21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30’ p.m., and read prayers;
– “Will the Prime Minister inform the House when the important report of Dr. Stoller, which dealt with mental institutions, was received by the Government? It has been stated in the press that the Government received this report as long ago as January. Will the right honorable gentleman also inform the House when the commentary by the Minister for Health, which is contained in the report, was made? Neither of the dates that I have mentioned is shown in the report. Will the right honorable gentleman con<aider the representations that have been made by almost all the State Premierswith respect to a conference between the Commonwealth and the States to deal not only with the Stoller report, but also with, the general matter of the maintenance it our mental institutions, and whether some assistance should be given by way of social services in respect of those who are suffering from mental illnesses?
– As to the first ‘ of the right honorable gentleman’s questions, I simply do not know what ‘ the dates are, hut I shall find out. As to the second of them, I merelyrepeat that this matter is one which has, ever since the establishment of the Commonwealth, been under the jurisdiction of the States. The Common^ wealth has had no association with this matter, but the State governments have. I do not propose to call a conference to ascertain whether the Commonwealth is now to enter the maintenance’ field on. this matter. When the Australian.
Government discussed the circumstances arising out of the Stoller report, we decided that,, although we had no direct responsibility in this matter, the vital thing to be done was to improve the capital accommodation, and facilities in this department of government activity. We therefore said that, as the States could hardly be expected to face a capital expenditure of £30,000,000 within a measurable time, we the Commonwealth, being without liability but being an Australian Government, would provide £10,000,000 towards that capital programme. I venture to say that that is a very handsome proposal. I want to warn honorable members not to succumb too readily to the idea that every problem in this country which involves money belongs to the Commonwealth, whatever the situation or whatever past practice may have been.
– But the Commonwealth raises the money.
– I simply warn honorable members against that idea. Who knows but that my friend, the honorable member for Dalley, may some day be a Cabinet Minister himself. If so, I hope that the chickens will not come home too violently to roost in his fowl house.
– Will the Minister for Health tell me whether the Queensland Government has failed to cooperate with the Australian Government, first, in the full-scale development of the hospital benefit scheme in that State; and, secondly, in plans to provide properly for the mentally ill in Queensland ? Has this failure on the part of the State Government resulted in a loss to it of £1,500,000 which, otherwise, it would have had available for expenditure on these important, functions ?
– Under the hospital benefits agreement, Queensland has made many fewer beds available for intermediate and. private wards relatively than has any other State. In respect of such beds an amount of 12s. a day is payable by the Australian Government to the States, and to that degree Queensland has suffered financially relative to the other States in that it has failed to qualify for an amount equal to that paid to them. That is entirely a matter for the Queensland Government itself. I understand that the position is due to the ungenerous terms of a law in Queensland which prevents substantial payments- being made in respect of medical benefits and hospital insurance. In respect of mentally ill patients, I have urged the Queensland Government during the last five years to get into line with the other States and discuss the whole question in order to see what can be done to prevent the state of affairs that has been disclosed by the Stoller report. Queensland has lost financially by failing to follow such a course. There is no doubt that overcrowding must increase ill health in a mentally-ill community.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. What were the conditions of the Chifley Government’s agreement with the States in 1949 on mental diseases benefits? What was the net gain to the States under that agreement? How does it compare with the amount now made available for capital expenditure by this Government ?
– The agreement made by the Chifley Government with the States in 1949 was most queer. It provided that the Commonwealth should pay to the States exactly the amount they were collecting on behalf of the patients at that time on condition that the States did not charge for the patients in future. The result was that the benefit to the mental hospitals was absolutely nil, because only the same amount of money was available to them. As soon as the Menzies Government came into office, I pointed out that something was needed to ensure that more beds would be available so that mentally diseased persons could have better treatment. I was quite sure that if the acute cases especially could be properly treated, the total number of mentally diseased persons in this country, and in our asylums would be considerably reduced in five years. The net’ revenue produced for the States was1, as I have said, exactly nothing. It isdifficult to make a comparison of nothingwith the amount of £10,000.000 which, as the Prime Minister has announced, the
Commonwealth will make available for the purpose of dealing with this position-, but it is exactly twenty times as large as the amount paid annually by the Commonwealth since 1949, which was in lieu of the other charge that had been made. I am rather astonished by the fact that the gentlemen in the various States, who have resisted for the last six years coming into a conference with me in regard to the cancellation of this old agreement, should now, having received nothing since 1949, start kicking in the mouth the gift horse which will make £10,000,000 available to them.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether, since federation, any payment has ever been made for social services by any government to patients in mental asylums. If not, what reason would there be for beginning such a practice now? Who would receive the benefit if such pensions were paid?
– Ever since social services legislation has been on the statutebook every government, no matter what its political colour, has followed the provision originally laid down that pensions should cease immediately a patient became an inmate of a mental asylum. As the mental patient is quite irresponsible, either the Master in Lunacy in some States or the relatives of patients in others, who are already being saved the cost of upkeep, would benefit from such a payment. There is no reason for commencing such a scheme at present because it would not provide £:’ towards the cost of the extra beds needed to overcome the present hopelessly overcrowded conditions in our mental hospitals.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Health, relates to the very bad record of the Kew South “Wales Government in the accommodation and treatment of mentally ill people. Is the Minister aware that, although the New South Wales budget for last year showed a surplus, no real effort has been made by the New South Wales Government to improve the accommodation and treatment of mentally sick people in that State? Does this make a sham and a mockery of the boasts of the Labour party that in this enlightened age Labour governments treat people humanely?
– I do not think I can answer all the honorable gentleman’s questions. I think it was the honorable member for Bennelong who pointed out recently that in New South Wales expenditure on hospitals last year was down by a sum of the order of £1,000,000. I understand there are a good many millions of pounds in the kitty in that State.
– Earlier today I asked a question about the payment of social services allowances in respect of those suffering from mental illnesses. I now ask the Minister for Health whether he regards the list of social services provided by the Commonwealth as closed, simply because previous governments have not provided other services? Was it for that reason that the Australian Country party, of which the right honorable gentleman is a member, opposed the social services referendum which was approved by the people?
– As the right, honorable member well knows, I opposed the social services referendum because i considered that it was designed as a paltry amendment of the Constitution that touched only- the fringe of the question. I asked him, in this House, to alter the proposal to include a chapter on health and he refused. Consequently, we now have the puny thing arranged by the right honorable gentleman, which puts us practically at the heels of the States. Insofar as social services legislation is concerned, the Australian Labour party has been in office in this country for about twenty years, and during that time it lias found nothing wrong with that legislation. .1 suggest that the right honorable gentleman would again see nothing wrong with it if his party were again to assume office.
– My question is directed to you, Mr. Speaker. In view of a certain remark that was made into the microphone during the debate last Thursday night by the honorable member for East Sydney, will you inform thu House of the action that you propose to take in the future should a similar remark be made about any member, when such a remark is calculated only to do harm to a person’s character, and is obviously quite untrue?
– I bad to take action some years ago in relation to incidents of this description. I stated then that, if I had further occasion to direct the attention of the House to such an incident, I w ould ask it to judge whether the honorable member who had been accused was under the influence of liquor. As there had been a long period without any such incidents, on Thursday night I took the course that was taken. If such an incident occurs again, I intend to ask the Souse to sit in judgment on the accused and the accuser forthwith.
– Is not the action that you propose to take, Mr. Speaker, completely contrary to the Standing Orders ? Neither you nor the House can sit in judgment on such matters. The conduct in question is either disorderly, or it is not. I could cite a dozen instances of insulting remarks having been made, but you allowed those remarks to pass and did not suggest that the House should judge whether they were true. Such remarks may be highly disorderly, but I submit that the action that you propose to take in the future is contrary to the Standing Orders. There should be some understanding on whether the Standing Orders exist only in the letter, or are to be observed.
– As you, Mr. Speaker, stated, this is not the first time that such au incident has occurred. What happens when one honorable member, who desires to he offensive, says to another honorable member, “You are drunk”? The latest experience that we have had is the best proof of what happens. Every honorable member knows that to accuse the Minister for External Affairs of being under the influence of drink is fantastic. If a fantastic statement like that is made, it must be made deliberately in order to harm the Minister. In this case, a great newspaper in Sydney thought fit to publish its report of the incident on the front page with headlines, and with a photograph, not of the accuser, but of my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs.
– Is not that a breach of privilege?
– Do not talk to me about a breach of privilege. The whole object of the exercise was to give publicity to the incident, and to have some people somewhere say ludicrously about my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, who of all men is the most sober, “ He was under the influence of drink, and where there is smoke there is fire “. Therefore, I welcome the proposal that, in future, when such a foul allegation is made, the House should be invited at once to sit in judgment upon the matter.
– To decide whether the honorable member who has been accused is under the influence of drink?
– No, to sit in judgment on a dirty, dirty, remark.
-Order! The incident is closed for the time being.
– Is the Prime Minister able to inform the House whether the Commonwealth line of ships has been sold by the Government? If it has been sold, will he state what was the purchase price, what is the value of the Government’s remaining interest in the line, and any other relevant particulars?
– The answer is, “It has not been sold “.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the Government has in contemplation any change in the ownership or control or management of the Commonwealth shipping line, and whether it has any plan before it which might cause such a change ?
– I am not prepared to answer questions as wide and indefinite as that. All I say is that we have no proposal before us.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that vandals have considerably disfigured the American War Memorial in Canberra by adopting the childish practice of scratching names on the structure, and that the disfigurement has been caused in spite of :a request in the form of a notice at the memorial that respect should be shown to it? Will the right honorable gentleman have the matter investigated, and, if possible, have the -damage repaired? In addition, will he :give instructions for the protection of the memorial so that similar damage will not be possible in future ?
– This matter is being actively investigated. Vandalism is a polite name for a subnormal form of imbecility which appears to beset a number of people who, when detected, should be dealt with with the utmost severity. I have the matter of the American War Memorial under discussion and steps are being taken to avoid, if possible, such incidents in the future.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact, as reported, that Australia’s overseas reserves will run down by approximately £200,000,000 in 1954-55 to a new low danger level of approximately £375,000,000 by the 30th June next. Is it also a fact that this is the low level which reserves reached in June, 1952, when the Government drastically cut imports as a remedy? If these reports are correct, can the Treasurer advise the House whether the Government contemplates taking similar action again in the near future? If it does not contemplate such action, what action does it propose to take in order to conserve our overseas balances?
– The circumstances at the particular time will be taken into account when methods are being evolved to restrict imports with the object of assisting our overseas balances. Those balances certainly have run down. That has happened for two reasons. The first of them is the decline in our export income, and the second is the increase in our import responsibilities. Consequently, the Government as a matter of policy was obliged to introduce a scheme of import restrictions which will be effective as from the next quarter onwards. Whatever action is taken in the future will depend on the circumstances existing at the particular time, which will be carefully considered.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service noted the fact that the leading Communist who formerly ran the Victorian branch of the Australian Railways Union until the industrial groups defeated him and his fellow Communists has now taken over control of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Railways Union? Is the Minister aware that this gentleman not only boasted that workers in Melbourne would walk to work when he decided that they should walk but has also carried out that threat? In view of the fact that the destruction of the Australian Labour party industrial groups by the right honorable member for Barton will almost certainly mean that these Communists will be able to confirm themselves in the control of the Australian Railways Union, will the Minister make available to the people of New South Wales details of the continued stoppages which Victorian workers have suffered owing to the irresponsible action taken as a result of the Communist policy?
– I cannot claim to be fully informed on all the points of detail to which the honorable gentleman has referred in his question, but I shall see whether I can obtain a factual statement about stoppages in Victoria which can be attributed to Communist influence in the unions concerned. That information may be illuminating to trade unionists in other parts of the Commonwealth.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service say whether it is a fact that an appointee of this Government to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court recently gave permission for the ex-Communist State secretary of the Australian Railways Union in Melbourne to re-contest the election for that position, even though the registrar of the court had ruled that he was ineligible to do so? If that is a fact, how can the Minister reconcile the judge’s decision with the alleged desire of the Government to get rid of Communists from administrative positions, whenever possible? Will the Minister inform the Deputy Leader of the Australian Labour party (Anti-Communist) that industrial groups were not needed, in. the New South Wales branch of the Australian Railways Union to clean Communists out of official positions?
– I do not know whether the honorable member is trying to imply that in some way the holder of a judicial position, irrespective of the political colour of the government which appointed him to that position, is answerable to that government for his judicial decisions, and that when he gives decisions, those decisions can be regarded as reflecting the attitude of that government. I hope we shall never reach the position in this country when a judge will not feel free to determine matters that come before him according to his conscience and the best of his judgment. I do not know which judge dealt with the matter to which the honorable member has referred, but I assume that any judge called upon to determine such a matter would determine it in his judicial capacity and in a judicial fashion. With regard to the honorable member’s reference to there being no necessity for the work of the industrial groups in combating the influence of comunism, I believe there are many forces which can be brought into the fight against communism, in Australia. We on this side of the House have contributed notably to some of the defeats which Communists have experienced. But I take this opportunity to pay my own tribute to the courageous and energetic work which members of the industrial groups, drawn from all sections of politics and from all religious faiths in this country, have done to combat the infiltration and subversion of this alien influence. I believe it is a bad day for Australia when men who are prepared to make such a. fight in the best interests of Australia are discouraged by public men in this Parliament from carrying on with that work.
– Has the Ministier for Health had an approach regarding financial aid for the Australian College of Nursing? If he has had such an approach, will he give special consideration to assisting this very excellent institution,, which has, as its purpose, the desirable objective of raising, the standard of efficency of the Australian nursing profession? I may add that this1 organization has set out to be selffinancing but is in some difficulties now.
– The question, will be given full consideration.
– My question, is addressed to the Minister for Supply. As there has been heavy investment of overseas capital in the purchase of controlling interests in the uranium leases in the uranium fields of northern Australia, does the Government propose to place any limit on the investment of overseas capital in mining radio-active ores in this country? Does the Government propose to encourage this investment by overseas interest?
– There have been some negotiations with respect tq uranium leases in the Northern Territory, but I am not able to give a detailed answer to the question asked by the honorable member for Kennedy. If the honorable gentleman will place his question on a notice-paper, I shall give it further consideration.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral inform me whether it is a fact that a war widow, who is an accepted case, who is in receipt of her ordinary pension, and who has no other income, is not entitled to a broadcast listener’s licence at the reduced rate? If she applies to the Department of Social Services for the increased benefit to which she is entitled to in certain circumstances, she may receive up to £2 lis. a fortnight extra and, in addition, obtain a broadcast listener’s licence at the reduced rate of 10s. a year. If I have stated the position correctly, what action does the Minister propose to take to correct this anomaly?
– It is not an anomaly. It is a fact that the Parliament has passed legislation which provides that, in respect of certain groups of pensioners, a war widow who is in receipt of part social services benefit and part war widows pension is entitled as a concession, to obtain a broadcast listener’s licence at a reduced rate. I am sorry to state that, after an investigation of the matter, I am unable to extend these benefits at the moment.
– Will the Prime Minister give favorable consideration to the proposal that a delegation of rank and file members of the Opposition and the Government be sent to the South-East Asian region so that they may obtain an appreciation of the problems of the people there and report back to the Australian Parliament after they have made direct contact with all classes of people who live in that area? In this way, members of the Parliament may be better informed when matters of importance to our Asian neighbours and the people of Australia are being considered.
– I shall examine the suggestion made by the honorable member for Maribyrnong.
– In view of the great services given to Australia by surf life-saving clubs, will the Treasurer, when he is preparing the budget, increase considerably the subsidy of £5,000 which is at present granted by the Government to such clubs ? I should like to point out to the right honorable gentleman , that 170 surf life-saving clubs function to protect the lives of surfers on Australia’s beaches, and with surf boats costing £500, surf reels costing £60-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may not embark on a speech about the matter.
– In view of the costs that I have mentioned, the amount of £5.000 is very limited on to-day’s values.
– I remind the honorable member that this Government was the first government to assist surf life-saving clubs financially. The matter raised by him is one of policy, which will be considered in conjunction with the budget.
– I direct to the Minister for the Army a question which relates to a most distressing tragedy that occurred at Northam, in Western Australia, on Anzac Day when, as a result of an explosion, a boy aged eleven years was killed instantly, having received shocking injuries, and another boy aged thirteen years is still in hospital suffering from the injuries he sustained at the same time. In view of the fact that it is reported that, the explosion was caused by an army mortar bomb, I ask the Minister whether the circumstances of the tragedy have come to his notice and, if so, whether he is able to say that the explosion was due to the weapon which has been stated to have been the cause, of it? Will he .also ascertain, if be has not already done so, how this lethal weapon came into the possession of those young lads and, if it was an army weapon, whether he will institute such action as is necessary to ensure that there shall not be a recurrence of such a disastrous tragedy?
– Naturally one has full sympathy for those who have been afflicted in this recent accident. I am sure that the whole House extends its sympathy to them. For the last three year? (-very possible effort has been made by thi’ Department of the Army to ensure that children throughout Australia are notified of the danger of picking up bombs or shells as souvenirs. Addresses are given in the public schools, and large posters are displayed throughout every military camp and in the vicinity of each camp warning of the danger of doing so. A campaign through the means of press and radio has also been carried on, appealing to the youth of Australia to report to an army officer or the police the finding of any bombs or shells. From the recovered fragments it has been established that the bomb which caused the accident was a 2-iu. mortar bomb as used by the Army, that the bomb was of United Kingdom manufacture, and that it was made in 1942. The General Officer Commanding the Western Command is firmly of opinion that the bomb was not taken from the present training area, because engineers with mine detectors thoroughly searched the area during 1954 and destroyed all blinds. The police are making inquiries, in conjunction with the Army authorities, as to how the boys obtained the bomb, but the injured boy is still too ill to be interviewed. A fifteen year old boy, who was not involved in the accident, has stated that on the 13th April he saw a bomb on a vacant allotment adjacent to the Northam railway station, over 3 miles from the nearest training area. Further inquiries are being made.
– I wish to ask the PostmasterGeneral a number of questions. Is it a fact that the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s offices and studio in Canberra are shabby, totally inadequate and a disgrace to any capital city? Are eminent Australians and distinguished overseas visitors required to use an enlarged cupboard for making national broadcasts? Is one small studio sufficient for the needs of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Canberra? Will the Postmaster-General give urgent consideration to the establishment of attractive studios and offices befitting the Australian Broadcasting Commission in the national capital?
– It is quite true that the studios of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Canberra leave much to be desired, but the commission’s studios in other Australian centres are even worse, and the studios in those places are the first ones which will be improved.
– In view of the fact that during 1953-54 seventeen commercial broadcasting stations in this country failed to broadcast the quota of Australian music required by the Broadcasting Act, will the Postmaster-General say what action he proposes to take to. make those broadcasting stations observe the law? Will he say also why the Australian Broadcasting Control Board failed to ensure that the law was observed? Will he consider an amendment of the act at an early date so that a minimum quota of 10 per cent, of Australian compositions can be substituted for the present quota of 2$ per cent. ?
– The majority of Australian radio stations broadcast more than the quota of Australian compositions, although it is true to say that in some cases the quota is not reached. However, I have no doubt that when the attention of those stations has been drawn to their failure to observe the quota, the matter will be rectified.”
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he will confer with the Minister for Territories in connexion with the zone allowances payable in the north of Western Australia. These allowances were established in 1945 and adjusted in 1947, and as a number of questions addressed to the Minister for Territories have failed to secure information on this matter, which is vital to residents in the area, will the Prime Minister make an early announcement of the Government’s intention to deal with the problem ?
– I can assure the honorable member that the Minister for Territories is not open to criticism in this matter. The Minister has discussed this matter with me on several occasions. It is a matter which has to be taken into consideration in connexion with the budget, and I assure the honorable member that it will be very carefully considered when the next budget is being prepared.
– I direct my questions to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Is it a fact that Australian butter is not marketed in Britain under its own wrapper, but is blended with Danish butter and sold under a national wrapper? Is the wrapping of Australian dried fruits marketed in the United Kingdom so unattractive as to make it difficult for our dried fruits to compete with inferior brands? Is the packing of Australian jams in tins detrimental to the marketing of our jams overseas because British people are stated to have a decided preference for bottled jams?
– During the time the Ministry of Food was the sole importer of butter into the United Kingdom, and rationing and price fixation were in operation there, the British Government pursued a policy of blending all the imported butter and, I think, some homeproduced butter, to produce a standard quality for sale under a single brand and at a common price. As from the .1st July next, Australian butter and cheese will be sold in the United Kingdom without the control of the Ministry of Food. The Australian Dairy .Produce Board will co-operate with individual traders, both here and in the United Kingdom, in order to ensure that Australian butter and cheese shall be presented and sold under Australian brands and to the best advantage. Australian dried fruits are exported to buyers in the United Kingdom in, I think, half-hundredweight packages. The merchant purchasers and distributors in the United Kingdom re-package the fruit for sale to individual consumers in that country. To that degree, the situation there is beyond our control. However, I have endeavoured to inspire the members of the Australian ‘Trade Commissioner Service in England and the Commonwealth Dried Fruits Control Board to interest themselves in the final presentation of Australian dried fruits in the United Kingdom in order to improve commercial prospects there for Australian producers of dried fruits. Jam from Australia, for practical reasons of course, is exported in tins. A consumer preference for jam in bottles has developed in the United Kingdom, and I am afraid that the Australian processor can do nothing about that preference. Nevertheless, the. superior quality of Australian jam is beyond question. In this matter, also, the members of Australia’s trade promotion services are doing their best to ensure that the superior quality of Australian jam shall be recognized by United Kingdom consumers.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture any recent information about the sale of American surplus butter? In Bega last Saturday the federal president of the Australian Primary Producers Union mentioned to me a report to the effect that the United States of America had sold £5.000,000 worth of butter on the United Kingdom market. Is the Minister in a .position to confirm that state- ment, and, if so, will he make any comment about the effect of that action on the Australian export industry?
– I am kept constantly informed of any bulk export sales of American butter, and I believe that in almost all such cases I am informed of the price at which the sale has been effected. I have no knowledge of a sale of butter to the United Kingdom of a magnitude even approaching that referred to by the honorable member. I do not purport to carry in my mind all the facts about this matter, but I shall he glad to give to the honorable member, or any other honorable member, all the details that I have of recent sales. No sales have been made ‘at prices or in quantities which would dislocate the ordinary pattern of trade of Australian exports of butter, or which would offer any threat to that trade.
– My question to .the Minister for External Affairs relates to the suggestion by many members of various governments throughout the world that a meeting, at the summit of authority, of representatives of the nations known as the Big Four countries should be called. Has the Minister any information to suggest that such a meeting will be called in the near future, and if so, in which form will it be held?
– This matter has been discussed by the foreign ministers of Great Britain, the United States of America and France at a meeting held in Paris during the last week-end. We have no positive information about the result of the discussions, although it is known that the foreign ministers discussed the subject of a meeting of the heads of the three States that I have mentioned, together with the chief of state of .Soviet Russia, .and alternatively, or at the same time, a meeting between the foreign ministers of those four countries. Stories that have been circulated in the last few hours have even named .the 20th July as the meeting date, but the Government has no positive information that either or both of the conferences are likely to take place. It is suggested that the subjects for discussion by either the foreign secretaries or the heads of States will be confined to the unification of Germany, the working out of a security arrangement for Europe and disarmament. At this stage the Government has no more positive information on this subject.
– Can the Minister for Territories give the House any details, or the commencing date, of the housing scheme recently announced for the Northern Territory? My question is prompted by the desperate need for housing in the Territory and the desire of civil servants who have lived in those parts for many years to purchase from the Commonwealth the homes in which they live.
