21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct to the Prime Minister, as Minister acting for the Treasurer, a question in relation to firms that manufacture necessary commodities for which exorbitant prices are charged, and which are allowed concessions for advertising in their taxation assessments although, on the other hand, a worker who is forced to live away from his place of employment is not entitled to any allowance in his taxation assessment for fares. Will the right honorable, gentleman indicate to the House whether this anomaly can be rectified?
– Taxation is always assessed on the basis that, from the gross revenue received in the particular case, there should >be deducted the costs of earning that revenue. In relation to all of these matters, the Commissioner of Taxation applies rules of common sense and reality which, I think, act generally to the satisfaction - if that is the right word - of the taxpayer.
– Will the Prime Minister who is acting for the Treasurer, consider liberalizing taxation exemptions with a view to aiding agricultural societies in order to stimulate public interest in and knowledge of. our important primary industries? I have received urgent representations on this matter from the Council of Agricultural Societies of Tasmania.
– The honorable member shares with me the privilege of receiving many representations on many matters that are quite attractive to receive. The matter that he has raised is one of policy. We determine these things year by year when we are dealing with the budget, as they have to be considered in relation to the total picture. Therefore, there is nothing that I can say about the matter at this time.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. In view of the growing interest in the proposal to create more States in Australia, can the right honorable gentleman inform the Mouse of the progress that has been made in the formation of an all-party committee to review the working of the Australian Constitution, and to make recommendations for its alteration?
– I regret that there has been some delay in relation to this matter, for which I accept responsibility, although there have been other preoccupations. I hope to say something about the matter quite soon.
– Can the Minister for Social Services state whether it is a fact, as was stated last week by an official of the War Service Homes Division in Brisbane that, acting under instructions from Canberra, the waiting period for the purchase of homes has been extended from six weeks to six months, and that applications lodged during and after November will not be considered until May, 1955? If that statement is correct, were the instructions issued by the Minister? If so, do his instructions mean an extended waiting time for the purchase of both existing homes and new homes? Is the Minister aware that in Brisbane there is a long waiting list of applicants who are desirous of purchasing existing homes, many of whom have been waiting for periods of from nine to twelve months? In view of this serious state of affairs, and in the interests of the ex-servicemen applicants, will the Minister make a statement upon this important matter, which affects so many ex-servicemen?
– When the War Service Homes Bill was introduced only a few weeks ago, I made it clear that the waiting period for the purchase of existing properties, that is, of old homes, would be increased to six months. That is not a novel feature. For some years past there has been a waiting period of six months. The waiting period was suspended in March of this year until the 1st November. The whole matter is set out in my second-reading speech on the bill. I think ample publicity has been given to it, but I shall ensure that better publicity is given to it in the future.
– The question that I wish to ask the Prime Minister is supplementary to one that I asked him in the early part of the current sessional period in relation to the provision of finance so that tenants under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement could be assisted to acquire their own homes. Can the right honorable gentleman report whether any progress has been made in this matter and when legislation is likely to be introduced to give effect to the Government’s promise to provide a home for every family?
– I was not aware that the Government had made a promise to provide a home for every family.
– It is in the Prime Minister’s policy speech.
– Is itf Well, it must be some other Prime Minister. I do not want to destroy the honorable member’s legitimate ambitions, but, in relation to the sale of rented houses under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement - if that is what he has in mind - I have just sent to the Premiers concerned letters containing a series of terms which were discussed at a meeting of officials of the Commonwealth and States. I have reason to believe that the terms are acceptable to the Premiers. I cannot say that officially, but I have noticed already that one or two Premiers have indicated their approval publicly. I have not the terms of the communications by me, but I shall be very happy to make copies available to the honorable member and to any other honorable members who would care to have one.
– Having regard to the fact that the Government is pledged to a policy of providing ample finance for home building, can the Prime Minister, who is acting for the Treasurer, explain why finance for Credit Foncier loans through the Commonwealth Bank has been drastically reduced during the current financial year?
– The answer to that question is that it has not been drastically reduced. On the contrary, the Commonwealth Bank, more than any other institution in this country, has been doing a great deal of work and making a great deal of finance available for home building ; and it has been pursuing that policy this year just as it did last year.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is correct to assume that the loans to be made available to the States for housing purposes will bear interest at the rate of per cent. If this is so, will the Government reconsider the matter with a view to making loans for this purpose available to the States at a rate of interest of 3f per cent, which rate applies to loans provided by the “War Service Homes Division ? If the Government is not prepared to go that far, will it give to ex-servicemen, who occupy homes constructed under the Commonwealth and States Housing Agreement and who cannot obtain finance from the “War Service Homes Division, the opportunity to obtain loans bearing interest at the same rate that is applicable to those made available by the division?
– I think that the best way to answer all these questions will be for me to have a copy of the correspondence that has passed between the State Premiers and myself made available to all honorable members. They will find these questions answered in that correspondence. The present arrangement has not been made by us merely by authority. “We had discussions with the State officials and all the relevant points were worked out. In reply to the first point made by the honorable member, the States will sell these houses which they have built on money that has been made available to them by the Australian Government under the Commonwealth and States Housing Agreement. They will sell them over a long term of years at 4£ per cent, interest. The amount payable by the States to the Commonwealth, in relation to all the advances to be made by us, will be 3 per cent., because that is the rate that has operated since the beginning of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, and it will operate in relation to all the houses now built, or completed, by June next year. Therefore, the States will have the difference between 3 per cent, which they will- pay, and 4£ per cent, which they will collect, as a fund which will assist them to carry the risks which they will accept on the re-sale or sale of these houses. I believe that I may say that the arrangement that has been made is regarded as pretty satisfactory all round. It has not been forced on anybody. “We indicated our willingness. The officers met, various points arose and we discussed them in Cabinet, and, finally having got to a position where it was clear that there would be an agreement, I sent out a final note to the State Premiers to indicate what we were willing to do. If I have that note copied and circulated to all honorable members, they will probably find that it will answer most of the questions about this matter that they have in their minds.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: In view of the statement made by the Minister for National Development and the answers given to questions this afternoon by the Prime Minister in reference to Commonwealth encouragement to tenants of housing commission homes built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to purchase those homes, will the Government apply to the purchase of homes in Canberra the conditions that are now to apply to the purchase of those housing commission homes, that is, a reduction in deposit, an increase in the total loan, an extension of the repayment period, and the application of portion of the rent to the purchase price ?
– As I informed the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory previously when he asked the same question, I could not take any action until the Commonwealth and State housing authorities had come to an agreement on the main principle of the sale of houses. When the replies are received, or when the matter has been brought to finality, I shall certainly examine the terms and conditions that will apply to the sale of government houses in Canberra.
– I address a question to you, Mr. Speaker. I desire to preface it with an explanation. Yesterday evening, when the House was in session, as I left the door of the Liberal party room I was stopped by two persons who, because of the Standing Orders, must not be named. They- introduced themselves as executive members of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, from Melbourne, one a member of the Australian Labour party, and one a member of the Australian Communist party. They mentioned their opposition to a bill that is now before the House, requested that I cross the floor of the chamber, and threatened that if I did not do so, every effort would be made to embarrass me at the next federal election. My objection is not to meeting people or to being interviewed, provided that an appointment is made under reasonable conditions and in a proper manner. I interpose here to state that there was no discourtesy on the part of the two persons concerned. I ask you, sir, whether, in your opinion, it is a desirable state of affairs that any one, without official parliamentary status, should be permitted to have such free and easy access to members as was represented by this incident.
– The difficulties-
– I was accosted by two shipowners.
– Order ! I have repeatedly warned the House- that the Standing Orders provide that the Speaker shall be heard in silence. The honorable member for Parkes is well enough conversant with the English language to understand the Standing Orders. The difficulties in this House are due to the fact that, in present circumstances, it is impossible to segregate visitors from members. That is primarily due to the occupation of many of the offices in this building by Ministers. If Ministers did not occupy those offices the lobbies would be as the notices at the entrance profess them to be - ‘reserved for the use of members. At present, I know of no method by which I can segregate members from visitors and people waiting on Ministers on business, and thereby protect honorable members in the way that they should be protected. If any threat is made to an honorable member in this building about anything that will happen at election time, that matter comes within the scope of privilege, and people should refrain from making such threats. In any event, no honorable member should be approached in this building, except in King’s Hall, otherwise than by arrangement previously made. If that sort of thing occurs, the whole question will have to be considered. I personally think it would be a very good thing - and this has been mentioned in other quarters - if an all-party committee were appointed by this House to examine the position in relation to the use of accommodation and the accessibility of this building to all sorts of people.
– What we want is a drafting race.
– Order ! If there is any drafting to be done the honorable member will soon find himself a reject.
– My question is directed to you, Mr. Speaker. What are the arrangements under which the wealthy press proprietors of Australia are provided with accommodation in Parliament House for their staffs? How much rent is paid for this concession? When do you intend, Mr. Speaker, to take steps to ensure that private rooms are made available for private members of the Parliament in which they may perform their official duties?
– When I assumed my present office, I discovered that, during the regime of the previous Government, a rental of ls. a square foot for office space was paid by the press. Holding the view that the press was here by grace and not by right, I abolished that rental. No rental is now paid. If people pay rental, they have tenant rights and, in my view, the press should never Iia ve a tenant right in this place. The allocation of space to the press is made, partly. according to its needs and, partly, according to the space available. There is not sufficient space available upstairs for the press, nor is there a sufficient number of rooms on this floor of the House for members who would like them. As I have stated to members privately, this House is not made of elastic, and I cannot stretch it any further, nor can I subdivide it any more. It is a problem that is in the hands of honorable members.
– I direct to you, Mr. Speaker, a question which arises out of the previous question and your answer thereto. By your action, you have deprived the Commonwealth of a. certain amount of revenue. Can you tell the House the total amount that would have been received but for your action? Will you inform the House what was involved in your decision to abolish the charge ?
– Order ! I cannot inform the right honorable gentleman, because I was not concerned about obtaining revenue for the Commonwealth from Parliament House. I hold firmly to the principle that Parliament House is not a place in which charges should be made.
– That is not an answer to my question.
– Possibly I might discover the total amount for the right honorable gentleman. I can assure him that the charge was ls. a square foot.
– A year ?
– A year. _ Mr. CURTIN. - Further to my question to you, Mr. Speaker, will you supply me with the area in square feet made available to the press?
– Order! I shall endeavour to inform the honorable member of the area in square feet, square yards and acres.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether he is aware that the Macrobertson-Miller Aviation Company Proprietary Limited is anxious to put into service on the air route from Perth to Darwin a Convair aircraft or a similar large plane, but is unable to do so unless’ runways are extended to meet the requirements of aircraft of that type. If this is so, has the Minister any plans in relation to such unsuitable landing grounds, and will he, in view of the everincreasing demand for such a service, treat the extension of the necessary runways as urgent, and thereby assist in the progressive programme of the enterprising company in question?
– All I can say is that I have had no advice from the Macrobertson-Miller Aviation Company Proprietary Limited that it intends to purchase a heavier aircraft.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware that on the 28th October last, I asked him a question about the activities of a certain individual at Mascot airport ? Is the Minister also aware that to-day is the 10th November, and that the Parliament is expected to rise to-morrow, the time for the answering of questions is extremely limited? Does the Minister know that it takes such a long time for the Department of Civil Aviation to answer a question, or has the department some reason for not answering this question? Will the Minister make instant inquiry into this matter, and find out whether this particular gentleman has somebody in the department covering up for him in regard to this question ?
– The question to which the honorable member for Watson refers appears on a notice-paper. If the honorable gentleman will look at the notice-paper, he will see that the question itself embodies six questions, and, frankly, we have not adequate staff to answer a series of questions of that kind in a short time. In due course, the honorable member will receive a reply. &
– It is taking a long time.
– If the honorable member asks silly questions, he will get silly answers.
– Is the Minister for External Affairs in a position to give the House any information concerning an incursion by armed men into Dutch New Guinea ?
– No more, I am afraid, than has appeared in the press. We have received a certain amount of information, but I would say at this stage that it is not definitive.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the anomalous position of the wives and dependants of totally and permanently incapacitated war pensioners who are a lost legion between the Department of Repatriation, the Department of Social Services and the Department of Health, and are unable to obtain medical benefits which are available to wives and dependants of other pensioners? Each department apparently regards the provision of benefits for such persons as the responsibility of one of the other departments. Will the right honorable gentleman investigate this position with a view to having the anomaly rectified and relieving the plight of this most deserving section of the community?
– I do not know what this has to do with the Prime Minister’s Department.
– It has nothing to do with that department, Mr. Speaker, but, as it apparently relates to one or two departments, I shall be very glad to have a discussion with my colleagues on the point raised by the honorable member.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service received notification of a resolution passed yesterday by the Queensland executive of the Federated Clerks Union of Australia severely criticizing the strike action of the Waterside Workers Federation, on the ground that it has no association with conditions or pay, and condemning the strike as being Communist inspired ?
– No official notification from that union has come to my notice, but I have seen a reference to the resolution in the press. It would certainly appear, from the terms of the resolution as I have read them and as they have been put to the House by the honorable member, that the members of the Federated Clerks Union in Queensland share what I believe to be the view of an overwhelming majority of trade unionists in Australia.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the House whether it is true that the Government is considering a proposal to delay the proclamation of the amendments to the Stevedoring Industry Act, after they have been passed by the Parliament, until such time as the recently formed federal industrial advisory council has considered the matters contained in that legislation?
– The Government has considered a number of matters in relation to the present waterfront issue. Its intentions have already been announced by myself, and more recently by the Prime Minister, in this House. We are intending to pass the legislation through this House at a later hour this day, and it is anticipated that it will be through another place by tomorrow night. It will then be the law of the land, and the Government will take such action as is necessary to ensure that the law is made effective.
– Will the act be proclaimed ?
Mi-. SPEAKER.- Order !
– I was asked, by way of interjection, whether the new Stevedoring Industry Act would be proclaimed.
– Order ! Interjections are out of order.
– The legislation provides that it shall come into effect after it receives the Royal assent.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that the reported resolution carried by the Queensland executive of the Federated Clerks Union of Australia contains words that were not mentioned by the honorable member for Capricornia? Those words are that the executive expresses the opinion that a full inquiry should be held into waterfront conditions throughout Australia before any legislative action is taken by this Government.
– I saw, in the press, the full text, or what purported to represent the full text of the resolution, along the lines mentioned by the honorable member for Wills. We are making provision in the legislation now before the House for a committee of inquiry, which will have the power, if it so chooses, to investigate the particular aspect that the honorable gentleman has in mind. The application of it will take effect from the passage of the legislation. The Government will be interested, and, of course, will be willing to examine the factors put before it at a later point of time by the inquiry.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the House whether it is correct that the Stevedoring Industry Bill 1954 will come into operation immediately it receives the Royal assent ? Is it the intention of the Government to have the bill sent for Royal assent immediately it is passed by both Houses of the Parliament?
– I am not very familiar with the machinery arrangements for these matters, but it is intended that the normal processes shall be gone through, neither more quickly nor more slowly than is usually the practice.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I desire to know whether it is a fact that yesterday the Minister interviewed a Communist official of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, but excluded from the conference a number of delegates of the waterside workers who were officials of the Australian Labour party. Will the Minister explain his reason for refusing to admit those members of the Australian Labour party who were anxious to place before him their views upon the present waterfront dispute ?
– I welcome the question, . because it affords me an opportunity to correct a report that I read in the press, which incorrectly represented the position. It was reported in the press that an interview with me had been sought by representatives of the Waterside Workers Federation and that I had denied them an opportunity to see me. That was not correct. The only request received by me, and, so far as I am aware, the only request that was intended to be received by me, was that I should see Mr. Roach, whom I have known for a number of years as an official of the federation, and one other gentleman whom Mr. Roach described to me as a member of the federal council of the federation. It was not suggested to me at any time that I should see any one else.
– Whom did the Minister exclude ?
– I excluded no one, to my knowledge.
– The Minister did exclude some one.
– I imagine that no member of my staff would take the responsibility of excluding people who sought to see me without at least consulting me about the matter. The only request - and I repeat it, since the honorable member apparently does not understand plain English - was that I received Mr. Roach and his colleague. I saw them. I have been as accessible to Communist officials of the unions of Australia as I have been to the shipowners, to officials of the Australian Labour party and of the trade union movement, and to representatives of employers’ organizations throughout Australia. My decisions about whom I shall see are dictated, not by my own pleasure in these matters, but by a sense of my responsibility, as I see it, to the Department of Labour and National Service and to the office that I hold.
– Can the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General inform the House when it is expected that the regional broadcasting station at . Glen Innes will come into operation?
– The site for that station has been acquired and the work involved is being put in hand. It is hoped that the station will be in operation in the early part of next year.
– I address a question to the Minister for External Affairs concerning Australia’s support for the United Nations Korea Reconstruction Agency. Is it true, as reported from London, that Australia is among the nine nations which have not yet honoured the obligations they undertook in respect of that agency which is now at a standstill and is practically insolvent? If this is a fact, can he say when the Government will make the contribution that it pledged itself to make in respect of that agency?
– The problem to which the honorable member has referred is not as simple as he has suggested. Already, we have contributed a great deal of money to that agency and it is a question of whether that money has been expended. However, it is a matter of figures and I shall obtain the relevant figures and furnish them to the honorable member.
– “Would it be possible for the Minister acting for the PostmasterGeneral to provide honorable members with a forecast of the work that has to be undertaken by the Postal Department, in the electoral divisions of honorable members? I believe that such a practice would save a great deal of correspondence between honorable members and the Minister. By way of explanation, may I say that in response to a number of representations that I have been making during the past twelve months, I have been informed that while the need for additional telephone services is appreciated, it would take a work of a major nature to provide the services. Within the last few weeks an officer of the Postal Department visited the area concerned and he said that he knew of no reason why certain of the services about which I have made representations should not be connected within the next few weeks. I suggest that it would probably be of advantage, both to honorable members and the Postal Department, if the forecasts that f have mentioned were made.
– I shall have the proposal of the honorable member very carefully examined, and if it is possible I shall give him the forecast that he has asked for in respect of work to be done in particular districts during the current financial year.
– I understand that you, Mr. Speaker, have ruled that the honorable member for Grayndler, who is the Opposition Whip, is not to run up and down the corridor during the ringing of the bells and call out “Division”. I desire to ask you whether you would object to the honorable member galloping up and down the corridor, and, in his best English accent, calling out “ Tally-ho “.
– Order ! That is an attempt to be facetious, but it has failed.
– I ask the Minister for Territories whether it is a fact that, on Friday ^evening last, he arranged a screening of films in Parliament House, which was followed by what was described on the invitation as a supper, but which, in fact, turned out to be a banquet. Is it a fact that that banquet was even more sumptuous than that which was provided during the visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second earlier this year? Is it a fact, also, that an expensive range of liquors of almost unlimited supply, including champagne, was provided for the guests? Will the Minister state the approximate cost of this banquet, and by whom, or from which fund, the expense was met? Is it a fact, also, that the gathering comprised largely delegates who were visiting Canberra to attend a Liberal party conference? Finally, if the cost of the function was met from Government funds, will the Minister state whether he regards it as proper that the cost of entertaining delegates to a Liberal party conference should be met from the Government purse?
– The usual informant of the honorable member is grossly astray on this occasion. I think that, perhaps, the honorable member ought to check up on his gestapo. It is not rendering the service that it used to render. The function was arranged on behalf of the Department of Territories in conjunction with the screening of some films depicting activities in the Territories. The principal guests were members of the diplomatic corps and heads of missions in Canberra, the heads of departments that are concerned mainly with matters related to the Territories, and representatives of other governmental bodies. Invitations were extended also to members of the Cabinet, but it so happened that they had duties elsewhere. I also made arrangements that every member of the Parliament who was in Canberra on that night, together with his wife, should receive an invitation. A great number of honorable members from both sides of the House attended. If the honorable member wants some information about the food and the drink, or any other details-
-Were any prawns provided ?
– Prawns were provided. The honorable member should be able to obtain information from quite a number of his colleagues, some of whom are in this chamber and some in another place. Among the persons who were in the categories to which I have already referred were some delegates to a meeting of the Federal Council of the Liberal party, who were entitled to be there in their capacity as members. Having in their charge guests and friends, they, quite properly, brought them along too. I should say that, in addition to the categories that I have mentioned, there would not have been more than six or seven persons who would come into the category of those who were attending the meeting of the Liberal party.
– What about the cost?
– The cost will be met in the manner that the cost for official entertainment is usually met.
– What was the cost?
– I have not yet received the account, but, when it comes in, I shall discuss the matter with the honorable member.
– I direct a question to the Minister for External Affairs. Is it correct that, when the head of the Chinese Communist Government visited New Delhi recently, he made a statement that his Government now disclaims all right to allegiance of Chinese citizens who are living abroad, and who have dissociated themselves from their former country? If that statement is correct, how does it square with an alleged offer to a Chinese person who is residing in Australia of a seat in some assembly or parliament in China for the purpose of representing Chinese citizens there?
– My recollection is that the head of the Chinese Government stated, in New Delhi, that it was proposed that there should be a change in the allegiance of overseas Chinese to the Government at Peking. I am not clear in my recollection of the matter, but I believe that he was referring to something that was not then in being, but which was proposed. I have seen some reference, I think in the press, to a proposal having been made to an Australian resident Chinese to go to Peking in some representative capacity. That matter has not come under my official, or departmental, notice. I think that, possibly, the matter is more one for my friend and colleague, the Minister for Immigration, but I shall investigate it.
Assent to the following bills re ported : -
Customs Bill 1954.
Rayon Yarn Bounty Bill 1954.
Flax Fibre Bounty Bill 1954.
War Service Homes Bill 1954.
Motion (by Sir ERic Harrison) agreed to-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow at 3 p.m.
Motion (by Sir Philip MCBRide) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Broadcasting Act 1942-1953.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Broadcasting Act 1942-1953 so as to provide for an increase of the number of members of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board from three to five, by the appointment of two additional part-time members, who, like the original members, will be appointed by the GovernorGeneral. There are also certain consequential provisions in the bill arising from the extension of the membership of the board. Honorable members will be aware that, as a result of the Television Act passed last year, and the regulations recently made relating to applications for licences for commercial television stations, the functions and responsibilities of the board have been considerably extended. In the first place, the board is required, under the regulations, to hold public hearings for the consideration of applications for licences for commercial television stations. Honorable members will recall that the Television Act, which confers on the Minister the power to grant licences for commercial television stations, provides that, before exercising that power, the Minister shall take into consideration any recommendations that have been made by the board. This provision is in accordance with the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Television, which stated in paragraph 354 of the report -
The decisions which will have to be made in relation to all aspects of the licensing of commercial television stations will be of great importance, affecting not only the development of commercial television and the standard of its service, but also the investments and businesses of large commercial undertakings. While the ultimate decisions will, if our recommendations are adopted, bc made by the responsible Minister, the functions of the board in making recommendations as to the exercise of the Minister’s powers are of great significance, and it is important that these recommendations should be made after proper inquiry. In our opinion it is essential that the recommendations of the board in respect of certain aspects of licensing of commercial television stations . . should be made to the Minister only after a public hearing at which parties with an interest in the proceedings should have n right to he represented.
The royal commission also referred at some length to the continuing responsibilities of the board in respect of the standards of television programmes. The commission stated, at paragraph 397 of the report -
We are conscious- that the discharge by the board of the responsibilities in respect of programme standards which we have suggested above will throw a heavy burden on a body which has already substantial functions.. We have, therefore, given some consideration to the question of whether the additional responsibilities do not call for some addition to the membership of the board. We have come to the conclusion that it would be desirable to strengthen the board in this respect by the appointment, on a part-time basis, of two additional members, who should not, however, be representative of any sectional, interest
The Government agrees with those recommendations of the royal commission, and this legislation is designed to give effect to them. Though the general legislation arising from the report of the royal commission will not be introduced until the first session next year, we have come to the conclusion that it is important that the appointment of the additional parttime members of the board shall be made before the board commences the public hearing of applications for licences early in the New Year. The objective of the Government will, therefore, be to secure the services, on a part-time basis, of members of the board who will be selected primarily to strengthen that body in the discharge of its important functions in respect of both the licensing of commercial television stations and the maintenance of high standards of television programmes. I commend the bill to the House as an important step, both in the implementation of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Television, and in the establishment of television services in this country.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Haylen) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Kent Hughes) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to make provision for the acquisition by the Commonwealth of land required for public purposes and for dealing with land so acquired, and for other purposes.
Bill presented,, and read a first time.
Mr. KENT HUGHES (ChisholmMinister for the Interior and Minister for
Works) [3.21].- I move-
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public. Works Committee Act 1913-1954, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public
Works for investigation and report, viz.: - Erection of automatic telephone exchange building at Redfern.
The proposal provides for the erection of a building in George-street, Redfern, on a Commonwealth-owned site adjoining the existing post office and exchange. The building is required to meet the needs of development in the inner portion of the city and the eastern suburbs of Sydney, and will replace the existing exchange facilities by the creation of a main switching centre to serve a group of branch exchanges. The proposed building, which will consist of a ground floor, mezzanine floor, and five upper floors, will have a reinforced concrete frame. The estimated cost of the proposal is £409,000. I lay on the table the plans of the proposed building.
– The Opposition agrees to the reference of this proposed work to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report. I should like to refer to several matters associated with the proposal, but, in view of the proposed use of the guillotine within the next few minutes, I think it is sufficient for me, to say only that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1954, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, viz.: - Erection of new studios for Australian Broadcasting Commission at Forbes Street, Sydney.
