .certain specific exceptions, which are the producing fields. I emphasize that the only information which really requires to be restricted in those three vital categories is that relating to the order of magnitude of Australian uranium production. If that is so, a new field may be found subsequently, and it may be necessary to bring information about it into the same restricted category as that which now applies to places such as Rum Jungle. For that reason, we shall .require at some time in the future, a means of “ re-restricting “ classes of information which have been “de-restricted”. I am not quim certain about what is the appropriate drafting of this provision, and I think that we may allow to pass something that cannot be of much importance for some time, because the Minister has given us an assurance that all information which can be released will be released, and there will be no need, for some time at any rate, to re-restrict information. I feel that the attitude adopted by the Minister in his second-reading speech is correct, and that we should see how this legislation functions in practice. If necessary, an amendment along the lines I have mentioned may be inserted in the act at the appropriate time. I feel that such an amendment will be necessary in future.
A small technical point arises in connexion with clause 5(2.). I regard it as a legal point only. Honorable members will notice that paragraph (a) and paragraph (Z>) of sub-clause (2.) both refer to “ that information “ which is treated in a certain way. It may be that by reason of the parallelism of these two paragraphs, “ that information “ will be held to have the same meaning in both instances. However, I believe that such is not the intention, because the words “ that information “ in paragraph (a) mean that particular piece of information, whereas the intention in paragraph (b) is “that class of information”, because the release which is presumed in paragraph (a) is not entirely or always under the direct control of the Minister or the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. Perhaps the Minister can reassure us on this matter, because he is better qualified to express an opinion about it than I am, but I consider that there is a little danger that the word? that information “ in paragraph (b), which obviously is meant to include class of information “, may in some way affect and widen the interpretation of the words “ that information “ in paragraph (a), leading to the possibility of a release of information beyond the intention of the act. I am inclined to think that the provision might be clarified if iiic phrase “ or class of information “ were inserted in paragraph (b), so that it would read - tin; Minister or the Commission had determined that that information or class of information could be published. . . .
I do not feel competent to decide that point, and I am quite prepared to be guided by the Minister, but I believe tb at the matter should bc kept in mind in future.
– The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) mentioned this matter to me in my room some time ago, and we discussed it in detail. I entirely appreciate the point he has made. Like the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and many other honorable members, he is anxious that ourdefinition should not operate in such a way as to inhibit private enterprise from coming into the field as quickly as possible. I understand that if the definition is too restrictive, and if “restricted information “ is too widely defined, a merchant, fossicker, prospector company, promoter or miner may be frightened that anything he may say or do will come within the category of restricted information. For example, a company promoter who is writing up his prospectus to entourage the contribution of capital may say to himself, “ This is too difficult for me. I may be transgressing the law”. The point taken by the honorable member for Mackellar is that if the position is too restricted, we shall defeat the very purpose that we are seeking to achieve, which is to encourage private enterprise to exploit the mineral resources of the Northern Territory. That is perfectly understood. T had a long and helpful discussion with the honorable member about it, and I summarize the position in much the same way as the Leader of the Opposition dealt with it in his second- reading speech. I am speaking at the moment not without some elementary knowledge of the law. It is extremely difficult to get a legal definition which is sufficiently precise to support a prosecution unless the definition is drafted in this way. We have had the benefit of the advice of the law officers of the Attorney-General’s Department, and we have decided that this is the only way. in which we can meet the circumstances. We have copied the Canadian system in this matter. I agree that a real danger exists that unless procedures are adopted whereby we progressively recede from the field of classified information, or, in the words of the bill, “restricted information “, in order to encourage’ private enterprise to enter the field, we may be in danger.
The honorable member for Wentworth asks, “ What about de-restricting information “ ? It is a monstrous phrase, I concede, but it conveys the idea that, once we have narrowed the field, we should have power to enable us, if necessary, to widen it again. We consider that such an idea gives rise to legal and drafting difficulties, and we feel that the position is best met by the clause in its present form. However, I give the honorable member for Mackellar a specific undertaking that the matter will be closely examined, and if we appear to be running into difficulties, and if we are likely to discourage people from entering the field, we shall take appropriate action. I hope that my assurance will meet the point taken by the honorable gentleman. I believe that it is a substantial point, but it. has been closely examined and will bc dealt with, should that become necessary.
Having said that, I pass to the next point, which is the difference, if any, between what the honorable member for Mackellar calls “ that information “ and “ that class of information “. I must confess that the distinction seems somewhat esoteric. The precise difference eluded me, and, therefore, I discussed it with the law officers of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. They have advised me that there is no difference between the two, and that no dangers or difficulties will arise from the use of this form of words. Therefore, we shall continue to use this form, but should any difficulty emerge, the position will be reexamined.
I feel that the minds of all honorable members will be set at rest when I have dealt with the next matter. A few persons outside the House - not members of the Labour party - have expressed anxiety because they consider that this bill is too restrictive. One critic said that the provisions of the measure abrogated 500 years of British justice. May I say that there is not one clause of this bill that is not well established by legal precedents. Clause 47, to which attention has been specifically directed, is taken from section 78 of the Crimes Act, which was enacted in 1914. Section 78 is the provision by which intent may be proved from what I may call “ surrounding circumstances “. The section actually comes from the British Official Secrets Act of 1.911, and, coming from Great Britain, which is the very home of liberal democracy, may be said to be reasonable. Indeed, most of the section comes from a British Prevention of Offences Act, passed as long ago as 1873. It is said that that act merely embodied what were already the rules of common law. I understand that the Leader of the Opposition agrees with my statement.
In this matter, we have felt that sometimes the penalties should be severe; hut they are less severe than our allies in Canada and the United States of America have thought suitable in similar circumstances. However, in the legal rules that wo have laid down, we have followed the precedent fairly strictly. We are not dealing with a recipe for bread, or with some rule about the components of steel or a certain alloy. We are dealing with the “most top secret information” with which this country may be concerned, and, in the circumstances, we consider that we are justified in drawing upon the strictest law for which we have precedent. We have written it into this bill. I am gratified with the whole temper of the chamber. I am glad that the feeling of the Opposition is that we are doing the right thing in the protection of the interests of Australia and its allies.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 19th March (vide page 1389), on motion by Sir ARTHUR Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition does not disagree with this bill. We accept the principles of the legislation, and the amendments proposed by the Government. However, the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) proposes to submit certain amendments to this bill, and, subsequently, to the Public Service Bill 1953. The Opposition has decided to support these amendments after having fully considered the matter, and having before it a statement of the views of representatives of the Public Service. The honorable member for Banks will explain that public servants consider that the amendments which he will submit are reasonable. He will urge that the acceptance of the amendments is justified, in view of the service given by this industrious and loyal band of workers. The honorable gentleman himself was a public servant for many years before he came to grace this Parliament. He understands the practice of the Public Service and the problems of public servants. Probably other Opposition members will support his submissions.
.- This measure is important to many public servants because it will amend the existing conditions in relation to furlough grantable to an employee after twenty years’ service, or, alternatively to payment in lieu of such furlough which may be granted on retirement to an employee, or to the dependants of a deceased employee, when the employee’s service (cas at least eight years and not more than twenty years. Furlough benefits become due to an employee at the age of 60 years, or, alternatively, payment in lieu of them may be made to the dependants on his death. When the principal act was amended in 1951, public servants disagreed with the amendments because of the fact that a Commonwealth employee could have a period of service that would qualify him for furlough rights, if he lived to the age of 60 or remained in the Public Service until he reached that age, but if he were retrenched or lost his job at the pleasure of the Government before reaching that age, he would lose those rights. We also considered that to be an anomaly. This bill removes that anomaly. Furlough rights will now apply to any officer at any age, provided he has eight years’ service or more. For that reason the Opposition supports the principle of the Bill. However, the measure does not go as far as tho Opposition or public servants would like it to go.
Provision is also made in the bill to protect employees who have been retrenched through lack of work. Such employees who have had at least eight years’ service, but who are not entitled to furlough, will now be eligible for extended leave although they may not have reached the age of 60 years. We approve of that provision because it removes an anomaly. The Government proposes that the benefits provided under the measure are to commence as from the 1st January, 1953. The Opposition is well aware that in 1951 the Government dispensed with the services of 10,000 public servants. Wot all of the employees so retrenched had eight years’ service, although a number of them had, and therefore qualified for the benefits. Those who had not eight years’ service will not receive any benefit from the measure. The Public Service Board’s annual report shows that these retrenchments commenced about May, 1951. The Opposition, therefore, desires that the benefits of the legislation be made retrospective to the 1st July, 1951. The Opposition believes that any employee who gave good and loyal service to tho nation during the war should have the benefits to be provided by this measure. All retrenched employees with eight or more years’ service will not enjoy its benefits unless the Government adopts the amendment to be moved by the Opposition at the committee stage.
Another section of the principal act which should be closely examined is section 7 (3), which reads as follows: -
Upon the death of any Commonwealth employee who at the date of his death was eligible under this section for the grant of leave of absence or, if the approving authority, after consideration of all the circumstances, directs that the death of a Commonwealth employee so eligible be presumed, the approving authority may authorize payment to the dependants of the employee of a sum equivalent to the amount of salary which would, under this section, have been granted to the employee had he ceased to be a Commonwealth employee on the date of his death or, in any case where the approving authority has directed that the death of the employee be presumed, a date determined by the approving authority.
The term “ dependants “ is not defined in the act. We believe that it should be clearly defined. The widow of a deceased employee would derive the benefits, but in other eases the authorizing authority would decide whether any payment was to be made. We are not suggesting that such payments should be made to the next-of-kin, because if they were, the money might go to people who might neither need nor deserve it. However, there are circumstances in which this benefit could be given to people who needed and deserved it. I know of a public servant on the staff of the Parliament who has 33 years’ service. His wife is dead, but he has a daughter who did a lot of service for him. If the term “ dependants “ is not defined properly she would not receive the benefit in the event of her father’s decease. The Government should examine that point. There are also instances of bachelors who die in debt and leave no resources to cover the expenses of burial. Provision should be made for the benefit to go into their estate. The Government should also have given some attention to the definition of continuity of service. Section 6 (1.) of the act reads as follows : -
Subject to this section, the period of service of a Commonwealth employee shall be the period during which he has been employed continuously by the Commonwealth (including an authority of the Commonwealth) and, where that employment is continuous with employment in -
any service of a State;
any service of an authority of a State; or
the Public Service of any Territory of the Commonwealth, shall include that last-mentioned employment.
Section 6 (4.) provides that - the continuity of the service of a Commonwealth employee shall not be deemed to be, or to have been, broken by any periods of absence if -
That means that if an employee’s service is broken by twelve months’ absence, and he rejoins the Service, he would not get credit for his previous service. That happened during the 1930’s, when a number of men with up to ten years’ service were retrenched because of diminution of work. They eventually returned to the Service, but because they had been absent for twelve months or more their continuity of service was broken. That section of the act should be deleted.
Another section of the principal act to which the Government should have given some attention is section 10, which reads as follows : -
The official conduct record of a Commonwealth employee shall be taken into consideration in determining whether the whole or any portion of the leave of absence or pay provided in this Act may be granted.