– Recently I announced that the Government had decided to extend to the Northern Territory the benefits of the housing scheme which operates in the remainder of Australia. The people of that area will be able to obtain loans for home building of up to £2,750, and these will be repayable over a longer term and at a lower rate of interest than has previously obtained. So that we would not do the same- job twice over, the Department of Territories decided to let the Department of the Interior prepare the details of the plan for the Australian Capital Territory and then apply this scheme, with local modification to meet local conditions to the Northern Territory. My colleague, the Minister for the Interior, has informed me that within a few days he will announce the conditions that will apply to the Australian Capital Territory. Almost immediately afterwards it will be possible to announce the conditions that will apply to the Northern Territory.
– I ask the Treasurer whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that the shark-fishing industry in South Australia is being jeopardized by imported oils. Shark livers have been sold in Melbourne, but the Melbourne firm that has been buying them has given notice that it will make no further purchases. The shark fishermen are very concerned at the fact that the importation of cheap Japanese oils is undermining their industry. Will the right honorable gentleman have investigations made into this- matter, and, if necessary, take some action by way of import restrictions to prevent cheap fish oils from coming to this country in harmful competition with the products of Australian fishermen who have put large amounts of capital into our shark fishing industry?
– The honorable member’s statement is the first that I have heard of the shark fishing industry being in jeopardy. I take it that he was referring to sharks in the sea and not those on land. In any event, I shall have the matter raised by the honorable member investigated.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of the fact that the east coast of Tasmania is not provided with an aerodrome which could be used by fighter aircraft or heavy commercial aircraft, will the Minister give favorable consideration to altering St. Helens aerodrome to accommodate such aircraft. Alternatively, would he give consideration to acquiring any other area of suitable land in the immediate vicinity for’ the construction of an aerodrome suitable’ for the use of fighter or heavy commercial aircraft’?
– I do not believe’ that much improvement could be effected^ on St. Helens aerodrome. There is a fair-sized hill on the western end of the aerodrome which will always be a hazard. There are one or two areas of land on the coast upon which aircraft can land, such as Cotton’s property at Swansea, and no doubt anybody who wanted to operate commercial aircraft could get landing rights from the owners of that land. The Department of Civil Aviation would not be interested in building a big airstrip in the area mentioned by the honorable member, because there is not sufficient traffic there to justify it.
– My question is directed to the Minister of Civil Aviation. In view of the fact that Qantas Empire Airways Limited has established a direct air service to Japan, can the Minister say whether approval has been sought by, or has been given to, Japanese airways to establish a direct service to the country ‘(
– As most honorable members know, Qantas Empire Airways Limited has been conducting an air service to Tokyo for some years. The terms of the agreement were based on the terms of the Japanese Peace Treaty, and the service is at present being operated to Tokyo under the terms of that peace treaty. However, the traffic rights of the service to Tokyo end in April next year, and if the agreement is renewed it will have to be on a bilateral basis. So far, no talks have been held with me at top level.
– I bring to the attention of the Minister for the Interior the proposed sale of about 1,800 acres of land adjoining the township of Wallerawang, in New South Wales. As the Minister is controlling the sale of this land, I ask whether he will intervene to ensure that land is reserved from this area to provide sufficient school areas, recreation facilities and other town improvement areas for this growing district ?
– I am afraid I have no personal knowledge of the particular matter mentioned by the honorable member, but I shall make inquiries about it and give him all the information that I obtain. If necessary I shall discuss the matter further with him.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform the House whether it is a fact that certain trading banks in Australia are interested in the use of television for business communications? Has the Minister any information about the efficiency of television for such commercial purposes, and has any consideration been given to the issue of licences for proposed installations of this type?
– The answer is “ No “. I have no information on that subject.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether patients in public wards in public hospitals in Queensland receive hospital and medical treatment free of all costs to the patients. Are patients in public wards in public hospitals in other States of the Commonwealth required to pay for hospital and medical treatment?
– The position varies in different States. In New South Wales, for instance, there is a public ward charge of eight guineas a week, for which almost everybody has insured. In Queensland, patients in public wards of public hospitals are required to pay nothing at all, and, consequently, patients in other wards have to bear the whole, cost of the medical structure in that State.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether Australian citizens who visit England are liable to be called up for national service training. If they are not, will the right honorable gentleman examine a report which stated that recently a young Australian visitor to the United Kingdom was compelled to return home after having been only five days in England, and that another had to work his way home on a ship, because officials at Australia House could not determine the matter of their national service? I might say that one lad is reported to have already carried out six months’ national service training in the Royal Australian Air Force.
– I cannot deal with individual cases, but I believe that it might be helpful if I had a short but clear statement prepared on the position of Austral’*”-“! overseas in relation to national service.
– The Prime Minister said previously that they would not be required to serve.
– I shall have a statement . prepared to indicate the exact position of the persons mentioned by the honorable member.
-Will the Minister for Labour and National Service choose Australian representatives to attend a Commonwealth conference on industrial relations which is to be held in England in July next year under the chairmanship of the Duke of Edinburgh? If so, how will such representatives be chosen, how many will be present from Australia, and will the Government ensure that an opportunity is given for this Parliament to be represented, if not by delegates, then by observers ?
– The matter in question is being discussed, at government level, with interested representatives of management and labour. There was formed recently a committee which included representatives of the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council and certain persons who, although they belonged to other organizations, could be said to have, in their own capacities, some claim to participation in discussions upon this matter. They are not necessarily persons who will be invited subsequently to attend the proposed conference. No decision has yet been made upon the manner in which the invitations shall be issued, or the range they will cover. As the Prime Minister has just pointed out to me, it will not be a government conference in the sense that governments will be directly represented and, consequently, there will be no direct participation by the Australian Government assuch. Yesterday, there were further discussions on the general question with the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council, and the Government is trying to obtain information from the United Kingdom in relation to that discussion. It is expected that there will be a total attendance of approximately 280 representatives from countries of the British Commonwealth and Empire, 25 of whom will represent Australia.
.- I move -
That this House has no confidence in Mr. Speaker for the reasons -
1 ) That, in the discharge of his duties, he has acted in a partisan way by displaying bias against members of Her Majesty’s Opposition;
Many of his decisions have been arbitrary and unjust; and
That hefails to interpret or apply correctly the Standing Orders of the House.
The last occasion on which a motion of this kind was submitted was on the 24th February, 1949, when the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) submitted the following motion in relation to the then Deputy Speaker : -
I move -
That this House has no further confidence in Mr. Deputy Speaker on the grounds -
That in the discharge of his duties hehas revealed serious partiality in favour of Government members ;
That he regards himself merely as the instrument of the Labour party and not as the custodian of the rights and privileges of elected members of this Parliament;
That he constantly fails to interpret correctly the Standing Orders of the House; and
Of gross incompetency in his administration of parliamentary procedure.
– So far, the Government agrees with the honorable member entirely.
– I hope that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) will still be in agreement with me after I have concluded my remarks. Let me commence by observing that, whatever grounds the then Opposition may have had for its action in 1949, the present Opposition has much more serious reasons for submitting the motion that is now before the House. On the 26th July, 1946, the present Prime Minister, who was then Leader of the Opposition, submitted a motion of no confidence in the then Speaker on a purely technical ground. He contented himself with submitting the following motion: -
That Mr. Speaker does not possess the confidence of this House.
The incidents to which I have referred represent the recent occasions upon which the authority of the Speaker has been challenged. I have always wanted to submit a motion of no confidence in you, Mr. Speaker, on each occasion upon which the Opposition has felt aggrieved, but this is the first occasion for a period of five and a half years on which such a motion has been submitted.
I now refer to the following decisions as being some of the arbitrary and unjust decisions that you have made over that period of five and a half years: Requiring the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) to resume his seat following a breach of the Standing Orders, when a lesser penalty would have sufficed.; demanding that the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) would not be seen again by you in the House until after he waited upon you in your rooms ; ejecting from the chamber honorable members who called for a quorum when, in your opinion, a quorum was present when the call was made ; demanding that honorable members should leave the House, as well as the chamber, when they were ejected by you under Standing Order 303, or were suspended by resolution of the House ; repeatedly interrupting Opposition members by demanding that they should address you after you had allowed them to be interrupted by Government supporters by the asking of a question, or the offering of an insult or some irrelevant observation; and counting members when a quorum was called in order to advertise the number of Government supporters present if that number exceeded the number of Opposition members present in the chamber, and refusing to count the numbers when there were more Opposition members present than Government supporters. In relation to only one of those charges, that is, requiring an honorable member to take his seat, can precedent be found in the history of the Speakership of the Parliament. Over the past five and a half years, you have not named one Government supporter for disobedience to the Chair.
Government supporters interjecting,
– Their behaviour now is indicative of their desire at all times to shout down members of the Opposition, and they have been able, to use the vernacular, to get away with it In that same period of five and a half years, on only two occasions have you, Mr. Speaker, ejected Government supporters under Standing Order 303, and then you ejected them for the bad reason that they had called for a quorum. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) were the honorable members who, you claimed, had offended.
I have sat under three Speakers in the House - Mr. Speaker Nairn, Mr. Speaker Rosevear, and Mr. Speaker Cameron. In my opinion, Mr. Speaker Rosevear was the ablest of all three. He was a man who tried to act justly, although on occasions his justice was fairly rough. I was one of those who, as a Minister, clashed with him on occasions, but at least he did try to act fairly. With all due respect to the memory of Mr. Speaker Rosevear and to yourself, in my opinion Mr. Speaker Nairn was the fairest of all the Speakers under whom I have had the privilege, and on occasions the misfortune, to sit. All that the Opposition asks for is a “ fair go “. Honorable members on this side of the House complain that you, Mr. Speaker, do not give them a “ fair go “. They say that, whenever you can, you seize on the occasion to score an advantage, not for the Government, but for yourself or for the party as a representative of which you were elected to the Parliament. We say, with due regard to the gravity of the charge, that you use your position in the chair, and the Speaker’s quarters, to organize happenings in the House, all with a view to injuring the political cause of the Australian Labour party. We say that you encouraged the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), some years ago, on at least several occasions, to attack unfairly and improperly the Leader of the Opposition and members of the Australian Labour party. We say that your action in describing the Australian Labour party (Anti-Communist) as the Anti-Communist Labour party arose from, your partisanship and your desire to use the Chair for party political purposes.
I shall refer only briefly to the incident when you stood in your place in this House and made certain remarks about the then Governor-General, Sir William McKell. As a result of that incident the Opposition moved a censure motion. I believe that on that occasion you offended grievously against the representative of the Crown, regardless of what you, or I, or the Vice-President of the Executive Council may have thought of Sir William personally. I had no association with him while I was a Minister and he was Governor-General. But as the GovernorGeneral he should have been treated with the respect that the office deserves. We do not give you credit for trying occasionally to organize opposition to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in this chamber because that, too, is a degradation of your high office.
We believe that if a member of the Parliament takes the office of Speaker he should not merely try to he, but actually be, scrupulously fair in all his rulings and dealings with honorable members in this chamber. An honorable member who has been a strong party man should not nominate for the position. There are many honourable members on both sides who would be as unsuited for the office as you are, because they have not the requisite judicial calm for the position, and they have not lost their desire to score points for their party at any time and in any circumstances. Men of that character should not aspire to the office of Speaker. You will remember that you were suspended from the service of the House while you were a Minister. You were the only Minister who was ever suspended; and, then, to show your regard for authority, after you had offended against the authority of this chamber, you promptly suspended the licence of radio station 2KY in Sydney because an announcer on that station likened you to Hitler.
Last week you brought your long list of peculiar rulings and your desire for publicity up to date with a ruling, which was completely unjustified, that an honorable member could call another honorable member a Communist and you would not require the offending member to withdraw the term. Then, to be consistent, you said that any honorable member could’ call another honorable member a fascist and that in doing so he would not commit any breach of the Standing Orders. When one honorable member called you a “ Communist Speaker “ you demanded a withdrawal of those terms; and then when the same honorable member called you a “ fascist Speaker “ you also demanded a withdrawal. But you went further and said that if any other honorable member referred to your political affiliations you would name him. It became an offence under that ruling for any honorable member to call you a “ party Speaker “, or, worse still, an “ ex-Country party Speaker “.
Of course, what you ruled the other night was not in accordance with fact. You said that since the defeat of the referendum on the proposed alteration of the Constitution to give power to this Parliament to deal with Communists and communism, the Communist party was a legal entity and that it was not an offence to call an honorable member a Communist. In 1950, before approval of the Communist Party Dissolution Bill was sought at the referendum, you ruled that it was an offence for an honorable member to call another honorable member a Communist. In the Hansard report of proceedings in this chamber on the 28th March, 1950, the following appears : -
Mr. WHITE. ; The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), whose speeches are always 1 in line with Communist policy, denies my statement.
– I am insulted. The Minister’s remarks are offensive to me. The speeches of the honorable member for East Sydney are not always in line with Communist policy.
– The honorable member for East Sydney has not asked that the statement be withdrawn.
– The statement is offensive to me.
-If the remark was offensive to the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), the Minister must withdraw it.
Mr. WHITE. I withdraw the statement.
On that occasion you demanded a withdrawal of a statement because an honorable member other than the one whose character was aspersed asked that it be withdrawn because it was offensive to him. I take the following from the Hansard report of the 4th May, 1950: -
-I cannot allow the occasion to pass without referring to some of the hypocritical remarks of that notorious pro-Communist, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward).
– I rise to order, and ask that those remarks, which are offensive to me, be withdrawn and that the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) apologize.
– The honorable member has asked that the honorable member for Mackellar withdraw the offensive remarks and apologize, and I ask bini to comply with that request.
– I must withdraw in deference to your request, Mr. Speaker-
– And apologize.
– If the recital of these things offend the honorable member for East Sydney, of course I apologize.
That, too, was before the referendum in respect of the powers of this Parliament to deal with Communists and communism was held on Saturday, the 22nd September, 1951. The ruling that you gave the other night was not consistent with rulings that you gave, subsequent to the referendum, on the 21st November, 1951, and on the 28th February, 1952. I take the following from the Hansard report of the 21st November, 1951 : -
– What is the statement that I am asked to withdraw?
– The statement that the honorable member for Lalor was a defender of the Communists.
– I accept his statement that he is not a defender of the Communists, and I withdraw the words to which objection has been taken.
– Very well. The incident is closed.
If you were right on the first occasion you gave a ruling on this matter after the defeat of the referendum on the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, you were wrong the other night. In the Hansard report of the 28th February, 1952, the following appears : -
– But I am concerned that the honorable member should be mouthing Communist catch-cries.
– I rise to a point of order. I ask that the Minister be required to withdraw his remark.
– What was the remark ?
– That the honorable member for Wilmot is mouthing Communist catchcries.
– I think that the Minister should withdraw that remark.
– Very well, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw it.
But, sir, you went farther. You continued in that line. From the Hansard report for the 30th October, 1952, I take the following: -
-Order! The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) used the term “ dirty fascist “’.
– No, I said “ perfect fascist “.
– The honorable gentleman should withdraw the term.
– I withdraw it.
– I consider that the term was intended to refer to me, and a mere withdrawal is not satisfactory to me. I want an apology to be made by the honorable member for having used the term. It is a term which has been accepted throughout the world as being a term of opprobrium of the worst character, and I insist on an apology.
– Does the right honorable gentleman object to the word “ perfect “ or the word “ fascist “.
– 1 can answer that question by saying that if I referred to the honorable member for Parkes as being a Communist of thu reddest type, he might be entitled to object to that expression, which is one that I would not use. The expression that he used is as offensive to me as such an expression would be to him.
– 1 withdraw the term and apologize for having used it.
So, at least in 1951 and 1952, Government, suporters thought the same as members of the Opposition think on these matters; and we shall see, in due course, to what extent they are prepared to back the opinions which they held in those years when they vote on this motion. We shall also learn whether the Government will support your actions, which we regard as completely unfair, improper and unjust, particularly the ruling you gave last week.
But you, Mr. Speaker, have laid it. down as a salutary rule, which has been observed by Speakers before you, that if an honorable member asks for a withdrawal of a remark, a withdrawal must be made. Such an incident occurred on the 30th October, 1952. The Minister for Health, offended against the Chair when he described the attitude of the Opposition on a certain matter as the acme of hypocrisy. On that occasion, you, Mr. Speaker, affirmed your rule that an honorable member was entitled to the withdrawal of a remark which he considered offensive. The following extract from the Hansard report of your ruling proves my point: -
– Order! It is a custom of the House that when un honorable member considers himself to lie aggrieved by a statement a withdrawal of it must be made. If the honorable member for Lalor insists on ti. withdrawal of the statement being made, x mn bound to follow the procedure.
– I am prepared to withdraw the words, if they are objectionable to the honorable member, but 1 should like him to supply me with appropriate words that I might use in their place.
– Older ! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
On the 6th March, 1953, the Prime Minister was speaking on a series of questions which he had been asked that morning concerning Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. He said it was an organized smear campaign against Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, and at that point, I asked for the withdrawal of the remark. You, Mr. Speaker, ordered the Prime Minister to withdraw the remark; I shall read to the House the words that you used on that occasion. They are as follows : -
It is customary in this House for an honorable member who objects to a statement made by another honorable member to insist that it he withdrawn. Therefore, I have to ask the Prime Minister to withdraw the remarks to which the honorable member for Melbourne hae objected.
That statement was a re-affirmation of earlier, similar rulings, but the Prime Minister, instead of withdrawing the remarks, submitted a motion of dissent from your ruling. Because he had the numbers, and for no other reason, your ruling was dissented from. The allegation of the Prime Minister, however, that it was an organized smear campaign was nothing less than a charge of conspiracy, and to the disgrace of the Twentieth Parliament, he was allowed, by virtue of his superior numbers, to set your ruling aside. But that fact is no reason why we should not, now and always, follow the excellent rule which you laid down then but which you are not prepared to follow any longer.
Sir, this charge of Communists and communism is a particularly reprehensible one to members of the Opposition. I am opposed, and so is every Labour man, to both Communist aggression and Communist subversion. To call ns Communists or sympathizers with com munism is to charge us with supporting a way of life completely antipathetic to democracy and to religious and cultural freedom; a way of life founded on the negation of every human right and every fundamental decency; a way of life sustained by the use of terror, the concentration camp, a ruthless dictatorship and mass murder. Yet you, Mr. Speaker, have the temerity to rule that a charge of Communist, hurled recklessly, irresponsibly and maliciously by a Government member against an Opposition member is neither an insulting nor an unparliamentary expression. What bathos, what banality!
Mr. Speaker, we say that YOU unduly hinder Opposition members by establishing one set of standards for them while you let almost anything said by Government members go unchallenged. We say that, ordinarily, you are reluctant to call Government members to order, but that you nearly always act with alacrity when you discern, or think you discern, a breach of the Standing Orders by Opposition members - in other words, that you act with marked partiality and favoritism. You have claimed over the years you have been Mr. Speaker, that your actions are always inspired by a desire and an endeavour to maintain the integrity, the honour and the dignity of the Parliament. The Opposition says that you have not always endeavoured to do those things. We say that, far from maintaining the integrity of the Parliament, your actions on many occasions have tended to weaken it; and we say that, instead of preserving the honour of the Parliament, your actions have brought it into disrepute. We say that, instead of safeguarding the dignity of the Parliament, you have tended to lower it. For the reasons I have given, I say, on behalf of the Opposition in this Parliament, that it is our firm belief that you have forfeited the confidence of the House, and that the House has an obligation to itself and to the people to express no confidence in you by passing the motion that I have submitted.
– Is the motion seconded ?
– I second the motion, and reserve my right to speak on it.
.- What is it, Mr. Speaker, that arises out of this farrago of nonsense, this dredging of Hansard over the week-end by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) ? He has discussed a series of incidents, each and every one of which, in itself, is not of sufficient worth or weight to serve as the foundation for a motion of no confidence in the Chair. I venture to suggest that we could find in the Hansard reports of the Parliament of every other country which has a democratic form of Government, a repetition, almost word for word, of the incidents which the honorable member has dredged from the depths.
Why has he done so? He has done so because of an incident in this House last week which resulted in a disgraceful scene that caused great concern outside the Parliament. The honorable member now seeks to divert attention from it by submitting a motion of no confidence in Mr. Speaker. 1 shall deal with that incident, but before I do so, I should like to point out one thing to the honorable member for Melbourne. Mr. Speaker has occupied the Chair for five and a half years in three parliaments, and he has not offended, until this moment, in such a way as to cause an honorable member to submit a motion of no confidence in him. The honorable member for Melbourne has indulged in a lot of humbug. Mr. Speaker has satisfied this House with his rulings for five and a half years in three parliaments, so I should think that something of major moment must have happened to cause the honorable member to submit a motion of this kind. But nothing of major moment has happened.
The incident that prompted the submission of this motion occurred when the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) had received .the second call given to the Labour side to discuss a motion. The honorable member took advantage of that opportunity to attack members of the Anti-Communist Labour party. He said that members of that party, because they were called immediately after Government supporters in a debate, must be allied or associated with us. .The honorable member for East Sydney was then called to order. Mr. Speaker explained to him that he had advised the Leader of the Opposition that if Opposion members were attacked by the corner party, the Chair would give them an opportunity to defend themselves. Mr. Speaker had followed that procedure. The honorable member for East Sydney then used a term which Mr. Speaker has always ruled out of order. The honorable member for Melbourne, in his dredging activities, did not expose that matter. However, the honorable member for East Sydney swung round and with a threatening gesture to Mr. Speaker, in a most insulting way that no Speaker of any House of Parliament could tolerate, said that he did not want any more interruptions from the Chair. I put it to the House-
– Those were not the -words used.
– They meant the same thing. He said, “Don’t you interrupt me, Mr. Speaker. T do not want too many interruptions from you “. Those were, in essence, the words which the honorable member for East Sydney used. Naturally, Mr. Speaker sat him down. Then occurred the scene from which .the honorable member for Melbourne is seeking to divert attention. That is the purpose of his motion. He has learned the art of diversion from his leader, who is the prince of diverters.
Now let us examine whether there have been precedents in this House for the action taken .last week by Mr. Speaker. On the 17th November, 1948, when the parties now in office were in opposition, no less a person than the then Deputy Speaker, was the subject of a motion of no confidence in him that was moved by me. Incidentally, the notice of motion remained for .seven long months on the notice-paper before the then Labour Government was game to allow it to be debated in the House. What a sharp contrast there is between the. action of the Labour Government then and the action of this Government, which has not allowed the notice of motion of the honorable member for Melbourne to remain for seven months on the noticepaper so that it would have an opportunity to discipline its supporters, as the Labour Government did, to ensure that they would not take action against the Deputy Speaker in 1948. This Government has brought the motion of the honorable member for Melbourne before the House immediately, because it knows full well tha t the House will show, by its vote, that it has confidence in Mr. Speaker. 1.’ shall recount the incident that occurred on the 37 th November, 1948, to which I have referred. The present Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), who was then sitting in opposition as the honorable member for Richmond, attempted to take a point of order. The Deputy Speaker ordered him to resume his seat and then used the same words as Mr. Speaker used last Wednesday night. The then Deputy Speaker used the following words: -
I have not given a ruling on the matter. I have merely asked the honorable member to resume his seat because he has reflected upon the Chair. I call upon the next speaker to rise.
When the honorable member for Richmond rose again to order, in an attempt to protect himself, in much the same way as the honorable member for East Sydney rose to order last Wednesday, the Deputy Speaker threatened to .name him. When the honorable member for Richmond rose on a matter of privilege the Deputy Speaker named him. Here we have almost a parallel incident to that which occurred last Wednesday, but it did not result in the disgraceful disorder that caused Mr. Speaker to leave the chair.