The proposal provides for the erection of a building at Forbes-street, Sydney, to house network studios, recording activities and a control room for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The method of construction will be steel frame encased in concrete, with infill wall panels of brickwork and concrete floors. The estimated cost of the building and services is £150,000, and I recommend for the approval of the House that the work be referred to the committee for investigation and report.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare that the Stevedoring Industry Bill 1954 is an urgent bill.
Question put -
That the bill be considered an urgent bill.
The House divided. (MR. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . ….. 10
Voices having been heard,
– Order ! I am going to take action if this goes on, let honorable members laugh if they like.
– The doors have been locked. Any member inside the doors should vote.
– The tellers should not count them.
– The count must go on.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
Sir ERIC HARRISON (Wentworth-
Vice-President of the Executive Council and Minister for Defence Production) [3.30].- I move-
That the time allotted in connexion with thebillbe as follows: -
For the committee stage -
to the end of Part II., until 5.15 p.m. this day.
remainder of committee stage, until 5.50 p.m. this day.
For the remaining stages, until 5.55 p.m. this day.
This is quite a modest “ guillotine “ which cannot be compared in any way with the “ guillotines “ that were applied in this House when honorable members opposite occupied the treasury bench. Members of the Opposition at that time were lucky if they were given an opportunity to discuss any measure of any importance. The time proposed to be alloted for the remaining stages of this bill provides quite a generous spread particularly in view of the fact that honorable members generally are more concerned with Parts I. and II., whilst Part III., which deals with the setting up of an inquiry into conditions in the waterfront industry, is supported by honorable members generally. In these circumstances, I have proposed that the major portion of the time available for discussion in committee be alloted for consideration of the two controversial parts of the measure. That proposal also is in complete contradistinction to the methods that honorable members opposite employed when they occupied the treasury bench. I mention these matters in passing in order that honorable members opposite will not feel aggrieved that the Government has found it necessary to “ guillotine “ this measure which is of vital importance to the national economy and to our national stability.
– The statements which the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) has just made must be treated with great reserve. In his reference to actions of the Labour Government in circumstances of this kind, he did not give a single instance in support of his criticism of that Government. In any event, his statements were inaccurate. What has the Government done in this matter? It gagged the second-reading debate last evening after only a comparatively few honorable members had spoken; and now it proposes to limit consideration of the real matters of controversy arising under the bill. The remaining stages of the bill must be completed by 5.55 p.m., that is, within one and a half hours. I shall not encroach upon that limited time. I rise to protest against this attempt to curtail discussion on a matter of supreme importance. The Opposition disputes the Government’s claim that this matter is urgent. The Government had three years in which to consider the Basten report, but, now, at the fag-end of a sessional period, it is “ guillotining “ this measure. Of course, the Government must do the job that the shipowners have directed it to do.
– That is not true.
– It is true. I do not dispute the statement of the VicePresident of the Executive Council about Part III. of the bill which deals with the setting up of an inquiry into conditions on the waterfront. That proposal is of secondary importance. The Opposition protests against the Government’s failure to provide the opportunity for adequate discussion of the vital parts of the measure. I shall not discuss the motion further except to say that what the Vice-President of the Executive Council has said about the previous Government was incorrect. While that Government was in office there was never a case in which a matter had been gagged at the second reading and the discussion in committee also was curtailed. The Opposition will call for a division on the motion.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has chosen to stage a pantomime that will not deceive anybody. The test to be applied in this matter is whether in the circumstances, which are well known to honorable members opposite as they are well known to Government supporters, a reasonable opportunity is being given to honorable members to deal with what is, after all, the substance of the measure now before us. The Leader of the Opposition has whipped up a .spurious protest at this point. However, during the second-reading debate it was pointed out that the bill deals with only two matters. It is not a complicated measure and it does not contain many machinery provisions or matters of substance. It deals with two simple and definite matters which have been well canvassed by the Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament, over the air and in press statements that he has issued from time to time. The test, therefore, is whether honorable members opposite have been given an adequate opportunity to examine this measure and to state their views upon it. Not only has that opportunity been taken by the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues, but, last night, it was the hardest thing to keep a handful of the Opposition members in the House while the debate was proceeding. I, myself, took particular notice of that fact because the Opposition has endeavoured to establish the atmosphere that a great national crisis has arisen because the Government is making a challenge to a vital industrial right of the workers. I recall clearly that at one stage of the second-reading debate last evening, only three members of the Opposition were present in the chamber.
– That is deliberately untrue.
-Order ! The honorabel member for Eden-Monaro must withdraw that remark.
– It is a deliberate untruth.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw it; but I know the truth when I hear it.
– Order! The question before the Chair is the allotment of time.
– The Minister is acting like & cornered rat.
– Order ! The honorable member for Parkes must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it. May I say that he is acting like a cornered mouse ?
– ‘Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– One can understand the honorable member’s obsession with that species at this time. The real issue is whether a reasonable opportunity has been afforded to the Opposition to discuss this measure. I have already pointed out that such an opportunity has been provided and that honorable members opposite have freely exercised their opportunity. Secondly, having regard to the interest or the lack of interest displayed by members of the Opposition in this measure during the second-reading debate, there would hardly seem to be any need at all for a discussion of the measure in committee. Honorable members are aware that last night the Government was prepared to go on with the discussion of the bill if members of the Opposition wished to do so.
– Nothing of the kind.
– That is not so.
– Mau Mau justice !
– Order !
– We put it to members of the Opposition, and they rejected that opportunity. We said that we were prepared to go on discussing the .measure right through the night; and that view was put quite fairly to honorable members opposite. We are not children. We know that nobody is more anxious than are honorable members opposite that the business of the Parliament should be wound up to-morrow evening. They are aware that other measures are awaiting consideration. Adequate, but not unnecessarily prolonged time should be devoted to this measure. The Parliament has to decide whether in all the circumstances of which we have knowledge this is a reasonable provision. Anybody facing up to that test honestly will agree that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) now proposes to give a reasonable opportunity for discussion under the motion that he has moved.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has made a dignified protest against the limitation which the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) has proposed to impose upon consideration of this measure. The object of the bill is to amend the Stevedoring Industry Act. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) said that the Leader of the Opposition had staged a pantomime and that he had made a spurious protest. Such references are not argument or logic. The plain fact is that this country is faced with an industrial hold-up of great magnitude which will affect, probably for a considerable period of time, every man, woman and child in the community. There are 123. members of this House, and every one of them has a responsibility to his constituents - all of whom will be affected by the hold-up. The present dispute in the shipping industry is the direct outcome of the measure now under discussion, and the Minister for Labour and National Service, who is in charge of the bill is, of course, directly responsible for handling the legislation in this House. He has told us that the Government is justified in gagging the representatives of 123 constituencies, all the people of which will be greatly affected by the hold-up. This Government is now attempting to gag the representatives of the whole of the people of Australia, even though the people have elected representatives to speak for them on any matter that may be raised in this House. The accusation of the Minister for Labour and National Service that last night there were only three members of the Opposition present in this House at one stage of the debate, is utterly untrue, and I suggest that the records will prove my contention. The Minister’s statement in that respect is a gross misrepresentation of the facts, as are hia statement and the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in regard to the causes of the dispute on the waterfront. The Prime Minister, in his haste to put forward the rights and wrongs of this trouble, had the effrontery to broadcast about it on the Sabbath - of all days.
– Order ! The honorable member cannot deal with that matter, he must confine his remarks to the motion before the House.
– -I am endeavouring to show how the application of the gag to this debate, after a few hours discussion, is an insult to democracy. It is a negation of all that we hold dear. The Government intends to gag the debate, which will mean gagging me as well as all other honorable members. That does not matter to me as an individual, but I certainly believe that as the representative .of 50,000 or 60,000 people I have a right to express my views on every clause of the bill at present before the House. If the Minister for Labour and National Service, and this Government, believe that whatever the merits of this bill the people of Australia will support their move to close the mouths of the people’s representatives, then they have been sadly misled. I join the protests made against this motion.
.- I do not wish to reply to all the charges made by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), because there is very little substance in them. However, he said that the action of the Government in gagging the debate was an affront to democracy in this country. I remind him that when the time for debating this measure expires, irrespective of the application of the “ guillotine “, the issue as to whether the bill will pass the House or not will depend upon the results of a democratic vote by all honorable members of this House.
– That is the attitude of a Hitler. It is the negation of democracy.
-I assure the honorable member for Lalor that his present behaviour is bad for the blood pressure.
– I rise to order. I assure you, Mr. Speaker, that I am entitled to give expression in this House to my feelings and beliefs, and I suggest that you have no right to impute that my attitude to any measure has any affect whatsoever on my blood pressure. That is a matter for my medical adviser. It might interest you to know that apart from accidents I have never had any need for medical advice.
– Order ! I assure the honorable member that I am very jealous of his good fortune.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 2791) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 9th November (vide page 2775).
Part I. (Clauses 1 to 3) and Part II. (Clauses 4 to 8) - by leave - considered as a whole.
– I refer to clause 2, which reads -
This act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal assent.
I have an amendment to submit, which sets out the positive proposal of the Opposition in relation to this important bill. I move -
That clause 2 be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following clause: - “2. - (1.) Save as to sections, six, seven and eight, this act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal assent. (2.) Sections six, seven and eight shall come into operation on a day to be fixed by Proclamation but not before the expiration of fourteen days after the receipt by the Minister of the Report made under section eleven of this act by the committee of inquiry.”.
The purpose of the amendment is to fix a time for the coming into operation of the disputed clauses dealing with the method of employment and registration in $he industry. That is to say, clauses 6, 7 and 8, which are interwoven, will come into operation after the report of the statutory committee of inquiry has been received. The object is to make certain that the work of that committee, for which provision is made in Part III. of the bill, may possibly be effective. As it is, the two parts are a complete contradiction. The provisions dealing with the registration of employer and waterside workers will operate immediately, and that very matter will be the subject of concern, evidence, final deliberation and recommendation by the committee of inquiry. It is simply ridiculous, and a complete injustice, that the work of the committee should be anticipated by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), who is proceeding on the assumption that the committee will make recommendations to permit of nomination by employers.
No such suggestion is made in any report. Perhaps the committee will recommend it; I imagine it will not. Why does not the Minister wait until the committee makes its report? Would not that be a reasonable and conciliatory attitude to adopt? That is the view put before the people of Australia by the Australian Council of Trades Unions, and it is supported by the Australian Workers Union. What is the answer to it ? There has been no answer. If a committee is to be appointed to inquire into certain aspects of the operation of the legislation, we cannot assume what the verdict will be until the evidence has been given. But that is not good enough for the Minister.
That brings me to another point. This is not legislation which has been carefully thought out by the Minister. I say to him, and I charge him, that the Stevedoring Industry Board has not approved of this bill, has not been consulted on it, and has not recommended it.
– How does the Leader of the Opposition know that?
– I say that. I do not know it, but I infer it. Does the Minister deny it?
– I shall make my own speech.
– The Minister does not deny it. I repeat it is certain, from all the surrounding circumstances, that the board has not sponsored this bill. Who sponsors it? Does the Minister, in his own heart, really sponsor it? I challenged him on this matter a few nights ago. Of course, he sponsors it out of a sense of loyalty to the decision of Cabinet, but he is not in favour of this arbitrary change. It is arbitrary because it is not the result of careful drafting, forethought and hearing of the views of both sides. The bill has been pushed into the House suddenly almost at the end of the sessional period. All the forces of mass communication in this country have been enlisted - the press, for the most part - to support it. It is scandalous that such an important bill should be rushed in this way. It is no criticism of the Minister, but, in a sense, it is a compliment to him if, as I believe, he is, not in support of, or in sympathy with, this bill. Suppose this was another piece of legislation which altered conditions of entry into a union, and employment. It would not be a strike if the union objected to the legislation. It would be a lockout on the part of the employers, because without a decision of a tribunal, the Government tried to alter those conditions. This is a typical case of a lockout, but it is called a strike from one end of Australia to the other. ‘ The fact is that the workers are protesting against an alteration of conditions without a judicial or an arbitral decision. Who has made the decision on this matter? There has been no conciliation, no agreement, no arbitration on the point. The arbitration, in a sense, takes place when the committee of inquiry undertakes its task. There has been neither arbitration nor conciliation to date. There has been only the arbitrary fiat of the Government. I repeat, and I am sure that the Minister cannot deny it, that this bill is put before the Parliament at the direct instruction and wish of the people who control the stevedoring industry of this country. According to the Basten report, those people are not the master stevedores, but the shipowners. They own the stevedoring companies. They do not care what the stevedoring charges are, because the stevedoring profits are added to the colossal shipping profits. This is a serious matter. The Minister is on the wrong step, and as soon as the facts are appreciated by the people of Australia, there will be a very strong protest against the arbitrary action of the Government. L believe that, but for the fact that the Parliament is acting, it would be clearly m breach of conditions on the employers’ side, and would amount to a lockout.
I come now to other aspects. I can make only a brief reference to them. They are set out in substance in the Basten report and in press statements. The turn-round of ships has improved. That fact is pointed out in the report of the Stevedoring Industry Board. Why does not the Minister tell us what the stevedoring industry requires?
Air. Freeth. - I rise to order. I submit that the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition about the turn-round of ships are not relevant to clause 2, which provides that this legislation shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal assent.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order ! The committee is considering Part I. and Part II. of the bill.
– The main motive of the proposed change, to give the employer the right of nomination, is to provide additional labour on the waterfront, and thereby improve the turn-round of ships. [ emphasize that the turn-round of ships ha3 improved under the existing system, and the case has not yet been made out for an alteration of that system. The Melbourne Herald, which is certainly not pro-Labour, various authorities, and reports on the stevedoring industry, give the waterside workers credit for the improved turn-round of ships. That credit is set aside by the Government and the Minister., It is a provocative change. It would amount to a lock-out but for the fact that the Parliament is acting instead of the shipowners acting directly. In other words, the shipowners are acting through the Government. Let me say a word or two about the quota system. In Sydney, the position is satisfactory, but the quota is far above the registered strength of the union. In some ports the quota is nominal. The idea that a quota should always be maintained on. nomination by the shipowners simply will not work. The case at Port Kembla is a perfect, illustration of the point. Until three weeks ago, when the quota was raised, the number of men registered at Port Kembla was greater than the quota.
– What does all that mean ?
– The registered strength of the union at Port Kembla is now six greater than the quota that was fixed three weeks ago.
– It took four months te reach that position.
– Never mind, it is greater. There is no direct relationship between registered strength and a quota.
– The strength is six greater than the quota that was fixed in July of this year.
– It is six greater than the quota that was fixed three weeks ago.
– No, it is not.
– That is what I believe the position to be. The quota may have been agreed upon, but it was not fixed until three weeks ago. Actually,, the date that I have been given is the 20th September. The Basten report operates strongly against the case that has been presented by the Government. Mr. Basten stated that these matters are of relatively minor importance when compared with the facilities for handling cargo. The modernization of equipment, the provision of better amenities for the workers,, and the making good of the lag that has. taken place over 30 or 40 years have all been ignored by the Government in this measure.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– It is never easy to follow the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), because he wanders from point to point without any logical sequence. One could devote a great deal of time, which might otherwise be better spent, to trying to chase him’ into every nook and cranny that his mind penetrates. [Quorum formed.] The right honorable gentleman, in referring to the position at Port Kembla, gave one of the very arguments, that may be advanced against an acceptance of. the amendment that he ha* moved.
He seems to derive some satisfaction from the fact that three weeks ago the number of men supplied was six greater than, the quota that had been fixed in July. Because the union took from July to October to fill the quota, there was such an accumulation of steel at that port that the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board found it necessary to increase the quota still further. That increased quota remains unfilled. The Government does not intend to accept the amendment, for reasons that I shall indicate.
I assure the committee that the Government did not embark upon this legislation hastily, thoughtlessly, or without weighing the possible consequences and the needs of the situation very carefully. It suits the propaganda line of the right honorable gentleman to represent me as some sort of reluctant dragon who has been pushed into the breach by my colleagues to present to- the House a programme that has been forced on the Government by the shipowners of this country. It would be difficult to imagine anything more fantastic. I state emphatically, and with complete honesty, that this legislation was recommended to my colleagues by me, and by nobody else. It certainly does not represent a programme of which the shipowners themselves would approve. I am familiar with the views of the shipowners. They would like to see the Stevedoring Industry Board abolished. Where is the provision for that in this legislation?
– That will come next year.
– The proposed inquiry, the provision for which forms a major part of the measure, certainly was not requested by the shipowners. It was requested by the Australian Council of Trades Unions, and by the Waterside Workers Federation. It was urged upon the Government that it should take the power, under the proposed inquiry, to make a thorough examination of the freight rates, and of the profits of the shipowners. Is it now seriously suggested that the shipowners wanted the Government to appoint a committee of inquiry to probe their freight rates, their profits and their costs? Of course I receive representations from shipowners. I receive representations’ from
Communist union officials, and from the Australian Council of Trades Unions because it is my duty, as the Minister who is administering the portfolio of Labour and National Service, to ascertain the views of those who,, whether rightly or wrongly in my own judgment, have been placed in positions of authority in important sections of Australian industry. I have that responsibility towards their members. I must ascertain the views that they are putting forward, and the matters that they wish the Government to consider. The shipowners have had the. same access to me as Mr. Monk, Mr. Healy, and a score of other union officials who have an interest in these matters, have had - the same access, and no more.
It has been stated, as a reason for proceeding with the inquiry, but for deferring other action, that I gave some, undertaking to Mr. Monk that legislation would not be introduced until I had called a conference of all the parties concerned. I have already discussed the matter with Mr. Monk in the presence of representatives of the Waterside Workers Federation, so it is not my fault if there hasbeen some misunderstanding, on his part, of the matters that were discussed. What I clearly intended to do, and’ what I actually did, was to ensure that, before legislation was introduced, I would give an opportunity to all interested parties to hear, in broad terms, the measures that were proposed, and to offer their views to me. Representatives of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, of the Waterside Workers Federation and of the shipowners were told what the Government intended to do> and they had an opportunity of putting forward their views. They know that, far from my being pushed by my colleagues into introducing this legislation, during the time I was absent from Australia earlier in the year, work was going on in the department and, at my request, the officers of the department were preparing this measure. Regular despatches, informing- me of the progress that was being made and of the different proposals that were under review,, were forwarded to me each week. The draft legislation was prepared before my colleagues in the Cabinet were even aware of what I proposed to submit to them.
Representatives of the shipowners, and of the Australian Council of Trades Unions and the federation, were called in within a day of each other so that they would have some idea, not of what the Cabinet had decided, but of what I, as the responsible Minister, intended to submit to my colleagues in the Cabinet. After hearing their views, I submitted my proposals to the Cabinet, and I make no secret of the fact that what is contained in the bill by no means represents the full programme that I submitted to my colleagues. That is not because they resisted those other matters, but, on the contrary, because the sessional programme was such that we felt we would not be able to give to them the full and careful consideration we thought was desirable. If it had so wished, the Government could have rushed those proposals through during this sitting period, but it decided to defer them until the next sitting period so that the Parliament may have a proper opportunity of considering them. The proposal for an inquiry arose because I discovered, during my talks with representatives of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, the federation and the shipowners, that there was a wide area of disagreement, and conflicting versions of the facts. It was felt that a more extensive inquiry was desirable so that, if there was to be any argument later, we would be arguing about facts that had been impartially and objectively found. When it became clear that, because of the proposed timetable, it would not be possible to introduce more comprehensive legislation, I suggested to my colleagues that there should be an inquiry so that, by the time the Parliament resumed next year, we would have a body of opinion that would be of great value in reaching a decision in relation to those other matters.
I needed no inquiry into the first aspect of the matter in relation to which the Government is now proceeding. The Waterside Workers Federation and the Australian Council of Trades Unions did not need an inquiry to ascertain what has been happening in relation to the filling of quotas. The federation knew all about quotas, because it was dealing with quotas every day. The Australian Council of Trades Unions knew all about the subject, because, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) reminded the House last night, at the last meeting of the interstate executive of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, at which it considered these waterfront matters, it rebuked the federation for not having filled the quotas, and told it not to delay the filling of them any further. Despite that injunction, the quotas remained unfilled, and they have remained unfilled right up to this very point of time.
I do not imagine that the proposed committee of inquiry would be able to investigate these various matters hastily, but is it seriously suggested that, when the Parliament is about to go into recess, and when vital and urgently needed supplies are held up, the Government should not legislate to ensure that the ports are adequately manned? The Government would be letting the country down, if it left itself in that position. The Government has stated that, despite any other matters that may be inquired into, one fact is quite clear, and it is one in relation to which action is urgently necessary. The Government intends to proceed with the passing of legislation that will empower it to have the ports of the Commonwealth adequately manned. I deny, as being a snide invention, and as being a piece of bogus propaganda, the allegation that I am inwardly repudiating, in some way, this measure, and that I am being forced into it by my colleagues in the Cabinet. I am proud to state that, during my administration of this portfolio, the industrial policies that I have followed have enjoyed, at all times, the unanimous support of my colleagues in the Cabinet. I have never lacked backing from them. As the Minister who is directly responsible, I accept full responsibility for the measure that has been introduced on this occasion, and which has been introduced as a direct consequence of my own submission to the Cabinet a week or two ago.
Let us deal with the merits of this matter, and not with inventions of that kind, which are merely put forward in an effort to divide opinion in union ranks, and in the ranks of other people who support the Government, about what is really behind the action of the Government. The Government is now proceeding with the proposals contained in the bill so that it may proceed later with other proposals, not necessarily by legislation, although legislation may have to be introduced. I hope that we may proceed, with the co-operation of all sections of the industry, to work out a sensible and practical programme, for improving the performance on the Australian waterfront. [Quorum formed.] There is not much substance in the assertion made by Opposition members in their attack on this bill, that the matter is a vital industrial issue, because they can muster only about half their strength to listen to the debate. I can well understand the absence from the chamber of numbers of my colleagues on the Government side of the committee, who have heard these matters discussed in detail at meetings of the Government parties, and have complete faith in the capacity of the Government to decide what is right and proper in these matters.
– I rise to order. I invite your attention, Mr. Chairman, to the Minister’s remarks, and I ask you what relevancy they have to that portion of the bill which is now under consideration.
– Why does the Minister not mention that most Government supporters are over at the bar ?
– Order ! The Minister will proceed.
– I was saying before the quorum was formed we hoped that the discovery of facts by the proposed inquiry would result in an attempt on the part of the interests directly affected to work out among themselves a practical programme for improving the performance on the waterfront in Australia. Is there any honorable member who does not consider that great improvement could be effected on the Australian waterfront? I am certain the people of Australia think it and the members of the Waterside Workers Federation and the shipowners know that great improvement could be made. The representatives of the federation say improvement could be effected if the shipowners were more efficient, if better equipment were provided on the wharfs, if congestion were reduced, and if better transport and other facilities were provided. The shipowners say a great improvement would result if the waterside workers would only do a reasonable day’s work and accept proper discipline, which should be enforced. It may be that there is substance in both of those sets of allegations. If those matters can be resolved by the proposed inquiry with more authority, I hope the interests concerned will be able to work out a programme that will result in a better performance on the wharfs. If they had the welfare of the Australian nation at heart they should be able to do so. However, the Parliament must retain the authority and power, if the interests concerned with the waterfront cannot reach the necessary agreement, itself to determine what shall be a fair thing in relation to this industry.
The Leader of the Opposition, who talked so vehemently about the Government rushing ahead with this measure without first holding an inquiry, conveniently ignored the fact that legislation introduced by the Labour Government in 1947 established the present system on the waterfront. Was there any inquiry on that occasion? Was any opportunity afforded then for any one to invoke the processes of arbitration? Of course not. The Labour Government decided what it would do. Its action was not taken, at the request of the shipowners, who were afforded no opportunity to protest or to ask that the 1947 legislation be deferred. The Labour Government, in the face of strenuous criticism, pushed the legislation through and made it law. It seems a little odd that this Government, which, in relation to the great variety of matters that will be the subject of inquiry, has afforded the opportunity for investigation, should now be attacked because one matter, and one matter only, is dealt with by legislation at this stage.
Associated with that complaint are all sorts of allegations about the profits of the shipowners, and the like. I do not know what the profits of the shipowners are. I do not regard it as my proper function to investigate such a matter. However, I do know that the Government has an opportunity to learn how profitable the shipping trade can be, because it operates a considerable number of ships through the Australian Shipping Board.
– The Government has been sabotaged.
– I remind the honorable member that this Government at least has converted into a profitable concern an undertaking that was extremely unprofitable under the administration of the Labour Government.
– That improvement was made by Mr. Dewey, who was brought to Australia by the Labour Government.
– Under Labour’s administration the Commonwealth shipping line accumulated annual losses that totalled £8,000,000 or £10,000,000 or more. Although results under the administration of this Government perhaps have not been anything to write home about, at least the losses” have been converted into profits. The profit of approximately £400,000 made in the financial year 1953-54, in relation to the capital cost of the ships owned and operated by or under charter of the Australian Shipping Board, after making provision for a reasonable rate of interest, shows very little margin, if any. I do not know how the position of the shipping companies compares with that result. I certainly hope, as I am sure many fair-minded members of the Parliament hope, that the proposed inquiry will reveal the facts in relation to those matters and will nullify once and for all the propaganda that has been poisoning the stevedoring industry for so long. At least, we know what we .shall be arguing about.
– Order ! That portion of the bill which makes provision for the appointment of the committee of inquiry is not included in Parts I. and II., which are now under consideration.
– The Minister is merely stonewalling.
– I shall not at this stage take up any more of the committee’s time. I wish merely to state that, for the reasons I have indicated, the Government does not intend to accept the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. We shall proceed with the bill, and shall put its provisions into effect as soon as it becomes law.
