20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– -Has the Prime Minister any information about the action of the Australian National University in letting one of its furnished cottages to the Minister for Territories,- or of’ the terms of this transaction, about which I asked a question several days ago?
– I am sorry that I cannot be precise about that matter. I have heard about it in a general way, but I would rather give the precise facts to the honorable member. I may be able to get the information during the day, in which case I shall be able to give it to him later to-day. .
– Will the Minister, for the Interior consider the advisability of providing the citizens of Canberra with some form of local government? .Does he’ not believe that such a move would further develop civic pride and local interest, by co-ordinating the available voluntary effort in the same way as it has been organized in all other cities and towns throughout the Commonwealth where local government operates?
– As I said yesterday at the inaugural session of the new Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council, we have been endeavour-, ing during the past two years to raise the status of the council. However, that appears to be a very difficult matter. The ordinary system of local government cannot be instituted in Canberra, and it is very difficult to devise a system under which the Government, which has to supply most of the finance, will retain financial control, and yet the local people will be given a large share in what might be called ordinary local government. It is not easy to organize such a system. In fact, it has not yet been done in Washington, which is a much older city than Canberra. Commissions and various other forms of local government have been tried in Washington, but apparently the solution can be found only by a system of trial and error. Keeping all these matters well in mind, we are working all the. time to obtain in Canberra satisfactory system of local government.
– Did the Prime Minister promise an Australian-wide organization representative of local government bodies in all States of the Commonwealth that he would arrange a conference to examine exhaustively local government finance and suggest remedies to overcome the unstable financial position of local government bodies? Has ‘ the Prime Minister thought about that matter recently, and if so, when is he likely to arrange the convention?
– It has occasionally been stated, but it is not accurate so to state, that I said that I intended to call a convention. I did discuss the place of local government in the country, and referred to it as the third arm of government. I said that one could hardly consider the other two forms of government without considering local government. Local government is the creature of State governments and. of State parliaments. We have no direct relationship with the local government authorities, and therefore we have always said that it is for the States to deal with those bodies. We deal with the States and have always been prepared to consider problems that they have laid before us, whether financial or otherwise.
– Can the Minister for Air say whether it is a fact that the Higginsfield aerodrome on Cape York Peninsula, which was constructed at considerable cost during “World War II., has been completely abandoned and all equipment and buildings thereon recently dismantled and sold? If so, will the Minister say why that has been done?
– Answering the last part of the honorable member’s question first, I inform him that the airfield is no longer required. Garbutt airfield, near Townsville, which is being built up into a base, is a magnificent aerodrome. Consequently, the airfields in the peninsula further north are not required. A decision will be made whether Higgins Field aerodrome will be passed over to the Minister for the Interior for disposal. I do not know whether the facilities have been disposed of or the hangars dismantled, but if the honorable member asks the Minister for the Interior, lie will obtain a satisfactory answer.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Air, supplementary to a question that was asked by the honorable member for Reid, with regard to the air field at Mareeba, west of Cairns, which I have inspected with the honorable member for Leichhardt. At Mareeba there are three strips, each 2 miles long, which were used during World War II. for heavy bombers. They are still in almost perfect condition. As the airfield is so much further north than Townsville, what plans has the Minister in mind for its utilization by the long distance or heavy bombing forces under the control of the Department of Air?
– Mareeba airfield is only a short flight from Garbutt and Townsville and it will not be required in the near future by the Royal Australian Air Force for the use of bombers. It is now on a care and maintenance basis and if my memory is correct, negotiations for its care have been proceeding with the local government authority at Mareeba to assume responsibility for that work. I shall obtain the facts foi1 the right honorable member. I assure him, however, that in view of the development of Garbutt, it is highly unlikely that the Royal Australian Air Force will need the Mareeba airfield.
– Is the Minister for the Interior aware that the present building which houses Commonwealth departments at Mildura is totally inadequate for that purpose? Will he consider bringing Commonwealth office accommodation up to date in this important area?
– I am aware of the fact but largely because the honorable member brought it to my notice some time ago. The present building at Mildura was originally acquired on lease, I understand, during the war. The owner now wants the property back. It is not a suitable building for the purpose for which it is being used at the moment, which, if I remember rightly, is to house brandies of the Department of Labour and National Service and the Electoral Office. We have been making inquiries to ascertain whether a more suitable building can be obtained so that the property may be released to the original owner, and I hope to be able to give the honorable member further information at an early date.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral inform the House whether it is a fact that a contract has been let by his department for the manufacture of coin receptacles for use in public telephone booths? Can he also say whether those receptacles have been’ designed to acommodate four pennies in respect of each call made? If that is so, does it mean that the department intends to increase the charge for public telephone calls to 4d.?
– It does not mean anything of the kind. A receptacle might be made to take up to 18 or 24 pence. It is a question of giving flexibility in the use of public telephone booths, instead of the department being obliged, every time it desires to alter the charge, either upwards or downwards, to pull to pieces all the receptacles in Australia. I think it is a perfectly sensible arrangement by the department.
– I wish to address a question to you, Mr. Speaker, in your capacity as chairman of the Library Committee and as custodian of the records in this place. Can you take action to prevent mutilation of the newspaper files in the Library ? I refer particularly to the extraction of a whole page of the Sunday Herald of the 27th September which contains a particularly interesting and informative report of a meeting of the Labour caucus. That page is missing from the records in the Library, and I wish to know whether it is possible to protect records which are provided for the information of honorable members?
– Complaints have been made from time to time about the mutilation of newspapers and magazines on the tables and desks in the Library. I think it is a particularly reprehensible practice to mutilate those documents. It is a problem which is not peculiar to this Library. I understand that, in other libraries in Australia, certain very damaging documents pertaining to an organization which often comes under review in this place, have been borrowed and, when checked later, it has been found that very valuable records in them have been missing. I do not know what we can do about it in the way of prevention, but if I catch anybody at it I shall inform the House what I shall do.
– I address a question to you, Mr. Speaker, supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Moore. It has been claimed that a member of the Opposition must have cut out the article in question, the halo of purity being exclusive to honorable members opposite.
– Order! What is the honorable member’s question?
– I have knowledge of an article that was cut out of the Sydney Sun, not the Sunday Sun, which referred also to events of some importance ; and that article was not conjectural like the article which was published in the Sunday Sun dealing with events that were alleged to have happened in the Labour party caucus.
-Order ! What is the honorable member’s question?
– The article to which I refer-
– Order! Will the honorable member ask his question.
– Are you aware, Mr. Speaker, that there has been cut out of an edition of the Sydney Sun filed in the Library an article which dealt with events of some importance which took place in this city on a Sunday concerning capital issues manoeuvres?
-I cannot recall having had my attention specifically directed to the matter that the honorable member has raised. I shall make inquiries, and if there is anything that would warrant my taking up the time of the House in dealing with the subject I shall do so.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior what action, if any, he has taken, or proposes to take to assist financially in the construction of a bridge across the Goodradigbee River at Brindabella, particularly in view of the fact that negotiations between the Commonwealth and New South Wales have been proceeding ever since the present Government has been in office ?
– I have answered several questions on this matter, and. I cannot remember exactly the facts in connexion with it. The bridge is very important to the honorable member-
– And to Australia.
– I am sympathetic to the honorable member’s interest in the matter, because the bridge would be of great assistance in providing a means of communication from the Brindabella area to the Australian Capital Territory. There is no question about that. More important than either my opinion or that of the honorable member on the matter is the fact that the bridge would enable improved transport of vegetables and other produce from the area to the Australian Capital Territory. Unfortunately, I cannot hold out any promise that a large amount of money will be expended on that work in the near future. It must first be given a priority, whether or not the money is to be expended in conjunction with the New South Wales Main Roads Board, and I am afraid that at the moment there are more important jobs to be done.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether, in view of ‘the reported closing down of a tannery at Goulburn due to dissatisfaction with the allocation of hides by the Australian Hide and Leather Industries Board, and general dissatisfaction within the industry with the activities of the board, he can say whether it is proposed to retain the board indefinitely and if so, why?
– I have seen some reference to the closing down of a tannery at Goulburn, but I am not yet in possession of sufficient knowledge about it to make a complete statement on it. I shall make a statement about it when I have complete knowledge of the matter. I have been told by the chairman of the board that the Goulburn tannery has received all the hides that it has asked for. The board is an instrumentality which was necessary to enable price control to operate in circumstances in which leather prices prescribed for locally-used leather were much lower than .the export prices. Hides and leather are complex commodities, and it was necessary to have an organization to regulate the industry in order to preve’nt, first, hides and leather going out of the country’ in too great quantities due to the higi export prices and secondly, to ensure that the allocation of the comomdity in Australia was fair. The circumstances have altered substantially, and to-day the difference of price on the export and local markets is so small that in my opinion, and in the opinion of the Government, there is no longer justification for this control. The Government has proposed to the State Ministers in charge of prices that they should agree to the termination of the activities of the board, but prices commissioners have never been known to agree to the termination of anything that impinges on their activities. We have had to terminate the control of tallow in defiance of the opinions of the prices commissioners, with great advantage to the industries concerned in Australia. T am not sure that that situation will not develop in connexion with hides and leather.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House when he proposes to fulfil the promise that he made to the people in 1949 to make £250,000,000 available for national development and works under the control of local government bodies ? Does the Prime. Minister propose to fulfil that promise during this sessional period or the life of this Parliament?
– I regret that the honorable member has not been following the trend of recent events. If he had done so he would have known that in the last three and a half years, the Australian Government has provided many millions more than £250,000,000 for those purposes.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether the Government will reconsider the terms. of the current Commonwealth loan which provide for long-term and short-term investment? In the case of the short-term loan, the minimum amount that may be invested is £1,000. Many persons are prepared to subscribe to the short-term loan at the lower rate of interest because they do not want to tie up their money for a. long period. Will the Government consider reducing the minimum subscription to the short-term loan from £1,000 to £100 at the same rate of interest ?
– As the honorable member knows, the terms of the loans are settled by the Australian Loan Council. I am not familiar with the negotiations that’ have occurred in connexion with the current loan. I shall ascertain the facts and advise the honorable member.
– Was the Prime Minister responsible for the tawdry, cheap and illprinted memento that was issued by the Australian Government to the children of Australia on the occasion of the Coronation of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second? If so, will he study it again and ensure that any souvenir that may be issued to the school children of Australia on the occasion of the Royal visit to Australia will be something that the children can treasure rather than an ill-printed booklet produced on cheap paper?
– I shall look at the document to ascertain whether it justifies the picturesque adjectives that the honorable member has used.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture any information to give to the House with regard to future prices of beef and veal shipped to the United Kingdom ?
– Yesterday, negotiations were concluded between the Australian Government and the United Kingdom Government in respect of prices for beef and veal for the forthcoming year, the Australian Meat Board having been the negotiating authority on behalf of this Government. It has been arranged that for the next year the United Kingdom will pay an all-round increase of 5½ per cent. on present prices. The price of heavy weight beef will not be increased, but provision has been made for a further increase of 2d. per lb. for a new class of baby beef which, it is calculated, will be of great advantage to the Australian meat industry.
– In view of the fact that it is quite a simple process to reduce a 35-mm. film to a 16-mm. film, will the Minister for Supply consult with his colleague, the Minister for the Interior, and have the 35mm. film on the explosion that took place at Monte Bello reduced to 16-mm. so that it can be shown - no security consideration is involved - to members of the Parliament in this building and thus place honorable members and honorable senators on the same footing as members of the British Parliament and members of the United States Congress, who, I understand, have already been shown the film ? I make this request particularly in view of the fact that Australia helped financially to make the film and to organize the arrangements for the explosion at Monte Bello, and also in view of the fact that all of the happenings depicted in the film took place on Australian territory.
– All of those events did not take place in Australian territory. Many of the episodes depicted took place in England. The film begins with events that occurred in that country and finishes up by depicting the actual explosion. Ignoring the propaganda contained in the honorable member’s question, I assure him that the British Government promptly and generously made the film available to Australia, and consequently, no question arises of Australia not being treated on equal terms in this matter. However, as the film is a black and white film and of 35-mm., it cannot be shown under the conditions under which films are ordinarily shown in this building each Wednesday night when the Parliament is in session. For that reason, I offered to members of the Parliament the facility of going in batches to view the film in the film-room at the News and Information Bureau and arrangements are now being made along those lines. Considerable delay and some additional expenditure would be involved in reducing the film from 35-mm to 16-mm. I shall consider that aspect in consultation with the Minister for the Interior. If honorable members desire to see the film, no great strain will be placed upon them in going to the News and Information Bureau theatrette to see it.
– I address a question to the Minister for Supply. In view of the fact that the Australian Atomic Energy Commission is the body which has been entrusted by this Parliament with general responsibility for all matters relating to atomic energy, and a3 the Research School of Physical Sciences of the Australian National University has a highly skilled staff and specialized equipment to carry out advanced atomic energy research, what steps does the Government propose to take to co-ordinate the activities of these two independent bodies? What are the Government’s plans regarding atomic research in Australia? Is attention being concentrated on the development of nuclear power for industrial purposes or on the health aspect of atomic energy in relation to the treatment of cancer?
– I cannot give a detailed answer to the honorable member’s question at this stage and in this place. I assure him that the Government has evolved a careful long-range plan for the development of nuclear research in Australia, which includes participation by the Australian National University..
– Can the Minister for -Commerce and Agriculture give the House any further information about the negotiations’ which he is conducting in order’ to secure the orderly marketing of wheat? Does the right honorable gentleman feel more hopeful that a satisfactory plan will come out of the negotiations?
-A few days ago, the Western Australian Government advised me that it was willing to’ introduce legislation promptly to join New South Wales and South Australia in the establishment of a three-State pool, in the absence of general agreement’ among all the wheatgrowing States. Yesterday, the Premier of South Australia, by telegraph, informed me that at a conference the Minister for Agriculture, of New South Wales and South Australia had agreed that their Governments would introduce legislation to complete the three-State pool proposal. The Premier of Victoria told me on the telephone last night that whatever his State did about the local selling price’ of wheat, it would be willing to divert the Victorian export surplus for realization on a pool basis by an Australian wheat board. Although I have received no direct communication from the Queensland Minister for Agriculture, I have seen the script of an agency broadcast in which he is reported to have said that Queensland would divert its export surplus to an Australian wheat board. Thus, policy decisions, seem to have been made by all the wheatgrowing States which will enable an Australian wheat board to be the sole export authority in respect of wheat, which would appear to lay the basis for ratification of the International Wheat Agreement. It has been made clear that New South Wales, South Australia, and Western Australia will at least join in an internal orderly marketing pool. That is a very desirable advance on the deadlocked condition that has obtained’ for a considerable time. However, I remind honorable members that Australiahas finally to state its decision in’ respect of the ratification of the InternationalWheat Agreement at a conference to be held at Madrid on the 20th October. From experience I should not be prepared to recommend that the Parliament should ratify the, agreement merely on the basis of policy assurances from the States, because, in the last fifteen months, at least two States undertook to introduce amending legislation in respect of wheat, and each found itself unable to go through with the proposal because Of parliamentary circumstances. Further, three States which gave written undertakings to the Commonwealth that they would legislate along certain lines in relation to butter,’ in order to facilitate the making of a guarantee to the dairying industry, subsequently did not carry out their undertakings. So it will be necessary’ for the States to follow up their assurances’ by actually passing legislation along ‘those lines before it is too late.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 1st October (vide page 953).
Proposed vole, £3,794,000.
Proposed vote, £68,922,000.
Proposed vote, £4,729,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- When the debate was interrupted last evening I was referring to the large number of outstanding applications for telephone services. I have since ascertained that there are 59,739 unsatisfied applicants in Australia, 33,585 of whom are in New South Wales. In other words, more than 50 per cent. of the unsatisfied applicants are residents of that State, and no less than 13. per cent. of them reside in my electorate. I have repeatedly urged the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) to endeavour to relieve the position in that electorate, and he has promised on several occasions to put in hand work in connexion with the Peakhurst automatic telephone exchange in order to provide the residents of that district with a better telephone service. The Minister stated in his letter to me dated the 30th October, 1951-
You may remember in a letter dated the 23rd April, 1951, I informed you of the difficulties that were being encountered by the Department in having accepted a building to accommodate the Peakhurst Automatic Exchange and that it was expected the exchange would be in operation towards the end of 1951.