That section might react harshly on an employee’s dependants. It is within my knowledge that officers who have had up to 30 years’ service have not only lost their jobs, but have also lost the benefits of furlough, long service leave and accrued annual leave, because they committed some minor misdemeanour. That is a heavy penalty, because it penalizes the dependants. The conduct of an officer should not deprive him or his dependants of a right that he has earned over a long period. Another matter that the Government should examine is the fact that furlough accrues only during a period of service up to 40 years. After an officer has completed service of 40 years no more long service leave accrues to him. I consider that officers should be given incentive by being allowed to accrue long service leave after they have had 40 years’ service in the same proportion as it is accrued during the 40 years’ service.
The measure is not all what we should like it to be, but it would meet, the require- ments of the Opposition and the Commonwealth Public Service organizations generally if benefits were to be made retrospective to the 1st July, 1951. 1 shall move an amendment to that effect at the committee stage.
.- After hearing the statements of members of the Opposition to the effect that they are pleased that anomalies in the principal act are to be corrected, and the suggestions of the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa); I marvel at the energy and the short memories of honorable members opposite in relation to matters to which they might have attended in their period of nine years in office. The statements of honorable members opposite will give many members of the Commonwealth Temporary Employees Association, who are well acquainted with the facts as outlined by the honorable member for Banks, some cause for mirth, because they know the history of this legislation, particularly when the Labour Government was in office. Members of the Opposition were in office when the principal act was passed. In other words they were in office when the anomalies that we are prepared to correct were brought into existence. Indeed, those honorable members who have joined the Opposition since the act was passed have also been aware of these anomalies for a long time, particularly the anomalies to which the honorable member for Banks has referred. The principal anomaly in the bil! relates to the proposition that furlough should be given to Commonwealth temporary employees, and should not be dependent on attainment of the age of 60 years. This will be a very fair and equitable amendment of the act. It will provide that as long as a person has served eight years in the Commonwealth PublicService as a temporary employee he will receive pro rata long service leave. The Government has recognized the principle that temporary employees are entitled to furlough without having to wait until they are 60 years of age. On several occasions I brought this matter of furlough before the Government in the form of questions. I did so because J had received letters from temporary employees of the Public Service who pointed out that they had requested Labour governments, particularly the Chifley Government, to amend the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act. The honorable member for Banks has said, and I dare say other honorable mem bers of the Opposition will say, that certain additional action should be taken by the Government, that the Government should have taken the action proposed in t his measure long ago or that the new furlough provisions should be made retrospective to last July. I point out to honorable members that when the Labour party was in office, although it had many opportunities to do so, it did not take the action that has been taken by this Government. I now propose to read a letter that was addressed to me just before last Christmas at the time I first raised this matter in the House. The letter reads - . . I brought the matter before the Prime Minister (the late Hon. J. B. Chifley) through Mr. E. J. Holloway, M.H.R., on exactly the same point, claiming, inter alia, that service should count and not age. The reply I received was to the effect that the Prime Minister - who controls the Public Service - was not prepared to extend privileges to temporary clerks that did not apply to permanent officers. The fact remained and was evidently overlooked by the Prime Minister at that time, that the permanent officer is not in danger of retrenchment at any time. . . .
– Who wrote the letter?
– I shall allow the honorable member to see it if he wishes. The letter that I have read is clear proof that when the Labour party was in office it was requested by temporary employees of the Public Service to do what this Government is now doing, but it refused to do so. Yet honorable members opposite who claim to support the bill have urged that it should go further. I repeat, that when the Labour party was in office, although requested to do what this Government has now done, it refused to. do so. The Opposition has fallen over itself to support this measure, but I suggest that its behaviour is merely another example of the hypocrisy, which has forced me to expose as mere humbug the Labour party’s pretensions in this House. Honorable members opposite are recognized experts in creating anomalies, but they never resolve them when they have the opportunity to do so. A perusal of Hansard will prove that on many occasions honorable members opposite have urged this Government to do things which they had failed to do when they had the opportunity. I congratulate the Government in adhering to the principle of long service leave for temporary employees of the Public Service.
– The Opposition, although it is not completely satisfied with the measure, is prepared to accept it on the principle that half a loaf is better than none at all. In reply to the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth), who has probably made the last speech that he will ever make in this House, I draw the honorable member’s attention to the fact that it was a Labour government that first recognized the right of temporary employees to furlough.
– And also left many anomalies in the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act.
– When the Chifley Government assumed office temporary employees were not entitled to any furlough and it stands to the eternal credit, of that Government that it brought within the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act thousands of temporary employees who were previously not covered by them. Some of those persons were called temporary employees, although they had served for 20 or 30 years. They were not regarded as permanent officers because they had not qualified to participate in the Commonwealth superannuation scheme. The 1944 Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act of the Labour Government brought every employee of the Public Service within the provisions of the act and gave them all the benefit of long service leave. Section 5 of that act provided that every person employed by the Commonwealth should be entitled to furlough benefits. Prior to that, under the rule of anti-Labour governments, the only public servants entitled to furlough benefits were permanent employees. It is to the credit of the present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) that the 1944act was passed, giving temporary employees the right to furlough for the first time.
In 1944, a Labour government introduced a bill to give temporary employees of the Public Service the same benefits as previously applied only to permanent officers. However, that measure did not affect the right of persons who were previously covered by other regulations or by-laws whose provisions gave them greater benefits than that legislation. When the present Government assumed office, employees of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner were entitled to three months’ furlough after ten years’ service. Last year this Government instructed the Commissioner that those employees were no longer to be entitled to those benefits which they had enjoyed since 1937. That is to say, although the 1944 act passed by the Labour Government was not intended to diminish the furlough benefits received by anybody, this Government, by direction of the Treasurer to the Commissioner of Commonwealth Railways, took away rights that had been enjoyed by a considerable body of employees since 1937. I hope that members of the Public Service who might be listening to me will bear in mind that the Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), who was once president of the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen, the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin), who was industrial officer of the Australian Workers Union, and myself, waited on the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) last year. The Leader of the Opposition, who knows more about law than anybody in this House is ever likely to know, pointed out that the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act did not supersede the Commonwealth Railway Commissioner’s by-laws in respect of furlough. This Government, which claims to represent every section of the community, paid no attention whatever to the opinion of the Leader of the Opposition, and renewed its instructions to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner to deprive his employees of the benefit of the furlough provisions of his own by- laws. Now, under the present legislation an employee of the Commonwealth railways has to work fifteen years before he can claim furlough.
How can this Government justify its action in awarding furlough after fifteen years’ service when the governments of South Australia and Western Australia have allowed their employees three months’ furlough after ten years’ service ? This Government, . which dismissed 10,000 employees without reason, now has the hypocrisy to claim that it represents every section of the community. Everybody knows that the cause of the present disastrous position facing Australia stems from the decision of the Government to dismiss without justification 10,000 Commonwealth employees.
– The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) is an authority on rubbish, so perhaps his opinion is worth something. The Government should reconsider the furlough provisions applying to the Public Service. It has no right to claim that it represents all sections of the community when it denies Commonwealth employees the same benefits as are enjoyed by government employees in South Australia and Western Australia. Under the Commonwealth Railway Commissioner’s by-laws, employees who have worked for more than one year were entitled to pro rata furlough, but now, under this Government’s legislation, they will have to work for eight years before becoming entitled to long service leave. While the Opposition is compelled to accept this measure because it represents some improvement of conditions, we protest against the action of the Government in refusing to accede to the plea of the Leader of the Opposition last October to give Commonwealth employees the right to long service leave after ten years’ service, and pro rata furlough after one year’s service. The sooner that the people of Australia generally, and public servants particularly, recognize who their real friends are, the sooner will they get a fair deal in regard to conditions of employment.
.- I should like to answer a few of the points made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). It is a great tradition of the Public Service that public servants are non-political and, accordingly, I am sure that they, least of all, would appreciate the references made to them by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. The Government has shown its appreciation of the problems that confront public servants. As the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) has clearly stated, this measure is an earnest of the Government’s interest in the welfare of its own employees. Over the years the conditions of employment and the welfare of public servants have been gradually improved. Governments of all political colours have exhibited a sympathetic understanding of their problems.
To-night the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) foreshadowed an amendment to make the provisions of the legislation retrospective to the 1st July, 1951. I foreshadow an amendment to that indicated by the honorable member for Banks, to provide that the measure be made retrospective to the 1st July, 1952. It is only fair to add that where retrenchments have been made in .the Public Service they have been made on the principle of last to come, first to go. There is substantial evidence to indicate that there is no need for the measure to be made retrospective beyond the 1st July, 1.952. The Government might reasonably be asked to consider the proposition that T shall submit and I trust the Prime Minister will give close consideration to it. If it is accepted, substantial justice will be done to public servants generally. I am sure that it will be appreciated by those concerned that there was an understanding that many people who left the service of the Commonwealth just prior to the passage of this legislation should not be prevented from participating in its benefits. As the honorable member for Isaacs has placed the essential facts before the House, I need say no more at this stage.
– It is abundantly clear that we have not yet elected the perfect gore ”-.-A,. I think that the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr.
Haworth) will agree with that statement, and also that the present Government falls far short of perfection.
– I do not agree with that statement.
– Perhaps the honorable member will modify his view in the light of events to come. If it is accepted as true that we have not yet elected the perfect government, we cannot expect to get from any government perfect legislation. This legislation was introduced by the Curtin Government in 1948 and was amended while that Government was in office in 1944. Legislation of this kind must be the subject of continued amendment in the light of discovered anomalies and of views submitted by associations of public servants anl by employees of the Commonwealth generally.
– And also in the light «f changed circumstances.
– As my colleague, the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), has said, it must also be amended in the light of changed circumstances. Until to-day the present Government has found no need to amend the legislation, apart from a minor amendment made in 1951. The honorable member for Isaacs and other honorable members who criticized earlier administrations, might look closer to home and see whether their criticism does not fit the present administration. There was no need to reduce the qualifying period of service until this Government had taken steps to reduce employment in the Public Service, as it has done throughout the country. However, as it is necessary to reduce the qualifying period because of the circumstances I have outlined, the proposed reduction is approved by the Opposition.
I support the contention of the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) that the interpretation of the word “ dependants “ in section 7 (3.) of the principal act should be wide enough to cover every ease he has suggested. It is true that provision for recreation leave was originally made not to establish a monetary benefit for the employee but to enable him to take a rest from his work in the interests of his health. Provision for long service leave is merely an extension of the principle of recreation leave, but it has come to be accepted that the employee, under the terms of this legislation, establishes over the years a substantial monetary benefit, which, on his retrenchment, retirement or dismissal from the Public Service, he receives on a pro rata basis for the credits he has established. In the light of these circumstances the provisions of section 7 (3.) should be generously interpreted by the Minister in charge of the bill. In general, we look upon a retired man as having dependants, but many employees covered by the act have no dependants in the strict sense of the word. Many of them are widowers with grown-up families, and during the latter years of their lives or, indeed, during their working years, may have been supported or cared for by a daughter or a son. In many instances a daughter gives up her life to the care of her father, and in so doing abandons the prospect of marriage. Although she is a dependant in one sense of the term, she may not be financially dependent on the member whose leave credit is the subject of the section. The interpretation of the word “ dependants “ should be widened to include persons in that category. If we accept the view that an employee of the Commonwealth has derived a monetary benefit from the accrument of long service leave, we should give him the right to decide to whom that benefit should be paid. We do not contend that the term “dependants” should be widened to embrace next of kin. As honorable members are aware, the term “ next of kin “ is given different interpretations in the various States. After the death of a person it is sometimes difficult to establish who is the deceased person’s next of kin. As the honorable member for Banks has suggested, if the interpretation of the word “dependants “ 13 widened to cover next of kin payment might he made to a person whom the employee has no desire to benefit.