– I am very sorry that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has seen fit to state so definitely that the Government will not accept the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). I consider that the amendment would afford a satisfactory way out of a very difficult position. It is all very well for honorable members, on either the Government side or the Opposition side of the chamber, to treat the present dispute as a fight between the waterside workers and the Government. I do not regard it in that light. I look upon this bill as an attempt by the Government to take action that will react harshly upon the whole community. What has it done already ? Government supporters, including the Minister, have talked about quotas of labour at various :ports. Recently all honorable members received an expensive brochure from the Australian Overseas Transport Association, which contains a comparison of port quotas and registrations as at the 30th June last. The association, in making that comparison, makes no complaint about the quotas being inadequate. Let us look at the figures given, not by any member of .this Parliament, but by the association, which wants to dispense with the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. According to the brochure, which, as I have stated, makes a comparison of the quotas and registrations as at the 30th June last, the quota at Port Kembla was 600 men, and the registrations also were 600 men. At Port Adelaide, the quota was 2,000 men, and the registrations numbered 1,943 watersiders - :57 short of the quota. That is not a great proportion. We have heard a lot from Queensland members of this chamber about the lack of labour to work .ships at ports in that State. According to the .brochure to which I refer, the quota at Cairns was 700 wharf labourers, and registrations totalled 677 men - 23 short of the quota. At Gladstone, the quota was fixed at 80 waterside workers, and the registrations numbered 91 men. At Rockhampton, the quota was fixed at 170 watersiders, and the registrations numbered 234 men. At Hobart, the quota was 670 men, and .the registrations were 655 men.
The Minister stated that it takes a long time to fill the quotas. I warn him that, if he thinks this bill will fill the quotas, he had better think again. I know intimately the difficulties that have been experienced by the waterside workers’ since 1928. In that year the shipowners, and not the Government, decided that the men were not willing to work and that volunteers should be employed. This Government is getting very close to that position again. Volunteers were employed, not to penalize the watersiders for one year, but to penalize them for many years, because preference was given to the organization that was formed by the volunteers. The Minister has stated that the waterside workers have not done the right thing. Obviously he lacks a little inside knowledge of what has been done to the watersiders. If he had that knowledge he would understand how they feel and he would not criticize them for slowness in filling the quotas. I agree that if the prescribed quotas of labour are necessary, the waterside workers should fill the quotas. The Government, by means of this bill, will impose, not a penalty for a specific period, but a continuing penalty. The amendment of the Leader of the Opposition would ensure that the proper action would be taken. If the Minister and the Government believed that there was room for just complaint about slowness in filling the quotas, why does the bill not provide that if the men do not fill the quotas within a specified period the shipowners shall be given an opportunity to fill them? Such provision has not been made. Instead of making it, the Government has told the waterside workers straight-out that it will take their rights from them.
– Two years ago the Government did what the honorable member suggests it should now do. It introduced a bill about which Healy and the waterside workers were informed.
– Whatever the Government might have done two years ago, I am speaking now about this measure. The Minister knows very well that the loss of man-hours that has resulted in the last two weeks from the Government’s proposals contained in this bill, about which the waterside workers evidently were informed, could not be made good in twelve months, however quickly the quotas might be filled. The Government’s proposals will merely make the situation worse. It will not intimate to the men that if they do not do what it thinks they should do, it will afford some one else the opportunity to do so. It has not given the men the opportunity to do what it wants done.
– We have been giving them the opportunity to do so for years.
– The Minister may think that the Government has given the officials of the Waterside Workers Federation the opportunity to do what it thinks should be done, and it may have told the officials that it was giving them that opportunity. I do not suggest that it has not given the officials the opportunity. I am thinking of the men on the wharfs. It will not be Mr. Healy who will suffer in this dispute. It will be the rank-and-file waterside workers, among whom are a number of men with whom I went to school. Some of them live near my home and I know them well. If honorable members on the Government side of the chamber, who have ‘said that the federation is a Communistcontrolled union and that the strike is a Communist action, knew those men and really understood their loyalty and the value of the public service that they render in their jobs, they would know that they should not taint them with the brand of communism. I admit that the Minister for Labour and National Service has said that the great bulk of these men are loyal British subjects and Australians. But this bill will not make them more loyal. When it comes into effect, they will ask, “ Are we going to allow ourselves to be ruled by the employers ? “
– It means rule by the employers. Perhaps the honorable member and his colleagues cannot understand English. At any rate, they seem to be unable to read the bill and understand its meaning. It provides that a person shall not be registered as a waterside worker at a port unless -
– That means that the application for registration refers to the right of the man to work on the wharfs for anybody, not just for the employer who lodges the application. The application might be lodged, for example, by an employer who is concerned with only one small ship that calls at the port once a week. The clause from which I have quoted goes on to provide that the application shall include a recommendation by the employer for its acceptance. Honorable members on the Government side of the chamber say that the employers should have the right to hire and fire. This is not the right to hire and fire. This refers to the right of a man to go and work on the wharfs. The Labour party says that waterside workers must do the jobs that are allotted to them by the Stevedoring Industry Board. The right to hire and fire still exists under the present system. If a waterside worker does not do his job satisfactorily, the stevedoring company which employs him may report him to the board’s representative, who can cancel the man’s registration for a month, or even permanently. Therefore, the employers now have the right to hire and fire. Does not the cancellation of a man’s registration amount to firing him ? Waterside workers have asked me to plead for them with the representative of the board in order to have them reinstated after their registration has been withdrawn. A man in that situation cannot obtain another job on the wharfs. He has, in fact, been fired. There has been great wastage under the present system.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I particularly want to speak on this measure because half the waterside workers of Brisbane live in the electorate that I represent, and I want to put on record for their benefit my opinion of the Government’s decision. I say at the outset that I know that this legislation is not aimed at assisting the shipowners as a body. It is aimed at improving the general economic conditions of our Australian Commonwealth. We have heard a lot of vilification of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt). Well, I do not think that any honorable member who knows anything of the work that the Minister has done during the last four or five years would say that he has not made genuine attempts to bring about peace in industry throughout Australia by arbitration and conciliation, and by taking personal steps to bring together differing groups. I do not say for a moment that the shipowners are a pack of angels. That is not so. However, I believe that any faults or failings on their side will be covered by the bill. The inquiry for which it provides will bring out some of these faults.
Many different points on our wharfs need investigation. I have a number of personal friends who are waterside workers, and most of them are good, honest men. But the crux of the whole matter is that they are led by Communists.
– That is not true.
– Well, what is Mr. Healy if he is not a Communist? [Quorum formed.] The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) has said that, in his opinion, the waterside workers are not led by Communists.
– That is true.
– The union of which I am a financial member issued a statement in Brisbane to-day in which it declared its belief that the waterside workers are led by Communists. I refer to the Federated Clerks Union of Australia. I also inform the honorable member for Watson that I have been a member of a seamen’s union, which is more than he can truthfully boast, and that my knowledge of the waterfront is far greater than his.
– I am sure it was glad to get rid of the honorable member.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said, by interjection at question time to-day, that the secretary of the Federated Clerks Union in Queensland was a member of the Liberal party.
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– “Well, one member of the Opposition, and I thought it was the honorable member for East Sydney, made that statement. He implied that, because the secretary of an organization was a member of a political party, the whole of the organization was of the same political colour. My point is that the “Waterside “Workers Federation is led by its secretary, Mr. Healy, who is a Communist.
I was amazed that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) should propose an amendment, in support of which he said, in effect, that he would agree with this legislation if a committee of inquiry recommended the enactment of such a measure. A similar statement was made yesterday by the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison). I remind the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters that we have seen the present system of employment on the waterfront in operation for the past twelve years. The bill provides for the appointment of a committee of inquiry. “Would it not be an excellent idea if that committee were enabled to compare the record of the last twelve years with the record of the next few months under the system for which the bill provides? I venture to suggest that the objection to this legislation is not by any means supported by the great majority of the men and women of Australia, whether or not they are members of trade unions. There are, I believe, a few trade union leaders who abuse their offices for party political purposes. I am a great believer in trade unionism, but I maintain that trade unions should not be allowed to run the country. The job of each union is to look after its own industry, and industry in general, not to govern the country. I conclude by saying that, although trade unionism has had a great and wonderful influence in the past, if it continues to abuse its privileges as the “Waterside “Workers Federation has done, it will do tremendous damage to the trade union movement as a whole.
– I support the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) , and I am astonished that the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) should say that the bill will bring good to the waterfront. The Government stands condemned because it has committed the people of Australia to a white Christmas. That is just what its action means.
– The bill does not after one man on the waterfront at present.
– It affects men on the waterfront, and it will affect people all over Australia before this business is finished.
– Because the waterside workers will not work.
– They have worked, and worked well. The Opposition has proved that the rate of turn-round of ships has improved during the last two years. During the last week of this sessional period, the Government has upset the system that has existed on the waterfront for twelve years. It think? that the bill will destroy the “Waterside “Workers Federation, but, in effect, it will destroy the economy of Australia, because when it becomes law, men will leave thi.waterside and go into other jobs. They will not put up with the fear that the shipowners will compel them to stand at the wharf gates waiting for work, which they experienced for years and years in the past. That is what the Government is trying to achieve.
– Rubbish !
– It is what the Government has been working for during the last twelve months. Over that period, the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) has repeatedly spoken on behalf of the shipowners. He denied last night that he was a solicitor for the owners, but I have a grave doubt that at least he receives a retainer from them, because, on each of the last five occasions when he has spoken in this chamber, he has taken their part.
Surely all honorable members agree with the Basten report that the amenities provided on the waterfront for workers are in a deplorable state. In Melbourne, I understand, the amenities available are not capable of providing for the needs of a full quota of waterside workers. The Government has failed in every port to implement the recommendations embodied in the Basten report. Now it is trying to break the Waterside Workers Federation. The Leader of the Opposition moved in this chamber on the 13th April last, prior to the general election, that an inquiry be conducted into the waterfront situation in Australia. At that time, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) had introduced a bill to reduce the stevedoring industry charge from Hd. to 6d. a man-hour. The shipowners then promised to reduce freights by 10 per cent., but, in fact, two weeks later they increased them by 10 per cent. One honorable member opposite said that the Government should not control the shipowners. However, it seems to be prepared to control the wharf labourers who do the real work. In Sydney, wharf labourers who are obliged to work through the night have to walk 2 miles to a restaurant to get something to eat. Why have not proper amenities been provided for them on the wharfs in. accordance with the recommendation that was made in the Basten report? Yet, Government supporters say that the wharf labourers are robbing the shipowners, and those honorable members do not hesitate to call the wharf labourers Communists. Shipping operations are carried on in my electorate from Glebe Point to Pott’s Point, and I know that the wharf labourers are not provided even with amenities of the kind that are invariably provided for workers in factories and private enterprise generally. But the Government will not do anything to remedy those conditions.
About this time last year, the residents of Lord Howe Island were left without a shipping service for a period of two months. I introduced a deputation representative of those persons to the Minister for Transport and Shipping (Senator McLeay) and when the deputation protested about that position, he replied, in effect, “Do not be silly. You do not expect shipowners to take ships there if it is not a payable proposition.” At that time 250 visitors, in addition to the 250 residents of Lord Howe Island, were left stranded and deprived of adequate supplies of foodstuffs from the mainland. I have not the slightest doubt
Ifr. Minogue. that when this measure is passed those people of Lord Howe Island will find themselves neglected to an even greater degree so far as shipping services are concerned. The Government stands condemned for having introduced this measure. One would normally think that it would accept the amendment that has been proposed by the Leader of the Opposition and await the report of the proposed committee of inquiry before implementing the other provisions of the measure. The bill has been introduced in the dying hours of the current sessional period, and the Government has, in fact, threatened the wharf labourers with worse consequences. I have no doubt that when the measure is implemented the wharf labourers once again will be compelled to wait at the gate as they were obliged to do during the depression days. That is just what the shipowners and thi Minister for Labour and National Service intend. I trust that even at this eleventh hour common sense will prevail and that the Government will give serious consideration to the amendment. Before the present strike is finished not only the wharf labourers but thousands of people throughout Australia will also have good cause to condemn the Government for introducing this measure which is a blot on the statute-book of this country.
.- In the course of this debate, which has not been very long, we have heard practically everything that should have been said and also much that should not have been said.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), in the course of a personal explanation which he made last evening, admitted that he has a pecuniary interest in the shipowners’ association because the legal firm with which he is associated represents the shipowners in the courts. In view of that fact, Mr. Chairman, is the honorable gentleman entitled to participate in this debate, or to vote on the question before the Chair?
– Order ! The honorable member has not raised a point of order.
– In the course of a personal explanation which I made last evening, which I would not have bothered to make had it not been for the fact that every honorable member seemed to be seeking to make personal explanations, I pointed out that I am a member of a legal firm whose clients include a number of shipping companies, but that that firm does not act for the shipowners’ association. Last night the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) shed crocodile tears when he complained that some members on the Government side of the chamber had been so unreasonably untruthful as to say that he himself shared the political views of clients for whom he appeared in the courts, the reference being to the occasion on which he appeared as counsel for the Communist-controlled “Waterside Workers Federation and pleaded the Communists cause in the courts. The right honorable gentleman asserted his right to appear for clients and contended that no one was .justified on that ground in imputing to him the views that were held by his clients. However, he has been shouting about me because I am a member of a legal firm which includes a number of shipping companies among its clients. [ am not interested in personal criticism of that kind. The Leader of the Opposition has merely attempted to intimidate me. I am happy to inform him that he has failed utterly to do so.
I repeat that most of the things that ought to be said on this measure have been said and that many things which ought not to have been said also have been said in the course of this debate. I make that statement because we have witnessed in this chamber the unhappy spectacle of the Opposition, which was once a great party, giving aid and comfort to a cause which it claims it does not believe in. [Quorum formed.~ I always take it as a compliment when the honorable member for “Watson (Mr. Curtin) calls for a quorum while I am speaking.
– It was not the honorable member for “Watson.
– Order ! Obviously the continued interruptions by members of the Opposition are intended to prevent the honorable member for Evans from speaking. I shall see that the honorable member gets a hearing.
– I shall make three points which have not yet been made in the course of this debate. Figures were quoted by various honorable members who have sought to draw all sorts of conclusions from them. In respect of the confused and complicated waterfront industry it is possible to prove almost anything and everything by figures. “When the proposed committee of inquiry commences its investigations two things will be established. One of them is that since before World War II. overseas shipping freights have increased by from two and a half to three times. That increase roughly is consistent with the general increase of costs that has taken place in Australia. During the same period, however, coastal freights in Australia have increased by from five to six times. A great deal has been said by honorable members opposite about the grasping shipowners. I remind those honorable members that the greatest single shipowner operating on the Australian coast is the Australian Government which operates through the Australian Shipping Board. The reason for the abnormal increase in coastal shipping freights is not difficult to find. Costs at all ports have increased as a result of delays and congestion on the wharfs, involving additional costs in the handling of cargoes. However, whereas overseas ships have to contend with those costs only at one end of their voyage, coastal ships have to contend with them, not only at both ends of their voyage, but also at all intermediate ports of call. Those facts will be established by the proposed committee of inquiry in the course of its investigations. That is the explanation of the enormously inflated freights on this Australian coast.
The second point I make is that no industrial principle is at stake in this measure. At present, the Waterside Workers Federation has a statutory right to decide who shall enter the industry. I listened closely to the Leader of the Opposition, and he said that that statement was incorrect. He quoted - in fact, he only half quoted - the Basten report in an attempt to refute that statement. The fact is that at present no man can work on the waterfront unless he is first accepted by the Waterside Workers Federation which, as I have said, is Communistcontrolled. It is common knowledge that in Sydney the quickest way to get a job on the waterfront is to wear a
Eureka League badge or, if one cannot get that badge, to turn up at the federation’s head-quarters carrying a copy of the Communist organ, the Tribune. If one does either of those things one is a jump ahead in getting a job on the waterfront. If an industrial principle arises under this measure it is whether the average Australian worker should have the right, as no doubt he would prefer, to obtain a job and, if he does not like it, to change it, knowing that when he gets a job he. will be admitted to membership of the trade union that covers the particular calling. One does not need to ask the average Australian worker whether he prefers to obtain employment and work under those conditions, to a state of affairs in which, if he is looking for a job, he must first be acceptable to a trade union. Under the latter conditions, a man who falls out with his union boss is damned and sunk so far as his employment goes. If there is a principle involved in this matter, it is that a man’s job should not be dependent upon his acceptability to the bosses of the trade union which covers his particular calling. That state of affairs exists at present on the waterfront. If a man does not satisfy Jim Healy and his friends he cannot get a job on the waterfront; and it is as certain as that tomorrow will follow to-day that if a wharf labourer falls out with the Communists in Sydney he will be thrown out of the industry. I know that not every branch of the Waterside Workers Federation is under Communist control. But the central organization definitely is controlled by the Communists and, furthermore, at certain ports the industry is controlled by the Communists. That is the case at present in Sydney.
The third point I make relates to the amendment which proposes that the Government should not proceed with this measure until after the proposed committee of inquiry has concluded its investigations. This bill cannot be postponed because the Government must immediately tackle the situation that exists on the waterfront to-day. The terms of reference of the proposed committee of inquiry do not relate at all to the problem of shortage of labour. Consequently, the amendment should be rejected.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) is obviously necessary. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) gave a belated explanation of the reasons for the introduction of this bill, but his explanation was hollow and most unconvincing. He agreed that the proposed inquiry is necessary. The terms of reference of the proposed committee includes the investigation of conditions of employment on the waterfront. He said, in effect, “We shall appoint a committee of inquiry to investigate everything in connexion with waterfront employment, including freights and everything else, but before that inquiry starts its work, we shall decide one of the most important points concerning the waterfront. We shall arrive at a decision about waterfront employment and then tell the committee what we want done “. When the committee is dealing with the matter, I have no doubt that the Government will say to it, “You can discuss waterfront employment for ever, but we have already decided what we shall do about it “. Therefore, I suggest that one part of this bill, which concerns employment quotas, is a direct contradiction of other parts.
The Minister might say that he was considering the waterfront situation while he was touring through South Africa and visiting other parts of the world, and perhaps he was considering it, and getting reports about it from Australia. But I say that he has not given the matter all the consideration that should be given to it. He said that the system of employment on the waterfront had to be altered, because not enough men are being provided by the Waterside Workers Federation. I point out to him that nobody has yet proved that there are not enough waterside workers available fully to work the ports of this Commonwealth. When the Opposition attempted to pin the Government down on this matter, and find out why it said that there was a shortage of labour on the waterfront, members of the Government stated that the federation had not filled the employment quotas at five ports. I remind honorable members that there are about 58 ports in Australia, and that the Government could suggest that quotas were not filled at only five ports. Moreover, three of the five ports mentioned are very small.
– What is the honorable member trying to suggest?
– I am suggesting that this measure is a big joke, and that the Minister, and other members of the Government, have deliberately misrepresented the position on the waterfront.
– I rise to order. 1 suggest that to say the Minister has deliberately misrepresented certain circumstances is an unparliamentary form of expression. I remember a previous occasion when a point of order was taken against me by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). I had suggested that on one occasion the right honorable gentleman had deliberately misrepresented a certain situation. On that occasion, I was asked to withdraw my statement, and I suggest that the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) should withdraw his remarks.
– The expression used by the honorable member for Wills is unparliamentary at all times, and whenever the honorable member against whom the charge is made asks for a withdrawal of the expression, the Chair will insist upon withdrawal. Since the Minister against whom the charge was made has not asked for its withdrawal, I shall not require a withdrawal from the honorable member for Wills.
– I also rise to a point of order. I ask that you, Mr. Chairman, notify your ruling to Mr. Speaker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and request him to apply it in his jurisdiction over the House, which seems to be run on Rafferty’s rules.
– I am in charge only of this committee.
– I shall not use the word “ deliberately but I shall say that the whole of this matter has been misrepresented.
– I rise to order. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the conduct of the House by the Speaker as being in accordance with Rafferty’s rules. On one occasion when Mr. Rosevear waa Speaker of the House, he made a certain ruling about a similar reference, and I suggest that you should notify the Leader of the Opposition of that ruling.
– I did not hear the right honorable gentleman make the statement that the House is run under Rafferty’s rules. I am not concerned with how the House is administered, because Mr. Speaker is well able to look after himself.
– Before I was interrupted by honorable members taking points of order, I was saying that the position of waterfront employment has been misrepresented in this chamber. We have been told that port quotas of men have not been filled, and that there are shortages of workers in ports throughout Australia. However, the Government could inform honorable members of only five ports out of about 58 where the quotas for wharf labourers had not been filled. Moreover, three of those five ports are quite small. The Government stated that the quota for Port Kembla had not been filled, and put forward that port as an example of the shortcomings of the Waterside Workers Federation. Honorable members should remember that the total quota for Port Kembla, even after the increase of quotas on the 20th October, is only 800 out of a total membership of the federation of about 27,000. Therefore, I suggest that the Government should have endeavoured to find a better example than Port Kembla in order to bolster its shaky case. Honorable members have not heard one complaint about a shortage of men in the port of Sydney. Even in Melbourne, which is the second largest port in Australia, the Government’s grievance seems to be that the waterside workers have taken a little longer to fill the port quota. Perhaps they did. I do not say that the Waterside Workers Federation is always right, because it is often wrong. But so is every other section of waterfront activity, and because so many sections are making mistakes, it is necessary for this matter to he referred to a committee of inquiry before anything is done by the Parliament.
Honorable members know that there is a shortage of labour in many industries. Most of the Australian railway systems are short of workers, and the heavy industries - including the steel industry - also need more men. Nevertheless, the Government is intent on taking action to build up the labour force on the waterfront at the expense of other industries, and its attempt to do so will probably result in more attendance money being paid instead of wages. It has been pointed out by the Opposition that in the last twelve months waterside workers have worked for an average time of only 31 hours a week. In no other industry do the employees work 31 hours a week at present, and I suggest that such a short working week has not been worked in industry for the last few years. Indeed, the workers in a majority of important industries are at present working up tc 48 hours and 50 hours a week, including overtime. That being so, why should honorable members be expected to support this measure, which will give shipowners the right to employ whom they like and as many as they like even though the present average working week on the waterfront is only 31 hours. Why should we agree that the hours of waterside workers should be reduced to perhaps 25 a week, while other industries just as essential as the waterfront industry are working 50 hours a week?
The whole concept of this legislation is completely silly, and the Government’s action in putting the bill before honorable members shows that it has not given sufficient consideration to the matter, and that it is taking its instructions from an outside organization - the ship-owning monopoly. I suggest there is no doubt about that. We have a Stevedoring Industry Board which is supposed to control waterfront employment. If the system of recruitment of labour is to be altered, why should not the Stevedoring Industry Board be given the control of the workers. Why should that control be given to more than 500 employers, many of whom will employ a few gangs of wharf labourers for perhaps three days, and then will not employ any more for about three months? The whole conception of the bill is ridiculous and needs much more consideration. This measure has caused a great upheaval on the waterfront. The waterside workers have gone on strike, and others will no doubt go out next week. Ultimately there will be complete chaos in Australia. No government with any sense of responsibility at all should be putting legislation through this Parliament which will mean distress, trouble and possibly starvation, to a large section of the community. Indeed, it is a criminal act to force a measure of this nature through this Parliament.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I do not intend to deal with all the points involved in this bill, and although the only waterfront in my electorate is on the Murray River, I represent many primary producers and I am therefore concerned with what happens on the Australian waterfront. It has been pointed out by honorable members opposite that the strike of the Waterside Workers Federation will affect many primary producers, and certain sections of primary industry have been mentioned. It is true that primary industry will be affected, but the slow turn-round of ships has been going on for years, and it is now time, that something was done to speed up the turnround. The Government is now taking appropriate corrective action. I was amazed to hear the changed viewpoint of honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) has pointed out, with all the enthusiasm which he has, which is not much, that there are plenty of jobs available in this country. Indeed, he said that it is hard to get men for jobs. I point out that all honorable members opposite have been continuously saying lately that there is great unemployment in this country. Therefore, Government supporters will perceive that they will say anything that suits them. The honorable member’ for Wills has been a good example of the general attitude of honorable members opposite, because he said to-day that many industries need employees but cannot get them. He said that there is so much employment available in Australia that employers are hard put to it to find men, and are getting them from wherever they can. Of course, the sincerity of the arguments of the Opposition will not stand any logical examination, and honorable members opposite set their sails to any breeze that blows.
We have seen the sad spectacle to-day of members of the Labour party talking about the wonderful improvement in the turn-round of ships during the last four or five years. Surely that is an indictment of previous Labour governments, because they were in power for years before this Government assumed office. The truth is that the men employed on the waterfront have realized, since this Government has been administering the country, that they have far different people to deal with than they did when the Labour Government was in office. Indeed, throughout the whole length and breadth of Australia, the character and calibre of the men in office has impressed itself upon commerce and industry. There is a new spirit among many workers in the country to-day, and men are now working in a fashion that they would never have adopted under a Labour government. But the waterfront workers are not allowed to do their work as they want to do it, because their union is controlled by Communists.
The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) said that he had great sympathy for some waterside workers, and that he had been to school with some of them. He said that he was sorry for them as, although they were not Communists, they were being thrown out of work because of the strike. I suggest that all honorable members agree that all waterside workers are not Communists, and that they are unfortunate because their union is Communistcontrolled. The Minister, in reply to a statement by the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce), said that at no time had he ever stated that there is a majority of Communists in the Waterside Workers Federation. He said that the great majority of the members of that union are loyal Australians. I believe that he was quite correct. There are a lot of good ex-servicemen and loyal Australians in the Waterside Workers Federation, but because Mr. Healy and other
Communists control that federation, the only way we can break their control is by bringing forward legislation such as the measure now before the chamber. Those who oppose the bill are trying to build up the power of the leader of the federation who is an avowed Communist. He wants it known to the whole world that he is a Communist, because he is proud of being one. Strikes have been fomented on every possible occasion in the Waterside Workers Federation, in order to destroy the economy of this great country.