Work is now proceeding on the installation of a portable telephone exchange of 600 lines capacity at Peakhurst and portion of the equipment is scheduled to be brought into service during December, 1951, thereby providing service for some of the waiting applicants’.
But applicants in that district are still waiting for telephone services. The latest letter that I have received from the PostmasterGeneral states that it is expected that those people will soon receive telephone services. The position has not changed - always it has been that they are going to get the service soon. I disagree entirely with the cutting down of expenditure on telephone services from £18,000,000 in the last financial year to £17,000,000 during this financial year. I point out that the telephone branch is a very important branch of the Postal Department. It derives additional revenue from the moment that an application for a telephone is lodged, because rental is payable six months in advance. Furthermore, the department gains revenue from telephone calls as soon as the service has been connected, and, in the case of a telephone connected to business premises, revenue of probably £20 would be derived from telephone calls during its first six months of operation. I believe that it is unwise, merely in the interests of cutting down governmental expenditure, to restrict the installation of telephones.
– It is false economy.
– I agree that it is false economy. I wish now to direct the attention of the Postmaster-General to the fact that, under the system at present in operation in his department, contracts are let to private persons to perform work that could he more efficiently carried out by the engineering branch of the department. I have received a complaint from the secretary of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia as follows : -
My Union is greatly concerned on the continued and increasing practice of inviting tenders for the construction of telegraphic and telephonic routes, both aerial and underground, in the Department of the Postmaster-General, to the detriment of the employment of experienced persons in that class of work.
During the war and post-war years up to 1952, the construction referred to was carried out by employees of the Postmaster-General’s Department under the control of Engineers and of experienced Supervisory officers of that Department, resulting in a job well and faithfully constructed which will stand the test and be free for years from maintenance costs, which cannot be said of contract work in pre-war years.
The experience of my Union in connexion with the latter contract work was most unsatisfactory, from the treatment meted out to employees and to the inefficient construction in many instances, causing extensive maintenance costs owing to the inferior workmanship of inexperienced employees.
In one of the last contracts in pre-war years, the Union was put to extreme difficulty in obtaining payment of wages due to employees, a situation which we do not wish to be again confronted with.
Therefore, we strongly object to the policy of .the construction of line routes being carried out by contract, which we definitely assert is inimical to Departmental interests, also to the interests of employees.
It is ludicrous that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department should let work of this kind to contractors when it spends thousands of pounds a year to train its own officers to do this specialized work. At the 30th June, 1952, the number of officers in training in various designation groups of the engineering staff was as follows : - Cadet engineers, 170, including 101 attending full-time at universities; cadet draftsmen, 74; Technicians, 1,306; Linemen, 25. I commend the department on the establishment of these training schools. Some of them have been in existence for a long time, but a number of them were founded by the Labour Government during World War II. In view of the fact that the department is training officers to do engineering work, it seems ridiculous to me that some of the work is let to private contractors.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- The honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) has criticized the Postmaster-General’s Department for having let some of its engineering work to private contractors. It has been amply demonstrated in the past that contract work which has been let by the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Department of Works has frequently been performed more cheaply and quickly than it could have been carried out by those departments. A contractor is often able to push ahead with the job, and obtain supplies more quickly, than government departments. Therefore, a great advantage is often gained when the Postmaster-General’s Department has work done by contractors. After all, this department should have sufficient construction work to keep its own employees busy, and warrant the employment of contractors.
The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) is alive to the need for an efficient telephone and mail service in the country districts. He represents a country electorate, and I know that he has given a great deal of time and attention to improving telephone and mail services in rural areas. Many honorable members who represent city electorates do not always appreciate the fact that a telephone is a necessity to a person who resides in the country. It is often a luxury or a convenience to a city dweller. Very often a man who lives in the city and who is without a telephone can use the telephone next door to him. In the country that is not possible. To country people, a telephone is essential. It is essential for use in emergencies such as obtaining the services of a doctor or an ambulance or summoning one’s neighbours to fight a bush fire or a flood. It is also essential in conducting daily business such as ordering supplies. In the country the telephone has taken the place of letter-writing. The art of letter-writing and the need for it has ceased to exist in a large number of cases. Many farmers who do not enjoy a frequent mail service depend on telephone services entirely to communicate with other people. Country telephone services have overcome isolation and loneliness for thousands of Australians. Although the installation of telephones in country areas may not be a financial success the Government should not withhold services for that reason. I urge the Postmaster-General to push ahead with the development of country telephone services. I hope that he has made liberal provision in the Estimates for the installation of country telephones and that automatic exchanges will sbe installed wherever possible. Sometimes those who man local exchanges have to work long hours and they do not receive very encouraging remuneration. Automatic exchanges seem to be required to replace manual exchanges. I hope that the Postmaster-General will also increase the number of hours for which country exchanges operate in order to. assist country subscribers.
I now wish to refer to the subject of trunk-line calls. Country people usually make most of their trunk-line calls at night, after doing their twelve hours’ work. In 1949, the Labour Government abolished the half-rates which had been payable for trunk-line calls, I think, between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. This was a very valuable concession to people who could only use the telephone at night,’
I ask the Postmaster-General to consider introducing the practice which exists in the. United Kingdom where all trunkline calls made after a certain hour are charged for at a fixed rate. I believe that one can ring any part of the United Kingdom at night for about 2s. This system has the tremendous advantage of keeping the telephone exchanges in continuous operation. It enables people to make telephone calls over large distances who normally could not afford to make a trunk-line call. I believe that the introduction of such a system in Australia would help to make the trunk-line services (pay. . I realize that it would not be -practicable to apply a flat rate to trunk:line calls from any part of Australia to another. It is a long way from Canberra to Perth,, for example. It might be possible to introduce such a system on a State basis so that a fixed charge of 2s. or 3s. could be made after 8 or 9 p.m. This would enable people in New South Wales, for example, to telephone friends >or relatives anywhere in that State for (that charge. It would lead to an increase of revenue and would provide a valuable service to many people who to-day cannot afford to make extensive use of trunkline facilities. Frequently, in cases of emergency, people are put to great expense in making long-distance calls. Furthermore, this system, would make for continuous use of our telephone equipment. I believe that in Great Britain it produces a great deal of extra revenue from the telephone services. In my opinion, the proposed vote for the Postal Deparmtent is scarcely adequate in view of ‘‘the’’ many important works that the department must undertake. Therefore, I hope’ that the Treasurer, when he presents his’ budget next year, will increase the provision for the Postal Department so that if will1 be able to press on more expeditiously with the development of all branches of its activities, particularly country telephone and mail services.
– Three important Commonwealth activities are dealt with in the group of- proposed votes now before the committee. I shall direct my remarks principally to the Commonwealth railways,..but I wish to refer briefly first to the work of the Postal Department. I am sure that there are delays in telephone installations in every electorate, but I am happy to acknowledge that the situation has improved recently in the electorate that I represent. The department has been able to satisfy most of the demands for telephone services in the area, . and the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) has opened three new post offices in the district since he has been in office. Work on the construction of two of these buildings commenced before the present Government was elected and there were various delays. The establishment of these post offices has allayed a great deal of dissatisfaction. The new offices are at Ascot Vale, Moonee. Ponds and West Footscray.
I deplore the fact that the committee is expected to consider the proposed votes for the Postal Department, the Commonwealth railways and broadcasting services in the very limited time at its disposal. Honorable members will not be able to do much more than touch on the subjects that they wish to discuss under these headings. As one who has frequently discussed the wages and conditions of employees of the Commonwealth railways with the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner in conferences, and in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, I am glad to be able to say that the relationship that has been established between the Commissioner and the men in recent years is better probably than in any other organization in Australia. The Commonwealth railways may be a comparatively small organization, but it is an extremely important one. I congratulate the Commissioner upon the splendid diesel locomotive service that has been instituted between Port Pirie and Kalgoorlie. As a former Minister for Civil Aviation, I am prejudiced in favour of air travel, but I realize that the airlines are now faced with strong competition from the Commonwealth railways services. I travelled recently between Port Pirie and Kalgoorlie and I found that the train, which has air-conditioning in every compartment, made the trip . comfortable and pleasant. The men who operate the diesel locomotives cover great mileages, but they find that their work is now cleaner and less arduous than it was previously^- Whilst I realize that in this atmosphere it may be rather risky to present what may be regarded as revolutionary ideas, I believe the time has arrived when, this Government should consider taking over the entire railway systems of the Commonwealth. That proposal, I have no doubt, will be regarded by some conservative members on the Government side, and perhaps by some members on this side, as being rather radical and perhaps contrary to the interests of the States; but I remind the committee that for many years before the outbreak of World War II., and in the post-war years, the State railway systems have incurred substantial deficits; This in turn has resulted in endless arguments at Loan Council meetings when State aid has been under consideration. It is time a committee was appointed to examine the possibility of the Commonwealth assuming control of all railways with the object of eliminating the many disabilities that exist under the present divided control. The States have not the money necessary to develop their services adequately. The Spirit of Progress, which was built nearly twenty years ago when Sir Harold Clapp was Commissioner for Railways in Victoria, is still one of the best trains in Australia. It runs into a dead-end station which . is hardly a credit to Melbourne or to the Victorian railway service. It is completely out of date and attention should be given to it as soon as possible.
Recently I was informed that the introduction of diesel-electric locomotives on the run between Melbourne and Adelaide was causing deterioration of the track. The speed of a train is, of course, largely determined by the state of the track. Fortunately, the Commonwealth Commissioner for Railways, Mr. Hannaberry, had the foresight to ensure that the 1,100 miles of line from Port Pirie to Kalgoorlie was in sound ‘condition before introducing diesel-electric locomotives on that run. I understand that since the new train has been operating, it has been necessary to have the bogeys carefully examined at frequent intervals and sometimes altered. Nevertheless, the train is able to make very fast time. It has clipped 24 hours off the time for the run, and in addition, of course, has provided a much higher standard of comfort than was enjoyed in days gone by. The introduction of diesel-electric locomotives has raised another matter ;of great importance. I refer to the need for imported fuel. Whilst that must be regarded as a disadvantage, om the other side of the ledger the repair bill has been reduced remarkably. Boiler troubles on the steam locomotives which formerly hauled the Trans-Australian train were regarded as the worst in the world. Those troubles were due primarily to t the unsuitability of the water. There is no permanent water course between Port Pirie and Kalgoorlie, and it was necessary to use mostly bore water which, did1, tremendous damage to the boilers. In fact, 83 per cent, of the repair bills for the t locomotives were due to boilertroubles. That heavy expense has now” ended. Mr. Hannaberry has .accomplished great work. I recall that when *he** and his staff visited this Parliament .when the Chifley Government was in office,. I was surprised at the lack of interest displayed by honorable members opposite in his efforts to have diesel-electric locomotives introduced on the TransAustralian railway. Admittedly, from .a national point of view, the Commonwealth railways during , the war were a failure. It is true that they were able to carry large numbers of passengers .from one si.de of the continent to the other, but, due to the single line, to . move a division of troops across Australia, Would have taken six weeks. . It could be, done more rapidly now,, probably in a month When the. second Australian Imperial Force returned to this country from Africa, an attempt was made to move it across the continent on the TransAustralian line, but. we found that we could not do so in anything like a reasonable time. I can disclose now that the Government decided that the convoy which had brought the men to Australia should be used to take them to the eastern States, The ships travelled to a point about 200 miles south of Tasmania and then caine up the Tasman Sea. ‘ There were otherreasons for that decision which’ I cannot disclose at this juncture, but it would1 have been impossible to move the men in a’ ‘reasonable time on the TransAustralian line.’ We should always beanin mind the defence significance of tires line; . I do not wish to dissuade the people from travelling by air, which is a much more rapid method of travel than rail transport, but I venture to say that anybody who crosses this continent on the Trans- Australian line now will find that the service is as good as that in any other part of Australia.
T am looking forward to the time when railway gauge standardization has been achieved in this country. Sir Harold Olapp and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. “Ward), when he was Minister for Transport, did a very good job in paving the way for gauge standardization. Unfortunately, the attitude of this Government is that there is not enough money available to do all that is required to be done in that field, although, from the viewpoint of national development, nothing would bring greater rewards than a continuation of the standardization policy evolved by Sir Harold Clapp and the honorable member for East Sydney. A standard-gauge line from Stirling North to Leigh Creek is under construction. Although some of the men working on the old line will have to be transferred from Quorn because the new line will by-pass that town and go round the western side of Flinders Range, I believe the royal commission which considered the matter made a justifiable and creditable finding. Work on the new line is proceeding very we’ll. I hope that eventually the standard-guage railway will be taken beyond Leigh Creek to Alice Springs. With diesel locomotives, the journey to Alice Springs would be a pleasure trip.
Last year the Trans-Australian line made a profit of £57,000. That was the first time in its history that it made any profit. Except at each end of the line, there is really no population in the areas through which it passes. Notwithstanding the long distances involved and tha high fares that have to be charged, the line is now a paying proposition, although at one time everybody laughed at the idea that it could ever make a profit. I advance the suggestion that this Government or its successor should investigate the possibility of the Commonwealth taking over some railway services now operated by the .States. I believe that the Commonwealth would be in a better position than the States to do what was necessary to make those services efficient and profitable. Railway finance has always been a bone of contention. When I was appearing in the Victorian industrial courts on behalf of Victorian railwaymen between 1918 and 1920, the men were paid 2s. 9d. a week less than- the basic wage. As a result, the railways were able to save millions of pounds on wages. The men’s wages and working conditions were kept at the minimum level because the railways were losing money. They will always lose money if they are operated as they are at present.
I believe that if we made up our minds to utilize civil aviation as a means to develop sparsely settled areas first, and to build railways in those areas later, when we coud afford to do so, we should do a very good thing for Australia. Having said that, let me say that I feel I should not be doing justice to the Commonwealth railways if I did not pay a tribute to the splendid work accomplished, not only by Mr. Hannaberry but also by his very excellent staff, which is tremendously enthusiastic and very competent. By using civil aviation services, we might be able to solve the financial problems of our railways, and, at the same time, develop sparsely populated areas, especially those north of the 26th parallel of latitude. I see no way of developing those areas except by using first the weapon that we have perfected in the form of civil aviation and then building railways. I hope my suggestion will be considered by the Government.
.- In a debate that has been characterized, not so much by attention to the details of the Estimates as by a general discussion of parochial matters, the speech of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) has been outstanding for the fact that he has brought the debate back to its proper subject. He has made a very constructive speech, and one that honorable members would be glad to hear on any occasion. On the other hand, the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) put his views before the committee yesterday in a manner that he described as impartial, but which would certainly not be so described by honorable members on this side of the chamber. His approach to the matter under discussion was similar to the approach of a Sydney rugby fan to the qualities of Australian Rules football. There appear to be some honorable members in this chamber who are prepared to cross political barriers to argue on some matters, but I do not intend to develop that subject. The honorable member for Grayndler spoke of telephone shortages, in a manner more eloquent than informative, and demanded that this Government should increase its provision of all such services. Let us bring this matter into its proper perspective, and consider the facts. In 1949, when the present Government took over the administration of the Postal Department, there were shortages of telephones. No doubt we arc short of thousands of telephones at present, but at the time that the Government assumed office we were short of hundreds of thousands.