I shall now go a step further with this matter because the honorable member for Melbourne, over the week-end, has gone to a great deal of trouble to establish a case, which really consists only of bits and pieces, not one of which can stand up by its own strength. The honorable gentleman eulogized the late honorable member for Dalley, Mr. J. S. Rosevear, as the perfect Speaker. I do not wish to speak ill of the late honorable member for Dalley, but I remind the House that such matters as the conduct of the Chair can be determined only by comparison. First, I direct the attention of the House to the fact that Mr. Speaker Cameron has been true to the statement that he made after his election to the Speakership. He has stood aloof from party matters, and has not attended party meetings since his election. He has never spoken from the floor of the chamber in debate. He has attended to his business as Mr. Speaker exactly as he said he would do. But the late honorable member for Dalley, whom the honorable member for Melbourne has held up to us as the perfect Speaker, had no compunction, while he held the office of Mr. Speaker, in taking a place on the floor of the House and participating in debate. Indeed, he went further than that. I remember that on one occasion when he left the Chair - that high office of impartiality - he took his place on the floor of the House and committed an offence that no Speaker would tolerate, by attacking viciously the High Court of this country. The honorable member for Melbourne referred to the late honorable member for Dalley as being the Labour party’s idea of a perfect Speaker, but I merely ask honorable members to judge on the comparison that I have given to them. They will then see what I mean when I say that over the period of five and a half years, and in the course of three Parliaments, the Opposition has never been able to produce one case upon which it could base a motion of no confidence in Mr. Speaker. Not one of this multiplicity of unimportant bits and pieces that the honorable member for Melbourne has dredged up could, alone, be the basis for a motion of no confidence in Mr. Speaker.
The object of the motion is to divert public attention from. the disgraceful conduct of the Opposition in this House. The subject of the motion is action taken by Mr. Speaker which is paralleled by exactly similar action taken by occupants of the chair when the Labour party was in office. When Mr. Speaker was asked on Wednesday night what his ruling was. he said, as the then Deputy Speaker said on the 17th November, 1948, that he had given no ruling, but had exercised his powers and acted in accordance with the usage and custom of the House. On the following day honorable members opposite said that he had no power to act as he had done, because there was no such power in the Standing Orders. I refer honorable members to Standing Order No. 1, which reads -
GENERAL RULE FOB CONDUCT OF BUSINESS.
I also refer honorable members to Sir T. Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice, fifteenth edition, so that they may see what power the Speaker has, because May, through usage and custom, is the accepted authority for the conduct of business in this Parliament, unless otherwise provided. At page 445 of the fifteenth edition, in dealing with the powers of the Chair to enforce order, May says -
Commons. - In so large and active an assembly as the Mouse of Commons, it is absolutely necessary that the Speaker should be invested with authority to repress disorder and to give effect, promptly and decisively, to the rules and orders of the House. The ultimate authority upon all points is the House itself; but the Speaker is the executive officer by whom its rules are enforced.
Lower down on the same page appears the following statement -
The power to punish disorder is regulated partly by practice and partly by standing order. . . .
Practice and standing order! Usage and customs! The Speaker has the power vested in bini, lt is part and parcel of the democratic control of this Parliament. Therefore, when it is said that the Speaker has no power to act as Mr. Speaker acted on Wednesday night, I say that the power under which he acted has been accepted as the power of all Speakers, and I instance the action of the former Deputy Speaker when the Labour party was in office, who took such action because he recognized that, by usage and custom, he must have powers of this nature in order to control the House. The present Speaker uses that power under circumstances that are by no means new. However, the Opposition, in an attempt to evade its responsibility for its conduct in the House last Wednesday night, has produced this trumpery motion of no confidence, which the honorable member for Melbourne has moved. Mr. Speaker, we have no hesitation in supporting your action.
– I have already seconded the motion, and now wish to express my support for it. I think the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) has completely misconceived the position. He spent most of his time in arguing that Mr. Speaker was correct when he claimed that his decision was not reviewable by the House. But this House overruled Mr. Speaker by a considerable majority. Mr. Speaker must base all his actions on interpretations of standing orders, but in this case he claimed the absolute right to say, “ I have acted, my action cannot be questioned, and therefore there is no point of order “. I shall not debate the merits of that decision. It is a side issue in this case. The House overruled Mr. Speaker, and that is not the point under discussion to-day. The point is this: has there been any real attempt in those matters by Mr. Speaker to apply the Standing Orders? I do not think that Mr. Speaker has addressed his mind to the meaning of the standing orders which are relevant in a matter such as this. Let me read them. They are Standing Orders 77, 78, 79 and 80.
– And Standing Order 86.
– I am not speaking about Mr. Speaker’s powers; I am speaking of the matter of calling to order, from which most of these things have arisen by way of bitter dispute. The object of the Standing Orders is not to determine the facts in every case, but to ensure that the business of the House shall be conducted in an orderly way, that points of view may be put, and that there will not be so heated an atmosphere in the House that a proper debate cannot be carried on. A further proof of the fact that Mr. Speaker does not understand these standing orders is to be found in a statement which he made this afternoon. A suggestion had been made as to the sobriety of an honorable member on a certain occasion, and Mr. Speaker said, “If such a case occurs again I shall ask the House to determine whether the honorable member was sober “. That is a monstrous suggestion. Such a determination would be impossible. How could evidence be called? If such a suggestion is made Mr. Speaker must call to order the honorable member who makes it, and not ask this House to determine a question which, if decided in a police court, would require the calling of evidence and might take a full day. The object of the Standing Orders is not to deal with a particular imputation but to prevent imputations being made, so that debates may be continued - unless the particular allegation is directly related to a motion. I want to make that point clear. If these standing orders are not properly understood and followed, the proceedings of this House will be conducted in such a fashion that they will disgrace the nation as well as the Parliament.
Standing Order 77 is. in the following terms : -
No Member shall use offensive words against either House of the Parliament or any Member thereof, against any Member of the Judiciary, or against any Statute unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal.
That is a prohibition. No House of the Parliament, or any member of a House, and no member of the judiciary may be attacked by offensive words.
Standing Order 78 reads -
All imputations of improper motives and all. personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
First, offensive words, and, secondly, personal reflections, are disorderly.
Standing Order 79 reads -
When any offensive or disorderly words are used, whether by a Member who is addressing the Chair or by a Member who 13 present, the Speaker shall intervene.
It is not necessary that an honorable member should rise to a point of order. A stage can be reached in this House where so many insults are hurled across the chamber, especially insults connected with communism or Communist sympathies, that the honorable member who is attacked cannot repeatedly rise and interject. There is a responsible officer who shall intervene. That responsible officer is Mr. Speaker. The standing order tells him that he must intervene.
Standing Order SO says -
The House will interfere to prevent the prosecution of any quarrel between Members arising out of debates or proceedings of the House or of any Committee thereof.
I want to refer to the history of that standing order. There was a time in England when, if offensive expressions were used in the Parliament, the only remedy available to members was to resort to violence outside the House. The whole purpose of the Standing Orders is to ensure that the debate shall proceed, and that both sides may put their views.
I now refer to Mr. Speaker’s ridiculous ruling about a suggestion that an honorable member is a Communist. Mr. Speaker has ruled repeatedly and correctly that such an imputation may not he made, yet he said on Thursday last that the Communist party is a lawful body, and that therefore such a suggestion may be made and is not offensive. Of course, everybody, except Mr. Speaker, knows that such an expression is offensive. It is not the duty of an honorable member to object to offensive words. If 1 objected to some of the imputations of that nature that have been made against rue, or if other honorable members objected to the counter-imputation of being fascists, we would be rising all the time to make our objections. It is the duty of Mr. Speaker to call to order the honorable member who has used offensive words. It is his duty to do that in a way that is not arbitrary or unjust. He should not single out this side of the House when offensive expressions are used, while allowing honorable members on the other side who use such expressions to go unpunished or uncorrected. This House has become a bear garden because of the attitude of Mr. Speaker in these matters. Opposition members have no redress except to bring this matter to the notice of the Government and of the House, and to ask for a. fair decision.
I shall not refer to the earlier matters which have been mentioned by my colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). They are all embodied in Hansard and rulings have been given about them. On the occasions when they arose it was just as lawful to be a member of the Communist, party as it is to-day, and if the use of expressions of the nature referred to by my colleague were out of order then, it is likewise out of’ order to-day. My complaint is that after a new group had been formed in this House the expressions were used over and over again, particularly during the foreign affairs debate, and the offenders were not corrected. That is a scandalous state of affairs. It prevents, the debate from being conducted in a dignified way. Such action cannot be tolerated. It would not be tolerated in an ordinary committee or meeting, but it is permitted here in the National Parliament.
Let me give one or two further illustrations. Mr. Speaker said last week, “You may call a person a Communist. It is not against the Standing Orders. It is not offensive.”
– Is it offensive to call an honorable member a fascist ?
– Yes, that is offensive.
– The right honorable gentleman is always calling certain honorable members opposite fascists.
– I realize that fully. In my view, honorable members who unjustly call other honorable members Communists are fairly characterized, by way of fair comment, as fascist in trend. But let that pass. I believe that if such expressions are used on one side of the House there are bound to be reprisals, and the business of the House cannot then be properly conducted. That state of affairs is all due to the action of Mr. Speaker. I do not think that any other person in the House who sat in the Speaker’s Chair would permit it. I do not agree with the remarks of my colleague about political partisanship. Every one in this House is a political partisan, and there is nothing wrong in that. But in the Speaker’s Chair, which is for the moment a chair of justice, partisanship should be controlled. That is all we ask.
I shall refer now to the action taken by Mr. Speaker in relation to a matter that I brought before the House last week. T refer to the allocation of rooms in this building. I apologize for so doing, because the House decided the question. I wrote to Mr. Speaker about it. I suggested a conference between the Speaker, the President and some other honorable members to see. if the matter could be adjusted.
Was that not a reasonable approach? But Mr. Speaker placed the correspondence on the table of this House for the very purpose of permitting a debate on it and he allowed the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) to make a personal and violent attack on me, in the course of which the right honorable gentleman did not deal with the question of accommodation. How can one transact business in that way? Who thought of that one?
– A conspiracy between the Speaker and myself !
– It appears to me that perhaps more than one mind conceived the vast and brilliant plan - “ We will fix him ; put it on the table and I will have a go at him ! “ These matters are very important. Some of the speeches delivered during the important debate on foreign affairs were worthy of the highest traditions of this House. However, six or eight members could not resist the temptation to seek a little publicity in the press by calling others Communist sympathizers. If any one unjustly accuses some one else of being a Communist, he is bound to meet with the counter-cry of “ fascist “. Any one who falsely accuses some one else of Communist sympathies deserves what he gets. The events that I have described led to the tone of the debate being lowered and to a complete lack of the required sense of responsibility. That is substantially a correct statement, of the position.
I turn now to the incident about which the Vice-President of the Executive Council made such great play. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) did not use the words that the Minister attributed to him, though it is true that the honorable member became impatient. It is my belief that a systematic attempt was made to prevent the honorable member for East Sydney from getting into his stride with his speech. His time was limited to twenty minutes and he was most anxious to develop his remarks, but, in order to waste further time, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), who is the Government Whip, also intervened. Finally, the honorable member- for East Sydney offended. He immediately apologized. He did not defy the Chair, but he struggled to get on with his speech, and with that end in view he asked you, Mr. Speaker, not to interrupt.
– - Just like that!
– I do not say that it was done just like that, but it was not done in the manner that the Minister suggests. What should the Speaker have done? May’s Parliamentary Practice prescribes the action that should have been taken in such circumstances. The Speaker should have warned the honorable member for East Sydney, and should not have deprived him of the right to make his speech. By doing so, he did not deprive the honorable member of anything so much as he deprived the honorable member’s constituents and the Australian Labour party of the right to a proper debate on the matter that was under discussion. Having acted so far, you, Mr. Speaker, went one step farther, and called a Minister. The result was that three speakers in succession, broadly speaking, with similar arguments to present to the House - a Minister, then an honorable member who belongs to the party led by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua), and succeeding him a second Minister - were called. That action led, as I have already stated, to disorder. The failure of the Speaker to ensure that the Standing Orders are correctly observed must always tend to lead to disorder.
The days of the physical duel have passed. Until comparatively recent times, they existed in England, especially in relation to parliamentary proceedings, and for that reason the powers that I have mentioned were given to the Speaker in the Mother Parliament, from which the practice of this Parliament derives. “We now know, of course, that, as the Government will not support the motion, it is certain to be defeated. The .purpose of the Opposition in moving the motion is to call attention, in a striking manner, to the duty of the Speaker in circumstances such as those that have occurred. It is not his function merely to wait for an honorable member to take a point of order under the Standing Orders. The Speaker must intervene when offensive words are used or personal reflections are made.
In such an event, he should intervene immediately and call the offending member to order. In the proper case also, he should demand an apology, and, if the member in question has been grossly offensive, the Speaker should go even further. That is clear from the Standing Orders. If the Speaker acted in accordance with those Standing Orders, the decorum of the House would be improved, order would be maintained, and the people generally would have the benefit of better debates in this House.
I am conscious of the fact that you, sir, no doubt have very strong political opinions, in consequence of which you are opposed to the views of the Opposition, but I point out, with respect, that a Speaker in the chair must control his feelings. The Opposition asks only for the fair application of the Standing Orders. We ask that they be interpreted justly and not arbitrarily. What an arbitrary action it was for you, Mr. Speaker, to order the honorable member for East Sydney to resume his seat so that he was deprived of the opportunity to make his speech, for you then to call upon a Minister to follow him, and for you thereby to allow three speakers in succession to present the case for the Government! Your action was sheer arbitrary conduct. I cannot imagine that any Speaker of the House of Commons would do such a thing and I am not aware that anything similar has occurred in the history of the Australian Parliament. I am sure that you, sir, must have considered that the disorder that followed - I do not justify it, but I look at it in the light of the events that preceded it - was due to a spontaneous protest by every fair-minded member against the way in which we on this side of the House were treated.
The future is more important even than this debate. I put it to the House that surely all honorable members can agree upon the meaning of the Standing Orders. The Government, of course, for the moment considers that it is embarrassing to the Opposition that the incident should have occurred and that it can be put to the Government’s advantage, but that will not be so in the long-run. The debates in this House must be so conducted as to allow all sides of questions to be argued. I admit that the presence of the fourth party in this House causes difficulty. But we want to face the situation frankly. The difficulty is that the members of that party, on some points, are not opposed to Government policy, and, indeed, their policy on a number of matters runs parallel to that of the Government. The foreign policy of the members of this fourth party, to a large degree, coincides with that of the Government. Consequently, I should think that it would be the duty of the Speaker to alternate the expression of the views of the Government and of the Opposition, not on the basis of the physical position in this House of the members of the fourth party to which I have referred, but by taking into account the substance of the views that you, Mr. Speaker, knew would be expressed by the members of that fourth party. I am sure that a fair consideration of this question would enable any one to come to that conclusion. However, you did not act in that manner, and the Opposition suffered hardship because the honorable member for East Sydney was denied an opportunity to express the Opposition’s views. This would not have happened if the Speaker had a sense of humour, and a sense of proportion, which you, sir, lack. You have wit. We know that, for you display it, often to the disadvantage of particular honorable members. On the other hand, you do not ensure that, in an institution such as this, where very strong differences of opinion are apparent, the debate shall be conducted smoothly by the application of oil to the machinery of parliamentary administration. Instead, you often throw sand into the machinery.
This House must deal with great and small questions. It would be better for Australia if you, Mr. Speaker, either made up your mind to observe theStanding Orders and to discharge faithfully the direct obligation thrust upon you by them, or made way for an honorable member who would faithfully discharge the proper duties of the Speaker of this House. That is the view of the Opposition. I certainly have not dealt with all the small complaints that we on this side of the House might make against you. I have pointed out that a serious situation arises if the Standing Orders are not carried into effect. With the greatest respect, I suggest that not only are they not being carried into effect, but also they are occasionally applied partially, arbitrarily and capriciously. That is the worst possible thing that could be done. The capricious application of a law or, in this instance, of a standing order, serves only to engender a burning sense of injustice among those who are affected by the capricious application. The result is resentment, a tendency towards disorder, and, in relation to this House, the gradual bringing into disrepute of the proceedings of parliamentary government. The most important thing to be considered is the effective conduct of parliamentary government.For the reasons that I have mentioned, I support the motion.
– I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) that it is a serious thing for any one to call another person a Communist. I recall that very many years ago this term was thrown up at Mr. “Jock” Garden. On each occasion on which it was used, he repudiated it. He stated that the rule? of the Australian Labour party were so framed that he could not at the same time belong to the Australian Communist party and to the Australian Labour party.For 23 years that gentleman insisted that he had not, at any time, been a member of the Australian Communist party. Yet, when officers of the Commonwealth Investigation Service raided his office just prior to the appointment of the royal commission of inquiry in relation to timber rights in New Guinea, an up-to-date ticket for the Australian Communist party was found in the drawer of the desk in his office. It is one thing to call a person a Communist and quite another thing to prove it. No one can say with certainty that a person is a member of the Australian Communist party unless he sees his party ticket, and in no circumstances are we likely to see the party ticket of any one who is so accused. However, it is proper to call a person pro-Communist, and to indicate one’s reasons for doing so. The honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens) and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) are charged with having called other honorable members in this House Communists, but I consider that the term “ pro-Communist “ would be appropriate to their meaning. If one wishes to adduce evidence of the proCommunist sympathies of the Leader of the Opposition, one has only to point to his public actions both inside and outside this Parliament.
– I rise to order. I object, under the standing order that I have mentioned, to the attempt by the Minister to pin on me the term “ pro-Communist “. I submit that in doing so he is out of order.
– I am taking no action.
– -One has only to look at the public activities of the right honorable gentleman both inside and outside of Parliament. Could any one who was not a. pro-Communist do what he has done so successfully? For instance, is there any difference between his foreign policy and that of Communist leaders in Australia? There is not the slightest difference.
-The Minister should proceed to discuss the question of want of confidence in the Speaker.
– I am just endeavouring to-
– You are just a dirty pro-fascist. If this sort of thing goes on, you will get it, too !
– That demonstrates my point. Every one who criticizes the Communist party is called a “ profascist “. That is the rejoinder of the Communists.
– No. You say it against me and I will say it against you:
– My case is proved. The impartiality with which you have discharged your duty, Mr. Speaker, is shown by the fact that this is the first occasion that I recollect, during your period of almost six years in office, upon which such a motion has been proposed. The difference between your administration and that of the previous Speaker is illustrated by the fact that such motions as this were then almost of monthly occurrence. I recall that very clearly because I was the victim of Mr. Speaker
Rosevear’s rulings on more than one occasion. I remember being thrown out of this House, not for what I said, but for what the then Speaker thought I was about to say. To do him justice, I was indeed about to say it. The paucity of the ammunition that the Opposition was able to produce in support of the motion is shown by the fact that it had to go back to the period when you, Mr. Speaker, were a private member. It attempted to show that what you had done in respect of Station 2KY was an indication of your partiality as Speaker to-day. This was followed by the contradictory statement that at present you were working against the Prime Minister as well as the Opposition. Very little has been adduced that would call into question your worth as the presiding officer of this Parliament. The motion contains no merit and I have no doubt that, if this matter were treated in the proper way, the whole Parliament would vindicate your actions as Speaker.
.- I support the motion because the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) was justified in criticizing the inconsistency of some of your decisions in the past. On the other hand, in recent weeks, you have been subjected to a campaign of intimidation in an attempt to influence you to alter your attitude towards the member? of the party who sit in this corner of the House. To a very large extent this motion is a part of that campaign of intimidation and to a certain degree the campaign has succeeded. You have denied to my colleagues their full rights and you have failed to take action against persons whose behaviour, if neglected, would reduce these proceedings to a shambles and make proper debate impossible.
The first complaint made by the honorable member for Melbourne and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) was= that you referred to the honorable members who sit in this corner of the House as the Anti-Communist Labour party. You had previously been informed by ns officially that we desired to be known by that title so that we might he distinguished from those who sat behind the right honorable member for Barton.
– But not in that form.
– Obviously, a clear distinction should be drawn between those who sit in this corner- “Mr. SPEAKER.- Order ! As it is now two hours after the time fixed for the meeting .of the House, the debate on the motion is interrupted under Standing Order 108.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to -
That the time for the discussion of the motion be extended.
– Neither I nor the other members of the party who sit with me have accused those who sit behind the right honorable member for Barton of being Communists, but we are entitled to say that, irrespective of their personal opinions, they are the victims of a nonaggression pact, with the Communist party made by a junta calling itself the federal executive of the Australian Labour party, which is dominated by the right honorable member for Barton.
– Order ! The honorable member will discuss the motion before the Chair.
– Eoi- the reason that I have given, it is essential that there should be a clear line of demarcation between us and those who sit behind the right honorable member for Barton. Let us come now to the happenings of last week. The Leader of the Opposition has complained about the treatment that his supporters have received at your hands, but the boot is really on the other foot. We are the party that is entitled to complain. You, Mr. Speaker, honorable members and the Government Whip know that when T spoke on the motion for the printing of a paper relating to foreign affairs and defence the supporters of the right honorable member- for Barton arranged for the honorable member for East .Sydney (Mr. Ward) to speak after me. That placed him in a very favorable position. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) was to have been given the call, but immediately after you called me, the honorable member for Parkes retired gracefully from the table and the honorable member for East. Sydney, as had been, arranged with- you by the - Government.
Whip and the Leader of the Opposition, was called. That, arrangement placed the honorable member for East Sydney in the most favorable position possible to reply to my speech.
– That is not correct.
– Thus, Mr. Speaker, you gave to the supporters of the Leader of the Opposition an advantage to which they were not entitled. We, as an Opposition party, are. entitled to put our views. In some respects they might coincide with those of the Government. That has often happened in this House, but you have continued to call honorable member? from each side of the House alternately. That is the normal procedure and it gives parties their due representation in debate.
In. giving the honorable member for East Sydney, instead of a Government supporter, an opportunity to speak after me you gave to the supporters of the right honorable member for Barton a very great advantage. To that extent you allowed yourself to be intimidated, and displayed bias. With regard to the speech of the honorable member for East Sydney, I” believe, Mr. Speaker, that you erred in sitting him down, because the members of this corner party are not afraid of the honorable member for East Sydney or of the abuse that he may care to hurl at us or at- any of his friends sitting with him.
But let me refer to what I think was the most disgraceful incident ever to occurin the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. You sat the honorable member for East Sydney down. Irrespective of whether you acted correctly or otherwise in doing so, under the Standing Orders there was ample opportunity for the supporters of the honorable member for East Sydney either to move that he be further heard, or to take other action so that the House itself could decide whether he- should continue with his speech. But. what happened? Nobody was accusinganybody of being a Communist. There was no spontaneous eruption because I had called, a supporter of the right honorable member for- Barton a Communist. The honorable member for East Sydney had been speaking, and he’ had been calling people names. We were not calling- anybody names. Immediately you sat him downy Mr,. Speaker;, the people sitting’ behind the right honorable member for Barton, led by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Webb), stood as one person, and hooted and yelled like a team of larrikins in the Sydney Domain.
It was a most disgraceful performance, of which, I am sure, those who participated in it, if they have any regard for parliamentary institutions, are deeply ashamed. What would be the position in this Parliament if, on every occasion when the Speaker ruled against an honorable member, those who supported him rose to their feet and yelled and stamped like a mob of yahoos in some back suburb of a capital city of Australia ? I saw exactly the same kind of conduct by people inspired by a few beers at a meeting which I addressed in my electorate last night. They were the same type of people, inspired by the same motives. The demonstration that we saw and heard in this House last Tuesday night, Mr. Speaker, when supposedly responsible members of the Parliament were stamping and yelling insults at you at the tops of their voices, warranted on your part the strongest possible action, if the dignity of the Parliament, to which the Leader of the Opposition referred with his tongue in his cheek, was to be maintained. This Parliament is more important than the Leader of the Opposition, myself, or any other member of it. The institution of parliament is the only bulwark by which ordinary men and women can hope to protect their liberties, their freedom and their decent way of life. Any action such as that taken last Tuesday night by those who sit behind the right honorable member for Barton is aimed directly at the institution of parliament and, if permitted to continue, will make ordinary parliamentary life absolutely impossible. My complaint against you, Mr. Speaker, and the reason why I propose to vote for the motion, is that instead of taking action against the people responsible for that demonstration, you walked out of the chamber and came in the next morning as though nothing extraordinary had happened. The demonstration required the strongest possible action by you against those responsible for it. Everybody who heard it in the House or over the air agrees that it was one of the most reprehensible things ever done by any group of members of this
Parliament. I say, therefore, that you failed in your duty by not taking action against the people concerned.
