20th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. BRYSON presented a petition from certain officers of the executive councils of unions and associations of Commonwealth public servants, praying that the Parliament will provide increases in the marginal rates for skill of all Commonwealth public servants of 50 per cent.
Petition received and read.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that last year this non-Labour Australian Government abolished the tax on all entertainments and that one of the concessions then given to the people was the cancellation of all tax on admission charges to football matches? Did the Victorian Labour Government reimpose an entertainment tax so that Victorians, in addition to having to pay admission charges to football matches, must also pay an entertainment tax? If these are facts, is it true that the Labour Premier of Victoria, instead of helping to reduce admission charges as he has claimed, is directly responsible for preventing the public from enjoying the lower costs of admission to football matches that were made possible by the actions of this non-Labour Government ?
– This Government did entirely abolish entertainment tax. It is a fact that Mr. Cain, the Premier of Vittoria, and his Government, reimposed an entertainment tax as a State tax, and, as a consequence, has been responsible for increased admission charges to all entertainments, including football matches.
– Will the Treasurer consult his advisers so that he may be assured that the Premier of Victoria has refused to permit an entertainment tax to be imposed on patrons of football
matches, and that the reply that he has just given to the honorable member for Mallee is completely contrary to the fact?
– My reply to the honorable member was in absolute conformity with the facts. The honorable member for Melbourne knows that it is a fact that the Victorian Labour Government introduced State entertainment tax, and therefore people who attend entertainments must pay the tax under certain conditions and on certain charges for admission.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Interior. As section 15S of the Commonwealth Electoral Act is designed to prohibit undue influence being exerted on an elector to obtain his vote or support, will the Minister examine the legal position of a leading Australian Labour party official, who is also a senator? About the 25th March at Rockhampton and other places in Queensland, he sought to impose on trade unionists a compulsory levy of 10s. a member for Labour’s election funds. As compulsory unionism is the law in Queensland, this action by the senator would tend to compel unionists, under a certain threat, to support a political party which the majority do not support by vote at the elections.
– 1 have not seen a report about that matter, although I have been told from several quarters that it has been published in the newspapers. If that is so, as Minister in charge of the Electoral Office, I shall certainly look into the matter. Of course, any such action would certainly be in line with Labour’s political tactics.
– Has the Minister for Territories received reports of a disturbing nature that have revealed grave unrest among the native peoples of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea? Were a number of natives shot at Mendi, and, if so, how many? In what circumstance.? did these killings occur? Can the Minister say whether shootings have taken place previously and have not been reported to the Administrator? la the Minister in a position to confirm or deny that the tragic killing of two young patrol officers at Telefomin was due to any one of the following causes : - The breakdown in administrative policy, the scandalous behaviour of a patrol officer who is said to have lived with a native woman, or the failure of the administration to pay compensation to relatives of natives drowned in a river tragedy? Will the Minister cause a searching inquiry to he made into every aspect of the administration of these territories ?
– In asking this question, the honorable member for Macquarie has mixed up a number of alleged incidents which are not related to each other in time or place, and he has apparently done so with the purpose of blackening the name of a very good service and not for the purpose of helping it. The answer to the first part of his question is “ No “ and the answer to the last part of his question is “ No “. Regarding the incident at Mendi the position that arose there is one that has been familiar in the history of the opening up of Papua and New Guinea. I think that most honorable members realize that in making any Attempt to open up and to extend control in Papua and New Guinea we must deal, in many parts of the Territory, with a primitive and savage people who, hitherto, have had very limited contact with Europeans. For the purpose of extending law and order our patrol officers, sometimes at great personal risk, and always carrying out a national service, are going out into these uncontrolled areas. Throughout the history of Papua and New Guinea, when control has been extended into hitherto uncontrolled areas, there have usually been incidents of one kind or another. The incidents at Mendi were no different from incidents of a similar kind which have occurred on previous occasions. On those occasions as on this they were handled by the patrol officers concerned in a manner creditable to themselves to the best traditions of our form of government. The innuendoes of the honorable member in relation to the incident at Telefomin were unwarranted and false. Two senior officers of the administration have, over a period of three or four months, carried out close and careful investigations in the area. One of the results has been that 84 natives have been brought in, either to be placed on trial or to give evidence in connexion with a trial. The matters relating to the conduct of these natives will be settled as they always have been, by the judiciary and the courts of the Territory. So far as the operations of the administration are concerned, the senior officers have reported to the Administrator and to me that satisfactory conditions have been restored. They have not yet been able to say with certainty what was the cause of the attack on the two patrol officers: but in view of the evidence that we have, I say to the honorable member that his innuendoes were quite unjustified.
– I should like to ask the Minister for External Affairs whether it is a fact that when the United Nations took action in Korea, it was only possible because the Russians had walked out of the Security Council some months before as a protest against the refusal of the United Nations to admit Communist China to membership and were therefore unable to exorcise their veto in relation to the action proposed by the United Nations in regard to Korea ? Is there any likelihood, in the opinion of the right honorable gentleman, that the Russians would be so obliging in respect of IndoChina? Should circumstances make it impossible for the United Nations to act effectively or in time in Indo-China, will the right honorable gentleman give an assurance to the House that Australia will act in the closest consultation and collaboration with the United States of America in insuring that the march of communism, is stemmed in an area which is as vital to our security as to theirs?
– Yes, the honorable gentleman is entirely right in the first part of his question. The Russians were absent from the Security Council for a period of a few months in protest against the non-admission of Communist China to the United Nations. During that period, in mid-1950, the aggression by North Korea took place. The Security Council was able to act immediately and, as the world knows, resistance to naked aggression was implemented with most remarkable speed. With regard to whether that may happen again, I have not any great hope that it will. The Russians have a saying, “ Never let the same bee sting you twice “, and I think that possibly they interpret “ bee “ in a. fairly wide and liberal sense. As to the last part of the honorable gentleman’s question, concerning whether we will keep in close touch with the United States of America, failing United Nations’ action, I can give him an assurance, on behalf of the Government, that we are now keeping, and will continue to keep, in the closest possible touch with all our friends, particularly, of course, Great Britain, our Mother Country, and the United States of America.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in a position to say whether it is proposed to abolish export, control of hides at an early date? Is he aware of the accumulation of heavy hides in all stores throughout the Commonwealth, and of the losses which are incidental to the retention of this export control long after it has served any useful purpose?
– The decision to control the export of hides was not taken unilaterally by the Australian Government. It arose from joint Commonwealth and State legislation which was designed to make possible the exercise of price control in Australia by the State authorities when the value for export was substantially higher than the prescribed local selling prices. Because this Government has been of the opinion for some considerable time that the price differential in relation to various classes of hides as between export values and local fixed prices has diminished, that the marketing of hides has become chaotic and that many problems have arisen for tanners, it has submitted strongly to the State governments that the time has arrived when it would be better to abolish the control of hides. So far the States have not agreed and the Commonwealth has not felt that it was justified in unilaterally terminating this measure, which was essential to State price control. The
Commonwealth finally made such a decision in relation to tallow and one or two other items, because the States were obstinately adhering to an unnecessary policy, and chaotic trading conditions were developing. If that state of affairs becomes fixed in relation to hides, the Commonwealth will abolish export control. At present the Commonwealth does not think that there is warrant for it.
– Will the Minister for Health inform the House whether any research teams are working in Australia on the development of a safe and satisfactory poliomyelitis vaccine? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that in England funds have been allocated to assist research teams in this very important work? Is the Minister also aware that in London teams have obtained important results and that scientists are experimenting with techniques which it was hoped would facilitate the large-scale production of vaccine? Are any funds being allocated for this purpose in Australia? If not, will the Minister sponsor the allocation of such funds?
– Medical research in Australia has been delegated to the National Health and Medical Research Council, the funds for w7hich have been trebled since this Government assumed office in 1949. That body has conducted certain virus experiments which are very closely related to the finding of a poliomyelitis vaccine. The place in which the best work can be done is where many millions of people reside, as in America. As I told one of the honorable member’s colleagues yesterday, approximately eighteen months or two years ago Australia sent one of its most distinguished research men abroad. He has been working at the University of Pittsburgh and has been closely associated with the latest developments in relation to poliomyelitis vaccine. That vaccine is being tested on approximately 1,000,000 people in the United States of America, and from those tests we shall be able to obtain sufficient data to ascertain whether the vaccine is satisfactory.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Interior. In cases where disputes arise between war service land settlers and the Minister for Agriculture in Western Australia and appeals against the Minister’s decisions are lodged, will the Minister confer with the Attorney-General with a view to ascertaining whether the Legal Service Bureau will provide advice and assistance to the ex-servicemen concerned?
– The whole question of appeals in Western Australia is confused because of the fact that one act was repealed and another act, which was related to the Re-establishment and Employment Act, but which did not provide legislation similar to that under which the Commonwealth is operating, was passed. A third act has not yet been passed. I am having investigations made by two of my officers at the present time. I know how interested in this problem the honorable member is, and I shall try to let him have a report next week.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government is prepared to co-operate with the Queensland Government in constructing a railway from Birdum, in the Northern Territory, te connect with the Queensland railway system at Dajarra? My reason for asking this question at this juncture is that a belt extending from the Barkly Tableland to Western Australia has been seriously affected as a result of drought and, at present, 100,000 head of cattle, worth at least £2,000,000. are ready to be sent to meatworks in Queensland but cannot be shifted to the railhead in that State because of the closing of stock routes as one effect of the drought. Is the Government prepared to obviate these enormous annually recurring losses by co-operating with the Queensland Government in constructing a railway as I have indicated, particularly as such a line would be of great defence as well as economic value ?
– The contents of the honorable member’s speech are noted.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service in a position to give to the House any information about the latest situation on the waterfront in Sydney with respect to the loading of the vessel Radnor with supplies for Indo-China?
– Yesterday, I arranged for the chairman of the Stevedoring Industry Board to discuss with the general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation the views of the Government on this matter. Following an intimation that we expected Radnor to be loaded in accordance with the award applying to the members of the federation, I understand that a body of men who had been detailed for this work set out by launch for the vessel this morning. In order to ensure that there should be no question of any industrial issue not being dealt with promptly - it has always been the policy of the Government to deal as promptly as it could with industrial issues as they arise - it was arranged that the secretary of the State committee of the shipowners, two stevedoring industry inspectors and a vigilance officer from the union should also go to the vessel and be prepared to deal with any issue of that kind that might arise. I was given to understand that this morning eight demands, some of them being additional to those raised in earlier discussions, were made. However, it transpired that, without even leaving their launch, the men decided not to work, and returned to shore. I have previously informed the House of the nature, in our judgment, of the trouble that has developed in this instance. There is no doubt in our minds that the issue that has been raised is not a genuine industrial issue. The same vessel was loaded without complaint by waterside workers in Melbourne; and, in our judgment, the action taken by the men in Sydney has been influenced by the Communist leadership of the Waterside Workers Federation. I understand that the Leader of the Opposition, if he has been correctly reported, associates himself with that view. As I mentioned yesterday, the Government does not intend to allow foreign policy to be taken out of its hands. Neither is it prepared to be pushed around by the Waterside Workers Federation in a political manoeuvre. The stores being loaded are stores from service establishments, and service personnel are transporting them by lighter to the vessel. The cargo embraces a wide range of stores and equipment to be supplied to the French by an agreement between the French Government and the Australian Government. In view of the circumstances, I have asked the Minister for the Navy and Air, whose personnel are handling the stores, to ensure that they a re loaded on to the ship.
– Will the Minister for Health inform the House whether it is a fact that in the preparation of the National Health Bill 1953 the Minister rejected 94 operations and services recommended by the British Medical Association for inclusion in the schedule to the bill? If not, how does the Minister explain the gap in the schedule to the act between items 607 and 701? If this is merely a clerical error in draftsmanship, does it indicate that the Minister did not read the bill thoroughly before it was passed, and that it was actually prepared by some outside organization or individuals? Otherwise, how doe3 the Minister explain the discrepancy?
– If the honorable member will read the items in the schedule thoroughly, he will discover that the cover is the most complete that has ever been provided by any country.
– Will the Minister for Health state whether it is a fact that the medical benefits organizations refuse to accept as members persons over 70 years of age ? If that is so, will the Government consider the plight of those persons and admit them to Commonwealth medical benefits ?
– When the health insurance scheme was started there was an age limit, but I am informed that every organization concerned has now removed the age bar.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state whether the Australian Government determines the type of services upon which money may be expended from the agricultural extension services grant? If not, what body performs that function? How much money was made available by the Australian Government in 1953-54 for those services? What was the amount of Western Australia’s share?
– This Government was the first Australian Government since federation to make a specific contribution to the State governments to enable them to widen the work of the agricultural extension services, which is purely a State function. Huge sums have been provided by this Government for agricultural research. In the budget for the current financial year, the total amount allotted for that purpose was about £4,000,000. The value of such grants to the Australian community has been prodigious, but the results of the research have been too long in reaching the rural community. The extension services, which are designed to communicate the results of research and new technological practices to the farming community, have been inadequately conducted by the States. Therefore, the Australian Government arranged about two years ago to provide money for the widening of the extension services. The amount provided was at the rate of £200,000 a year in the first place, extending to £500,000 according to agreement by the States themselves as to how they would use the money. The Australian Government, however, was not prepared to provide the money merely to pay for services that the States were already performing. The purposes for which the money was to be used were not determined unilaterally by this Government. They were the subject of negotiation with the State governments themselves. The distribution of the money between the States, totalling £200,000 last year, £300,000 this year and £500,000 in the years to come, is also a matter for negotiation between the Commonwealth and the State governments. The Government of Western Australia has not been able to use even the modest amount that it received last year. I believe that the Australian Government had to approve of a sum of £9,000 being carried over to next year by the Western Australian Government.
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture doubtless remembers representations that I have made to him on behalf of the poultry industry in New South Wales for some financial assistance in respect of the last egg export season. Has the Government had time to consider this request? Can the right honorable gentleman give me any idea of when I may receive an answer?
– It is quite correct that the honorable member for Robertson and some of his colleagues, who represent some of the electorates in which the poultry industry is carried on extensively, have made strong representation to the Government that, in the light of experience of last year’s export season, some financial assistance should be given to the industry. Unhappily, the producers’ representatives on the Australian Egg Board who went to London to negotiate tie terms of sale of last year’s eggs did not make the happiest choice of the options open to them. Honorable members are aware that I am not completely familiar with some of the happenings in the last few months, but I am able to inform the honorable member for Robertson that the matter he has raised is under active consideration by the Government at the present time, and that a decision can be expected in the near future.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Last night, I outlined the crisis which has arisen in the timber export industry in Tasmania because approximately 8,000,000 super, feet of timber is awaiting shipment at five northern ports. Will the Prime Minister examine my speech, if he has time-
Government supporters interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is entitled to ask a question seeking information about a matter for which the Prime Minister is responsible.
Ma-. DUTHIE.- Will the Prime Minister ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport to make available two ships from the Commonwealth shipping line to handle that surplus cargo, and ensure regularity of shipments of timber from Tasmania and a better allotment of shipping space?
– I shall refer the honorable gentleman’s request to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, and I shall read the report of his speech, if I have the opportunity to do so. If I do not, I am sure that it will be my loss.