At the time the last Labour Government relinquished office, materials, labour and money were not available to extend telephone services. Moreover, the inflationary forces that had been released by the Labour Administration were beginning to be strongly felt. Then again, after the Korean war broke out in the middle of 1950, almost all the nations of the world began a frantic stockpiling of all kinds of materials. Many of those goods were the kind that were badly needed by the Postal Department. In spite of all these difficulties, this Government has managed steadily to increase all our postal and telephone services, and the increase is still proceeding. The activities of the Government in steadily removing controls have increased business activities throughout the community, and have consequently stimulated the demand for telephones and postal services which had been restricted and controlled by Labour policy. In the face of all those difficulties, the Postal Department has done an excellent job. It has maintained and consistently improved the services that it renders to the community. Its work in country districts has been particularly gratifying, because ultimately we all depend upon rural industries. The Government has concentrated upon the installation of automatic exchanges and duplex telephones throughout the country, and these actions have markedly improved our rural service.
Now, strangely enough for a debate of this kind, I desire to refer to the Estimates themselves. Many significant tendencies are revealed in these documents. I shall consider my own State of Victoria first. According to the Estimates, the money to be expended on telephone exchange services in Victoria will be increased by about £144,000, and on trunkline services by about £40,000. All the other services which contribute to the telephone and telegraph system will show a steady financial improvement. Another significant feature is that the amount to be made available for non-official post offices in Victoria has been increased by about £60,000. That again is a real contribution towards the solution of a prob-lem which, on other occasions, many honorable members have been inclined to attack from a. purely academic and theoretical view-point. Therefore, it will be plainly seen that this Government has made practical contributions towards the provision of adequate services for all thicommunity. Moreover, provision has been made in some cases for a reduction of costs. For instance, the estimate of the cost of stores and material is less than the amount provided last year by about £580,000. Honorable members will therefore perceive that this Government is providing for increased services, and at the same time is making a real attempt to reduce expenses.
Another very gratifying feature of the Estimates is that expenditure in the Northern Territory is estimated to increase by about 12-£ per cent. I am sure that the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) will agree with me that that is a very pleasing feature of this Government’s activities. Returning again to the estimates for Victoria, the total of general expenses has been estimated to amount to £1,971,000. There are nine items detailed under the heading of general expenses. They are items such as travelling and subsistence, fuel, light and power, water supply and sanitation, and so on. Incidental and other expenditure is shown as an estimated £100,000. That is a little more than 5 per cent, of the total of “ general expenses which is a very appreciable amount. I refer honorable members to a summary of the Estimates for the whole department, as shown at page 107. In section B - general expenses - the provision for incidental and expenditure is shown as £378,700. I am not in a position to say that this expenditure should be itemized to a great degree, because I realize that eventually a point must arrive beyond which further dissection becomes uneconomic, but this large amount should be carefully considered by the committee. I do suggest that details of the proposed expenditure of sums of money amounting to some hundreds of thousands of pounds should be given.
I now refer honorable members to Division No. 241 of the Estimates. There we see an estimate of £730,000 for the maintenance of buildings under the control of the Department of “Works. I do not know what that means, and 1 venture to suggest that not many honorable members do know. Here is a department for which the Government intends to provide nearly £69,000,000, and obviously it must carry on a huge and extensive service .throughout the country. Yet, in its estimates of expenditure, it must provide for £730,000 for work which will be done by another department. I think that some consideration should be given to that matter, because with a department of this size it is logical to assume that facilities and men are available within the department itself to carry out such maintenance and repair work. I draw attention to the matter only because there has been a great deal of criticism concerning overlapping by Government departments. I do not know whether overlapping or inefficiency results from this practice, but I think that some consideration should be given to it.
I invite attention to the proposed vote for the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– It needs some attention, too.
– I am loath to agree with the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), but in this instance I am afraid there is no alternative. In the latest report of the Auditor-General, in respect of broadcasting services, honorable members will see the following comment : -
Expenditure on broadcasting services exceeded receipts for the year 1952-53 by an amount of £952,366, compared with £1,581,377 in 1951-52 . . .
I suggest that that comment indicates a disturbing state of affairs. Losses of such magnitude justify examination. I also wish to refer to the manner in which incidental expenditure is shown in the accounts of the commission. In this instance, the total amount is not large, but it is significant in proportion to the total expenses of the commission. In Division 242, under “ B - General Expenses “ - honorable members will see a total of £11,500. Proposed expenditure in respect of incidental and other expenses is £4,500. In other words, approximately 40 per cent, of the general expenses of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board are shown as incidental and other expenditure. Then, in Division £243, which relates to the Australian Broadcasting Commission under “ B - General Expenses “ - the total shown is £70,500, of which incidental and other expenditure will account for £21,800, or approximately 30 per cent. I hope that this method of accounting will be examined and that, in future, the Parliament will be provided with more information” concerning these items of incidental and other expenditure.
– -The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis) has referred to incidental expenditure of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and, I understand by inference, he is dissatisfied with the scope of that expenditure and its relationship to the total expenditure of the commission. I wish to give the honorable member some consolation in this respect. I know that this commission, this august body, is often subjected to keen and tenacious criticism, but I wish to give credit where credit is due. To me, that is a. cardinal rule of public policy and one which should animate our motives and actions at all times and in all places. I wish to give credit to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I have in front of me a most important document which marks the end of an era. It is a document with an extraordinary significance to the public life of the Commonwealth. Throughout history, other such documents have appeared from time to time, such as the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Human Rights, and the Declaration of Independence. This document, which T have here, is most momentous and comparable, in its effect on the Public Service, with the other great documents of history. It is entitled “ Memo to all Members of the Staff - Staff Refreshments - Morning, Lunch and Afternoon Teas “. I should like honorable members to know that this document consists of two pages of limpid, precise and lucid prose. It is a masterpiece of literature. I can imagine the writer going into the throes of intense literary labour to produce this gem with which to divert the attention of honorable members from incidental expenses. The first paragraph reads as follows : -
The Commission’s attention has been drawn to the fact that this is the only Commonwealth instrumentality which provides morning and afternoon teas to the staff free of charge. Recent investigations-
Which, presumably, were long and arduous - in all States and Head Office have revealed that the cost of tea, milk and sugar, replacement of cups and saucers has now reached substantial proportions. In addition, considerable expenditure has been incurred in providing the basic equipment associated with the establishment of kitchen facilities; these expenses, however, have not been taken into account when assessing the total cost of this staff amenity, as they are of a non-recurring nature.
The Commonwealth Government has issued a directive known as the “ Approved Standards of Amenities and Principles Governing’ the Provision Pood Services in Commonwealth Offices “.
Surely the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) is not going to permit these presumptuous varlets and minions, in a document of this nature, to refer to a Cabinet directive? Stalin issued a directive when the five-year plan was inaugurated. Presumably Napoleon also issued a directive to his troops before Waterloo, and of course Nelson, at the Battle of Trafalgar, issued the. famous directive, “ England expects every officer and man to do his duty”.
It will be noted that, in order to preserve the proper air of decorum and the correct atmosphere, this directive has been issued in accordance with certain principles concerning food services. It continues -
Members of the staff provided with morning and afternoon tea will be charged a fiat rate of ls. per week. The minimum charge of ls. per week will be made in any instance where members of the staff prefer to have only one cup of tea daily, that is, morning lunch or afternoon tea. The charge of one shilling and sixpence (ls. 6d.) per week will be made where members of the staff, although not requiring regular lunch-time tea, desire it occasionally.
I can see the wisdom of these departures from the ordinary rule. It does immense credit to the Government that it has devoted so much time and effort to this, but m case the position is not clear let us get on to the footnote which appears at the bottom of the section of the document. It reads -
This charge is slightly more than Id. pel cup and is the lowest possible amount that the Commission can charge to conform with the principles laid down by the Commonwealth Government.
These painstaking instructions are issued in .accordance with the principles enunciated by the Government. If this docu- ment is analysed correctly it is obviously a subtle attack on the Cabinet and the Postmaster-General. These men of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which is more or less a semi-government instrumentality, say that this mammoth literary production of theirs was issued “ to conform with the principles laid down by the Commonwealth Govern ment “ - oh blessed word, “ principles “. That must be a consolation to all. I should like to hear from the PostmasterGeneral what these principles are. The next section of the document appears under the heading “Authority to deduct from salary”. It reads -
The “ Authority to Deduct from Salary * form, which is attached, is to be signed and forwarded to A.C.A.P. by members of the staff who wish to continue to be provided with tea.
I am not prepared to guess the meaning of the initials A.C.A.F. But in this dismal story there is one bright spot. It appears under the heading “ Visitors1 - ;Official and Personal “, and reads -
No charge is to be made for tea supplied to ‘ visitors.
A really bright spot on the horizon ! The term “ visitors “ would include the PostmasterGeneral, the pundits, and the professors, world without end, who seem to haunt and have free access at all times to that abode of culture, the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It would also include the archaeologists, the punks, and authorities generally, who throng the air, much to the mortification of the listeners who turn the knob. It would include those orators of public renown who roam all over the globe and send us to the arms of Morpheus every time they inflict themselves on the atmosphere. And we provide them with free tea !
Then we come to the next gem, which appears under the heading “ Recreation Leave, Sick Leave, &c”, and reads -
What a gem to come from the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the repository of all the culture and refinement to be found in the Commonwealth ! The next section of the document appears under the heading “ Public Holidays “, and reads -
Public holidays count as leave for the purpose of applying the above paragraph.
Then we have a section headed “ Travelling “, which reads, in part -
Magna Carta and Captain Cook’s diary! I would not say that this document, merits inclusion in the Commonwealth’s archives, but it certainly requires framing in the beautiful, modern telephone exchange that is being erected opposite to the Hotel Kurrajong in Canberra. The next section, under the heading “ Rostered Staff “, reads-
That section impinges on the arena of activities of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), who is recognized throughout Australia as an authority on industrial determinations. The statement in the document is definite enough. The section reads further -
Perish the thought! but there would be other occasions’ when they might receive less than two cups and consequently over a period it is reasonable to assume-
Now this is the result of an acute process of logical deduction - that these employees will receive an average of ten cups of tea weekly.
If this gross waste does not demanda royal commission I do not know what does. The Australian Broadcasting Commission, which shows such an outstandingly consistent series of losses, and the incidental and other expenses incurred by which are so high, incurs programme expenses to cover music and variety, drama and features, public relations and publicity, and general programme expenses. The last item, which is so delightfully vague, cost £655,110 in 1952-53.
But to return to our muttons and the cup of tea. We now come to the final gem of all, which is headed “ Coffee “, and reads -
This instruction does not contemplate the supply of coffee or other alternative.
I am sure that the Postmaster-General will realise the seriousness of this, because, like me, he is a man of the world. We both know the limitations of human nature, which is both simple and complex. I shall display the gem once more so that it may again dazzle honorable members. It reads -
This instruction does not contemplate the supply of coffee or other alternative.
Air. Bird. - What, no cocoa?
– No cocoa, no wine, no beer, no coffee that contains caffeine that might stimulate the mental process of those who are responsible for our daily broadcasting programmes. The final section, which appears under the heading of “ Observance of these Instructions “ reads -
In any building where canteen assistants are employed it is regretted that it will not he permissible for staff to supply and make their own tea.
No fear! The document is signed -
.- The contribution of the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens) has certainly achieved some success in lightening the burden of this extremely arduous, and, at times, apparently uninteresting debate. If it were not for the fact that the honorable gentleman concluded his speech by quoting the name of the person who signed the document, I should have been tempted to believe that it was something that had emanated from his own brain, because it is so typical of his efforts in this chamber. In order to understand fully the accounts of the Postal Department it is necessary to know that they are rendered in two sections. One section consists of the proposed vote that is submitted to us for approval here, and the other is given in the department’s annual report, which contains a. resume, of the department’s commercial accounts. It is impossible for honorable members to appreciate the present and projected activities of the department from the bald figures given in the Estimates. Honorable members would more clearly understand the activities of the Post Office if they had the report and accounts of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in their possession. I do not know whether it is possible to do so, but I suggest that the objective should be to supply honorable members with those reports early enough to enable them to study them, before the Estimates are presented.
I have managed to secure figures covering the financial activities of the Postal Department in the different States.
Western Australia has vast spaces and a sparse population, and one might expect that the operations of the Postal Department in that State and particularly the telephone branch would be out of balance. I was astonished to discover, however, that the financial returns of the Postal Department in Western Australia compare favorably with those in the other States. In 3951-52, Western Australia was one of only three States that returned a profit on the operating costs of the telephone system. New South Wales and Victoria were the other two States in that category. A study of the figures leads me to wonder what policy is adopted in providing essential services, such as Postal Department facilities, in Australia. T should like to be sure that the dominating factor in providing telephone and other services to Western Australia and the outback areas is the need of the people, but the figures that I have studied make me suspect that the commercial side of the undertaking is the major consideration. I am not happy about that. Western Australia is frequently charged with being a burden upon the Commonwealth. The charge can be refuted, but Western Australia still has to accept the unsatisfactory position under which financial results appear to be the principal factor when the extension of essential services is under consideration. The operating costs of the telephone service in Western Australia reflect credit upon the operating staff. Many of the members of that staff work under extremely difficult conditions but with a high sense of loyalty. There mav be some inefficiency but that is a matter for administrative checking. Through fire, flood and storm, the members of the telephone operating staff are always at their posts and they have set a high standard. I believe that they, like the average workers in every section of employment, will do good work if provided with adequate tools and given encouragement.
A.n honorable member has spoken of the activities of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The principal complaint in connexion with the commission’s services in Western Australia is that there is not sufficient local autonomy in the presentation of radio programmes. The programmes that are broadcast in
Western Australia appear to be completely subject to the will of the commission, and I would welcome a statement by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) to the contrary if that is not the case. The needs of Western Australia appear to be subservient to the radio requirements of the eastern States. The programmes lack flexibility, and advantage is not taken of topical local activities that would be suitable for radio broadcasting in Western Australia. The Australian Broadcasting Commission sidesteps them, however, so that broadcasts from the eastern States may be put on the air as scheduled. Often they are of no interest to Western Australia, but they are broadcast there because the land line is scheduled to be used for the purpose. I believe that the Australian Broadcasting Commission uses the land line too extensively instead of relying on material that is available in Western Australia. The time schedule for certain broadcasts is also unsatisfactory. In this respect, I instance the re-broadcast of questions without notice in the Parliament. That re-broadcast is made in the eastern States at 7.25 p.m., which is a good listening time, but in Western Australia it is made at 5 p.m., when most people are travelling to or from work, housewives are busy in the kitchen preparing the evening meal and people in rural districts are out on their farms. T can see no reason why that re-broadcast could not be made to Western Australian listeners at the same hour as it is made in the eastern States. I mention that re-broadcast simply as an instance of the way in which the desires of listeners in Western Australia are subordinated to those of listeners in the eastern States. Disadvantages of the kind that I have indicated can be overcome by giving to the commission’s management in Western Australia greater control over the programmes in that State. The local management, which has first-hand knowledge of local requirements, could then substitute broadcasts of real local interest for broadcasts which, while they may be of interest to listeners in the eastern States, are of no interest to listeners in Western Australia. I urge the PostmasterGeneral to see whether it is possible to decentralize control of pro- grammes in order to achieve the objective that I have indicated. If that vere done, greater interest would be taken by Western Australians in broadcasts that are made from national stations in that State.
– I address myself to the proposed vote for the Postmaster-General’s Department. I refer particularly to the need for extending departmental services in country districts. I make a plea for a new deal, a fairer deal, for residents in the rural areas and in remote districts not only in my own electorate but also throughout Australia. In the main, representations that are made to the department are made on behalf of residents in densely populated areas. Those people enjoy many privileges and opportunities that are unknown to primary producers, who produce the great bulk of the wealth of this country. I commend the standard of service that is rendered by the Postmaster-General’s Department, and the efficiency and courtesy of its employees. I also acknowledge with pleasure the fact that departmental officials invariably give careful consideration to representations that I make from time to time on matters affecting the interests of my electorate. Of course, my representations, like those that are made by other honorable members, are not always granted. Indeed, the reverse is generally the case. But that is due to the fact that the Government is starving this department, which is as much a victim of this Government’s policy as the people as a whole are victims of its maladministration and false economic policies. I sympathize with the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) in his unfortunate lot in trying to administer this department as a member of a government which is totally deaf to the real needs of the people as a whole. Whilst I pay tribute to the department in a general way for the work that it is trying to do, I remind the committee that the majority of the projects which the department now has under way were initiated by the Chifley Labour Government and would have been completed if that Government had remained in office. However, we cannot expect this department, after the Government has sacked 5,000 of its employees, to implement a 100 per cent, programme of extending postal and telephone services as they should he extended throughout this country.