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of Part I. and Part II. of the bill has expired.
Question put -
That the clause proposed to be left out (Dr. Evatt’s amendment) stand part of the bill.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . ….. 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Part I. and Part II. agreed to.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
– I refer to clause 11 (1.) which reads - (1.) The committee shall inquire into and report to the Minister upon the facts relating to-
I move -
That, in sub-clause ( 1 ) , after paragraph (c), the following new paragraph be inserted : - “ (ca) the profits made from stevedoring operations whether made -
by companies or other persons engaged solely or mainly in the stevedoring industry; or
by companies or other persons engaged wholly or partly in shipping operations and deriving their profits either directly or indirectly from stevedoring operations; “.
The purpose of this amendment is to empower the statutory committee of inquiry to inquire into the matters more broadly than the clause in its present form would permit. At present, the relative power of the committee is to inquire into and report upon the costs of or connected with stevedoring operations, and the extent to which those costs have, since a certain date, affected freight rates for the transport of goods by sea. I believe that the people of Australia wish to have some information more directly connected with the profits made by stevedoring companies, or other companies, from stevedoring operations. The mere narration of costs would not give that information.
To support that statement, I submit that the cost of the turn-round of ships has been contributed to enormously by the freights charged during the last five or six years. The shipping combine always blames the workers for the slow turn-round. The investigation may show that the cost of the turn-round is due primarily to the enormous profits made by the shipping companies as the direct result of freights. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) should be eager to protect the primary producers from excessive freights, but he shows no interest in this matter.
– Of course I do !
– I contrast his attitude with that of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen). Discussing the export of canned fruits recently, the Minister said that Australian exporters were getting such a tough deal from the British shipping combine that they were discriminated against, and South African exports were favoured by the combine to a glaring extent.
– Are those the Minister’s own words?
– No, I am summarizing them, but they are substantially right. I think the reference is contained in a report on dried fruits. However, the fact is that the operative freight rate charged by the combine for the shipment of canned fruits from South Africa to Singapore is less than one half the rate which Australian exporters are required to pay on canned fruits shipped from Australia to Singapore. And the distance from South Africa to Singapore is greater than the distance between Australia and Singapore. A similar position exists with respect to the trade with Hong Kong. I do not know whether the honorable member for Mallee is particularly interested in this trade, but he should be.
– I am.
– I wish that the honorable member would give some attention to this aspect, because it is most important. The shipping combine ha& caused Australian primary producers and exporters to lose a considerable amount of trade with South-East Asia and Asia. The Melbourne Herald . reported last February that the turn-round time for ships had improved, but that the overseas shipping combine had made no compensating cut in shipping charges. The combine had benefited by £700,000 from the reduction of the stevedoring charge as the result of a bill introduced by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt). The Herald also stated that the shipping combine charged far more than the reasonable costs of services, and always fixed the maximum that the traffic would bear. To use an Americanism, that statement means the maximum that can be extorted from the consumers, primary producers and businessmen of this country.
The same newspaper, on the 12th June last, completely contradicted the main reason that is given by the shipping combine for high shipping freights. The newspaper said that there had been an increase of efficiency in the ports, the average turn-round time of ship in some ports had been halved, and - this is the important point - the output per man on the wharfs had increased appreciably. Those facts have been published by an anti-Labour newspaper. I ask that this inquiry be not limited to stevedoring costs, as is at present proposed. The profits of the stevedoring companies should be examined, and the investigation should not be limited to stevedoring operations, because stevedoring operations are usually conducted by separate companies and the great shareholding in the companies is often possessed, controlled or owned by the shipping companies. Therefore, if the investigation is limited in that form, there will be no real inquiry into the extent to which shipping companies’ profits, in the shape of dividends in this case, are increased by their own operations in respect of stevedoring.
Mr. Basten’s report shows that the stevedoring employers, the foremen and the like, who know the business, are never brought face to face with the workers. There is no relationship between them in connexion with labour policy. The shipping companies tell the stevedoring operators what they have to do, and indicate the next ship to be worked. The stevedores are not empowered to indicate how many men are to be available for a particular task. I mention that as an illustration of a fact that stevedoring costs and profits cannot be segregated from shipping costs and profits, and, therefore, the inquiry should not be limited in any way.
I put that to the Minister as a matter which should be included in the investigations specifically, so that there shall be no doubt about the jurisdiction of the committee. My belief, which is fortified by those comments in the Herald, and many observers are in agreement with it, is that the main item in the expensive turn-round in Australia has been excessive profits. The overseas combine simply will not take any notice of Australian interests. The combine sacrifices Australian interests to South African interests in the Far East and in SouthEast Asia, and does so partly because it charges excessive freights. No one has been able to find out the facts. The Government, if it so desires, can have the inquiry, and bring down legislation to remedy that situation and reduce the cost of handling cargoes in Australia. The high cost, I think, is primarily, and very largely, due to excessive profits in the stevedoring industry.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has made a number of rather wild statements about the position in the shipping industry. I do not know that any of us in this chamber is competent to express, or can with justice express an opinion on the reasonableness or otherwise of those organizations which are run, for the most part, as private companies. They are private in the sense that they are not government concerns. The only organization with which most of us can claim any familiarity is the Australian Shipping Board, which has operated under both non-Labour and Labour governments. As I have already stated, if we are to be guided by the experience of that organization when making statements in this chamber, I do not think it can be stated the return on the capital invested in that section of the industry is exorbitant. Having made such a statement I want honorable members to know the Government is by no means unsympathetic towards the proposal the right honorable gentleman has put forward. I agree with him to the degree that, if it can be shown that profits are unreasonably high and have been responsible for unreasonably high freight rates, these would be proper matters foi- investigation by the proposed committee of inquiry.
As I tried to point out at an earlier stage, it was the intention of the Government that the committee of inquiry should have power, not merely by virtue of the scope of the subject-matters set out in clause 11, but also by virtue of the powers provided elsewhere in the bill, to compel the giving of information to obtain a complete picture. There has been far too much propaganda, argument, denunciation and controversy, without the facts having been clearly before us. It was because the Government wanted the proposed committee, not to make political judgments, but to establish a basis of facts, that the introduction of clause 11 (1.) was worded in the following manner: -
The Committee shall inquire into and report to the Minister upon the facts relating to-
Then the various matters are set out in the clause. Let us ascertain what is the best practical course for the Government to follow to meet the point that has been raised by the right honorable gentleman. Not only am I willing, on behalf of the Government, to meet the point, but also I state that, at all times, it was the intention of the Government that this aspect of the matter should be investigated by the proposed committee. Indeed, I had assumed that the instructions I had given in this respect, with the authority of the Government, and which have been carried out by the officers of the Department of Labour and National Service and by the draftsman, would have had such an effect, and J am by no means certain that the clause does not have that effect. I should have thought that sub-clause (e) would have amply covered the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition.
– It does not deal with profits at all.
– No, but surely profits are one of the causes - or might be one of the causes - of increases of freight rates during the period referred to in the sub-clause.
– No provision is made for an inquiry into profits.
– The right honorable gentleman has stated there is no provision for inquiring into profits. I was under the impression that, if the proposed committee needed information to arrive at a finding of fact, and if it wanted to investigate the profits made, it would have power, under sub-clause (e), to do so. I am prepared to examine the matter quite realistically, and with the intention of arriving at the same result as tha right honorable gentleman has in mind.
– Why not accept the amendment ?
– The honorable member for East Sydney asks, “Why not accept the amendment ? “ I shall tell him why. I do not propose to accept the amendment at this stage, because to do so would delay, by one day, a consideration of this measure in another place.
– The Government could accept it.
– Let me finish the point I was putting to. the Leader of the Opposition, who, after all, raised this question of profits. It is my present understanding that the clause, as drafted, would furnish the committee of inquiry with the necessary power, and capacity, to investigate this question. Not only is it my understanding, but it is also the wish of the Government that this aspect of the matter, at least to the degree that it relates to the points in issue, such as freight rates and stevedoring costs, should be investigated by the committee. I give the committee, and the right honorable gentleman, the assurance that the Government would instruct the proposed committee of inquiry to take this aspect of the matter into account. I also assure the committee that I shall consult the draftsman and, if the clause, as drafted, does not provide sufficiently clear and adequate authority and power for the committee of inquiry to investigate the question of profits, the Government will ensure it is suitably amended in another place. I think the right’ honorable gentleman will agree that such a course would achieve the desired result, that it would not delay consideration of the measure in another place, and that the time-table the Government originally had in mind would then be adhered to.
.- The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) is only quibbling over this matter. He did state, during the second-reading stage of the debate, that profits were to be examined. As a matter of fact, he was twitting members of the Opposition with the face that they have been asking for an investigation into shipping profits, and stevedoring industry profits, but that now they were not anxious to have it. If the Minister is quite satisfied that the intention of the Government is expressed in the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), why does he not accept it? To do so would not delay the passage of the measure to a degree that would prevent the commencement of a consideration of it in another place to-night. The Minister stated that he would examine the amendment, and that he would consult the draftsman. I think that what he wants to do is to get sufficient time to consult the shipowners who have been responsible for the introduction of this bill. Is it not a fact that the Minister promised that, before any legislation of mis kind was introduced, he would have a conference with the employees’ representatives and the shipowners?
– No, it is not a fact.
– Is it not a fact that that conference was not held because the ship- _ owners refused to attend ?
– It is not a fact.
– The fact is that the shipowners were responsible for calling off the conference that the Minister had promised. Indeed, the right honorable gentleman has to go back, cap in hand, to ask them whether they have any objection to a widening of the scope of the proposed inquiry to cover an examination of their profits. Even the Minister himself talks about limiting the investigation into profits to an investigation of the effect of those profits on freights and stevedoring industry charges. The right honorable gentleman ought to know - and, as a lawyer, probably he does know - that, as soon as it is decided to limit the inquiry in any respect, it will cease to be an effective inquiry. Why does he want to protect the shipowners? If they are making excessive profits, what is wrong with asking the committee of inquiry to investigate that fact, and not to limit its inquiry to an investigation of the effect of those profits on stevedoring industry charges or high freight rates? Of course those profits affect freight rates. Of course they affect stevedoring industry charges. Therefore, if there is to be an investigation, there should be specific reference to profits. The public wants to know what exorbitant profits have been made by the shipping and stevedoring companies. Many of the shipping companies that would be affected are registered outside Australia. What power would the proposed committee of inquiry have to compel those companies to produce their books and financial statements for examination? It is questionable whether the committee would have sufficient power to do so, but the Minister wishes to consult the shipping companies to ascertain whether there is any real danger to them in the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition. As the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, there has been a great deal of misrepresentation in relation to the whole question. I have read the proposed terms of reference, but I have not seen one word about profits.
– The question of profits is not covered by any other clause. The word “ profits “ is not mentioned.
– That is a fact. There is no reference to it in the proposed terms of reference. I also ask the Minister whether the committee of inquiry would be competent to deal with the matter to which I shall now refer. There has been much talk about delay at Port Kembla, and there have been conflicting statements as to who is responsible for that state of affairs. I have discovered that a Labour senator recently asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) a question in relation to the hold up of steel at Port Kembla. I have discovered, also, that the Minister for Shipping and Transport does not agree with the statement of the Minister for Labour and National Service that the hold up of shipping was attributable to a shortage of wharf labour. The Minister for Shipping and Transport furnished the following reply to the question : -
The development that has taken place at Port Kembla recently is considerable, and I regret that the New South Wales authorities have not made adequate provision for the berthing of ships so that the increased output from the Port Kembla, mills can be shifted more quickly. Often ships are available, but they cannot get a berth at Port Kembla. That is a major problem.
So the Minister for Shipping and Transport has not contended that there is an insufficient number of wharf labourers at Port Kembla ! He stated that often ships are available, but there are no berthing facilities.
– Does the honorable member know about a dispute between the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Minister for Shipping and Transport at a meeting of the Cabinet?
– I shall deal with that matter in a moment. I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether he really knows very much about this subject. I am informed that, even if it were possible to obtain the increased quota of SOO wharf labourers at Port Kembla, all of them could not be employed at the one time, because there are not the facilities to employ them, and that the Government is” putting forward this pretext that the federation is not providing sufficient labour in an endeavour to justify the action it has taken against the waterside workers. “When the quota was fixed at, I think, 670 in July, the Waterside Workers Federation immediately set out to obtain that number of wharf labourers, and obtained it within a few months. But that would not have suited the Government and its argument.
Knowing that it was going to provoke this dispute, the Government immediately arranged for an increase of the quota to 800, so that it would be able to charge the waterside workers at Port Kembla with the responsibility for the fact that there had been an accumulation of steel. These are the matters that the Opposition wants the Government, and the committee of inquiry, to investigate, because, having listened to this debate, I am perfectly satisfied that this measure is a put-up job between the shipowners and the Government. The Government must return to the shipowners some service for the considerable donation that it made to Liberal party funds just before the last general election. That is the motive which actuates the Government in introducing this measure.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has referred to a very serious disagreement that took place between the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Minister for Shipping and Transport at a meeting of the Cabinet. I understand that the disagreement was so bad that, at one stage, both of the Ministers had to be restrained by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). Such disagreements within the ranks of the Cabinet never receive publicity in the press, because the Government has the press barons- lined up on its side. It is only disagreements or disputes that may arise within the ranks of the Australian Labour party that receive publicity in the press. However, I understand that a very violent disagreement occurred between the Ministers to whom I have referred in relation to this bill and to the handling of the stevedoring industry. When the Minister for Labour and National Service talks about the Cabinet and his party being unanimously behind him, I suggest that he would like to think that they were unanimous. He knows in his own heart that there is a great deal of disagreement in the Cabinet about the Government’s proposals. He knows full well also that the Government was determined to provoke a dispute and is very happy that one has occurred. Does the Minister for one moment believe that any great principle is involved in the Government’s action? The only principle involved is the one that the waterside workers are defending. The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) and other Government supporters have alleged that the waterside workers have a dreadful monopoly in the engagement of labour, and have suggested that it must end. Does the Minister agree with that argument ? He has admitted that the Government was willing to allow the watersiders’ monopoly to continue. The monopoly has been allowed to continue for years. Evidently the Government did not find it objectionable, because, since it was elected to office in 1949, it has not taken action to alter the arrangements for the engagement of labour. It has merely sprung into action at the order of the shipowners and is determined to push this bill through the Parliament.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). The inquiry of the proposed committee should extend to the profits of the employers in the industry. It has not previously been mentioned that the stevedoring industry is an extraordinary one and that the stevedoring employers do not behave as other employers behave. They have renounced all the principles of decent management. The Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, in its fourth report, for the year ended the 30th June, 1953, stated that, for a considerable time, the operations of the Melbourne Stevedoring Company Proprietary Limited were kept under observation. That company did not care how it employed the men who were allocated to it. It did not worry whether it was paying the men, whether they were on the job or away from it, or whether they were getting themselves drunk. The company was concerned only about having its ships unloaded. The Stevedoring Industry Board assigned inspectors to watch the activities of that company. At 5.30 on one afternoon two of the men employed by the company left the job. They returned at 6.30 p.m. completely drunk. That is typical of the management that may be expected from irresponsible companies. The Government intends to allow companies of that type, which have no sense of responsibility, to select waterfront labour in the future. The company in question was not aware that the two employees concerned had left the job and returned, or that they were drunk. Such companies are not fit to be entrusted with the selection of waterfront labour.
The Stevedoring Industry Board suggested that the Government give the board power over the employers as well as the employees, but the employers went to the High Court and, on a technicality, escaped from the board’s control. As a consequence, the board has control only over the waterside workers and not over the employers. The board pointed out to the Government that if it did not have control over the employers, the present lopsided form of control would allow conditions to deteriorate. Any deterioration that has occurred on the waterfront is wholly attributable to the neglect of this Government, which has not done anything to improve the sense of responsibility of management in the industry.
– What an absurd statement !
– That statement was made in the f fourth report of the Stevedoring Industry Board, and was completely in accordance with the facts. The Government has been afraid to act. The board observed, also, that the Government’s attitude was regrettable, because the waterside workers had greatly improved working on the waterfront. The men have been responsible for every improvement that occurred in the industry until 1953.
It is greatly to be regretted that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has not presented to the Parliament the fifth report of the Stevedoring Industry Board, for the year ended the 30th June last. He should have ensured that the Parliament would have the information to which it is entitled, for reference during the debate on this bill. The fourth report of the board is a wholly reliable document, and it may be regarded as constituting a very good examination of the industry. If the Government took more notice of the views of the board instead of those of the shipowners, conditions in Australia would be a lot better. It is scandalous that the Government has completely overlooked the great contribution that the waterside workers have made to improving working in the industry and the turn-round of shipping.
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of the remainder of the bill in committee has expired.
– By your leave, Mr. Chairman, may I say that, in view of the assurance given by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), the Opposition will not call for a division on my amendment. The assurance is sufficient, and the intention behind it is clear. The proposed inquiry should extend to the profits of the companies engaged in stevedoring operations.
Mr.Ward. - The Minister’s assurance amounts to an undertaking that the Opposition’s amendment will be accepted in another place.
– In substance, yes.
Remainder of bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– Although the form of the bill remains unchanged at this stage, I believe, in view of the assurance given by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) at the committee stage, that the jurisdiction of the proposed statutory committee will be extended to the degree that the Opposition has suggested it should be extended. We expect, and I think rightly, that the proposed committee’s inquiry will be extended to the profits from stevedoring operations, whether conducted by the stevedoring companies strictly so-called, or by the shipping companies. If the Opposition’s suggestion to that effect is accepted the bill will be distinctly improved. The position now is that all of the bill will become operative immediately the measure receives the royal assent. The Government has not reserved to itself the power to consider a situation that might develop shortly, and, if necessary, to delay the operation of the clauses of the bill that are deeply objected to and rightly resented by a considerable section of the people and by the great trade unions of Australia, which are represented by the Australian Council of Trades Unions. I appeal to the Minister, who, in relation to the jurisdiction of the proposed statutory committee, has taken a correct and conciliatory view, to apply a similar process of reasoning to the other provisions of the bill when it is considered in another place, so that the Government may reserve to itself authority to postpone the operation of the clauses to which violent objection is taken, not capriciously, but because it is known from experience in this difficult and turbulent industry that the proposed system for the recruitment of labour will present one difficulty after another. It will not improve the turn-round of shipping, but will cause bitterness in the industry and probably will cause suffering to all who are directly or indirectly concerned. I ask the Minister to consider that aspect of the matter.
– Order! The time allowed for the third-reading stage has expired.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (MR. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 2nd November (vide page 2516), on motion by Sir Eric Harrison -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Although the bill deals with sulphuric acid, there is unlikely to be any acidulous or caustic debate on the measure because, in this instance, the Government’s policy is acceptable to the Opposition and has our support. I remind the House that the rural policy speech delivered on behalf of the Labour party in 1949 included a reference to the necessity for making Australia independent of outside supplies of the basic materials from which sulphuric acid is produced.We undertook that, if we were again returned to power, we would take all such steps as were necessary to ensure that both secondary and primary industries should be protected in this respect.
– But you were only joking.
– I note a tendency on the part of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) to be captious. Perhaps the honorable member may be embarrassed in this instance because, as an old-timer with a pronounced free-trade policy - a relic of the early days of this country - he finds himself in a difficult position. He must either give insincere support to the bill or expose himself to the displeasure of the electors of Riverina by voting against a measure that is essential to their future welfare.
The average Australian probably never has occasion to ponder on the importance of sulphuric acid or the basic materials from which it is produced. Nevertheless, in the event of a dire shortage, or the complete cessation of supplies, primary and secondary industries all over Australia would find themselves in a most desperate position. That is not an exaggeration. Some sulphuric acid is produced from imported sulphur, but other supplies are manufactured by the treatment of pyrites from our gold mines. The acid is used in a wide range of manufacturing processes. For example, it is used in the manufacture of tyres, in the textile industry, and also extensively in various chemical industries. Of course, it is used, too, in the manufacture of superphosphate, which is needed for our wheat crops and for the top-dressing of pastures. Thus, it is essential to efficient primary production. During World War II., we experienced a grave risk of being deprived of supplies of sulphur for the production of sulphuric acid. The flow from abroad was reduced almost to a trickle. Prior to the war, most of our supplies of sulphur came from the United States of America, from Sicily and from Japan. The war cut us off from the sources of supply in Sicily and Japan, and we were forced to rely on small quantities that were being produced locally and the quota allotted to us from America by agreement amongst the Allied powers.
Even to-day, America is the main supplier of sulphur for the production of sulphuric acid in Australia. In fact, of the world output of approximately 6,300,000 tons of sulphur annually, America’s production amounts to 5,300,000 tons. We ave now in the happy position that we can look forward to the production locally by 1956 of at least 65 per cent, of our requirements. The local product will be more costly than imported sulphur because it is necessary for Australian industries to establish expensive treatment plants. Nevertheless, the prospect is encouraging.
– That is due to good government.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Brand) appears to be rather articulate to-night, perhaps because the Parliament is on the eve of a recess. I remind him that, in a time of grave emergency, Australia was able to obtain greater quantities of the sulphur that it badly needed for the manufacture of sulphuric acid than might have been possible otherwise, largely because of the prestige of the Labour Government, which then held office and the industrious service rendered to the country by our ambassadors in America and elsewhere. But for this Government’s recollection of Labour’s election promise to deal with the problem, I doubt that it would have taken any of the action that it has taken since 1950 to. encourage Australian companies to expend vast sums on the installation of treatment plants for the production of sulphuric acid. The honorable member may wish to reply to that statement later, but it is a fact nonetheless. Because of that prodding by the Labour party, in 1949, the present Government, which is usually opposed to the granting of Treasury aid to industry, has blandly informed the Parliament that it proposes to help the companies which, since 1952, have expended no less than £10,500,000 on the conversion of existing plant and the installation of new plant for the production of sulphuric acid.
Those companies, in spite of their great resources, found it necessary to appeal to the Government for assistance. No doubt they would have appealed also to a Labour government, in which case, of course, they would have been assured of generous support. They have asked the
Government to draw upon the resources of the people in order to guarantee their bank overdrafts so that they may provide all the expensive plant and equipment necessary for the manufacture of sulphuric acid.
– And the Government granted their request !
– Had a Labour government had the opportunity to do so, of course, it would have been attacked on the ground that it was pursuing another avenue towards socialism. I remind the House that it is the people’s capital that will be used to help a very efficient private enterprise, in this instance, to complete its plans for the production of an essential commodity. The relationship of demand to the output of sulphur, or brimstone, as it is sometimes known, varies considerably throughout the world in cycles. Thus, although it was possible to produce sulphuric acid from Australian pyrites at a cost of £25 a ton in 1952, when the conversion of plant was undertaken, it is now possible to import raw materials at a price that, would enable the acid, to be produced locally for less than £20 a ton. That is why the local industry has appealed to the Government for assistance by way of bounty against outside competition. I do not know how this situation will appeal to the honorable member for Riverina, as a hardened free-trader. The matter was referred to the Tariff Board, which recommended that, in certain circumstances, when the price of overseas sulphur landed in Australia reached a certain level, a bounty should be paid to the local industry. In other words, the board recommended that a degree of tariff protection be afforded to the industry. The Labour party favours protection of this sort, although we know the honorable member for Riverina is opposed to it. He is the odd man out, of course.
The bill embodies all sorts of conditions and provisos, a fact which suggests to me that the Tariff Board thoroughly examined the situation of the Australian sulphuric acid industry. There is likely to be a wide variation of the price of imported sulphur over the period of five years for which the bill will be effective. Therefore, it embodies a provision that, in certain circumstances, bounty will be payable to the local industry according to a variable scale. The rate of bounty will be determined by the Government after the Tariff Board has made a further investigation and submitted a recommendation. This arrangement is probably unique in the history of this Parliament. To my knowledge, at any rate, no such system of paying bounty has been adopted previously. A fixed sulphuric acid bounty will now become payable for five years from to-day or to-morrow, but the rate will be varied according to need, not by an act of Parliament to prescribe a specific figure, but by regulations made under this bill. Whereas bounty is to be paid at the rate of £2 a ton, the Government may, by regulation, vary that in accordance with variations in the import price of brimstone. I do not condemn that provision. Probably, it was recommended by the Tariff Board. In any event, it is designed to protect the Government’s revenues. In addition, the measure limits the amount of bounty payable in any year to £600,000; and it also provides that the manufactured product shall be of good quality. Furthermore, no secondary industry, as a user of sulphuric acid, will benefit from the provision of this bounty, because the bounty is to be payable solely in respect of sulphatic rock that is utilized in the production of sulphuric acid and other artificial fertilizers.
I note with pleasure that the interests which have been importing brimstone, from which sulphuric acid is made, have been responsible for the pooling of supplies and the distribution of these products throughout Australia at a pool rate. I refer to the British Phosphate Commission. That body did an excellent job during World War II., and it is certainly fitted to carry out this work in peacetime. I take this opportunity to suggest that the people might note the fact that the Australian Labour party, as a protectionist party, supports this measure which is designed to protect Australian industries. At the last general election, the Australian Labour party promised that if returned to office it would take all steps necessary to encourage the produc tion of Australia’s total requirements of sulphuric acid from Australian basic materials, principally pyrites. Before World War II. concluded, the Labour Government was responsible for the purchase of Christmas Island at a cost of £3,00.0,000. To-day, that island is available as a source of supply of sulphatic rock to meet the needs of our primary industries, and those supplies may be drawn upon when deposits on Ocean Island or Nauru become exhausted or should supplies from those sources be insufficient to meet increased demands. By supporting this measure we shall strengthen the industries engaged in producing these basic products which are essential to the national well-being and to the security of the Australian people. I have closely examined the provisions of the bill. I am delighted to note that the Government has accepted the recommendations of the Tariff Board by incorporating in the measure a series of protective clauses which if they had been proposed by a Labour Government would have been described by honorable members opposite as an intrusion into private business and, indeed, into the private lives of the people. Under the measure, the relevant authority is authorized to search premises, examine books, appoint inspectors and register factories and processing plants. The people can thank the Tariff Board for these protective measures which the Government, wisely, has incorporated in this measure. The Opposition supports the bill.