Another way in which I say you failed in your duty was in your dealings with the honorable member for East Sydney last Thursday night, when, with coldblooded and deliberate malice, knowing perfectly well that what he was saying was completely and absolutely untrue, he said, so that tens of thousands of people listening to their radios would hear it, that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) was full of grog.
– He never said that.
– Everybody here heard what he said. You made his offence worse, Mr. Speaker, by rising to your feet, repeating what had been said and leaving the Minister for External Affairs - who, for better or worse, represents this country in the councils of the nations - in the position of attempting to rise in his place and argue that he was not under the influence of intoxicating liquor. Everybody in the House knew perfectly well that that remark was made with deliberate and cold malice, in the knowledge that it was perfectly untrue. I am not concerned so much with the welfare of the Minister for External Affairs as with the welfare of the other members of the Parliament. If you are going to permit, as you did permit, an honorable member to do a thing like that, only one remedy will be available to other honor. able members, that is, to attempt to retaliate on the same lines. If they do attempt to retaliate on the same lines, what will this Parliament become, except a medium by which some honorable members will disseminate over the air slanders against other members? Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I say that you failed in your duty when, after a cold-blooded andmalicious attempt to defame the Minister for External Affairs, you did not take the very strong action that was warranted. I know that in their hearts all honorable members sitting on the Opposition benches, whether they be supporters of the right honorable member for Barton or otherwise, agree with me on that matter.
One matter that was not touched upon, as far as I could gather, by the. mover of the motion, was the statement that yon have failed to interpret or correctly apply the Standing Orders of the House. Last Thursday evening, when the motion for the closure of the debate on the Prime Minister ‘3 statement on foreign affairs had been put, I attempted to move an amendment to the motion for the printing of the paper. I attempted to do so after the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) had been disposed of. You ruled, Mr. Speaker, that I was out of order. It was an important amendment, because it outlined the policy of the party that sits in this corner in relation to defence and the recruitment of Australian forces. It stated that we believed the security of this country was the paramount consideration and that Australian forces ought to be recruited by voluntary enlistment. But the Leader of the Opposition, who to-day is criticizing your conduct, rose quickly to his feet in order to persuade you to rule the amendment out of order, so that he and his party would not have to vote on it. Paragraph (&) of Standing Order 94 states -
When the Motion “ That the question be now put” has been carried, and the question consequent thereon has been decided-
In this case that referred to the amendment of the honorable member for Parkes - any further Motion may be at once made without debate.
I proposed to move a further amendment designed to add certain words to the motion proposed by the Prime Minister, but you ruled the amendment out of order. In my opinion, you acted contrary to the Standing Orders. I say that your interpretation of the Standing Orders on that occasion was wrong, and deprived the members of this corner party of an opportunity to secure a vote of the House on a matter we had been discussing for days on end, a matter of great importance to the Australian people.
Finally, let me say that I believe that at the present time it is desperately important for the people of Australia that, if members of this Parliament, either individually or collectively, follow a policy which it may legitimately be pointed out coincides with the policy being advocated for the moment by the
Communist party, either in Communist organs, by Communist speakers or by any other means, we should have the right - indeed it is our duty - to point out that fact in this Parliament. If anybody feels offended by that action, I suggest that the remedy is to stop following Communist policy. Then nobody will be likely to accuse him of doing so.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Our friends talk about McCarthyism. Let me say that we have never been the subject, as has the Leader of the Opposition, of a comment by the members of a royal commission about smearers and those who use words which leave a trail of slime behind them. We have nothing whatever to apologize about in that regard. If the followers of the Leader of the Opposition advocate policies which are identical, almost word for word, with what appears in Communist party publications, with what appears in the Communist press and with what is spouted from Communist platforms in Hyde Park and on the Yarra bank, are we to be deprived of an opportunity to point out to the electors the policies that those people are advocating and how these policies coincide with the policies of the Communist party? If, Mr. Speaker, you submit to intimidation by the supporters of the Leader of the Opposition, then you are failing in your duty to maintain this Parliament as a free institution which may allow the people to know what policies are being followed by their elected representatives. I support the motion because I believe that irrespective of what has happened in the past, even last week you failed to take action against, those responsible for a most disgraceful demonstration in this House. That demonstration was entirely unwarranted, because those honorable members who created the disturbance had ample remedies under the Standing Orders. Under the Standing Orders they could have tried to get a further hearing for the honorable member for East Sydney, but instead of doing so they created a disturbance.
I believe that you, Mr. Speaker, erred in giving the honorable member for East Sydney an opportunity to wait until I had completed my speech on foreign affairs before he spoke, so that he, in his destructive debating style, could try to refute what I had said. In those circumstances I believe that you definitely displayed favoritism. Again, quite recently you permitted the honorable member for East Sydney quite deliberately and maliciously to defame a Minister, well knowing that by so doing you were putting that Minister in such a position that he could not reply to the defamation without giving further publicity to it. Therefore, my party will vote for tho motion before the House in the hope that that action will encourage you to desist from allowing honorable members on your left from continuing to intimidate you.
.- I have been amazed at the course that this debate has taken. The matter before the House was introduced by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who seemed reluctant to espouse the cause that had evidently been thrust upon him. Perhaps he thought that he should espouse the motion to justify his shaky hold, on the deputy leadership of the Opposition. His speech to the House demonstrated that he had done a considerable amount of homework during the week-end, and had studied many copies of Hansard in order to obtain the matter upon which to build his argument.
I was entirely unmoved by the impassioned address of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). Indeed, the debate seems to have developed into something like a schoolboy argument. Somebody has called somebody else a nasty name. Somebody has hurled the word “ Communist “ across the House, which has brought the retort of “fascist”. Then somebody has charged somebody else with being an anti-Communist, and somebody else has used the word “ antifascist”. However, such conduct has occurred from time to time in the past, and those words no doubt will continue to be bandied across this House while red and black shirts are made and worn.
Then the House heard the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon). He seemed to blow hot and cold in your direc tion, Mr. Speaker. At one moment he was praising you, and the next moment he was condemning you. In view of the nature of his speech, we shall not wonder a t all if you draw the conclusion that the honorable member’s arguments were not at all substantial. I believe that the substantial part of the debate has been lost. The matter which really should concern all honorable members is the lamentable lack of dignity displayed in this House during the last few weeks, and the lamentable loss of respect for the Chair by honorable members opposite. It is most regrettable also, that the business of the Government has been interrupted to-day by a member of the Opposition, with a motion such as that now before us. It is quite obvious that this technique of delay will be used by the Opposition time and time again as the days go by. This type of conduct does not enhance the reputation of the Opposition, nor does it increase the dignity of the Parliament. However, that tragic state of affairs does not seem to worry honorable members opposite, who are quite content to turn this House into what has recently become nothing better than a vaudeville show.
The danger is that that type of action by honorable members opposite will bring the Government into disrepute, and will bring it under a certain amount of criticism. Indeed, that may be the real motive inspiring the motion against you to-day, Mr. Speaker. There has been a strong move on the part of the Opposition during the past few weeks to bring this House into disrepute. That may be traced directly to the fact that the Opposition has now divided into different factions, and that honorable members opposite, not content with feuding privately in their own ranks and having disputes in the privacy of their own party room, have dragged their troubles into this House. Indeed, they have converted the House into a sort of pit where they may conduct their arguments - with you as the referee.
When you give a decision which is impartial and in accordance .with the terms and customs of the House, there is an immediate howl from members of the Opposition that they have no confidence in- you. Then they cry out for the appointment of another referee. One should have thought that the Leader of the Opposition, as a one-time member of the High Court of Australia, would have had some idea of the necessity for upholding the traditions of your high office and the dignity of the Parliament. But, without doubt, the Leader of the Opposition has proved himself to-day to be the greatest exponent of all times of political bung rules. He has shown that he has no desire to curb the activities of his own colleagues if they want to put the boot into you, Mr. Speaker, or into the members of the Government.
Despite what the honorable member for Yarra has said to-day, I believe that you took the only course open to you in ending that disgraceful scene which took place in this House last week. I believe that you did the right thing by suspending the sitting of the House. You did at least give the tempers of honorable members opposite a chance to cool down, and did give some hope that a sense of Parliamentary dignity would re-assert itself. I feel that partially, at least, your action did attain its objective. While there is little hope, as long as the Opposition is so seriously divided, that its members will behave in a manner creditable to our democratic system, I believe that the pressure of public opinion will at least prevent, a repetition of the scenes that we witnessed in this House recently when the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) attempted to make you, Mr. Speaker, and this Parliament a laughing-stock for the nation. Many citizens, among them many of my constituents, have during the last weekend expressed to me the view that the Government, as the master of the House, should take some action to restore the decorum of the Parliament.
– That would be difficult to do.
– Yes, particularly when most of the difficulty would come from the Opposition. It must be remembered that the forms of the Parliament have evolved over the centuries, with the just purpose of ensuring that the Opposition, as well as the Government, shall have full opportunity to express itself.
Therefore, if this Government took any action which would amount to disciplining the Opposition, however justified that action might be, it would be a violation of the spirit of the Parliament. The eventual remedy for the behaviour of the Opposition in recent weeks lies with the electors, and surely in the future they will determine, by their vote, what is seemly behaviour by members of Parliament. That, however, is a long-term view. The immediate requirement is for the removal from the Parliament of the danger of its being brought into disrepute. That can be achieved only by strong but impartial action by you, Mr. Speaker. The motion now before the House does little to assist you in the performance of your duties.
It will be remembered that moves against the Speaker were very infrequent when the Opposition was led by the late Mr. J. B. Chifley. Under the leadership of the right honorable member for Barton the Australian Labour party has converted itself into a number of brawling factions which may, or may not, have any regard for the dignity of the Parliament. As a result of the failure of the Leader of the Opposition to display any quality of leadership, scant respect is paid to the Chair by Opposition member’s. Does the fault lie in you, Mr. Speaker, or in the ability of the right honorable gentleman to control the members of the party of which he is leader? I should like to quote the following opinion of one authority in relation to the office of the Speaker, which has been published by the Hansard Society of London : -
It has been well remarked that such an office-
The office of Speaker - does not require brilliant or rare qualities so much as common qualities in a rare degree. It needs a practical man with a sound instinct for justice, who does his task honestly, firmly and good-humouredly.
– Do not be sarcastic.
– The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) interjects. Last week, we witnessed the amusing spectacle of the honorable member acting like a small boy carrying about a lighted match to ascertain for father whether there was any petrol in the tank of his car. When the thing blew up, the honorable member was left lamenting. His own leader, whom he had supported when the question of a spill was being considered, refrained from voting on the motion that the honorable member himself had submitted to caucus. All I can say about the honorable member for Werriwa is that he is living very dangerously. Whether or not there is a spill, he will discover that, in the process of seeking one, he has hurt somebody. There are honorable members opposite who have been in the Labour movement longer than has the honorable member himself, and he will suffer as a result of his inexperience. I had been referring to the opinion that had been published by the Hansard Society of London in relation to the basic qualities of a Speaker. Although you, Mr. Speaker, may not have, in the opinion of honorable gentlemen opposite, your full share of those common qualities in a rare degree, it is a fairly well established fact that the office of the Speaker is very difficult indeed. Despite that, it has become obvious from the remarks of Opposition members that there are many of them who believe they possess the outstanding qualities that would entitle them to occupy the chair at any given moment.
The speakership is not the sole possession of the Government; the Speaker is voted to his honorable office by the House itself. I recollect the occasion upon which you, Mr. Speaker, were elected to that office. The House alone may determine your term of office and sphere of usefulness, and it may set its own standard of dignity. A sense of dignity is something that should be fostered and cherished by all honorable members regardless of their political beliefs. If the occupant of the chair is not assisted by honorable members themselves, the dignity of the House is lowered accordingly. I, as a private member, voted for your election to the office that you now hold, and since your election, sometimes under trying circumstances, you have endeavoured, to the best of your ability, to lift the tone of the House. The fact that you have not always been supported in your efforts is to be regretted.
There is a move afoot to make the House the political plaything of the Leader of the Opposition. He, as the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) has stated, is skilled in diversionary tactics. Having incurred the displeasure of the Labour party by his intervention in the Petrov affair, he looked for some means of diverting the minds of his followers from a criticism of himself. The result was the breaking up of the Parliamentary Labour party. Part of it sits on the Opposition crossbenches, and the remainder on the benches immediately before us. In this bid for power, he has flushed out into the open feelings of passion and hatred which have affected himself, so he has tried to turn the attention of his followers to you, Mr. Speaker, by supporting the motion that is now before the House. !N”o member or section of the Australian public will have been convinced by the reasons that have been advanced for the submission of the motion. I speak only for the electorate of Mitchell when I say that my constituents believe that it is my responsibility, in the House, to assist, according to my capacity, in the government of the country. They feel, and rightly so, that the purpose of government is not being well served when the House is called upon to spend its time, not in the process of government, but in witnessing, amongst members of the Labour party, a vendetta which brings little credit to the House. The value of the democratic system of government lies in the fact that the party with a majority in the Parliament must rule. On the other hand, the Opposition is presumed to be elected by its supporters to place its views before the Parliament. The Opposition fails in its essential duty when, instead of advancing the views of its own supporters, it devotes its time to fighting amongst its own members. When it tires of that exercise, it turns to you, Mr. Speaker, with the design that, through you, the House shall be discredited. The Opposition gains little from the submission of this motion, and it should be condemned for wasting the time of the House. While you, Mr. Speaker, express the firm and honest intention of maintaining order, and of preserving the dignity of the House, I shall be content to support you. I am sure that the majority of honorable members agree with that attitude, and that they deplore the present irresponsible tactics of the Opposition.
– Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Sir ERIC HARRISON) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. ARchie Cameron.) Ayes . . . . . . 57
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Question put -
That the motion (vide page 543) be agreed to.
The House divided. (MR. Speaker - Hon. ARchie Cameron.)
Majority . . . .. 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Wool Realization (Distribution ofProfits) Act 1048-1952.
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 Wool Realization (Distribution of Profits) Act 1948-1952 in certain directions. These amendments have been made necessary mainly by the fact that, because of the Poulton case situation, it has not been possible to make a final distribution of profits under the Wool Realization (Distribution of Profits) Act by the 30th lune, 1955, as was originally envisaged by the Parliament. I shall refer to the Poulton case and its implications later. The bill also contains other provisions, mainly of a machinery nature, to which T shall also refer.
A brief outline of the history of what are referred to generally as Joint Organization wool profits will probably assist the consideration of the present bill. Honorable members are no doubt aware of the war-time arrangement by which the Australian Government acquired and sold to the United Kingdom all wool produced in Australia except such quantities as were required for local use. The period of this arrangement was the duration of the war and one full year thereafter. Under the arrangement, which was terminated by mutual consent of the two Governments on the 31st July, 1945, any profits arising from the sale by the United Kingdom Government of Australianproduced wool to third countries were to be shared equally between the two Governments.
Honorable members will recall that this war-time arrangement was followed by the wool disposals plan, to which the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa were parties. Australia’s part in the plan was written into the Wool Realization Act 1945. An authority known as the Joint Organization was established to implement the plan and the Australian Wool Realization Commission was created as its Australian subsidiary. The stocks of Australian. New Zealand and South African wools passed over to the Joint Organization by the United Kingdom at the outset were 10,400,000 bales. In addition to handling these stocks, the organization bought up the total Southern Dominion wool clips during 1945-46 and smaller amounts in later periods. These later purchases were those made by the Joint Organization in pursuance of its plan to stabilize the market by buying in any wool which did not realize, at auction, a predetermined level. Some 90,000 bales of Australian wool were bought in under this procedure.
The policy of the Joint Organization was to conduct disposals in an orderly manner so as not to depress the market. The market proved, however, to be unexpectedly buoyant and the disposal of the Joint Organization wool stocks did not take nearly as long as had been originally anticipated. In all, Joint Organization sold over 15,000,000 bales of wool of which nearly 10,000,000 bales were Australian. This disposal was completed at the end of 1951. The United Kingdom retained half of the profits from sales of wool during the disposal period, and paid the other half to the governments of the countries which had supplied the wool.
Australia’s share of the Joint Organization profits amounted in all to £90,200,000. These moneys, plus a profit of £900,000 arising from the war-time acquisition and disposal of Australian sheepskins, were invested as opportunity offered. Interest earned on these investments has resulted in the total moneys available for distribution being increased to £93,000,000. When it became clear that a profit, and not a loss, would result from the disposals plan, the Parliament passed the Wool Realization (Distribution of Profits) Act 1948, and a first interim distribution was made in 1949. Subsequent interim distributions were made in 1952, 1953 and 1954, and the latest of such distributions took place at the end of last month.
At this stage, I should refer to what is known as the Poulton case. This litigation has forced the Government to review its earlier plans to complete the distribution of Joint Organization profits by the end of June next. The Poulton case, as honorable members probably know, is the litigation under which wool dealers are claiming a share of the profits which the Wool Realization (Distribution of Profits) Act has authorized to those growers whose wool was submitted for appraisement through dealers. Rulings on this case have been given by a single Justice of the High Court, and by the full High Court. Both of these judgments have been unfavorable to the dealers. It is my understanding, however, that Poulton!, through his solicitors, has indicated he proposes- to make application at an early date to the High Court for leave to appeal to the Privy Council, and it is this fact which is important in the present consideration.
The effects of the Poulton case issue have been twofold. First, a result of the litigation has been that the Government’ has had to delay payment of some £2,900,000 of Joint Organization profits to growers who1 submitted their wool for appraisement through dealers. The second result of the litigation has been that, according to the Government’s legal advisers, it would not be possible to make a final distribution in accordance with the provisions of the act before the 30th June, 1955. The reason is that the existing act requires that the “ expenses and charges “ of the Australian Wool Realization Commission in administering the act have to be known precisely before a final distribution is declared. These expenses and charges cannot be ascertained until the Poulton litigation is settled. As a first step out of this difficulty, I arranged earlier this year, with the approval of my colleage, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), to declare a fifth interim distribution, the amount involved being just short of £12,500,000. Although an interim distribution in name, this distribution is, in effect, the final distribution in respect of WOOl submitted for appraisement through brokers as distinct from dealers, because all available moneys due to be paid out by the Commonwealth in this connexion have, with the exception of a very small sum, now been disbursed. In making the distribution, the commission is using the agency of the brokers. Distribution commenced at the end of April, and is now well on the way to completion. Growers who participate in the distribution will be aware that, as far as they are concerned, it is the final distribution.
I have outlined the general background to this bill in the foregoing comments. I now pass to its specific provisions. The bill states that the distribution gazetted on the 17th March, 1955, is to be regarded as the final distribution for the main purposes of the principal act. The bill also removes the legal obligation to pay out sums- that arc too small to warrant distribution. Those sums, amounting to approximately £14,050, were the moneys received from the Joint Organization after the announcement of the special distribution which took place in June, 1953, and which was restricted to those growers1 who had left the industry prior to the ls:. September, 1949. For al’! practical purposes recipients were paid their full entitlement at this distribution. Theprincipal act envisaged that moneys received after the special distribution would be paid out at the time of the final distribution. Had this taken place, the persons who shared in the special distribution would have received £780 and other growers about £13,270. However, because the principal act required that the “expenses and charges of the commission in administering the act “ should be known at the time of the final distribution, and because it has not been possible to ascertain them, as the Poulton litigation is still unsettled, the distribution which is now being effected had to be an interim distribution. It would have been contrary to the act to take into account the sum of £14,050 received from the Joint Organization after the announcement of the special distribution. The bill provides that this sum of £14,050 and any other amounts left in the Wool Disposals Profits Fund when all distributions have been made, shall be paid into the Wool Industry Fund. The latter fund was set up in 1946 from moneys accumulated by the war-time Central Wool Committee from its activities in non-participating wool, wool-tops and sheep-skins under the war-time acquisition scheme. The fund is used for various purposes related to the wool industry, but mainly for wool research activities from which the benefits to the woolgrowing industry are very real.
I do not expect that any amounts of consequence, apart from the amount of £14,050 that I have mentioned and the unclaimed moneys, will be left for payment into the Wool Industry Fund. 1 say this because, in declaring the amount available for the fifth, and final, distribution, the utmost care was taken to ensure that the amount retained for the working expenses of the commission had been kept to a minimum, in order that growers should receive the maximum amount of profit. Only about £60,000 has in fact been retained for administrative and winding-up expenses to the 30th June, 1956. As 1 mentioned earlier, each interim distribution that has been declared has included an amount of dealer wool profits. The money concerned has been paid to the commission along with the other moneys to which the distribution has related. As it has not been possible to distribute the dealer wool moneys, they have been held by the commission. Most of these dealer wool moneys have been placed on fixed deposit, and a sum of £S0,000 in interest has been earned in this way. The principal act requires that any interest earned on moneys invested by the commission shall be paid to the Wool Disposals Profit Fund. The bill contains the provision that, as and when the dealer wool profits are paid out, each person benefiting will receive, in addition to the principal, his just share of the £80,000 interest.
The bill will enable the commission to deduct from the dealer wool moneys the legal expenses incurred by the commission in contesting the Poulton case, an appropriate share of the commission’s working expenses up to the 30th June, 1956, and half of the indemnity fund. These deductions are not expected to amount to more than £15,000 in all, thus leaving about £2,900,000 of dealer wool moneys to be distributed to people who submitted wool for appraisement through dealers. The bill also provides for the vesting, in the Australian Wool Realization Commission, of discretion to determine, with appropriate safeguards, the just share of individual growers in the £2,900,000 profits on wool sold through dealers. This discretion is expected to be necessary because of the inadequacy of the records relating to much of the wool that was submitted for appraisement by dealers, and the consequent difficulty of ascertaining the “ appraised value “ of the wool concerned which is actually the basis of payment.
Two technical provisions of the bill are designed to remedy deficiencies in the existing act. The first of these relates to the use of the term “participating wool”, the definition of which i3 being amplified to make it clear that the term means not only wool which was submitted for appraisement in the same state as the grower prepared it, but also wool that comprised a mixture of wool from more than one grower. Much of the wool submitted by dealers for appraisement was in the latter category, the dealers having first sorted and repacked it, with the result that such wool lost its original identity.
The other provision will legalize the basis of past distributions inasmuch as the commission, in working out the proper entitlement of each grower under section 7 of the principal act, has interpreted the term “ appraised value “ in regard to dealer wools to mean “ the appraised value recorded against the lots of wool submitted by dealers “, instead of “ the sum of the individual appraised values within each lot “. Some of the individual appraised values in the latter category are already known, but others have still to be determined by the commission. There will be little difference, if any, between the two sets of figures, but it is considered desirable to give legal sanction, as provided in the bill, to the procedure which the commission was obliged to follow.