Two instances in my electorate provide stark evidence of the inability of the Postmaster-General to’ undertake works that have been not only recommended by the department and the Public Works Committee, but also approved by the Parliament. The Public Works Committee recommended that a new telephone exchange should be constructed at Bathurst. That committee made the recommendation after it had exhaustively considered existing unsatisfactory conditions and tho urgent need for expanding telephone services in the district. In spite of the findings of that committee, and regardless of the cost that its investigation involved, as well as the fact that the Parliament actually approved of the project, no attempt has yet been made to undertake that work. On the contrary, the department now proposes to provide a temporary telephone exchange at Bathurst. I take this opportunity to protest against that decision on behalf of all sections of the community in that area, particularly on behalf of the Bathurst City Council, the Chamber of Commerce, the local branch of the Australian Labour party . and other representative bodies which have complained bitterly that whilst they are to be denied a modern permanent telephone exchange, at the same time, the department plans to incur substantial expenditure in the provision of a temporary exchange. I deplore also the failure of the Government to honour its promise that it would build a new post office at Katoomba for which purpose land was resumed some time ago to the great inconvenience of its owners. Apparently, the Government does not intend to go ahead with that work at present. I endorse the commendation of the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) of the work of employees of the Postal Department. I pay tribute to the service that is being rendered to the community not only by postmasters and their staffs but also by employees in telephone exchanges, mailmen and members of the staffs of all branches of the department. Many of that personnel are obliged to work under undesirable conditions which should be rectified without delay.
From time to time I have made representations to the Postmaster-General emphasizing the need to provide more telephones in country areas in my electorate. I shall refer to one instance in particular in which the claims of the district have been ignored in spite of urgent representations that I have made. The Progress Association at Fremantle, which is situated about 13 miles from Bathurst, and the residents of which are in the main, primary producers, offered to construct a telephone line for a distance of 25 miles provided that the department would provide five miles of telephone line to connect the district to the Bathurst exchange. In spite of the civic spirit that prompted those primary producers to make that offer, the department said that it was prepared to provide a telephone line for a distance of only two miles 43 chains. That is a paltry attitude for the Postal Department to adopt, particularly having regard to the huge revenues that it derives from the community. I again protest against that decision. Even at this eleventh hour, I trust that the Postmaster-General will reconsider that matter and. recognize the injustice of such treatment of civicminded people. I point out that a mail service is provided to that district only three times weekly. In the absence of telephonic communication and adequate mail services, it is almost impossible to contact residents in that area. That is typical of the services which the department provides for those who live in country districts. I could cite many similar examples, but because of the limitation of time I do not want to deal at length with domestic affairs. I have brought these matters before the committee because of their importance to country people and because it is my duty to ventilate them in this chamber.
I refer now to the charges made for telegrams. The Postmaster-General is aware that because of the high charges imposed for telegrams, the number of telegrams despatched from post offices throughout Australia has decreased alarmingly. In this respect the Government is indeed pricing itself out of its own business. Many people do not now send telegrams because they are too costly. The Government should come to grips with this problem. It should reduce the charge and encourage the people to make greater use of this service. By so doing it would ensure the retention in the Postal Department of highly skilled staffs. I have been informed that, because of the policy of the Government in increasing telegram charges, there are likely to be retrenchments in the Postal Department.
I pay a tribute to the PostmasterGeneral and his officers for the work that they have accomplished, including the underground installation of cables and the improvements they have made in a number of fields of activity. I appeal to him to improve postal, telegraph and telephone facilities in country areas, because if we do not do the right thing for country people and those who live in the outback we shall fail the nation.
– I thank the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) for the tribute which he has paid to me and to the staff of my department for the things that we have attempted to accomplish under what have been, at times, very difficult conditions. I also thank the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) for his appreciative reference to the fact that the department has erected two or three post offices in his electorate. These welcome references underline the fact that the Postal Department is discharging its functions on a completely non-partisan basis. All applications for services or improved services, including the construction of new exchanges, post office buildings and the like, and the provision of communication facilities, are dealt with on the basis not of party politics but of the needs of the people in the areas concerned.
– The Department is doing quite a lot of work in my electorate for which I am grateful.
– I thank the honorable member for that observation. Although we are unable to satisfy everybody, I think it will be generally admitted that the department is administered and carries out its functions in a very fair manner.
I shall cite figures to demonstrate that the department is catching up with its arrears of work. Because of the large number of outstanding applications for telephone services the department was forced to adopt a system of priorities, based on comparative needs, having regard to the particular profession or business of the applicant, and with due regard to the special circumstances of those who require telephone communications on medical grounds. The system adopted in Australia is almost exactly identical with the system in vogue in the United Kingdom, the United States of America and New Zealand. It might be thought by some persons that in a highly industrialized and progressive country like the United States of America a potential telephone subscriber had only to approach the Bell Telephone Company or the National Telephone Company and ask for a telephone connexion to be provided and a telephone would be installed within a few days. That is not so. The delay in the installation of telephones in the United States of America may not be quite as great as it is in Australia but it is fairly considerable. Those two operating companies in the United States of America apply a system of priorities almost identical with that adopted in Australia. Delays in telephone installations in most countries occur because people have become communication conscious, particularly in the field of rapid communication. During the last two or three years the population of Australia has increased by approximately 10 per cent., but the proportionate demand for communication services has increased, not in ratio to the increase of the population but by approximately 33 per cent. Not only is there a demand for services of all kind.-, to meet the requirements of the additional population but also there is a tremendously increased demand for communication facilities by the older elements of the population. That experience is fairly common throughout the world. People are more alert and wish to be informed » more promptly on all kinds of matters - business, social and international affairs - than was the case in former years. These greatly increased demands have imposed new strains upon the communication services provided by the Postal Department. 1 shall give to honorable members an indication of the efforts that we have made to meet the additional demands. At the 30th June, 1949, when a Labour Government was in office, outstanding applications for telephone services numbered 128,000. By the 30th June, 1953, we had been able to reduce the number of outstanding applications to 59,000. That, I think, is a very worthwhile accomplishment. In the three-year period prior to the assumption of office of the Menzies Government in 1949, the Labour Government installed 172,000 telephones.
– Can the Minister furnish the committee with figures in relation to the number of outstanding applicants in each State?
– I cannot furnish those figures offhand, but I know that the largest number of outstanding applications is in New South Wales. As I have already mentioned, the preceding Labour Government, during its last three years of office, installed 172,000 telephones, compared with 274,000 telephones that have been installed since this Government came to office. It is therefore evident that we are making a determined effort to overcome the lag in installation of telephones.
– Do those figures relate to the number of additional telephones that have been installed?
– Yes. In the last three years, in an effort to cope with public demand, we have installed 274,000 telephones. I shall now give to the committee some information about the progress that has been made in the installation of duplex telephone services. During the previous Labour Government’s entire period of office, only 500 duplex telephones were installed. I have made special efforts to persuade the people to accept the duplex system, under which two telephone subscribers share one set of lines. As honorable members are aware, the duplex system is entirely different from the party-line system. Under the duplex system, each subscriber enjoys complete secrecy in relation to his tele phone conversations. When one subscriber to a duplex system is speaking through the telephone the subscriber who shares the service with him cannot hear what he is saying. The only shortcoming of the duplex system is that if one person is using the telephone the other person cannot use his telephone until the line is clear.
– Does the Minister mean the line to the exchange ?
– Yes. The duplex system provides an exclusive service, with the exception that both parties cannot use their telephones at the one time.
– One person’s telephone is “ dead “ when the other party is using his?
– Yes. I point out that, on an average, the great majority of the users of private telephones make less than two outward calls a day. Why, therefore, should not two private telephone subscribers share one set of lines’? During the last three years we have made every effort to extend the duplex system, and there are now about 31,000 duplex telephones in use in Australia. It is true that, in some instances, when a private telephone subscriber has been informed that the department intends to permit another subscriber to share his line, by means of the duplex system, strenuous protests have been made. However, after the system has been in operation for a relatively short period, no further protests have been received.
Some honorable members who represent country constituencies have made representations for the provision of additional rural automatic telephone exchanges. This kind of exchange provides a most important amenity in country areas. When I became Postmaster-General 1 found that only 200 rural automatic telephone exchanges had been installed since the department was established. Since, this Government has been in office, about 400 additional rural automatic telephone exchanges have been installed. It therefore clear that we have installed more of such exchanges than did all previous administrations combined. That is a remarkable achievement. The residents of many country district* throughOUt Australia are now provided with a ; continuous telephone service. Formerly they could not make telephone calls after 6 ,p.m. on week days> or on Saturdays, Sundays, lana public holidays. In areas, where it has not yet-been practicable to ; install ! rural automatic, telephone exchanges; wherever’ possible we have extended the1 hours of operation of the existing exchanges. In some instances we have,,. been compelled, .through financial considerations,- to continue. to provide only a. restricted service, but our decision in relation to areas, in which .the, hours of service shall be extended have .not always been dictated by . such, considerations. Honorable members will appreciate that the department is unable to extend the hours of service in every instance in which it would like to do so. It must be borne in mind1 that it would hot be equitable to provide a concession in one district and not’ in another district with similar problems’. Therefore the department adopts a Ut ifform -approach to1 ;the’ matter. ‘ Honorable members will be’ pleased to hear’ that a’ continuous telephone service is now provided to’ 83 per cent, of all country subscribers’.- That is a’ most satisfactory state of affairs. ‘ As time goes -on -we hope t.0 improve the position still’ further.
I, come now. to the matter pf the provision joi’ public telephones^ This, is a most important consideration in city and industrial . areas. I am sure that it will be conceded, readily,, that the provision of a public telephone, conveniently located to a number of residents who cannot, afford private telephones, is very desirable. While1 1’ do not wish ‘to ‘refle’ct ‘ upon the administration of the previous Labour Government, because’ it also was confronted with difficulties in relation to the availability of labour ‘ and materials, the average number of public telephones that was established ‘ in each of the last three years of Labour’s administration was 750. The average number qf public telephones that has ‘been ‘installed in each year of this Government’s’ term of office is approximately 1,0’pO. Therefore it’ is obvious that we ‘have unproved greatly” on the efforts of .the previous administration in tins connexion.
Although . we hope, to reduce progressively, the lag in-, -the . provision of telephone .services., generally, I., remind honorable members that our ability to do so will be governed to a degree by the number of additional applications received.
– Has the department made any progress in the installation of multi-coin trunk line public telephones ?
– We have installed quite a number of such telephones, and we intend to install more as time goes on.
– There . is much demand for that facility.
– Yes, they are very useful. The department recognizes that the existence of such a facility -may obviate the necessity for persons who wish to make trunk-line telephone calls to travel considerable distances to post offices.
Last evening the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) referred to retrenchment in the Postal Department. After Mr. Chippindall, the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, gave evidence recently before the Public Accounts Committee, some newspapers published articles under scare headlines to the effect that there was. going to be retrenchment of staff in the telegraph section of the department. That is completely incorrect, and is not in line with the evidence that was given by the DirectorGeneral before the committee. He did not make any such statement. The misconception in the mind of the honorable member for Banks was apparently caused by an incorrect newspaper headline. The chairman of the committee subsequently made it clear that Mr. Chippindall had not made a statement to the committee in the terms that were defined. Actually, the volume of telegraph business is showing no evidence of further decline. Therefore, telegraphists and operators who may have been anxious about the security of their jobs are not threatened by the present circumstances of the department. Of course most telegraphists know that telegraph traffic, if not actually increasing, is at least holding fairly well. The reason for the decline of telegraph traffic in this country is also present in other countries. The people are now using the airmail services to a very much greater degree than formerly. I point out that an airmail letter that is posted in Sydney at night is delivered in Melbourne first thing the following morning, and for the purpose of the writer, that would be almost as quick as a telegram. The use of the trunk line telephone services is increasing tremendously, and they have improved out of sight. Thousands of additional trunk line channels have been installed in the last two or three years, and this has improved the rapidity of the service in almost every part of Australia. The delay between Sydney and Melbourne is only a matter of a few minutes, and immediate service is given to a big percentage of the calls. Because of the improved trunk-line channels and telephone, services, a great many more people are diverting their business from the telegraph section, which they have used previously, to the trunk-line system. In short, air mail services and improved trunk line telephone services have affected the business of the telegraph section in general, but not to such a degree as to affect the prospects of security in employment for telegraphists and operators.
The honorable member for Banks was an officer of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department before he had the misfortune to be elected to the House of Representatives. He is conversant with happenings in the department, and with the requirements, and, therefore, I pay special attention to his comments. He has suggested the reintroduction of the service which enabled the public to telegraph birthday, Christmas and Easter greetings on attractively coloured forms. The honorable gentleman will be gratified to learn that this matter has been under consideration for a long time, and I believe that some new, colourful telegram forms will be introduced for the coming Christmas. I hope that these attractive forms will stimulate the use of the telegraph by the public to convey greetings to their relatives and friends.
– Can air mail letter forms be made more attractive ?
– I have been dissatisfied for a long time with the form of the air lettergram. Its appearance has been very drab, and I am glad to inform honorable members that an improvement is to be made. The difficulty has been to get the necessary , printing done. Printing for the Postmaster.-General’s Department is undertaken usually DY the Commonwealth Note Issue -Printer, and he has been handicapped, so he says, because, his equipment has not been capable of doing the job that we wanted. However, the necessary equipment has now been obtained, and I. hope that air lettergram forms similar to those in use in the United Kingdom and. other parts. of the world will be available to the public within a short time. ,
The honorable member for Calare (Mf. Howse) has suggested that ‘‘a uniform rate should be charged for trunk-line telephone calls after certain hours. Tha’t matter has been examined. We are aware of the system in operation in’ the United Kingdom, but I point out. that Australia has difficulties and complexities that do not arise in .Great Britain. The honorable member recognizes that it is impossible to introduce a uniform rate of charge for interstate trunk-line calls, or longdistance calls, but he has suggested that consideration be given to. the introduction of regional systems in which flat rates will apply. That matter has ,also been examined many, .times, and I regret that, for reasons which I need npt discuss now, I cannot hold out much hope that the system will be introduced. However, th,matter has not been ignored.
The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis) ‘has referred to the maintenance of buildings owned by the. PostmasterGeneral’s .Department, .and has asked whether it is fair and proper that the department should . be charged approximately £750,000 for work that, is carried out by the Department of Works. This question involves a patter of policy which has been approved by governments for a long time, the effect of which is that Commonwealth work is carried out by the appropriate’ department which is specially equipped to do it. I consider that the suggestion of the honorable, member for Deakin contains a deal of ‘ merit. When I was in New Zealand two or three years ago, I examined the system in operation there and “found that ‘the department has its own gangs’, which” paint post offices and . do all sorts of small jobs in order to maintain the structures in an excellent state of repair. The New Zealand department does not undertake major construction works. In my view, that system is more effective than the one in operation in Australia. I had the matter examined on my return, but the labour difficulties at that time were such that the system could not be introduced here. However, I believe that this Parliament, the Government or I will have to devote further attention to the matter, because I consider that the New Zealand method is more effective than our present system of maintaining post offices in a proper state of repair. The New South “Wales Department of Education employs its own gangs which travel from school to school and repair the buildings and give them a face-lift with a coat of paint.
– The New South Wales Department of Railways employs its own gangs to maintain railway property.
– I am not suggesting that the Postmaster-General’s Department should undertake big building projects, because it has not the requisite engineering, architectural and designing staffs for such a purpose. Large construction works can be more appropriately handled at the present time by the Department of Works. However, I believe that consideration must be given to the proposal of the honorable member for Deakin for the maintenance of the property of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
– The incoming Labour Government will examine the matter next year.