The Australian Workers Union has suggested that provision should be made, not necessarily in the act. but possibly by regulation, to cover the case of an employee without dependants and relative” who is destitute when he dies and whose funeral expenses are paid either by the union of which he was a member or by his fellow employees. The organization suggests that in such circumstances the cost of the funeral should be met from the pro rata entitlement of the deceased members to long service leave.
.- This bill should not be dealt with on party lines. It was not introduced by the Treasurer in that spirit and it has not been accepted as such by the Opposition. The honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa), in a very reasonable speech, pointed out its strength and its weaknesses. I am particularly interested in this legislation because I and many other honorable members on both sides of the House have made representations in this House in regard to the furlough entitlement of Commonwealth employees. I listened with great disappointment to the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) endeavouring to make party political capita] out of the bill. He showed his complete ignorance of the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act when he criticized the actions of previous governments in relation to its administration. His words brought to my mind the truth of the old axiom that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. The honorable member criticized the Chifley Government for not having amended the legislation when it had the opportunity to do so and he endeavoured to take credit for the party of which he is a member for the good features of the legislation. The title of the bill itself supplies an answer to his criticism. It is entitled, “ A Bill for an Act to amend the Commonwealth Employees’ Act 1948- 1951 “. The inclusion of those two years in the title of the bill is sufficient to indicate to honorable members that the original legislation was passed by the Parliament in 1943 when a Labour government was in office, and that it wa? amended in 1951 when, an anti-Labour government was in office. When an honorable member casts aspersions on the. Labour party for its alleged failure to uphold the rights of temporary employee”: in the Public Service, he should first gel his facts right.
I speak with feeling on the subject of the furlough entitlement of Commonwealth employees because I was an official of an organization that made representations to successive governments, not once, but on many occasions over a period of fifteen years, in an endeavour to obtain the right of furlough for temporary employees. We eventually obtained that right. As time has gone on the conditions of such employees have been improved. This bill will bring about a further improvement in conditions in that it provides for the making of pro rata payment to former temporary employees. I am pleased that £he Government has heeded the representations of the Public Service unions and of individual members of the Parliament, and that it has introduced this measure to give a measure of justice to temporary employees. I am grateful to the Government at least for having introduced the bill. It will remove some of the anomalies that are contained in the principal act.
Most of the legislation that is passed by this Parliament is found, sooner or later, to include anomalies, and, sooner or later, those anomalies must be removed. Unfortunately, in the case of legislation Wealing with public servants, anomalies are removed later rather than sooner. This bill will improve the position of employees of the Commonwealth, but it will not go far .enough and, for that reason, the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) will move in committee an amendment designed to make the provisions of the bill effective from the 1st July, 1951. The honorable member for St. George (M.r. Graham) has said that he will move that tho date of commencement shall be the 1st July, 1952. I fail to understand why he has selected that date. Certainly the 1st July, 1952, would be better than the 1st January. 1953. However, I point out to the honorable member that the period between the 1st July, 1951, and the 1st July, 1952, was of great significance to many former employees of the Commonwealth. Many departments, notably the service departments, were enlarged during World War II., and it was necessary for the government of the day to engage large numbers of temporary employees who, in ordinary circumstance?, would not have 1, r, en i employed by the Commonwealth.
Some of them remained in the service of the Commonwealth for periods that ranged up to twelve years. Many of them were sacked between September, 1951, and June, 1952. I remind the honorable mem1ber for St. George that 10,000 employees of the Commonwealth Public Service were discharged during that period as a result of a decision made by this Government. We were told by the Government at the time that this was an economy measure. It simply decided to reduce the size of the Public Service, and it carried out the decision regardless of the need for the services of the men and women concerned.
About 4,500 employees of the Postal Department were retrenched. I know more about that department than I do about other departments because I was employed by it for 30 years. Many of the Postal Department employees who were discharged had plenty of work to do, and the work that they could have done during 1951 and 1952 is still waiting to be done. It is work of a reproductive’ nature, such as the provision of telephone services, for which the public Ls clamouring and is willing to pay. Nevertheless, these workers were sacked. Some of them had given more than eight years of continuous temporary service as employees of the Postal Department. If the date of commencement of this measure is to be either the 1st January, 1953, or the 1st July, 1952, not one of the 4,500 Postal Department employees who were sacked by the Government will be able to benefit from its provisions. The same fate will befall the remaining 5,500 persons who were sacked from other departments during the same period. I appeal to the Government to give earnest consideration to the suggestion that has been made on behalf of the Opposition. I urge it either to accept the amendment that the honorable member for Banks will propose or to arrange to have the bill amended in the same way when it is before the Senate. The bill will provide justice for a large number of temporary employees of the Commonwealth who have rendered good service. The same measure of justice ought to be accorded to the 10,000 employees who were sacked between September, 1951, arid July, 1952. The cost would not bc great, and these men and women are good Australians who deserve our consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
This Act shall be deemed to have come into operation on the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-three.
.- I move-
That the words “ January, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-three”, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ July, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-one “,
Unless the operation of the bill is made retrospective to the 1st July, 1951, many employees who were dismissed from the Commonwealth Public Service after the 30th September, 1951, will be excluded from its benefits. The purpose of the bill, according to the Government, is to protect the interests of employees who were retrenched. However, unless the Government accepts the amendment, that purpose will be largely defeated, because the bill will not apply to the public servants who were retrenched on its orders on and shortly before the 30th September, 1951. Others who will be deprived of benefit will be those who reached the age of 65 years and ceased duty at the 31st December, 1952. They will be excluded for sake of one day. I have received a communication on this subject from the Amalgamated Postal “Workers Union of Australia, many members of which will be affected. The union communicated with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on the 23rd February and the 10th March and asked him to make the bill effective from the date that I have specified in my amendment. I have also been in consultation with the secretary of the High Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organizations, Mr. Webb. These two organizations are the principal Public Service unions, and it is their wish that the people on whose behalf I speak should be brought within the scope of the bill. My proposal does not envisage the extension of the benefits of the bill to 10,000 persons, because only a proportion of those who were retrenched had eight years or more of service with the Commonwealth. For example, in the mail branch of the Postal Department in Sydney, only about 100 females would be affected if the amendment were adopted. In the circumstances, it is only fair and reasonable to ask the Government to accept the amendment.
.- As an amendment to the proposed amendment, I move -
That the words “ fifty-one “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ fifty-two “.
The date of commencement proposed in my amendment has been selected on the basis of information supplied by the Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks Union, which has informed honorable members on this side of the House that the operation of the legislation from the 1st July, 1952, would provide for a great majority of the people to whom the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) has ref erred. Many factors have to be considered when retrospective effect is given to legislation enacted by this Parliament. It would be improper to fix a date earlier than the 1st July, 1952. Notwithstanding the statements that have been made by the honorable member for Banks, the advice that has been given to me is that most of the Commonwealth employees with eight years or more of service who were retrenched after the 1st September, 1951, will be provided for if my amendment is accepted. Only about 150 members or former members of postal workers’ organizations are likely to be affected, and their interests will be safeguarded if the bill is made operative from the 1st July, 1952. Not many of the employees who were dismissed before that date would be eligible for benefit under the terms of the hill, because the principle adopted in carrying out retrenchments was “ last on, first to go “. That means that most of the employees dismissed before the 1st July, 1952, had not been in the service for eight years. I urge the Government to accept my amendment.
.- I support the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Banks (Mr.
Costa), who, during the second-reading debate and in committee, has stated many reasons why the bill should be made effective from the 1st July, 1951. The honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) moved that the date be amended to July, 1952. In support of his amendment, he said that, according to information he had received from the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union, that date was most acceptable to the members of that organization. The point that I want to make is that the honorable member for St. George quoted the opinion of the Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks Union, the membership of which is 2,000. Apparently the view of the members of that organization is that if the date is altered to July, 1952, their objection to the bill will be met. But the amendment moved by the honorable member for Banks is supported by the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia, which has 30,000 members throughout the Commonwealth. It speaks for the great majority of the workers affected by this legislation. In a letter addressed to the honorable member for Banks on the 23rd March, the general secretary of the union stated -
However, outlined hereunder are amendments the Party is requested to consider for the purpose of taking appropriate action for their adoption : - 1, With reference to 2- (1), C.P’.S. Act, and (2), Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act, we suggest the Sections referred to come into operation from 1st July, 1951. or at the latest 1st July, 1952.
That statement provides practical support for the amendment of the honorable member for Banks, which is supported by the Opposition. It is apparent that only a small section of the Third Division telegraphists and postal clerks would be affected by the amendment submitted by the honorable member for St. George, but the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Banks would affect many hundreds, and possibly thousands, of the 30,000 members of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union and, in addition, the members of many other Public Service unions.
The reforms proposed by the bill will be of great benefit generally. Therefore, it would be a pity to spoil the measure by a dispute on a technical point. It is servants who were dismissed under the clear that many of the 10,000 public Government’s retrenchment plan would not derive any benefit from the measure in its present form. Surely it is reasonable to ask that those people, many of whom served in the Public Service for many years, should receive some consideration when such a desirable reform as this is to be introduced. I suggest that a very good case has been made out in support of the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Banks. It has the support of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union and the Federated Clerks Union. The amendment has been presented to the House sincerely and with a desire to be constructive. I ask the Prime Minister to bear in mind that, if lie accepts that amendment, he will meet the wishes of the great majority of the trade unionists affected by the measure, and will not mar the beneficial effects of the legislation by discriminating against certain of those unionists. Doubtless the honorable member for St. George was actuated by the highest motives- when he moved his amendment, but I point out that the organization which supports his amendment, whilst it has a just claim, is not fully representative of the great majority of the people affected by the legislation. I hope that the Prime Minister, having considered our amendment in the spirit in which it was moved, will accept it.
– I think it is generally agreed that the, bill is, in essence, a good bill, and that it will remove an anomaly and confer a really substantial benefit upon a great number of people. Whenever a bill that proposes a new benefit is introduced, arguments arise about whether it should operate retrospectively. By and large, the attitude of all governments is that retrospectivity ought not to be encouraged, for the very good reason that, whatever date be selected, there will always be some people just ahead of the date who will be excluded from the benefit conferred by the measure, even though, on merits, they may be just as worthy of consideration as those who come in after the appointed date.
Unless a bill is made completely retrospective, it is impossible to fix a date that will avoid anomalies. In 1943, the Curtin Government encountered that difficulty when it introduced the bill which is now the principal act. The bill provided for a substantial measure of reform and created new rights. The Curtin Government did not endeavour to make the measure operate retrospectively, although, quite obviously, there must have been many people excluded from the benefits conferred by it, who, on the merits, considered that they were entitled to the new treatment. There is a limit to these things. All governments have felt that to be so. That is why, in drafting this bill, we said that it should operate from the 1st January of this year. It is true that, in a sense, the measure in that form would have operated retrospectively, hecause we knew that it would not be passed by the Parliament until approximately the end of March. But we thought that it was better to fix a date, so that there would be a definite point of time at which people would become entitled to the new rights.
The honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham), whilst not supporting the proposal for an alteration of the date to July, 1951 - which, for the reasons I have given, is a proposal that I cannot accept - has suggested that the date be altered to July, 1952. He mentioned this matter to me on an earlier occasion. I assure honorable members that the date mentioned by the honorable member is not one taken at random. It has a history. Early in August of last year, petitions were presented to this House and to the Senate from the Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks Union. The members of that union were first in the field. I do not know the size of the organization, but I accept entirely what the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) said about it. On the 6th August, through some honorable member, they presented a. petition to the House on this very point. The petition was dated the 1st J uly, 1952. Representations from the other unions that have been referred to were made, not last year but this year. J am im Dressed by the fact that the Third
Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks Union raised this matter early, presented its views to the Parliament by the appropriate means, and advanced what I believed at that time to be a very formidable argument indeed. The argument, to some degree, gave rise to this measure. I regret that I cannot accept the amendment of the honorable member for Banks, but I am prepared to accept the amendment that the operation of the bill be made retrospective to July, 1952.
[9.55]. - I appreciate the action of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in agreeing to accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham), but the facts presented by the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) show that there is justification for selecting July, 1951, as the date from which the measure is to operate. It is true, as the Prime Minister has said, that July, 19.j2. was the date on which the petition to which he referred was written, but the real point is that between July, 1951, and July, 1052, a large number of public servants were dismissed as the result of a decision by the Government. If the Prime Minister is prepared to admit that some degree of retrospectivity is justified, it would be only fair to make the measure operate retrospectively to July, 1951. I urge the Government to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Banks, although the Opposition appreciates that the concession already made by the Prime Minister is a. valuable one.
.- I urge the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to give further consideration to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) before the bill is passed by the Senate. It appears that the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) was correct when he said that the majority of the persons dismissed from the Public Service under the Government’s retrenchment scheme would enjoy the benefits of this measure if the date that he suggested were accepted. Therefore, to go back a little further would not do a great disservice to the Treasurer, but would recognize the long years of service of many public servants who have been retrenched. I remember the petition to which the Prime Minister referred. Copies were forwarded to me and to other honorable members. The arguments that were advanced in that petition, which have been accepted to some degree by the Prime Minister, quite generously, apply with telling force to the case presented by the honorable member for Banks. I believe that the amendment of the honorable gentleman should be accepted. The principle of retrospectivety is not always good, but it should not always be rejected. If the Prime Minister cannot accept our amendment now, I urge him to consider it further and to give effect to it when the bill is in another place, because, if accepted, it would help people who have served us well.
.- It is well known that the majority of the officers who were dismissed from the Public Service under the Government’s retrench- ment scheme were dismissed before July, 1952. If the Government wants to give the benefit of the provisions of this measure to the greatest number of persons, it should accept the amendment mo ved by the Opposition. Reports of the Public Service Board reveal that in May, 195l, 142,589 persons were employed by the Public Service, and that at the 30th June, 1952, only 133,564 persons were so employed. Those reports indicate that about 9,000 people were dismissed under the Government’s retrenchment plan between May, 1951, and June, 1952. Very few officers have been retrenched from the Public Service since the 30th June, 1952, so very few persons would benefit from the amendment moved by the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham).
The representations to which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) referred were made to me also. I point out that the membership of the Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks Union is only 2,000. Probably very few of the members of that organization were affected by retrenchments. The amendment of the honorable member for St. George would make provision for members of that union who were retrenched, but it would not confer any benefit upon the great majority of the people who were retrenched. They belonged to organizations covered by the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union and by the High Council of the Commonwealth Public Service, which represents all the other sections of the Public Service. Those two organizations together represent about 148,000 public servants, whereas the Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks Union represents only about 2,000 workers. The Government should endeavour to meet the wishes of the great majority of the people affected by its retrenchment policy.
Question put -
That the amendment to the proposed amend ment (Mr. Graham’s) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C.F. A derm ann )
Majority . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 19th March (vide page 1389), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That thebill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition does not propose to prolong the debate on this bill. The submissions that we made on the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Bill 1953 are equally applicable to the measure now under consideration. “We congratulate the Government, as we did previously, on this amelioration of the conditions of public servants, but once again, we ask that favorable consideration be given to the amendment to be submitted on behalf of the Opposition. The honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) has a long and intimate knowledge of the Public Service. He conferred with public servants upon this bill, and submitted their views to the Labour party. The proposed amendment is considered by the Opposition to be fair and reasonable, having regard to the commitments of the Government.
The purpose of the amendment, which the honorable member for Banks will submit to clause 2, is to alter the date of the commencement of this act from the 1st January, 1953, to the 1st July, 1951. I shall not repeat the arguments that were advanced by Opposition speakers on the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Bill 1953, but I emphasize that the proposed amendment is eminently fair, and if accepted, will not impose a heavy burden upon the Treasury. Indeed, acceptance of the amendment will represent a graceful tribute to public servants who have rendered valuable and unselfish service in recent years. When the
Public Service was expanded, particularly during World War II., heavy burdens and onerous responsibilities were imposed upon many officers. The Government has already accepted the principle of retrospectivity, and, therefore, we hope that it will be generous, if not immediately, then before the bill receives assent.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 - (1.) Sections five, ten, eleven, twelve and fourteen of this Act shall be deemed to have come into operation on the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and fiftythree. (2.) The remaining sections . . .
.- As foreshadowed by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke), I desire to move an amendment to this clause. In doing so, I shall not repeat the arguments that I used in support of the amendment that I moved to the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Bill 1953, but they are equally applicable to this bill. I move -
That in sub-clause (1.) the word “eleven” be left out, and that after sub-clause (1.) the following new sub-clause be inserted: - “ (1a.) Section eleven of this act shall be deemed to have come into operation on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-one,”.
.- I desire to submit an amendment to the proposed amendment. I move -
That in proposed new sub-clause (1a.) the words “ fifty-one “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “fifty-two”.
– I shall not repeat the remarks that I made on the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act 1953, but for the reasons that I then indicated, the Government will accept the amendment to the amendment, but not the amendment itself.
Question put -
That the amendment to the proposed amendment (Mr. Graham’s) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder ofbill - by leave - taken as a whole and agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Clause 3 -
After section twenty-nine of the principal act the following sections are inserted : - 29c. - (1.) In this section, “court of review “ means a District Court, County Court or Local Court of Full Jurisdiction in the State or Territory of the Commonwealth in which the person in relation to whom the question arises resides or, if there is no such court, the Supreme Court of the State or Territory in which that person resides.
Senate’s amendmen t. - Leave out “ , County Court or Local Court of Full Jurisdiction “, insert “or County Court”.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
I assure the House that the amendment is formal. It was found, when the bill was before the Senate, that, as it stands, a special problem arises in South Australia. The decision of a court of summary jurisdiction in that State would be of a local court of full jurisdiction. It has been pointed out that the provision could result in one special magistrate reviewing the decision of another special magistrate. That appears to be undesirable. There might even be cases, because magistrates work in particular districts, in which a magistrate might be called upon to review his own decision. The effect of the Senate’s amendment is that in South Australia, and in other States where there are no district or county courts, the review will be by a supreme court judge. I understand that there are only two States, New South Wales and Victoria, in which there are county court judges. South Australia, therefore, will now be brought into line with the other States. No change of substance or principle is proposed.
– The Opposition will support the amendment. The purpose of the bill is to provide for the decision of a magistrate in relation to conscience to be reviewed by a supreme court, a county court, or a district court. The special case of South Australia has apparently made it necessary to ensure that there will not be an appeal from one magistrate to another.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Debate resumed(vide page 1651).
.- The bill is designed to remove some of the provisions inserted in the legislation not long ago. Before turning to those provisions, I wish briefly to comment on the general situation and on the present controversial problem of the uniform tax system. For some time there have been arguments between the Commonwealth and the States relative to that system. Those arguments have really arisen from disagreement among the various governments in respect of loan allocations, but have manifested themselves in arguments about the amount of tax reimbursements made to the States by the Commonwealth in accordance with the reimbursement formula. By far the greatest tensions and frictions that have arisen between the various governments have been caused by arguments over the raising and allocations of loan moneys. I had hoped, because of recent happenings, that we had heard the last of the Government’s proposal to hand certain taxing powers back to the States. It is neither practical nor equitable to hand those powers back, and no matter what the Government may seek to do in that direction, unless there are amendments to the Constitution, which can hardly be envisaged, there is no value in the proposal at all. The present position has been established by a decision of the High Court to the effect that federal tax assessments have priority over State tax assessments. The States could, therefore, collect their assessments only when the federal assessments had been met in full. This puts the States in a completely impossible position. It could happen, and probably would happen over the years, that the Commonwealth would impose its taxes at a relatively low rate and, by decision of the High Court, those taxes would have first call on the taxable income of taxpayers. The States would then have to impose taxes that they could not collect until the federal tax assessments were fully satisfied. It seems to me that whilst the Commonwealth could impose, as it now does, a payasyouearn tax system, the States would not be able to do so because, under the Constitution, the Commonwealth would require to be assured that all its’ tax assessments had been satisfied before taxpayers were obliged to pay their tax bills to the States. I had believed that, because of the opposition to the Government’s proposal, and the legal difficulties involved, we had heard the last of the proposal. However, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) said to-day that we wondered whether the members of the Government still intended to push State taxing power back onto the States. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said ” Yes “ loudly and enthusiastically in answer to him. Whatever the views of the Government may be, the Treasurer still believes that the Commonwealth should cease to collect taxes for the States, and that certain taxing powers must be transferred to the States, whether they will, or will not, accept them. Considered from its legal aspect alone, the problem is immense. Take the position of a State in a case in which (here is some doubt about a taxpayer’s ability to meet his obligations. In such a case the State would clearly’ have to stay out of the collecting field until the federal tax liability had been met. That gives an idea of the impossibility of operating a system to which the Treasurer is firmly wedded. Then there is the question of uniformity of taxes between the various States. We all know the practice that existed before the adoption of the uniform tax system. Western Australia had a high tax range, which was necessary because it had to rely much more fully on its own financial resources than it has to rely at present. Western Australia has an area of 900,000 square miles, and has a vast coastline. Even to-day it has a population of only about 500,000 people. Naturally the taxes on the people of Western Australia would have to be tremendously high if the State had to meet a larger share of its commitments.
– What is this to do with the hill?
– This is a hill in relation to taxation, and I took the precaution to ensure that it allowed of a general debate. I understand that it does. If I transgress, no doubt Mr. Speaker will call me to order. This is a question of first-rate importance which must bo discussed in this Parliament. New South Wales and Victoria are probably the only States that would definitely benefit by the return of State taxing rights. Surely we accept the principle t hat the larger and more highly developed and thickly populated States should help lim less populous and less industrialized States. It may be said that the Commonwealth Grants Commission will iron out those discrepancies by providing an Australian standard. However, let me remind the Government that it has to impost’ a uniform taxation system throughout Australia, and cannot discriminate between States and parts of States. Accordingly, the taxation in Western Australia must be the same as that imposed in New South Wales and Victoria. If taxation is imposed at a reasonable rate the Government may not be able to raise the required amount of money for the maintenance of the smaller States. We have been told recently that while we. cannot avoid some disadvantages, at least we can insist on uniformity of income tax deduction provisions, SUe. as the deductions for family responsibilities, medical expenses and so on. To-day the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) cited the report of a committee of Treasury officials of the various St tes. T desire to read from page 62 of that report as follows: -
The question of devising legal safeguards to innintain the uniform system of assessment and collection, once established, is one of greater complexity.