– I desire to address a question to the Leader of the Opposition who, I see, has just come into the House. I ask him to clarify a point which is seriously disturbing many honorable members. I understood him to say in his speech during the Supply debate that he was of the opinion that the present control of the Vietminh movement in Indo-China was wholly Communist. Last night, in his absence, the honorable member for Melbourne-
– I rise to order. How on earth can this question be related to the business of the House, the administration of a department, or anything else covered by the Standing Orders governing the asking of questions? It is about time that the honorable member for Mackellar was stopped.
– Order ! The question has not been completed. I should say that, so far, it has a lot to do with the business of the House.
– In the absence of the Leader of the Opposition last night, the honorable member for Melbourne, who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and who was speaking apparently with the authority of his party, said that the Leader of the Opposition had not made that statement but had phrased his speech very carefully to avoid saying precisely that.
– I did not say that at all.
– I should like the Leader of the Opposition to state-
Mr. Bryson interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Wills must remain silent.
– I ask the Leader of the Opposition whether my impression of his speech was correct, and whether he expressed the view that the Vietminh movement, as it exists at present in Indo-China, was wholly under Communist control.
– I cannot recall the precise words that I used in my speech, but the substance of what I said was this : 1 believe that the Vietminh movement originally started as a nationalist movement in Indo-China but that, in accordance with the pattern of Communist propaganda and action in the South-West Pacific, Communists had got control of the movement and altered its character so that, in substance, it was a. Communist movement. That was said in circumstances in which I did not indicate the precise reasoning for it, but I am satisfied with it and that is why I pointed out how difficult it was for Australia to deal with situations like that when, if the Communists got control of this area, there would not be any more elections because we would have a completely totalitarian state.
– T address a question to the Postmaster-General relating to the royal cipher which was once used with distinction throughout Australia on nil postal vans and mail letter boxes, lt is proudly recognized to-day in most British countries as the emblem of Her Majesty’s royal mail. I wish to know why the royal cipher was removed, some years ago, by the previous Labour Government. I have tried, without success, to obtain this information from departmental sources. Will the Minister consider favorably, when renovations are being made to postal vans and mail boxes, using the royal cipher to replace the present Postal Department emblem, which, if I may say so, looks more like a ballet dancer doing a jig than the Roman god Mercury ? Does he not agree that the present emblem compares very poorly with the ancient and traditional British royal cipher used in connexion with Her Majesty’s mail in British countries throughout the world?
– I think that the exhibition of the royal cipher on postal boxes, mail vans and things of that kind is most desirable. There is something in the term “ the royal mail “ which gives pride to everybody associated with it, and I think that the cipher “ E II R “ might well be used.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral inform me whether his department has now decided to discontinue the resumption of an area in Redfern for use as a postal stores depot? Can he also say whether any other government department is now interested in that area?
– I presume that the honorable gentleman is referring to a large area that was resumed there for postal purposes two or three years ago. It was not resumed in connexion with postal stores but for the purpose of erecting a new mail branch, which ia very urgently required in the City of Sydney. Unless something is done in that respect within the next few years we shall have the utmost congestion in dealing with mail for the city and suburban areas. There is no intention at. the moment to do anything other than proceed with the necessary work when funds are available.
– by leave - The telegraph service in Australia, in common with overseas countries, is under a searching review because of the heavy increase of expenditure and the loss of revenue due to the diversion of traffic to improved air mail and telephone trunk-line services. Ways and means of improving the situation have been and are being studied closely in Australia. One of the principal problems in connexion with the disposal of telegraph traffic is the necessity to handle manually a large proportion of the messages a number of times because the provision of direct channels between all important centres is not practicable on economic grounds. This means that the labour content in the expenditure of the telegraph service is very substantial.
The department has kept itself abreast of important and far-reaching developments which have taken place in th” telegraph services of leading countries overseas where extensive use is now being made of machine printing instruments and modern switching techniques for the expeditious movement of telegraph messages. An expert committee was set up some time ago to study critically the existing arrangements in all States. The committee strongly recommended the introduction of a machine switching system at the chief telegraph offices which would enable messages passing through these offices to be switched and repeated automatically to the distant office without the necessity for repetition by telegraphists. Such a system is already widely used in the United States of America where the problems are similar to those in Australia. Information was produced to show that such a scheme would not only effect substantial savings in annual operating costs but would also speed up the movement of traffic, and reduce the error factor as well as obviate repeated handling of the greater proportion of the total daily load. The conclusions of the committee were examined exhaustively and, although the proposal was endorsed in principle, it was decided to proceed along the following lines: - (i) In order to enable the cost of the switching scheme to be determined, tenders would be invited for the equipment required; (ii) at an appropriate time, an expert telegraph engineer .and a telegraph traffic officer would be sent to the United States of America to examine on the spot the arrangements in force in that country where the conditions are more appropriate to those prevailing in Australia than those in the United Kingdom or in Europe; (iii) with equipment which is already available, exhaustive trials would be made in Melbourne of an experimental set-up; (iv) in the light of the information gained from the adoption of these measures, final consideration would be given to the proposal of the committee and a definite plan would be prepared for authorization by the appropriate authority. The matter, therefore, is still in the experimental stage, and in accordance with a promise given by the Director-General, Posts and Telegraphs, to the Commonwealth Telegraph Traffic and Supervisory Officers Association, the Australian Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks Union, and the Fourth Division Postmasters, Postal Clerks and Telegraphists Union, that proposals to improve facilities and conditions in the Telegraph Branch would be discussed with a standing committee comprising representatives of those bodies, the proposal relating to the switching scheme was recently discussed with the stand ‘ ig committee. This course was taken so that staff representatives would be aware of contemplated developments likely to affect their members and to secure their co-operation and assistance in measures which were .necessary in the public interest. Such a course also enables the unions to put forward views on certain aspects of proposals which they feel they should submit in the interests of the staff.
The present proposal is a complicated and highly technical one, and the department is not at present committed to any particular plan and will not be committed until all of the relevant tech ni cai and economic aspects have been finally settled. Naturally, the department must examine all possible means of securing greater efficiency and economy, but the telegraph supervisory and operating staff may be assured that there is no likelihood of the present proposal being finally adopted unless it has been established beyond doubt to be in the interests of the community and has been approved, and funds have been made available by the appropriate authority. In the event of the scheme on the lines envisaged being adopted, a period of several years would be occupied in its complete introduction. Staff dismissals would not be involved, having regard to the traffic load and normal wastage through promotions, retirements and transfers.
The Administration has always welcomed the views of staff organizations on aspects of its operations where they are put forward with the object of assisting the department to discharge its obligations to the public or to safeguard legitimate interests of the staff. Careful consideration will be given to any observations which the unions concerned may care to offer in regard to the present proposal which, as already indicated, has not been finally approved. During the progress of the trials in Melbourne, the department will be happy to permit representatives of the unions to view the operations. Nothing definite will be done until the whole matter has been carefully reviewed. The unions and the staffs concerned will be taken fully into the confidence of the department.
.- I lay on the table the following paper: -
Report on the Colombo Plan by the Minister for External Affairs.
This report outlines the general aims of the Colombo plan and also gives some detail of what is being done in individual countries. Reference is made to the way in which Australian assistance is fitted into the needs and programmes of the recipient countries.
– Is this a statement by the Minister?
– It is a factual statement as described, not a controversial statement.
– I should like to invoke some process by which the document could be seen by honorable members.
– The Minister may move that the paper be printed.
– I shall move to that effect.
– I shall not contest that.
-It would be better for the Minister to do so. The Minister is responsible for the statement.
– You have called attention to this practice before, Mr. Speaker, in connexion with papers laid on the table by the Minister for External Affairs. Such statements may bo important and controversial. This paper may not be controversial, but we have not seen it. Tn the normal course of events, a statement that contains controversial matter should be answered at once. That is made impossible by this procedure.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) wish to move that the paper be printed?
– I am prepared to do so. I move -
That the paper be printed.
Dlt. Evatt. - Will the Minister consider whether honorable members can be given an opportunity to discuss this paper, so far as it is practicable to do so in the time at our disposal?
– I shall do so.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
– I present a document that is noncontroversial but probably of very great interest at the present time. It contains the statistical return in respect of each State showing the voting within each subdivision in relation to the Senate elections, 1953.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
Senate Election 1053 - Statistical Returns showing the voting within each Subdivision in relation to the Senate Election 1053, viz.: -
Ne,v South Wales.
Ordered to be printed.
– As Chairman, I present the sixth report of the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings. The report is as follows : -
Sixth Report of the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of PARLIAMENTARY Proceedings.
The Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings submits the sixth report for presentation to each House of the Parliament and recommends its adoption.
The Joint Committee has further considered the general principles upon which there should be determined the days upon winch and the periods during which the proceedings of the Senate and the House of Representatives shall be broadcast, which were specified in previous reports by the Joint Committee and were adopted by both Houses. In accordance with section 12 (l.) of the Parliamentary Proceed ings Broadcasting Act 1946, the Joint Committee has now resolved that the general principles should be further amended as follows: -
That the following new paragraph be inserted after paragraph (3) : - “ (3a.)re-broadcast of GovernorGeneral’s Speech. - On the first sitting day of each session of the Parliament the Australian Broadcasting Commission shall re-broadcast at 7.20 p.m. the Speech of the Governor-General”; and
That sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (4), viz.:- (4.)Re-broadcast of Questionsand Answers. - (a) Within the limits of time available, the following Parliamentary Proceedings shall be re-broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission between 7.20 p.m. and7.55 p.m. on each sitting day -
Senate Proceedings - Questions without notice and on notice and answer thereto;
House of ‘Representatives proceedings - Questions without notice and answers thereto.”, be amended by insertingafter “ on each sitting day” the words “after the first sitting day of each session “.
Archie G. Cameron, Chairman. 7th April, 1954.
The general principles adopted by both Houses concerning the parliamentary broadcast stipulate that on each sitting day between 7.20 p.m. and 7.55 p.m. the Australian Broadcasting Commission shall re-broadcast questions and answers of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Since the inception of the broadcast, a question period has not occurred on the first sitting day of a new session at a time that would permit re-broadcasting. On these occasions, the joint committee has determined that a re-broadcast shall be made of the Governor-General’s Speech. The committee feels it is appropriate that the Speech of the GovernorGeneral on all such occasions should be re-broadcast and, in order that this will be a permanent feature of the broadcasting arrangements, it recommends that a stipulation to this effect be incorporated in the general principles. Accordingly, the joint committee in its report has proposed appropriate amendments to the general principles. It recommends that the report be adopted.
Report - byleave-adopted.
– by leave - On Tuesday I informed honorable members that I would, at an early date, make a statement on the question of the hydrogen bomb. It is difficult to say anything new on a subject so much debated,but I think that I should, on behalf of the Government, endeavour to put the questions which arise into some form of order. On the terrible nature of the hydrogen bomb there cannot be two opinions. War is no novelty to mankind. But the most terrible thing in our own time has been the conversion of the armed conflict of soldier with soldier into total war, whichhas become so rapidly an instrument forthe indiscriminate mass annihilation of mankind. We differ about many things in this House, but we have no differences in our desire to outlaw war and substitute a sensible arbitration among the nations of the world. Nobody in Australia has any doubt that if we could eliminate waras successfully as we have eliminated civil disturbances at home, the financial resources, the materials, the energies realized by this happy deliverance, would bring immeasurable benefits to our people. But war has not been eliminated. True, we have the United Nations. We h a ve immense free democracies with no aggressive designs. We have, asI believe, an increasingly vocal world opinion in favour of peace. Yet the history of the last few years, to which we had looked forward to as a period of peace won by the sacrifices of World War II. has shown that there will be no peace in the world until either all the nations of the world have shown that, they desire it, or the nations which desire peace are, in practical terms, able to show that aggression by other nations is doomed to defeat. The collective action envisaged in the charter of the United Nations does not confine itself to resolutions of goodwill. It contemplates that under some circumstances there may be the grim necessity of resorting to collective arms. Those observations, in a highly summarized way, explain Korea.
But just before the end of the recent war the atomic bomb was created. Its unprecedented capacity for mass destruction, exhibited in two Japanese cities, brought the war to an end. Men and women the world over were torn between two emotions; one, an inevitable feeling of abhorrence at the wiping out of human lives on so terrible a scale; the other, an, emotion of thankfulness that in the long run more losses of human life and more human misery had been averted. Not long afterwards, the problem of the future control of this new and terrible instrument of destruction became a matter of world concern. There was an almost unanimous opinion in the free world that the powers of nature so released should not be employed for the destruction of man, but for his aid and enrichment. I speak about no party matter. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) himself became the first chairman of the. Atomic Energy Commission created under the United Nations. On a previous occasion he has, speaking with the authority of first-hand knowledge, reminded this House of the events that ensued. We had been discussing, on the 1 5th October, 1953, on a motion by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) the control of atomic energy, lt was in the minds of all honorable members that the United States of America itself, possessed, as it was at that time, of dominating superiority in the atomic field, and knowing as it did, and as we must not forget, that the Communist powers had an immense superiority in armed forces and what are grimly called “ conventional weapons “, had taken the lead in promoting civilized action. With his permission I shall quote what the right honorable gentleman said in the debate -
From the outset, the proposal of the United States of America, through the former President, Mr. Truman, was not only beyond reproach or criticism, but was one of the most generous gestures in the history of mankind. The United States of America had the monopoly of the atomic bomb, and was prepared to give it up, provided sure and certain safeguards were introduced against any nation breaking the treaty and manufacturing and using atomic bombs when America was disarmed. That was an extraordinarily constructive and generous attitude for the United States of America to adopt. It has maintained that attitude ever since. The attitude of Russia, which rejected the proposal of the United States of America, was completely intransigent, and was due to folly, obstinacy or worse.
I adopted and adopt that statement. The sad truth is that, when this matter came before the United Nations, the Soviet Union, while agreeing that there should be international control, asserted that it should be set up under the Security Council to carry out periodical inspection, violations to be dealt with by the Security Council and by nobody else. In short, the Soviet Union proposed that the control authority should be set up under a body on which it had the power of veto and which it could convert at its own will into a futility. Under that proposal no violation by the Soviet Union could be touched. The idea of an international control which is effective only one way was, and is, intolerable to the free world. I said that this was no party matter. The best proof of this is that successive Australian governments, including my own, have consistently pressed for action in the United Nations. But whilst there has so far been no sign of any change of mind or of heart on the part of the Communists, this does not mean that we give way to despair; it means that much work remains to be done in the international field before genuine control of these matters and effective, and inspected, prohibition of these weapons becomes part of the normal pattern of life.
I remind the House of these matters because they provide a background against which the problem of the new and terrible hydrogen bomb has to be considered. They remind us that the problem is not altered by the substitution of the hydrogen bomb for the earlier atom bomb; it has merely been intensified in degree and in urgency.
It is perhaps one of the horrible advantages of the totalitarian state that it can, as the Soviet Union has done, devise” and test hydrogen bombs in comparative secrecy. But the testing of hydrogen bombs by the great free democracy of the United States of America is instantaneously world news and a matter of world concern. Should these differences induce us to adopt hasty or even hysterical conclusions? Certainly not! It would indeed- be odd if United States’ experiments with hydrogen bombs encouraged any thinking people to direct their propaganda to the United States of America and not to our potential enemies. It is a common slogan in our own country, coming from a source which we all well understand, that we should “ ban the atom bomb “. This propaganda should not be directed to those who have honorably and persistently offered to ban it ; it should more properly be directed to those who, as I have shown, have offered lip service to the ban, but have throughout frustrated its effectiveness. The free world has maintained its freedom by valour and fortitude and calm thinking, and it will continue to do so.