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) assured us that the Labour party would return to office in 1949 and 1951. Now he assures us that the Labour party will be the incoming government in 1954. The honorable member at least has the virtue of being consistent when .he makes that particular promise. It must be a source of profound regret to him that it is beyond his power to give effect to his promise.
– When will the Minister answer the matters that I have raised?
– I devoted the major part of my reply to answering the matters raised by the honorable member for Grayndler, but he was absent from the chamber at the time.
The honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens) made an amusing speech about a direction given to the staff of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Of course, if an honorable member likes to analyse a stiffly starched official document line by line and word by word, and select from it some parts to suit himself, he can be most entertaining. However, the simple fact is that the Australian Broadcasting Commission considers that its employees should observe the same amenities and conditions as apply to members of the Public Service generally, whether they are officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, the Department of Social Services, or any other department. In short, the document points out that members of the staff of the Australian Broadcasting Commission who have morning tea should pay for it. I agree with that view. I subscribe to a small tea club run by members of my own staff, ‘ and if I get a little behind with my payments to the fund, I simply do not get a cup of tea. If I have a visitor, I have to be responsible for him. Although a great deal of fun can be made out of the document, the fact is that it indicates that the commission has paid about £3,000 a year for this purpose and it considers that it should not be called upon to pay that amount in providing amenities that every other public servant and every other worker in a private office has to pay for himself.
The reduction of certain mail services had been criticized. Some of these services have had to be reduced.
– Because tenderers and contractors who were previously prepared to perform these services for say £350 a year now want £900 a year. This is largely due to the fact that there are far more attractive means of earning a living in the wool and wheat districts than by operating a mail service. Consequently, the man who used to be very glad indeed to get a mail contract has found that he can do better for himself by engaging in some other activity in his district. After examining many cases, the department found that it was costing up to 3s. to deliver a circular for the delivery of which it received one penny. That state of affairs could not be allowed to continue. So it has been necessary to reduce some services from three times a week to twice a week and to reduce others from twice a week to once a week. 1 regret that it has been necessary to do that but a lot of people expect the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to pay its way. At the end of the year it is expected to present a balance-sheet that shows a profit despite the fact that the department has provided services to a large and important section of the community at a cost which may be ten times as great as the amount that it has received for those services which are necessary for the development of the country. However, some limit must be applied to such services. But although a number of mail services have been restricted a tremendous number have been extended. During this Government’s term of office the department has introduced 267 completely new road mail services throughout the Commonwealth despite all the difficulties that I have mentioned. A total of 605 other road mail services has been extended.
As I do not wish to take up too much of the time of honorable members, I have dealt as briefly as I could with the individual problems that have been raised in connexion with the Estimates of the department which total about £68,000,000. I think that the department must be congratulated on the fact that during the review of its activities by this committee few real complaints have been made. Numerous small points have been raised but none of them is- of great magnitude. I do not regard that fact as a tribute to myself or the Government as much as a tribute to the magnificient work of the 70,000 employees of the department throughout Australia. At times complaints are received from the public and honorable members concerning some inadequacy of service or some additional service which they require and cannot obtain, but I have seldom had a complaint concerning the courtesy and efficiency of the great majority of the postal staff under my control.
– The employees of the department in my electorate are wonderful.
– The same may be said of postal employees in every district of Australia. During the last twelve months I have travelled from one end of this continent to the other, looking at small and large post offices. I have found the staffs performing their duties cheerfully and in every community that I visited I found that the postmaster and his staff were highly regarded not only as officers of the department but as citizens of their community. I am proud to be the Minister in charge of a staff that is so highly regarded by the community.
I hope to be able to provide amenities for the staff which are justified by the onerous nature of the duties that they are sometimes required to perform. The telegraph staff of the General Post Office in Sydney waited upon me the other day in connexion with a long-standing complaint concerning humid conditions in the telegraph office, where dozens of valves are burning. Heat and humidity is engendered there and staff conditions are not the best. I am endeavouring to give some priority to the work necessary to install air-conditioning in such places as this. But we have to cut our cloth according to the measure and it is not possible to do everything that everybody wants us to do at present. If the Government acceded to all the demands of the community for new post offices and telephone exchanges it would cost more than £100,000,000. The Government cannot undertake such expenditure at present. But it is improving facilities a little at a time.
– I suppose the department will soon build the new post office at Maroubra Junction?
– I shall probably succumb to the pleadings of the honorable member for “Watson (Mr. Curtin) and visit the Maroubra post office one day and examine it for myself. I cannot say, of course, w*hether a new building will be constructed as a result of my visit, but I shall examine the existing building and ascertain what can be done.
I have covered the operations of my department as briefly as I could. I could have referred to a number of other matters, such as the provision of telephone services in country districts and the reduction of telephone charges. By reducing the previous rate for telephone services the present Government made those services available to hundreds of people who would otherwise not have been able to afford them. For example, under the Labour Administration, the maximum amount provided by the department was £100. Under , the present Administration, the amount has been increased. .
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration’ of the proposed votes for the Commonwealth Railways, the Postmaster-General’s Department and Broadcasting Services has expired.
Proposed’ votes agreed to.
Proposed vote, £2,674,000.
Proposed vote, £2,405,000
Proposed vote, £58,300.
Proposed vote, £5,931,000 (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- The amountof the proposed , vote for the Northern Territory emphasizes the fact that the Government has missed a wonderful opportunityto re-assess the value to this nation of that great area of our continent which should be treated not so much as a Cinderella territory as a scene for ‘future development. Its value has been enhanced by the recent discovery of largedeposits of uranium. Over the years, honorable members have developed a habit of paying lip service to the Northern Territory withouttaking a real interest in ‘its great potentialities. For thisreason we are extremely fortunate that a native of the Northern Territory now represents it in this chamber and presents its problem’s withvigour and clarity. All ofus have learned a great deal aboutthis vast and rich area of Australia from the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), who has explained its importance from the point of view of security and also that of economic development. The honorable gentleman has taken us out of the fields of whimsy and fairy-tale ideas of far forgotten places. He has made us realize that it is no longer the never-never land, and has brought our minds back to the realities of farming, irrigation and mining. The story that he has told us is a new story - the developmental story of the Northern Territory. I had hoped that his tale would catch the imagination of the Government and lead it to provide funds for the proper development of this rich area, which should be on the verge of a great era of development.
The proposed vote would have been adequate in the old days, when Mrs. Aeneas Gunn wrote of the Northern Territory as a lost land that was romantic but full of sand and sorrow and far-away places. But the story to-day is vastly different. The search for oil has proved that, geologically, we may have missed the bus. However, as the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) has told us, development researchers are working in many places in the territory, and there is reason to hope that they will discover vast resources of other minerals. In fact, the Northern Territory is a veritable treasure-house of minerals. Not long ago I saw, in the windows of a tourist agency in Sydney, an exhibition of precious metals, semi-precious metals and other much-needed scientific and defence materials that are being mined in the territory, which was nothing less than amazing. As an ordinary citizen of the Commonwealth who has a great interest in the Northern Territory, I am shocked, as other honorable members must be, that the proposed vote for the territory is so small. The Government has shown no imaginative thrust. It has plenty of money at its disposal, and it has provided for the expenditure of large sums on many projects, but apparently the Northern Territory is to be starved. The Northern Territory is a vast, lonely land. It exemplifies the great Australian loneliness, and our dramatists, physicists, miners, mineralogists, metallurgists and plain ordinary citizens have been fired by the drama that has developed there.
The Northern Territory covers an area of 500,000 square miles’ but only 16,000 people live there.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has discussed the Northern Territory from the point of view of security, and the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), in reply to him, lias said that it would be a waste of time to station armed forces there. Therefore, we must develop some new strategy for the defence of the Northern Territory. Since the advent of the atom bomb, the hydrogen bomb and the cobalt bomb, strategy, in the military sense, has been blown to atoms. None of our leading strategists can state authoritatively the complete and orderly answer to our defence needs in this vast continent. But to leave the Northern Territory without protection of any kind seems to me to be the negation of all strategy. The honorable member for Melbourne and other honorable members who have visited the area have told us that the Northern Territory is defenceless. This is not just poppycock and propaganda. The Government must answer our criticism of its failure to provide for the defence of northern Australia. In the fifteen minutes available to me, it is not possible for me to deal with all aspects of this problem. However, we know that we have only one cutter, an occasional patrol ship, and one or two aircraft to protect the Northern Territory. Are we to repeat in Darwin the tragic story of the seven “Wirraways at Port Moresby? To be just, I do not believe that the Government wants to allow our defences to reach that pitiful state of weakness. The Estimates for the various defence departments may include some provision for the Northern Territory, but I am alarmed by the apparent failure of the Government to appreciate the need for a strategic plan for the defence of the north. In the words of the old adage, it is later than we think in the Northern Territory. This should not be treated as a dormant problem. We must not defer action until the sweet by and by because, by a curious quirk of circumstance, the Northern Territory has become a close security area. It contains great deposits of metals that are essen tial to defence under modern ‘conditions. Yet, only 300 miles away, there are teeming millions who,’ ‘though they are not aggressively inclined ‘ -at present, may threaten our shores as’ a ‘ result of ‘some unexpected twist of circumstances.
We cannot allow the, : Northern Territory to remain strategically defenceless. We must develop it and strengthen it against attack. As the Minister for Defence said yesterday, in the .final analysis, success in warfare depends upon the man with the, rifle. The honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes1) has reminded us pf the warning of the late Field-Marshal Blarney. No matter what we may be told a*bout wars pf the future, the P.B.I, will ‘have to clean them ‘ up. Men must stand against the assault ‘ of invasion if we are attacked in the future. I do npt want to over-colour the picture, but the fact is that there is . a vacuum in our defence plans in the Northern Territory. How can ,we fill it? The Government does not appear tp.be ready to. defend the Northern (Territory. .Military training is under some sort pf suspicion, and. the (deployment of . , armed forces in that region may not be,, the solution of our problem. Defence in depth may not be the solution. Forward thrusts by aircraft and naval vessels in the event,. of an, attack may, provide an answer. In any case, we. must find the solution, and find (it ‘speedily. ‘ Of course, the proper’ long-range solution, of, this problem lies in . the settlement of our northern areas., What better opportunity could we hay.e than that which has arisen from the discovery of vast mineral wealth in the. Northern Territory? I remind honorable members of,, the romance of Rum Jungle and, the other, areas which have not yet been fully exploited. The uranium capital of the Northern Territory may .eventually be established. inland. Already - and this is no security secretwe have earned many millions of. pounds from the sale, pf pur rough uranium ore. It is only fair tq, the Northern Territory that this, money should be poured back for its, development and consolidation against attack. , , . . ; - ,
Speaking of long-range development, I am reminded of the clear-sighted recommendations ‘ 1 that were 1 made “to this Parliament by the North Australian Development Committee which was established during the regime of the Chifley Government. That committee thought in terms of the whole of Australia’s northern area, regardless of State and Federal boundaries. Out of its carefully considered reports emerged plans for great irrigation projects, to cost many millions of pounds, on the Ord River and the Fitzroy River, development works in the region of the Barkly Tableland and the entire hinterland of the Northern Territory, a planned search for minerals, and delta farming. The whole scheme envisaged a pattern of development under which thousands of people would be settled in our empty north. It was like a mosaic carefully put together. I hope that the cobwebs have not been allowed to smother these reports and that they will be resuscitated and examined again by this Government. It is not necessary to have more reports. Already exhaustive research has been carried OUt, and now is the time for some action. Of course, the spotlight bears ever on the finds of uranium, and there are charges and countercharges about security measures. Although the first use of uranium may necessarily be for war purposes - I pray that any such war will be long delayed - if the future is to be an atomic future, and if nuclear energy can really revolutionize our way of life, then this country is indeed blessed by its newly found mineral wealth. Our cup is flowing over. In the circumstances, therefore, one surely is entitled to look for a more substantial vote for the Northern Territory, and a more positive approach to the development of this new country. We, as a federation, with the States sometimes with the Commonwealth and sometimes in conflict with it, have faced many frustrations in development; but the Northern Territory is the sole responsibility of the Australian . Government as are the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, and other external territories. We may do what we wish in the Northern Territory, but as I have said, the time is limited and the job is difficult. The Opposition’s criticism of this vote is not a challenge so much as a warning. The defences of the Northern Territory must be adequate. Nobody will suggest that the problem of defending a vast coastline and a sometimes barren hinterland in which only a handful of people live is not fraught with serious difficulties. Scattered throughout the Northern Territory is a town here and there, but Darwin is the main centre, and the culture of the inland is still largely the culture of the nomads. The defence of the Northern Territory must be considered in conjunction with the defence of other areas.
– Order ! The honorable member may not deal with defence at this stage.
– I was merely dealing with the relationship between the defence and the development of the Northern Territory. I shall say no more on that subject except that the best defence programme that the acumen of the Government can devise should be undertaken at once. Obviously it cannot go very far without money. Perhaps the main defence vote makes some provision for the Northern Territory. I have not been able to analyse it sufficiently to discover whether or not that is so. Some answer must be given to the charge that our northern areas are at the moment defenceless. I believe that the £1,000,000 that has been derived from the sales of uranium should be put into a Northern Territory development trust fund. There is no reason why the hungry tumbling cities should grab that too. Naturally the public does not relish taxation in any form, but I believe that money would be contributed cheerfully if the people knew that the northern gates of this country were to be guarded. That is the entry point for trade, tourists, and also for the enemy and we must do something about it quickly. Surely there is nothing fantastic or irrational about leaving to a territory so vast as the Northern Territory money that is derived from its own minerals, particularly uranium. Although the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory is not yet fully democratic, later the territory will undoubtedly have the whole democratic processes of Parliament. In the meantime, I should like to see a separate Minister for the Northern Territory because the development of the area is one of our major problems. At present the Northern Territory comes within the jurisdiction of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes), who has a multiplicity of other duties. Incidentally in the course of the Estimates debate, the honorable gentleman has found it necessary to he critical of certain lapses by authorities under his control. Such open confession is admirable. I believe that the payment of the proceeds from the sales of uranium mined in the Northern Territory into a special trust fund would be of immeasurable benefit not only to defence but also to development.
Silling suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Mr. BOWDEN (Gippsland) [2.15 j. - I want to comment on the speech made by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). I think it was a temperate speech. In a world of shades, it might be considered to be a good speech, but in a world of realism, it would have been better to leave parts of it unsaid. The honorable gentleman told the world something that it already knew - that in the Northern Territory there were uranium deposits of a size unequalled anywhere else. Then he tickled the ears of potential enemies with the statement that the territory was undefended. That was very unwise, because we know that in the old days strong nations took what they wanted from weak nations. The honorable member was supported by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. They visited a territory composed of 500,000 square miles of arid, roadless country. They peregrinated round a few square miles, and then came back and wrote a book about it. The honorable member for Parkes went on record as saying that it was undefended. That was arrant nonsense. There is no way in which a man who visits the territory can tell whether it is defended. If there were any threat to the uranium deposits there, I think we should find that the Anzus Pact would come into operation, because the deposits are of interest to the free world. I think we should find that Great Britain and America, with their interest in the deposits, would join with us to defend them.
If I wanted to discover the defences of the Northern Territory, I should go, not to the territory but to the head quarters of the armed services, which have prepared the plans for the defence of the area. It was futile and stupid of the honorable member, having made a short visit to the territory, to make a statement for which, in the very nature of things, there could not be the slightest foundation. I spent fourteen days in this area, but I would not have the temerity to say that it was undefended. The honorable member said there were no troops there. Would he keep troops in one spot, so that an enemy who wished to invade us would know where our defences were located? In an area such as the Northern Territory, defensive forces must be mobile and available for tactical deployment in any threatened area. We could move troops from Melbourne to the territory much more quickly than we could move them over a distance of 200 miles in the territory itself, if they were stationed there. Does the honorable member believe that, with communications as efficient as they are to-day, an enemy would not know that we had established a defensive force in one place ? According to him, there are 10,000 miles or 12,000 miles of undefended coastline in Australia. If that be so, the enemy could land on the coast, walk round the fixed defensive force and get behind it. Then it would be of no use to us.