In conclusion, I wish to say that I am aware of the keen interest which honorable members have taken in the several distributions of the Joint Organization profits, and I believe that they have reason to be well satisfied with the manner in which the distributions have been carried out. I commend the bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Allan Fraser) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) agreed to -
That leave bo given to bring in a bill for an act to repeal the Hide and Leather Industries Act 194S, and for purposes connected therewith.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to repeal the legislation relating to the hide and leather control scheme that operated for a number of years under Commonwealth defence powers, and later under complementary Commonwealth and State legislation. Honorable members will recall that in October of last year I introduced a bill - the Hide and Leather Industries Act Suspension Bill - the purpose of which was to suspend the operative provisions of the principal act, the Hide and Leather Industries Act, 1948, as from the 16th August, 1954.
The reason for not repealing the act in its entirety at that time was to leave the Australian Hide and Leather Industries Board in existence to conduct its winding up activities in an orderly manner. The board’s affairs have now been finalized and no further reason exists for maintaining the board or the legislation. The board’s current assets, after the winding up operations, amount to approximately £5,000. The bill provides that the Commonwealth will accept liability for any further proved claims against the board up to this amount but I am assured it is most unlikely there will be any such claims. It would be quite impracticable to return sucha small amount to the people from whom the board acquired hides over the years, and it is the Government’s intention that any residual funds should be used for research or other activities designed to improve hide production in Australia and to benefit the cattle industry. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Allah Fbaser) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Philip McBRide) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for appeals from courtsmartial to a Courts-Martial Appeal Tribunal.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for the establishment of new machinery for appeals from courts-martial, so as to make better provision for the just enforcement of discipline in the armed services.
The four main features of the bill are -
Under the system now operating in Australia there is no counterpart to this tribunal.
In deciding upon a new appeals system, a basic choice had to be made whether the body determining appeals should form part of the ordinary system of justice, and, therefore, be a court in the strict sense of the word, or whether it should be part of the same system of military disciplinary administration as are courts-martial.
In England, a new civilian court, the Courts-Martial Appeal Court, was created by legislation- passed in 1951. That court constituted in practice primarily by the judges of the Court of Criminal Appeal, but it was recognized that in the event of war it might become necessary from time to time for the court to sit in more than one division and for other judges to be appointed ad hoc. Provision was made to meet these contingencies. Creation of a civilian court did not present the British authorities with any constitutional problem. In Australia, on the other hand, we were faced by the constitutional requirement that judges exercising the judicial power of the Commonwealth must hold life tenure of office. However, the kind, of body which was needed was me of a flexible character, able to function satisfactorily under all conditions in time of war as well as in time of peace Under active service conditions a fairly large complement of members might at times be required, whereas in normal conditions a relatively few members would suffice. In these circumstances, a civilian court, all of whose members would, in accordance with the Constitution, have to be appointed for life, was not an appropriate choice.
The bill proposes instead a tribunal which is to form part of the same system as courts-martial. This tribunal will not be a civilian court. But we do not envisage that, on that account, our appeals system will be any less beneficial or satisfactory than that now operating in the United Kingdom. By reason of the qualifications required for appointment to the tribunal it can, I think, fairly be predicted that the tribunal will command, in the military sphere, a status corresponding to that of a Supreme Court of a State or Territory exercising criminal appellate jurisdiction. Above all, the bill does effect the major reform which was the prime object of the British legislation, namely, the provision of an oral and public hearing of appeals. As a matter of fact, a committee appointed in the United Kingdom to examine the administration of military justice - that was the Lewis Committee, to which I shall refer again in a few moments - would appear in its report submitted in 1948 to have recommended an appeal body forming part of the military system, just like the one provided for in the bill.
The bill takes as its model the United Kingdom Courts-martial Appeals Act of 1951, although, for the constitutional reasons to which I have referred, it has not been practicable to follow that legislation at all points. There were valid reasons for paying close attention to the United Kingdom act. In the first place, the courts-martial system is very much the same in both countries and, secondly, the British act appears to have functioned satisfactorily in the period of about three years since it came into operation. These considerations led an inter-departmental committee, comprising representatives of the Attorney-General’s Department, the service departments and my department, to recommend for Australia legislation on the line of the Courts-martial Appeals Act 1951.
It will, I think, assist honorable members in following the object and scheme of the bill if I first describe briefly the present procedure in regard to courtsmartial convictions. The system in the Army may be taken as an illustration. The finding and sentence of an Army court-martial are not valid and effective until they have been confirmed by the appropriate confirming authority. Provision is made for the confirming authority to refer the proceedings to the appropriate Army legal officer for report. If it appears that the finding is illegal or involves injustice to the accused the confirming authority is required to refuse confirmation.
That is the position before the stage of confirmation. After confirmation, a power to quash the conviction may be exercised by certain specified quashing authorities if it becomes apparent that the finding, although confirmed, was illegal or involved injustice to the accused.
In all cases an automatic review of the proceedings is made in the office of the Judge Advocate-General with a view to detecting any illegality or miscarriage of justice.
Finally, it is open to the convicted officer or soldier to submit a petition seeking the quashing of the finding and sentence. Such a petition may be presented before confirmation or at any time after the finding and sentence have been confirmed.
The system I have outlined obtains also in the Air Force. In the Navy, there is no confirming procedure, but the same type of automatic review takes place and the convicted person may petition against the finding and sentence.
The possibility of injustice occurring is, therefore, already pretty carefully guarded against. Nevertheless, there has for quite a long time been a feeling that the system was open to improvement. In the United Kingdom, two committees were appointed in the period between the first and second world wars. These were the committees presided over in 1919 by Lord Darling and in 1938 by Mr. Justice Oliver. Further inquiries were pursued after the conclusion of World War II. An Army and Air Force Courts-martial Committee under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice Lewis presented a report in 1948, and in 1950 the naval disciplinary system was reviewed by the Pilcher committee. The reports of these committees were followed in 1951 by the passing of the Courts-Martial Appeals Act. The Lewis and the Pilcher committees drew attention to a defect that was then apparent in the British courts-martial appeals system and is still apparent in Australia. The committees pointed out that, whereas a civilian convicted by a civilian court was entitled on appeal to have the appeal heard orally and in public by the appellate tribunal, this was not so in the case of a soldier petitioning against his conviction by court-martial. Both the automatic review, to which I have referred, and the hearing of the petition took place in private. Only written submissions could be made in support of a petition. These submissions were considered in the absence of the soldier or his representatives.
The defect which this bill sets out to remove appears very clearly from the following passages, which are taken from the Lewis report -
The drawback of the present system is that the Forces do not sec it in operation nor does it necessarily take place at once. All that is known is that somebody in an office in London (whom the soldier probably, though erroneously, regards as a War Office official ) is supposed to look through the case after conviction to see that all is according to rule. The Forces also know that a petition against conviction and sentence may bc presented, but nobody knows, not even the accused, the reasons which lead to a petition being dismissed if that is its fate.
The committee continued -
A further disadvantage was well described to us by a witness who at the time he was giving evidence was engaged in drafting a petition against the conviction of a number of soldiers by a court-martial at which he himself had appeared as counsel for the defence. He said, in effect, “ I can put down my various reasons of law on paper, but when reading them the Judge Advocate-General may form in his own mind some ground for thinking they are not well founded. If I knew what that ground was, I might be able to show him by argument that his view was wrong. Bui I shall never get the opportunity of doing so such as I would have if there were an oral hearing of an appeal.”
I think honorable members will agree that, although the existing system is satisfactory in most respects, in this particular respect there is room for reform. In the words of a maxim frequently quoted, justice must not only be done; justice must be seen to be done. Clause IS of the bill gives positive effect to this principle. In these days a very large percentage of the male population enters one of the services at some time or other. Many of our young men spend periods as national service trainees. During the time for which they are in uniform they will, under the proposed new system, have available to them appeal facilities which, for all practical purposes, will be no less advantageous than are those to which civilians may have recourse.
I think I have indicated sufficiently the prime object of the bill, and I turn now to a short discussion of some of its more important features. I shall refer also to the manner in which the new appeals system will work in practice. The new procedure is superimposed on, and does not replace, the present procedure for the review of findings of courts-martial. Similarly, a member of the forces will, up to the moment when he has recourse to the tribunal, be able, just as he is now able, to lodge a petition seeking the squashing of his conviction. The existing system has worked well, within its limits, and its retention will ensure that only matters of real difficulty will come before the tribunal. Clause 20 contains provisions which are designed to assist in this regard. The effect of these provisions is that, except in the case of a conviction involving sentence of death- which, it is thought, should he allowed to come before the tribunal as quickly as possible - the convicted person must first lodge with the appropriate authority a petition seeking the quashing of the conviction. The object is to ensure that the convicted person shall first exhaust the kinds of remedy available to him under the existing system. This is a reasonable requirement, since the petition may well be granted. If the petition is not granted or is not dealt with in a reasonable period the convicted person will be entitled to apply to the tribunal for leave to appeal against his conviction. On the hearing of an appeal the tribunal may, under clause 23, allow the appeal if it considers that the finding of the court-martial is unreasonable, or cannot be supported, having regard ti the evidence, or if it considers that the decision involves a wrong decision of a question of law, or that on any ground there was a miscarriage of justice. This will serve to indicate the wide nature of the appeal which the bill provides. However, it is not proposed that there shall be an appeal against sentence, which will remain a matter for the service authorities.
In the ordinary run of cases, the determination of the tribunal will be final and conclusive, but provision is made in certain circumstances for a case to be stated to the High Court on a question of law. Either the appellant or the appropriate service authority may request that a case be stated. The case may be referred to the High Court if the Attorney-General certifies that the question of law is of exceptional public importance and that it is desirable in the public interest that the question be so referred. The bill follows the United Kingdom Courts-Martial Appeals Act and the Criminal Appeal Act in this regard. Since the tribunal will be well equipped to make an authoritative determination, we think that it is not unreasonable to provide, as does the British legislation, that a person who has recourse to the new appeal body shall not thereafter be able to petition for the quashing of his conviction. As in the civilian sphere, quashing becomes a matter for the appellate tribunal. However, clause 58 expressly preserves the prerogative of mercy,, so that a convicted, member of the forces will still be entitled, as is a civilian, to petition for the grant of a pardon or for the exercise of clemency in other respects.
The bill contains quite a number of ancillary provisions, some of which are made necessary by reason of the fact that the tribunal will not be, as is the court created in England, a superior civilian court. I have outlined the main features and scheme of the bill, and I shall be glad to explain in committee any of the clauses on which honorable members may wish to hear discussion. The introduction of the new appeals system will mark an important step forward in the administration of military justice in Australia and I have, therefore, much pleasure in commending the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Chambers) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Social Services Act 1947-1954.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the bill is to widen the activities of the rehabilitation service provided by the Commonwealth for physically handicapped persons. Honorable members no doubt are well aware of the nature and purpose of this important social service. It may be wise for me to say a word or two in- a general way on rehabilitation itself, and on the development of the civilian scheme. It may be defined as the restoration of the physically handicapped, through treatment and vocational training, to the fullest physical, mental and economic usefulness of which they are capable. It seeks to develop the latent ability and special aptitude of the handicapped individual and to restore his confidence and independence. It hopes to enlist the resources of the community to this end. I should like to remind honorable members that the first step which led to the introduction of the rehabilitation scheme was taken in July, 1941, when the Joint. Parliamentary Committee on Social Security was established by the Menzies Government under the then Minister for Social Services. The first interim report of the committee, issued in September, 1941, emphasized the need for physical rehabilitation and vocational training of invalid pensioners. In the same year the Department of Social Services began to arrange for the training of selected invalid pensioners at the Commonwealth’s expense. After the war the Department of Social Services accepted the responsibility of arranging for the rehabilitation of physically handicapped ex-servicemen who were ineligible for repatriation benefits. The success of the scheme led to the introduction of legislation, in 1948, providing for the civilian rehabilitation service for invalid pensioners and recipients of sickness benefits.
The bill represents a big step forward in the provision of a complete service of rehabilitation in co-operation with State authorities and private organizations. Rehabilitation in Australia has now progressed beyond the purely experimental and the conjectural. Its social and economic worth is recognized by all sections of the community. Up to the end of March this year, more than 7,000 invalid pensioners and recipients of sickness benefits have been restored to the work force of this country through the good work of the rehabilitation service. These were people who had either been granted an invalid pension because of the extent of their physical incapacity, or who were found to be drifting towards permanent incapacity of a pensionable degree. As a result of the employment of 2,700 invalid pensioners a saving of over £500,000 a year in the payment of invalid pensions . and dependants’ allowances is now being made.
By reducing the recovery time of about 4,300 people on long-term sickness benefit, a further yearly saving of £50,000 can be added. Those aggregate savings more than offset the annual running costs of the scheme, which this year will be in the vicinity of £460,000. As the scheme progresses the annual savings in pension payments will increase progressively and make an even more favorable comparison with current running costs. At a most conservative estimate, if we take into consideration the contribution to the national income by the rehabilitated worker, we can add well over £.1,250,000 a year to the credit side of the account.
It is not only the effect on the national income which appeals most strongly to the right-minded citizens of Australia : it is the social effect on the individual and his family. It does not require any feat of imagination to appreciate the tremendous spiritual value to men and women when doubts and fears give way to hope. Possibly the greatest advertisement for this scheme, and the most cogent reason why such strong representations have been made from so many organizations in Australia for a broadening of the scope of the service, are the thousands of men and women happily restored to gainful occupation and a normal life. It is with pleasure, therefore, that the Government has decided to extend the scope of the service for th, physically handicapped.
The most important amendment to be effected by the bill relates to young persons between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years. These young people arp not eligible under the Social Services Act for an invalid pension. For this reason they have, in the past, been excluded from consideration for treatment or training. Under this bill, services such as medical and ancillary treatment, supply of artificial appliances, vocational assessment and training, will be available to these young people. This earlier treatment will increase the prospects of ultimate cure. Voluntary bodies such as crippled children’s societies, spastic centres, hospitals and others have done magnificent work in this field for many years. There is no intention on the part of the Commonwealth to intrude into their field. Rather it is proposed to complement their activities, and to work in close cooperation with them in order to ensure that young people shall have available to them the best facilities that voluntary bodies and the Commonwealth and State Governments can offer. We know that the fullest co-operation of voluntary organizations which is vital, is assured. There will be no intrusion on the functions of State Departments of Education. Here again, a close working liaison to ensure an efficient service will be required. The key-note of this development of the rehabilitation service must be team-work at all levels.
Mr. Speaker, it is many years since the Government has received representations from such diverse sources as it has received for the extension of this service to younger .persons in the community. Employers, trades unions, doctors, social workers, and political organizations - all of these have made representations to the Government.
Another clause in the bill will allow the Director-General of Social Services to arrange for the admittance to rehabilitation centres of persons, not eligible for free treatment, who are able to pay the cost of treatment or for whom relatives, friends, insurance companies and the like are prepared to pay. As most honorable members know, treatment has, in the past, been confined mainly to invalid pensioners and recipients of sickness benefits. Numerous private cases have been referred to the department in which the medical advisers of the persons concerned have recommended treatment in a rehabilitation centre. Because those particular people were excluded, by their means, from receiving an invalid pension or a sickness benefit, they could not be accepted for rehabilitation under the existing act. Under this bill treatment will now be permitted in rehabilitation centres on payment of an approved fee. It is also proposed to include recipients of tuberculosis allowances in the classes of persons eligible for rehabilitation.
In most cases, men and women in receipt of tuberculosis allowances would otherwise qualify for invalid pensions, and as such would be eligible for treatment or training under the scheme. There have been isolated instances where the means test applying to the grant of an invalid pension, is more restrictive than that for the tuberculosis allowance. Where this occurs a deserving case for whom the Commonwealth is already paying a special allowance could be prevented from receiving the benefit of rehabilitation. In practice, recipients of tuberculosis allowances are accepted for rehabilitation primarily for vocational training or re-training. Early medical treatment and much of the after-care is done by the State departments of health as part of the national campaign against tuberculosis.
This bill introduces an entirely new and important development in rehabilitation. It is the provision of a loan of up to £200 for disabled persons who, after treatment and/or training provided by the service, are unable to enter employment under normal industrial conditions, but who could be satisfactorily established in self -employment at home, if finance for necessary plant, equipment, &c, is available. Employment in industry remains the firm objective of the scheme, but there are cases where complete mobility cannot be restored and where self-employment at home is the best solution to the employment problem. Not all persons will be suitable for such ventures, but where it is fully justified the Government thinks that it would be unsound not to take this final step to enable the individual to undertake employment.
Apart from the provisions I have mentioned, the bill also provides for the payment of certain increased allowances when the vocational stage of rehabilitation has been reached. Briefly, they are training allowance, livingawayfromhome allowances, and the allowance for books and other equipment required for training. The present training allowance will be increased from 25s. to 30s. a week. During the earlier remedial stages of rehabilitation the man or woman receives the benefit - either a pension or a sickness benefit - to which he or she was previously entitled. This carries on until the vocational training stage of the rehabilitation process is reached. At this point the invalid pension or sickness benefit is replaced by a rehabilitation allowance, based on the rate of invalid pension to which the trainee would be entitled, plus the special training allowance, which will now be 30s. a week.
The training allowance might be considered as a fixed additional allowance aimed at providing an incentive to undertake, and continue in, vocational training. Training sometimes spreads over many months, and encouragement is needed to prevent some from relinquishing and accepting a job of a type which in many cases could have a detrimental effect physically, or even psychologically. Obviously this would not be in their long-term interest.
The rates of living-away-from-home allowances and the periods during which they may be paid have also been substantially increased. In future, a single trainee will be paid a livingawayfrom.home allowance at the rate of £1 15s. a week for the first eight weeks of training. Previously this was £1 5s. a week for the first four weeks of his training. For a married trainee with no dependent children the allowance will he £3 a week for the first eight’ weeks, and £1 10s. a week during the remaining period of training. This compares with the earlier provision of £2 10s. a week for the first four weeks and £1 5s. a week thereafter. For a married trainee with a dependent wife and one or more dependent children, the rate has been raised from £2 10s. a week to £3 a week for the full period of training. These increases will help to reduce the tendency on the part of men with family responsibilities to avoid undergoing training which may involve fairly long periods away from their normal place of living. I should emphasize that the livingawayfromhome allowance is additional to the rehabilitation and training allowances I mentioned earlier.
As a measure of further assistance during vocational training the limit of £30 on the value of books, equipment, appliances and tools required during training has been raised to £40. This is necessary, amongst other reasons, to enable certain of the equipment for more technical training to be procured.
This bill is a further indication of the Government’s continued ‘interest in a humane and worthy cause. Honorable members will be interested to know that it is the Government’s intention to have a thorough investigation made into the standard of accommodation in rehabilitation centres to ensure that it is in line with modern developments. It is well known that some of these centres were obtained as an urgent measure immediately after World War II., and they now require fairly extensive additions and alterations.
Another decision which will please many honorable members is the ‘proposal to develop more completely section 135s of the present act, which relates to arrangements with Commonwealth and State government departments to provide rehabilitation for special cases on payment of the cost. The Government thinks that Commonwealth departments particularly should avail themselves of the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service in cases where compensation for their sick and injured employees may be involved and where rehabilitation treatment or training may be of benefit. This, of course, is only sound business.
Another item of some importance is a change of name for the service. In the past it has been customary to refer to the rehabilitation services provided by the Commonwealth’ as the “ Community Rehabilitation Service “. The “ scheme “ has now achieved full recognition as a service for physically handicapped civilian members of the community and a more appropriate title is “ The Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service “. This change of title has been included in the bill.
Mr. ‘Speaker, in introducing this bill, the Government stresses the utmost importance from all viewpoints of assisting persons with physical handicaps to achieve useful and productive lives. Most of these people have latent ability which, if developed, can help them to replace much of what they have lost through some affliction. It is the responsibility of the Government and this Parliament to lead, the community in helping them to use the abilities they have; we must provide opportunities for them.
The Government can arrange medical and ancillary treatment such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, remedial exercises and so on. It can provide facilities which will assist individuals to learn new ways of performing the tasks pf daily living; it can provide artificial substitutes for missing limbs; and it can teach new vocational skill. But it is only by the active co-operation of employers, trade unions and the professions - and I must say in passing that this has been given most freely in the past - that rehabilitation can be successfully completed through placement in satisfactory employment. There is no complacency about rehabilitation. Much good work has been done, much more will be done.
I know this measure will receive the support of Parliament. I commend this bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Allan Fbaser) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
With this bill the Government is completing a further stage in its programme of reviewing and bringing up to date the industrial property laws of the Commonwealth.
In 1952, a new Patents Act was passed after a committee appointed by my colleague, the Attorney-General, had carried out an inquiry and submitted a report. With regard to trade marks, our present Prime Minister had already, in 1938, when occupying the office of AttorneyGeneral, set up a review committee. That committee, which was presided over by the late Sir George Knowles, did, in fact, present a report and propose a draft bill to replace the then existing law. However, the war intervened without the amending legislation being passed. Great Britain, Canada and the United States of America have in recent years reviewed their own laws on the subject, and as, in any case, it was some time since the Knowles Committee had presented its report, the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer)set up a now committee to review the Australian legislation.
The present committee has been presided over by Mr. Justice Dean, of the Supreme Court of Victoria. His Honour had previouslybee na member of the Knowles Committee, and the Government was particularly fortunate in again find ing His Honour able to give the Government and the country the benefit of his expert knowledge of a branch of industrial property law. It will be recalled that, in addition to his participation over the years in the review of trade marks law, Mr. Justice Dean was chairman of the Patents Law Review Committee, the report of which committee led to the passing of the Patents Act 1952. The committee was a fully representative body, since its members, in addition to His Honour, were the Parliamentary Draftsman, Mr. J. Q. Ewens; the Registrar of Trade Marks, Mr. H. R. Wilmot: Mr. J. Colwell, a former Deputy Registrar of Trade Marks; and Messrs. J. B. Hack, of Melbourne, and W. Hooworth, of Sydney, who are practising trademarks agents and patent attorneys. The present committee has made an expert and exhaustive examination. Its report was tabled in both Houses of the Parliament on the 21st October last, and both the report and a draft bill attached to the report in which the committee embodied its recommendations have been most favorably received. A few alterations of a relatively minor character have been suggested. These were considered and approved by the committee, and in the result some changes have been made to the committee’s original draft bill.
Trade-marks law is a technical subject, but it has nonetheless a considerable practical importance, not only to traders but aho to the buying and consuming public. The bill now before the House will replace the existing Commonwealth legislation on the subject of trade marks, and the Government expects that, both the public and traders will derive considerable benefit from the expression in the one act of a modern set of trade-marks principles. I shall indicate briefly the principal alterations which the bill proposes should be made to the existing law. One of the most prominent reforms is concerned with the Register ofTrade Marks. Apart from standardization marks, of which I shall have more to say later, the only marks which can be registered under the present act are those which satisfy the test of distinctiveness, or in other words marks which are adapted to distinguish the goods of the proprietor from those of other persona.
The mark mav be inherently distinctive in that sense or it may have become distinctive in fact by reason of actual use, but unless the mark is distinctive inherently or in fact when registration is sought, it is not capable of registration.
It is proposed that there shall in future be a four-part register. Part A will include all the marks which have already been registered and will also be the part under which marks which are distinctive at the time of registration may be registered in future. Under Part B it will be possible to register marks which ure not eligible for registration under Part A. These are marks which are not, and have not become, distinctive at the time of registration, but which are capable of acquiring distinctiveness as a result of extensive use. The main purpose of Part B, which is similar to provisions that have been adopted also in the United Kingdom, is to enable Australian traders to obtain rights in certain foreign countries, such as the United States of America and Germany, which will give no protection to a mark used in Australia unless the mark is a registered mark.