Is there any reason to believe that these ‘ hydrogen bomb tests are having such unexpected results - results not guarded against by any fore-thought that we, ourselves, may become the victims of our own scientific development? The answer to that is that there is no evidence whatever that any bomb exploded in any such test has got out of control or has given the lie to the preliminary calculations of the experts. In these circumstances, I venture to make two observations, which would, I think, represent the general sense of our people. The first is that until we have secured some effective international system of control and inspection, it would be folly for the free world to cease in its labours, and to concede the field of destruction to others. If the world is to have these hideous weapons, we simply cannot afford to be inferior to those who have produced the whole pattern of aggression for the last six or seven years. The inevitable conclusion from that statement is that we should be thankful indeed that our great friends and allies of the United States of America have been willing to accept the vast burdens of money, of skill and of energy involved in. maintaining a clear world leadership. It follows that Australia will not put pressure upon the United States of - America to desist, any more than would any of the other nations with whom Australia is honorably and vitally associated.
A brief analysis of these events and considerations will show that mankind in truth - and in the word “ mankind “ I include the men. and women of the Soviet Union who, as individuals, have the same emotions and ambitions and natural fears as ourselves - must contemplate three possibilities. The first, which I reject, is that in due or undue course these weapons will be put to their final use in war, and that the greatest mutual holocaust in the history of the world will occur, that all the belligerent nations will be grievously weakened and crippled, and that the human race will be sent back to the darkest of the clark ages. If I reject this answer it is because I still believe that the greatest weapon in the armoury of the world is the spirit of man, made in the image of his Creator. As men we do many mad things; but there are some things that men and nations will not do except in a moment of unprecedented insanity.
The second possibility, which is in a real sense involved in the first, is that the widespread knowledge of the immense and indiscriminate destructive capacity of these new weapons, and the knowledge in the Soviet Union of the superiority which the free world now possesses in this dreadful field, will do what the debates in the United Nations have not done and bring the Communist countries to accept a genuine and effective system of control and a genuine and effective collaboration with all other nations for the establishment and preservation of the peace. Viewed in this way, the recent American experiments have been a great contribution to the psychology of peace. The broad possibility is that all over the world we may be shortly brought to realize that the exploring of the hitherto unknown forces of nature is not an occasion for condemning the scientists, but for praising them. It is the proud duty of the man of science to explore the unknown. What is done with the fruits of his exploration is not merely a matter for him; it is essentially a matter for the governments and peoples of the world. In the United States of America, in the United Kingdom, here in Australia, and elsewhere, men are increasingly turning their attention to using these vast discoveries for the benefit of mankind. It is a grievous error to think that the United States of America has adopted a posture of war. In common with the British people all over the world, the Americans desire peace. President Eisenhower himself has exhibited a generous willingness to share the knowledge of the United States of America with others in the civil use of atomic science. Only at the end of last year the President made a magnificent offer to set up an international pool to which the United States of America would contribute from its stocks of material and magnificent technical knowledge, so that atomic energy could be harnessed peacefully for the benefit of the people of all nations. He has more recently recommended to Congress an amendment of the legislation of the United States of America to permit the exchange of a wider range of information than ever before.
But before we can garner the human fruits of remarkable scientific developments, we must bend our energies to getting rid of a state of affairs in which we think, and are compelled to think, in terms of destructive power. My colleague, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), speaking on behalf of the Government, recently urged that the Disarmament Commission should be convened so that the facts might be faced internationally, and a supreme effort made for sanity and civilization. Similar views have been expressed by the United Kingdom, the United States of America and France. Whatever the appropriate instrumentality of the United Nations may be, I arn sure that I express the deep wishes, not only of this House, but of every Australian in saying that I hope that, with the realistic knowledge that is now sweeping around the world, there may be achieved so effective a control of atomic weapons and of atomic development for war, that the almost illimitable energy of the atom may, in our own time, come to be used for the peace and wellbeing of all men.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
Hydrogen bomb tests by the United States of America - Ministerial statement. and move -
That the paper be printed.
– The matter before honorable members is of such supreme importance, and the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is also of such importance, that I consider that I should again refer to certain aspects of the whole subject. Last October there was a debate in this House about atomic energy, and I then stated, on behalf of the Australian Labour party, the case in support of a fully effective system of international control of atomic energy in order to prevent its use for purposes of destruction and to ensure that it should be used solely for the constructive purposes of peace. At that time I stated, first, that the United Nations must continue ite work for the elimination by strict international control of all major weapons of mass destruction; secondly, that a system of international control should be established and made so effective that it would be impossible to produce or use atomic weapons for destruction; thirdly, that part of the system should provide for the prompt detection of attempted violations of the international agreement and for appropriate sanctions and other actions to guarantee the safety of innocent nations; and, fourthly, that it should not be permissible to wage preventive war by atomic or other weapons.
It is almost six months since the matter was last discussed in this House, and the events that have occurred in that time have made more urgent the necessity to obtain a solution of the problem of the control of atomic energy. The hydrogen bomb, or fusion bomb as it is called, has an estimated explosive force of 160.000.000 tons of trinitrotoluene as compared with the explosive force of 20,000 tons of trinitrotoluene that has been attributed to the atomic bombs dropped on Japan during World War II. In other words, the hydrogen bomb has an estimated explosive force S,000 times greater than that of the earlier atomic bomb. It has been estimated that the lethal effect of the hydrogen bomb is to obliterate all life within a circular area of twenty miles diameter ; that is, an area of more than 300 square miles, which is larger than the area of any of the great cities of the world. However, the recent experimental explosions of the hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean seem to show that its destructive force has been underestimated. Indeed, President Eisenhower publicly indicated that the results of one of the explosions were far more extensive than had been anticipated by those in charge, and injury was caused to
J Japanese seamen engaged on their lawful occasions at a considerable distance from the centre of the explosion. That gave rise to the President’s prompt and just decision that compensation should be payable in respect of the injuries and damage that they sustained. The world pays tribute to President Eisenhower for his frank statement about that matter. His action was in strict accordance with the attitude adopted by his predecessor, President Truman.
Mr. Truman’s offer to negotiate an atomic treaty at a time when the United States of America had a complete monopoly of atomic bombs, showed a constructive, generous and noble attitude on the part of the United States of America. President Eisenhower is carrying on in the tradition established by President Truman. There has obviously been general agreement about the necessity to establish a system of international control and inspection, as part of a firm agreement to prevent atomic energy from being used for war. Therefore, it is not enough to say generally that the use of atomic and hydrogen bombs is to be prohibited; the prohibition must be made effective. No nation in possession of atomic weapons could allow another nation which might become an enemy to retain its atomic bombs without obtaining absolute safeguards against misuse of the weapon. Consequently, the control system - and I have emphasized this time and time again- must be watertight, so that attempts at evasion of a major or minor character could be easily detected. I believe that we could establish a system such as that more easily to-day than we could have done six or seven years ago. If we should take this action, then detection of breaches of agreement would be followed by prompt and drastic measures for the prevention of injury and the punishment of offenders. In spite of long-continued efforts to reach agreement with Russia about this matter, no agreement for international control had been reached up to October last year, when the House last discussed the matter and the Disarmament Commission of the United Nations last met. A complete stalemate had occurred, and typical of the conditions was the report
Or. Emit. of the Disarmament Commission made to the last meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations in SeptemberNovember last year. The report showed that only one meeting had been held during the year, and that that meeting had been called solely to prepare the report stating that nothing had been done during the previous year.
It was and is my belief that the duty of attempted conciliation to prevent the outbreak of atomic warfare must be performed more energetically. In particular, I have advocated that United Nations action could and should be strengthened by a meeting of the leaders of the great powers. I am satisfied that recent events have given support to the views expressed in this House by all honorable members, including the Prime Minister. A unanimous resolution was passed recently on this matter in the House of Commons, which showed that public opinion has been increasingly brought to bear on the subject. Since the experimental bombing at Bikini, n far greater degree of public interest has been displayed in the matter. I regard this universal concern not as evidence of hysteria, but as showing that genuine human emotion and anxiety have been aroused on a very wide scale. I have examined the debates of the last General Assembly of the United Nations which took place towards the end of last year when there was a discussion of the report to which I have referred which said, in effect, that there was nothing to report. At that meeting of the General Assembly, Russia abandoned its old contention that the prohibition of atomic weapons should precede the institution of a control system to ensure the observance of such prohibition. Russia then proclaimed for the first time that it was ready to accept an agreement for the simultaneous prohibition of atomic weapons and the institution of international control. The effectiveness of this proposal was strongly criticized by the United Kingdom representative who insisted that it would be inadequate or futile to prohibit atomic weapons if a. control system had not already been instituted and was not in operation. I think that the criticism of the Russian proposal was justified. However, Russia substantially modified its original attitude, which was that under no circumstances would it agree to any system of control or inspection. Now it has expressed its willingness to submit to such inspection provided that the prohibition of atomic weapons is declared at the same time as international control is commenced.
What was suggested falls far short of what is essential for the establishment of a watertight system of effective control and inspection. But it is essential to continue the effort to obtain agreement. Not to pursue the effort would be a breach of our moral and Christian duty to all mankind. I believe that it is physically possible to establish a watertight system of control and inspection and I think it would be much easier to do that now than it would have been five or six years ago. I think that it would prove one of the greatest blessings to mankind in the modern age if that control could be instituted effectively. It would involve a submission by Russia to international jurisdiction. That country would have to give up portion of its sovereignty. But that would also be the case with other nations that were bound by the agreement. Such an agreement, subject to safeguards, would give all people greater freedom, greater security and an increasing absence of the fear that is so widespread to-day. In my opinion the time to move forward is now. We believe that the Western democracies hold a distinct advantage at present in respect of the hydrogen bomb. That advantage may increase or decrease, or it may disappear altogether. But it was pointed out by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) and the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) during the last debate on this subject that when a nation has power completely to destroy, any addition to that power may not be significant.
Torn with anxieties and naturally impatient, many people are tempted to give up the slow and often frustrating search for agreement on this matter and even to advocate the use of the hydrogen bomb or the atomic bomb by way of preventive action. They say that we should wage atomic warfare in order to prevent atomic warfare. That is a contradiction in terms. But the supreme objection to this proposal goes far deeper than the dangers of instant and perhaps decisive retaliation. We all know that such preventive bombing would be contrary not only to the dictates of ordinary humanity but also to all religious teachings. President Truman has said -
We do not believe in aggressive or preventive war. Such was the weapon of dictators, not of free democratic countries like the United States. We are arming only for defence against aggression.
The same point of view was even better expressed by General Carl Spaatz, the distinguished leader of the United States Air Force, who said - lt has frequently been said of late that the theory of preventive wai- is to do unto others what you fear they will do unto you - but do it first. That is the thinking of thu weak and the fearful. It is gangster reasoning.
We must therefore press on with the processes of conciliation in order to try to reach a really effective agreement on this great matter. But we cannot possibly have a really effective agreement without the safeguards of inspection and control. An agreement without those safeguards would be meaningless, and no leader of a democratic nation would possibly accept it. In the meantime we cannot possibly let our guard down. That would be equally suicidal. High level four-power talks could be of great assistance to United Nations action. The sub-committee of the Disarmament Commission is about to meet. If it fails to make satisfactory progress a special meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations organization should be summoned immediately. The difficulties are still immense but it would be unworthy of the spirit of man to accept the fatal doctrine that world war, particularly atomic war, is inevitable. Only unwise or wicked council could make it inevitable. ‘ A firm and effective agreement could change the whole course of history overnight. Atomic energy would become one of our greatest blessings instead of the greatest curse that was ever inflicted on mankind. An agreement, with safeguards, would lift the hearts of mankind and liberate human energies to join together in the war that must always be waged by men of goodwill - the war against the poverty, the disease, the ignorance, the intolerance, the cruelty and the tyranny which are still spread over so much of the world. I am greatly obliged to the Prime Minister for opening this discussion and I felt that it was of such importance that I should add my remarks to what he said.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Casey) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) agreed to -
That Standing Order 104 - 11 o’clock rulebe suspended for the remainder of the sitting.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Two recent judicial proceedings, one in the High Court and one in the Privy Council, have disclosed a technical defect in Australian patent law. Over a period of almost 50 years, successive commissioners of patents have exercised a wide discretion in correcting mistakes in documents relating to patent applications and proceedings, and in permitting the amendment of these documents in other respects. In this regard, Australian practice has been broadly similar to that of the United Kingdom. It now appears that neither the existing Patents Act and regulations nor the new ones which will replace them on the 1st May next are in terms wide enough to cover, in its entirety, the Patent Office practice thus established. This, as the Government is aware, could cause unnecessary inconvenience, and even hardship, in the business community. The Government is, accordingly, taking the first available opportunity to place the practice of the past 50 years on a secure footing.
Of necessity, applications for letters patent frequently involve correction or amendment of one or more of the various documents which are required to be lodged in connexion with the application. The patent registration system is not, of course, unique in this respect. In almost every registration system the occasion for amending documents will occur, and power to correct or amend is part and parcel of the system.
The matters involved in the bill are of a technical character, but I shall explain, as briefly as I can, the general nature of the difficulty that has arisen. The view expressed by a majority of the justices in the High Court in Martin’s case in October, 1953, left little room for doubt that regulation 147 of the Patents Regulations 1912 is invalid. This regulation had hitherto been relied upon as authorizing amendment of documents in a large number of cases. The majority view in Martin’s case was that the regulation was beyond the regulationmaking power conferred by the act. In February last, the Privy Council refused an application by the patentee for leave to appeal. Therefore, the majority view that regulation 147 is invalid still stands.
The new Patents Act 1952 will come into operation on the 1st May next. But the existing act, that is, the Patents Act 1903-1950, will continue to apply to all the documents connected with some thousands of applications for patents that have been lodged under that act. In regard to applications under the existing legislation, therefore, it becomes desirable to remove any doubt as to the validity of amendments made in reliance on regulation 147 and to make provision for amending documents connected with the applications still to be dealt with under the present act. These matters are provided for in clauses 5 and 6.
It is necessary to ensure also, as clause 7 does, that no hardship will be caused by reason of the absence of a power to amend between the date of the High Court decision and the commencement of this legislation. So far as the new Patents Act of 1952 is concerned, the Patent Law Review Committee, whose recommendations formed the basis of that legislation, recognized the possible invalidity of regulation 147. Accordingly, paragraph (a) of section 177 was included, giving express power to make a regulation in the terms of regulation 147. Such a regulation has, in fact, been made and would ordinarily come into operation, with the act, on the 1st May next.
However, regulation 147 has been treated by successive commissioners of patents as authority for the making of an amendment in any class of documents so Jong as the amendment was not inconsistent with some express provision in the act relating to the amendment of that class of document. But the opinion was expressed in the Privy Council that, if the act made any provision at all, however limited, for the amendment of a class of documents, a regulation in the terms of present regulation 147 would not permit the making of any other amendment whatever in a document of that class. The bill will remove, both in regard to the existing act and the new act, the further defect disclosed in the Privy Council proceedings.
It will be noted that clauses 4 and G will authorize the making of regulations providing for appeals from, decisions of the Commissioner on applications for amendment. Regulations are contemplated providing for notice of opposition to be given to the making of an amendment and for an appeal to be brought to the High Court against the Commissioner’s decision. Persons interested in the amendment will, therefore, be afforded every opportunity of putting forward their views.