In my opinion, it was reprehensible in the extreme to give the impression over the air that Australia’s valuable uranium deposits were completely undefended. Nations hungry for uranium want to know where they are located. If they believed that they could walk into Australia unhindered and take our uranium, they would be eager to do so.
– That is a curious viewpoint. Everybody knows where the uranium is.
– It is not a curious viewpoint.
– Why does not the Government do something about it?
– If the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) remained silent, he would conceal his ignorance. He reveals it when he opens his mouth. I believe the speech of the honorable member for Parkes was intended to be a temperate and useful speech on the development of this country, hut it is regrettable that it was made by a returned soldier. If it had been made by a man who had never been a soldier, it would have passed unnoticed, as will the speech made last night by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan). He told us a story about getting into a fishing boat or a rowing boat and going along the coast of Queensland. Because he could not see a gun on every rock, or a radar station on every tor or hilltop, he said that the Queensland coast was undefended. If I were responsible for preparing the defences of the Queensland coast, I should be very disappointed if any of the defences were visible from the sea after I had finished my job. The honorable member for Reid proved effectively last night that he knew nothing about defence. But the honorable member for Parkes is a returned soldier. I do not believe that his remarks were made for political purposes, but it was reprehensible to convey the impression to the people of Australia, let alone to the people of other parts of the world, that the Northern Territory was undefended.
I turn to another part of the honorable member’s speech in which he referred to the need to develop the resources of the Northern Territory. I believe that mineral resources of the territory are almost unlimited, but they are situated in 500,000 square miles of semi-arid, roadless country. It is not very realistic to talk in grandiloquent terms about spending millions of pounds to develop something that nobody wants. There are minerals in the territory, but there is only a limited demand for them. What would be the use of digging ore only to leave it lying around? Scheelite is there in abundance, but it is not wanted. A year or two ago, wolfram was in great demand mid attracted high prices, but to-day the price has fallen considerably because the demand has fallen. The Government could assist in the tin and copper fields of the territory by establishing batteries there. The people who are working the tin and copper fields - working them without assistance and almost only for the joy of developing something - would be encouraged to continue their work if the Government provided batteries for crushing their ore. I believe that the tin deposits in the territory are fantastically rich. I have a sample of tin ore that is believed to be 50 per cent. tin. It is a little Eldorado.
– Does the’ honorable member consider it to be wise from the security viewpoint to release this information ?
– It has nothing to do with security. We know that uranium, tin, copper and gold are there. We know that the territory is not defenceless - after my little talk the honorable member for Parkes knows that too - because America, Great Britain and Australia are interested in the uranium deposits there. I am not one of those who believe that they can write a book on the territory after a fourteen-day visit, much less after a twoday visit of the kind made by the honorable member for. Melbourne. He walked round Rum Jungle, came back and said the place was undefended. Let me point out to the honorable member for Parkes that the honorable member for Melbourne, his deputy leader, agrees that the development of the Rum Jungle uranium field is almost fantastic. Astounding progress has been made in twelve months. Even the honorable member for Melbourne has been honest enough to admit that the development of Rum Jungle is a picture-book story. It is an example of what we can do when we find something that we want to develop and get down to the job of developing it. I want the world to know that we do not intend to leave these valuable deposits undefended so that any half-baked Asiatic race can walk in and take them.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I would have been content to let the remarks of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) pass unanswered but for the fact that he laid undue stress on his allegation that I had revealed an ignorance of security requirements. It is fair to say that the people know a great deal about the north.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) is not attempting to make a personal explanation; he is merely attempting to strengthen the statements that he made previously. I suggest that he has offered no evidence of having been misrepresented.
– I have been misrepresented by the Colonel Blimp state of mind that continues to leave our north undefended.
.- I fear that the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) has done less than justice to the logic of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). If, as the honorable member for Gippsland says, the contention of the honorable member for Parkes that the north is undefended is incorrect, enemy forces would be lured into a trap if they attempted to attack the north. However, the condition of the Northern Territory is well known to the people, and it is just as well known to the crews of the. Japanese fishing boats that this Government allowed to approach our shores. There is no secret about the condition of our northern defences. Now I desire to address my remarks to the problems of the Australian Capital Territory. The estimated expenditure within the Territory is not enough to ensure its proper development as our National Capital. I refer to the estimate for capital works and services in the Australian Capital Territory–
– I rise to order. The item to which the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) is now referring applies to territories administered by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), and not to the Australian Capital Territory.
– I accept the correction of the Minister, and I apologize for the slight deviation from my subject. There has been too great a tendency in the Australian Capital Territory to accept as inevitable the building of temporary structures, which become shabby permanent features of the National Capital. So-called temporary buildings in Canberra last for quite a long time. For example, workmen’s cottages that were constructed at Westlake, Causeway and Acton some 25 years ago, and which were designed to last for about , five years, are still occupied by families. Even the building in which the Parliament is housed is temporary accommodation, and it will be the responsibility of some future parliament to build a permanent Parliament House on Capital Hill.
– Temporary members of the Parliament on the Opposition side should not complain about temporary accommodation.
– I welcome the interjection from one who admirably fits the category of temporary member. There are temporary offices at Barton, behind the Hotel Kurrajong, which is so well known to members of the Parliament, hutments on the banks of the Molonglo River used by the National Library, and temporary buildings to house the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the Bureau of Mineral Resources. In addition to those buildings there are temporary structures used for hostel purposes, and a great number of prefabricated dwellings throughout the Australian Capital Territory. I commend the decision of the present Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) to halt the construction of temporary buildings in the National Capital, and to put our works programme on a basis which will provide for the construction of permanent buildings.
– The honorable member should not forget the telephone exchange near the Hotel Kurrajong.
– The temporary telephone exchange building has caused a great amount of concern to the residents of the Hotel Kurrajong. Fortunately, it will be obscured from their view by the erection of a two-storey brick building for the regional office of the Postal Department, but nevertheless the temporary structure will remain as a telephone exchange.
Canberra’s greatest need is for homes. There must be a great extension of the building of houses, and that fact cannot be stressed too strongly. After the new administrative block close to Parliament House has been completed in a few years’ time, there will be a great influx of public servants. Some thousands of public servants will be transferred to Canberra, and they will all need homes. Moreover, the population of Canberra is increasing so rapidly that in order to accommodate the people our housing programme must be greatly accelerated. It is only necessary to refer to the population figures of the Australian Capital Territory to discover how great our housing need really is. At the last Commonwealth census taken in 1947, the population of the Australian Capital Territory was 16,905. In December, 1952, the population was 28,431, which is an increase of 76 per cent, in five years. However, in 1944, the population was 14,605 persons, so that in eight years our population has doubled; and it is estimated that by 1960, which is rapidly approaching, our population will he 4S,000. Provision is not being made for houses and other necessary accommodation for that greatly increased population. . “We should be building at least 1,000 houses a year for the next five years. That, of course, would mean a great extension of present suburbs, and the establishment of new residential areas with all their necessary community facilities such as schools, shops, community centres, and so on.
Another matter that must be considered by this Government is the necessity to make an effective reduction of rentals charged for government houses in Canberra. Rentals are now so high that even people earning moderately high incomes cannot afford to accept government houses allotted to them after a waiting, period of perhaps two and a half yearsThat tragedy should not be allowed to continue. Perhaps I should put before the honorable members who do not know the position, the facts in relation to government housing. The rental for a Commonwealth house is 5 per cent, of the capital cost. The capital cost is the cost of building, plus a fixed amount of £108 for fences, paths and drives, and 4£ per cent, of that total sum for architectural and supervisional charges. The average three-bedroom house of twelve squares at present costs £3S0 a square to build in Canberra. That totals £4,S68. That sum is made up of the cost of building, £4,560, plus £108 for paths, fences and drives-, plus 4£ per cent., which is about £200. The rental of the house is 5 per cent, of that sum. and it is composed of interest, sinking fund charges, insurance, maintenance and administrative charges. On brick dwellings the actual components of the 5 per cent., which is the rent of the house, are interest 3.125 per cent., insurance .05 per cent., maintenance 1.3045 per cent., sinking fund .4229 per cent, and administrative charges .0980 per cent. That makes a total of 5.0004 per cent. The rental is based on a period of amortization, which recently has been extended in respect of brick houses to 70 years and in respect of weatherboard houses to 53 years. The figures in relation to weatherboard houses are, interest 3.125 per cent., which is the same as for brick houses, insurance .2 per cent., which is naturally a higher rate than is the rate for brick houses, maintenance and repairs, which are also higher, 1.3635 per cent., sinking fund charges .780 per cent., and administrative charges .115 per cent., making a total rental of approximately 5.4S per cent. The rental of a weatherboard home in the Australian Capital Territory is sometimes greater than that of a brick home of similar size and convenience. Indeed, it is being found that the cost of building in timber in Canberra is greater than is the cost of building in brick.
There are several methods, by means of which rentals might be reduced, which I commend to the Minister for his further consideration. His predecessor, the present Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), took very prompt and efficient action to reduce rentals some two or three years ago by approximately 20 per cent. One way in which the rental of these houses may be reduced, and must be reduced if young people are to be housed properly, is to extend the period of amortization. It might, perhaps, be difficult to argue successfully that that period, in respect of timber houses, should be extended beyond the present 53 years, but I cannot see any reason why, in respect of brick houses, it should not be extended’ to 100 years if, by doing so, rental charges could be reduced. Another method of reducing rents would be to widen the’ application of the rental rebate system which at present is limited to houses of a standard which is not higher than that of houses built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. “We are building a national capital here, and we hope to maintain a high standard and to set an example to other communities.
Because that is so, the majority of house’s constructed are of a higher standard than those built in the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement.
Another step which might be taken to help solve the housing problem in the Australian Capital Territory would be to improve the conditions under which tenants of government homes may purchase those homes. A greater opportunity would thus be given to many people to own their homes, and, in addition, it would save the Government considerable sums in respect of maintenance, which would then become the responsibility of the home-owner. Under the present system, the government advance, which is repaid over a period of years, is limited to £2,000. When that sum was fixed, it represented approximately 90 per cent, of the cost of building an average home. The tenant who desires to purchase a house is required to pay 10 per cent, of the valuation, which is assessed at replacement cost, less depreciation and an allowance for improvements made by the tenant. He is required to pay 10 per cent, of that cost, or the difference between £2,000 and the valuation of the home. As has been pointed out to the committee, these houses cost approximately £4,800 to build to-day. It can readily be seen that a tenant who desires to purchase a home which costs as much as that will have to put on the line between £2,500 and £2,700, which is beyond the means of most people. I see no reason why the limit of the advance should not be raised so as to make it commensurate with that fixed when the average house cost approximately £2,250 to build. Of course, certain actuarial difficulties may arise in this connexion, because the banks limit the advances which they are prepared to make. The Commonwealth Bank limit is £1,850, and that of the private banks £2,000. The period of amortization for those who desire to purchase homes is 25 years for timber houses and 35 years for brick houses.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Of recent years, the territories have aroused great interest, due largely to visits of parliamentarians who have been able to see at first hand the conditions which obtain there. In addition, the Northern Territory has been in the news because of its cattle industry and finds of uranium. This great renewed interest in the territories has extended to members of the public. Nowadays it is hardly possible to pick up a newspaper without seeing in it a reference to the development of the Northern Territory or of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
A great deal has been said in this place about the Northern Territory. Unfortunately, most of the comment made in that connexion has been slightly critical. It is well to remind ourselves of what has been achieved in that area. I am not speaking now in a narrow, party-political sense, but of what we, as Australians, have done with territories in our trust. The United Nations commission which recently went to New Guinea closely and critically investigated our administration of that territory. Whether honorable members approve or disapprove of that visit, they will no doubt agree that the commission is not over-lavish with its praise. Despite that fact, its report was most satisfactory from our point of view. I think it may be said that we are doing a good job in the way we are looking after that most important territory.
The mineral resources of the Northern Territory have been dealt with already during this debate, and I do not propose to refer to that subject. Instead, I wish to speak about the cattle industry. It would be a great pity if we were to be carried away by visions of the wealth to be won from the mineral resources of the territory and neglected its great cattle industry. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck”) and his department have been working very hard to open up new stock routes. As honorable members are aware, the Northern Territory is deficient in railways, and it is hoped that a satisfactory railway system will be established there in the not too distant future. In the meantime, the Administration has opened up hundreds of miles of stock routes for cattle. Those honorable members who may have seen the stock routes to which I refer will know that it is now unnecessary for cattle to travel more than 16 miles a day, the average distance being between 12 and 16 miles, on the stock routes which run north and south and east and west. Bores have been sunk, so that water is available, and cattle may be moved in considerable numbers. Indeed, at the present time the greatest movement of cattle ever known in Australian history is taking place across the territory, to Queensland on the eastern side, and to Wyndham, with its meatworks, on the western side.
This Government has brought about a much-needed change in the system of land tenure in the territory. Under this improved system, greater consideration has been given to the small resident-owner. The legislation affords him protection. He is able to take up a perpetual lease and look forward to years of security. The big land-holding companies, which also play a part in the development of the territory, may lease land for periods of up to 50 years. They also have been given security of tenure. However, in both instances the leases are subject to improvements being made, such as fencing and the drilling of bores to make water available. Unless the land-holders make, such improvements, they lose their leases. The Government has also provided means for the small land-owner to receive financial assistance from the Commonwealth Bank, because it is realized that it takes a considerable capital outlay to make a success of a lease. We have substantially improved the Animal Industry Branch, intensive research by which is of great assistance to production. It can be justly claimed that the Animal Industry Branch in the territory is the equal of any other in Australia.
It has been said that people who live miles away from centres of population in the Northern Territory find it easier to obtain the services of a doctor than do people who live in Canberra, because of the excellent flying doctor service and other excellent medical services in operation in the territory. In emergencies patients can be picked up in remote areas and flown to hospital within a very short time.
I arn glad that the Darwin plan has been scrapped and that the residents of Darwin have been granted long leases of the land they occupy. It is most important that people hold tenure on a long lease, as . otherwise they are not inclined to improve the areas they occupy. The Darwin plan was far too ambitious. People who wanted to settle in the territory and open businesses would not do so because they had no security of tenure. Another result of the lack of security of tenure was that the people who did settle there did not make improvements to the properties they occupied. As a result of the scrapping of the Darwin plan and the granting of 99-year leases, businessmen were glad to go to Darwin and get ahead with developing the place, and in the last few years Darwin has made considerableprogress. Private enterprise has built new homes and shops, and one can see gardens springing up in Darwin where before nobody felt secure enough to bother about starting a garden. The tide has turned and Darwin people are taking in their city a civic pride that was absent before. When the Governments owns a place and runs it nobody is going to bother about making a garden. Darwin is fast losing that general air of a garrison city.
A searching and thorough investigation has been made of agricultural prospects in the northern part of the Northern Territory, in which the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has played a big part. It has opened up rice farms, mixed farms, and other areas for the production of tobacco, tropical fruits, and a host of other products. That is a very important developmental work, because it is necessary for us to explore every avenue by which we can develop the Northern Territory and induce people to settle there.
A great deal has been said about the aborigines. The Government has revolutionized the approach to the aborigine. We have gone back to the idea, which has become so unfamiliar that it appears to be original, that the aborigines are Australians. Most people had forgotten that fact. We say that, as they are Australians by birth, only those of them who are in need of Government help should be brought under control. We have not controlled all of them and then exempted a few. We have granted all full citizenship, and those who need help are then brought under control. All half-castes are now free of restrictions. We have introduced a new approach to the training and education of the natives in spite of many difficulties in the territory, so that we can have a good basis for pushing ahead with the big job that has to be done up there. I congratulate the Minister for Territories for the enterprise and interest he has shown in the aborigine problem and in relation to welfare and development in the Northern Territory. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson), his predecessor, also showed great interest and energy in relation to the territory.