Complex problems are involved, but th-: matter of uniform assessment and taxation deductions is of far greater complexity than any of the other factors. The report continued -
The general nile of British and Australian public law is that one Parliament cannot bind its successors, and that an agreement cannot, bt? enforced against the Executive Government if the Parliament to which the
Government is responsible has abrogated or overridden the agreement. 1 believe that I have said sufficient on the matter of uniform taxation to prove that its advantages are obvious. It is advantageous to individuals, to companies operating in the various States and to State governments. Under the old taxation legislation, of Western Australia a formula was provided to allow for double and treble taxation, and such complications must again arise if we revert to the system, of State taxation, as the Treasurer seems determined to do. .1 sugest that there are no advantages in :i non-uniform taxation system, and 1 believe that if the matter were put in issue at the next general election the people would vote strongly in favour or the retention of uniform taxation.
I deplore the departure from national standards that has taken place in thi? Parliament. I have read closely the speeches that were made during the debate on uniform taxation when legislation t” provide for this system was introduced by a Labour government. I remind honorable members that such action v:n taken only after an all-party committee had made a recommendation in favour’ of uniform taxation. The present ambassador to the United States of America, Sir Percy Spender, who has a good financial brain, has described the uniform taxation system as “ a majestic step to nationhood “. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) has described it as “ the fir.=t step to unification, the inevitable unification of Australia “. Not one member of the Parliament opposed the introduction of uniform taxation. All Victorian members expressed the opinion that the reimbursement formula was not satisfactory to Victoria, but they did not oppose tho system.
– The reimbursement formula is still not satisfactory to Victoria.
– It is reasonably fair to-day, but the reason why it was not fair when the system was introduced was that the Victorian Government had levied very low income taxes. They were fairly high on low and middle income?. but did not rise sharply on high incomes. Victoria had not provided very good social or educational services, and its collections of income tax over the preceding years were taken as a basis for reimbursement. That is why Victoria received comparatively smaller sums of money than the other States. Victoria was paid each year a sum equivalent to that raised by its own Government in each year preceding the introduction of uniform taxation. Because of the actions of the present able and progressive Labour Government in Victoria, what was done by the previous reactionary governments is being corrected, and the Opposition agrees that Victoria should now be reimbursed on a more equitable basis. The fact that the reimbursement system was not quite fair, is no argument that uniform taxation is not a good system. The Loader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) to-day dealt very powerfully with the pretensions of the Government. He said that under the regime of the previous Labour Government the basic wage earner who had a wife and two children paid neither income tax nor social services tax. In 1949 and for some years before that, as the document presented by the Treasurer to-day will prove, such a wage-earner paid nothing. A basic wage earner, with the same family responsibilities, to-day pays £18 16s. a year or a little more than 7s. 2d. a week. Therefore, a basic wage earner with average family responsibilities is now 7s. 2d. a week worse off as a result of the taxation imposed by this Government than he was in 1949.
– That is nonsense.
– The basic wage in 1949 was about £4 15s. a week. Let us call it £300 a year. A basic wage earner with two children paid no income tax. To-day the basic wage in New South Wales is £11 lis. and the average throughout Australia is about £11 18s. Let us say that is £600 a year. That is paid in order, as an eminent judge once said, “ to enable the average family to live at a standard of frugal comfort”. I do not know the Opposition’s view on this matter, but I believe personally that it is not unreasonable to ask a single man who earns £11 lis. a week to make some contribution towards social services, defence and so on. But I say quite definitely that if the wage of a man with average family responsibilities is reduced below the basicwage, his living standard will be reduced below that required to maintain himself and his family at a standard of “ frugal comfort”. When the Leader of the Opposition was making that point, the Treasurer said, “ That is not correct “. I say that it is correct. In 1949, the basic wage was about £300 a year and the basic wage earner with the average family paid neither income tax nor social services contribution. Now the basic wage is about £600 a year and the basic wage earner pays 7s. 2d. a week. It is quite clear that the basic wage earner to-day has a far heavier taxation load to carry than he had in 1949. However, taxation does not stop at the basic wage earner. In all grades of wage-earners, as the wage goes up so the income tax increases. The same disparity between the value of income in 1949 and the value of income to-day exists throughout all the grades of wage-earners. Moreover, wages always lag behind prices. Many commodities that are ordinarily in the diet of the Australian people are not to be found in the “ C “ series index. That would not be vitally important if the prices of all goods moved in the same relative direction-
– Order ! The honorable member is now well outside the scope of the measure.
– That is correct, Mi-. Speaker, but the basic wage is the test of what should be a reasonable living standard of a man, wife and two children. If that wage is reduced by taxation below the standard fixed by the court then the family can no longer live at a reasonable standard. This Government, by taxation alone, has reduced the basic wage by 7s. Sci. a week–
– Order ! The honorable member cannot deal with rates of taxation, nor with the basic wage. He may deal only -with income tax and social services.
– I believe that I have said enough to convince the honorable member for Warringah (Mr.
Bland) that the basic wage earner and others are worse off to-day than they were under the Chifley Government. I shall now refer to the basis of estimation of stock in trade of wine-makers. We do not oppose that provision. The standard of stocktaking at the opening of the trading should he the same as that at the close of the year. The provision should ensure that there will be no loss of taxation, and the Opposition supports it if it will help the primary producer.
The next amendment applies to the self-assessment provisions of the income tax law. These provisions were introduced by the Treasurer on the 22nd May, 1952. At that time he said that their introduction was vital to ensure that the revenue should be protected. I make no claim to be a prophet, but I informed the Treasurer at that time that the Government was permanently altering an act to cover a temporary difficulty. Now, not quite one year later, the Treasurer is
Attempting to remove the compulsory provisions of the self -assessment sections of the Income Tax Assessment Act. The Opposition does not object to the selfassessment provisions but we objected to the penalty imposed when self-assessment was made compulsory. We pressed that matter to a division, and said that the Commissioner of Taxation should have the right to substitute his own assessment for that of the taxpayer if he was satisfied that the self-assessment was not correct. We disagreed with the imposition of a penalty. We were informed by the Treasurer and the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) that we were encouraging tax-evaders and racketeers and the like, but to-day the Government has informed us that it intends to remove the very sections to which we took objection in 1952. That is a complete reversal of form. I have not had time to discuss this matter with the Labour party, but I believe that the penalty provisions contemplated are now quite reasonable. A penalty cannot now be imposed unless the taxpayer voluntarily assesses himself and in so doing underestimates his income by 20 per cent, or more. Selfassessment is not now obligatory, and a taxpayer having voluntarily assessed himself, and having understated his income by 20 per cent, or more, should not now be penalized. It will be seen that the penalty imposed in this amending legislation is very different from that, which was imposed by the earlier legislation, when taxpayers were required willy-nilly to make self-assessments.
The principal fact that emerges from this legislation is that the Government cannot make up its mind on matters large or small. In the last twelve months it has made many major reversals of policy. It is again running true to form. It wiped out the special depreciation allowance provided by the Chifley Government, but after it realized how unpopular it became for having done so it restored the concession in part. Later, it said, “We must have revenue”, and again moving hastily it imposed a heavy tax on the wool-growers. Always hoping for something to turn up, it then began to grab the taxpayers’ money in the year before that in which it became due. Later, it introduced a special provision in the income tax legislation to enable farmers whose incomes had been reduced to reduce their provisional liability. Later, it again moved hastily. The Treasurer said that because provision had been made in the budget for certain nonrecurring items he proposed to grab portion of the following year’s taxation to pay for them. In the following year it again looked forward to the future and demanded a prepayment of 10 per cent, of company tax. The right honorable gentleman defended that action on the ground that it would prevent certain companies from defrauding the revenue to an amount running into six figures. Eventually, that provision was also removed. The Treasurer then introduced an amendment to section 23o of the Income Tax Assessment Act, which relates to the taxation of lump-sum retiring allowances. He told the Parliament that such an amendment was necessary to safeguard the revenue, but before the amending bill had been passed by the Parliament it was withdrawn, notwithstanding that its provisions gave partial expression to the recommendations of the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation, which had been appointed by the Government. After the Government had been attacked by the Treasurer of New South Wales, at 8 o’clock one evening the Treasurer especially warned the people of New South “Wales that he knew that certain companies had been attempting to defraud the revenue. He did not specifically mention the amount involved, but he indicated that it would run into six figures. -He said that a bill would be introduced immediately to prevent the practice, and that in order to enable him to catch up with those companies that had defrauded the revenue it would have retrospective effect. Not a word has since been heard of it, and no doubt it will never be heard of as long as this Government remains in office.
I mention these matters to indicate why the Government has lost the confidence of the people. It moves by fits and starts. After solemn consideration, it introduces legislation, but in a day, or a week, the legislation is invariably withdrawn because of pressure applied to ;t. The country demands leadership and positive policy from its government. If the people are expected to make sacrifices Lr. the common interest, the Government should tell them exactly what it wants them to do. In a period of less than twelve months, from April, 1952, to March, 1953, it has completely changed its views in regard to the penalties that should be imposed on taxpayers who in their self-assessments understate their incomes by 20 per cent, or more.
– Penalties are. still provided for in the legislation.
– But not the same penalties. Now, if a taxpayer makes an incorrect assessment of his income the Commissioner of Taxation cannot 2:0 beyond the amount levied on the taxpayer as provisional tax.
– I invite the honorable member to examine the provisions of clause 5 of the bill.
– The position is covered by clause 6. The people have shown time and time again that if they are taken into the confidence of the Government and are told of the problems that confront it, whether they are associated with inflation or depression-
– Or bank nationalization?
– Yes. or bank nationalization, they are willing to do their share to help it to overcome them. All that they ask is that they be told what the Government expects them to do. . The Government has resolutely refused to give a lead to the people on any matter. Once again it has proved its inability to make up its mind until it has been forced to do so by circumstances - in this instance, by the effluxion of time which has compelled it to introduce the bill now before us.
The Government stands condemned by its attitude to almost every issue that has confronted the Parliament. On none can it be condemned more severely than on its taxation policy, for it has increased taxes despite its promise to reduce them. lc has imposed intolerable burdens on the basic wage earner who has barely sufficient to maintain himself, and upon whom no burdens were placed by other governments. It has raised more money in taxes than did any government in prewar years. When, in 1949, the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) was a member of the then Opposition, and the Treasurer of the day produced figures to show that the quantum of taxation had. risen, he said, “It is of no use to tell us that income tax rates have been reduced “. They had been reduced. The documents produced by the Treasurer of the day amply proved that the impact. of taxation has risen sharply on the higher scales of income.
-Order! The honorable member may not deal with taxation rates. I have already warned him that he must confine his remarks to the bill before the House, which is the Income Tax Assessment Bill.
– In any event. Mr. Speaker, I have almost completed my speech. The Government has abandoned policies which it regarded as essential only a few months ago. When thi? measure was introduced, the Leader of the Opposition indicated that we accepted all of its provisions except those which relate to Densities. The honorable member for Sturt attacked the Opposition on the ground that it was seeking to protect those who retained money that should be paid to the Government. We pointed out then, a? we do now, that no liability is imposed on a taxpayer until his income has been assessed
Our major charge against the Government is that it is incapable of making up its mind on any. matter. It is afraid to accept responsibility. Whatever move it may make from this day onwards, and whatever bribe it may offer to mislead the people, the electors know from their hitter experience of the last three years that a concession given by the Government to-day is invariably taken away tomorrow, and that a benefit that it confers to-day will be nullified by an additional charge levied on them next week or next month.