The members of the Patent Law lie view Committee, which prepared the 1952 act, agree that amending and validating legislation is both desirable and urgent. They are supported by the Institute of Patent Attorneys of Australia. Clearly, in the light of the judicial proceedings to which I have referred, neither the existing act nor the new act can be permitted to remain as it now stands. The amending bill will give secure statutory authority for a long-standing practice. It is entirely non-controversial in character and I commend it to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
– I move -
That the hill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of this bill is to provide increases in monetary benefits payable to employees of the Commonwealth or to their dependants for injuries sustained or diseases contracted in the course of employment. The last increase in monetary benefits was made towards the close of 1951. Since August, 1951, the basic wage has increased from £9 9s. to £11 16s. a week, and the Government considers it equitable that legislation should be brought down to increase the benefits under the act. The amounts proposed in the bill provide for full recognition of the increase of the basic wage. I do not propose at this stage to deal in detail with the increases proposed in the bill, as full information will be made available in committee, but a brief reference to the major benefits may assist honorable members to appreciate the nature of the increases proposed.
The payment to an employee during incapacity will be increased from £6 to £8 15s. a week. A married employee will receive, in addition, £2 5s. a week in. respect of his wife, in lieu of £1 15s.; and for a dependent child £1 a week in lieu of 15s. For an incapacitated employee with a wife and one dependent child the weekly amount payable therefore will be £12 a week in lieu of £8 10s., as at present.
Provision is made under the third schedule of the act to compensate employees who suffer injuries resulting in the loss of a specified part of the body. The maximum payment under this schedule will be raised from £1,750 to £2,350, with proportionate increases for minor injuries. Where death results from an injury or disease, the maximum amount payable under the act to a dependant of a deceased employee is £1,500 and £75 for each dependent child. These amounts will be raised to £2,350 and £100 respectively. The maximum amount to meet the cost of funeral expenses will be increased from £50 to £60. The present maximum to meet the cost of medical treatment in relation to an injury or disease is £150. This will be increased to £200, but the act empowers the commissioner in any case of exceptional circumstances to approve of payment in excess of the stated amount.
The act specified a limit in excess of which payment may not be made to an incapacitated employee in respect of an injury or injuries caused by one accident. The limit will be raised from £1,750 to £2,350. Where, however, compensation is payable for a specified injury under th third schedule to the act, weekly payments made during incapacity are disregarded. The maximum does not apply where the injury results in the death or the total and permanent incapacity of the employee.
Provision is made in the bill for the increased benefits to have effect from the 1st January, 1954. The bill also provides for some minor amendments of a drafting character. Explanations of these and any further information requested by honorable members will be given when the bill is at the committee stage.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Mi ANTHONY (Richmond- PostmasterGeneral and Minister for Civil Aviation) [11.41]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure is similar to the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill 1954. This bill, which has been received from the Senate, contains provision to increase the monetary benefits prescribed under the Seamen’s Compensation Act to a level where, under the existing economic conditions, they will provide equitable compensation for a seaman and his dependants in the event of his becoming incapacitated by injury and reasonable compensation for his dependants should death result from the injury. In the matter of compensation, the Australian Government legislates for two sections of employees, namely, Commonwealth employees, to whom the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act applies, and seamen engaged in interstate trade and commerce who are covered Try the Seamen’s Compensation Act. Seamen employed on ships in the interstate trade are outside the scope of the various State workmen’s compensation acts although these acts apply to seamen engaged in intrastate trade. Since the Seamen’s Compensation Act 1911 came into operation the act has been amended on four occasions, namely, in 1938, 1947, 3 949 and 1953. On those occasions the monetary benefits have been varied, where necessary, to bring them into line with corresponding benefits prescribed under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act and State compensation legislation. Since the 1953 amendment, the monetary benefits that are prescribed under the majority of State compensation acts have been appreciably increased, and the Government desires to increase the benefits under the Seamen’s Compensation Act so that they will, on the average, compare not unfavorably with corresponding benefits provided under State legislation. The existing amounts of weekly payments, lump sum payments, maximum compensation, &c, that ure prescribed by the Seamen’s Compensation Act are identical with comparable payments provided under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. A bill has been introduced also to amend that act by providing similar increases in the various monetary benefits. These benefits might be grouped into three categories, namely, incapacity payments, death payment and medical expenses. I propose to deal with them in that order and indicate briefly the increases in the various payments that are provided in. the bill now before the House.
In relation to incapacity payments, the existing weekly compensation payment is £6; it is proposed that this rate shall bp increased to £8 15s. The additional weekly payment in respect of a wife or female dependant is to be increased from £.1 15s. to £2 5s. and the weekly payment in respect of each dependant child will advance from 15s. to £1. Thus, provision is made in the bill for an increase in the weekly payment to an incapacitated seaman with a wife and one child under the age of sixteen years, from the existing amount of £S 10s. to £.12, an increase of over 40 per cent. The corresponding payments provided under State compensation acts range from £10 to £12 7s. a week. The weekly rate for a minor is also to be increased from £4 10s. to £6 10s. For certain specified injuries, lump sum payments which range at present from a maximum of £1,750 for major disabilities, such as the loss of sight or of both limbs, to £105 for the loss of the phalanx or joint of a toe other than a great toe, are prescribed. It is proposed that the maximum lump sum payment shall be increased to £2,350, with proportionate increases in the amounts of lump sum payments for other injuries specified in the third schedule to the act. The existing maximum amount of compensation that is payable in respect of an injury or injuries caused by any one accident is £1,750. It is proposed to raise this amount to £2,350. This sum, however, is not a maximum in all cases. In the case of total and permanent incapacity, the amount of compensation payable is unlimited because weekly payments continue indefinitely. In the case of an injury that results in death or in one of the specified injuries, any weekly payments that are made in respect of the injury are disregarded in determining the amount of the lump sum payment finally to be made. The lump sum may itself amount to the maximum stated.
Under the existing legislation the amount of compensation payable where death results from an injury is £1,500 if the seaman leaves any dependants, plus £75 in respect of each dependent child under sixteen years of age. It is proposed to increase these amounts to £2,350 andfi 00, respectively. The compensation payable to dependants of a deceased seaman will then be higher than the corresponding’ amounts prescribed in five of the six State compensation acts. The com parable amounts payable under such acts range from £1,500 and £50 in Queensland to £2,500 and £100 in New South Wales.
– Provision has been made also to increase the amount payable in respect of funeral expenses from £50 to £60. This amount is payable whether or not a seaman leaves dependants, and it compares favorably with corresponding amounts prescribed in State compensation legislation. Where death results from an injury in respect of which a lump sum payment has been made in redemption of weekly payments, it is provided under the existing law that the adjustment to be made in consequence of such payment shall not reduce the amount of compensation finally payable to dependants below £200. In the bill now before the House it is proposed to increase this minimum to £400. The amount that may be paid in respect of medical expenses is being raised from £150 to £200. These expenses are paid in addition to compensation, and in exceptional cases the Minister may authorize payment of an amount in excess of the amount stated.
Paragraph 13 of the first schedule to the act provides that where agreement cannot be reached between an employer and a seaman in relation to the seaman’s condition or fitness for employment, the prescribed authority, on application by both parties and on payment by the applicants of the prescribed fee, not exceeding £2, may refer the case to a medical referee. The amount of £2 has not been varied since 1911 and under existing conditions it is inadequate. It is proposed, therefore, to omit the limit from the act and to leave the amount of the fee to be prescribed by the regulations. Provision is being made for the amendments to take effect from the date on which the act receives royal assent instead of after the usual interval of 28 days. Thus, seamen and others concerned will receive the increased payments earlier than would ordinarily be the case. In the view of the Government the increased monetary benefits that are provided in the bill, having regard to the existing economic conditions, represent appropriate compensation.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
For the past fifteen years, Australian butter and cheese has been sold to the United Kingdom under intergovernmental contracts. During this period all the normal processes of competitive marketing have been suspended; purchasing, prices control and distribution have been entirely in the hands of the British Ministry of Food. Although there have been difficult and, in some respects, unsatisfactory negotiations over prices, which have been limited in recent years by the terms of the contract entered into in 194S, market stability during the period has been assured. The marketing procedure during this contract period has been relatively simple. The whole of the exportable surplus, with the exception of an agreed “ free quota “ has been sold each year to the British Government. Producers of butter and cheese sold their produce to the Australian Government through the Australian Dairy Produce Board and received payment immediately. The board arranged shipment and claimed on the British Government on presentation of the shipping documents to the Commonwealth Bank. In the United Kingdom, the butter and cheese were received, stored and distributed by the British Ministry of Food.
The time is fast approaching when this method of trading with the United Kingdom will give way to the resumption of open competition. Rationing and price control of butter and cheese are due to end in the United Kingdom on the 8th May, 1954. The organization evolved by the Ministry of Food for importation and distribution of dairy produce, excepting that required to fulfil residual contract obligations, will be disbanded as rapidly as circumstances permit. Actually, the current agreement with the United Kingdom covering the purchase of butter and cheese, which was commenced on the 1st July, 1948, will not expire until the 30th June, 1955. An Australian delegation will open negotiations with the British Ministry of Food in London during this month regarding the respective obligations of the two governments during the balance of the contract period, but, subject to these negotiations, the ordinary processes of commercial trading will be resumed for the distribution and sale of Australian dairy produce in the United Kingdom, in accordance with the Government’s policy, a producer representative on the Australian Dairy Produce Control Board, chosen by the board itself. will be a member of that delegation. Tn this instance, he will be Mr. Roberts, who is president of the Victorian Dairy Farmers Association. He will accompany the chairman of the hoard. Mr.
Chris Sheehy, and I understand that they have already departed for London. lt is because of these developments that close attention has been given to the marketing arrangements which will apply in the United Kingdom in the future. The Australian dairying industry fully expects severe competition, not only from other well-organized suppliers of butter and cheese, such as New Zealand and Denmark, but also from the British margarine industry, which is making a vigorous bid for expansion. For this reason the industry has formulated a scheme designed to assist it to meet the difficult competitive situation in prospect.
The essence of the scheme is that the Australian Dairy Produce Board will now become the marketing control authority in respect of exports to the United Kingdom when the contract terminates. Previously, it has acted merely as an agent of the Australian Government in terms of the inter-governmental contract with the United Kingdom. It will now have discretion, on its own decision, to be the sole selling authority to the United Kingdom. As the marketing control authority, it may operate in several ways. It may prescribe the conditions under which export of dairy produce to the United Kingdom will be permitted. Alternatively, it may elect to act either as principal or agent in the sale of butter and cheese. This proposal, which was originated by the Australian Dairy Produce Board, is fully endorsed by the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation, which is the main producers’ organization. The representatives of both co-operative and proprietary manufacturers and exporters on the board also concur in this proposal. Exports to other destinations will be subject to terms and conditions laid down by the board in respect of minimum prices, freight and insurance arrangements and such other matters.
The board will use the services of existing export houses to carry out the physical handling, storage and shipment of the produce as it does at present under the contract arrangements. However, the Board would have the final responsibility for selling policy, allocations, and the approval of agents in the United Kingdom. The board would be able to purchase in its own name butter and cheese intended for export to the United Kingdom but such purchases would be made only in instances in which the owner requested finance from the board. It would be open to such an owner, upon repayment of the amounts paid by the board, to repossess his produce prior to export. In other instances, in which finance was not requested, the board would be empowered to act as agent for the owners of the butter and cheese.
The bill enables the board, in appropriate circumstances, to maintain the principle of pooling. The final adjustment of returns to butter and cheese factories would be effected through the equalization machinery operated by the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Committee Limited. It is proposed that the board should obtain finance for its operations from the Commonwealth Bank by means of an advance guaranteed by the Australian Government. The guarantee would be safeguarded by the butter and cheese equalization scheme. This is a new convenience to be provided to the industry prior to the actual introduction of contract selling. Previously, the Australian Government did not customarily make guarantee advances. The Commonwealth would also be protected by the provision in the bill that the rates of advance payable by the Board must be approved by the Minister.
Prom the viewpoint of the Australian industry the arrangements proposed in the bill are designed to meet in the best manner possible the new trading conditions in the United Kingdom. At the same time, the arrangements retain all that is best in the principles and practice of marketing dairy produce which have been developed in Australia during the long period of bulk contracts. This Government is fully alive to the serious competitive situation facing export trade and to the need for vigorous marketing policies. Under to-day’s conditions of trading, there is really no satisfactory alternative in respect of the United Kingdom to a central marketing organization operated by the industry in the manner that I have outlined. The Australian
Government is anxious to promote the welfare and expansion of the dairying industry and the provisions of this bill have the full concurrence of the industry.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Australian egg export industry is one of several, all greatly dependent on the United Kingdom market, which are now emerging from the shelter of government buying and re-entering the arena of competitive trading for the first time since the war. After such a long period of contract selling, it is to be expected that the process of re-adjustment will be far from simple. In the case of eggs, the marketing problem is complicated by the existence of a highly competitive situation in the United Kingdom. There is also an immediate prospect of import restrictions on egg pulp for perhaps the next two years while the United Kingdom Government disposes of the stocks of pulp it is now holding. The situation calls for strength in the marketing of Australian eggs and hence for maximum co-operation in the industry.
Control over the distribution, use and price of shell eggs in the United Kingdom ceased in March, 1953. As from the 1st January, 1954, imports of shell eggs from sterling sources have been unrestricted. Except for the anticipated quantitative restriction on imports of egg pulp, the remaining controls in the United Kingdom will be reduced as rapidly as circumstances permit. The Australian Egg Board, which consists of an Australian government representative, two members with commercial experience, an employees’ representative and a member from each State representing producers, was set up on the 1st January, 1948, to facilitate export marketing and to administer, on behalf of the Australian Government, the details of the bulk contract with the
United Kingdom. The board has regulatory powers rather similar to those exercised by other marketing boards, but its present trading authority derives from its status as agent of the Australian Government.
During the period of the contract with the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth lias purchased eggs from the State egg boards and the Australian Egg Board, acting as the agent of the Commonwealth, has sold these eggs to the United Kingdom in terms of the contract. In order to meet the changed marketing conditions which would follow the termination of the contract and in order to rationalize the marketing of Australian eggs by eliminating needless competition between the State marketing boards, the board recommended that it be empowered to act as the sole Australian exporter to the United Kingdom. That was a few months ago. The view of the Government was that this was a matter on which it should consult the State egg boards. These bodies are responsible to the producers for sales of eggs to the Australian board for export.
The State marketing boards, through their central organization, the Egg Producers Council, at first opposed this proposal. The Australian Government brought the matter up for discussion at the January, 1954, meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council in order to give the State governments an opportunity of expressing their views. All State governments except New South Wales, which accounts for about half the export trade, declared themselves in favour of the Australian Egg Board’s recommendation provided the board was reconstructed to give State egg boards direct representation on the board. New South Wales, while recognizing the necessity of having an overall Australian egg board with regulatory powers to deal with such problems as minimum price policy, freight and insurance arrangements, publicity, and the like, nevertheless wished to be free to sell independently. That was the attitude of the New South Wales Government and the State board. The Egg Producers Council subsequently confirmed that all State egg boards, with the exception of New South Wales, desired centralized marketing by an Australian egg board reconstructed to provide for direct State board representation.