I turn now to our other territories. In the Territory of Papua and New Guinea we have adopted a policy of extending social services in the fields of health, education and medicine. More land is now being brought under control, and it is hoped that the land control programme will be completed by 1955. There are large areas in Papua and New Guinea in which we are pushing ahead with this important work. The economic opportunities of the natives have been increased. An important activity in that territory is the production of fibre for the manufacture of wool sacks and wheat sacks, which could do much to save our wool and wheat industries if we were unable at some time in the future to get that material from elsewhere.
The Estimates cover many other items with which I cannot deal now. I shall conclude on the note that there is a new feeling of confidence throughout the Northern Territory and Papua and New Guinea. Honorable members who have been to those territories will agree that there is a completely new atmosphere in them. There is a definite sense of big expansion on the way. It is impossible to have development without spending money for it. It requires large-scale capital expenditure and large-scale public investment. The Government is encouraging public investors to enter the territories. Certain tax concessions operate in the Northern Territory, whilst earnings in Papua and New Guinea aretax free. We must do all we can to ensure that these territories are developed to the full in the shortest possible time. It is gratifying to note that the proposed votes for the territories have been increased in comparison with last year’s expenditure, because more money must be expended up there if we are to get the results we want. It is to be hoped that this Parliament, by its interest and awareness of the need for improvement in all our territories, will assist this Government and future governments to develop them.
.- If I did not know the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) so well I would be horrified that so distinguished a resident of my electorate as the honorable member is should have put forward the view that because people do not own their own homes or the land upon which their homes stand, and because the home and the land are the property of the nation and administered by the Government, they take no pride in the appearance of their homes.
– I was speaking about the need for 99-year leases in the Northern Territory.
– I suggest that if the honorable gentleman will attend the annual exhibition of the Horticultural Society of Canberra, to be held shortly, he will find ample evidence that people take a great pride in the appearance of homes that are the property of the Government.
– I thank the honorable member for having underlined my point about the 99-year leases.
– I agree with all that the honorable member has said except his criticism of the tenants of government homes. I have previously emphasized the necessity to reduce the cost of homebuilding and home-ownership and the rentals of houses and flats in the Australian Capital Territory. The amount of government loan available for the purchase of a house should be considerably increased. The current maximum figure is no longer 90 per cent, of the capital cost of a home. Persons who buy homes from the Governmentfind that they need a deposit of £2,000 to £2,500 so that they may buy a modest dwelling. There is scope for easing those conditions. There are many war service homes in the Australian Capital Territory and sums of up to £2,750 are made available for their purchase over a period of 45 years. The limit on loans to buy government houses in Canberra is 25 years for a timber dwelling and 35 years for a brick house. There is an urgent need for an expanded programme of house-construction in the Australian Capital Territory, and everything possible should be done to reduce the cost. The objective should be to facilitate home-ownership and reduce rentals.
I have been pleased to note an increased interest in the Australian Capital Territory on the part of members of both Houses of the Parliament. I hope that that interest will lead to better oversight of the planning and development of the National Capital by the Parliament. Possibly a committee of members of the Parliament should be formed to supervize the planning and development of the Australian Capital Territory. Such a committee could be representative of all parties and both Houses of the Parliament.
Recently a suggestion was made that one of the columns at the new administrative building should be used as the base for a monument to the expense of the cost-plus contract system. The column was to be surmounted by the figure of a white elephant.
– That is a good idea.
– The interjection is understandable and it is true that the cost-plus system has led to considerable waste in the use of men and materials. It is also true that the system had to be introduced in the Australian Capital Territory to attract contractors who could undertake the big projects that were needed for its development.
– We would have been no worse off if the work had been delayed until now.
-The system of cost-plus contracting was introduced by the previous Menzies Government in the early years of the second world war. It was wasteful, and I am glad that the Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works (Mr. Kent Hughes) has taken action to stop it in the Australian Capital Territory. He has expressed an opinion that is held by many persons that the system of direct contracting is the most efficient means of construction. 1 suggest to the committee, however, that, good results can be achieved by an expansion of the day-labour system of building in the Australian Capital Territory. The record of day-labour construction in the territory is a proud one.
– The movement generally now is away from day labour and towards incentives.
– Figures that have been given to me by the Minister show that during the past eighteen months, day labour engaged on the building of homes finished the job for £50 a square less than the cost of homes alongside that were being built by contract. That was a saving of £550 on an ordinary home of eleven squares.
– The contract work was done on the cost-plus basis.
– I agree that that is so. If there is to be a monument in Canberra to the expense of the costplussystem, let the Government erect a monument at Narrabundah also to the daylabour gangs who built houses in that suburb more speedily and cheaply than the contractors working alongside them. Those gangs were able to show how materials and man-power could be used economically. The system of day-labour construction in the Australian Capital Territory was introduced when the late Mr. Lazzarini, who was then the honorable member for Werriwa, was Minister for Works. The workmen were assured that materials would be available on the job as required, and construction proceeded without any major difficulties. The brick area of Narrabundah is a monument to the efficiency and economy of day labour.
After World War II., the building trades in the Australian Capital Territory had an infusion of ex-servicemen reconstruction trainees who understandably did not have the skill of the tradesmen. Immigrant labour also arrived in the Australian Capital Territory and although the men had some knowledge of building, they were not familiar with Australian practices. The cost of daylabour work then began to rise. Some building trade unions are convinced it was sabotaged. On one cottage there were, on one day, 29 bricklayers. They could hardly move their arms without knocking another man’s elbow. They laid very few bricks in a day. The system under which materials were readily available on the job broke down.
Day labour is dwindling in the Australian Capital Territory. Last year 100 homes were built by day labour and 500 by contract. Among the few jobs now being constructed by day labour are the semi-detached two-storied dwellings in Narrabundah and Griffith. Delays in the supply of materials have increased their cost considerably. With all the goodwill in the world, men working on those contracts cannot build homes unless the materials are available. Some houses were delayed for four months while the men were waiting for material for the ceilings. They were delayed further when a decision was made to change the material in the floors of the lavatories from concrete to rubber. Rubber was not available and men had to be taken back to the jobs when it was supplied. That was mismanagement and it was not the fault of the day-labour workers. There should be a return to day labour. It is wrong to suggest that day-labour workers cannot complete a job more economically and speedily than contractors. Such a suggestion is a slur on the building tradesmen and the officers responsible for the planning and supervision of the jobs. I can see no reason why men employed on day wages cannot build a house just as efficiently, quickly and cheaply as can _ men working on contract; and, of course, the contractor makes provision for a substantial profit.
– There is no reason on earth why they should not do so, but they just do not.
– There is no earthly reason. If there is one in the celestial sphere the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) would be unable to furnish it.
– What about the university buildings?
– The cottages that have been built for the Australian National University cost approximately £8,500 each, and the economic rent for those cottages, unfurnished, would be over £7 a week. Let no one point to buildings being constructed for the Australian National University in an attempt to refute what I am saying.
– Those cottages were built under the day-labour system.
– No; they were built by contract. I urge the Parliament to take an increasing interest in the development of the National Capital. I suggest that the Parliament should appoint an all-party committee to supervise the development of the Australian Capital Territory. Honorable members who reside in the Australian Capital Territory include the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn), the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse), the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), although his tenancy in the Prime Minister’s lodge has not long to run. Those honorable members form a nucleus of members of the Parliament who have first-hand knowledge of conditions in the Australian Capital Territory. A committee of the kind that I suggest could take advantage of their knowledge. Two of those honorable members, the honorable member for Henty and the honorable member for Farrer, have properties within the Territory; and they are, indeed, among the leaders of the farming community. They have set a worthy example in the use that they are making of their land. As landholders in the Territory their advice would be most valuable to a committee of the kind that I suggest should be set up. There is a great need in the Territory for the application of modern farming methods. I refer particularly to the necessity for extending pasture improvement practices. Perhaps, the honorable member for Henty will take the opportunity in the course of this debate to speak on this subject.
.- I suppose that it would be churlish of me to decline the invitation that the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) has extended to me to speak on the subject of land settlement in the Australian Capital Territory. However, I desire to deal more particularly with the subject of housing in the National Capital. As most honorable members are aware, the cost of constructing houses in the Australian Capital Territory has risen so greatly that, at present, the cost of building a minimum family home of 12 squares is between £4,000 and £5,000. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory pointed out that the economic rental of such homes is beyond the financial capacity of young persons. He suggested that by one means or another the rental charged for dwellings should be reduced. That is a desirable objective to achieve, but, at the same time, other aspects must be considered. We are reaching a stage in this country when the average worker is no longer able to afford to buy, or look forward to buying, a home. From experience in my electorate, I have found that to be a melancholy truth. Persons in receipt of the basic wage, or of a slightly higher wage, have no earthly hope of acquiring ownership of a home in an average working life. That is a serious state of affairs.
– The honorable member should not forget about rates of interest.
– The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory spoke very fairly on this subject, and I have no desire that party politics should rear its ugly head in a discussion of this kind. I repeat that responsibility for the high cost of housing in this country must be borne to a considerable degree by the trade- unionists and those who represent them in the Parliament; because the fact is that for 50 years the Australian Labour party has preached the doctrine to the workers that it doe, not matter how hard they work they are entitled to get more wages in terms of money. That party advocated the reduction of the working week of 48 hours to 44 hours, and to the present working week of 40 hours; and, now, some members opposite have actually associated themselves with the agitation for the reduction of the working week to 36 hours. A few days ago some of these honorable members, somewhat shamefacedly I admit, appeared with their supporters who were about to stage a march in Sydney in support of their demand that the working week be still further reduced. When honorable members opposite help to spread that philosophy among those whose job it is to build, houses, we cannot wonder that the cost of houses is now beyond the financial means of the average worker. 1 do not suggest for one moment that the cost of labour is the only element in present inflated housing costs. J know of instances in my electorate in which housing contractors have marked up the cost of houses beyond a reasonable price ; and the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley), as Minister in charge of wai service homes, has already told the committee about cases to which his attention has been directed and in which, on houses costing £3,000, contractors have endeavoured to make a profit as high as £1,000. That, of course, is very wrong. But if any one is to be enabled to purchase a house at a reasonable price, the first thing that we should do is to ensure that contractors shall not make excessive profits. At the same time, we should encourage those who are engaged -in the construction of houses to do everything possible to increase their rate of output, and thereby decrease the cost of construction. We shall not succeed in reducing housing costs by any other means.
The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) interjected that rentals include interest charges. Of course, they do. The idea seems to be gaining ground in the community that the Government can afford to let houses practically free of charge. The Government can obtain finance for house construction either from taxation revenue or loan funds; and we know that, at present, no loan funds are available for housing or, at least, certainly not on a scale to finance programmes to meet 100 per cent, the demand for houses in the community.
– Loan money would be available for that purpose if the people had confidence in the Government.
– The fact is that this Government has been able to borrow loan funds very much in excess of those that the previous government borrowed. All I have to say on this matter is that the
Government cannot finance housebuilding without making some charge to the persons who desire to rent, or purchase, the houses that are built. The Government cannot be expected to waive such charges any more than a bank or a building society can be expected to do so. The reason why finance is not available for housing in the Australian Capital Territory, or in any other electorate, i3 that the Government, a bank or a building society, or any other financial organization with any sense of responsibility, knows that the costs of house construction are so high that those who borrow money tor the purpose of purchasing houses lui ve no possible hope of being able to repay such loans within an average working life. If honorable members opposite are sincere in this matter, they will persuade trade unionists to regard the incentive payments principle with greater tolerance. If houses are required, they must be built and if they are not built at a reasonable cost, we shall surely deceive ourselves in this matter. It seems to me that the time has come when the original Burley Griffin plan for the development of Canberra should be carefully reviewed. It is apparent that as this city grows the original plan of development will be quite incapable df coping with the requirements of a modern city. One has only to consider the inadequacy of the existing roads and bridges to meet the demands of presentday traffic to realize the defects of the plan. The roads should be widened to meet the increasing demands of the present and the .potential demands of the future. If, as the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory has said, this city will have a population of 40,000 or 50,000 persons in a few years, our existing roads will be incapable of carrying the flow of traffic, and the discomfort of people who have to reside here will be greatly increased. The present proposal for the construction of artificial lakes dotted here and there is quite beyond the bounds of practicability. The Burley Griffin plan has been treated almost as though it were Holy Writ - nothing in it may be altered or interfered with. We should plan for the construction of main roads and as far as is practicable abandon the circles and circular roads.
– Let us have a main street.
– It is all very well for the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) to sneer about a main street
– I did not sneer about it.
– The average resident of Canberra is well aware of the defects of the Burley Griffin plan and the inconvenience caused by the lack of main roads and proper shopping, business and commercial centres. Canberra housewives have to travel great distances in buses to make even the most trivial purchases because proper shopping centres were not provided for in the Burley Griffin plan. I trust that the Minister for the Interior will look into this matter without delay.
I should like to see a few tall buildings constructed in Canberra. I recall that on one occasion the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), looking at Parliament House and the other flat-topped buildings here, remarked that all that was needed was a couple of old fellows wearing fezzes and1 leading camels and one might think he was in Suez. There is a regrettable lack of buildings of character and style in this city. If the Government proposes to erect any more public buildings I hope that they will be of a permanent nature and an ornament to Canberra. We have to spend large sums of money on this city and we may as well construct good buildings. I commend the Minister for his decision to abandon the construction of temporary buildings in Canberra. We have had more than enough of them. Nothing could be more depressing than the two air raid shelters which constitute the National Library annexe. They are an eyesore.
Finally, as we all know, the building which houses our distinguished selves is also a temporary one. It is not to be expected that at a time like this we should build a permanent parliamentary building; but there is nothing to prevent the Government from planting trees and carrying out other preliminary work on the site of the permanent building. I trust that the Government will undertake that work without further delay.
The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory has suggested that as I live in the Australian Capital Territory I should be available to the Government to give advice on this district. I offer to do so. His suggestion that a committee be formed to advise the Government and to examine expenditure and the need for developmental works in this community is an excellent one.
– I have been pleased to note the large number of honorable members who have exhibited an interest in the affairs of the Northern Territory during this debate. The discovery of uranium in the Northern Territory has awakened a great deal of interest in that part of Australia in the minds of not only honorable members, but also the public generally. The tours arranged by the Government have enabled honorable members to see at first hand the potentialities of the Northern Territory and to examine the work that is going on there. The more intimate knowledge of conditions in the Northern Territory which they have obtained from personal observation will be of great value.
I propose now to reply briefly to certain comments made by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse). At a more appropriate time I hope to have an opportunity to deal with them in greater detail. The honorable member referred to the Darwin town plan and claimed a good deal of credit for the present Government for the work that is being done in that area. I am pleased that the honorable member also gave some credit to the -honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) who, in the early post-war years, laid the foundation for almost all of the work that is going on in the Darwin district. After the war ended manpower and materials were in very short supply and that so much has been done in the post-war years is a tribute to the administration of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie when he was Minister for the Interior. The present Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) admitted in this chamber a few days ago that it is still very difficult to induce contractors to tender for work in the Northern Territory. No justifiable criticism can be levelled at the labour Government for any lack of progress that has been manifested in the Northern Territory. Almost all of the work that has been done there is the result of the planning and spade work of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. Very few of the projects that are in progress there were not initiated by him. It is true that the Darwin plan has been modified, and rightly so. Indeed town plans in almost every country are modified to meet changing circumstances. Even the Burley Griffin plan for the development of the City of Canberra which has been modified on several occasions, was criticized by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) a few moments ago. Town plans must be modified in the light of their suitability to meet the changing conditions of the times. I do not think that there is any need to apologize for the modifications that have been made in the Darwin town plan.