However, because this bill represents a vast improvement on the existing legislation we accept it. I have no doubt that as long as this Government remains in office taxpayers will not take advantage of the self-assessment provisions. As my colleagues have so truly said, the Government has failed in its task because it has tried to govern in a series of fits and starts.
. It is not my intention to endeavour to answer the rambling statements made by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Torn Burke). The honorable member so roved over the subject-matter of this bill that one could hardly tell when he finished speaking on one aspect of it and commenced to discuss another. The honorable member had something to say about the uniform income tax system. I gathered that he is a champion of the system. Although he believes it to be fair, he seems to Iia ve some reservations about its effect on Victoria. Every honorable member who represents a Victorian constituency knows it operates unfairly in respect nf that State; but the other States, having experienced the benefits of the system, are disinclined to agree to its abandonment as is also now the Premier of Victoria. Any system in which money is collected by the Commonwealth and spent by the States must lead to disharmony between the Commonwealth and the States. W” had an illustration .of the truth of that statement recently. when the States asked for the allocation of additional money and at the same time suggested that tac tion rates should he reduced. Addi tional money for the States can be derived from only two major sources - either from additional taxation or central bankcredit.
I believe that in the interests of all the uniform income tax system should be abolished. Only last, week I was talking to a very prominent American. I asked him, “ How would a uniform income tax system operate in the United States of America ? “ He replied, “ It would cause great difficulties. I am sure that if my country adopted such a system we should have no end of trouble “. Of course that is true. If the people who collect the money have the responsibility of spending it, they know just how much they should collect. If they collect too much for certain projects, the taxpayers soon complain. Unfortunately, under the present system the taxpayers blame this Government for the fact that taxation is too high. I agree that it is excessive, but the fault lies with the system. The Premiers have not acted reasonably. They continually appeal for additional funds for public works while, at the same time, they demand that taxation be reduced. I hope that this system will soon be abolished so that we can establish sane financial relationships between the Commonwealth and the States.
The next subject mentioned by the honorable member for Perth was the depreciation allowance. He said that the former Labour Government made an allowance of 40 per cent, for initial depreciation on capital equipment. That is true, but he also said that this Government had abolished the allowance and had rushed in, when the taxpayers raised an outcry, and granted a 20 per cent, depreciation allowance.
– I did not say that.
– I leave the decision to everybody who heard the honorable member’s speech. I made a note of his statement, and it is also clear in my mind. The Labour Government certainly granted a 40 per cent, initial depreciation allowance for farm machinery and a limited range of other equipment. After the first year, however, the allowance was reduced to 10 per cent, on a diminishing amount.
For example, on an item valued at £1,000, an allowance of 40 per cent, was made in the first year, but an allowance of only 10 per cent, was made in the second year on an amount of £600. The 10 per cent, allowance continued on a progressively reduced total until, finally, it was of very little help to the taxpayer. The honorable member for Perth said correctly that this Government had introduced a 20 per cent, depreciation allowance. The important fact is that a flat rate of 20 per cent, is maintained on the initial cost of the equipment. Thus, on an item worth £1,000, the allowance continues at the rate of £200 a year for five years. Had the Government retained Labour’s method of granting depreciation allowance, primary producers throughout Australia would have been at a great financial disadvantage. Nobody is better aware of that fact than is the honorable member for Perth, and I condemn him for his attempt to gain paltry party political advantage by submitting a misleading argument. The method introduced by this Government is better than any method thought of by the Labour Government. I hear groans from the Opposition, but honorable members opposite know that my statement is true. Primary producers throughout Australia appreciate the efforts of this Government to help them. Another feature of the Government’s system is that it is spread over a far more extensive field than was the Labour Government’s system. The present depreciation allowance applies, for example, to houses built for farm workers and share farmers and to many other items of capital equipment. The facts are stated clearly for the benefit of primary producers in a booklet that lias been issued jointly by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen). This publication, which is entitled Income Tax for Farmers and Graziers, should be studied by every man on the land.
The honorable member for Perth spoke incorrectly of a tax on wool-growers. In fact, the honorable gentleman was referring to the wool sales deduction, which was -not a tax. When the wool sales deduction legislation was introduced in this House, the late Mr. Chifley spoke of it as a tax measure, but, when I interjected, “ This is a levy, not a tax “., he wa * gentlemanly enough to say, “I stand corrected. It is not a tax”. That is recorded in Hansard, but honorable members opposite refuse to acknowledge the fact and persist in referring to the levy as a tax. Members of the Opposition, said, when the wool sales deduction legislation was debated in this House, that it provided for a tax on the wool-grower which would never be lifted. They stumped the country with that misleadingpropaganda, and, at one election, at leasttwo gentlemen who now sit opposite won: their campaigns by means of such misrepresentation. Members of the Labour party told the wool-growers that the 20’ per cent, deduction from their gross: profits would never be returned to them. What happened? Every wool-grower who was obliged to pay the. levy has received back the amount that he paid, and the Government has repealed the legislation.
– The Government rait away from it.
– The honorable member says that because he would have liked the Government to continue the deduction so that he could continue to find fault with it. I addressed ten meetings in the Mallee electorate fairly recently and raised the subject of the WOO sales deduction at each of them, because I wanted to know what the wool-growers thought about it after it had been discontinued and their money had been returned to them. Not one question was asked about the deduction. However, at Swan Hill, one man rose and said. “.I do not want to ask a question. T” want to make a statement. I was one of the hottest under the collar about the legislation at the time, butT want to say publicly now that I wish the deductionhad been at the rate of 40 per cent. The simple reason for his statementwas that lie had been able to use the deduction for the purpose of paying his income tax. Many primary producers did not make adequate provision for the payment of tax in theyear succeeding the imposition cc J-r”v wool sales deduction, and for that reason the compulsory saving, in the form of the deduction, was a godsend to them. It kept many wool-growers on a financially sound basis. Without it, there would have been chaos in the wool industry, of which very few members of the Opposition have any intimate knowledge.
The honorable member for Perth com plained next about the self -assessment system. Let lis trace the history of the Government’s self-assessment legislation. First, in 1944, the Labour Government introduced provisional taxation. People who listen to speeches made by members of the Opposition to-day may be pardoned if they believe that provisional taxation was forced on the taxpayers by the present Government. So successful has been the propaganda campaign of the Labour party that I have met people who entertain that false belief. The truth is that Labour introduced provisional taxation. The system played havoc with the primary producers when the price of wool rose sharply in one season it fell in next, because, under its provisions, a taxpayer was assumed in one year to have the same income as he had received in the previous year. Thus, under Labour’s system, if a primary producer had enjoyed a good year and had paid £3,000 tax for that year, he was obliged to pay £3,000 in provisional tax for the succeeding year, even if he had suffered a drought and had not reaped any harvest or shorn any sheep. This Government took a sane view of the situation and, in order to remove the anomalies of the Labour legislation, it introduced the selfassessment system, which had been successful in Canada. Under the system of self-assessment, if a taxpayer realizes that his income has fallen much lower than it was in the previous year due to adverse seasonal conditions, he can reduce the amount of his provisional tax payment to a level in accordance with his reduced income. This will save many primary producers from financial embarrassment.
Members of the Opposition have endeavoured to produce cases of hardship that have occurred under the regime of this Government. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) recently went, so far as to refer specifically to the case of a man and his son at Corowa.
He said, “ I shall not give their names for obvious reasons “. ‘ No doubt the honorable gentleman had learned his lesson on a previous occasion when he mentioned a man’s name to his own discomfiture. We delved into that case and proved that the honorable gentleman had been entirely wrong. Furthermore, when the report of that speech was published in Hansard, I sent a copy of it to the man he had named just to show how the case had been treated in this House. I am sure that, if the honorable member for Melbourne had mentioned the names of the two men at Corowa, we should have been able to expose the falsity of his claims in the same way. He said that these men had been called upon to pay provisional tax amounting to £10,000 on an income of £8,000. That, of course, is absolutely impossible. The table of tax rates issued by the Government shows that the tax on £S,000 would be £4,155. By no system of exaggeration or misrepresentation can members of the Opposition make the total more than that. I hear a great deal of moaning from them. They realize that my exposure of the misrepresentations in which they engage does not improve the outlook for their political future.
Then the honorable member for Perth tried to fill in time at the end of his speech by referring to this Government’s promise to reduce taxation. I have said before, and I repeat, that this Government said that when it came into power, it would reduce taxation as opportunity offered. I also remind members of the Opposition of a metaphor that I have used previously in this House. The supporters of a football team do not expect the team to win a match in the first quarter. The same principle applies to governments. When this Government came into office, it found that chaos had been left behind by the Labour Government. The ground was fertile and the seeds of inflation had been well sown. The Government has been fully occupied until now in restoring order where chaos then ruled. People throughout Australia acknowledge to-day that Australia’s economy is in a better condition than ever before. The Government has indicated that taxes will be reduced considerably this year.
– Too late!
– The honorable member i3 thinking of the next election. From the point of view of the taxpayers, it is never too late to reduce taxation.
– Order! The honorable gentleman must not deal with rates of tax. He must refer to the Income Tax Assessment Bill.
– The point is that the Government could not substantially reduce taxes early in its life because it first had to deal with the conditions that had been left behind by the Labour Government. It will fulfil its promise this year. I have answered the arguments of the honorable member for Perth. It was not difficult to do so because the honorable gentleman left himself open to correction with almost every sentence he uttered. I believe that other members of the Opposition wish to speak. One of them is the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), who usually speaks calmly and without distortion. I invite him to analyse my remarks, and, if he can find anything misleading amongst the facts I have submitted, to inform the House at once.
– Before I accept the challenge of the honorable member for Mallee. (Mr. Turnbull), I want to say that, speaking generally, the purpose of the bill is to amend, in many respects, legislation that was introduced into the Parliament hastily in June, 1952. The haste with which this measure is being dealt with is an indication of the manner in which this Government deals with important taxation problems. Income tax payments made by individuals and companies represent about £500,000,000 of the revenue of the Government. Therefore, income tax is the most important single tax in the country. Legislation that prescribes the manner of assessment of the taxable incomes of taxpayers should receive greater consideration than the Government will permit us to give to this measure. On the last two occasions when the income tax legislation was amended, the procedure followed was similar to that which has been adopted in respect of this measure. The bills were brought into the House early in the morning, and we were asked to make up our minds about them six or eight hours later.
Many of the matters with which this measure deals are very intricate. This Government has discovered that legislation intended to close one loophole in the taxation laws can open a new loophole. The amendments of the provisional taxation system proposed in this bill would not have been necessary if more care had been exercised by the Government in framing the amendments of the legislation that were considered in June of last year. If the Government were to admit the mistakes it has made, it would seek to repeal those amended provisions and to place the provisional taxation system upon the basis applicable prior to the year ended in June, 1952. I do not differ from the honorable member for Mallee about the origin of the provisional taxation system. It was introduced by a Labour government, and was intended to place a person whose income was derived from sources other than salary or wages upon the same basis as a wage or salary earner whose income tax was deducted from hispay regularly. There is nothing wrong with the provisional tax system so long as certain assumptions are made. Thefirst and most important assumption is that there will be no violent variations from year to year in the income of the taxpayers concerned. The basis of the provisional taxation system, as the honorable member for Mallee has said, is thai income recorded in one year shall be used provisionally as a basis for the assessment of income tax payable in the subsequent year. Provided that there are no violent fluctuations either of the size of income or the rate of income tax, nc violence is done to taxpayers by the system. The honorable member for Mallee did not mention to-night that the alteration of the averaging system foi1 primary producers that was made by this Government twelve or eighteen months ago was the genesis of the great variations of the income tax paid from year to year by primary producers. The honorable gentleman ignored that matter.