There was, therefore, a problem of working out a scheme of orderly export marketing which would meet the needs of all States and to which all parties could give their strong support. The Australian Government, in accordance with its policy, has consulted the interests concerned, and has made every endeavour to reconcile its own responsibilities in relation to export trade with the expressed wishes of the industry. I can now state that the plan for which this bill provides the legal basis meets the wishes of the industry and of all the State governments affected, including New South Wales.
In essence, the plan is that the Australian Egg Board should be established as a trading authority with power to sell eggs and egg pulp on export markets as agent for the State marketing boards. These State marketing boards are directly responsible to the producers, and will have direct representation on the Australian Egg Board. The Australian Egg Board will therefore continue to be responsible to the producers. The Australian Egg Board will not be empowered by this bill to continue as the sole exporting authority unless the State boards desire it. As the agent of the State boards, it may conduct selling operations and operate an export pooling scheme. The authority to act for all States is exercisable only if all the State boards agree. Should any State not wish to participate in the pooling scheme, the Australian Egg Board may act as a pooling agent for the exports of the remaining States which want the scheme. No State board will be compelled to join, against its wishes, in the operation of the pooling system. In no circumstances will the Australian Egg Board become agent to two different groups, assuming a responsibility to sell competitively as a principal on behalf of both.
If the Australian Egg Board should operate a pool in which all States do not participate, the bill provides that the representative of any non-participating State shall not be entitled to vote upon pool matters nor even attend discussions of pool matters without the approval of all members of the pool. That provision conjures up the spectacle of one State desiring to conduct its own business and the Australian Egg Board conducting an export pool comprised of the remaining groups of States. In such a case, the one board that has decided to sell on its own account obviously should not be allowed to sit in with the group that it has chosen to make its competitor. That is agreed by all State boards as a proper provision.
The Commonwealth will assist in the provision of .finance by guaranteeing advances made to the Australian Egg Board by the Commonwealth Bank for the operation of the pooling scheme. This is an important Commonwealth aid to marketing. The Commonwealth is protected in this guarantee by virtue of the provision in the bill which states that the rates of advance payments made by the Australian Egg Board to State boards must bo approved by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Of course, the Australian Egg Board will not finance the operations of a State board which elects to remain outside the pooling scheme.
It is proposed that the plan will be reviewed after a reasonable trial period of about two years. The Australian Egg Hoard under its regulatory, as distinct from its trading, powers, will determine the various export marketing conditions applying to the export of eggs by itself as well as by any state boards electing to sell outside thi1 pooling scheme. Questions such as minimum selling prices, quotas for egg pulp, if required, freight arrangement”, and selection of overseas agents, would fall within this category.
As I have already said, the State egg marketing boards will he directly represented on the Australian board. The Victorian, South Australian, “Western Australian and South Queensland boards will have one representative each, and the New South Wm les hoard, in view of the importance* of New South Wales as an exporting State, will have two representatives. Tasmania is not mentioned, because that State does not export eggs, hut the question of representation will be reviewed, should it develop a standing as an exporting State. Tn addition to the representatives of State boards, there will bc an Australian Government representative who will be chairman of the board, a member with commercial experience but not representing any commercial interests, and a member representing employees engaged in the handling, grading and processing of eggs. In the selection of the employees’ representative there is provision for consultation with the appropriate union, as in the past.
Over the yea.rs, it has been found to be in the interests of all great primary industries that there should be marketing boards comprised of representatives of the industry, to regulate and maintain order in the export of the product concerned. This is a policy which had first application in the early 1920’s and has always since been accepted as desirable. The provisions of the plan embodied in this bill have been formulated after lengthy consultations with the industry organizations and State governments. All States have now fully agreed upon its details. I arn convinced that the plan is the only practical scheme of centralized export marketing that can be established with the agreement of all State governments.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 6th April (vide page 46), on motion by Mr. Kent Hughes -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill is short, but nevertheless, is most important. The subject-matter of it is the development of the north and northwestern parts of the Commonwealth of Australia. The areas which are particularly affected by this legislation are the north-west and north of Western Australia, and the northern and eastern portions of Queensland. The House should realize, although the point was not mentioned by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) in his second-reading speech, that this bill is the outcome of an agreement made in 1949 by the Chifley Labour Government with the States of Western Australia and
Queensland, which was subsequently endorsed by this Parliament. The terms of the agreement were comprehensive and provided that certain developmental works of a specific kind might be undertaken. The States were to bear a share of the financial responsibility, and the Commonwealth was to make a substantial contribution to the cost of them.
Unfortunately, the Commonwealth’s contributions are now completely inadequate to meet those costs. That fact vividly highlights the rapid growth of inflation since the agreement was made in 1949. Some of the works have not yet been completed, and other projects have not even been started by the State governments concerned. The reasons for that condition of affairs are obvious. The States have difficulty in obtaining adequate supplies of materials, and labour is scarce in those isolated parts of northern Australia.
The principal act makes provision for grants for a. comprehensive range of works. The programme for Queensland is defined in section 4 (1.) of the act, as follows : -
The works to which this section relates shall be-
construction or improvement of the following roads: -
Currawilla to Yaraka via Canterbury and Windorah;
Quilpie to Eromanga and thence westerly to the vicinity of the Coonaberry Creek ; and
Thargomindah to Cunnamulla via Eulo, and Cunnamulla to the border of the State of Queensland in the vicinity of Barringun in the State of New South Wales;
Honorable members will see from that list that provision is made for a comprehensive range of works in important country in Queensland. So far as my geographical knowledge of Australia enables me to comprehend the situation, those roads will permit the exit of stock from the Channel country. In extraordinarily good seasons, as much as 1 0,000,000 acres of the Channel country are under natural irrigation, and even in normal periods, up to 3,000,000 acres are under a process of natural irrigation. That area is probably the most important fattening country for store cattle from less favoured parts of central Australia and Queensland. Other works which may be undertaken in Queensland under the provisions of the principal act are set out in the same section of the act as follows : -
Channel trunk route, from the junction of Burke and Georgina Rivers via Bedourie, Cacoory, Betoota, Gilpeppee Creek and Durham Downs to Warry Warry Gate;
Connexion from Bedourie to Currawilla;
Connexion from Gilpeppee Creek via Tanbar to Canterbury;
Connexion from Tanbar to Coombill;
Connexion from Wheeo to a point south of Pinkilla Station on the road between Quilpie and Eromanga ;
Continuation of Far Western Main TrunkRoute from Eromanga via Thargomindah to Hungerford;
Connexion from Glencairn to Thargominda; and
Connexion from Camooweal to Mount Isa.
Then, sub-section (2.) provides - (2.) Subject to this Act, there shall be payable to the State of Queensland as financial assistance -
That is the scope of the assistance that has been made available to Queensland and, up to a point, that assistance has been availed of. I come now to the provisions covering Western Australia. They, too, are comprehensive. The act provides in section 5 as follows : - (1.) The works to which section relates shall be -
I understand that the bridge for which provision was made is very nearly finished. The Minister may be able to inform me on that point.
-No. The crossing is being used and the money is being expended on roads.
– At least the work is under way. Provision is also made in the same section of the act for -
Wyndham to Ruby Plains Station via Ord River Station.
Wyndham to Halls Creek via Turkey Creek;
Wyndham to Fossil Downs Station via Bedford Downs Station; and
Once againin this section we have the provision that - (2.) Subject to this Act, there shall be payable to the State of Western Australia, as financial assistance -
It will be seen that in respect of some works the Commonwealth has assumed the responsibility for the total cost, and in respect of other work, the Commonwealth is contributing 50 per cent. of the cost. I think it can be said that this legislation has been of substantial benefit to Queensland andWestern Australia. No doubt the work for which provision has been made, but which has not yet been carried out, will be undertaken as soon as possible. The Opposition approves of the bill which the Minister has wisely introduced. It provides that the Commonwealth’s contributions, which were limited to £75,000 to Queensland and £31,500 to Western Australia shall be increased to £151,000 and £60,000 respectively. That is essential. Neither State, regardless of the political complexion of its government, could have been expected to complete the works for which assistance was granted before costs became greatly inflated under the administration of this Government. The Government therefore has had no alternative but to do the sensible thing and increase its assistance. I note that it is not proposed to increase the total appropriation of £2,166,000 specified in the act. Presumably that is due to the fact that savings that can be effected will approximate the increased estimated cost of stock routes. In the absence of contrary information, it appears to me that it is even possible in some instances to carry out less costly constructional work or to eliminate completely some of the works for which provision was made in the original programme.
– Apparently some situation had arisen that has made the saving of money possible. It may be that plans have been changed by the rapid development of air transport of beef from cattle stations in Western Australia to the Wyndham meatworks. That scheme was inaugurated as most honorable members are aware, while the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) was Minister for Civil Aviation. He gave it every assistance and encouragement. That scheme has since been expanded, although I understand that a Commonwealth subsidy is still necessary. I recall that when the scheme commenced the Chifley Government initiated an investigation on the economics of the transporting of beef by air to meatworks in the northern areas of Australia. From recollection I think the committee reported that the prospects of carrying on the scheme economically were not bright, but I believe the latest information is that the outlook is now brighter and that some expansion may be possible. The Opposition supports the bill. Our only regret is that the Government has not increased the financial provision for work of this kind as a means of fostering the development which undoubtedly must take place in northern Australia if it is to be populated to the degree that is necessary for the adequate exploitation of our natural resources, and, of course, to the degree that is essential if the Australian nation is to survive.
– This is an extremely important bill because it deals specifically with the development of northern Australia, w hich is one of the most urgent tasks confronting us to-day. I am pleased that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has adopted a sensible attitude for a change and will support the measure. The cattle industry is one of the great industries of northern Australia, and it is one to which we must look for the future development of that vast region. The industry is established in three main regions. The first consists of the Barkly Tableland area and the area of- Queensland that embraces principally the Channel country and the Fitzroy basin. The second consists of the Kimberley district of Western Australia, linked with the Victoria. River district in the Northern Territory. The third covers an area around Alice Springs. They are to a large degree independent of each other.
Assistance will be provided under this bill for the improvement of stock routes and roads, principally in the Channel country of Queensland, which is around the Diamantina, Georgina and Thomson basins. It is in the electorate of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe), who is familiar with conditions there and has, on many occasions, both inside and outside this House, pressed for the granting of additional assistance for the improvement of the area. In Western Australia, assistance under the bill will be directed mainly to the construction, improvement and maintenance of the north-south road, which runs directly south from Wyndham through the important Kimberley district. The cattle industry in Western Australia is based on the Kimberley area, which adjoins the Victoria River area in the Northern Territory, and it depends largely on the meat works at Wyndham. The meat distributed from Wyndham goes principally to the export trade, but a small proportion of it is sent to the areas around Perth.
Associated with the industry in Western Australia is the recently developed air lift of beef from Glenroy to Wyndham, which has been mentioned already by the honorable member for Lalor. Glenroy is a few hundred miles due south-west of Wyndham. I have had the opportunity to inspect the cattle-raising areas in the Kimberley and Glenroy districts, and my impression of the air-lift scheme is that it opens up tremendous possibilities for other beef-producing areas in Australia. It is true that the project is uneconomic at present but, with future developments in aircraft and within the cattle industry, and the extension of the scheme to other areas, it can become an important adjunct to the entire cattle industry. Therefore, I consider that extension of the air-lift should be closely considered. Apart from the transport of carcasses from inland killing centres, the system offers prospects for the transport of live cattle that merit investigation. The cattle industry of Queensland is obviously integrated with that of the Northern Territory, because the movement of store cattle to the fattening area takes place from as far west as the Victoria River district in the Northern Territory. The movement, of course, is principally from the Barkly Tableland to the Channel country or to the Fitzroy basin. From these areas the animals are moved, mainly by Tail transport, to the killing centres on the coast at Townsville, Rockhampton and Brisbane.
Honorable members should take .advantage of this opportunity to consider the main requirements for the development of the cattle industry in northern Australia in conjunction with that of improved transport, to which this bill relates. A survey of the industry in northern Australia, which was recently made by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, has shown that one of the principal needs is for improved watering facilities. Work has already begun on the improvement of water supplies in the Northern Territory under the new land tenure system, with the aid of additional grants made by the Government for the improvement of stock routes. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) will agree, I am sure, that there has been a considerable improvement of water supply along the stock routes in the last few years. However, there still remains tremendous scope for further improvement. The same problem arises in Western Australia and Queensland. Careful attention must be paid to this requirement of the industry if we want it to expand as it should expand.
Another important factor that must be considered is the urgent need for additional fencing. The provision of additional fencing in all northern cattleraising regions would lead to better herd control, improved breeding, a higher quality of stock, .and a more satisfactory turn-off. A third factor is the need for improvements to homesteads, out-camps, cattle yards, dips and other facilities associated directly with station management. This is a very important matter. I shall refer later in my speech to the cost of such facilities. A fourth, and possibly the most important factor, is the need for improved transport facilities throughout northern Australia. Apart from extensions of the airlift system and of railway lines, new and improved roads and stock routes are badly needed. Also, if the industry is to expand as it should expand, pasture improvement must be undertaken on a wide-spread scale. Much valuable work on pasture research is already being done by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in conjunction with the State Departments of Agriculture in Queensland and Western Australia. Experiments are being conducted at Katherine and other areas to the south of Darwin, in the Kimberley region in Western Australia, on the Ord River, and in certain areas of northern Queensland, and it is hoped that this work will produce definite results that will be of value to the whole of northern Australia. The prospects for the successful cropping of grain fodders should be carefully examined, particularly in northern Queensland and the high rainfall area immediately to the south of Darwin. Investigations have been commenced in those areas, and there is also a prospect of the considerable extension of graingrowing in central Queensland, where approximately 14,000,000 acres may eventually be developed for the production of grains. At present, only about 600,000 acres are under wheat in Queensland. A similar area is devoted to the production of other grain crops. Obviously, therefore, there is great scope for the extension of grain-cropping, which would be of direct assistance to the development of the cattle industry in northern Australia.
The land tenure system that applies in Queensland at present has tended to retard the expansion of the cattle industry. The laud tenure system in the Northern Territory has been revised, and the new system is already beginning to show good results in the form of improvements on some of the large properties. It has been estimated that the present cattle population of northern Australia is between 6,000,000 and 8,000,000. That is a large figure, but when we consider the size of the area devoted to cattle raising, the density of the cattle population appears meagre in comparison with the holding capacity of some of the cattleraising districts in the southern part of Australia. The experts have estimated that, with improved pasture, fencing, water supply and other facilities, it would be possible in the not distant future to increase the cattle population of northern Australia by 2,000,000 or 3,000,000. The survey has shown that, without making any allowance for pasture improvement, grain cropping and other developments, we require in the northern regions approximately 7,000 additional stockwatering points and an additional 100,000 miles of fencing in order to use the country in its present condition to ite best advantage. It has been estimated that, on present prices and wages, the water points would cost £20,000,000 and the fencing £14,000,000. The estimated cost of the dips, station buildings and improvements to properties that are required is approximately £3,000,000. It will be seen that there has been a tremendous lag in the provision of water points, fencing, station buildings and property improvements in northern Australia.