.- I find myself rather confused over the speech of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). I am pleased to note that he falls in with the action of the Government so far as the provisions of this measure are concerned. ‘ He referred to a speech which he made in 1949, when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Chifley Government, and in which he set out that Government’s plans to do something for Australian industries, particularly primary industries. The honorable member praised the Tariff Board, but I remind him that the board was available to the Chifley Government if that Government had cared to consult it on matters of this kind during the eight and a half years that it was in office.
– We were at war for much of that period.
– World War II. was over for a long time before the Chifley Government went out of office. Throughout its regime, it allowed a deposit of tailings containing 8,000,000 tons of pyrites to lay unused on the various goldfields, particularly at Mount Morgan, in Queensland. That Government made no effort to utilize those supplies. In view of those facts, the honorable member cannot claim much credit for the Chifley Government in this matter. When this Government assumed office it was faced with the problem of ensuring supplies of artificial fertilizers for primary production. This is the second measure that the Government has introduced in order to encourage the utilization of pyrites in the manufacture of fertilizer. Not long ago it liberalized taxation concessions to gold-mining companies by separating for taxation purposes their production of pyrites from gold-mining and coppermining activities proper. When that concession was made, those producers responded effectively to the Government’s call to step up production with a view to making Australia independent of supplies of imported brimstone, particularly from the United States of America. Whereas, previously, those producers utilized free sulphur or free brimstone, they converted their plant to the electronic process for the extraction of sulphur from pyrites. This measure will ensure that their efforts in that direction will not go unrewarded. Through the payment of this bounty they will enjoy a goodly measure of protection and will be assured of reasonable profits which they have shown they well deserve.
It is estimated that by the end of 1956 Australia will be completely free of the difficulties that now arise in respect of the importation of brimstone. That development will greatly improve the position of the primary producers by guaranteeing adequate supplies of fertilizer at all times. It will also be of great value from a defence point of view because sulphur and its by-products are of particular value in that respect. As a result of the utilization of local raw materials we should, within a short period, be independent of supplies from other countries. This measure also gives effect to the Government’s policy of providing the greatest possible measure of employment. As a result of the increased usage of pyrites for this purpose, it is expected that by the end of 1956 approximately 400,000 tons of pyrites will be used annually in the production of artificial fertilizers. The bulk, of those supplies will be drawn from the gold mines at Mount Morgan. This will result in the provision of increased employment at that town, which is n gold-mining town, and as such has been subject over the years to all the troubles associated with gold-mining. In passing, it can be said to the great credit of the Mount Morgan Limited that not one serious industrial hold-up has occurred in the industry at that centre since that company has been in operation. The town’s population as a whole is dependent upon employment provided in the gold mines. It is estimated that that industry will supply 300,000 tons of pyrites annually for the production of artificial fertilizers. These supplies will have to be transported and this will mean increased employment on the railways. I pay tribute to the harbour authority at Gladstone. That body foresaw this development and had the wisdom to set aside sufficient money to install modern plant for the economical loading of pyrites with the result that transport costs will be kept down, with benefit to consumers in the southern States.
It will be necessary to transport these supplies of pyrites long distances to roasting plants at many points. Having regard to this fact, I am concerned about the use that will be made of the iron content of pyrites. It is estimated that pyrites contains 64 per cent. iron. That means that out of a usage of 400,000 tons annually in Australia, approximately 250,000 tons of iron will be extracted. However, because the iron is extracted in small plants in many centres throughout Australia it will virtually be lost to the community. I do not think that our supplies of iron are so plentiful as many people appear to believe.
– That interjection is typical of the honorable member’s outlook in this matter. We shall be unwise if we adopt a blase attitude in the belief that out deposits of iron are sufficient to meet our requirements for all time. No one can say that the time may not come when we shall be in need of iron. In any event, we shall always find uses for iron. Therefore, we should not be content to allow as much as 250,000 tons of iron ore to be discarded annually as will happen in the circumstances that I have indicated. In this respect, no blame can be attached to the Government or to anybody. I simply direct the attention of the House to the matter in order that it may not go unheeded. We should not fritter away such a large volume of iron ore. Overseas countries, particularly Japan, are eager to buy pyrites from this country. Japan is prepared to bear the cost of transporting pyrites to that country with a view to extracting the iron and selling the sulphur to Australia at cost price. Of course, Japan places considerable value on the iron content of pyrites. We should be well-advised to examine this matter in order to avoid wastage of such a large quantity of pure iron ore. I suggest that works should be established in central Queensland for the manufacture of fertilizer from pyrites. There are millions of tons of pyrites at Mount Morgan, and it is rather foolish that pyrites should be transported from there to the coast, and sent all round Australia. Some endeavour should be made to establish . a plant in central Queensland where pyrites may be roasted, the sulphur extracted, the iron conserved and fertilizer made out of the sulphuric acid so produced. The fertilizer could be used to the great advantage of Queensland’s primary industries. To set up a plant such as I have spoken about, would cost about £5,000,000, and would involve the establishment of about 1,500 homes for the workers in the industry. I believe that Mount Morgan Limited is seeking some help from the Queensland Government to establish a fertilizer section in its mining industry, and I hope that the Queensland Government will adopt a realistic view of the matter.
– The Queensland Government has always assisted Mount Morgan Limited.
– Then I hope that it will continue to assist it, because by assisting it to organize a sulphuric acid industry the Queensland Government will be helping to develop central Queensland. The bounty payable under this measure will be of great assistance to those who produce pyrites, and will increase employment for all those connected with the transport of pyrites to electrolytic plants. Perhaps it will also assist to raise the general prosperity of Australia. The bill will help to provide an abundant supply of fertilizer for primary producers, a supply which will not be interrupted by anything that may happen outside this country. Of course, honorable member will realize that it is most important tha Australia should have an abundance of cheap fertilizer, irrespective of what maj occur outside this country in the future. As a member of this House who represents a great supplier of pyrites at Mount Morgan, I commend the Government on its attitude towards the matter dealt with in this bill. The Government has always taken a realistic attitude to the use of Australian resources, and whenever I have approached the Government about primary or secondary industries I have found it more than willing to listen to my propositions. The private enterprises that have been called in to assist the Government in its developmental programmes, and which have raised large sums of money for those programmes, have done a remarkably good job, and their time-tables of development have been very well maintained. All that shows how great an impetus can be given to primary production, to employment and to security, when we have a government that is willing and able expeditiously to deal with problems as they arise. I hope that the bill will have a speedy passage, because all Australians will benefit under it.
– I am well aware of the two important factors that have governed this debate. One is that the Opposition does not oppose the bill, and the other is that the Opposition has expressed a desire to end the present sittings of the Parliament as quickly as possible. Bearing those factors in mind, I do not intend to speak at great length. This bill will provide for the payment, under certain, circumstances, of a bounty upon the production of sulphuric acid from pyrites. It is the result of a considerable amount of investigation by the Government, which followed representations to the Government by certain industries. Therefore, it is not entirely right that the bill should be allowed to pass through this House almost without comment. It is of such importance to Australian industry, both primary and secondary, that I believe that some regard should be paid to its provisions. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) has covered most of the ground that I desired to speak about, but there are one or two important matters that he did not mention, and which I desire to place before the House. I wish to point out how important this measure will be to primary and secondary industry, because it will relieve primary industry of the fear of the adequacy of supplies of fertilizer such as superphosphate and sulphate of ammonia, and it will also relieve the Government of the heavy subsidy that it has paid in the past, particularly on sulphate of ammonia. For many years Queensland has had to approach the Australian Government from time to time and make representations about the importation of additional quantities of sulphate of ammonia, and ask the Government to pay a subsidy on it which would enable the consumers of sulphate of ammonia to buy it at a price commensurate with the price that they receive for their products. Because of this measure the production of fertilizer in Queensland will be increased, and an adequate supply of fertilizer will be made available to primary industry. Moreover, the necessity to subsidize fertilizer will disappear. I suggest that it is much better for the Government to put money into the production of fertilizers in Australia than to pay subsidies on raw materials for fertilizers brought from overseas.
The bill provides that a bounty shall be paid on sulphuric acid produced from pyrites, and the bounty is so regulated that the industry in Australia will be assured that it can plan its production years ahead. It will not be in the posi- tion of having to decide whether it will put money into plant to produce sulphuric acid, when there is a possibility that we shall not always be able to obtain raw materials from overseas. Australian industry will know that it will receive a bounty of £2 a ton on 100 per cent, sulphuric acid whenever the landed cost of the imported raw material is £20 10s. a ton. That bounty will vary according to the price of the imported raw material. Therefore, for the first time Australian industry will have an assurance that it can proceed with the development of the sulphuric acid industry in Australia without fear of loss.
Hundreds of thousands of tons of raw material that have been lying unused for many years as tailings from mines will become valuable raw material for the production of sulphuric acid. The honorable member for Capricornia referred to the Mount Morgan mines. Both he and I have seen mountains of pyrites lying at those mines, which up to date have been quite useless to our economy. After this measure has been passed, that raw material, and great quantities of other similar raw material, will be able to be used to the benefit of our economy. This measure will ensure a supply of superphosphate and sulphate of ammonia which will be produced out of materials that are at present going to waste. It will also encourage many industries, at present producing sulphuric acid from imported raw material, to convert their plants to use pyrites as raw material. In many cases such industries have already commenced to do that. But, as well as established industries using pyrites, new industries will grow up and use this important local raw material. It will be a most important matter for central Queensland if, as a result of this measure, a fertilizer works were established in that area - perhaps in the electorate of Capricornia or of Dawson. The establishment of such a works would be a further step in the decentralization of our industries, and would greatly benefit Queensland. Moreover, it would increase the opportunities for employment of the people who live in central Queensland. Therefore, I suggest that this measure is of such importance that it should not pass through the House with merely a brief comment. It should be pointed out to the people that this legislation is one of many forward steps taken by this Government to improve the economy of Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 (Reduction of bounty where profits exceed 12^ per centum per annum).
.- This clause provides that the bounty payable on sulphuric acid shall cease when the profits of the company receiving the bounty exceed 12$ per cent. A similar provision was incorporated in the Flax Fibre Bounty Bill 1954, which was before this committee a few days ago. However, the bounty payable on the production of flax fibre was to cease after the concern receiving the bounty earned a profit of 10 per cent. I have ascertained that both the Flax Fibre Bounty Bill and this measure have been drafted in almost exactly the same, terms, except for that variation. I ask the Minister to inform me, before we proceed with the further consideration of this bill, why the variation has been made.
– It is the difference between a mine and a farm.
– The precise reason for the payment of a bounty on flax and a bounty on sulphuric acid is to ensure that Australia shall be protected against insufficient supplies of flax and sulphuric acid. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) says that the explanation of the variation to which I have referred may be summed .up as the difference between a mine and a farm. I have not the knowledge that the Minister may have at his fingertips on these matters, but it appears to me that the flax industry perhaps has a stronger claim to the higher rate of 12£ per cent, than the producers of sulphuric acid from pyrites. The processors of flax for the manufacture of tarpaulin, fire brigade hoses, boot thread, &c, have, from their own resources, erected factories and installed plant and equipment. I speak subject to correction on this matter, but I understand that the Commonwealth is making provision for the payment of a bounty without limit until the manufacturers of sulphuric acid make a profit of 12^ per cent., and, in addition, a Commonwealth Bank guarantee has been available to the industry to finance the conversion of plants and the construction of new plant. Probably, a large sum of money is guaranteed, because the conversion costs may be as high as £10,500,000 or £12,500,000. I ask the Minister to inform me of the reason for this differentiation between the flax industry and the sulphuric acid industry. In all other respects, the two bills are identical.
– The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has asked me to explain why the profit limitation is rather lower than usual, and why the provision in respect of sulphuric acid manufacture is different from the provision in respect of the flax industry. The Tariff Board, when it investigated this matter on behalf of the Government, and made its report on the 4th August, 1954, recommended that no profit limit should be placed on this particular industry for several reasons. One of those reasons, as the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) has stated by interjection, is that a mine is rather different from a farm, because its resources become exhausted. Secondly, as the honorable member for Lalor himself has stated, a large amount of capital is involved. The third factor is that brimstone can be imported, and a person can make any profit he likes on it as against pyrites.
Therefore, the Tariff Board, in its report on the 4th August last, recommended that the amount of bounty to be paid to processors of sulphuric acid from Australian materials be not reduced by reason of profit, including bounty, which should be earned by those producers. However, the Government preferred to impose a limit. Admittedly, it has made that limit slightly higher than normal on account of the factors concerned with this particular production at the time.
– The interested parties still say that it is not high enough.
– But it is slightly higher than in normal circumstances because of the special circumstances. The principal consideration which influenced the board in making its recommendations was that the Government had been urging manufacturers to convert their plants. There was no reason why the manufacturers should convert their plants, but the Government, in order to keep up the supply of superphosphates by this means, and to make Australia a little more independent of overseas supplies than it was, urged the manufacturers to convert their plants to the use of native materials. There was no limit to the profits which they could have made otherwise, if they had not so converted their plants, and the board felt that, in the circumstances, it should not recommend any limitation of profits.
The board also expressed the opinion, although it did not advance this as a reason for the elimination of the profit provision, that it would be difficult to isolate the profits made in the production of sulphuric acid from the Australian materials compared with other products of the particular plants concerned. That view was held, not by the Government, but by the Tariff Board. The Government decided not to adopt the recommendation of the board on profits, but recognized the unusual features which obtained in the production of sulphuric acid in Australia, and thought that some special consideration should be given to the industry in the matter of profits. Accordingly, a limit of 12£ per cent, is proposed, this figure being higher than normally applies in bounty legislation. The Government considered that the elimination of the profit provision would be a very wide departure from the accepted practice in legislation of this nature, and could result in the use of public funds to pay a bounty to companies which were making large profits. There is a wide variation in the profits of the companies concerned in the manufacture of sulphuric acid. For that reason, and in spite of the recommendation of the board, the Government considered that a limit should be imposed, and that such a limit should be slightly higher than normally would be imposed.
.- I do not consider that the explanation given by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) is satisfactory. He has told us that the Tariff Board has not recommended the imposition of any limit whatsoever. That plainly illustrates that this Government ignores the Tariff Board when it sees fit to do so. I bless the Government for having done so in this instance. That is noc an ironical remark. The Government has ignored the board’s recommendation, and says, in effect, “ No, we do not like that “. Then the Government goes to the other extreme. It does not place this industry on all fours with the flax processing industry, but says, “ We do not accept the Tariff Board’s report on this phase of bounty payment. We shall place a limit on the profits concerning the payment of the bounty to this industry but we shall be generous and make the limit 12£ per cent.”
– These are the big shots.
– Exactly, but at the same time the flax industry has been long established and may be described as quite a big-shot industry itself. The flax spinners of Melbourne, Geelong and Sydney may be only few in number, but they make a powerful and efficient concern. However, their voices apparently were not so loud in the land as was the voice of the sulphuric acid industry. I am not able to detect in the explanation given by the Minister any reason for the discrimination that is shown in favour of the sulphuric acid industry and against the flax industry. The Minister informed the committee that there were difficulties, but he was not very clear about them. Ordinary, he is clear in expression and explanation. I admit that I popped this question on him rather suddenly, and I know that it is sometimes difficult for a Minister in charge of a bill to pick up the threads and give an adequate reply. I myself have been in that position. However, on this occasion, the Minister naively informed the committee there were some peculiar difficulties in regard to this industry in separating the profits made in one branch of the industry from those made in some other branches or sections of it. I hope that, when I make that statement, I have interpreted his remarks correctly. After all, the producers of pyrites are engaged in the production of gold, copper, silver and a wide range of other minerals.
– But they do not get the bounty.
– Of course they do not.
– Then what is the honorable member talking about?
– The people who process the materials produced in those mines are, by virtue of their intercompany linkings directly and indirectly concerned-
– Oh !
– The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) knows it full well. Let there be no mistake about it. If he is interested, let him do a little research into the metalliferous industry, the steel industry and the copper industry, including the companies at Mount Morgan, Mount Isa and the rest. He will find that they are powerful organizations, which have interests in many activities. The Minister has said that the manufacturers of sulphuric acid may have some other ramifications and there may be some difficulty in ascertaining whether a profit of 12£ per cent, or 10 per cent, will be adequate, but that explanation does not carry any weight with me. The people who process flax spin flax not only for fire brigade hoses, canvas, and the like, but also other sorts of fabrics, and they make other products such as rope.
– Commonwealth factories are engaged in the flax industry.
– The bounty is payable in respect of the raw product when it goes to the spinners. There i3 almost an exactly similar application in respect of sulphuric acid. Whether or not that is correct, the principle is well established. The limit in respect of flax is 10 per cent, and “ out-you-get “, but the manufacturer of sulphuric acid will not be debarred from receiving the Commonwealth bounty - the taxpayers money - until he hits the limit of 12^ per cent.
I am somewhat concerned about this matter. I express the hope that the Government has not been influenced by the respective strengths of the two industries concerned.
– What about the Tarin Board?
– The Tariff Board recommended that there should not be a profit limit. The Government has decided to impose a profit limit, but differentiates between the sulphuric acid industry and the flax industry. The Government is the guilty party now. The Government has imposed a limit of 12^ per cent, in respect of a great and powerful instrumentality, and a limit of 10 per cent, in respect of the people whom it is encouraging to grow flax. The honorable member for Gippsland poses this question: “Which industry would have the greatest depreciation ? “ The honorable member knows that, in the assessment of profit, depreciation is allowed, so that matter does not enter into the question at all. Full allowance is made in both cases. That answers that question. Can the honorable member throw any other bones into the ring?
– Order! The honorable member for Lalor must address the Chair.
– I am very happy to be able to answer the honorable member. I am in a very pleasant frame of mind, notwithstanding the fact that this bill relates to the production of sulphuric acid. I repeat that I have pointed out to the committee that this industry has had the additional advantage of having had vast sums of capital expenditure guaranteed, but the Minister has not yet told us to what degree that expenditure has been guaranteed by the Government. The capital expenditure of this industry has been guaranteed, but the flax spinners have not been guaranteed anything.
– Only guaranteed.
– But guaranteed what? This industry is guaranteed a bounty until its profits exceed 12£ per cent., but the limit for the flax industry is 10 per cent. This industry has had the privilege of having had its overdraft of anything up to £10,500,000 guaranteed. I should like the Minister to enlighten the committee about that matter, too.
.- The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has confused ideas about the comparison of, and the relationship between, the production of sulphuric acid from pyrites and the manufacture of flax fibre. He is trying to compare two things that are not comparable in any way. The only thing that the two industries have in common is that they are necessary from the point of view of defence. In Western Australia, at any rate, the production of sulphuric acid is entirely one for the big superphosphate companies. Those companies have had to be offered a substantial inducement to convert their plant for a change-over from the production of superphosphate from ordinary sulphur to the production of sulphuric acid from pyrites. I imagine that it is for that reason that the Government has been induced to offer them a fairly substantial profit margin. The honorable member for Lalor tried to compare this industry with the flax industry. He should know better than any one else that the Government had to establish, throughout the country, mills to convert flax into flax fibre, because private enterprise could not do the job. There is only one private flax mill in Australia, and that is in the electorate that I represent. It is a cooperative enterprise. If it makes more than 10 per cent, profit, that is its own fault, because it can quite easily overcome the difficulty by paying a higher price for the flax that is grown. That enterprise is not penalized in any way by the 10 per cent, profit margin to which it is limited. I suggest that the honorable member is only trying to raise a false issue by comparing two industries that are not comparable in any way.
– The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has his mind tied in a knot with flax. He is in a very pleasant mood to-night, but I rather think that he has forgotten that Melbourne Cup week has passed. He wants to have it both ways. He wants to get the winning odds on the place bet, because, in the first case, he states that the Government ought to adopt the recommendations of the Tariff Board, and that it should never depart from those recommendations.
– Do not be unfair. I did not say that.
– Well, he criticized the Government very severely because it did not follow the recommendation of the Tariff Board. He stated that the Government, in allowing a limitation of 12^ per cent., has allowed too high a limitation of profits.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member went on to state that the companies affected were all big companies. I remind him that, recently, honorable members were considering a report of the Tariff Board in which it recommended the payment of a subsidy to a very big company - we shall not name any companies - and the honorable member agreed with the board. Now he is trying to adopt the opposite point of view. I know the honorable member of old. He and I were contestants in a State parliament in days gone by. He is a very excellent debater, but I do not think he is very serious about this particular matter.
– I should like to point out that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) has failed to offer any explanation of the very important points that were raised by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). There may be an answer, and a reasonable answer, to the case that was presented by the honorable member for Lalor, but the Minister has failed to furnish the committee with it.
– The honorable member was not in the chamber when I gave the answer in the first place.
– I have been in the chamber all the time. As he frequently does, the Minister went off on a side-track. He accused the honorable member for Lalor of having criticized the Government for its failure to implement the recommendation of the Tariff
Board, but the honorable member made no such criticism. What he did was to direct attention to the fact, which was admitted by the Minister, that the Government had ignored the recommendation of the Tariff Board. He confined himself to that very valid observation that the Government does not always implement the recommendations of the board.
– Does the honorable member for Eden-Monaro disagree with the action the Government has taken?
– I ask the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) to hold his peace. The Government has failed to carry out the recommendation of the Tariff Board in relation to this matter. But far from criticizing the Government for that, the honorable member for Lalor gave his blessing to the Government for it3 refusal to carry out the recommendation. The Minister did not answer the request of the honorable member for Lalor for an explanation of the proposal that the limitation qf profit in the case of the flax mills shall be 10 per cent., but in the case of the production of sulphuric acid it shall be 12^ per cent. Instead, the Minister went off on a sidetrack by alleging that the honorable member has complained that the permitted profit rate of 12£ per cent, on the production of sulphuric acid is too high. The honorable member made no such complaint.
– I, for one, do not think it is high enough.
-The honorable member may not- think that it is high enough, but that is not the point. The point is this: Why is there this difference in the limitation of profits? There may be a very good reason for it, but the confidence of the committee is not strengthened when the Minister, instead of answering the argument that was advanced by the honorable member for Lalor, distorts that argument and claims that the honorable member has argued that a 12^ per cent, profit in relation to the production of sulphuric acid is too high. The Minister’s reply completely ignores the case that was presented by the honorable member for
Lalor, and it misrepresents completely the arguments that he advanced. Even at this late stage, the Minister should endeavour to satisfy the mind of the committee in relation to those matters.
.- I should still like to inform my still uninformed mind on the reason why there should be the limitation of profits of 10 per cent, in one industry and 12^ per cent, in another. Although the committee is considering the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Bill 1954, the Minister for the Interior patted me on the back, and gave me some praise and then distorted my remarks, but, as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) pointed out, he did not answer the question. He has not done so yet.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 11 to 23 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 2nd November (vide page 2630), on motion by Sir Eric Harrison -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition supports this bill. Let me point out, however, that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his policy speech of 1949, promised generous assistance to the mining industry. Despite strong pressure from the Western Australian Government, the industry, and myself, nothing was done. That promise was repeated in 1951, and again in 1954. The bill makes good the promise of the Government, I am glad to state, as a result of representations that have been made. The measure before the House represents a vast improvement on the first forecast that was disclosed in correspondence between the Prime Minister and the Western Australian Government in July. Since then, there has been a lot of negotiation between the State Government and the Australian Government, to which I personally have given much attention during the course of discussions with the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and the Prime Minister.
The bill, as it is now presented, follows largely the formula that was submitted by the industry in “Western Australia. Without doubt, it will provide valuable assistance and encouragement to an industry that makes a significant contribution to our national income. During the financial year 1942-43, the Curtin Labour Government approved a grant of £100,000 to the “Western Australian Government towards the cost of maintaining, in a workable condition, certain mines which suffered because of the lack of man-power during the war period. In 1944-45, a further grant of £50,000 was made available to “Western Australia for the same purpose, and under the 1948-49 scheme, an additional sum of £97,302 was granted from the same source by way of assistance to marginal mines. The Gold Mining Encouragement Act 1940 and the Gold Mining Encouragement Act (No. 2) 1940 provided for refunds of gold tax, but not for direct subsidies. The Prime Minister, in his second-reading speech on this bill, stated that the annual income from gold is £17,000,000. That amount, of course, includes the income from all States and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Western Australia, in the year ended the 30th June last, produced gold worth 13,118,469. That figure will indicate to honorable members the importance of the gold-mining industry to “Western Australia. The industry in that State supports more than 40,000 people, who depend either directly or indirectly upon gold for their livelihood. Mining towns that must be evacuated by the entire population because mines close, become ghost towns overnight. Everything invested in those towns is lost. Homes are sacrificed, and other facilities became a total loss, and in addition great misery is caused to the miners and their families, [n 1953, mines that now are greatly in need of assistance produced 346,000 ounces of gold and employed directly 2,700 men and indirectly many more.