The honorable member for Calare also mentioned the granting of full citizenship rights to half-castes. It is true that citizenship rights have been granted to them but only after they reached the age of eighteen years. By “ full “ citizenship rights one usually means rights which are conferred on a person from the date of his birth and not at some later age. At birth every Australian automatically acquiries full citizenship rights. However, the granting of citizenship rights for half castes after they have attained the age of eighteen years is a step in the right direction and will eventually lead to the granting of full citizenship right0 to these people.
I find it very difficult to understand the native affairs policy applied by this Government. Under the system in operation until recently, natives in the Northern Territory who were able to comply with certain conditions became entitled to all the rights and assumed all the responsibilities of citizenship. But this Government has altered all that. It has reversed the process and, theoretically only, has granted full citizenship rights to all aborigines of the Northern Territory from birth. That was done by means of legislation that was recently enacted by the Northern Territory Legislative Council. “What really happens is that they are immediately placed under the control of a welfare officer. Consequently, the only period in which the aborigines enjoy the rights that they are supposed to possess is the time that it takes to place them under the care of the welfare officers. Therefore the net result is the same. Under the old system the aborigines themselves asked to be released from the provisions of the Aboriginal Ordinances but now the Director of Native Welfare accepts responsibility for all aborigines who are unable to look after themselves. Very few aborigines enjoy the privileges that many people assume that they enjoy.
The present system of voting moneys for works in the Northern Territory is unsatisfactory from a practical point of view. I point out that the most suitable period of the year in which to undertake work in the Northern Territory is between April and September. The present practice is to introduce the budget and Estimates in September, and by the time the Estimates have been debated and proposed votes agreed to, the wet season has commenced in the Northern Territory. It is due to break now. As some honorable members arc aware, during that season it is absolutely impossible to undertake work in the out-back areas of the Northern Territory or to buy materials and transport them from one place to another. Communications break down completely during the wet season. Consequently, in past years the Department of Works has been unable to expend its vote before the next year’s Estimates were introduced in the Parliament. Some years ago there were separate administrations for the centre and the north, and departments were permitted to expend moneys in anticipation of their Estimates being approved by the Parliament. Under that decentralized method of administration, the departments were authorized to draw on the Treasurer’s advance account. Subsequently that expenditure was deducted from their votes. By that means the departments were able to maintain continuity and undertake work at the most favorable period of the year. I remind the committee that climatic conditions in the Northern Territory during the wet season are very unpleasant because of the extreme humidity in the north and the intense heat in the south. Logically, therefore, the departments should utilize fully the favorable period of the year for the carrying out of work. I urge the Government to consider again decentralizing the administration of the Northern Territory in order that Estimates in relation to works to be carried out in central Australia shall be kept separate from those of works to be carried out in the northern part of the Northern Territory. Under the present system, whereby the proposed expenditure is consolidated, it frequently happens that when the authorities in central Australia are ready to proceed with certain work they are unable to do so because the vote for the financial year has been expended in the north, and vice versa. If separate Estimates were prepared for works in the north and the centre, work could proceed on that basis. That system could be more easily administered than the present system, and would lead to greater efficiency. The Department of Works is the constructional authority for all works in the Northern Territory. Since the war the department has been criticized on many occasions, and in the main I agree with that criticism. However, I .point out that the fault lies in the system of administration rather than with the men on the job. Work that is carried out in the Northern Territory is loaded automatically with the overhead administrative costs. In Darwin recently the costs of certain services were increased by about 40 per cent. When a protest was raised the administration replied, “ We have been told by the Department of Works that we must add an oncost of 38 per cent.” The Department of Works would not give any reason for issuing that direction. The local authorities said that they had no control over the accounting system and could not do other than add the percentage that the Department of Works decreed should be added. I believe that if there could be established in the Northern Territory a constructional authority under the direction of the Administrator, who could control not only the quantity of work that should be performed but also works priorities, more progress would be made in the territory, and greater value would be obtained for the expenditure that is approved by the Parliament. The Minister for the Interior has conferred with the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) about this matter and, in answer to a question that was asked by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) recently, the Minister for Territories stated that if a system could be evolved under which the Department of Works would hand over its establishment to the Administrator of the Northern Territory, the overhead expenses at present associated with the Department of Works could be obviated. I therefore urge the Minister for the Interior to give sympathetic” consideration to the suggestion -that I have made.
.- Development is taking place so rapidly in many parts of Australia that we are inclined ito overlook the progress that is occurring in the Australian Capital Territory. Let ms pause awhile to examine exactly the trend of development in the National Capital. I believe that the position may well cause alarm to the people of the Commonwealth generally. The topography of the whole place is a perfect illustration of my meaning. Canberra is a placid city, situated in splendid isolation, surrounded by hills, comparable with the state of China in the days when it was separated from the outside world by the Great Wall. Within this placid city, a situation is in danger of developing that will not be a happy one for Australia. The interests of the whole community, apart from two or three government enterprises, are centred entirely on government administration. This condition may be all right for the present generation, but I am bearing in mind the circumstances of children whoso parents have made their permanent homes in the Australian Capital Territory. What occupations will be open to those children, and their children’s children?
I can see perfectly well what will happen. ‘Gradually, a separate class will’ form - a class of civil servants. I do not make that statement because I wish to speak in a derogatory manner of civil servants generally. The danger is that public servants, who are insulated from the effects of economic disruption and changes that occur in other parts of Australia, may lose sight of things that are of tremendous importance to the nation as a whole. Public servants who are charged with the administration if Australia must be able to view the national picture as a whole, but I fear that they will come to view the picture from the remoteness and exclusiveness of Canberra, and see only dimly the struggles of other Australians in distant parts of the country. The residents of Canberra, in short, will be excluded from personal participation in the economic turmoil that may prevail all around them-
– But the public servants are not the government.
– I grant that fact, but I do not forget that the advisers to governments live in this exclusive, remote area. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) is reported in to-day’s issue of the Canberra Times as having expressed the hope that all Commonwealth administration will soon be centred in Canberra. Yet this is the place where the only disturbing element, the only ripple on these placid waters, occurs periodically in the Senate or the House of Representatives. The Australian people need to concern themselves with the trend in their National Capital, and give serious consideration to the establishment here of industries and occupations in which people in other parts of the Commonwealth engage, in order to widen the interests and the activities of future generations. No employment other than in the Public Service is available to the children of people who are obliged to live here. Some of those parents look for opportunities in employment that are wider than the Public Service can offer, but virtually nothing is available. I grant that there are some big plums of office in the Public Service, but that is a narrow and exclusive field.
Residents of Canberra, who are circumscribed in this way, should give earnest thought to the future of this city. I do not know what can be done to improve the situation. The remedy, if any, must be. found as the result of the views and efforts of many people, but I emphasize that there must be more in Canberra than government offices and public servants.
– There are some industries in Canberra.
– There are only a few industries here, and they serve the needs of the residents of the Australian. Capital Territory, and that is all. I am not referring to the little farming operations that are carried on in the Territory. I may speak about them in a not very kindly way some other time. There is nothing else here which makes Canberra rely on anybody but the taxpayers. The economic circumstances of the area are really no concern of the people of Canberra. They do not have to worry about economic trends. The government is their employer. It may be a benevolent government one day and a hard master another day, but they have security in employment and the Government protects them from the economic disruption that affects people in other parts of Australia from time to time.
It is an alarming situation not only for the residents of Canberra but also for the people of Australia as a whole, because parents who reside here permanently find so few opportunities for employment for their children. The situation must be of concern to the people of Australia as a whole because this exclusive community is charged with the tremendous responsibility of tendering advice to and carrying out the policy of the Government. Canberra, obviously, lacks the opportunity to make, and then maintain, personal contact with th a needs of the people, whose destiny, when all is said and done, lies to a considerable degree in the hands of public servants here. The nineteen members of the Cabinet frame government policy, but in doing so they are guided by the advice of Public servants here, who have continuity in office. This matter worries me, just as I would be worried if I were a resident of the Australian Capital Territory, and could see no avenue of employment for my children other than in the Public Service. perhaps some one has already given consideration to this situation. If so, I should like to hear about it. So far, I have heard nothing more than the reference to the fact that sooner or later, the whole administration will be centred in Canberra.
I have no evidence of an intention to broaden this exclusive area. When other departments are transferred here, Canberra will be, to an even greater degree, the administrative centre of Australia, and nothing else. Industries should be established here to provide employment, and meet the needs of the people, but so far as I am aware, development of that kind is not contemplated. Of course, the establishment of new industries in Canberra would be attended by tremendous difficulties, because of the relative isolation of the Australian Capital Territory from other centres. It is nearly 100 miles from the coast, and markets for any goodsthat were produced here would be a long, way away. As the population of Canberra increases, the main interest of the people will still be in Public Servicematters, and government administration,, because many people will be employed i» the Public Service, and the remainder, though they may be engaged in industries serving the needs of the district, will depend for their livelihoods on the markets provided by public servants. On the other hand, public servants in Canberra do not need to concern themselves with how those who are. engaged in industry outside of this Territory are faring. There is danger in this exclusiveness, this absence of contact with the economic problems of a nation that are wider than their own domestic affairs. I submit that honorable members should concern themselves with this matter in the interests of their electorate, their State and tienation. God forbid that we should see the day when Australia has a class of bureaucrats whom it will be almost impossible for any government to influence. We are on the road to that state of affairs. Now is the time, in these days of rapid development, for us to pause and endeavour to find a way to avoid that danger-
Mr. E. JAMES HARRISON (Blaxland) T3.47]. - I listened with a great deal of interest to the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), who expressed fearsregarding the growth of the Public Service in Canberra. No doubt the committee will understand that an honor alfc member who has come from a State as far away as Western Australia would be over-impressed with, the influence of the Public Service. It is, perhaps, natural that he would lack an understanding of the development of a great city in this Territory. But perhaps he unconsciously gave expression to a thought that has been worrying honorable members of the Opposition. He said that the Public Service was running this country. With that statement the Opposition may not quarrel because we have found that since this Government has come to power the majority of the people have been forgotten. But I do not think that the honorable member can justly attribute the Government’s failure to the public servants of Canberra. When the new government comes to power next year the public servants will respond to the. requirements of the country as they responded during the war when a good Labour Government was in office. I do not disagree with the principle of bringing into this Capital City the sinews that connect the Commonwealth Public Service to its nerve centre.
– It needs a bit of flesh on it.
– The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) will need some political flesh on him after the next election. But the more quickly the Labour party takes over the government of the Commonwealth-
– The more quickly will the country go to the dogs.
– The honorable members from the west might be excused for their lack of understanding of national requirements.
– I suppose that the honorable member represents the wise men of the east?
– The west comes to the east to learn. The sooner the nerve centre of the Public Service is established in this city the sooner will the Public Service be removed from the control of people in the States who attempt to influence it for their own personal benefit.
– That is a bit involved.
– It is not. The further a centre of adminis tration is removed from a capital city the more it is subjected to parochial influences. Until the administration of the Commonwealth is removed from State influences it will not have a national outlook.
– I ask the honorable member not to say that.
– I have been impressed with what the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) has said on many of our problems, but I have never heard him condemn the Public Service because its nerve centre might be in the Australian Capital Territory. This point of view is expressed only by honorable members from the west.
The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) attempted to tell the committee what should be done in regard to the Northern Territory and the establishment of a defence line. The Ministers in charge of the services assured the committee that our defence had been secured on our northern shores. Let that be as it may. Surely there is not an honorable member in this chamber who does not believe that in the course of the next twenty years we must populate this country or perish. Surely no honorable member believes that the population of this country should live only in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. And surely no honorable member believes that population can be brought to those parts of this country where it is needed without first of all providing the transport to bring it there as a national project. It has been truly said that the north holds resources worth untold millions of pounds. Yet, if it were suggested that the construction of a railway line from Darwin to Townsville should be debated in this chamber as a non-party issue some honorable members would hold up their hands in horror. But during the next five or six years honorable members in this Parliament will have to give consideration to that, matter a.nd they will have to decide to provide the man-power and material necessary for that work. Once the Government has provided rail transport through the more remote parts of this country private enterprise and government concerns will develop our resources. What would Moree be now if no railway line went there? What would the western Areas of New South Wales be now if the railway line stopped at the Blue Mountains? They would be in a .condition similar to that of the Northern Territory.
– What has the railway done for the Nullarbor Plain ?
– The honorable member has not been here long enough to know. We have reached a stage at which we should set aside all such parochial prejudices as the honorable member for Moore raised and get away from the influence of Sydney and Melbourne. We have already expended more money on the Snowy Mountains project, important though’ it may be, than would be needed to build the railway line that I envisage. We shall not progress as a nation until ‘we have public servants and parliamentarians who look upon Australia as a nation.
I am not attacking the present Government but am trying to speak from a national point of view. 1 refer again to the interjection by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon). What would be the position of Western Australia to-day if we had no railway line across the Nullarbor Plain? Would the honorable gentleman be happy to have this nation divided into two parts? What would have happened during World War II., when -we wanted to transfer 12,000 New South Wales boys to Western Australia for its defence, and when we had no ships to spare, if there had been no east-west railway line ? Let us have some national thinking in this place. Too seldom do we have the opportunity to consider such important matters. No honorable member who is interested in Australia’s advancement will deny that, with modern diesel-electric locomotives, we could operate a rail service between Townsville and Darwin in less than 30 hours. The necessary rail link could he constructed for less than the cost of the Snowy Mountains project. We have sufficient stocks of steel for the work, and there is no reason why we should not go ahead with it now before it is too late to do so. Will any honorable member deny that this is the type of planning that should be undertaken in the capital city of Australia? I disagree entirely with the honorable member for Moore. Let us develop this city so that from it we shall be able to guide the progress df the nation to greatness. We cannot build a powerful and prosperous nation if we have a Brisbane, Perth, Sydney, or Melbourne outlook. For heaven’s sake, let us look upon Australia as a nation before it is’ too late to do so. If the public servants do not perform their jobs efficiently, let us not blame them. The responsibility should rest upon those who direct the activities of public servants - the national government and its supporters, whoever they may be for the time being. Let us not shelve such responsibilities. Let us not forget that, if we continue to spend millions of pounds on Snowy Mountains schemes while we neglect rail services and other developmental projects for the great Northern Territory, some other nation will take over from us 20 or 25 years hence.
Assent reported. .
The following papers were presented : -
Defence (Special Undertakings) Act - Order - Restricted area (dated 1st September, 1953).
Explosives Act - Regulations - Orders of general application - Nos. 2, 3, 4, S, 6.
The following answer to a question, was circulated: -
I ask the Prime Minister whether the Australian National University has let one of its furnished houses in Canberra to the Minister for Territories! Will the right honorable gentleman say whether it is customary for the university to let its cottages to persons other than members of its staff? Does the Prime Minister know of this arrangement and’,, if so, will he state what is the. appropriate rent for this house furnished, what would be the appropriate rent for it unfurnished,’ and what rent the Minister for Territories is paying T
So far as Mr. Hasluck’s position as a tenant is concerned, that is his personal affair and is none of the business of the House. It may he remarked, however, that insofar as the report of the Nicholas committee on parliamentary salaries proposed that an allowance be made to Ministers in order to enable them to live in Canberra there is nothing inappropriate in the idea that a member of Cabinet should do so. The position of the Australian National University as a landlord may properly be regarded as a matter of public interest inasmuch as funds for the National University are voted by this Parliament. At the same time, it might be pointed out that the Australian National University is not a government department. The National University has, however, provided . the following comments of the circumstances : -
The house which’ i» temporarily occupied by Mr. Hasluck is one of a small group which the university decided to furnish and reserve, so far as may be possible, for senior scholars from overseas, accompanied by their families, who come to the university for one year.
There will, of course, be some gaps between the departure and arrival of visitors in this category and it is to fill one such gap, without loss of revenue . to the university, that Mr. Hasluck has bees granted temporary . occupancy.
Mr. Hasluck is paying the same Tent as other temporary tenants of the university.
House adjourned at 4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 October 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1953/19531002_reps_20_hor1/>.