There is another matter to which I want to refer in dealing with the cattle industry in Queensland. A new venture began about twelve months ago in northern Queensland. The Marine Contracting and Towing Company, a private organization, acting on its own initiative, established a sea transport system for the movement of cattle from the Cape York peninsula to Cairns. The Cape York peninsula area has been one of the forgotten areas of Australia, although some of the parts in the higher rainfall region have a great potential for development of the cattle industry. The company is operating with a landing barge, which moves across the river bars and goes up the rivers to suitable loading points. No wharfage facilities are required because the cattle are loaded straight on to the barge. They can be moved from Princess Charlotte Bay to the meatworks at Cairns within 33 hours, and landed in prime condition, with no bruising and practically no loss. They are landed on the bank of a. creek within a few hundred yards of the meatworks. Honorable members will appreciate the great prospects that this system of transport opens up for the cattle industry in the Cape York peninsula. The area concerned lies principally within the shires of Cook and Mareeba. The present cattle population of the area is approximately 164,000. The known potential, under existing conditions and with improved transport facilities, is 243,000. The stock routes in this area are the worst in Australia, so the importance of a suitable sea transport system is obvious.
At present, the company has only one barge, which operates from one point, but six or seven other points could be used and a number of vessels put into operation. An extension of transport facilities of this kind would enable the cattle industry in the area concerned to expand. It would promote an improvement of properties and a consequent improvement of the quality and turn-off of stock. It would open up a vital strategic area. The company should be commended, for its initiative. The Commonwealth has assisted by overcoming certain storage difficulties during the expansion of the Cairns meatworks and also by assisting with the overseas marketing operations. The Queensland Government should be called upon to take more interest in the area and to give more assistance and encouragement to the cattle industry there than it has done. This measure is most important to the development of northern Australia, and I am pleased that the Opposition has supported it whole-heartedly.
Sitting suspended from 1.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– The purpose of this bill is to increase the special grants payable to Western Australia and Queensland under the States Grants (Encouragement of Meat Production) Act 1949 to help to meet the cost of improving certain stock routes in those States. The measure will increase the existing rate of grant from £31,500 to £50,000 in the case of Western Australia and from £75,500 to £150,000 in the case of Queensland. In order that honorable members may have a clear understanding of the intention of the original act, I shall read its preamble. It reads -
An Act to make provision for the Grant of Financial Assistance to the States of Queensland and Western Australia for the purpose of encouraging the Development of Meat Production by the Provision of Improved Roads and other Facilities for the Movement of Livestock.
This is essentially a measure which is aimed at the encouragement of meat production in the north of Australia in the areas of Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory that are affected by this legislation. It is a coordinated project. It is designed to make provision, first, for roads to enable transport of stock by motor truck; and, secondly, to provide stock routes with the necessary water facilities along their length in order to facilitate the movement of stock. The sections of the proposal that affect the three areas are meant to dovetail. The proposal includes the provision of facilities to make easier the movement of stock from the Territory to the Queensland channel country and other parts of Queensland and, in the other direction, to the Wyndham area of Western Australia. The fact that the original proposal was intended to cover the Territory is obvious from section 5 of the principal act, which reads - (1.) The works to which this section relates shall be - (n.) the construction of a road, including necessary bridges, from Wyndham to Nicholson Station on tha general alignment of Ivanhoe, Argyle
Downs, Rosewood and Ord River Stations, and situated principally in the State of Western Australia, but such sections as may most advantageously be within the Northern Territory of Australia being situated in that Territory;
It was apparent, at the time the Chifley Government made its original plans for the encouragement of beef production in the north of Australia and the facilitating of the movement of stock, and when it established the North Australian Development Committee, that the Government realized that it was of no use to raise cattle in any of the three areas concerned unless they could be moved about easily, and in a fat condition.
The Chifley Government had a choice of a number of alternative methods of transport in order to put its plans into effect. Those alternatives included the transport of stock by sea. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Swartz) mentioned that method when he’ directed the attention of the House to the transport of stock by barge from York Peninsula in Queensland to Cairns that is now being carried out. Another method that had to be considered was movement by stock routes. That method would involve the making of roads and the provision of water facilities along them in order to enable stock to travel, on the hoof, under the best possible conditions. The efficient use of such roads would depend, naturally, not only on the availability of water, but also on seasonal conditions, because there must be pasture for the stock. Another method was the construction of main highways, which would enable the transport of stock by motor truck. The committee also had that method in mind when it first suggested the encouragement of meat production by way of subsidies and grants to the States. The provision of stock routes afforded the most convenient method of transport available at the time. It obviated the delay that would be involved in the construction of roads, and it was also the only method which could make use of, and improve, existing facilities.
Queensland and Western Australia have met their obligations under the principal act with the grants already made to them. It is now apparent, however, that due to the increase of costs that has taken place since the original legislation came into force, the initial rate of grant is not sufficient to enable the two States to complete the work originally planned. This supplementary grant will enable them to do so. I know that Western Australia has carried out its part of the agreement vigorously in the Wyndham area, which is adjacent to the Northern Territory border, and that that particular section of the plan has almost been completed. For the Western Australian section of the road to be put to full use, however, it is necessary that roads within the Northern Territory be completed to link up with the Western Australian road, so as to enable stock from the Northern Territory and the Western Australian border area to be taken into Wyndham in a fat condition. Queensland has also gone ahead vigorously with its section of the work in the Channel country, where good progress has been made. Again, in order to get the fullest and most efficient use of the roads in this particular section, adequate provision must be made for the Northern Territory section of the road to be completed and maintained in a satisfactory state of repair. That is not so at present.
I think it is correct to say that the only one of the three parties to the agreement which has failed to live up to its obligations is the Commonwealth. That statement is given more force by the fact that the last budget introduced into this Parliament made no provision for expenditure on the Northern Territory section of the cattle road into Western Australia. As a result of the drying up of funds the whole of the plant that was in use on that project had to be taken back to Katherine, some hundreds of miles distant, and placed in storage. When funds to complete the project are ultimately made available by the Commonwealth the plant will have to be again conveyed to the site. I have been informed that about three-quarters of the section of the road within the Northern Territory still uncompleted could have been constructed for an amount equivalent to the cost of removing and subsequent re-assembling the plant.
I come now to the provision of stock routes in the Northern Territory to enable stock to be moved on the hoof within the Territory, and to other States, if necessary. In the 1953-54 budget provision was made for only one bore to be put down in the whole of the Northern Territory. During the last couple of months, however, additional finance has become available, and a start will soon be made on putting down additional bores and improving the stock routes. But valuable time has been lost; plant has been idle, and skilled men who could have been employed constructing stock routes have gone to other parts of Australia in search of employment. In this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald there is published the second of a series of articles written by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) dealing with the pastoral development of the Northern Territory. After detailing improvements that have been made to cattle stations during the last few years, the Minister stated -
In the same period the Government lias constructed .1,500 miles of new roads, and has spent £.11 0,000 in improving the stock routes of the territory.
On the face of it, the construction of 1,500 miles of new roads would appear to be a very creditable performance. However, upon examination of the position, one finds that the roads to which the Minister has referred are not of conventional construction, such as those in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland; they are little more than “ dirt tracks, made merely by a grader removing grass and bumps. These tracks are not suitable for heavy vehicles such as those used to transport cattle. The passage over the tracks of one or two convoys of heavy cattle transports reduces the surface to bull dust, and they are then not further usable, until regraded. It is true that there are some good features of these roads. For instance, they make possible the use of light vehicle communication between the cattle stations. I think that when the Minister stated that 1,500 miles of new roads had been constructed he included lengths of existing roads within the Territory which had been regraded. The public could be misled by the Minister’s statement about the Government’s road achievements in the Northern Territory. As far as I know, not even 100 miles of new roads have been constructed in the Territory during the last twelve months, and very few bores have been put down on the stock routes during that period.
I believe that the current drought in the Northern Territory will have much more tragic consequences than those of the 1951-52 drought. During that drought a big percentage of the breeding herds died, and as the present drought is the second drought within three years the herds have not had an opportunity to recover numerical strength. Consequently they will be very badly depleted by the current drought. Many people in the Northern Territory are convinced that it will be the worst in the history of the Northern Territory. Ironically enough, the pastures just across the border in Queensland are unprecedently lush. Had there existed road and railway facilities between the Northern Territory and Queensland I believe that at least 90 per cent, of the stock now threatened by drought in the Territory could have been saved. Hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of stock will starve in their tracks because they are unable to traverse the existing stock routes. Unfortunately, it will not be possible to rectify this state of affairs within a couple of years, even if we get good rains next year, because of the extent to which the breeding herds have been depleted. If the drought continues for as long as most cattle men in the Territory think that it will, from ten to fifteen years will elapse before the pastoral industry of the Northern Territory can recover. The matter is so urgent and important that the Government should announce its intention to construct immediately additional railways in the Northern Territory to enable the removal of stock to other pastures in the event of emergencies such as the present drought, arising in the future. Railways, also, should be constructed between the Northern Territory and Queensland, to enable the movement of stock from Queensland to the Northern Territory should the Queensland pastures become drought stricken. They would also enable stock to be transported speedily to safe areas in South Australia, and in fact would be an excellent insurance policy for the pastoral industry of the whole of North Australia.
We have not yet felt the full effects of the recent drought, which until now was the worst in the history of the-Northern Territory. The calves that would normally have been born this year in the Territory will not be born, or will have died at birth, and most of the bullocks that would normally be driven to Queensland and New South Wales in the next three or four years for meat, will not be sent. In three ‘years9 time the southern and eastern States of Australia will feel the effects of the last drought in the Northern Territory, because meat will just not be available in the same quantity as it has in the past. In normal years, 80,000 or 90,000 bullocks are sent from the Territory to Queensland to be fattened and slaughtered. That number of bullocks will not be available in two years’ time, and we shall suffer a. great scarcity of beef. For those reasons I urge this Government, as I would urge any government, to put road and railway construction work in hand so that a situation of this kind will not occur again. We only need efficient communications, no matter what kind they may be, to make the pastoral industry of the Northern Territory safe, and to improve and expand that industry as was envisaged when the original measure was first before this Parliament in 3949.
Mr. DRAKEFORD (Maribyrnong) 1 2.39]. - It may seem strange that I should be interested in a pastoral matter of this kind, because my electorate is situated in a metropolitan area. However, it should not be believed that honorable members who represent metropolitan electorates are not concerned with what is happening in the outback. Late in 1948 or early in 1949, when I was Minister for Air, I was approached by Mr. Horry Miller, who was the guiding spirit of the McRobertson-Miller airline, the first airline that operated in Australia. He told me his plans for the establishment of what might be called an air-beef scheme in the Northern Territory. The staff of my department was rather sceptical about the plans, because they did not know whether a suitable aircraft could be made available. However, with the permission of the Chifley Government I decided to give Mr. Miller a DC 3. We were attempting an experiment that had never been tried before, and I believe that Mr. Miller has not been given the full credit for his part in this matter, because later the scheme was taken over by Mr. Grabowsky, head of the planning section of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. That gentleman had believed, as early as 1930, and I do not want to take any credit from him in that respect, that something should be done about an air-beef scheme, but Mr. Miller was the first one to take any practical action in that regard. Judging the matter from the view point of dividends it cannot as yet be regarded as successful, but if proper support is given by the Government it will be made an important source of revenue, and even profit if that is desirable, to the bigger companies who should show a more practical interest in it by themselves investing more money.
The inland killing at Glenroy is an example of what can be done to help the people on cattle stations in that area. The output of those stations has doubled as a result of the abattoir that has been built at Glenroy, from which chilled beef is taken to the freezers at Wyndham. Eventually that frozen beef is shipped by cargo lines, particularly the Blue Funnel line of steamers, to India and other places, and also to Perth. Attempts had been made to bring beef from Glenroy and other stations in an area that is twice as big as Victoria for metropolitan consumption, but it was found that the distances involved were far too great to make the venture profitable. That scheme was abandoned, and a more practicable plan of killing and chilling meat at inland abattoirs and flying it to points where steamers could pick it up was adopted. I suggest that the matter now before the House could be dealt with satisfactorily by this Government increasing the present subsidy. Indeed, if I were again connected with a Labour government, I would be a strong advocate for increasing the subsidy. I have read the pamphlet about the air beef scheme published by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, a copy of which was no doubt sent to all honorable members. The scheme is losing about 1-Jd. per lb. on beef at the present time, but that loss is mainly due to inflation. As a consequence of it, the people who perhaps helped to bring about inflation are reluctant to carry the scheme much further. One way to help people of the north would be to supply more abattoirs. If we were to do that we would increase the production of the stations and employ more people in the territory. It has been said that such a course would mean the end of the drovers, but I suggest that the drovers would not mind giving up droving if they could go on to small cattle stations of their own. The provision of abattoirs as I have suggested would probably make that possible.
I do not pretend that I have the knowledge that some other honorable members may have about conditions that exist in the outback, but I have seen them because I took advantage of the opportunity to visit the outlying places as much as possible so as to grasp their needs. I think it will be found that the Chifley Government with the aid of Mr. Nelson Lemmon prepared a. scheme both for roads and railways in the Northern Territory which would have been tremendously helpful to Australia had it been possible to carry it out. At present I am an advocate of air freighting rather than road freighting because it takes so long to build roads, and it would only be possible to build second-quality roads at present-day costs. Air freight is the solution to the problem. I think it is already in operation in South America but the wage rates in Brazil, for instance, are much lower than they are in Australia. The payment of a subsidy of 1-Jd. or 3d. per lb. on all meat killed in these areas might be sufficient to enable the development of air freighting. It is the Government that should pay that subsidy.
I am glad to be able to support a bill which has been introduced by the Government, because I think that it has the right objective although it does not propose to do enough. It represents a poor handling of what is really a desperate situation. A great deal of the £200,000,000 that has been expended on defence each year could have been used to establish abattoirs in these areas, and Australia would have been much better off as a result, because people would now be living in those areas and more would be going there. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has already put forward a case which, because of his expert knowledge of conditions in northern areas, represents a better appreciation of the position than I could make. However, there is a booklet in the Library called “ The Story of the Air Beef Project in North West Australia “ which I recommend honorable members to read. Credit is due to Mr. Miller for having been the first to apply the air beef project. He finally dropped out of the scheme, but he has played one of the greatest parts in marketing products from, and bringing supplies to, the outlying parts of Western Australia. The booklet that I have mentioned states that when the opinion of those who were directly affected in northwest Australia was sought, 93 per cent, of them voted for air transport rather than road transport. I do not say that we should not have any road transport because there may be times when it would be necessary to move cattle which could not be flown. Road transport should be an alternative which could be used during monsoonal weather when air transport might not be possible. The booklet to which I have referred makes the following statement: -
The North Western areas of Australia are sadly lacking in all-weather roads and railwave. In the Kimberley area we have few roads and jio railways. Here shifting cattle to coastal abattoirs is, to a large extent, controlled by the seasons. They can only be droved when natural feed and water is abundant. Swollen rivers in the wet season make droving impossible. Inland killing and air transport can overcome these difficulties The alternatives are all-weather roads or railways.
In Western Australia and the Northern Territory and north of Rockhampton in western Queensland, more people should be settled as quickly as possible. If there is any weight in the suggestion that we have a potential enemy in South-East Asia we must have people in those areas which are likely to be first attacked, presuming that atom bombs and hydrogen bombs are banned and that we use the old methods of warfare. When the Japanese were threatening to attack northern Australia, the Royal Australian Air Force made plans for building aerodromes there. They prepared aerodromes about 350 miles from the coast, and I am told that some of them could still be utilized. Abattoirs should be established at a centre such as Glenroy and cattle could be brought from the areas around it for chilling and freezing.