One provision of the bill that could be amended, with great benefit to the industry, is in clause 6, which limits the payment of the subsidy to a period of two years. I appeal to the Government to consider this vital point. If the subsidy is to do what is expected of it and stimulate development in marginal mines with a view to promoting the discovery of new and profitable ore bodies, the assistance should be given at least for five years. The formula on which the subsidy is to be based is a reasonable one. The marginal mines will be assessed for subsidy on the actual results of mining.operations from time to time. However, the short term of two years will not allow time for the adequate development and testing of new areas. The subsidy formula will encourage the mines to keep their costs as low as possible and to limit demands for subsidies to the very minimum. As every one knows, mines are wasting assets. Sooner or later every mine becomes exhausted. Therefore, if production is to be maintained over a long period, new mines must be developed and equipped. Consequently, the amount of prospecting in progress and the availability of funds for the equipping of new mines, indicate whether the industry is maintaining its level of prosperity. If prospecting has almost ceased and funds for new mines cannot be obtained as the old ones become worked out, the industry will be dwindling although the current production for the time being might be maintained.
The special circumstances that are applicable to the gold-mining industry must be taken into account. The formula applies the principle of temporary aid to the degree that mines will receive the subsidy only so long as they need it. It also will give every inducement to the mines to become strong enough financially not to require the subsidy, because only in that way can they obtain a reasonable financial return. Individual mines may receive substantial aid for either short or long periods, but, overall, the assistance will amount to 5 per cent, of the total value of the gold produced. It has been requested that the assistance be given in this way because it is the most, effective way of using any funds available for the promotion of a vigorous and selfsupporting industry. Subsidies on a small scale have been paid on two occasions in the past, but only for very short periods, because the economic position of the industry improved soon after the subsidies were introduced. The gold-producers have asked that continued assistance, similar to that given to other export and secondary industries, be given to the goldmining industry as it is needed.
I cannot follow the reasoning of the Prime Minister as disclosed in his secondreading speech in relation to the payment of a subsidy of £2 an ounce to the large producers and only £1 10s. an ounce to the small producers. Let it be remembered that the subsidy of £1 10s. an ounce will be paid only to producers who produce less, than 500 ounces of gold a year. Almost all mines that produce such small quantities of gold operate under adverse conditions, and the costs of most of them exceed the costs of the big mines that are equipped with modern machinery and plant. In any event, proportionately the costs of the small producer are not less than those of the large producer. Consequently, the small producer should not receive a subsidy smaller than that paid to the large producer. Prospecting for gold is a costly undertaking, and every encouragement should be extended to men willing to go into the interior in search of new mines. Australia owes a great debt to the prospectors. Every mining town, with its surrounding development, is a monument to the efforts of the prospectors. If they are given reasonable treatment, they will quickly adjust themselves to the changed conditions and circumstances and will unfold the great wealth that awaits Australia’s venturesome spirits. Gold deposits are found over a very wide area in Western Australia and, except for lightly stocked pastoral properties, gold is the only support of the residents in many districts. Although at present gold is the only metal produced in those districts, as Australia’s population increases and more easily worked deposits of other ores elsewhere are depleted, production of other minerals, and especially of non-metallic minerals in the gold-mining areas, will, gradually increase. Already the small beginnings of this trend are apparent. Even when gold deposits are, for the most part, exhausted, many of the mining districts will produce other minerals. It may be asked, therefore, whether, in consequence of the high level of costs in
Australia as compared with the price of gold, it is in the national interest, especially in relation to defence, that those districts should be de-populated, the townships abandoned, and transport and other facilities allowed to decay.
Many people believe that the goldmining industry supports only the rich mining companies. That is not so in Western Australia. I have already stated that the industry supports 40,000 people in that State. This number is composed of 6,000 to 7,000 miners and their families. Those men, like the average businessman, whether big or small, have a vested interest in the industry in which their only assets are invested. Should a mining town fail, the homes of the residents, irrespective of their value, become almost a total loss. Consequently, the interest of the workers in the welfare of the industry is most apparent. I conclude with an appeal to the Government to extend the term for the payment of the subsidy from two to five years and to pay the subsidy at a flat rate of £2, and not at a rate of only £1 10s., to the smaller producers.
.- As a fellow Western Australian, in common with the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson), I welcome this measure. It is of tremendous importance to the gold-mining industry in Western Australia. I know very well how long and hard the honorable member has worked for assistance to the gold-mining industry such as will be given under the terms of this bill. The honorable member stated that this Government had promised to help the industry as long ago as 1949, but he omitted to mention that for years the Labour Government, in which he was a Minister, on one pretext or another, consistently refused to help the gold-miners, although the industry was in considerable difficulty during the post-war years. The excuse given by the Labour Government was that Australia’s membership of the International Monetary Fund made it difficult to increase the price of gold. However, the situation has since changed somewhat. The members of the International Monetary Fund have acknowledged-
– I did not introduce politics into my speech.
– The honorable member did introduce a political note. He implied that this Government had been dilatory in honouring the promise that the leaders of the Government parties made during the 1949 general election campaign. I share the interest of the honorable member in the gold-mining industry. I am well aware of his sincere desire that assistance be given to it, but I should like to point out that the situation has changed somewhat in recent years. The members of the International Monetary Fund have acknowledged the right of member countries to sell gold on the premium market. This Government adopted that course in an effort to give a measure of assistance to the industry, but that action was found to be inadequate. As a consequence, the Government has now taken action to give the generous assistance for which this measure provides.
There is a great deal of truth in the observations of the honorable member about the importance of assisting the small producers - the prospectors and the small syndicates. They are primarily responsible for the opening up of new gold-producing areas. The honorable member suggested that the subsidy should be paid at a flat rate to the small producers on the basis on which assistance is to be given to the large producers. However, I point out that the small producers are to receive a subsidy of £1 10s. an ounce of fine gold, regardless of their cost of production and of the value of the gold mined by them, whereas the large producers are to receive a subsidy on a sliding scale, with a maximum rate of £2 an ounce of fine gold. Therefore, a large producer might receive a subsidy at a rate considerably below £2 an ounce. In the final analysis the small producer will be much better off. He will not be required to produce records of his costs and therefore will not have to go to the trouble of keeping accounts to prove his costs, whereas the large producer will have to satisfy all the requirements of the Treasury.
I should like briefly to mention one other point. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie expressed regret that the subsidy will not be paid for a term longer than two years. I acknowledge the point of his argument that the gold-mining companies could plan their development and testing programmes better for a fiveyear term than for a two-year period, but the honorable member must bear in mind that the price of gold is largely determined by international influences, and it could alter within the next two or three years.
– The formula protects the Government.
– No. The formula is based purely on the cost of production. The producer will still receive his bonus even if the price of gold goes up to £18 or £20 a fine ounce. The honorable member will find, in other words, that the Government has taken the reasonable view that two years is as far ahead as we should look in the circumstances and that the position can well be reviewed at the end of that time. The large producers of gold have reason to be satisfied that the Government intends to preserve the industry in a healthy condition as far as possible. That is evidenced by this legislation. At the expiration of the two-year period, the Government can review the situation, examine any anomalies that have arisen, and possibly produce even more beneficial legislation. I shall not occupy the time of the House any longer. I wish to commend the bill and to express the thanks of Western Australia to the Australian Government for the very substantial measure of assistance that will be accorded to one of our main industries.
.- I should not have intervened in this debate but for the fact that the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) grossly misrepresented the actions of the Curtin Government and the Chifley Government and completely ignored the statements of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson). The honorable member for Kalgoorlie said that the Curtin Labour Government, during 1942-43, gave £100,000 to the Western Australian Government to meet the cost of maintaining certain mines when it was impossible for the mining companies to obtain Australian labour. That was at the darkest period of the war, in the time of “the Brisbane line “, the Moora line and a few other lines behind which Australians were expected to retreat. But, of course, the Curtin Government solved all those problems. The payment I have mentioned was not the last such grant made by the Curtin Government to the Western Australian Government. In 1944-45, it paid £50,000 to the State for the same purpose. This all occurred, I emphasize, during the war period. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie became a member of the National Government on the death of Mr. Curtin. Despite the fact that he had 900,000 square miles of territory to look after - the electorate of Kalgoorlie is the biggest in the world and is nearly the size of Europe - he devoted himself to the manifold duties of his ministerial office and, at the same time, was able to safeguard the interests of all the electors scattered over an area that covers nearly one-third of Australia. Indeed he found time to advocate the payment of a gold bounty by the Chifley Government in 1948-49.
That Government granted a sum of £97,000 for the assistance of the industry. Yet the honorable member for Forrest has said that the Government which the honorable member for Kalgoorlie supported and the one of which he was a member had done nothing for the gold-mining industry ! The figures that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie quoted prove that the Curtin Government and the Chifley Government helped the Western Australian gold-mining industry to the amount of a quarter of a million pounds. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie did not attack the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) because of the provisions of this bill. In fact, he praised the measure. He was very generous.
– He should praise the Minister.
– I think so, too. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie is a just man, and he will do justice on all occasions. He has not misrepresented anybody. He has not tried to sneak a miserly little political advantage, as the honorable member for Forrest has done. There is not a gold-mining area in the whole of the electorate represented by the honorable member for Forrest.
– The honorable gentleman is wrong there. What about Ravensthorpe ?
– But that is a small show. The honorable member has more coal mines than gold mines in the electorate that he represents. I do not mind what he does on behalf of the coal-miners. If he can help them in that part of Australia, good luck to him and we shall give him our support. However, he is not entitled to say that he shares the interest of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie and then proceed to misrepresent that honorable gentleman’s statements.
The bill is a good bill and we wish it success. We do not know what the future holds in relation to the price of gold. There are many people who talk of an increased payment for gold by the United States of America. That is a desideratum to be fondly desired, but, after all, it is for the American people to make the decision and, if they decide to increase the price of gold, they will thereby devalue their own dollar. Obviously a prosperous country like the United States, with the world at its feet, has no particular reason for devaluing its currency. I think that we should be encouraging fantastic hopes if we thought that the price of gold was likely to be increased by the United States. It simply is not going to be increased. Therefore, we have no alternative but to pay an increased bounty to the gold-mining industry in order to maintain it in a state of solvency. With the honorable member for Kalgoorlie and the honorable member for Forrest, I think that we ought to encourage the small man. It is not only the big man who has an interest in this matter. There are also the fossickers and the prospectors, and there are many of them in Australia who are anxious to go over the old diggings in the hope that some day they will find another Welcome Stranger nugget.
– They may be looking for uranium nuggets now.
– Of course, people are looking for uranium to-day, and, if we are not very careful, we shall find that speculators and market-riggers like those who ruined gold-mining will ruin uranium-mining, too. Let us hope that will not happen. At any rate, the Western Australian gold-mining industry is a good industry, and may it continue to prosper.
As a Victorian, I should like to make the observation that, of the first £600,000,000 worth of gold that was mined in Australia up to the turn of this century, about £300,000,000 worth was taken out of Victorian mines. I hope that some engineer some day will be able to devise, with the aid of scientists, some machinery to de-water the old workings all round Australia. Probably then we shall produce as much more gold from tho33 areas as came out of them in the first half century.
– That idea might apply to the Degraves-street sub-way in Melbourne.
– I am not talking of that at the moment, but the Minister’s interjection reminds me that a select committee of the Victorian Legislative Assembly in the ‘nineties proposed a scheme to drive a tunnel into Ballarat from low-lying surrounding country for the purpose of de-watering the many mines in that provincial city. That may be one way by which the Australian Government and the State governments may ultimately help to revive the gold-mining industry. Gold is one metal that always has a constant value. It is the basis of all currencies. It never rusts and it never wears out, and, from time immemorial, people have sought it. In other days, the nations that had gold were the powerful nations. Of course, to-day those that have iron, coal, oil and uranium are the great nations. However, let us hope that in the future we shall find a few Eldorados in Australia such as we have had in the past.
.- I lend such support as I can give, as a Government supporter, to the suggestion made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) that the period of the gold subsidy should be extended from two to five years. I join with him in asking the Government to give serious consideration to that request. There is in the electorate of Moore one of the finest examples of costly developmental work with an insecure future that may be found in Australia to-day. I refer to the township of Bullfinch where, within the last three years, a gold-mining company has expended several millions of pounds without having produced any gold. That is a shining example that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie could have cited to support his argument, and I should have been happy if .he had done so. It is an example of the necessity for assuring more than a two-year period of security to the gold-mining industry, especially where such extensive developmental work is in progress. The mining company at Bullfinch is opening up old mines, and we hope that it will also find some new ones. Before it started work on -underground development, it set about the building of a township, and provided facilities for several hundreds of people who were to work in the mines. It did so without any sure knowledge of the benefits that it might receive from its initiative.
As the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) has said, the economic situation of the gold-mining industry may change considerably within the next few years. The Government could review the subsidy in the light of changed circumstances at that time. In support of the suggestion made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, I submit that, if we really want to encourage the development of gold mining, as I believe we do, we should give mining companies a sense of security. They should be assured of at least a measure of government assistance over the period when their developmental work is most costly, regardless of changing economic circumstances. They should nave that sense of security in the knowledge that, if the gold market is allowed to improve in their favour, they will not need the assistance and their expensive developmental work may be financed by returns from the ore that they win. It is a sense of security that is required, particularly on the part of the bigger companies, which have invested millions of pounds in order to reach a stage of production.
It is unusual that such a wonderfully valuable product as gold should be the subject of a subsidy, but, of course, this situation has developed only because governments throughout the world have interfered, with natural marketing processes. Therefore, it is only reasonable that the industry, which is denied a free market, should be aided by the governments which have prevented it from benefiting from circumstances which normally would have enabled it to make substantial profits. Gold is not allowed to reach its true value. The Government has permitted the sale of gold at a premium but, owing to the conditions that are attached to such transactions, sellers cannot profit to the degree to which they would appear to profit on paper. I am not concerned about what this or that Government, regardless of party, has done for the industry. Gold-mining is of such tremendous value to the nation that no government can afford to neglect the interests of the industry.
I emphasize the need to provide assistance to the small man and to the prospector. I am afraid that, under this measure, assistance will not be made available to the degree that those who desire to continue prospecting and those who wish to undertake prospecting would hope for. Whilst I mention this matter, I do not know exactly where the Australian Government and the State governments enter the picture. At present, certain assistance is made available to prospectors; but we must bear in mind that many of the unknown individuals who discover gold, very often at considerable cost and inconvenience to themselves, and really point the way for others to make profit, do not have any production whatever. They are important units in the industry. They are the pioneers who open up opportunities which, but for their efforts, would never be provided. I should like to see adequate assistance made available to this section of the industry with a view to encouraging prospectors to continue to go out and search for gold as the pioneers did in the early days. I believe that there is just as much gold still to be found as has been found up to the present. A gold-mine is a diminishing asset and, therefore, new finds must be discovered. One of the best ways to attain that objective is to offer additional inducements to the old prospectors to continue to search for gold as many of them have done in the past with little reward for themselves but with results that have proved of great benefit to the country as a whole. No doubt, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie could name many individuals as a result of whose efforts tremendous wealth has accrued to this nation and who, themselves, have really enjoyed no reward for their efforts. They are in need of assistance, but, as I have said, such assistance will not be made available to them under this bill. In that respect, I am somewhat disappointed with the measure. I do not know how this problem can best be tackled. Perhaps, the States should take the initial steps. I believe that if the State governments made worth-while submissions to the Australian Government on this matter, such proposals would receive favourable consideration if only because of the tremendous value of gold to the national economy. I support the bill and commend the Government for introducing it. I trust that the Government will consider the request made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, which I support, that the period of payment of the subsidy be extended from two years to five years. I am satisfied with the proposed basis of the subsidy. I trust also that the Government will provide more assistance to the prospector who is really the bullock of the industry.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a third time.
I take this opportunity to thank the Opposition for its co-operation in dealing with this measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 3rd November (vide page 2559), on motion by Mr. Kent Hughes -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition supports this bill. It sees in it the implementation of its own desire in the programme which Labour arranged in 1948 and which, owing to a series of circumstances, has not been brought to fruition until the introduction of this measure. The history of the river Murray waters is quite interesting. The first bill was introduced by the Fisher Government in 1915. So, the Opposition can claim that this is one of many great schemes that the Australian Labour party has introduced into this Parliament for the lasting benefit of Australia. There have been some amendments to the original agreement which was arrived at rat a time when people did not think it possible for the States to agree with the Australian Government on any one co-ordinated project. However, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia on the one hand, and the Australian Government on the other hand, came to an agreement to harness the waters of the Murray River.
The original proposal to build the Hume dam was arrived at on the condition that the governments of the three States I have mentioned and the Australian Government would each contribute one-quarter of the cost involved. It was also provided that whereas the original height of the weir was to be sufficient to impound 1,250,000 acre feet of water, it could subsequently be raised to impound 2,000,000 acre feet of water. I understand also that under the original agreement the Australian Government was not to be responsible for any of the cost that might be incurred in increasing the original storage capacity. However, this Government, like the Chifley Government, has properly agreed to share such cost with the States on the basis laid down in the original agreement. Fortunately, the engineers have found that it is possible not only to increase the storage capacity to 2,000,000 acre feet of water but also to increase it to 2,500,000 acre feet. That is what this bill proposes to authorize.
To the extent that the delay has helped the plan to be advanced further than was contemplated in 1948, it has been worth while. Whereas, in 1948, the estimated cost of increasing the height, of the weir to imprison an additional 750,000 acre feet of water was £2,000,000, in these days of inflation, the cost of increasing the storage capacity to 2,500,000 acre feet of water is estimated to be £4,450,000. On the basis of impounding 1,250,000 acre feet, the Hume weir impounded an expanse of water which exceeded the area of Sydney Harbour. Although, at one time, it was thought to be a remarkable achievement to build a dam of that size, to-day, because of the inventive genius of man and the great work of engineers aided by the experimental work of American engineers, it is possible to build a dam eight times the size of the original Eildon Dam, in Victoria, to impound 2,750,000 acre feet of water. It is a good thing from the viewpoint of people who live on both sides of the river Murray to find great dams being, constructed or extended either on the river itself or on its tributaries. It is a great thing, too, to find that the waters of the Snowy Mountains scheme, when it is completed, will empty into the river Murray and into the Murrumbidgee and will help to generate electricity and assist in .the irrigation of land and so provide a living for more people.
When this particular project is completed, it will be possible to generate electricity on the New South Wales side of the river Murray. I trust that it will be possible to sell that current cheaply to the people who live in the river Murray valley. I sincerely trust that this particular electricity will not be fed into the systems that supply Sydney and Melbourne. We should ensure that the electricity that will be generated at a point near Albury shall be used to supply heat, light and power throughout the whole of the Murray valley.
– And for industrial expansion.
– Yes. This development will be most desirable from an industrial and defence point of view. In this atomic age, it is most desirable to decentralize our population to the greatest possible degree, provided regard is paid ti the economics of each project. Some people talk enthusiastically about settling 1,000,000 people in the river Murray valley. Although it may not be possible to achieve that objective in the life-time of most honorable members, I have no doubt that, ultimately, that ideal will become a reality. Whilst the Opposition agrees that the Government is doing the right thing in getting on with the work of increasing the storage capacity of the Hume dam and whilst we agree that the governments of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia are doing the right thing in co-operating in that project, we should not overlook the fact that all the mayors, aldermen, shire presidents and councillors in the local government authorities which control areas on both sides of the river Murray from the sea in South Australia to its upper waters, have done, and are doing, splendid work without fee, or reward. Those people have only one desire, and that is to help in the development of the Murray valley, and to increase the prosperity and well-being of the people who live there. They are splendid Australians, who give generously of their time and talents. They are not only entitled to the gratitude of the National Parliament; they are also entitled to all the encouragement and support, material and financial, that the governments of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia can afford to give them. I regularly receive a newspaper called Riverland, which, in and out of season for many years, has advocated that the Hume weir should be completed, and I offer my congratulations not only to that journal and to all the municipalities that have co-operated with the State governments in bringing this work to fruition, but also to the Murray Valley Development League and its constituent sections which have made their representations courteously and convincingly to governments of all political complexions to get on with this important work so that the Murray River may be harnessed from its source to the sea.
There is much more to be done, as the Minister for the Interior well knows, because he is the chairman of the River Murray Commission. He would know of the additional work that is to be done on that river system, if it is to be made as useful as we can make it for the service of our people. To the present time, on the New South Wales side of the river, there has been very little use made of the water rights guaranteed under the original legislation. On the Victorian side much better use has been made of the available water, and so we have great cities like Mildura and Shepparton, and thriving towns like Yarrawonga and other places, none of which would be a flourishing centre if the origins I scheme had not been implemented nearly 40 years ago. However, such improvements as have been made to the land on the Victorian side of the river, can be made on the New South Wales side, and I hope that the New South Wales Government, and the New South Wales municipalities and the various water trusts in the Riverina, will avail themselves of the rights that have been given to them in the past, and others which will be given to them under this legislation, to help to develop that v.ery important part of Australia. Some day, added responsibilities will fall upon those authorities, and after a great number of people settle in that area we shall probably see the beginnings of a new State. I hope that in time to come there will be a State of Riverina, or if that is not possible or not desirable, a State which will be a Murray valley State, embracing people on both sides of the Murray river system, with all the rights possessed by the other States.
My views about the creation of new States are fairly well known, and they are at least enthusiastically held. I want to see everything possible done to help develop the river Murray area. In 1948, the estimated cost of the scheme, including the amount expended to that time, was £14,000,000, but the Commonwealth will now have to spend £19,750,000 on it. I do not begrudge the expenditure of that large sum of money, because I recall that Australia was spending about £1,000,000 a day during the last war to keep the country free. In view of what we did during the war years, I consider that it is not too much to ask the people of this country to spend an extra £5,750,000 to make the Murray River as profitable and as serviceable to Australia as it is possible to make it. It is our misfortune to live in the driest of the earth’s continents, but, in another sense, it is our good fortune. If Australia had not been the driest of the continents when the tough, rugged people from whom we are descended first came here, we should not have had an Australian nation to-day. This country would have been occupied by millions of other people if it had a river system like the Mississippi system, and consequently we should not have been enjoying the bounty of providence in this part of the world.
A number of regulators are to be constructed on the river, but they will not cost much, and no objection can be raised to expenditure on their construction. These works are to be built between Tocumwal and Echuca, and their construction, in the opinion of the experts, is desirable. The reserve quantity of water to be held in storage in drought yen rs - and we must be approaching a drought year now - will increase from a minimum of 750,000 acre-feet to a minimum of 1,000,000 acre-feet. In biblical times the lean years were one in seven. “We have had eight good years in succession, so, sooner or later, we are due for a lean year. Therefore, it is a good thing that the Government is pressing on with this important work, and after the scheme has been completed, no matter how dry the year may be, none of the people in the Murray River valley will have to suffer in any way from a lack of water. The Chifley Government made a request - the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. “Ward), who were Ministers in that Government, will remember it - to the governments of New South “Wales and Victoria as the governments particularly concerned, for the right of inspection in the upper reaches of the Murray River, so that if it was thought that soil erosion was occurring there through neglect, the Commonwealth would be entitled to urge the State governments to take remedial measures. There is a danger that the Hume reservoir may some day silt up. I believe that that danger is more remote than we think, but the governments of New South Wales and Victoria took a parochial view of the matter and refused to allow the Commonwealth to have any right to interfere. It seems unfortunate that they adopted that attitude, because the Commonwealth could have been a useful force in helping to prevent erosion in that area. At least its agencies like the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization could have helped in that respect.
The Government proposes to help protect the forests, the soil and the waters of the Murray valley. As the Minister said, not only is the matter of water involved in this scheme ; there is also the matter of milling rights, the protection of the red gum forests which are so valuable, and a number of other matters which are worthy of the greatest consideration. We know that timber for housing is in short supply, and we do not want to cause any detriment to saw-milling interests in this country. As the Murray valley is comparatively close to Sydney and Melbourne, we should help the saw-millers in that area as much as we can. Like the Goldmining Industry Assistance Bill 1954, this bill is a worth-while step forward in our economic life, and the Opposition supports it.
.- Honorable members have already dealt with the Gold-mining Industry Assistance Bill 1954. We are now dealing with the River Murray Waters Bill 1954. Many people have read the book entitled Water Into Gold, and I have no doubt that we all agree that water is gold to this country. This bill is a most satisfactory measure, because it will do several things which are of paramount importance to the people who live in the Murray valley. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) made an excellent speech on this measure, and covered the matter in detail. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has also made a worthwhile contribution to the debate. If I were to cover the same ground it would be, in the words of Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron), merely tedious repetition. Therefore, I desire to touch on only a few of the important matters which are dealt with in the bill. The bill provides for the storage capacity of the Hume reservoir to be increased from 2,000,000 acre feet to 2,500,000 acre feet. All the people who reside in the Murray valley will welcome that provision. This measure will give legislative authority for that project to be undertaken. It will also provide for the execution of certain work on effluent streams between Tocumwal and Echuca to prevent loss in the regulated flow of the river. If we are to increase the capacity of the Hume reservoir, I suggest that we must make the best use of the extra quantity of water so stored, and consequently the work on the effluents will follow the work to increase the capacity of the reservoir. The bill will also provide for the increased cost of the scheme from £14,000,000 to £19,750,000. Moreover, the reserves of water to be held in storage for use in drought years will be increased from 750,000 acre feet to 1,000,000 acre feet. That provision is’ of great importance because, as the honorable member for Melbourne has said, we must be approaching a drought year. I sincerely hope, of course, that we are not, but I am glad that this Government has sufficient fore-, sight to realize that we must keep sufficient water in store to guard against drought conditions if they should again occur. Indeed, we must do everything possible to preserve the water of the river Murray system.