We regard as a masterly understatement a remark that was made by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in his second-reading speech on this bill. He said that there had been criticism of the compulsory provisions with regard to provisional assessment. Those provisions were criticized in this House by members of the Labour party when the provisional taxation system was amended in June, 1952. Events since then have justified those criticisms. In June, 1952, we made the point to which the Treasurer referred this morning when he said -
Bearing in mind the steadier levels of income now compared with a year or two ugo, the proposal to make self-assessment optional can, it is thought, be completely justified.
When the system was amended in June last year, we said that the Government was closing the stable door after the horse had bolted, because circumstances had already changed. The fluctuation of incomes that occurred in the previous year was occurring no longer, and we said that the amendment was being made too late. That criticism has been justified by what has happened during the last eight or nine months. But the Government has not admitted its mistake, and proposes to retain in the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act some provisions that we believe should be deleted.
Clause 5 proposes an amendment of the provisions relating to the imposition of a penalty for under-estimation of income. It has been recognized by the Government that it is difficult for a person whose income is derived from sources other than salary and wages to estimate his income for the next twelve months with any degree of accuracy, and it is proposed to mitigate the provisions under which a penalty can be imposed for an under-estimation of income.
I direct attention to clause 4, which proposes the repeal of section 221yda of the principal act. That numbering is an indication of the numerous amendments of the act that have been made. It shows that the time has arrived for the legislation to be consolidated and redrafted. The Government claims that it is abolishing certain of the penalty provisions, but it seems to me that it proposes to do so by means of a fiction. Proposed new section 221yda provides that a taxpayer who receives a notice of assessment of provisional tax in respect of a year of income must make an estimate of, first, the amount of his taxable income for the whole of that year of income; secondly, the respective amounts of income from salary or wages, income from personal exertion not being income from salary or wages, and income from property comprised in the estimated taxable income; and, thirdly, the amount of deductions that have been and will be made from the salary or wages during the year of income in accordance with section 221c of the act. A taxpayer will have to go through all that rigmarole. Sub-section (4.) of the proposed new section provides that, in certain circumstances, if the commissioner is not satisfied with the estimate made by the taxpayer, he may make an estimate. Bui sub-section (5.) states that the amount estimated by the commissioner in accordance with sub-section (4.) as the amount of taxable income of the taxpayer shall not be greater than the taxable income of the taxpayer for the year last preceding the year of income. That is the sort of rigmarole that was presented to the House at 11 a.m., and which, having considered various other matters, we are expected to adjudicate upon at 11.25 p.m. As I pointed out earlier in the course of my remarks, income tax is the most important source of revenue to-day. Although taxpayers subject to the provisional taxation system do not comprise the great majority of taxpayers, they pay the bulk of income tax collected. Provisions that affect the collection of provisional income tax affect also a great proportion of the revenue raised by income tax. It seems to me that greater clarity would be achieved if we reverted to the original simple provisional taxation system. Virtually, the bill makes the assumption that a taxpayer either accepts his provisional assessment- or makes an estimate of his income tax liability, but it seems to me that it is obligatory for the taxpayer to make an assessment.
– The honorable member i3 wrong.
– Proposed new section 221yda states that every taxpayer who receives a provisional assessment must make an estimate of his income.
– I think the honorable member is wrong.
– I apologize. The word “may” is used. That emphasizes my point that honorable members should be given more time to study this legislation. I do not claim to be the greatest authority upon income tax in the House, but neither am I the least authority upon it. If I have some difficulty in interpreting the legislation, what difficulty will the members of the general public have in doing so? They have not experts such as the honorable member for Mallee to assist them. It would be far simpler if the tortuous provisions inserted in the act last year were abolished altogether, and for all practical purposes they have been abolished.
Sitting suspended from 11. SO p.m. to 12 midnight.
Friday, 27 March 1955
– The Labour party considers that when the system of provisional tax was introduced, the administrative powers in the hands of the Commissioner of Taxation were sufficient to cover all kinds of cases that arose without the imposition of any penalty. The Government appears to have recognized that fact, because an attempt is made in this legislation to simplify the complicated procedure introduced last June. However, I contend that the provisions which operated upon the introduction of the provisional tax should be restored. Any amendment of those provisions is a recognition by the Government of its mistake in altering the act. The Government is retracing its steps along the road, but has not yet returned to the starting point.
The Government should have gone the whole way, eliminated the penalty and assessed an individual, as before, on his income at the same level as in the previous year. An individual who felt aggrieved because he considered that hi? income had been overestimated, could negotiate directly with the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in his State, and obtain an extension of time to enable him to compute the amount exactly. A taxpayer whose income declined and considered that his provisional assessment was higher than his income could be, could also negotiate with the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation. There was npt the same hostility about the provisional assessment when that was the practice, as exists to-day.
The Treasurer, in his second-reading speech, referred to the wine-making industry, and said -
It is fairly common knowledge that the whole process of maturation extends over several years …
The reference was only to the maturing of spirituous liquors or, in this instance,, to wines. However, the point is emphasized that certain anomalies still exist in the income tax legislation with respect to some individuals. For example, an author may publish a book which is the result of several years’ work, yet all the income, because it is derived in one year, is assessed in that year. In my opinion, the income should be averaged over several years. I direct attention to an article by Merv. Williams, a prominent sporting writer, which was published in the Melbourne Sporting Globe on the 25th October last, dealing with the taxation of professional boxers. The article is entitled “Taxation of Boxers - System claimed to be unfair “, and reads as> follows : -
Paying income tax each year as they earn is a crushing hurden on boxers. Wouldn’t it be much fairer if boxers were taxed on their average earnings for five years?
It takes a boxer three or four years to become good enough to earn big purses : and his life “ at the top “ is seldom more than three or four years. In that brief period the boxer has to earn enough to set him up for life. But the more the fighter earns the shorter his golden era becomes. The physical cost in top class is too great.
Once he is past his peak of those few years the boxer earns comparatively little.
If a boxer at the top of the ladder could go on earning thousands of pounds annually for an indefinite period, he would be entitled to pay his tax the same as any other business man.
But that is physically impossible. He might earn £5,000 a year for three years and then drop right out of the game, with no chance of ever getting back in the money.
Still he has to pay the same tax while he is in the big time as the business man who usually stays there indefinitely.
Unfortunately, boxing is a young man’s business. Fighters hit their top before they have had time to gain much worldly experience or education. What is there but ordinary jobs for these boys when they pass their peak? The ones who have succeeded in business can be counted on the fingers of two hands. There is the boxer who earns big money one year, and then breaks his hand and cannot fight for six months.
He’s taxed on the plush period and has little left for the lean time. A case in point is Andre Famechon. He paid £800 in tux one year. A little later he broke his leg and hardly fought again. He could have done with a part of that £800 to help him out. It was uncertain conditions such as these that gained taxation respite for the primary producer. His taxation is based on average earnings, so that boom seasons make up for the lean ones.
That is how it should be with a fighter.
My suggestion is that a fighter should pay his tax as he earns it each year, then at the end of five years, his earnings should be averaged and reassessed. He then would have a handy rebate as a nest egg.
Prize-fighting, perhaps, is an extreme example. The creative writer, or artist, is taxed on income derived in one year, although it may he the result of several years’ work. That provision requires modification. I bring this matter to the notice of the Treasurer in the hope that he will rectify the position. He has done so in a limited way for wine producers. He concedes that their product does not mature in one year.
– That is hardly the answer to my suggestion. The income tax law affects almost every section of the community. The Treasurer, who is the leader of the Australian Country party, has recognized that some primary producers have suffered’ an injustice. I am indicating that there are other sections of the community to whom he should give some attention. I have raised a serious matter, and I resent the flippant interjections which have come from certain Government supporters during my speech. They consider that, metaphorically speaking, the whole world rotates about the price of wool and wheat. However, there are other sections of the community that are less vocal and not so well organized to exert political pressure on the Treasurer. This matter has been brought to my notice, and, accordingly, I am making representations to the right honorable gentleman. I am not a great admirer of prize-fighting, but I recognize that it is an acknowledged sport of this generation. A person who labours in this sport, because it is labour for him, may receive a large sum in one year, and may not receive any income from prize-fighting for the rest of his life. The large sum should not be regarded as income for that year, but should be averaged over a period of years. What that period should be, I am not prepared to suggest. The Treasurer has appointed a committee which investigates anomalies in the taxation laws. Why should it not investigate this matter? Debates on legislation to amend the act are the only opportunities afforded to individual members to direct attention to anomalies. Unfortunately, this Government has not allowed honorable members a great deal of time to raise these matters, because the amending legislation is usually thrown into the ring at a late hour, and honorable members who have talked for days beforehand about other matters show resentment when another honorable member raises an important matter relative to taxation. We have to take the opportunity when it presents itself to ventilate our grievances, and I make no apology for raising these matters to-night. I trust that the Treasurer will treat my representations indulgently, and grant relief to those sections of the community that have not been able to obtain it for themselves.
– The Opposition has allowed this debate to wander over a rather wide field, whereas in truth the bill is preeminently a simple one. It is concerned primarily with a modification based upon experience of the self -assessment system, and, secondly, it brings in a most valuable and welcome innovation concerning taxation in respect of winemakers and the wine industry. I have been at a loss to understand the approach of the Labour party to this legislation, and the various curious diversions motivated, no doubt, by the imminence of the Senate elections. We have heard the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom
Burke), who lias indulged in marked irrelevancies about the basic wage earner, and we have been treated to an amusing divagation by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) about the fate of boxers and the boxing ring. No doubt he is thinking that, in the electoral bout which is shortly to take place, he and his friends who have been so cock-a-hoop will not fare nearly so well as they imagined. It is apparent that whatever the Government may seek to do in the interests of the taxpayers, particularly the primary producers, is wrong in the eyes of the Opposition. If we had not introduced this amending measure we should have been denounced savagely by the Labour party as being callous. Now that we have introduced it we are sneered at and chided. We know our minds very well indeed. We emphasized, when thu original legislation was initiated last year, that it was, of necessity, of an experimental nature. It is true that the system of self-assessment has been in operation in Canada for a number of years. It is also followed, I believe, in another form in the United States of America. So far as Australia was concerned, this was something novel, and the Hansard record shows that more than one honorable member on this side of the House expressly stated in the debate in May last year that circumstances might arise in the operation of this measure that would necessitate its amendment from time to time. Any reasonable person, either inside or outside this House, would agree that the Government should be congratulated for its honesty and expedition in bringing down this bill at the first opportunity. The Opposition, however, seems to think that in these unpredictable days any government can set its course according to a hard and fast policy, and pursue it irrespective of circumstances that may arise. I suggest that the old analogy of a Prime Minister being a mariner at the wheel has gone overboard long ago. The true analogy nowadays is that the head of the Government is akin to the pilot of a jet airliner, who must divert his course to circumvent storms and other hazards of the passage, whenever it seems desirable and expedient to do so.
