House of Representatives
21 September 1954

21st Parliament · 1st Session

Estimates1954-55 1467

Mr. WENTWORTH (Mackellar) [10.55]. - In the few minutes that remain for this debate, I wish to associate myself with the remarks of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) and the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) about the necessity to complete swiftly the short standard guage rail link between Broken Hill and Port Pirie. At present, the 4-ft. 8?-in. standard gauge Commonwealth line which goes from Port Pirie to Kalgoorlie, and also from Port Augusta up towards LeighCreek, is isolated from the rest of the standard gauge transport system. If we could provide the small link that is missing,we would be able to move rolling-stock on and off that line in case of emergency, and that is important. Let me say also that we should, concurrently, do something about providing a standard gauge line from Port Pirie to Adelaide. I think that could be done by converting one ofthe two 5-ft 3-in. lines which at present run down virtually in parallel. It would not be a very difficult matter to arrange. As the committee knows, the line running northwards from Port AugustatoLeigh Creek is at present being converted from 3 ft 6 in. to 4 ft.8? in. to permit coal traffic to be handled with greater economy. If, as I say, we had a standard gauge line from Port Pirie to Adelaide, that would give us a clear flow of coal traffic from Leigh Creek to Adelaide. It would also allow the rocket range at Woomera to be connected directly with the workshops at Salisbury which service it. Then if we completed the link, as I have suggested, from Broken Hill to Port Pirie, we would be also able to run standard gauge trains from Brisbane and Sydney right to Adelaide. I know these are matters which require money, but I do not believe they require an exorbitant amount of money. I believe that the works I suggest are economically desirable and stand by themselves as commercial propositions, but far addition, they would add considerablyto the defence potential of Australia.

There is just one other point that I should like to make in the couple of minutes that remain. I agree with the honorable member for Blaxland that one of the great features in the operation of the Commonwealth railways has been the introduction of diesel-electric locomotives.

There is a good story to. be told in that regard, andI believe that the Government and the Commonwealth Railways. Commissioner have something tobe proud of. The lessons learned should be applied more generally to the railway systems of the various States. There is one other factor. The trans- Australian railway is a long through run, and the railways should be concentrated much more on the long through runs, rather than on the short hauls. It is probable that, for short hauls, other forms of transport can operate effectively. It is particularly on the long uninterrupted runs that the railway comes into its own, and we should be concentrating on that aspect.

Proposed votes agreed to.

Progress reported.


The following papers were presented: -

Lands Acquisition Act - Land,&c., acquired for Defence purposes -

Canungra, Queensland.

Kingswood, New South Wales.

Papua and New Guinea - Ordinances - 1953-

No.56 - Lands Acquisition.

No. 72 - Mercantile.

No. 77- Plant Disease and Control.

No.83-Fees (Surcharge).

No. 88-Probate and Administration (No. 2).

No. 93- New Guinea Land Titles Restoration (No. 2).


No. 12 - Town Planning.

No. 13 - Stamp Duties.

No. 18- Regulations Publication.

No. 24. -ordinances Interpretation.

Public Service Act - Appointment- Department of Works - E. W. N.Oxlad.

Public Works Committee Act-Twenty-third General Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.

House adjourned at 11 p.m.

page 1457


The following answers to questions were circulated: -


On how many occasions has(a) the “guillotine” and (b) the closure been moved by the

Government in the lifetime of each of the following Parliaments - the nineteenth, twentieth and the twenty-first?

Nineteenth Parliament (22nd February,1950, to 19th March, 1951 ) . - “ Guillotine “ moved by Government, five occasions; closure moved by Government, 41 occasions; closure moved by Opposition, one occasion.

Twentieth Parliament (12th June, 1951, to 14th April, 1954).-“Guillotine” moved by Government, ten occasions; closure moved by Government, 209 occasions; closure moved by Opposition, six occasions.

Twenty- first Parliament (4th August, 1954 - ). - “Guillotine” moved by Government, one occasion ; closure moved by Government, eight occasions.