It has been said that if water could be piped through the Mallee for both stock and domestic consumption, instead of flowing through open channels, the amount of water saved would be equal to the amount of water that could be held in two dams the size of the Hume reservoir. I believe that that is quite true, because it has been stated by Victorian Labour Ministers administering water supply, that in some parts of the Mallee 95 per cent, of the water flowing along open channels is lost before it gets to the consumers. Therefore, if pipe lines could be run through the Mallee, a tremendous amount of water would be saved. Indeed, if only a portion of the water supply of the Mallee could be run through pipes, it would be a considerable economic advantage. I urge the Australian Government, and the State governments concerned, to investigate that proposition. It would cost at least £80,000,000 to build another two reservoirs of the size of the Hume reservoir, and probably they would not be filled, whereas pipe lines to conserve the same amount of water as those two reservoirs would not cost anything like that. I introduced a deputation to the Minister to advocate a project in which people in my electorate are greatly interested. I refer to the construction near Swan Hill of the Marraboor weir on the Marraboor River, or what is known as the Little Murray. The Minister was not the man who was really in the position to make the decision on that work, but he gave the deputation a good hearing. We are still strongly advocating the construction of this project, because adjacent to the site of this weir are thousands of acres of fertile Murray River country in New South Wales <&nd Victoria. At present, say, 1,000 people are living in that area, but if the land could be reticulated, the population, at a conservative estimate, could be increased twentyfold, perhaps fiftyfold. The Murray valley is a fertile stretch of country, but it must have water and more water.
– Lots of cool, clear water.
– Yes. Sunraysia consists of Mildura, Merbein and Redcliffs, and as soon as the traveller enters that oasis of green vines, citrus fruits, vegetable gardens and dairy farms, he is impressed with what water can do for such an area. I believe that the governments of this country should enter into more agreements to extend, as much as possible, the capacity of all the storages in order to bring water to such areas.
I wish to pay a tribute at this stage to an organization that has done much for the Murray valley. Men who have some knowledge of the area will know immediately that I am about to mention the Murray Valley Development League. For many many years, that league has endeavoured to foster the extension and opening up of productive land in that area. I pay a special tribute to the secretary of the organization, Mr. Lawrence, who, year in and year out, has advocated closer settlement in, and increased water supplies for, the Murray valley. It was the Murray Valley Development League that coined the phrase which the honorable member for Melbourne used to-night, “a million people in the Murray valley”. The honorable gentleman said that the Murray valley may not have a population of 1,000,000 people in his time, but I believe it is quite possible that some of the younger members of this House will see that day. It only requires the extension of schemes such as this to increase settlement, in the valley. It needs the construction of roads in the area, as I have advocated in this House on every occasion the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement has been debated. I believe that this bill is in the best interests of Australia, and I give it the strongest support.
Although I may be guilty of repetition, I wish to impress on the governments of New South Wales and Victoria respectively the need for the construction of the Marraboor weir. I direct attention to the River Murray Waters Agreement, which provides, in part, for the construction of weirs and locks in the course of the river Murray from its mouth to Echuca. The agreement also states that the works on the river Murray . above its junction with the river Darling shall be constructed by the governments of New South Wales and Victoria severally or jointly, as may be mutually agreed upon by them or, as in default of such agreement, may be determined by the River Murray Waters Commission. I ask the House to take special note of those words. I hope that the Minister will have an opportunity to tell us that, if Victoria and New South Wales cannot agree on the construction of the Marraboor weir, it will be possible for the commission to make a decision on the work. The answer may be that it is possible for the commission to make the decision, but that New South Wales and Victoria would not supply the necessary finance. The Commonwealth, as has already been pointed out, is supplying a fairly large sum of money for the extension of the Hume Weir. Therefore, I should like the Government to state, if possible to-night, how much money it would be prepared to provide for a project like the Marraboor weir. If such an announcement were made, the governments of New South Wales and Victoria would then be obliged to say whether they were prepared to contribute their respective shares to finance the construction of that most desirable weir. The availability of water from the Marraboor weir would make possible a great increase of production in the Murray valley. People are eager to settle in this area, and everything would be favorable if the States concerned would agree to the work.
The honorable member for Melbourne expressed the hope that power and water from the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme would be available for the Murray valley at a cheap rate, and he added that the provision of water and power at a reasonable cost would do much to extend activities in that area. I agree with that statement, but I remind him that section 32 of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act, which was passed by the Labour Government in 1949, reads as follows: -
The price at which electricity is supplied or sold by the Authority shall be such as the Treasurer, after receipt of a recommendation by the Minister, determines.
So it is not just a matter of hope that the electricity will be cheap. It is a matter of what the Treasurer of the day “determines. The honorable member for Melbourne need not have any fear about whether electricity will be provided at a cheap rate to the Murray valley if this Government remains in office, because it has an excellent record of service to the primary-producing industries. This Government realizes that water, power and all the other things that lead to greater productivity in Australia are for the common good of this great Commonwealth.
.- I am very glad that I have heard the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) expound the benefits of the Murray River scheme, and commend the Government on the introduction of this bill. The Commonwealth is to provide an additional sum of money for the development of the waters of the river Murray. This proposal seems to me to be another example of greasing the already fatted pig. The Commonwealth is engaging in vast water and power schemes on the eastern side of the continent. The Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme is intended to provide a considerable quantity of water and power - at terrific cost - to States which are already fairly well served with water and power. Under this bill, the Commonwealth is to provide additional finance for New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia in connexion with the further conservation of the waters of the river Murray under a scheme which has already cost the Commonwealth Treasury a considerable sum of money.
– It would be cheap at four times the cost.
– It depends on what the honorable member for Mallee calls cheap. I desire to point out that water conservation is one of the most urgent requirements of the people on the western side of this continent, and that we have received very scant consideration from Commonwealth Treasurers for many years.
– The allocations from the petrol tax are some compensation.
– I realize that the Chair will not permit me to discuss the petrol tax, because it is not relevant to this bill, but I point out, in passing, that part of the allocation to Western Australia from the proceeds of that tax is a small contribution made by Victoria to recompense us for the big contribution which we make to the economy of this country through our exports.
– What about the cost of bringing Western Australian members to Canberra?
– That is a bagatelle compared with our value to this Parliament. The purpose of this bill is to make provision for the further development of the Murray valley, which has already been substantially developed. I point out that the disposal of one of the products of the Murray valley is now giving some people a headache.
– Why not take a national view?
– That question is always asked by some one who wants the other fellow to see his point of view. If I were to suggest that the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) should take a national view and realize that this continent has a western side as well as an eastern side to develop, he would consider that I was not taking a national view. It is because I am taking a national view that I ask honorable members and the Government to realize that they just cannot afford to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the claims of Western Australia for some of the grease that is now being smeared on the eastern States’ Pig-
– Is the honorable member opposed to the bill?
– No, but I wish to point out that we in Western . Australia are entitled to some consideration when money is being allocated for water conservation. Over the years, we have made repeated requests to Commonwealth Treasurers for assistance to develop our own water supplies. I remind the House that Western Australia may be developed at less cost, and offers a quicker return, than any other part of the Commonwealth. Our only handicap is the lack of an adequate assured water supply, and, obviously, the necessary initial capital to provide it. Whilst I support the bill, I do so, not only with some envy, but also with regret, because this Government, like its predecessors, has concentrated its attention on the eastern side of the continent. Apparently, £200,000,000 or £400,000,000 is a bagatelle to spend on the provision of water for so-called development on the eastern seaboard, yet if Western Australia asks for a meTe £1,000,000 to assist it to provide additional water supply facilities, the Commonwealth is not able to find the money.
– The Treasurer, ‘ and the Government of which the honorable member is a supporter, were responsible for that action.
– Of course the Treasurer, and the Government of which I am a supporter, were responsible. It is time that a change was made, and that some protest was made against a concentration of attention upon the eastern States. Western Australia wishes to participate in some of the schemes of development that the Government is encouraging. I hope that I shall have the pleasure of speaking very highly of the Government in the not too far distant future for having given assistance to the western part of this country, for having aided its speedy development, and for having provided capital requirements for the one thing that we must have if we are to take full advantage of the bounteous provision that Providence has given to us, that is, an adequate water supply. I support the bill, and I hope that Western Australia will share in the next hand-out that is made.
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.
Office Accommodation - Onions - Australias* Military Forces: Cadet Corps - Papua and New Guinea: Slaying of Patrol Officers - Liquor at Russian Embassy - Communism - Atomic Energy - Australian Publicity Abroad - The Parliament - Dried Fruits - Postal Department - Poultry - Tobacco.
Motion (by Mr. Kent Hughes) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I shall not delay the House very long, but there are two matters that I wish to raise. The first relates to the occupation by the Olympic Games Organizing Committee, of which the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) is chairman, and of which I am a member, of portion of the Elizabeth-street post office. The Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association has forwarded a. letter to me, and it has asked me to bring before the House the action of the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs in relation to the provision of that accommodation. I am informed by Mr. T. W. Canty, the secretary of the Victorian branch of the association, that the Victorian branch council resents the action of the authorities in displacing officers of the department to make this accommodation available. He stated -
As you are aware offices of the Department are scattered in several suburbs as well as in numerous buildings in the city and in many instances officers are required to work in overcrowded conditions.
My Branch Council would appreciate any action taken by you to publicise this misapplication of Departmental Office accommodation.
I place the matter before the Minister for the Interior, not because he is respon sible, as chairman of the Olympic Games Organizing ‘Committee, for what has been done, but with a view to ascertaining whether accommodation could be made available in, perhaps, the Russellstreet exchange, which is now nearing completion, so that the Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association shall not continue to feel aggrieved at what it regards as the overcrowding of its officers, which has been accentuated by the action of the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs.
I have a very high regard for the Director-General, Mr. Chippindall, and I am sure that he would not do anything that would be likely to harm officers under his control, if it were possible to avoid doing so. The members of the association feel that they are entitled to submit their case, and I am submitting it on their behalf. I ask the Minister to take some notice of the association’s suggestion, with a view to ascertaining whether action can be taken to meet their objections and, at the same time, help the Olympic Games Organizing Committee, which has been very heavily subsidized by the Australian Government, the Victorian Government and the municipality of Melbourne, to obtain sufficient accommodation so that it may effectively discharge its obligations to the sporting authorities on whose behalf it is working so hard, and so that it may make a success of this great venture which we hope will not only help the city of Melbourne and the State of Victoria, but also bring great distinction to the Commonwealth of Australia.
– I shall have the matter investigated.
– I am very pleased to have the assurance of the Minister that the matter will be investigated.
The other matter to which I refer is one that has been brought to my attention by Mr. Thomas Carmody, who is the chairman of the Victorian Onion Marketing Board. It relates to the importation of Egyptian onions. Mr. Carmody forwarded a tele; gram to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan), in which he stated that he understood the Government was considering the issuing of licences for the importation of Egyptian processed onions. He stated that the board strongly protested, because the quality of the Egyptian processed onions was inferior to that of the Australian variety. In addition, he stated that more than sufficient supplies of Victorian onions were available to supply all of the consumer needs of Australia for fresh and processed onions. He concluded by stating that the onion-growers of Australia were most disturbed at the prospect of this threat to their livelihood. I ask the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Francis), who is sitting at the table, to bring the matter to the attention of the Minister who is acting for the Minister for Trade and Customs so that the Victorian Onion Marketing Board may receive the reply that it would like to receive, that is, that the Government does not intend to facilitate the importation of Egyptian onions while Australian onions are available to supply Australian needs. I speak, of course, as one who is naturally concerned with the interests of the primary producers.
.- I have been awaiting a definite opportunity to place a reasonable request before the House, and particularly before the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis), on behalf of the Tasmanian section of the Australian Army Cadet Corps. This is a branch of the services in which I interested myself following my discharge from the Australian Imperial Forces, and during the time that I was associated with the Education Department of Tasmania. I claim, therefore, to have some knowledge of this matter, not only in relation to the type of training that is considered to be both desirable and practicable for members of the corps during the time that they are undergoing secondary school education, but also in relation to the administrative side of the organization. I do not intend to submit to the House to-night the merits or otherwise of cadet training, although I have no hesitation in stating my belief that experience has proved conclusively that it is an excellent form of training and could ultimately provide many of the future leaders of the armed services. I know that the Minister will agree that that would be so, particularly in relation to the Duntroon Military College. However, those are merely my own personal opinions, which I have expressed by way of introduction to the request that I now intend to place before the Minister.
Cadet camp training facilities in Tasmania are completely inadequate to meet the needs of those who are responsible for the organization, and for the training of between 1,300 and 1,500 cadets annually. Let me trace briefly the organization of the cadet corps movement in Tasmania, because I believe that my request can best be supported by the simple facts. As I have just indicated, the total strength is approximately 1,500, which is comprised of cadets from all of the recognized schools of Tasmania. As I remember it, the corps is comprised of three battalions; one is situated in the south, one in the north, and the other comprises cadets from the north-west and west coast areas of the island. I shall not refer to the battalions in detail, except to state that each battalion comprises cadets from a number of schools, and that it is staffed by its own officers, who in turn are responsible to battalion headquarters and, finally, to brigade headquarters. It is a highly efficient organization. It is capably administered by permanent army officers and instructors, who display a keen and intelligent interest in their work, and who undoubtedly derive a great deal of pleasure from the high standard that is achieved.
Two camps are scheduled to be held in each year. Actually, three camps are held, because the existing facilities are not sufficient to allow the complete strength to assemble in the camp at the one time. For that reason, an opportunity does not exist for training on a brigade basis which, I suggest, is very important. The first camp is held during the school holidays in either May or August; it is known as the annual camp. The second camp, which is held in January, is limited to a course of instruction, and it is therefore confined to those cadets who have been selected as being suitable for promotion to non-commissioned and commissioned ranks. The only camp in Tasmania that is of any size and importance is located at Brighton. It is now the head-quarters, for field training purposes at least, of the national service training scheme in Tasmania. Each year, cadets are sent to Brighton to share its limited facilities, with many consequent difficulties. Although the camp may be eminently suitable for national service training purposes, as I believe it is, existing facilities are not sufficient to cope with both training groups, at least without many irritating problems. I suggest that it is undesirable to have cadets and national service trainees in the same environment.
The last camp, which was held in August, must have proved to be a great disappointment to many cadets who arrived at Brighton one day, were washed out on the next day, and subsequently returned to their homes. They were accommodated in tents. I have no doubt that they would hare been able to withstand the severe weather if they had been permitted to drain the area on which they were camped. As I understand the position, the tents were erected on the main camp site, and the commonsense precaution of digging drains was not permitted. I appreciate the reasons that, possibly, would prompt the camp commandant to issue such an order. The facilities at Brighton - I refer to the living quarters, mess rooms and other amenities - are excellent. Circumstances similar to those that were responsible for the termination of the last camp do not occur frequently. It is logical to assume that, normally, tents are able to provide adequate shelter for a period of ten or twelve days. There is a need for a permanent cadet camping area in Tasmania, and I have no doubt that, with all the facilities and materials that are available, the engineers could provide a permanent camp with little difficulty. Only the minimum requirements for a camp, in the way of ablution sheds, mess rooms and administrative offices, need to be provided. Suitable locations are available, notably at Evandale, in the north of Tasmania, where a large army camp was situated during World War II. That location has the added advantage of being centrally situated relative to the head-quarters of the three battalions. I agree that the matter should be left to the decision of the authorities who have an expert knowledge of these matters. I conclude by asking the Minister for the Army to consider my request, in the interests not only of those who are responsible for the organization of training, but also of the lads who volunteer to train to a high standard that will enable them to take an active and effective part in the defence of Australia should the occasion to defend the country ever arise.
.- I desire to take this opportunity to bring before the House a matter that I believe to be most important for Australia and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. I am pleased to see that the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) is now in the chamber to hear the matter ventilated. I refer to a tragic event that occurred at Telefomin, in New Guinea, when patrol officer Gerald Szarka and cadet patrol officer Geoffrey Harris were killed. I might mention that I knew both of those men, and my acquaintance with them has prompted me to raise the matter this evening. Many questions about the matter have been asked in this House, but they have not been satisfactorily answered by the Minister. I make that statement with all due respect to the Minister. The whole Telefomin affair is one of public interest and national concern. The Government, through the Minister, has a duty to. the parents of the deceased men, the Australian people, and the natives whom it governs. It should order a searching public inquiry, at which the parents should be allowed to give evidence. The Minister has sidestepped repeated questions on this matter, about which the parents of the two deceased men are deeply concerned, and in which the Administration of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea can be said to be largely culpable. It is reasonable to conclude that the Minister is endeavouring to shield people in high places.
I shall put to the Minister a number of pertinent questions. First why was compensation not paid to the relatives of a number of natives who were drowned in April, 1953, until December, 1953, a month after Szarka and Harris had been killed and eight months after the drown- 1 ing? Who was responsible for the delay, and why was it allowed to occur ? I want to refer at this juncture to a letter to Mrs.
Harris, the mother of Geoffrey Harris, which has come into my possession. The relevant portions of the letter read -
This is a short note to clarify a point mentioned in your letter dated September 19th.
You mentioned that Mr. Roberts told you I had said that it did not matter about the compensation. Before the murders I had written to Timperley-
The District Commissioner - that there was unrest due to the compensation not being paid. When I came to Wewak after handing over to Szarka I asked why the compensation had not been paid and again mentioned the unrest. I was told that there was a hold-up somewhere but that the payment would eventually be made.
The Administrator’s most recent statement on the Telefomin affair was that the station should never have been opened.
In view of that statement there has been considerable talk about this matter, and officers of the administration of the Territory have been told that in a sense they are responsible. The Administrator’s statement makes it clear that senior officers did not attach sufficient importance to the area in which the unfortunate events occurred.
Secondly, I ask the Minister why a number of natives were held for three months awaiting trial, despite constant pleas for urgent action by patrol officer Nolan and his successor, patrol officer Szarka. Szarka wrote to his superior officers about the difficulties caused by the holding of the prisoners. He informed his superiors that 27 prisoners, who were charged with various crimes, were being held at his post. He wrote -
I have no food to feed them and I am sending signals to try to find out if I can send them hack to their villages.
The officer previously in charge at the post, Nolan, did not have court powers. Szarka’s pleas for the assistance of another officer were ignored, and in desperation he allowed the natives to return to their villages rather than keep them starving at the post.
Thirdly, I ask the Minister why Geoffrey Harris, who had been only five months in the service of the Territory Administration and was only 22 years of age, was sent to Telefomin, despite a rule that no cadet with less than two years’ experience should be stationed in an uncontrolled area. Why did the Administration leave control of the dangerous Telefomin area to one patrol officer, one cadet patrol officer and three native boys, who lacked medical and other facilities? At the time that that situation existed, a number of experienced patrol officers were sent to Sydney to undertake a special course of study. Those officers were sent south while the tremendous responsibility of controlling the troublesome Telefomin area was left in the hands of the two young men who were killed. Was this done because the Administration did not regard the Telefomin area as important? The Telefomin post is now staffed by two senior administrative officers - an assistant district officer and a patrol officer - and a medical officer. A staff of that size is considered necessary now but at a time when the area urgently needed additional staff its needs were ignored. For that reason I state that the Administration must be held culpable for what has occurred.
Fourthly, I ask the Minister why cadet patrol officer Geoffrey Harris was allowed to lie badly wounded for ten hours and twenty minutes after the attack without, medical attention, although the attack had been reported by a native boy a little more than two hours after it occurred. Harris was not picked up until after he had died the next day. Those are pertinent questions that should be answered by public inquiry as a matter of urgency. They should not have been allowed to go unanswered for twelve months after the occurrence of the tragic event out of which they arise. I take this opportunity of putting those questions to the Minister with a plea that he let us know more about the incident and give the House an assurance that definite action has been taken to prevent a repetition of such occurrences.
I desire to mention another matter in relation to the Telefomin tragedy. A statement made by an officer of the Administration of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea was widely reported in the press recently. It caused considerable hurt to the parents of Harris and Szarka. It was reported that those officers had disregarded orders by patrolling separately. The parents deeply resent that report. Only two men were available to staff the patrol station. If the natives were dangerous, it was necessary for one man to remain at the post. Had it been left unattended it might have been burnt down. Much was made of the instruction that patrols should be made not singly, but in pairs. How could two officers, in charge of an area in which they were expected to control approximately 4,000 natives, make their patrols in pairs and keep an eye on the station? Patrols in pairs had not been the practice in the Territory for some time prior to the tragedy. Szarka and Harris did not disregard orders. The Administration disregarded its Owl] rules and ignored the gravity of the position in which the two young men were placed. The Government has a great responsibility to the people of Papua and New Guinea and of Australia. It must ensure that the Territory is properly governed, that the welfare of the natives is promoted, and that such incidents shall not recur in the future, particularly in view of events in Dutch New Guinea. The Government must ensure that patrol posts are manned in sufficient strength for the patrol officers to do the job that they must do in the interests of Australians and the people of Papua and New Guinea.
.- I wish to mention a very importantmatter about which I have been endeavouring for some time to obtain enlightenment. At question time to-day I referred to the fact that I had been refused information regarding the quantity of spirituous liquors imported free of duty by each of the foreign legations in Australia within the last five years. I asked also how many persons were attached to each legation. Those questions were asked on notice. I have now received from the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) the following reply: - lt is not the practice to disclose information relating to any importer’s ordinary business with the Department of Trade and Customs.
To-day I again failed to get the information that I sought from the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). Let me say here and now that I did not seek detailed information about the business of any importer engaged in either wholesale or retail distribution of spirits. A legation is in a position entirely different from that of any other establishment or of any private individual. The Prime Minister stated to-day that, for diplomatic reasons, it would be unwise to make available to the Parliament or to any honorable member the information that I seek. It would not be diplomatically unwise to make the information available, and this evening I shall state the reason why I have sought the information.
I refer to the embassy of a foreign nation that is not now represented in Australia, although, until recently, it maintained diplomatic relations with us - the Soviet embassy. I have been informed, and I suggest that if the Government agrees to make the necessary investigations it will find that I have been reliably informed, that for some time prior to the closing of the Soviet embassy huge quantities of spirituous liquors, much beyond the requirements of the embassy and its staff, were imported into Australia duty free and were sold on the Australian market at prices that were much below those normally ruling for similar liquors, but were no doubt such as to give a considerable margin of profit to those engaged in the traffic. I do not suggest for a moment that what was happening was officially known in the Soviet embassy, but I do suggest that a particular person attached to the embassy was engaged in the traffic. He was the gentleman who was responsible for obtaining supplies for the embassy and its staff. He used his position to import into Australia huge quantities of spirits that were intended, not for the official use of the Soviet staff, but for distribution and sale on the Australian market. I merely bring this matter to the notice of the Government so that it may be investigated. According to my information, the gentleman who was engaged in this traffic was a Mr. Petrov, whose name has been frequently mentioned and is now well known in Australia. I am reliably informed, also, that the gentleman who acted as his agent, for the distribution of the liquor on the Australian market was a Dr. Bialoguski, who also has been mentioned on a number of occasions in certain proceedings that are now current.
Investigations will reveal that considerable quantities of a particular brand of whisky - Bell’s special Scotch whisky - were imported into Australia by the gentleman to whom I have referred. I am not a connoisseur of whisky, but, doubtless, some honorable members on the Government side of the House will recognize the brand. I understand that it retails at about 47s. a bottle in Australia. However, the fortunate people who were able to obtain their supplies from the source to which I refer could obtain that whisky for £1 a bottle. I think that is a most serious matter, and I want the Government to investigate it thoroughly in order to determine whether there is any basis for the accusation. I understand that the New South Wales police have made certain investigations already, but evidently somebody in authority somewhere or other has prevented their inquiries from being brought to finality. I understand that they have questioned certain people in regard to the matter and have carried their investigations to a certain point.
The Government cannot argue that there is any question of interfering with diplomatic relationships, because we have severed diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, and, in any case, I should be astonished if that country would endeavour to cover up for one of its officers,, or ex-officers, who had been engaged in this traffic. I ask the Government to make the fullest inquiry into the matter to ascertain whether the New South Wales police have any information on the subject. If the Government is prepared to make such an investigation, I hope to be able to give it fuller information in relation to certain aspects of the traffic.
I directed a question to the Prime Minister on the subject to-day, but obtained no satisfaction. He may not have known of the particular information that I was seeking. This may be the first intimation that has reached him in relation to the matter. I have no reason to doubt the authenticity or the reliability of the information that I have received. Therefore, I suggest that, in such a serious matter, the Government ought to have investigations made immediately, because it may be that the traffic has not been confined only to one legation. Whilst it has been the practice of various governments to permit the entry of supplies of liquor free of customs duties for the use of legations and their staffs - I understand it is the practice throughout the world - I am sure that it was never intended that the privilege should provide an avenue for such illicit traffic as I have mentioned. Therefore, I hope that the Government will treat the matter as serious and make an immediate inquiry.
.- I ask the House to consider for a few minutes longer the matter that has been raised by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). As often happens in this House during adjournment debates, a matter has been raised and charges have been made against people about which the House has no facts and as to which no debate on the facts can follow. So, if there is to be any consideration of this matter, we have to go back to first principles and associations. Now, in this case, a very serious charge has been made against some of the personnel in the former Soviet embassy in this country. The charge is that they abused the diplomatic privilege of importing liquor free of duty for their own purposes, and that they sold it on the black market. No evidence has been produced to support that charge. We have asked reasonably, “ Who are the . officers concerned in this ? “, and we have been told that a Mr. Petrov is the person who abused this privilege, no doubt contrary to the orders of his embassy and of his Government, for his own gain. This Mr. Petrov is the same person who has sought asylum in Australia and has made certain revelations
– Order ! The honorable member must keep off that aspect of the subject.
– Well, Mr. Speaker, I shall do so. I shall content myself with saying that this Mr. Petrov is a person who, for various reasons, has incurred the severe disapproval of all Communists throughout the world. Now no evidence has been produced about him, except the word of the honorable member for East Sydney, who, not for the first time, has risen to plead the Communist cause in this House - and, if there is a Communist agent in this House who expresses Communist views, it is the honorable member for East Sydney.
– Order !
– Mr. Speaker, I ask that that term be withdrawn.
– Order ! The honorable member for Evans is not entitled to refer to an honorable member as a Communist agent. The term must be withdrawn.