Part C of the register will provide for the registration of what arc referred to in the existing legislation as standardization marks. In conformity with United KingHorn, and United States practice, the?”1 marks will in future be known as certification marks. This term more clearly describes the nature of such marks. They are not trade marks in the usual sense, but are used by certifying authorities, such as, for example, the Standards Association of Australia, for the purpose of certifying to the origin, material, mode or conditions of manufacture, quality accuracy or other characteristics of goods. The law at present requires the proprietor of a standardization or certification mark to examine in every case the goods to which the mark is to be applied. Under modern methods of mass production this is an impracticable requirement. The bill, following generally what has been done in Great Britain, dispenses with the requirement, subject to the safeguard that the proprietor must be able to satisfy himself that goods bearing his certification mark are in accordance with the requisite standards. In future, applications for registration of certification trade marks will be made to the registrar, and will not require ministerial consideration as at present. The decision of the registrar, as in the case of his decision with respect to other marks, will be subject to an appeal to tin appeal tribunal provided for in the bill.
The fourth part of the register will be Part P, in which will be registered what are described as defensive trade marks. The legislation at present in force gives protection only in respect of the particular goods for which the trade mark if registered. However, there are somemarks which are so widely known thai the use of the mark by other persons on other goods could lead to confusion. Th* word “Kodak” is an illustration. Tha United Kingdom has provided a mean* whereby the proprietor of such a mark can obtain a defensive registration and thus secure wider protection. In thi? bill we adopt the English provision, but with some variation. In England a wore can be registered as a defensive mark only if it is an invented word. The committee felt that there could be instance? in which a word which was not an invented word, such as, for example, th« word “ lion “, might be so extensively used in relation to particular goods as to make its use with respect to other goods likely to deceive. For this reason the committee has recommended that th» register of defensive marks should not h* limited to invented words.
The bill proposes a change in regard to the eligibility of persons to carry on business as trade marks agents. No restrictions are imposed by the present law, but clause 135 of the bill, specifies certain qualifications. These have been so designed as not to work hardship on a person who does not possess the technical qualifications specified in the clause, but who nevertheless has over a period acquired a satisfactory knowledge of trade marks practice and procedure. Under paragraph (h) of sub-clause (1.) of clause 135, a person will be able, with the approval of the registrar, to continue to practise as a trade marks agent if he has so practised in Australia for a continuous period of two years immediately prior to the 1st January, 1955. This provision has in fact been made more liberal, with the full approval of the committee, following representations received after the report was made public last year. I might say that further representations have been made to the Government -luring the last week or two, and these are at present receiving consideration. In rising qualifications for trade marks agents, the bill falls into line with what has always been the position under the patents law in relation to patent attorneys. This is desirable, since trade marks law is probably no less intricate rhan is patents law.
With regard to appeals from decisions nf the registrar, the bill follows the scheme of the new patents legislation. Under the existing law, an appeal lies from a decision of the registrar to the law officer, as well as to the High Court. The committee has recommended the abolition of the appeal to the law officer and has proposed that the High Court shall be the appeal tribunal for the purposes of the act. The provisions with respect to the appeal tribunal will be found in Part 15 of the bill. The committee considered whether there should be an extension of the protection which registration of a trade mark gives to the registered proprietor under the existing law. The present provisions with respect to infringement are to be found in section 53 of the existing act. That section provides that the rights acquired by registration of a trade mark shall be deemed to be infringed by the use, in relation to the goods in respect of which it is registered, of a mark substantially identical with the registered mark, or so nearly resembling it as to. be likely to deceive. Experience has shown that the registered proprietor of a mark may suffer injury in other ways. For example, goods may be repacked by a trader who applies his own mark to the package; or the proprietor’s mark may be defaced or obliterated. Clause 63 of the bill is designed to meet these circumstances. The clause enables the registered proprietor of a mark to take action to protect himself against the type of conduct to which E have referred, and in appropriate circumstances, enables him to sue for infringement as a result of such conduct.
The bill does not adopt another provision in regard to infringement which appears in the United Kingdom act. In the United Kingdom, protection is given to the registered proprietor of a trade mark where the mark is used by some other person, not for the purpose of indicating his own goods, but for the purpose of indicating the goods of the registered proprietor. The evil to which this provision is directed is well illustrated by the Yeast-Vite case of 1934, reported in volume 51 of Reports of Patent Cases, at page 110, in which the House of Lords held that the use of the phrase “ a substitute for Yeast Vite “ by another trader was not an infringement of thi trade mark “ Yeast Vite “. Following the decision of the House of Lords, representations were made to the Board of Trade Committee, in England, to remedy what was represented as a defect in the law. The Board of Trade Committee recommended the adoption of a provision to meet the case, and paragraph (6) of sub-section (1.) of section 4 of the British Act of 1933 was enacted in consequence. Sir George Knowles’s Committee recommended the enactment of a similar provision here, with some alteration, but since then the English legislation has been subjected to severe criticism in the courts. The Dean Committee has come to the conclusion- that a novel and far-reaching provision of this nature should not be enacted. In paragraph 27 of the report it gives what are, I think, most cogent reasons for this view.
There is one other respect in which the Dean Committee rejected a major proposal supported by the Knowles Committee. This relates to price maintenance. The Knowles Committee recommended the adoption of proposals which would enable the proprietor of a trade mark to fix a minimum price for the sale to the public of goods sold under his mark and to sue for infringement any trader who sold the goods below the price so fixed. This question has recently been considered by the Board of Trade Committee in England, and the Dean Committee had before it a report submitted to the United Kingdom Parliament in 1951.
The United Kingdom decided against the adoption of price maintenance provisions, and it does not appear that they have been adopted in trade marks legislation anywhere else. Although the committee did not consider itself qualified to enter upon the economic and com.mercial considerations which legislation of this character raises, the government agrees that provisions of this kind are not appropriate to a law which is limited in its operation to goods sold under a trade mark. The Commonwealth’s powers to legislate on this subject are limited and if, in any particular trade, there is a case for legislation to prevent price-cutting, the necessary provision can, it seems, best be made by legislation of the State Parliament, which would apply generally to goods sold in that trade.
The committee also gave consideration to a proposal that the registered proprietor of a trade mark should be able to restrain the use of his mark, not merely in relation to goods covered by his registration, but also upon goods which are so closely allied to those specified in the registration that the public could suppose that those other goods were of his manufacture. Some fresh protection in relation to this matter is afforded by the provisions of the bill relating to defensive trade marks and, for the rest, it seems that the matter is more appropriately left to the protection afforded to a trader in passing-off action, where that is applicable.
The committee also considered, but rejected, a proposal for the registration of so-called “ service marks “. It was proposed that provision should be made for the registration of marks used in tertiary industries signifying that the goods to which the mark was attached had at some time been cleaned or repaired or otherwise treated by the owners of the mark. There are provisions of this kind in America and in Canada, but an attempt to register such a mark under the English Act of 193S was rejected by the House of Lords. The objections stated by the committee to the proposal provide strong reasons against its adoption. There appears, as the committee says, little or no public demand for such protection, the law of passing-off probably being sufficient to meet any cases which may arise.
These are the more important matters to which the committee gave considera- tion. Other topics, covering the whole range of trade marks practice and procedure, are covered in the bill and, where necessary, are explained in the report. The bill will provide a modern and workable code for those affected by thi, important branch of industrial property legislation. It will have the additional merit of bringing our trade marks laws into substantial conformity with thos, now in operation in the United Kingdom.
– The Opposition ha* considered the bill and approves of it. There is, however, one provision with which I think the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) should have dealt more fully, because it breaks new ground so far as Australia is concerned and mark, a radical departure from previous trad* marks law. It represents a considerable advance in the conception of trade marks and, in a sense, implements a view expressed many years ago by two justices of the High Court of Australia, Mr. Justice Isaacs and Mr. Justice Higgins, in the Union Label case, as it is called, which is reported in 1908 Commonwealth LauReports.
The bill proposes the establishment of « special part of the register, Part C, which will provide for the registration of what are referred to in the existing legislation as standardization marks. In order to conform with the practice in the United Kingdom and the United States of America, apparently in future those marks will be known as certification marks. They are not trade marks in the usual sense of the term, as the Minister stated in his speech. They .-ire used by certifying authorities, such as the Standards Association of Australia, for the purpose of certifying origin, material, mode of manufacture, quality, accuracy or other characteristics of goods. In the first draft of the bill, I think it was suggested that such a. mark might cover conditions of manufacture. At any rate, the essence of the matter is that the mark will be a guarantee to the purchasing public of a standard.
– That is very necessary. _ Dr. EVATT.- It is absolutely essential. The importance of it was referred to by the special committee presided over by Mr. Justice Dean of the Supreme Court of Victoria. At page 4 of his 1954 report, he pointed out something that this Parliament often has to remember, that is, that Australia is a federation and, therefore, there is a division of powers between the Commonwealth and the States. The Commonwealth has power to legislate in relation to trade marks, but it has no power to legislate in respect of another branch of the law. I refer to what is called the law of passing off, which deals with cases where a trader, by using some device or pretence, puts goods before ohe public with the intention of leading r lie public to suppose that those goods are the goods of another person, thereby increasing his trade by something in the nature of fraud.
Then Mr. Justice Dean dealt with certification or standardization marks. He said that, by a majority decision of the High Court, the scope of the Commonwealth power in respect of trade marks must be interpreted in accordance with r.he meaning of that expression at the date of the Constitution, and cannot be extended to an enlarged definition. He pointed out that that point was established by the Union Label case in 1908, and he discussed that case.
I want to refer to what he said about the law of passing off, which stems from the fundamental principles of law and equity. A court of equity would restrain a trader who tried, by some device, to pass off his goods as the goods of some one else. Mr. Justice Dean referred specially to the Union Label case, in which the High Court held to be invalid a part of the Trade Marks Act 1905 relating ro workers’ trade marks. He said -
The point of the decision was that the expression “ trade marks “in … the Constitution must be confined to such marks as were . . . properly regarded as trade marks at the time of the enactment of the Constitution, and that at that date the expression referred solely to marks used to indicate the source or origin of goods, and the workers’ trade marks were not marks of this kind.
Therefore, the union label provisions passed by this Parliament were declared to be invalid, by a majority decision of the High Court. This valuable report says -
This decision imposes a serious handicap upon any reform nf the law. Indeed, it may render invalid, for like reasons, the provisions of the existing Act relating to standardization trade marks.
If the matter comes up for review it will bring into bold relief the attitude of the court. I think that ultimately it will be found that an authoritative body such as the Minister mentioned may have to fix a standard under which there will be satisfactory manufacture and tradesman-like performance of the work by employees. That would accord with modern conceptions of associated law in other parts of the world. It is widely defined in clause 83. Mr. Justice Dean suggests clearly that that may be challenged because of this decision dealing with the union label way back in 1908.
I should like to quote two short passages from the dissenting judgments. Mr. Justice Isaacs took strongly the view that the term “ trade marks “ could not, even at that time, be limited to marks denoting the particular trade. He said that it would indicate some special connexion of an association of workmen with the manufacture of goods; that, after all, the court was examining a constitution, not an ordinary piece of legislation ; and that the definition of trade marks could not be restricted to the limits that applied in 190L
Mr. Justice Higgins said ;
The case as put for the plaintiffs is short, and simple. They say that, though the Federal Parliament has power to legislate about “ trade marks “ a “ workers’ trade mark “ was not a “trade mark” within the accepted definition in 1.000, the date of the Constitution, and that therefore the Parliament has no power to make any law as to “ workers’ trade marks “. It is said that, though the mark is to bc used by or with the consent of a trader for the purposes of pushing trade, it is not a trade mark.
If the argument for the plaintiffs is right - if the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament are so rigidly and narrowly circumscribed as is contended - there will be some curious results not merely as to trade marks, but as to most, if not all, of the subjects of legislation in Section 51.
Then he dealt with illustrations of this and said -
The Commonwealth is to be tied down to the practice in 1900. According to the plaintiffs’ argument, the Federal Parliament having covered all the ground for trade marks as enforced by the law in M00, the State Parliaments may, each for its own State, make such laws as they think fit, varying in character and in machinery, as to any marks to be used for purposes of trade, excepting only such trade marks as the courts enforced in 1900.
En other words, Mr. Justice Higgins said that if the definition of “ trade marks “ were to he limited to that adopted in 1900 the States would still be able to pass legislation permitting “workers’ trade marks “ under varying conditions. Instead of being an integral part of Commonwealth law it would be split into six separate compartments by the States. In those days of five justices on the bench of the High Court there were often dissenting verdicts, and the view of Mr. Justice Isaacs and Mr. Justice Higgins was overruled on the principle that as there were no recognized workers’ trade marks in the law in 1900 the Commonwealth Parliament could not in 1904, 1905 and 1906 create them.
The trend of High Court decisions since 1920 has been towards a broader interpretation of power. I therefore incline strongly to the view that the clause dealing with certification trade marks would be deemed to be within the Commonwealth power. No doubt it will be challenged in the courts. It would be most valuable to have on goods an authentic stamp of quality showing origin, material, mode of manufacture or accuracy. It would have the backing of a Commonwealth authority and the purchaser would be guaranteed against the risk of receiving inferior goods. It would also he of assistance to the trader on whose goods the stamp was imprinted. That should lead logically to the further steps contemplated in the union label case. That would depend, of course, upon the High Court taking a view more consistent with its more recent pronouncements. That seems to be the most important part of the bill from the point of view of the community. The measure will help to clarify the law on this important subject and my colleagues and I support it. I believe that the clause to which I have referred, if challenged, would be upheld by the High Court as valid.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Joske) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This short bill proposes some amendment.* to the existing law in regard to applications for letters patent. “When the Patents Act 1952 came into force on the 1st May last year, it replaced the law previously in force except that provision was made whereby the old law continued’ to apply to applications then pending foi’ letters patent. Experience has shown thai certain further provisions of a transitional nature arc required in regard to what are known in the technical language o* patents law as divisional applications and cognate inventions. The United Kingdom authorities were faced with similar difficulties when a new Patents Act was passed in 1949, but they appear to have met the problem by administrative action. However, we think it desirable, on the whole, to make special provision in th» legislation itself.
It is customary in patents procedure to permit an applicant, in certain circumstances, to divide an application which he has lodged, and to lodge one or more further applications. The legislation does not at present satisfactorily cover the position where the original application was lodged before the Patents Act 1952 came into force. Clause 5 makes the necessary provision.
Turning to the subject of cognate inventions, it was possible under the old Patents Act for an applicant to combine two or more applications which were closely related and to obtain a. single patent in respect of those applications. There are corresponding provisions in the new act in regard to applications lodged under that act. However, there ib at present no provision to meet the case where the applications are mixed - that is, where one was lodged under the old act and one under the new act. Clauses 6 and 7 cover this circumstance and make necessary incidental provision.
In addition to effecting the amendments I have mentioned, the opportunity is being taken in clause 9 of the bill to include a new section 142a in the Patents
Act. This will enable Australian practice to be brought into line with British practice in regard to the priority to be accorded to certain overseas applications.
The matters dealt with in the bill raise no contentious questions. They have been considered in consultation with the representatives of the Institute of Patent Attorneys who, as members of the Patent Law Review Committee, joined in the report which led to the passing of the Patents Act 1952. These representatives approve of the proposed amendments as does the Commissioner of Patents.I commend the bill to the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
– This bill has been considered by the Opposition, and we approve the measure.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In May, 1954, the Government announced its intention to take steps to facilitate the sale of dwellings erected under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. These steps have now been taken, and an amending agreement giving effect to the policy announced by the Government has been signed by the Commonwealth and the States concerned. However, this amending agreement has no effect in any State until approved by the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and that State. The bill provides for approval by the Commonwealth, and sets out, in the schedule, the text of the amending agreement.
Under the principal agreement made with the States in 1945, the Commonwealth advances to the States all moneys required to meet the cost of dwellings erected under the agreement. These advances are repaid by the States over a period of 53 years, but, where a dwelling is sold, an amount equal to the full purchase price is immediately payable by the particular State to the Commonwealth. To meet this condition the States have found it necessary to require a tenant wishing to purchase an agreement dwelling to pay the full purchase price in order that they may have in hand the funds required to discharge their liability to the Commonwealth. In this situation relatively few agreement dwellings have, in fact, been sold by the States.
The purpose of the amending agreement, for which approval is now sought, is to provide for sale of agreement dwellings upon conditions under which the purchaser may pay the purchase price over a long term with 45 years as the maximum. This is made possibleby providing that, where an agreement dwelling is sold on terms, the State’s outstanding liability to the Commonwealth for that dwelling shall be discharged by payment of an amount equal to the deposit paid by the purchaser, and the balance in annual instalments over 45 years, with interest at the rate applying to the advances used to build the particular dwelling. The. provision for outright purchase for cash is also retained, and in these cases the States will pay to the Commonwealth in one amount’ the outstanding balance on dwellings sold.
The terms upon which dwellings will be sold to tenants are as set out in the schedule to the bill. The main provisions for sales, other than those under the War Service Homes Act, are -
Minimum deposit of 5 per cent, of the first £2,000 of the sale price and 10 per cent, of the balance.
The principal repayments included in the rent previously paid by the tenant may be credited to him and may form part of the deposit, provided not less than 5 per cent, of the ‘ sale price is paid as a cash deposit.
Maximum advance of £2,750.
Maximum period of repayment of 45 years.
Rate of interest to be 4½ per cent, per annum.
Where a tenant i9 an eligible person within the meaning of the War Service Homes Act, he will be entitled to purchase his home on the terms available under that act. When a sale is arranged on these terms, ownership of the dwelling will be transferred by the State as required by the Director of War Service Homes, and the State’s debt to the Commonwealth will be credited with the sale price. A tenant who purchases his home through the War Service Homes Division will, after the purchase has been made, conduct all future transactions, including payments of instalments, with that Division.
Ownership of dwellings erected under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement rests with the States and, with the exceptions I have just mentioned for sales under the War Service Homes Act, the State authorities will attend to all administrative matters connected with the sale of dwellings within the conditions prescribed in the amending agreement. The purchase price of a dwelling will be fixed by the States and any profit or loss on a sale is on account of the State concerned.
Complementary legislation has already been passed by the parliaments of the States of South Australia and Queensland, and the governments of New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia have indicated that the necessary legislation will be introduced as soon as possible in those States. The State of Tasmania was a party to the 1945 Housing Agreement, but withdrew from the scheme in August, 1950. Accordingly, that State is not a party to the amending agreement. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 20th April (vide page 58), on motion by Sir Eric Harrison -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill appears to disclose on the part of the Government an attitude towards the development of Australian industry which is typically timorous. The cotton industry is of the greatest importance to this country, and from many aspects. At present we are importing about 80,000 bales of raw cotton every year, and that makes a very considerable inroad into our supply of dollar funds. We are naturally suited to produce, if not the whole, then a very considerable proportion, of our requirements of cotton. Of course, by producing cotton in this country and by placing the cotton industry on a sound foundation, we are not only performing an immensely important task from a defence viewpoint, but we are also doing an immense service to other aspects of Australian agriculture and industry. The cotton grassland rotation system is of great importance to the dairying industry, and the provision of by-products, including protein-rich cattle food, is also of extreme importance. Yet we have the position that more than twenty years ago we were producing 17,000 bales of cotton.
– That happened only once.
– That happened in 1934, when in the one year we produced 17,000 bales of cotton. If we go back further to the time of the disturbed conditions in the United States of America during the American Civil War, we find that, as the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) indicated in his second-reading speech, we had more than 50,000 acres of land under cotton in this country. That was before the turn of the century, of course. In the middle 1930’s we had reached a production of 17,000 bales. Then World War II. came, and it was to be expected that during the war years the production of cotton would decline as a result of the limited amount of man-power that was available. Man-power was required for the performance of other tasks and, in particular, for the production of food. By the end of the war, the production of cotton had fallen to approximately 500 bales a year., which was a purely nominal amount. At that time, the Government was entitled to adopt, and should have adopted, a bold attitude towards the reestablishment of this very important primary industry. I think that what the Government did in 1951 may be considered to be reasonably fair. The guarantee that was offered then was 9£d. per lb. for seed cotton. But in 1955, Respite four years of inflation and a great reduction in the value of money, the Government proposes to give to the seedcotton industry a guarantee, for the ensuing three years, of no more than 9£d. per lb.
– That is not right.
– It is right.
– It is not right.
– I invite the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) to look at the bill.
– The guarantee is 14d. per lb.
– The honorable member may correct me if I am wrong. I may be wrong, but it is very unlikely that I am. It would be unusual for me to be wrong. The position is that the Government has guaranteed 14d. per lb. for this year, and I think it has guaranteed 14d. per lb. for the last couple of years.
– That is right.
– The bill provides that the only guarantee to be given to the industry for three years will be 9£d. per lb.
– That will be the minimum guarantee.
– It is the only guarantee.
– It will be the minimum guarantee. ‘
– It will be a guarantee of a minimum of 9£d. per lb. Is that right?
– That is right.
– I am right again. I suggest that that is far too timorous an attitude to adopt towards this very important industry.
– How much would the Opposition give?
– I am not in a position to state a figure, and I should not be asked to do so.
– However, 1 suggest - and probably the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) will agree with me - that, if 9+d. per lb. was an appropriate figure in 1951, something far more than 9£d. per lb. is required to-day, if people are to be encouraged to engage in the industry in a manner that is essential to the defence of Australia. The honorable member for Capricornia acknowledges the importance of the production of cotton to the defence of Australia, and to other as i)eds of agricultural production in Australia. If honorable members want to judge the success of the measures that the Government has adopted to assist the cotton industry, they need ‘only look at the production figures. In 1950, SOS bales were produced ; in 1951, 1,100 bales ; in 1952, 1,500 bales and, in 1953, 4,229 bales. Peak production was achieved in 1953. In 1954, as a result of adverse climatic conditions, production fell back to 2,S19 bales. That represents a very small portion of our needs, particularly when it is realized that our importation of cotton is, in an average year, approximately 80,000 bales. In view of those circumstances, surely the Government would be justified in offering to the industry a guaranteed price for a number of years so that those persons who are engaged in it might have some security, some stability, and some encouragement to make plans for increased production. I am convinced that, if the Government had adopted that course, there was no reason why the production of cotton should not have returned to the level that was achieved in 1934, when 17.000 bales were produced. Moreover, there is no reason whatever, in view of the suitability of this country for the production of cotton-
– And in view of the willingness and eagerness of so many people to engage in it. why we should not be able to produce a very large portion of our cotton requirements. I deprecate the little Australianism of the honorable gentleman who interjected.
Air. SPEAKER,- Order ! The honorable member for Capricornia must not interject.
– Let the honorable member have faith in his own country. If he is afraid of r.he cost of giving assistance to the industry, let me remind him hat so far the Commonwealth has !>een involved in very small cost. Its assistance amounted to, I think, £17,000 in one year and £25,000 in another year, a total of approximately £42,000. But it has not achieved the desired result. The Government has not succeeded in obtaining the production that is required for Australia’s defence needs, and which those people who are engaged in the industry would be- only too willing to achieve if they were guaranteed an adequate, stabilized and profitable price for a reasonable number of years. A minimum, guarantee of 9£d. per lb. in 1955 obviously is not enough, as has been proved by the production figures. The Opposition has not any intention of opposing the bill. It is only too pleased to see the Government giving further assistance to the industry. A little is better than nothing.
.- !. have listened with a great deal of interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). He is not as well versed in this subject as he is in other subjects about which he speaks in the House. I have listened to his suggestions about the assistance that the Government should have given to the cotton industry. The Government has been told by honorable members opposite that it has done precious little to assist the industry over the last five years, but at least it has been responsible for the lifting of production of raw ,:ott,on from 500,000 lb. to approximately 3,500,000 lb. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro referred to the days of maximum crops, and he stated that in one year production reached 17,000 bales. I agree with his statement that, during the war years, the industry suffered and that, after the war, there certainly was a need for some encouragement to be given to it. The industry went into the doldrums, and it was confronted by problems that were peculiar to itself. A. Labour government investigated the cotton industry in the years immediately after World War II. It dilly-dallied, and the industry gradually declined still further. In 194S, the Chifley Government decided to investigate the industry thoroughly. There was even a Tariff Board inquiry. In September, 1949, in the dying days of the Chifley Government, when it had a chance to do something for the industry before an imminent election, Mr. Chifley, in reply to a question by the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann), stated that the Government did not propose to give any further assistance to thu industry. So much for the brave words of the honorable member for EdenMonaro! At that time the guaranteed price was 5-)d. per lb., and the industry was on its last legs.