The Labour party’s attitude to this measure and other matters is an extraordinary one for people who regard themselves as being reformers, radicals and socialists. We can see developing on the other side of the House, alarmingly, rapidly, the genesis of the real tory, conservative party in this country.
The history of the events that led to the introduction of this bill is well known. The wool boom of 1950-51 was followed by a sharp unexpected decline of wool prices, which revealed a signal defect in the provisional tax system. Tt would be far better for the Labour party if, instead of criticizing the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), it made an attempt to discover why its own leaders in 1944. did not foresee the inconvenience to taxpayers that must occur when a boom year is succeeded by a year of relative recession. As it is, this bill should cure any dissatisfaction that exists. We admit frankly, because we are frank and honest about those things, that some dissatisfaction does exist, especially among taxpayers who are primary producers. The bill, as the Treasurer has lucidly explained, enables taxpayers to exercise a complete option. A taxpayer may either accept the Commissioner of Taxation’s assessment or, if he likes, he may substitute his own assessment. I was astonished that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) apparently had not read the bill with his customary care. We are used to looking to him for careful and reasoned thought, although we may not always agree with his views. On this occasion he fell into the error of misreading the entire bill. He seemed to think that the obligation to make an assessment still remained with the tax payer, whereas, of course, clause 4 makes it abundantly clear that the option that I have mentioned is complete and unequivocal. The honorable member is nodding his head to indicate that he now realizes that fact.
I appeal now to the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) to bring to the notice of the Treasurer the desirability of continuing the good work that he initiated two years ago with the simplification of tax forms. The forms that have been sent out for this year’s assessments are too complicated for even a person of average intelligence. Taxpayers are now compelled to obtain the services of expert agents to deal with their assessments, and those agents are. in turn, being overloaded by a rush of work. I do not think it is any answer to say that many taxpayers, especially primary producers, employ agents in any case. There is no reason why they should be submitted to inconvenience. I suggest to the House that Adam Smith’s canon, that taxation “ should be certain, clear, and plain to the contributor “, applies as much to-day as it did when the great economist pronounced those words more than 170 years ago. I hope that next year’s forms, based on this year’s experience, will be less complex and bewildering, and that the Treasurer will continue his splendid work of simplification. If he does so he will he remembered as the originator of taxation without tears.
I turn to a part of the bill that is of great importance to many people, especially those in my electorate. I refer to the innovation concerning taxation of wine-makers. The bill will give legal validity to a practice that has obtained for between 20 and 30 years, which enables wine stocks to be brought to account at a flat standard rate per gallon. The wine industry cannot be brought easily within the three existing tax categories of cost of production, market price, or replacement value. Honorable members opposite may or may not know that the average wine takes between three and five years to mature. Accordingly, it is difficult to say at the time of manufacture what its ultimate value will be, or what is its actual cost of production. It is a mistake to think of the wine industry only in terms of the wine-makers. It is true that some wineries a i o large undertakings, but there are many others which are comparatively small. In any event, be they large or small, they represent, in the gamut of the industry, the last stage in a long process of production. Many thousands of grapegrowers, particularly in South Australia, depend upon good prices for grapes for their livelihood. I am glad that there is no opposition, especially from the other side of the House, to this provision, because I remind the House that if, by any mischance, the provision were not adopted by the Parliament, the wineries throughout Australia would be liable for anything up to £4,000,000 in additional taxes. The result would be ruinous for them and to the thousands of people who are dependent on them. It would cause, for example, a catastrophic decline of the prices of grapes. It would also force the winer-makers to throw many of their stocks on to the market in a dangerous state of immaturity. The result of that would be not only to give the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who is interjecting, a sorer head than usual, but also to do untold damage in the long run to the good name that Australia is gradually building up for its wines, both locally and overseas. As it is, in the current season maximum wine grape prices are between 20 per cent, and 30 per cent, lower than they were in 1952. Furthermore, it is estimated that this year wine sales within Australia have fallen off by between 2,500,000 and :i,000,000 gallons compared with last year. In addition, as has frequently been mentioned in this House within the last three years, our wine exports to the United Kingdom have been seriously diminished by the high British tariff. Thi3 is an industry, therefore, that needs all the reasonable assistance that it can be given. This bill, for which we have to thank the Treasurer, is an excellent example of such aid. It is not too much to say that it? passage may go some way towards arresting the decline of grape prices that has started so alarmingly during the present harvest. I know that these amendments will be received with gratitude by the wine-makers and those dependent on them, and will be regarded as another earnest indication of the Government’s desire to do all it can to promote the welfare of primary producers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
Wool Use Promotion Bill 1953.
Egg Export Control Bill 1953.
Meat Export Control Bill 1953.
Dairy Produce Export Control Bill 1953.
Tractor Bounty Bill 1953.
Flax Industry Bill 1953.
Defence Bill 1953.
Without requests -
Customs Tariff Validation Bill 1953.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Bankruptcy Act - Twenty-fourth Annual Report by the Attorney-General for the year ended 31st July, 1952.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Appointment Certificate - A. J. McIntyre.
Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1953, No. 22.
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1953, No. 23.
Defence Transition (Residual Provisions) Act - National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations-Orders - Inventions and designs (3).
Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Crown Lands Ordinance - Reasons for resumption of reserve at Darwin.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Interior - F. E. Mattox, V. A. Peeler.
Works- C. S. Brown, R. F. Campbell, H. R. Cartwright, R. L. Chipps, B. J. Doherty, W. J. Forbes, A. Fried, N. Hajos, R. B. Irvine, R. G. E. Lodge, W. S. H. Maclachlan, R. Mainwaring, P. F. McNamara, E. F. Melville, N. G. Overmyer, G. F. Parkes, L. N. Seton, K. S. Speirs.
Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act - Third Annual Report of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, for year 1951-52.
House adjourned at 12.29 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
r asked the Trea surer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The honorable member will realize that under the existing plan of selfassessment, it would not have been economical to forward with the notice of assessment a cheque for any credit which may appear to be due when provisional tax is based upon last year’s income. No delay, as far as is known, has occurred in forwarding cheques to taxpayers who have promptly indicated their acceptance of assessment on the basis of last year’s income or who, alternatively, promptly recalculated their provisional tax. Consideration will be given to reversion to the previous practice of forwarding cheques with notices of assessment now that self-assessment is to be made optional.
s asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) Commonwealth, 1,448; New South Wales, 718; Victoria, 344; Queensland, 253; South Australia, 36; Western Australia, 32; Tasmania, 85. (b) Commonwealth,69,151 : New South Wales, 38,947; Victoria, 18,729; Queensland, 1919; South Australia, 3,912: Western Australia, 3,421; Tasmania, 2,223.
m asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
International Bank for Reconstruction and Development visited any part of Australia or its territories pursuant to sections 4.01 (d) and5.01 (d) respectively of the Loan Agreements set out in the First Schedules of the Loan (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) Acts 1950 and 1952?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Accredited representatives of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development have visited Australia on four occasions as detailed below: -
The International Bank met the costs of air travel, accommodation and travelling allowances of their representatives whilst they were in Australia. Costs incurred and brought to account by the Commonwealth in connexion with these visits included the provision of cars, travel expenses of Commonwealth officers accompanying the bank representatives and incidental expenditure. These costs for the first three visits were £249 12s.1d., £3296s. 4d. and £301 19s. 2d. respectively, whilst the costs for the fourth visit have not yet been finalized.
n asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
z asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister -for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. Thu census of the 30th June, 1947, recorded S2.774 persons (00,009 males and 1.0,705 females) as in the work force, but not at’ work, at the 30th June. There were 18,020 persons (10,489 males and 2,131 females) in the category “ Unable to secure employment “, and 14,179 persons (11,804 males and 2,315 females) who were classified as “temporarily laid off “. A further number (15,450 ‘ males and 0,5:38 females) described themselves as “resting”.: 223 as “voluntarily unemployed” and 408 as “changing jobs”; 18,090 persons (13,1)41 males and 4,155 females) were recorded as absent from work because of sickness; 3.108 (2,843 mules and 205 females) absent on account of accident; and 452 males and 23 females idle because of industrial disputes.
Department of Labour and Nation a i. Service.
d asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
I and 2. I have proposed and my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, has agreed, that Mr. Bland should be a government delegate to the International Labour Organization annual conference at Geneva in June. It if my view that while he is overseas he should examine certain matters relating to the functions of my department. Mr. Blands proposed visit will, as is the- current practice in relation to overseas journeys by members of the Public Service, be considered by the Overseas Travel Committee, which comprises representatives of the Prime Ministers Department, the Treasury and the Public Service Board.
Mr. Bland is likely to be accompanied by Mrs. Bland, but in that event it will not he at the expense’ of the Commonwealth.
ser asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
z asked the Minister for A ir, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following information : -
y. - On the 18th March the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked the following question : -
Will the Minister representing the Minister for National Development say whether there is any truth in a current rumour that the coalowners intend to install machinery for the extraction of pillars in coal mines, without giving consideration to safety precautions or consulting the miners’ federation? Does the right honorable gentleman consider that in this connexion safety precautions are all important?
The Minister for National Development has supplied the following information in answer to the honorable member’s question : -
I can now advise the honorable member that there is no truth whatever in the suggestion that the coal-owners intend to install machinery for the extraction of pillars in coal mines without any consideration having been given to safety precautions. Nor is there truth in the suggestion that the miners’ federation has not been consulted. On the 12th March, theColliery Proprietors Association advised the federation that it wished to meet the federation to discuss the matter. On the 1 6th March, the federation advised the Colliery Proprietors Association that the central executive of the federation was prepared to meet the association as soon as the members of the executive (who were then occupied ‘ with matters before the Coal Industry Tribunal) were available.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
Have any satisfactory results been obtained from the negotiations to secure overseas markets for Australian coal ?
Mr. -Casey. - The answer to the honor- - able member’s question is as follows : -
Yes. Towards the end of 1952 a trial shipment of Queensland coal was sent to Pakistan and early in’ 1953, 38;000 tons of New South Wales coal was shipped to Japan. Following the recent visit of the Pakistan Coal Mission, negotiations are proceeding* for the sale of Queensland and New South Wales coal- to Pakistan. The Queensland Government recently announced that 100,000 tons of Collinsville coal has been sold to Japan.
Goodradigbee River Bridge.
y - On the 11th March the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) asked the following question : -
I addressed a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Is the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority planning the route of a power-line to Canberra with an accompanying road to service the construction work, and is it true that a high level bridge is to be constructed over the Goodradigbee River to provide access f If so, will the Minister make inquiries and indicate to the House where the bridge is to be located ?
The Minister for National Development has supplied the following information in answer to the honorable member’s question : -
No decision has yet been reached on the routes of the main transmission line between the Snowy Mountains area and the main load centres in New South Wales, nor has any decision been made on the point at which Snowy Mountains power will be handed over to the State of New South Wales. Advance investigations and field reconnaissance of alternative routes have, however, been carried out by the Snowy Mountains Authority, one of the routes under consideration passing through the Brindabella Valley with a crossing at Goodradigbee River. The ultimate decision on the selection of the route and on the location of service roads and bridges will rest with the State of New South Wales.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 March 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1953/19530326_reps_20_221/>.