  1. What is the system of payment to builders of war service homes for work performed, e.g., initial payment, second advance and final payment?
  2. How long after completion of the job does the builder have to wait for final payment?
  3. How many inspections are made of the work performed and at what stages are they made?
  4. What is the ratio of homes built through the division to existing homes financed by that body?
  1. Payments up to 90 per cent. of the value of work completed efficiently are made to builders as they desire, providing there is a reasonable value of work completed. In some cases, payments are made weekly, in others fortnightly, having regard to the rate of progress by the builder. No payment would be made, of course, until the foundations were laid, but after that there is no set period and the builder can obtain progress payments frequently if he so desires, providing his progress is satisfactory. In special advance cases, i.e., where the applicant enters into the contract with the builder and an outside architect is employed, the only inspections by the division are when the builderrequests a progress payment and the applicant’s architect certifies that the work has been done. Payments by the applicant to the builder or other value contributed direct by the applicant with the division’s approval are taken into consideration in the 90 per cent.
  2. If the builder completes the work satisfactorily and does not leave outstanding items, the payment is made immediately the final inspection report is received, and the builder submits documents and invoices re prime cost items, &c, as required by his contract. This payment covers all amounts except the maintenance retention money, which is £30 unless, as stated, there are outstanding items.
  3. The essential stages at which inspections are required are - (a) when the foundation trenches,& c, have been dug and if concrete foundations are involved, then during the pouring of the concrete foundations; (b) when the skeleton of the structure has been erected, before the flooris laid or the walls are sheathed; (c) when the roof framing is erected, before the covering is attached; (d) during the installation of the services and the finishing; and (e) on completion. The procedure is for regular supervision and in those cases in which the home is being erected in the metropolitan area, this is performed by officers of the division by visits at least once a week when the. progress is such that weekly visits are necessary,’ and in other circumstances, once a fortnight. In country districts, where the Department of Works supervises on behalf of the division, it is not always possible to make the same number of visits. .
  4. During 1952-53, 5,848 homes were built by the division and 6,574 were financed. During 1953-54, 6,290 homes were built by the division and 6,109 were financed.


  1. Is it a fact that zinc dust manufactured in Tasmania has increased in price throughout New South Wales from £86 to £168 a. ton to bring it to the average price of zinc on the London market?
  2. If so, and, keeping in mind the huge increase that will occur In building costs, will the Government take action to offset the price increase of zinc, zinc oxide, steel and galvanized iron to the English price plus the addition of the exchange rate?
  1. The Commonwealth Government vacated the price control field some years ago in favour of State governments. The State prices authority lifted all controls on zinc and zinc manufactures in May last since when the local prices have fluctuated in conformity with the London metal market as is the case with other metals such as lead and tin. The sole Australian producer of zinc dust is Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited, who advise that the current price of sine dust is £144 15s. a ton f.o.b.Risdon in 10-ton lots. This would roughly be equivalent to £168 in New South Wales depending on the margin added by distributors. When price control was lifted in May last, the f.o.b. Risdon price for zinc dust was £116 a ton. It is many years since this price was so low as to allow distributors in Kew South Wales to sell at £86 a ton.
  2. Zinc dust is not used in the production of zinc oxide or galvanized iron, only a few hundred tons being used annually and for such purposes as bleaches in paper mills, gold cyanide plants and the manufacture of zinc salts- The price of. zinc dust therefore haR no effect on building costs.

Manus Island

Will he lay on the table of the Library all relevant documents involved in the negotiations with the United States of America regarding the retention of Marius Island as a base by the United States forces?

Commonwealth Arbitration Court

Can the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that the travelling allowances payable to the judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court were increased and made retrospective, with effect from the 1st December. 1953? Are these the same gentlemen who refused the application of certain unions for the adjustments of margins for skill in their respective awards on the ground that the state of the national economy did not justify the granting of such increases? If so, will the right honorable gentleman say whether this factor was taken into account by the Government when .considering the adjustment of the judges’ travelling allowances! Finally, have any of the judges declined the increased payment on the ground that, having regard to the state of the national economy, such increases should not be approved?