– That is not a fair I notation of Mr. Chifley’s reply.
– It is a fair quotation. The words were burnt into my mind. Despite what the Australian Labour party says now when it is in opposition, when it was in office it condemned the industry to extinction and said, “ We can get along well enough without the cotton industry “. It was left to this Government to try to revive the industry. The growers had lost heart because of the dilly-dallying of the Chifley Government over a period of five years. Most of the growers had left the industry, and they were not prepared to return to it unless they were guaranteed an adequate price. As so few growers had actually been growing cotton during those years, it was hard to assess a profitable price to the grower. In 1951, the guaranteed price was fixed at 9£d. per lb., and. immediately, the growers responded bv increasing production which has concontinued to increase annually with the exception of last year when a substantial proportion of the crop was destroyed. h,v flood whilst that portion which was nor destroyed was so heavily weeded as a result of rain that it was almost impossible to get mechanical harvesters into the fields. Consequently, last year, only 3,000 bales were actually harvested ; but. at the same time, the amount of seed cotton ordered was greatly increased and provided proof that the growers had again got confidence in the industry.
The current crop has been hit by three cyclones and two floods which have affected the greater proportion of the area in which cotton is grown with the result that production from the 20,000 acres sown to cotton will possibly be only 6,000 bales. However, that production compares more than favorably with the 800 bales which were harvested in 1950 from planting during the last year of the regime of the Chifley Government. Thus, it will be readily seen that the incentive which this Government has given to the growers has proved effective and that they are taking up the production of cotton in a big way. This resultfa as not been obtained solely by the guarantee of a profitable price. With the exception of the depression years, the growers have always been faced with a difficult problem in getting sufficient persons to pick the crop. Man-power is a serious problem in all primary industries. During the post-war years it has become particularly difficult in the cotton industry because the growers are obliged to provide housing of a certain standard for -seasonal employees. Growers who plant only a few acres, putting the remainder of their land under grass or sorghum, found that it would not pay them to provide housing of the required standard to be used by pickers for a month or so. The Government investigated that particular problem and decided to assist the Cotton Marketing Board in the purchase of mechanical harvesters from dollar sources. At present, the board itself supplies twelve mechanical pickers on a hire basis. As each harvester does the work of approximately 40 persons, growers are encouraged to plant larger acreages. Whereas previously growers who went in for growing cotton in a big way were satisfied to plant 30 acres when the cotton had to be picked by hand, to-day they plant hundreds of acres with cotton. I know of one grower who has sown from 400 to 500 acres and the crop from that area has probably been lifted by now by mechanical harvesters.
The Government has assisted the industry in two ways. First, it guaranteed a price of did. per lb. which, later, was increased to 14d. per lb. That was the first incentive provided. How ever, it does not matter how much i.» made available in money to the growers if they cannot lift their crop. Consequently as a second form of assistance, the Government brought in seven mechanical harvesters to lift the crop. This year, th«major portion of the crop will be taken off by mechanical pickers. Another problem is that cotton picked mechanically doenot come off as cleanly and is not of th same quality as cotton which is picked by hand. These machines are remarkably efficient, but they take in leaves and piece - of the branch or stalk and. weeds growing around the plants and, consequently, sud cotton presents some difficulty from th> ginnery point of view. Last week, ai. agreement was reached to assist thboard to send an officer overseas to stud; the latest methods in the United States o’ America, where mechanical harvester.have been used for a considerable time so that the ginneries will be enabled ticope with the additional plantings th.v will take place during next year. Thu? when the honorable member for Eden Monaro says that this Government should do all it possibly can to assist the industry he should remember that the Government which he supported was not prepared tdo anything in that direction.
This Government has made an hones’ attempt to do something in the interest of the industry. I know many cotton growers personally and I know that the> are not over-concerned about the guarantee of a minimum price of 9-Jd. per lb. Whilst they want a guaranteed price they also desire to know before actual harvesting is commenced what price wil1 be guaranteed. Under this measure a minimum price of 9½d. is to be guaranteed based on figures that have been taken ouby the department. Already, the guaranteed price for next season has been announced although planting will not tak> place until September or October, depending upon the season. Thus, th< cotton-grower to-day, or the prospective grower next season, knows that the cotton which he plants in September, or October, next will be harvested and that he will receive a guaranteed price of 14d. per lb.
– Why should not the price of 14d. per lb. be guaranteed for the next three years?
– Because seasonal conditions, which vary considerably, and overseas marketing conditions must be taken into account. The Government has restored the confidence of the grower in respect of every phase of the industry from growing to marketing. I have heard it said that the guaranteed price is not to be guaranteed for a sufficiently long period. The reason why some growers have expressed that view is reflected in what they have said to me. Frankly, they have said, in effect, ““We are all right under your Government, but if that fellow Pollard gets back we will go into the ditch “. That has been said to me on many occasions. For that reason some growers have asked for the term of the guaranteed price to be extended.
The fact remains that all the growers have confidence in this Government. As a result of the assistance that it has given to them, there are already on the cotton-fields two new John Deere mechanical harvesters, which are privately owned. Each of those harvesters, complete with tractor, costs approximately 610,000. The John Deere organization has taken an interest in the industry. After making a survey of it and its potentialities, that organization sent a man out from the United States to Queensland, and on the 16th February last he held a field-day and demonstrated the machine, which, as I have said, is privately owned. That is a great advance on the conditions that existed in 1949 when the industry was practically doomed to extinction. To-day, two individual growers have outlayed £10,000 for the purchase of mechanical pickers and other growers contemplate purchasing similar machines. The growers cannot show greater confidence in the Government than by being prepared to pay out hard cash in that way. These tractors and harvesting machines are being obtained from dollar sources and the Government has not, and will not, place any restriction upon their importation. The encouragement which the Government has given to the industry will stand to its great credit, particularly as not so many years ago the industry was doomed to extinction when the Chifley Government said that it would not help it because the Tariff Board had reported against the provision of such assistance.
Despite the Tariff Board’s recommendation, this Government has assisted the Cotton Marketing Board and has given a guaranteed price to the industry because it is essential that cotton be grown in Australia. A price was guaranteed, mechanical harvesters were imported, and production immediately began to increase. As a matter of fact, production is now at a most satisfactory level, despite adverse climatic conditions. An officer has been sent abroad to study the latest method of ginning that will increase the return to the growers from the gins. All in all, we have this general improvement from the planting of the seed to the marketing of the cotton in Australia.
Due again to the attitude of the Chifley Government, the spinners in this country had little faith in the ability of Australians to grow cotton and, accordingly, they made long-term plans for overseas buying. Production began to increase in 1951, and we tried to sell a larger quantity of raw cotton to the spinner. In fact, we had more than 500,000 lb. of raw cotton for disposal. The spinners, as I have stated,, had made long-term arrangements to purchase cotton from overseas, and, therefore, it was difficult to place some of the Australiangrown cotton. Due entirely to the work of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan),’ a very satisfactory basis has since been worked out for the marketing of our cotton. The Minister brought the representatives of the growers, the Cotton Marketing Board and the spinners together in order to reach that situation.
Opposition members say, graciously, if their attitude can be so described,, that they will not oppose the hill. I say to them, “Please do not criticize the bill, because this Government is doing something which the preceding Labour Government was not prepared to do. It has rejuvenated the cotton industry which the Labour Government had threatened with extinction and which would have gone out of business had the Chifley Government been returned to office in 1949 “. I say to the Labour party, “ Do not criticize the present Government, whatever you do, because it has looked after the industry from the planting of the seed to the sale of the last pound’ of cotton to the spinners in Australia”. The response by the growers has been tremendous. The cotton industry has been a great national asset. I wish this bill a speedy passage through the Parliament, and I hope that nothing will be said in this debate to disturb the confidence of the growers, because Australia needs this industry most urgently.
– Mr. Speaker, I did not direct attention earlier-
-Order! Does the honorable member wish to raise a point of order ?
– I direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the remark made by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce). He referred to ‘ That so and so Pollard “. As I represent the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) to-night, I thought that you might choose to ask for the withdrawal of that remark.
-Order! If objection is to be taken to a remark, it must be taken when the words are used.
– The words have just been used.
– Order! I call the honorable member for Kennedy.
.- The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has already indicated that we on this side of the House support the bill. Before I deal with the provisions of this legislation, I should like to refer to a few of the statements of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce). The whole tenor of his speech was that this industry had languished and had nearly died because of lack of action on the part of the Chifley Government. He laid the blame for every adverse condition in the industry at the door of the Chifley Government. Obviously, the honorable member has no knowledge of the history of this industry, and particularly of its immediate postwar history. I point out, for the information of the honorable gentleman, that when cotton-growing was first attempted in Queensland in 1860-
– Does the honorable member remember that first attempt?
– Members of the Opposition at least conduct a little research into a subject and try to inform their minds of happenings in the past before they speak on a bill. The cultivation of cotton was first attempted in Queensland at the time of the American Civil War. The United States of America was then the principal cottonproducing country in the world, and the price of cotton rose steeply during the Civil War. However, after the restoration of American production, the Australian industry rapidly declined until it virtually went out of existence. In 1920, a serious attempt was made to reestablish the industry in Australia, and an Empire Cotton Corporation was founded for that purpose. Production reached its peak in this country in 1934, when approximately 17,000 bales were obtained from 50,000 acres. When World War II. broke out in 1939, production declined rapidly, due partly to a shortage of manpower and partly to concentration on the production of foodstuffs. From 1945 to 1949, Australia passed through a transition period from a war economy to a peace-time economy. Thanks to the policy of the Chifley Labour Government, and thanks also to the fact that more jobs were available than there were men to fill them, high prices were paid for primary products. The dairying industry is conducted in association with cotton-growing, and the price of dairy products, before inflationary conditions had developed, was sufficiently high to make the dairy-farmer more interested in dairying than in the extension of his cotton-growing activities.
It is true, as has been stated by the honorable member for Capricornia, that the Chifley Government requested the Tariff Board in 1949 to inquire into and report upon the cotton-growing industry. The Tariff Board reported that assistance to the industry was justified, but recommended the continuation of the then customs tariffs, because it was considered that the industry was not economic and was not established on an efficient basis. A government, when it refers to the Tariff Board a proposal for the payment of a bounty, must pay some recognition to the report and recommendations of that body. Of what use would it be for a government to refer a matter to the Tariff Board for investigation and a report if it ignored that report ? The board, as I have said, recommended a continuation of the then tariff, and an alleviation of the burden of debt of £66,000 on the industry. That money had been advanced by the Commonwealth Bank to enable the establishment of ginneries and oil extraction plant. The Chifley Government alleviated that burden. Therefore the statement of the honorable member for Capricornia to the effect that the Chifley Government had crucified the cotton-growing industry was just too silly for words.
The Tariff Board also made reference to the fact that cotton should not be grown on small areas of from 6 to 15 acres, and recommended cotton cultivation on areas of 100 acres or more, and the adoption of mechanization methods, particularly for the harvesting of the cotton seed boll. Action was taken by the Queensland Government to assist this industry. Mechanical cotton pickers, which have been operating in Queensland for some years, were purchased. The Tariff Board also made reference to the fact that if this industry was to be expanded due regard should be given to the application of irrigation to it. Government supporters have nothing to say in response to that statement, because they consider that the Burdekin scheme is uneconomical. Unless my memory is playing me false, one honorable member opposite referred to the Burdekin area as an area that could be used for the growing of sugar and tobacco. We know how essential cotton is to us, not only in peace-time, but also in war-time. Our annual peace-time requirements are 80,000 bales, yet the honorable member for Capricornia apparently thinks that because the industry is now producing 7,000 bales a year it is on a satisfactory basis. Seven thousand hales produced to meet a requirement of 80,000 bales!
I read recently a statement made by one authority in 1951 to the effect that by 1958 our requirements should be in the vicinity of 300,000 hales. That statement was made at the time when the original legislation was before this House. Whether that assessment will prove to be true, only time will tell, but it is certainly ludicrous to talk at this time of the industry being on a satisfactory basis with a production of only 7,000 bales a year. It is true that in 1949, for the reasons I have indicated, which included high prices for other primary products and inability to obtain sufficient manpower, the cotton-growing industry was languishing. Ignoring those reasons, the honorable member for Capricornia has compared the 500 or so bales produced in 1949 with the 7,000 bales now produced, and acclaims the increased production as a sign of great progress. As I have already said, whereas the Chifley Government lifted a burden of £66,000 from this industry, this Government talks about, giving the industry £42,000- £25,000 in respect of last year’s production and £17,000 in respect of the 1953 production. Since cotton is so essential to us. both in peace and war, and since our present requirements of 80,000 bales a year may grow to 300,000 bales a year, a subsidy of £25,000 is a mere drop in the ocean.
The Government is earmarking £200,000,000 a year for defence expenditure. When the cotton-growing industry was last discussed in this chamber the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) asked why the Government did not take action to expand the industry in its own territories, or in territories under its control, which lie in our vital, but empty, north. Why does not the Government expand the cottongrowing industry in, for instance, the Kimberleys region or the Ord River region? Why does it not use for cottongrowing, as the Tariff Board suggested in 1949, the tropical areas under its control, which are suitable for the growing of cotton? For any honorable member to rise in this chamber and take pride in the fact that the Goverment is guaranteeing growers a price of 14d. per lb. for the next three years and to flaunt as progress the present production of 7,000 bales, compared with 500 bales in 3949, would be laughable, if it were not so tragic. The Government is supposed to be concerned about the conservation of dollars and the expansion of our overseas balances. Only to-day we read in the press that a dreadful position faces this country in the next few months in respect of its overseas balances. Yet, when the Government could encourage the production of a primary product that is so urgently needed, and which could conserve dollars and assist us to prevent a further drain on our overseas balances, it proposes a guarantee price of only 14d. per lb. in the way of encouragement to cotton-growers.
It is true, as I said at the outset, that we, as an Opposition, support the measure, but we also criticize it for not going far enough. We believe that the Government’s experiences since the original legislation was passed, coupled with the deteriorating international position to our immediate north, should have led it to do something more than it proposes to do under this measure to develop this industry. Those considerations should also have led it to take some action towards developing, as cottongrowing areas, the territories over which it has immediate control. It is all very well to say that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is on the job in the Northern Territory and has a research station and experimental plant there. Those have certainly been established, but what action has the Government taken to ensure the full’ use of the results of the investigations that have been made in the Northern Territory into the establishment of the cotton-growing industry? The Queensland Agricultural Stock Department and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization have both done work in connexion with the growing of cotton under irrigation in the Burdekin area. Queensland has knowledge and experience of the growing of cotton which it gained since the early days of this industry in Australia and cotton can be grown in what is known as the Texas district of Queensland, near the New .South Wales border. Irrigation in that area could be used not only for the growing of cotton, but also for the growing of tobacco, two primary commodities which are in short supply in Australia.
If the honorable member for Capricornia wanted to throw politics into this matter, he should have made quite sure of his facts before he did so. He should have gone back beyond the days of the Chifley Government to discover why this industry was languishing long before the beginning of the last war. He should have made some attempt to discover why it declined after 1934, when there was not a Labour government in office in federal sphere.
– There was a Labour government in Queensland.
– There was inFederal Labour government from 1934 until just prior to Japan’s entry into World War II. I am anxious to see this industry established, because I am conscious of its great importance to Australia. I am also conscious of the fac! that the areas in which the industry could be established profitably are the areas in which population is badly needed. Those areas are in the northern part of this continent.
.- li is interesting to have placed on record the opinions of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) in justification of the actions of the Tariff Board in respect of the cotton industry. I should have thought that, as an honorable member representing a Queensland electorate, with experience behind him of the Tariff Board’s actions towards such industries as the sugar industry, the tobacco industry and the cotton industry, he would not have made any attempt to justify the board’s findings.
I compliment the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) on his second-reading speech on the measure, in which he set out clearly what the Government was doing. He stated that the bill would amend the Cotton Bounty Act 1950-1951 by extending to 1958 the term of the Government guarantee to growers of seed cotton, thu? giving some security to growers during that period. The Government proposes that the guaranteed price for 1955-56 will be 14d. per lb. for seed cotton. Despite what the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has suggested, he knows perfectly well what the bill provides, and what the Minister had to say when he introduced it. The original act does say that the average price must not fall below 9½d. per lb. and the Minister said that it would not fall below that figure, but the act provides that the rate of guarantee may be varied by regulation at any time. It has been extended by regulation to 14d. per lb. for the last three years and until 1956, as has been stated by the VicePresident of the Executive Council. The Government has aided the cotton-growers of Australia, and the election pledges made by the Government will be fulfilled. The growers will have an adequate guaranteed price for their cotton. The price of 14d. per lb. is considered reasonable by cotton-growers, and greater production can be expected.
The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) has taken a keen interest in the cotton industry, and he has related to us the history of government action in regard to the cotton industry over the years. This Government is anxious to develop our primary industries, and Australia has the climate and the soils which will produce our full requirements of cotton.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro has stated that Australia should produce the major portion, if not the whole, of its requirements of cotton. The Government recognizes that that should be so, and this bill is designed to provide stability in the industry and to encourage growers to produce Australia’s requirements. At present cotton is imported mainly from the United States of America, at a price which is determined in New York. Dollars must be found to pay for that cotton. Our annual requirements are about 80,000 bales of raw cotton. That means that Australia has to find dollars for about £7,000,000 worth of cotton to be used in the factories of this country. The production of our requirement of 80,000 bales would greatly assist the economy of Australia.
Cotton-growers in Australia must produce this commodity in competition with countries which are using coloured labour. Australia is the only country that produces cotton with white labour only. The industry is, therefore, entitled to a measure of consideration by this Parliament. Tt is a tribute to primary producers that the cotton industry was preserved through the war years, and that the industry has retained in production varieties of cotton, which have been produced after experimentation at very high cost. ‘
Since 1949 there has been a steady improvement in production, as is indicated by the figures which I shall cite. In 19’49, 522 bales of raw cotton were- produced in this country. We produced 805 bales in 1950, 1,124 bales in 1951, 1,510 bales in 1952, and 4,229 bales in 1953. In 1954 production dropped to 2,S19 bales. According to the Minister the estimated production this year is 7,500 bales. That is a very good effort by Queensland cot ton -growers, considering the fact that cotton cannot stand up to monoculture. The honorable member for Kennedy ha? stated that in 1934 Australia produced approximately 17,000 bales of cotton. There is no question that the soils and climate in Queensland are capable of producing Australia’s requirements, if the industry is stabilized. Every industry in this country has had its ups and downs. For instance, there was a time when one could not buy rice in Australia, but now the rice industry is firmly established, and produces rice of an annual value of about £2,500,000. There has been a record production of approximately 76,000 tons of rice this year, which is more than sufficient to supply the whole of Australia’s requirements. That production has resulted from the encouragement given to the rice industry by this Government.
The tobacco industry similarly has gained a firm foothold in this country, again because of the actions of this Government. The honorable member for Kennedy has stated that the Labour Government looked to the Tariff Board for reports on the cotton industry and the tobacco industry, but it did not give the tobacco industry the help that this Government realized should be given to it, We are producing in Australia to-day large quantities of tobacco for our own use. The quality of our tobacco is so high that it has commanded in the market the highest price paid for any tobacco in the world. That is because this Government has safeguarded the price structure of the tobacco industry.
If honorable members study the history of any of our other primary industries, such as wool, wheat or sugar, they will find that all of them had to face initial difficulties, such as the cotton industry is facing to-day. The success of an industry is dependent upon its price structure. The price of cotton to-day is determined in New York. In the early ‘thirties it was determined in Liverpool, but, as with many other industries, the price to-day is that which obtains in America. Why cannot Australia have its own raw cotton price, when it is producing cotton with white labour ?
It is interesting, to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Kennedy, because the Opposition has not intimated that it is prepared to assist Australian industry as this Government has done. [ am pleased to hear that the Opposition recognizes that cotton-growers are entitled to a reasonable price for their product. The present price of raw cotton landed in Australia is 42d. per lb. This price represents 14^1. per lb. for seed cotton. As the producer is guaranteed I4d. per lb. for seed cotton, this leaves only a id. per lb., plus the amount paid by the Government for ginning, which, in the financial year 1953-54, amounted to £17,000, and which it is estimated will amount to 625,000 in the financial year 1954-55.
– Those amounts are all that has been paid in five years.
– Yes. We know very well that this Government has done a grand job for the cotton industry, which it has assisted to get on its feet. The honorable member for Melbourne and the Government of which he was a Minister refused to assist the industry. The levy of l£d. per lb. as a by-law item of customs duty has been lifted by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan), with a benefit for cotton manufacturers in Australia of £250,000 a year. If that duty were applied, the cotton-growing industry would be able to carry on without a bounty. Because it is not applied, the producers are entitled to look to the Government for a bounty that will meet their needs. Security is the key to success in the cotton industry, and cotton-growers are entitled to economic stability.
This bill concerns two governments. The Vice-President of the Executive Council stated that, when this Government first made the guarantee of 9M. per lb., it obtained from the Queensland Government an assurance that that Government would undertake a comprehensive expansion programme directed at the development of a sound, balanced farming economy, embracing the use of cotton grassland rotation in the many districts where cotton can be grown efficiently. That programme is under way. Although I acknowledge that a Labour government of Queensland is not the best government for that great State, nevertheless the Labour administration there has met the requirements of the Commonwealth. Cotton will not stand up to monoculture. Cotton grassland rotation is best suited to the production of cotton, and it is obvious, therefore, that considerable new areas of land must constantly be brought into use for the production of cotton if the industry is to be successful and if it is to be soundly established. I believe that, when the industry receives the encouragement that it will be given under the terms of this measure, cotton will be grown at a cost that will enable it to compete satisfactorily with imported cotton.
The Vice-President of the Executive Council stated also that the Australian Government had received from the Queensland Government an assurance that irrigation projects most appropriate to the sound development of the cotton industry would be undertaken. There is no doubt that the Queensland Government has been actively engaged in trying to bring some part of the industry under irrigation. The Queensland Government has declared also that it will undertake research in order to improve further the efficiency of the industry through plant breeding, .entomological control and mechanization. The State experimental station at Biloela, in Queensland, has been the scene of considerable development, particularly in the. breeding of cotton and in its entomological control. There is no doubt that the industry is subject to the depredations of pests. However, Queensland farmers have developed methods of controlling most pests in other primary industries, and they believe that they will ultimately achieve complete control over the pests that ravage cotton and tobacco crops. The assurances that have been given to this
Government by the Queensland Government have been carried into effect, and considerable encouragement has been given to cotton-producers by the Australian Government, which merits congratulation for its efforts on behalf of the industry. It is pleasing to note that members of the Australian Labour party, lacking any policy for the cotton industry, accept the Minister’s declaration of the Government’s purpose. I sincerely trust that all members of the Parliament, irrespective of their party affiliations, will support the view of Government members that it is in the interests of Australia to have a thriving cotton industry for the benefit of our people in peace-time and particularly in war-time.
.- Rarely have I listened to a speech more foolish than that of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Brand). The honorable member first congratulated the Government for doing something that it has not done. Secondly, he criticized the Queensland Government, which has done a good job for the cotton industry, for not doing enough for the industry.
– When did the Queensland Government do anything for the cotton industry?