It is rather unfortunate that this bill should have been introduced so late in the parliamentary session. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) has signified approval of it and the Opposition desire that more should be done in Queensland, from which State the honorable member comes. But this is the kind of bill on which the Government and the Opposition can agree. Opposition members might, of course, think that more ought to be done than the Government proposes or that something should be done sooner. I think that the Government has failed in its duty because it has not made provision for inland killing and export by ship. Ships call at Wyndham and Derby and some call at Darwin to pick up cattle. I do not suggest that blame should be placed on any particular Minister or government, but some of the £200,000,000 that has been voted for defence could be used in the solution of this problem with very good results. This is a matter which can be discussed by members on either side of the House without their endeavouring to gain any political advantage from it. The northern portion of Australia is crying out for settlement. Some honorable members may think that I have dealt with this matter on a party basis but I think that all Opposition members have discussed the matter in a way that will appeal to honorable members opposite. In 1946, 50.8 per cent, of the beef produced by the Mount House Pastoral Company, which I understand is the nearest large station to Glenroy, was frozen for export. There was an average season in that year. In 1947, only 25.2 per cent, of its beef was frozen for export but in 1948, when they had one of the best seasons for many years, 5S.S per cent, of their beef was frozen and exported. The air beef project started in 1949 and the percentage of beef frozen for export then rose to 83.1 per cent, of total production. In 1950, which was one of the worst seasons for many years, it fell to 75.3. The position has been much better since the introduction of air services. Because of the inflation that has occurred the appropriation should be of a much greater amount than this bill proposes. The only fault I have to find with the measure is that, in introducing it, the Government did not have bigger ideas concerning the needs of the northern part of Australia.
.- I should like to have some information from the Minister regarding this measure. The honorable gentleman stated, during his second-reading speech, that the purpose of the bill was to increase the special grants payable to the States of Queensland and Western Australia towards the cost of improving certain roads and stock routes in those States. The amounts involved are £151,000 in respect of Queensland and £63,000 in respect of Western Australia. The Minister also stated that the original appropriation of £2,166,000 under the 1949 act, was intended to cover the capital cost of improving the roads in the channel country of south-west Queensland and the Kimberleys area of Western Australia, and for improvements to stock routes. He explained that the reason for the proposal to increase the amounts from £75,500 to £151,000 in the case of Queensland, and from £31,500 to £63,000 in the case of Western Australia, was that the two State Premiers had requested the Commonwealth to make such an increase because of the way in which costs had risen since the Estimates were prepared. At the conclusion of his speech he stated that it was not proposed to increase the total appropriation of £2,166,000 because savings approximating the increased estimated expenditure on stock routes would probably be made on the roads and bridges sections of the programme.
This legislation was introduced originally for the purpose of providing a road in the south-west portion of Queensland and the southern portion of the channel country, in the Maranoa electorate, which would be serviceable during the wet season. In other words, it was intended to construct what is known in that part of the world as a wet-season road. Because of the limitation of the total capital expenditure, is it not now proposed to build such a road but to construct a road passable only in dry weather? I suggest that that question will agitate the minds of those who live in the area.
Only a short time ago I was in the Northern Territory. At Camooweal I met a number of drovers whose droving contracts to move approximately 100,000 head of cattle from the Northern Territory into Queensland for fattening and subsequent consignment to the Queensland meatworks, had been cancelled. Although the cattle were there to be moved, it was not possible to do so because the rain extended only 30 miles over the border from Queensland. As a result beef production will decline next year, there may he an adverse effect on employment in the meatworks on the Queensland coast.
This morning L asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) whether the Government proposed to go ahead with the building of a railway line in that area. Those who live in the Northern Territory and carry on pastoral pursuits over the Queensland border, in the far western portion of Queensland and in the Camooweal area, are eager to see the construction of such a railway because they know that beef production would be increased thereby. In my opinion, the construction of railways and all-weather roads in the northern part of Australia is important, not only from the point of view of beef production, but also from that of defence.
– in reply - It is not proposed to increase the total capital amount at the present time because certain of the projects have not been proceeded with. I refer particularly to the Ord River bridge, which I mentioned when the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was speaking;. The Ivanhoe crossing has been strengthened, and the State Government does not at the moment wish to go ahead with that project. For that and various other reasons additional capital money is not required. If, later on, it is necessary to go ahead with the projects, that can be done at any time.
The question of railways in the area is a very important one, and one in which I have always been most interested. However, the stumbling-block is that the Queensland portion of the line, which is of 3 ft. 6 in. gauge, will not carry even diesel locomotives, and is totally unsuitable for carrying large numbers of stock. If that Government would promise to build a line to Cloncurry, I think it would be much more to the point than the proposed line to Dajarra. As it is now, cattle have to be taken down to the channel country in order to reach the Brisbane market.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Kent Hughes) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue bc made for the purposes of a hill for an act to amend the States Grants (Encouragement of Meat Production) Act 1P.45I.
Resolution reported and adopted.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 6th April (vide page 46), on motion by Mr. Beale -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition will agree to the passage of this bill. It is proposed to appropriate additional funds for the aluminium industry, and the reasons for the appropriation were outlined by the Minister in his secondreading speech. Greater expenses than those anticipated have been incurred in this important undertaking in Tasmania. The Minister has stated that excellent progress has been made on the construction side and that the plant, which he has been informed is a very modern plant, is now approaching the stage where it can commence the production of alumina, which will be followed by the production of ingots a few months later. These additional funds are necesary in order to complete the project. The Minister has also stated that the difference between the previous estimate and the present estimate is accounted for largely by a substantial rise in costs since 1951 which was beyond the control of the commission. I presume that statement relates to the cost of equipment, materials, building, and salaries and wages costs. As we all know so well, costs have increased since 1951. Additional items of plant and services, which were not included in the original design, have been installed.
When tha plant is completed it will produce 13,000 tons of ingot a year, sufficient for all Australia’s present requirements. As all our aluminium is at present imported from dollar sources, this will mean an easing of our dollar budget to the extent of more than 5,000,000 dollars a year.
In addition to the information which the Minister gave in his second-reading speech, he was good enough, at my request, to give me further particulars. Those particulars seem to indicate that the commission has between five and six months’ supply of bauxite stockpiled within Australia, but it is intended to use bauxite from Malaya. The Minister states that it is freely available at satis factory prices and :hat it will be used until the plant has been thoroughly run in. Later, Australian bauxite of lower grade may be used.
– When I referred to Australian bauxite, I meant mainland bauxite and not Wessel Island bauxite. We regard the latter as a reserve.
– I hope the Minister does not exclude Inverell.
– Does the honorable gentleman exclude Gippsland?
– Other resources of bauxite in Australia may be used, although it is of lower grade. One of , the basic ideas of the scheme was that Australian bauxite should be utilized in the manufacture of aluminium ingot so that Australia would be independent of outside sources of supply. Aluminium is vitally necessary, not only for aviation purposes, but also for defence projects generally. The Minister has promised that aluminium production will start in January, 1955, that it will be followed by ingot production in June of that year, and that by the end of 1955 all three ingot bays will be in operation. The honorable gentleman stated that the main construction was now in it3 final stage. The increase in costs has been extremely heavy and doubtless it has been due to the inflationary conditions of the last three or four years. Is it proposed that the aluminium should be rolled at the great Bell Bay works north of Launceston, Tasmania? I should imagine that the rolling of the aluminium at Bell Bay would assist in the success of that project financially. Nothing has been said about that matter, and I ask the Minister to give the House that information when he replies. I submit that it is essential that the rolling should be done at the Bell Bay works. To do it there would be more economical, and would tend to make a commercial success of the project. I think it would be beneficial to Australia as a whole and that it is vital to the development of the Bell Bay project itself.
I should like to raise another matter although I shall not elaborate on it.
Honorable members on this side of the chamber have received many complaints about the administration and, in some respects, the working conditions at the plant at Bell Bay. It appears from press reports that the Minister, when he recently visited the works, received a deputation in respect of these matters. I should like to know whether he has given attention to the representations that were then made to him ; whether he is satisfied with the administration at the works, and whether adequate steps have been taken to prevent wasteful expenditure. I should like to be informed about what the Government is doing in those matters.
I have made two main points. First, is there actually a plant in existence in Australia that will be capable of rolling aluminium? Recently, accompanied by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), I visited the works at Bell Bay. One cannot underestimate the deep impression that they make upon a visitor. They have very modern equipment, perhaps the most modern of its kind in the world, for the production of aluminium ingot. Housing is provided for most of the workers at George Town, which is situated near the mouth of the river. That is an important aspect of the undertaking. Success in a project of this kind depends to a very great degree upon administration and upon planning for the future. I believe that a feeling of unrest exists among the workers at Bell Bay as to the future of the plant. Those doubts can be resolved by the Minister making a definite statement on behalf of the Government. As I said at the commencement of my remarks, the Opposition supports the measure.
– I should like the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) to clear up certain doubts that have arisen in my mind in respect of this proposal. Does the Government intend to use Malayan bauxite at the Bell Bay plant when it commences operations? I take it that the bauxite deposits in the Northern Territory are not to be used because they are not of a sufficiently high grade.
– That is not so. Bauxite from those deposits will not be used for a technical reason.
– I should also like to know whether the deposits on Marchanbar Island in the Wessel group off the northwest coast have been further explored. I understand that extensive bauxite deposits exist on the mainland eastwards in the vicinity of the old air force station in Arnhem Land and that these are of a higher grade than the deposits at Mar.chanbar Island. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, stated that it is estimated that there is 10,000,000 tons of high-grade ore on Marchanbar Island. Would he inform me whether any steps have been taken to pay the reward claimed by the group of persons who discovered those deposits? I understand that the Government has not made any move in that direction.
– in reply- The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) asked to be informed whether plant is available in Australia for rolling aluminium ingot and whether it is intended to roll ingot at Bell Bay. There is no present intention to roll ingot at Bell Bay. The Aluminium Industry Bill was passed in 1944 when the Government of which the right honorable gentleman was a member was in office, and he may recall that that legislation provided only for the construction of a plant for the manufacture of aluminium ingot. This Government is adhering to the principle embodied in the original act that the plant shall be used solely for that purpose. Perhaps there may be some constitutional limitation that would preclude the Government from embarking upon the partial fabrication of ingot. I am reminded that the previous Government disposed of some rolling equipment which it possessed at Wangaratta. Apparently, the previous Government and this Government are ad idem on the point that Bell Bay should he confined to the manufacture of ingot.
– Where will the rolling be. done?
– Partial fabrication in Australia is done in two great establishments, namely, Crane’s and Australian Aluminium Proprietary Company Limited. There may be minor factories capable of rolling ingot, but those are the two biggest mills in Australia.
– Do they import aluminium ingot ?
– Up to date, they have been obliged to import all their requirements and the ingot has been procurable only from dollar sources. When the works at Bell Bay are completed those companies will use ingot produced at that plant. The annual production is estimated at 13,000 tons, which will be sufficient to meet Australia’s requirements. Speaking subject to correction, I think that the previous Government sold part of its rolling, or extrusion, equipment to Australian Aluminium Proprietary Company Limited shortly after the end of World War II. That fact adds point to my statement that the plant at Bell Bay was originally intended to be a manufacturing venture, pure and simple.
The right honorable gentleman also directed attention to alleged complaints relating to the administration at Bell Bay. It is true that comments have reached me from time to time through honorable members and from sources outside the Parliament that some persons at Bell Bay were discontented about certain matters. I had those complaints investigated by the commission, which is composed of eminent persons, some of whom were appointed by the previous Administration. Those men are doing their best for the country and they are men of repute. One member of the commission, Mr. Benjamin, a well-known industrialist in Tasmania, who was appointed by the previous Government, personally investigated the complaints and furnished a report to me which disposed of those complaints to my satisfaction. Later, I heard more complaints, and believing that in dealing with a government undertaking a Minister has not only a right but also a duty to see matters at first hand, I visited Bell Bay. I advised the management of my visit a week ahead. I invited the employees to discuss their difficulties with me. A few of them said that they would not be prepared to do so because what they said might get back to the ears of the management and react against them. I said that they could make their complaints to me in confidence. Many of them laughed at the idea. Most of them were content with an undertaking
I gave them that any complaints would be made to me personally and that they would be protected. Matters that were raised included transport from George Town to Bell Bay, the provision of housing and sewerage and others of a State nature. They were not actually the responsibility of the Australian Government or the commission, but there was some substance in them, and I have caused representations to be made to the Tasmanian Government with a request that it correct them. The only matter that directly affected the commission was a complaint about the time of starting work. Certain employees who were affected had to rise half an hour or an hour earlier than others because they could not catch a connecting bus. We are adjusting that complaint.
Honorable members must bear in mind that a number of men have been recently transferred from Melbourne or Launceston. We have reached a stage where the industry will be the centre of all operations and the administrative headquarters are being moved to Bell Bay. Inevitably some discontent arose among persons who had to decide whether they would leave the comforts of Melbourne or Launceston for a fairly isolated locality. Some have grumbled about the move and we have lost some employees because of it. I am satisfied that the administration of the Bell Bay project is competent. It is in the hands of Mr. Keast, who is a man of wide engineering and constructional experience. I am grateful to the Leader of the Opposition for having put on record the fact that he was impressed with the marked progress that has been made at Bell Bay. When an enormous industrial enterprise like this one is being pushed ahead rapidly, as it must be unless it is to eat its head off with capital costs in its early stages, it is inevitable that a corn or two will be trodden upon. I do not care so long as no serious injustice is caused to anybody, but I believe that the administration is a good one in this case, and that we are getting the results that we anticipated. This great new industry will be in production some time early next year. The Tasmanian Government had some difficulty in providing power or we could have started earlier, hut I have undertakings from the Premier of Tasmania, Mr. Cosgrove, that he will give ns the necessary hydro-electric power early next year as and when we require it.
Two other points were raised by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). He asked why we intended to use Malayan bauxite. The reason is a technical one. “We have a large stock-pile of Malayan bauxite on the mainland of Australia. Further, Malayan bauxite is tested bauxite of proved high grade and can be supplied regularly at an appropriate price. The plant will be attuned to use that bauxite and we will start with it. Later we will use Australian bauxite. In the course of time, perhaps only a few months, we will know how the plant is behaving with the bauxite and what adjustments should be made to accommodate it to the lower grades of Australian bauxite. I am certain that Australian bauxite will be used eventually, probably obtained from the mainland of Australia.
That reference causes me to pass on to the honorable member’s inquiry about the bauxite that has been discovered in the Wessel Islands off Arnhem Land, and the deposits that are believed to exist on the mainland in Arnhem Land. Under my direction, the commission undertook a survey which was expensive, but yielded good results. We have now proved the existence of 10,000,000 tons of high-grade bauxite in the Wessel Islands. We are riot mining it at present, but it is comforting for Australia to know that reserves of high-grade ore are available there.
– Is it of high grade?
– Yes, of a higher grade than most of the bauxite that is to be found in southern Australia.
– But it is not equal to the Malayan bauxite ?
– Perhaps not, but I ask the honorable member not to tie me down upon that point. I do not know for certain. For a long time we have suspected that there are even better deposits of bauxite in Arnhem Land. In 1950, this Government, with the British
Aluminium Company Limited, formed a joint company known as the New Guinea Resources Development Company. The charter of the new company included the right to prospect for bauxite and other minerals, but its main purpose at the time was to look for hydro-electric power in south-west New Guinea. Very promising indications that hydro-electric power can be made available on a large scale have been discovered, but that is another story.