I promised the honorable member that I would ascertain the facts and make them available. I now find that full details of the action taken were conveyed to the honorable member by the AttorneyGeneral on the 29th March, 1954. There has been no variation in the position since that date.


On the 7th September, the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) asked the following question : -

Will the Prime Minister cause inquiries to be made into the recent stipulation - of the authorities which control Commonwealth scholarships, that these arc not to be paid unless they reach a minimum of £10? Is he aware that the decision permits of payments of fees of part-time students who Are attending the universities in New South Wales and Victoria to study one or two subjects but the students who are doing the same subjects at the university in South Australia, where fees are being kept low, are deprived of their scholarships? Will the right honorable gentleman ensure that South Australian students shall not he penalized merely because they happen to live in South Australia?

The Universities Commission has decided not to award benefits under the Commonwealth scholarship scheme to students undertaking a part-time course in any year in which the benefits are less than £10. As a result of this decision scholarships which would be taken up by such students may now he awarded to students who can derive substantial benefits from the scholarship as, for instance, full-time students entitled to a living allowance. Generally the type of student who is excluded from benefits under this decision is a part-time student who either has private means or is in employment. The Universities Commission, however, has discretion in this Hitter and v prepared to ‘ consider, with the students’ interests in mind, the case of able students whose studies are being prejudiced because of financial hardship. This would include cases in which a student is in employment and is having financial difficulty in meeting his commitments. Such cases may he referred to the Universities Commission by the Education Departments who are responsible for the detailed administration of the scheme. The honorable member can be assured that South Australian students arc not penalized by the operation of the minimum benefits rule. Tn general, students at the University of Adelaide are required to pay more than £10 in fees whether their courses are on a full-time or a part-time basis. If, however, there are special circumstances which result in students being required to pay less than £10 in any one year, students concerned should, if they feel that their studies are prejudiced through financial difficulties, raise the matter with the Education Departmentof South Australia who may, after examination, refer it to the Universities Commission.


  1. Is it a fact that the Army is regularly dumping in thesea ammunition and scrap metal worth thousands of pounds?
  2. Were 500 tons of old and. obsolete ammunition dumped off Sydney Heads last month?
  3. If so, is this only one of a number of instances in which valuable metals, mostly brass, are dumped when they could be reclaimed?
  4. If this is correct, will he investigate methods employed in the United Kingdom for recovery of valuable metals from obsolete wartime equipment and ammunition with a view to saving the Commonwealth Government many thousands of pounds?
  1. . All surplus stocks of ammunition, explosives, andempty ammunition components are declared for disposal to the Department of Supply. An inter-departmental committee considers all such items issued by disposal, and recommends the method of disposal. The policy followed is that no item, dangerous to public safety or security, is permitted to reach the hands of the public; as much material as possibleis diverted to useful channels, and as much metal’ as economically possible is recovered for sale as scrap. In general, all cartridges, powder filled fuzes, and large calibre shell are broken down or boiled out and the metal recovered for sale as scrap. Filled shell of small calibres are normally sentenced for destruction. Explosive items, which are found to be in a dangerous condition, are disposed of by demolition or by dumping in deep seas.
  2. Yes. The 500 tons of ammunition dumped off Sydney at the end of August contained no brass or other valuable metals, the salvage of which would have been an economical proposition, having regard to practicability of recovery and public safety.
  3. The quantity of all scrap metals recovered from break-down operations for the year 1953-54 was603.5 tons valued at £47,253. The quantity and value of brass, mixed metal (brass and lead),lead, copper and cupro nickel recovered in the same period was 280 tons and £43,662 respectively.
  4. The Departments of the Navy, Army and Defence Production are fully aware of all methods used in the United Kingdom for recovery of ammunition components and valuable metals, and officers of these departments are continually studying any new methods, which may be devised. The most modem methods are employed in Australia where applicable in the recovering of ammunition residue by Departments of Navy and Army.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 September 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.