– Well, Mr. Speaker-
– Order ! I order the withdrawal of the term.
– I withdraw the term “ Communist agent “. No better evidence was produced than the fact that the charge against Mr. Petrov was made by the honorable member for East Sydney. The House is entitled to draw its own conclusions from the continuous pattern of behaviour of the honorable member for East Sydney. Although, in deference to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw the charge that he is a Communist agent, I do say that he expresses Communist views consistently in this House, and his object is clear enough. It is to try to discredit the evidence given by Mr. Petrov before the royal commission.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman cannot refer to any proceedings before the royal commission.
– Well, his object is to destroy the credit of Mr. Petrov in the eyes of the Australian people. Mr. Petrov is nothing to me. He, no doubt, had his own good reasons for taking the course that he did. Whether or not the views that he has expressed, the evidence that he has given and the documents he has produced are sound and truthful is a matter, not for this House to examine, but for a duly constituted tribunal elsewhere, and I suggest to honorable members that that tribunal is very well qualified to examine the truth and the bona fides of the evidence that is produced before it. The intention of this suggestion by the honorable member for East Sydney is absolutely plain. It is not to stop a leakage of customs duties from the Soviet embassy, because that establishment does not exist any longer. If the honorable member for East Sydney were seeking to uphold the customs laws of this country in order to see that duties were not evaded, why would he bother about the misdeeds of officers of an embassy which has been closed, and which, for all we know, may not re-appear in this country for years or forever? Obviously, his interest in this matter has nothing to do with the upholding of the customs laws of this country. His motive is a different one. And what is it? It is, clearly, to discredit Mr. Petrov in the eyes of the Australian, public, and his reason for trying to do that has nothing to do with customs laws or diplomatic privilege. Of course not! His object is to try to destroy the credit of the royal commission which is inquiring into matters-
-Order ! The honorable gentleman cannot refer to the royal commission.
– You have ruled, Mr. Speaker, that I cannot refer to the honorable member as a Communist agent in the House, and I defer to that ruling, but it is absolutely .clear that the honorable member is expressing Communist views and supporting the ideas of the Communist party in trying to discredit the commission.
The honorable member not only mentioned the name of Mr. Petrov; he also mentioned another name, that of Dr. Bialoguski.
– Another crook!
– The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) comes in on the same line, and that will not surprise any member of this. House who has watched his activities for the last five years. Nobody will be surprised to see the honorable member for Watson come in back-handed, as it were, on the
Communist band-waggon. The name of Dr. Bialoguski kas been thrown into the debate. Now who is he? He is the gentleman who the Communist party thought was a Communist agent in this country, but who turned out to be a security agent instead. He thereby incurred the wrath of the Communist party on two grounds - first of all, for having served the cause of democracy, and, secondly, for having thwarted the cause of the Communists. So it is not surprising that the honorable member for East Sydney, supporting as he does the Communist viewpoint, whenever he has the opportunity to do so, comes in to destroy his credit, too. I hope that T have demonstrated to the House that these objections to the evasion of customs duties and to the abuse of diplomatic privilege and the like, which the honorable member has been parading before the House for quite a long time, do not deserve a moment’s consideration. The matter is important only because it demonstrates strongly the way in which the honorable member for East Sydney continually pleads the Communist cause.
– I wish to draw the attention of the House to a matter at the Australian National University, because I believe that honorable members do not sufficiently appreciate the potential importance of something that is occurring there. I refer to the speedy completion of the nuclear accelerator which is under construction in the Department of Physical Sciences at the university. This machine is destined to play a part in world nuclear research, and, although the matter 1 bring forward involves a very small amount of money, I believe it is of considerable importance, both for the prestige of Australia and Australian science, and, also, on the wider canvas, for the advancement of nuclear science throughout the world. There is under construction at the Australian National University an accelerator which will be used for nuclear experiments and which, when it is completed, will be the most powerful in the world.
Let me relate the circumstances to the House in order to put the matter into perspective. At the present moment there are, so far as I know - and I speak without knowledge of Russia - only two powerful nuclear accelerators in the world. One is at the University of Birmingham, and it was constructed in accordance with designs that Professor Oliphant submitted when he was at that university. The other is at Brookhaven, in the United States of America. The machine at Birmingham has a capacity of one times 10” electron volts. The one at Brookhaven has a capacity of 2.3 times 10” electron volts. There is shortly to come into operation, perhaps in the next few weeks, at Berkeley, in California, a machine with a capacity of five times 10° electron volts. That machine, let me tell honorable members, has cost something like 25,000,000 dollars, and has taken about seven years to complete. The machine at the Australian National University is of a new design and, although everybody thinks it will work, no absolute guarantee can be given on that point. However, it is designed to give ten times 10”, or 1010, electron volts. In other words, when it comes into operation, it will have twice the capacity of the new machine which is expected to be brought into operation shortly at Berkeley, in California. It will be twice as powerful as any other accelerating machine in the world, and itis not thought that a machine with a greater capacity could be completed before 1960.
Therefore, if we can build this machine within a reasonable time, there will be a period of some years when it will be the most powerful machine in the world, lt has been constructed to Professor Oliphant’s design and it is not similar to the machine in California, which has been constructed on quite different principles. Although the machine in Canberra will not give the same pulse rate - that is, the same number of bursts of atomic energy per minute - as will the one in California, it will in other respects give the same experimental capacity. Now the difference between five times 10° electron volts and the double capacity which is projected in Canberra is of vital significance to physicists. It will enable them to conduct two kinds of experiments which, probably, lie outside the range even of the machine which is coming into operation at Berkeley in California. The first of those experiments may enable man for the first time to create matter out of ^energy. Nobody can say that that is possible, but it may be possible actually to create hydrogen from pure energy and reverse the process whereby atomic energy appears from the annihilation of matter. That is of great theoretical importance, but of even greater theoretical importance is ‘the fact that this new machine at the Australian National University will give the possibility of verifying the existence of the negative proton which is a particle that has never been observed but whose existence appears to be necessary as part of the theory of nuclear energy, and failure to observe it has been one of the things that has bedevilled nuclear scientists over the years. It is of fundamental importance to determine whether it exists in fact, or whether it has existed only in theory, so that theory will have to be re-modelled to fit the facts.
I mention these matters - they are not the only ones - to show how important the speedy construction of this accelerator at the Australian National University is, because, if it were completed, the work that would be done during the period from its completion until 1960 would make Canberra the world centre of study of certain vital aspects of nuclear science. In those circumstances, I believe the House will agree that the sooner we complete this machine the better. The position is that its completion may take eighteen months or three years. There are many unknowns, and no definite estimate can be given; but one thing which is holding it back is the shortage of trained staff.. Trained staff cannot be obtained on a day-to-day basis. I have spoken to Professor Oliphant on this matter and the details I have mentioned 1 have given on his authority. He has told me that he requires six extra technicians each of whom will require a salary of £1,500 a year; and he does not think he will be able to attract such technicians to Canberra unless he can offer them some long-term employment. The cost of the salaries of those six technicians would amount to £9,000 annually, and it would only be reasonable to be able to offer an average of five years’ employment in order to attract the correct type to Canberra. In other words, we are speaking about a total expenditure of something under £50,000. The Australian National University, perhaps, could provide that sum from its own funds, but one of the troubles about that is that within the university there are different faculties competing for funds, and what was given to one may, perhaps, have to be given to another. I suggest that we should be well advised to make, either through the Atomic Energy Commission or from some other source, an ad hoc grant of £50,000 for the speedy completion of this reactor which is of great importance for the future of nuclear science in Australia. I urge the Government to do this. It is a comparatively small thing compared with the immense results which may, perhaps - no one can give a guarantee in this respect - accrue to nuclear science all over the world and to Australia in particular from the speedy completion of this machine.
– The House is once again indebted to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) for bringing before it a very important and extremely interesting subject and for explaining it with his usual lucidity. I desire simply to say a few words in support of what he has said. First, I should like to say that the additional outlay involved is comparatively small because of the efficiency of the management of the Department of Physics in the Australian National .University, which has been able to pursue this project to the stage it has reached within the limited financial resources available to it. With regard to what the honorable member for Mackellar had to say about the apportionment of financial resources within the Australian National University, I should not like it to be thought that there was any sort of contest between the various schools for the finance that, is available. Considerable advances have been made available annually by the Parliament to the university, but honorable members will agree that that expenditure is fully justified. T have some knowledge of this question of the apportionment of these funds between the various schools, and I assure the House that the apportionment is made not in rivalry, or in competition, but on the basis of commonsense and understanding. The House can be assured that the various departments of the university do their best to make the utmost use of the various funds that are made available to them. It is no good our imagining that we can set up a school of nuclear physics and not expect it to be extremely expensive. I make it clear that this particular school, as these things go, has not been anything like as expensive as similar institutions in other parts of the world. [ believe that has been due in large measure to the able direction of the school under the very distinguished Australian scientist who is the head of it.
I should like to add a little to what the honorable member for Mackellar has said about the importance of this matter. This is research into what one might almost describe as the ultimate secrets of science, and the conceptions behind it are far reaching and important. The transformation of matter into energy and energy into matter almost staggers the imagination. The honorable member spoke about Australian prestige being enhanced, but it is not merely a question of Australia acquiring prestige but rather the fact that that in its turn will bring to Australia immense benefits from the scientific world. This is in the nature of an experiment. Nobody can guarantee that the results expected, either from research into the transformation of energy into matter or from research into the negative proton which involves some of the most difficult conceptions of modern physical science, will be obtained. Nobody can say that the research will be completely successful; but nobody could say, before the atom bomb was developed, that that scientific experiment would be completely successful. I have every confidence in the school of physical sciences in the Australian National University and I believe that it will bring this project to a successful conclusion. I feel sure that the House will be in accord with me when I say that it would be well within the sentiment of the House to do what it can to make this amount of money available. The age in which great geographical discoveries were made has now passed away, but we have moved forward into another age in which amazing dis*- coveries in the world of science are being made day by day. It is a matter of great pride to all of us to recall the number of names in this field which are British names and, in this modern world, to realize that some of them are Australian names. I am sure that the House will be in accord with the honorable member for Mackellar, in directing its attention to this matter to-night. I have much pleasure in supporting his remarks, and I ask the House also to put its support behind him.
– I entirely agree with the remarks that have just been made by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) on the subject that they have raised. Primarily, the matter affects the use of* atomic energy for purposes of peaceful development. It is satisfactory to find such unanimity in the House regarding the work that is being done by Professor Oliphant. It was not always so, but, apparently, it is so to-night. I do not think that it would be right in such a tremendous field to place limits upon the expenditure involved. If Professor Oliphant requires additional staff, he should have the same generous treatment accorded to him as is being accorded to the new Professor of Physics in the University of Sydney. The facts given by the honorable member for Mackellar show that here it looks as though the results may be more startling and desirable than even the results that are being obtained at the great University of Berkerley in California.
This opens up a tremendous field. In this great field, the two students of Rutherford who are recognized as beingoutstanding in science are Cocker oft and and Oliphant. I heard Cockcroft on the occasion on which he received an. honorary degree at the Australian National University pay a great tributeto Oliphant. He said that Oliphant, through his work, had contributed greatly to the defence of Great Britain in thecrucial days of World War II. against the attacks first of the submarine, and then the attacks by air, and that he had! contributed enormously to the victory in1 the Pacific. Such money as is expended on the experimental work that is going on here, will help not only in peaceful development but will also be a great contribution to defence. As Professor Oliphant’s name has been mentioned, I, should like to say a little more about him ; and I do not want to be misunderstood. I regard him as one of the great world figures. It is a matter of anxiety, and it should be a matter for action by this House, that Professor Oliphant is not permitted to pursue his research in one field when he has been visiting other countries. That has happened on one or two occasions. It is vital to his work that he should have that opportunity It is the duty of the Australian Government to see that this great genius in this field, and this great patriot, for he has proved his patriotism, shall be supported. I am glad that his name has been mentioned. I recall his original selection by the late Mr. Chifley when the latter was in London. The Opposition believes that the Parliament as a whole should support Professor Oliphant in the work that he is doing. Professor Oliphant and another student of Rutherford, are probably two of the foremost scientists in the world; and in Oliphant, we have an Australian.
– I believe that honorable members should feel indebted to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) for bringing forward this important matter.
– What has happened?
– If the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) would take half as much interest in nuclear physics as the honorable member for Mackellar takes, he might play a far more important part in national affairs than he is playing at present. No matter how much we disagree about politics with the honorable member for Mackellar - and I disagree violently with him on most matters - honorable .members should agree that we owe him a debt of gratitude for the interest that he has always displayed in nuclear physics. Every honorable member who had the privilege of hearing an address by Professor Oliphant on that important sub ject, which was arranged by the honorable member for Mackellar, will agree that the honorable member did an excellent job for the Parliament in arranging that lecture. I suggest that the Government should take notice of the support that the honorable member for Mackellar is receiving to-night, not only from his own side of the House, but also from the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), myself, and even the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). The Government should pay particular attention to what the honorable member for Mackellar has said about the attempts that Professor Oliphant is making to obtain suitable assistance in the work that he is engaged in, and it should not be niggardly in providing that help for the professor. This House should indicate clearly that it expects the Government to fulfill its obligations, amd give the professor the assistance that he requires.
For a long time I took very little interest in nuclear physics, and until 1 heard the lecture given by Professor Oliphant and had received some further information privately from the honorable member for Mackellar, I had no idea of the great importance of that subject to the whole world. It is disgraceful to see persons outside the Parliament show their ignorance of this matter by laughing and giggling when it is mentioned, but it is much more disgraceful to see honorable members doing the same thing. I appeal to the Government to treat this matter very seriously and not merely as an ordinary adjournment matter, raised by back benchers, which can be easily disregarded. I say to the Minister for the Army - although lie is not noted for any great degree- of intelligence
– That remark is unworthy of the honorable gentleman; no one takes him seriously.
– I say to the Minister and to other members of the Cabinet who are capable of thinking about the matter, that they should understand that honorable members on both sides of the House are united in demanding that this hopeless Government, which up to date has allowed
Professor Oliphant to struggle along without assistance, should give him adequate assistance to carry out his important work.
.- The Australian National University comes under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), but, as I have some responsibility for matters relating to atomic energy, I desire to indicate that the interesting remarks of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. “Wentworth) will be brought to the notice of the Prime Minister and the Government. Something has been said about Professor Oliphant. He is a very distinguished Australian and, in his sphere, he is one of the most eminent scientists in the world. This Government has confidence in him, and we showed it some time ago to all the world, by appointing him to be a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Atomic Energy Commission. That action indicated to everybody that he has our complete confidence.
.- I am sorry to have to take honorable members from the heights of nuclear physics to more earthy matters. I recently had the privilege of being a member of a Commonwealth parliamentary delegation to overseas countries. While overseas I noticed that the people whom I met were interested in sporting matters such as our Olympic representatives, test cricket matches, Davis Cup tennis games, and so on. But more interest than that displayed in those things was shown in books written about Australia by a wellknown author who has visited this country. I have no personal knowledge of the author. I do not know his publisher and I have no financial interest at all in the publishing of his books. Therefore, honorable members will understand that I am completely disinterested in bringing this matter to their attention. Australians may consider that their country is well known in other parts of the world, but we are remote from, other nations and we need all the favorable publicity that we can get. The books written by Nevil Shute about Australia have done a real service to this country. His style is very popular, his name is well known and he has directed a considerable amount of attention to Australia from people overseas who would not have been interested in us otherwise. Consequently, it is very gratifying to know that a man who came here as practically a new Australian, has performed such an excellent service to this country.
– My remarks are directed to you, Mr. Speaker. When I came to my seat in the House to-day, I found on it a seventeen-page roneod foolscap document which apparently contained a lecture entitled A Look through a Window at World War III., which had been delivered by Field-Marshal Montgomery to the Royal United Services Institution. I have not had time to read this document, but I should imagine, from its authorship, that it would repay study and be of intense interest. However, I desire to know the method by which this particular document came to be distributed in the House this afternoon, because I consider that it is a most unusual procedure to have documents of this nature placed on the seats of honorable members. As far as I can ascertain, the report of the lecture by this gentleman had been placed on the seat of every honorable member before the House met to-day. I do not know whether that was done by your authority, Mr. Speaker, or by the authority of the House or through the action of some honorable member or Minister.
– What is the honorable member objecting to? The document, the contents, or what?
– The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) may be excused because it is late at night, and possibly he should be abed. But if he will listen to me he will find out that what I am speaking about is not concerned with the contents of the document, but with the most unusual method of distributing it. Here is a particular argument, and it raises very serious matters for consideration.
– It was distributed in answer to a request.
– I do not intend to take an answer to my query from the honorable member for Evans, who, in the few years that he has been in this House, has shown no particular appreciation of the privileges and rights of honorable members of this House or the way in which they should be protected from special pressure groups and interests outside. I am not discussing the merits of the arguments advanced by Field-Marshal Montgomery. I am raising the matter of the way in which the document was distributed. If any Minister or member who desires to do so can placard this House with arguments on particular matters, and in that way exercise pressure on honorable members, a very undesirable situation will be created. There is a proper way in which matters of this kind can be brought to the attention of honorable members, without distributing documents inside this House to members. If the address given by Field-Marshal Montgomery, which no doubt is of considerable interest, can be distributed in the way in which it was distributed, then any matter of controversy, and any special argument, can be brought here in documentary form and distributed for the attention of honorable members. That would lay the way open for most undesirable forms of pressure to be exercised on the members of this House. I therefore wish to know whether the distribution of the document was authorized by the House or by you, Mr. Speaker, or whether the distribution in this House was by a Minister in reply to a request made by an individual member of the House.
– I assure the honorable member that until he raised this matter I did not know that the document had been distributed. Something has been said to me since the honorable member rose, and I shall make inquiry about the matter and give him an answer, I hope to-morrow.
.- I again desire to refer to the problems facing the dried fruits industry. The meetings of the federal council of the -Australian Dried Fruits Association, commenced in Melbourne yesterday. Reporting on the activities of the board of management of the association, the chairman, Mr. P. Malloch, said that the industry was disappointed that the Australian Government had refused its request for temporary financial assistance pending realization of the 1954 crop. It was most difficult to accept the Government’s decision in a matter which sought no financial grant, but merely assistance, until the fruit had. been sold. As it is, the Government has avoided all responsibility in temporarily helping an industry to finance its production in the 1955 season. Pre-harvest and harvest costs must, therefore, be left to the trading banks, and to growers from their own resources, which have already been seriously depleted through falling prices and increasing costs. The Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, Senator McLeay, attended that conference, and delivered the opening address. He stated, among other things -
It was realized that while the industry ha* been having a problem of cash shortage due to the early slow sales of the 1954 crop, it was not evident from the available facts that conditions were such as to warrant the payment of a subsidy.
The actual prices that the fruit had brought were given by the Minister in his speech, as follows: -
The latest figures available indicate that with the normally heavy Christinas trade still to go 23,000 tons have already been sold from the total quantity of 47,000 tons of dried fruits allocated for shipment to the United Kingdom this year. All the currants have been disposed oi and exporters will return the support price of £70 sterling per ton
I am not reading those figures merely for the sake of reading them. I desire to compare the prices with the cost of production survey of 1949-50. The Minister continued -
The 13,500 tons of sultanas that have been sold have realized the f.o.b. equivalent of £85 las. sterling (£A.107 3s. 9d.). Over 80 per cent, of the unseeded lexias have been sold and will receive the support price of £80 sterling (£A.100), although the actual average selling price has been well below that figure.
Some time ago, I asked the Minister the following questions, upon notice -
Yesterday, I received a reply. When the figures are seen in print, they can be compared. That is whyI desire to read them to the House. The Minister gave the following information: -
It must be known to everyone that the cost of production in such an industry has risen by at least 50 to 75 per cent. since that survey was taken. Currants were sold at the last sale in London this year at £70 sterling a ton. The cost of production survey in 1949-50 disclosed a price of £67 a ton Australian currency. The position is that the cost of production, over which the dried fruits grower has no control whatever, has put him in the position that he is not able to cope with the financial arrangements which are necessary for the coming crop. For that reason, the dried fruits industry has asked the Government to grant it some temporary assistance in order to tide it over the present difficulty. I am hoping that the Government will give further consideration to this appeal from this very important industry, and assist it, in some way, to overcome its difficulty.
From my previous remarks, honorable members will know that the last survey of the industry was made in 1949-50. The Minister also gave in his reply the following information : -
There is no found cost of production figure which can be regarded as a firm estimate of present costs of dried fruits production.
I ask the Government to instruct the Bureau of Agricultural Economics as soon as possible to make a cost survey of the dried fruits industry. A survey that was taken four years ago is of no use at all for the computation of present costs of production. The industry is asking for assistance, because the cost of produc tion is much higher than the price that is being obtained for dried fruits overseas, and therefore, it is necessary that the Government should ascertain the found cost of production at the present time.
This industry is dying on it feet. It urgently requires assistance. More exservicemen are engaged in this industry on blocks, especially at Mildura, Robinvale, Merbein and Red Cliffs than in any other primary industry, and they must be assisted. Ex-servicemen have sent a cablegram to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) in London, in which they express appreciation of the effort that he is making on their behalf.
– What effort?
– He has asked that the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade be revised so as to bring it into line with what was previously favorable Empire preference for this important industry. He has also asked for an extension of the support price in the United Kingdom beyond the fixed date.
– It is nearly midnight.
– I do not care.
– I shall direct attention to the state of the House.
– I do not care if the sun is rising. If the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) wishes to direct attention to the state of the House, let him do so.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! I insist on order in the House. If some honorable gentlemen knew anything about the dried fruits industry, they would not be treating the subject in this way.
– The extension of the support price beyond the fixed date is being sought, and fought for overseas, by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. It is not possible at the present time to see some of the fruit as quickly as we should like, owing to certain conditions, and, therefore, it is high time that this industry received some assistance. Perhaps the Government could send some responsible officers of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture to get a first-hand knowledge of the requirements of the industry. There are men of great experience of the dried fruits industry who could advise them. For example Mr. Peter Malloch, O.B.E., has a great knowledge of the industry, and he would be prepared, with other members of the Australian Dried Fruits Board, to meet members of the Government or anybody else in authority, and put his cards on the table. There is no question about the legitimacy of this claim for assistance. I hope that the Government will grant assistance, but I emphasize that the assistance is needed now, because they have a crop coming on. The growers have spent a lot of money in producing it, and the situation is summed up in an interjection at the meeting in Melbourne yesterday when a man asked, “ How are we going to live in the meantime ? “. I ask the Government to give this matter very careful consideration. Like you, Mr. Speaker, I do not take seriously those honorable members who have interjected during my speech. I heard their laughter more in sorrow than in anger because they do not know what they are doing.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Whilst I give my full support to the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) in his protestations about the cavalier treatment meted out by this Government to his constituents, I have risen to mention a matter which is very near and dear to the hearts of my constituents. We have also received very cavalier treatment at the hands of the Postmaster-General’s Department. Four years ago, I raised the matter of improvements to, or the reconstruction of the Maroubra Junction Post Office, and in the meantime I have received many letters of a character which have led me to believe that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) is not sincere in hi3 efforts to do something about the matter. I pressed on with my representations, because I am always a man of peaceful intentions. In the course of time, I received many letters. On the 6th April last, I received a letter which was like a ray of sunshine and gave me some hope. It read as follows:-
In reply to your personal representations of 11th March, 1954, concerning numerous com plaints from deputations in respect of the Post Office accommodation at Maroubra, the department is fully aware of the unsatisfactory features and difficulties associated with the existing postal accommodation, and every effort is being made to have a new building erected with the least possible delay.
It was hoped to have proceeded earlier with this work, but due to the extensive programme of building works with which the department is faced, and the need to concentrate on the more urgent and essential projects for telecommunication purposes, this unfortunately, has not been possible.
However, preliminary planning of the new Post Office building, which will incorporate full facilities for the welfare of the staff is at present receiving attention, and it is expected subject to the availability of funds, that building operations will be commenced during the next fiscal year.
Almost six months of this fiscal year have passed. The Parliament is expected to rise to-morrow, and so far as we know, will not meet again until next March. Only April, May and June will then remain of the present fiscal year. I am concerned about the procrastination that has taken place in connexion with this matter. If I could get a plain, straightforward answer, I would be quite satisfied, but the matter drags on and on. The department says that, subject to the availability of funds, building operations will be commenced. Yet Cabinet almost from day to day discusses measures, or makes plans, for- the introduction of television into Australia. We find that certain companies are being formed in Sydney at the moment to enter the television field and one of them, in particular, proposes to ask for a long-term loan at a low rate of interest to assist it to build commercial television stations. I contend that we can do without television, but we cannot do without postal facilities or amenities for the staff of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Men and women who work from day to day looking after the interests and welfare of the people must be given the fullest consideration in respect of their working conditions.
The post office at Maroubra must be built. Sooner or later, it will be built. The present building was provided thirty years ago to serve the requirements of 3,000 to 4,000 people, and the same structure now has to serve the requirements of 25,000 to 26,000 people. This is a genuine request. I have pointed out that the department could earn revenue if it installed 200 or 300 private boxes in the space now available. But . the department refuses point blank to do anything to serve the interests of the business people at Maroubra Junction. I hope that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon), who is sitting at the table, will convey my protest to the Minister who is acting for the PostmasterGeneral.
– I shall do that.
– Half ‘of the present fiscal year is past, and I sincerely hope that, before the Parliament re-assembles next year, the construction of the Maroubra Junction Post Office will have been commenced. I intend to press on with this matter, even if I have to make myself a nuisance on the doorstep of the Postmaster-General from day to day. A post office must he built at Maroubra Junction, and it shall be built.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 November 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1954/19541110_reps_21_hor5/>.