Following the formation of that company, the valuable technical resources of the British Aluminium Company Limited were used, and we arranged for the capital of the company to be increased by £100,000. The British Aluminium Company Limited holds 49 per cent, of the capital and the Australian Government holds 51 per cent., so that we have control of it. The capital was increased to enable the company to make a survey for bauxite on the mainland of Arnhem Land. If, as we hope, the survey reveals even larger deposits of bauxite than those in the Wessel Islands, and the ore is of higher quality, Australia will be rewarded by the knowledge that great reserves of a valuable mineral are available. That is our hope, and I believe that it will be realized. I can envisage the possibility some day of the hydroelectric power in New Guinea being harnessed and employed to treat bauxite from the northern Australian areas. In that case, another great industry will spring up, and may match some of the huge aluminium industries in other parts of the world. We have laid the foundations for such an enterprise, and I hope that in a few years Ave shall take that step forward in the development of our country. As to the reward for the discovery of bauxite, I cannot answer the honorable member for the Northern Territory offhand, but I shall obtain any information that is available and give a considered answer.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 6th April (vide page 42), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– In this bill, it is proposed to reduce the rate of charge imposed under the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act 1952 from lid. to 6d. a man-hour. Looked at by itself without reference to the surrounding circumstances, that is an attractive proposition to everybody. The Labour Government reduced the charge to a much smaller figure in 1949, but it has been increased since the present Government was returned to office, and has reached lid. If that were all there is to it, no one could possibly be very interested in examining the consequences of the proposal and the surrounding circumstances. However, because I want to take the matter further and because many honorable members are particularly interested in stevedoring and shipping, I move -
That all words after “That” be left out with a view to insert in lieu, thereof the following words: - “, before this House gives final approval to the bill, there should be appointed an investigating authority vested with power to report to Parliament as to the subjectmatter of the bill and especially as to the precise effect the proposed reduction will have upon (a) shipping freights and (fi) the efficient performance by the Stevedoring Industry Commission of its functions and powers in relation to the provision of port and harbour facilities relating to shipping and stevedoring and to the provision of adequate amenities for those employed in or about the industry of stevedoring “. 1 mention those matters because the functions of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board cover them. That is to say, the facilities for work on the wharfs arc matters within the general purview of the board. Those matters are of supreme importance, because they effect the efficient handling of cargoes. The situation in Australia has been so bad that, at one stage, a report on the position was obtained from a visiting expert, Mr.
Basten, who said, in substance, that the equipment and facilities for handling cargoes on Australian wharfs and the amenities provided for the waterside workers were in extremely unsatisfactory condition. I am not trying to overstate the situation, because that report speaks for itself. One of the great problems in connexion with the shipping industry and the associated industry of stevedoring at the present time is that Australia, compared with most other countries, is 20, 30 or perhaps 40 years behind the times. The whole industry needs to be modernized. Difficulties, troubles and disputes which are often attributed to organizations are sometimes due, and the delays which occur are frequently due, to our outmoded way of handling cargoes on the wharfs. Our methods should be completely modernized. The preceding Labour Government, having those matters in view, .and with the idea of raising the status of the employees in the stevedoring industry, considered that the Commonwealth could not be indifferent to this problem. The powers of the Commonwealth over shipping are not complete. Those powers extend, broadly, to shipping between Australia and other countries, and shipping between the States, but at the wharfs it is impossible to make a sharp line of demarcation between interstate trade and intra-state trade. Therefore, the Commonwealth cannot be indifferent, but must co-operate with the State authorities and take a real share in the improvement of the facilities that are necessary for the smooth running of this industry. From the standpoint of the employees it is a difficult industry. More than 30 years ago, that great jurist, Mr. Justice Higgins, described it as a turbulent industry. It has been a disturbed industry to some degree because of the conditions to which I have referred. I mention those matters merely to provide a background for the points that I am about to raise.
The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), in his second-reading speech, said that the purpose of the bill was to reduce the charge on those concerned with stevedoring. Those interests can be regarded as identical with the shipping companies.
Of course, they are not always the same companies but, in effect, the stevedoring of Australia is conducted through companies that have been established for that purpose in association with the shipping companies. The rate of charge payable under the Stevedoring Industry Charge A.ct 1947-1952 is to be reduced from lid. to 6d. a man-hour. The Treasurer pointed out that the charge was introduced in 1947 and that the rate was 4£d. a man-hour. In October, 1949, the rate was reduced by the Chifley Labour Government to 2 1/2d. a man-hour. Later, the charge was increased, as the result of higher costs, to 4d. a man-hour, and additional increases were made until the existing rate of lid. was reached in October, 1952. The purpose of this bill is to make the substantial reduction of 5d. a man-hour. I should add, in fairness, that the Treasurer has given a reason for the reduction in the following words : -
I might point out that the buoyant revenue under the present charge of lid. has enabled the board to embark on a substantial programme of capital works, mainly the provision of amenities and facilities for waterside workers, which will make a significant contribution to the general improvement of waterfront conditions. An amount of some £300,000 has been set aside during the current financial year towards the cost of this programme.
I should like the Treasurer, when he replies to this debate, to inform us whether that programme is for one year only, and whether it is certain that it will be possible, with the reduced charge, to pursue a programme until the capital works required for proper amenities are completed. Such a programme may easily occupy a period of years.
I come now to the crucial point in the bill. I have referred to it in the proposed amendment. The Treasurer stated, in his second-reading speech -
The reduced rate will also result in a saving of costs to the shipowners-
That is perfectly true. The shipowners will save 5d. a man-hour - and the Government has already made it quite clear that it expects that shipowners will pass on the saving in reduced freights.
The Government is hardly taking a strong stand in this matter when it says, in effect, ““We shall reduce the charge that you have been paying, and we should like to make it clear to you that the benefit of the reduction should be applied to the reduction of freights As I shall show, Australian shipping freights are at an extortionate height. Doubtless, some honorable members are in a better position than I to discuss that aspect, and I am satisfied to point out that this is a vital part of the bill. That is why I am eager to obtain some information about the result of this reduction on shipping freights. Certain facts have been published to which I shall refer in a few moments, but before I do so, I consider it only right that I should read some pertinent passages from the last report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. In this document, the board gives an account of its stewardship, and points to improvements in the turnround of ships. The report proceeds -
It is characteristic of the stevedoring industry that the more active the Board is, the more local opposition it encounters. Many shipowners have set themselves against the Board and have succeeded in rallying the support of some allied commercial organizations. I” those quarters, “ abolish the Board “ has been adopted as a slogan, and the old catch-cry that the Board is the “ appeaser of the Union “ has also been resurrected.
Such an attack is made by one group of shipowners. I assume that they would prefer to be completely free, as they were before the stevedoring industry legislation was introduced, to do what they thought was correct. The report continues -
Concurrently, the Union was labelling the Board as the “lackey of the Bosses”, and the agitation for the removal of the Board was not confined to the shipowners. The real purpose and the merit of these policies can bc appraised if the diverse objectives of the shipowners and the Union are understood. Apart from that, however, it is not illogical that opposition to the Board is uniform : under the conditions which have existed for so long in this industry the Board could not expect to have gained the support of cither side.
That is the “ turbulent “ industry referred to by Mr. Justice Higgins. The employers regard conditions as sacrosanct because they have existed for so long. Apparently if abuses are accepted for long enough, they are to be regarded as permanent. But the resentment caused by those abuses has led to industrial disputes. That is not new. On the contrary, it goes back to the early days of federation when shocking and. shameful conditions existed in this industry. I believe that, on the whole, the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board has done a good job. The fact that it is under fire from both sides is perhaps some substantial evidence of that. The union of course does its best for its members, and the shipowners seek to protect their own interests. Yet it is significant that progress has been made. I assure the Treasurer that we are eager to see effect given to a programme for the future. Are the amenities to be continued and extended ? Does this reduction mean that they will be curtailed in any way ? Those are vital questions and honorable members on this side of the chamber, particularly those who have close contact with the waterfront in the great cities, want a little more information. I invite the Treasurer, when he replies to this debate, to tell us a little more about the situation.
I come now to what I consider to be the crucial point - freight charges. Freight increases, particularly during the last few years, have been scandalous. In August, 1951, the interstate freight rate on general cargo carried between Sydney and Melbourne was 117s. 6d. a ton. By November of the same year - only two months later - it had increased by 2s. 6d. to 120s. a ton. In February, 1952, there was a further increase of 5s.; in May, 1952, there was an increase of 2s. 6d.; and in August of the same year, 3s. I could give many other illustrations, particularly in relation to the Tasmanian trade. The figures show that the shipping combine which has both interstate and overseas ramifications has really wreaked its will on the Australian economy and everybody has suffered. The suffering is not confined to people immediately concerned in the carriage of goods by sea. Severe hardship is caused, for instance, to the Tasmanian producers of perishable goods that have to be carried by sea.
This has gone on and on. The situation is grave. It has reached such a stage that the cost of carrying general cargo between Melbourne and Cairns, for instance, is 213s. a ton, between Brisbane and Melbourne 154s. a ton, and between Sydney and Adelaide 147s. a ton. I select these figures at random. Those are direct impositions which will not only be passed on directly, but also will be passed on with costs added at each stage. Everybody is adversely affected.
How ha3 the Government handled this problem? It is odd that the two things are connected because clearly if the shipowners’ costs are reduced more money is put in their pockets. Let us see what has happened in this instance. On the 5th March, Cabinet decided to reduce the levy from lid. a man-hour to 6d. a man-hour. In announcing that decision, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that the saving to shipowners on general cargoes between Sydney and Melbourne would be nearly 2s. a ton, and that the Government expected shipowners to pass on the concession by reducing freight charges. We must remember that not only interstate shipping but also overseas shipping is affected by the levy. The Prime Minister went on to say that the lower levy should only be a starting point for a reduction of Australian and overseas freight rates. Quite obviously, therefore, the Government expected, not that the reduced levy would bring freight charges down to a reasonable level, but that it would at least be the starting point. It is just as if a person has collected a huge sum to which he is not morally entitled and the Government says to him in effect “ You are not entitled to that money, but if we give you an extra £100, would you mind paying that back to the people with whom you are dealing?” In other words, this means more money to the shipowners. The Prime Minister, as I have said, expressed the opinion that the reduction of the levy would permit a reduction of 2s. a ton in freight charges between Sydney and Melbourne. But what has happened? According to a report published in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 6th April, the supreme authority for fixing freight charges in
Australia - I refer to the shipping combine, of course, and not to the Australian Government - announced that the general cargo rates between interstate ports would be reduced by ls. 6d. a ton.
– Are no other factors involved ?
– What are the other factors? If there are any I have no doubt that they will make the case for the shipowners not better but worse. The actual reduction of freight charges has been far short of that forecast by the Prime Minister. In other words, the reduction of the levy will benefit the shipowners. Instead of being a starting point for a reduction of freight charges, from the point of view of the shipowners, it is the finishing point. There has been no suggestion of any kind that further action will be taken to reduce freight charges to their proper level, as was implied in the Prime Minister’s announcement. The right honorable gentleman obviously considered those charges to be too high. Everybody knows they are too high. My point is this, and I want it to be examined : The benefit that the shipowners will derive from the reduction of the levy is far greater than is the benefit that is to be passed on to those who use interstate shipping to carry their goods. The reduction of the levy will benefit the shipowners by about £750,000 a year. Of that sum, £250,000 will accrue to interstate and coastal shipowners and the remaining £500,000 to overseas shipowners. Thus, the great bulk of the benefit will go to the overseas shipowners. What will they do about freight rates? They have announced their decision, and the Government must yield to it for reasons of which everybody is aware. The Government must do as the shipowners wish, and they have said to it, “ We are nOt going to consider the matter until our conference takes place “, which, I understand, will not be until next September. These companies will receive a direct handout without being required to give an undertaking that any reduction of freight charges upon which they may decide later will operate retrospectively. They are simply treating the Australian Government, which is the trustee for the people, with utter contempt. This is a serious situation, and the Opposition is anxious to have it resolved. We should have just freight charges for both interstate and overseas cargoes.
The Opposition wants to have the facts thoroughly examined. That is why T have proposed an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the bill. I realize, of course, that my proposals will probably be rejected. In that event, we shall have no option but to allow the reduction of the stevedoring industry charge to take place. I am uncertain about some of the aspects of the Government’s plans, such as its programme for the provision of essential facilities and amenities at ports. We must be given assurances on such issues. It may well be that, in the light of the facts, the reduction of the charge can be vindicated. However, the main facts are that, in order to make possible some reduction of freight rates, the Government has decided to reduce the stevedoring industry charge, with the result that the interstate shipowners have agreed to pass on to the consignees of goods by sea some portion of the benefit that they will receive, whereas the overseas shipping combine has not agreed to give anything back to anybody. That situation is entirely unsatisfactory to Australian producers and businessmen, and, in fact, to all sections of the community. The Government has ample power to deal with this matter if it were only determined to do so. It is not a price-fixing power but the general power vested in the Commonwealth over interstate and overseas trade.
– The Government is the captive of the shipping combine.
– That is an understatement of the position. It is quite clear from the history of this matter that the Government would like to have freight rates reduced, because the cost structure of our economy is adversely affected by high shipping charges. However, tha language employed by the shipping combine in its dealings with the Government is the language of superiority, and the language of the Government in return is that of acquiescence and deference.
Associated with this matter is the issue of competition. One of the serious complaints that can be made with justification against this Government is that the Commonwealth line of ships, which should be actively competing in interstate trade with privately owned vessels, has been prevented from doing so to a large degree by a. direction issued by the Minister for Shipping and Transport. That is the truth without any doubt, and it is a serious matter. I want the Treasurer to tell the House whether the programme for port development and the provision of amenities, which was mentioned in the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board’s report, will be prejudiced by the reduction of the charge for which the bill provides. It would bc utterly wrong to discontinue the programme while all but the barest necessities are still needed at many Australian ports, some of which are in a disgraceful condition. The development of ports requires long-term planning, and the Parliament should be given an assurance that development will continue. This subject is dealt with in the Basten report, which called upon the Government to take action. The Prime Minister himself referred to that report as being a convincing document. Honorable member will agree, therefore, that the case which I have submitted is supported by the Prime Minister’s own words.
The Achilles heel of the Government has benn exposed by the attitude of the shipowners to freight rates. They will benefit by £750,000 a year from the proposed reduction, but they are graciously pleased to reduce freights by a mere £250,000 annually! The companies should not be too confident that they will not have to reduce freight charges very considerably. I repeat now what I have said publicly before: the Labour party, if elected to power, will insist that fair and reasonable freight rates be established and will exercise its power in relation to overseas and interstate trade in order to prevent extortion and the levying of exorbitant charges. This is a matter of supreme importance to all Australians.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Osborne) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Broadcasting Act - Twenty-first Annual Report and Financial Statements of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, for year 1952-53.
Services Trust Funds Act - Australian Military Forces Relief Trust Fund - Sixth Annual Report, for year 1952-53.
House adjourned at 4.2 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice - 1. (a) What were the amounts of Australia’s exports (n) to the United States of America and (b) to Canada during the years ended the 30th June, 1950, 30th June, 1051. 30th June, 1952, and 30th June, 1953, respectively? (6) What were the principal categories of such exports? 2. (o) What were the amounts of Australia’s imports from the same countries for the same periods? (6) What were the principal categories of such imports?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following 1. (a) and (&) - answers to the honorable member’s questions : - .
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 April 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1954/19540409_reps_20_hor3/>.