– Had it not been for the action of Queensland renegades, the Queensland Government would have been able to give much more help to the industry than has been possible from the money given to it by this Government. What has the Menzies Administration done for the Queensland cotton industry? ft has given it £42,000 over a period of five years. Although it has been spending at the rate of £200,000,000 a year on defence, it has seen fit to give a total subsidy of only £42,000 in five years to the cotton-growers, who are the foundation of an industry that makes a substantial contribution to Australia’s defence needs. Money spent in the development of Australia is a well-spent contribution towards defence, but the Menzies Administration has given the cotton industry a very raw deal. In 1949, the Chifley Administration liquidated £66,000 of debts for cotton-growers in Queensland.
– And wiped out the entire cotton industry !
– The Labour Government wiped out the debt on the recommendation of the Tariff Board. The egregious Vice-President of the Executive Council has observed that Labour wiped out th, industry, but it was the advancing Japanese who caused it to be wiped out. Very little cotton was grown in Queensland during the war. and very little development in the industry occurred in the war period, because the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues had the “ Brisbane line “ mentality and were prepared, to abandon all of Queensland to the oncoming Japanese. The Queensland Government has done a great job for the cotton industry, as the honorable member for Wide Bay very reluctantly and niggardly admits, by its work in controlling pests in the industry as well as in the development of associated industries. All of the State governments, in association with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrail Research Organization, have done excellent work in combating and controlling animal and vegetable pests of all sorts. ,
– The Queensland Government does very little towards that end.
– The Gatton Agricultural High School and College is one of the greatest agricultural colleges in Australia. I am surprised to hear the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) criticize the efforts of his Queensland brothers. Some of the best agricultural scientists in the Northern Territory are graduates of the University of Queensland and of the Gatton college. I have met some of the men who are in charge of the tobacco industry in the Northern Territory and some of those who are advising on the cotton industry there. I have seen research workers, in the Ord River area of the Kimberleys, in Western Australia, doing great work in experimental cottongrowing in that area. I have met others engaged in similar work at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization station on the Katherine River, in the Northern Territory. At all those places I have seen graduates of the University of Queensland and of the Gatton college who are doing fine work. The honorable member for Petrie has said that the Queensland Government does little to assist in research and experiment work. The University of Queensland is doing more than is any other body in Australia for the advancement of research work on grasses and tropical plants.
– The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is doing most of that work.
– It is working in association with the Western Australian Government near Ivanhoe Station on the Ord River in the Kimberleys area of Western Australia. The men who are doing most of the work for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, especially in Queensland, are mainly graduates of the Gatton Agricultural High School and College and of the University of Queensland. If these renegade Queenslanders continually attack their State Government I shall continue to defend the Gair Government, a very good government and the latest of the series of Queensland Labour governments that has been in power for 31 years out of the last 34.
What does this bill do ? It guarantees a minimum price of 9£d. per lb. for seed cotton, the guaranteed price in 1950-51. The cotton-growers are getting 14d. per lb. for seed cotton to-day. Why does not the Government write a guarantee of I4d. per lb. into the bill ? All that it is writing into the bill is a guarantee of 9-£d. per lb., the guarantee for the last three years. If the Government were to write in a guarantee of 14d. per lb., that would encourage cotton-growers in the north.
– We have arranged for variations.
– The Government can do that by regulation, but that is not good enough. If it is put into the legislation, the cotton-growers will know what guarantees they have.
– The guarantee was 5d. per lb. for seed cotton when Labour was in office.
– But 5d. per lb. then would be worth 25d. per lb. now, having regard to the way in which this Government has depreciated the currency and devalued the £1. We are importing 80,000 bales of cotton a year. That has been admitted. I think that all we grew last year was about 3,800 bales, and the Government is hoping for 7,000 bales this year. Before the war, in 1934. 17,000 bales of cotton were produced annually in Australia. Why cannot the Government say, “ We want 17,000 bales of cotton to be grown in this country next year “ ? As the honorable member for Wide Bay has said, increased cotton production here saves dollars. A production of 3,800 bales last year and an expected production of 7,000 bales this year, when we are importing 80,000 balesa year, is a very poor effort for any government. The government that provides the money has the final responsibility in the matter. This Governmen ought to give more to the cotton-grower* of Queensland, as well as to growers of tobacco and growers of other primary products anywhere north of the Brisbane line, the most unoccupied and most defenceless part of Australia.
– The honorable member is worried about the Melbourne line now.
– I am worried about all parts of Australia. The honorable member for Wide Bay has talked about tobacco. I mention in passing that it was the Lyons Government which, in 1932. killed the tobacco industry which the Scullin Government had established. We want to see more tobacco grown here. We want to see more cotton grown, and we want to see more sugar grown. If any government could claim to have done something for the Australian sugar industry in its day of direst peril, immediately after the war, it was the Chifley Government. I got the sugar-growers 1,000 people out of the immigrant camps, when they were very short of labour u< cut their cane, in 194S and 1949.
It is- idle to say that members of the Labour party are not interested in primary production and are not interested in our great and growing cotton industry. Let us have 80,000 bales of cotton a year as soon- as we can get them. If honorable members opposite do not want to make the issue a political one, let them deal objectively with the matter. Do not let them make political speeches and then say, “It is a good thing that all parties are prepared to assist the cotton-growers of Queensland “. I want to see Queensland occupied by about 5,000,000 people. I shall feel happier about the future of my daughter and other children of her age when there are between 5,000,000 and 10,000,000 people in Queensland.
– The honorable member frightens people away from there.
– I have never frightened them away. As a matter of fact, I am the one who brought them in. If honorable members opposite want the cooperation of the Opposition in matters of this sort, they ought not to make sneering, smearing political speeches and then end on an unctious note by saying. “We are all agreed on this matter. Now let us pass the legislation”.
.- I cannot resist the temptation to follow the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) in this debate. He has suggested that there is some reason why we on this side of the House should not make this debate political. I believe there is every reason why we should make it political. If we look at the history of the Labour party in relation to this matter, we find that it has done nothing for the cotton-growers, with the exception that, as has been mentioned by several members of the Opposition, it paid a debt of £67,000 owing by the industry. But I believe that that money was provided only to bury the industry, and even then it was not enough to give it a decent burial. What did the Queensland members of the Labour party in this House say when a Labour government referred the problems of the industry to the Tariff Board ? The honorable member for Melbourne has said to-night that this Government should exercise its judgment and increase the guaranteed price for cotton, but the best that the Labour party could do in the exercise of its judgment when it was in power in 1949 was to refer the problem to an outside body for a report - a report which would have killed the industry.
I believe that the honorable member for Melbourne has never seen cottongrowing. He does not know what a cotton boll is like. He does not know what a mechanical cotton harvester looks like. He knows nothing about the cotton industry, yet he has had the temerity to blame this Government for not giving to the industry assistance additional to that which it has given. The Government of which he was a. member paid out £67,000 to bury the industry. This Government, in the short period of five years, has increased the 1949 production of cotton by no less than fourteen times. That is a record of which it can well be proud. To-night we have seen an example of the interest that the Labour party has taken in the problems of the cotton industry over the years. Except on rare occasions, no more than six members of the Labour party have been present in the chamber while this matter has been under discussion.
The honorable member for Melbourne has referred to what the Queensland Government has done for the industry. As he has rushed to the defence of the Queensland Government, I am prepared to rush to the attack, because it so happens that I know a little more about the efforts of that Government in relation to this industry than does the honorable member for Melbourne. There was a time when the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock was prepared to give scientific assistance to the industry, but to-day that department is giving practically no such assistance. The two research officers in the department who have a special knowledge of the industry and of cotton pests have been taken off that work, almost entirely. To-day, the Queensland Government is making practically no contribution to a solution of the scientific problems of the industry.
Let us go a little further. Surely it is a responsibility of the Queensland Government to provide irrigation works in Queensland. Any honorable member who knows anything about cotton production knows that three times as much cotton can be grown on irrigated land as can be grown by dry farming methods. If the Queensland Government really wants to assist this industry - it has had every opportunity to do so during the 30 years it has been in office - let it use some of the loan moneys raised for it by the Commonwealth, as well as some of the money found for it from sources other than loan funds, on irrigation projects which would substantially increase the production of cotton in that State. I do not want to cover ground which has been, covered over and over again to-night. It is temerity on the part of the honorable member for Melbourne to come in at the closing stages of the debate, pick up two or three little threads, and try to hammer the Government with them. The record of this Government is far better than that of any Federal or .State Labour government in relation to consideration of the cotton industry in Queensland.
In my opinion, there is only one thing wrong with this bill, and that is that the three-year term of the guarantee has not been extended. What we want in Queensland is sufficient encouragement to those who produce cotton to undertake the purchase of the necessary plant. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) referred to cotton-growers in Queensland who had purchased their own mechanical harvesters and tractors at a cost of approximately £10,000 each. We should encourage that type of thing. The Government should give serious consideration to extending the term of the guarantee beyond this three-year period. It may be that the guaranteed price will not be sufficient. In this respect, I disagree with the honorable member for Melbourne, tt may be necessary to increase the guaranteed price, and that can be done more readily by regulation than by amendment of the act. Some consideration should be given to a long-term proposition, because it is the long term which will determine whether we have a cotton industry in Queensland which will go somewhere near meeting the requirements of its secondary industry, cotton-weaving, m Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages ‘ without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 21st April (vide page 100), on motion by Mr. Holt -
That the hill be now read a second time.
– I am happy to say that the Opposition will offer no obstacle to the passage of this bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 21st April (vide page 101), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition has carefully examined this bill, is satisfied that it serves a useful purpose, and has no objection to its passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 21st April (vide page 102), on motion by Mr. Kent Hughes -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
– The Opposition is in general agreement with the purpose of this quite important measure and will offer no obstacle to its passage.
.- I rise to compliment the Minister and the department not only on the presentation of thi.-; bill, which, as the Minister stated in his second-reading speech, sets out to bring into line with present-day practice the legislation governing the development of meteorology in Australia, but also on the work which has been done in recent years, particularly in recent months, in carrying out one of the main functions of the Meteorological Branch. That function, as stated in the bill, is the forecasting of weather and the state of the atmosphere, and particularly, the issuing of warnings of gales, storms and other weather conditions likely to endanger life or property, including weather conditions likely to give rise to floods or bushfires.
It will not be necessary to remind honorable members of the very great risks which are run, particularly on the eastern coast of Australia, of hazards such as cyclones and floods. Events of the last year or two have shown how important it is to develop a very extensive and efficient system, so that the utmost warning can be given to all people, particularly those in country areas, of the approach of any of these visitations. Having lived on the Queensland coast, from Cairns south, ever since my boyhood, I have very vivid memories of the conditions which prevailed years ago. Then, the first warning of a cyclone would be when the wind actually started to howl. The result would be that a district would be suddenly hit, and the damage would be very great. We have travelled a long way from those days, due to the work of the Meteorological Branch. We now receive what can be described, I think, as fairly accurate information, which is of considerable value. In the recent cyclones on the Queensland and New South Wales coasts, for instance, there were two or three days’ warning of the visitation. That was the result of extensive meteorological services and greater provision for the giving of information by radio stations. That fact is appreciated greatly by the people who suffer these devastations. Stations are proposed for Townsville and Gladstone, but as they will have a range of only about 150 miles a gap will be left in the central Queensland coast so far as the warning system is concerned. The area from Bowen or Proserpine to just north of Rockhampton is prone to cyclones. In the last two or three years especially it has suffered heavily. Although last year we got fairly adequate warnings it is possible for a cyclone coming down the coast to switch suddenly inland and strike without warning. If stations were set up at Mackay and Cairns there would be a network of stations down the coast, each with a radius of 150 miles, and the warning system would be complete. That would be of great advantage to the people on the eastern seaboard of Australia. As honorable members know, these cyclones develop in the north and come down as far as northern New South Wales. The Minister realizes that there is still much to be done. One appreciates what has already been accomplished but must stress the need for the extension of the warning system. I have pleasure in supporting the bill.
– I am very glad that the bill has been introduced and I agree with the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson) that it will be of advantage to the Commonwealth generally, and to Queensland in particular. Queensland is subject to extreme weather changes and frequently experiences cyclones, which wander about in such a fashion that their movement is difficult to plot. Earlier in the year great damage was suffered in this area.
The bill is certainly wide in scope. It proposes that complete investigations into all matters concerning the weather shall be made, and that the results shall be supplied to the public. If it improves the system of weather forecasting for Brisbane it will have served its purpose. I do not wish to ascribe to any individual or organization any blame for the weather forecasts for the metropolitan area of Brisbane. Usually they are no more reliable than is the average racing tipster, and one can take little notice of them. Some time ago a prominent officer of the Brisbane City Council Electricity Supply said, with a smile, that his organization was supplied with the forecast that was not, of course, that which the ordinary public received. I do not know what to make of that statement, but I hope that the work of the Meteorological Branch will result in the feeling ‘that one can depend upon the weather forecast. I am happy to support the bill and hope that it will be to the advantage of the public generally.
– In Australia, weather forecasting poses a difficult problem. In the older countries of Europe, the North Atlantic and America, there are many more weather forecasting stations and better methods of gathering information than we have in Australia. Weather ships, permanently anchored in the North Atlantic, wireless information to the shore. Also, the weather people of other countries have at their command the results of research over many years. This enables them to make more accurate forecasts than are possible in Australia, which has been settled for little more than 150 years. There are great distances between our warning stations. Australia has on either side large expanses of ocean, from which it cannot gain information about upper air currents. Some work of this type has been carried on at Macquarie Island and Kerguelen Island, but bo far our weather men do not know enough about such reports to draw from them conclusions as to future weather. A great deal of patient research into such reports must be undertaken before accurate forecasts will be possible.
We have in the weather forecasting service some very brilliant men, whose work is of immense value to shipping, to the Royal Australian Air Force and to the civil airlines that operate in Australia and along the air routes to America and England. They are also of assistance to those who live in flood areas or areas that are subject to bush fires. For some five years I have had the privilege of representing the Commonwealth on the flood and bush fire relief committees of New South Wales. With great respect to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), who has told us what may happen if an atomic bomb fell here, one has only to see the ravages of the weather to realize that the natural elements are an even more terrible force. Many fine wealthy towns have suffered huge losses in floods. Whole streets of houses have been wrecked and all the possessions of the inhabitants lost. Such occurrences are a tremendous shock to the people, but no one likes to leave his home, and there is a natural urge to return to it when the danger has passed.
It is a distressing sight to see houses and shops many feet deep in water, and furniture, floor coverings, bedding, haberdashery, groceries and boots and shoes being carried away. Any one who has seen the devastation that flood waters can cause to residences and businesses alike will agree that weather can be a dreadful thing, particularly if there has been inaccurate forecasting.
I propose to read to the House a passage from the Stretton report on the bush fires in Victoria in 1939. The report states -
Seventy-one lives were lost. Sixty-nine mills were burned. Millions of acres of fine forest, of almost incalculable value, were destroyed or badly damaged. Townships were obliterated in a few minutes. Mills, houses, bridges, tramways, machinery were burned to the ground ; mcn, cattle, horses, sheep were devoured by the fires or asphyxiated by the scorching debilitated air.
As most honorable members probably know, when a bush fire is raging, the heating of foliage produces an explosive mixture, and the air itself is heated to such a degree that people exposed to it are burned, although their skin has not been touched by the flames. I have seen this happen to many people as well as to hundreds of horses and many head of cattle. The Stretton report continues -
Generally, the numerous fires which during December, in many parts of Victoria, had been burning separately, as they do in any summer, either “ under control “, as it is falsely and ) dangerously called, or entirely untended, reached the climax of their intensity and joined forces in a devastating confluence of flame on Friday, the 13th January.
On that day it appeared that the whole State was alight. At midday, in many places, it was dark as night. Men carrying hurricane lamps worked to make safe their families and belongings. Travellers on the highways were trapped by fires or blazing fallen trees, and perished. Throughout the land there was daytime darkness. At one mill, desperate but futile efforts were made to clear of inflammable scrub the borders of the mill and mill settlement. All but one person, at that mill, were burned to death, many of them while trying to burrow to imagined safety in the sawdust heap. Horses were found, still harnessed, in their stalls, dead, their limbs fantastically contorted. The full story of the killing of this small community is one of unpreparedness, because of apathy and ignorance, and perhaps of something worse.
The report goes on at great length to describe what can happen in a bush fire. Some years ago, there was a fire in the Bega district of New South Wales, as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) will recall. After the fire had passed, there was complete devastation over an area of 50 square miles. Where fences and trees had been, there were only little heaps of grey ash. Where fences still stood, cattle and horses had been driven into the corners and burnt to death. This Parliament now has before it certain proposals to deal with the menace of atomic warfare. We have not yet experienced the atomic bomb, and perhaps that catastrophe will never befall us, but bush fires are with us now, and so are floods, and in the prevention or mitigation of these disasters the work of the weather forecasters is of the greatest importance. From my long observation of forecasting, I believe that our weather reports are not accurate enough. A forecast made in Sydney may be adequate within a radius of perhaps 10 or 20 miles of that city, but it is virtually impossible to forecast on information available in Sydney the weather that may be expected in areas perhaps 200 to 300 miles away.
A serious aspect of the matter is that, when a wrong forecast is made, weather forecasts generally are liable to fall into contempt. People lose their confidence in the forecasts and tend to ignore them. For instance, suppose a farmer receives a warning over the air that he must leave his home. He gets all his most valuable chattels together, musters his stock and moves out, perhaps at night. Next day, there is bright sunshine, and he is able to return home in safety. The next time he receives a warning he may not bother about it. Inaccurate forecasting, therefore, can be a grave danger. However, inaccuracy is not the fault of the weather man. He does the best he can with the information at his disposal, but he is not given enough information. Australia is a huge continent and there are areas of perhaps 1,000 square miles in which no weather observations are made and from which, therefore, no reports are obtained. Then there is the huge area of the Indian Ocean.. Knowledge of the weather in that area is most important to accurate weather forecasting on the Australian continent.
On the meagre information, available to our meteorologists at present, it is dangerous to forecast floods or fires in any given area. The long-range solution to the problem, I believe, lies in training meteorologists for work in decentralized areas such as the Bega district, the Macleay district, the Richmond River district, and out west in New South Wales. In. all those areas there should be men at work collecting weather information, watching the overall weather plans, studying weather maps and trying to compile an accurate picture of the weather probabilities. However, it will be a long time before we reach the stage when we can have regional forecasts. Nevertheless, I believe that there are now men available in most districts who could be formed into committees or who, by themselves, could assume the task of making weather forecasts, particularly in times of great emergency. For instance, if in January there is a heavy growth of vegetation, low humidity, and high temperatures and winds, there is an acute danger of bush fires, and it should be the responsibility of somebody in each district to see that fire fighting equipment is in order, relief services organized, and preparations made to evacuate certain localities if necessary. Some one must have the authority to give a warning, and I believe that there are men available who could be entrusted with this responsibility. They are ready and willing to undertake this work. Surely, if it is necessary to have a civil defence committee to organize defence against atomic bombs, it is equally essential that there should be a widespread organization assisting in the vital work of weather forecasting.
It is necessary that forecasts should be worded cautiously. I believe it is wrong for a forecaster to say that there will be light showers, high winds, or something of that sort. The people should be told that, from the meagre information available, there is a possibility of such and such a kind of weather. Dogmatic forecasts can only bring weather forecasters: into disrepute. You, Mr. Speaker, as a farmer from South Australia, will appreciate the necessity for long-range weather forecasting. Many of us have been greatly interested in the long-range forecasting of the late Inigo Jones. Those who are farmers have found on many occasions that his accurate forecasting of the weather has enabled them to sow and harvest crops, and carry out other farming activities at the right time. 1. suggest that the Minister should con- aider that it is of importance to investigate weather forecasting in this country, and to ascertain whether it is possible to decentralize our forecasting services. I suggest that he should work out regions of not more than about 100 miles in diameter, for which the weather could be forecast with regard to flood dangers and other hazards of nature.
It is- interesting to note that the Royal Australian Navy has a separate system of weather forecasting wherever there is a unit the size of an aircraft carrier stationed. A ship like an aircraft carrier cannot operate on weather information received from Sydney or Melbourne, because it might be 500 miles away from those cities. An aircraft carrier needs accurate meteorological information about the weather in its immediate vicinity, or the weather which it is likely to encounter within a short time, in order that it may operate its aircraft in safety.
I understand that the Royal Australian Air Force is also greatly dependent on weather forecasting, and that during the last war members of that force were given a very short course of training in weather forecasts. That training enabled them to forecast weather with such accuracy that the pilots developed a great deal of confidence in their ability. If such a system were possible during war-time, surely during peace-time men can be trained to forecast the weather in country districts. I appeal to the Government to take this matter seriously, and to ensure that sufficient money is allocated to train the right type of men to do this work accurately: Indeed, I suggest that theGovernment should also investigate the desirability of instituting a longrange forecasting service. Such an action would take us out of the primitive state that we are now in with regard to meteorological activities.
L understand that Australia has now joined’ a world meteorological association.
After that organization has carried out all the research that it intends to carry out, and has obtained all the data that it requires, I have no doubt that it will be of great benefit to us. However, we must remember that the object of meteorological organizations is to make accurate forecasts of the weather. They should not become bogged down with all sorts of bureaucratic influences and controls. We require accurate forecasting in this country, and the Minister should realize that we all are intensely interested in the weather and that accurate forecasting will be of great benefit to the whole of the country.
.- Our weather forecasting has not been as accurate or as up to date in the past as it should have been, because our meteorological services have been run on cheapjack lines. Most of the information that goes into our central meteorological organizations goes through the Postal Department. When I was an officer of that department I noticed that the governments of the day tried to run that data-gathering service as cheaply as possible. The men who were appointed to gather the meteorological information and make certain observations, were always grossly underpaid. Therefore, I suggest that if the proper encouragement were given to the officers of the Postal Department who carry out the important functions of gathering the meteorological observations, we should benefit by much more accurate forecasting. For the information of the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), perhaps I could point out that about 80 per cent, of our weather forecasts are accurate at present, and that if proper and adequate remuneration were given to those responsible for gathering the information, perhaps 100 per cent, of the forecasts would turn out to be accurate.
– Past governments have treated weather forecasting as an unimportant sideline of other jobs.
– That is so. Men who were called upon to read the heights of rivers and obtain other information were expected to do it for practically nothing. I am glad that the Government now intends to set up a proper meteorological service, aud I hope that the Minister will ensure that the officers required to do the work and obtain the information for the service will receive adequate training and remuneration. I hope that the Minister will also assume responsibility for the cost of transmitting the information, from outlying areas to the weather officers. In the past the Postal Department has had to bear the cost of the meteorological telegrams that have to be sent from all parts of the Commonwealth. I hope that this measure will set up a proper organization, and that the head of that organization will be given power to spend sufficient money to make our weather forecasting services efficient.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I should like the Minister to agree to the insertion, in clause 7 (1.), of a new paragraph, to read - and (c) arrange for local forecasts in all country areas to be made on the spot.
I suggest that such an addition will provide a means of carrying out the forecasting activities that I mentioned in my second-reading speech on this measure.
– Paragraph (a) of clause 7 covers that matter, I understand.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I do not desire to detain the House at length, but there is a matter that should be brought to the attention of the Government, upon which it should take some action. I refer to the making public of the details of the redistribution scheme which was recently completed in the various States before those details ought to have been mad;public. I refer specifically to the position in Victoria. I am unaware of what happens in New South “Wales or in Sydney. That is completely beyond me.
– It is not even easy for the honorable member to understand what is happening in Richmond.
– What is happening in Richmond is well within my understanding. The first redistribution of electoral boundaries was completed in New South Wales and for some reason the Commonwealth Electoral Officer in New South Wales made information available before the statutory date for its publication. I am not arguing whether he should or should not have done so, but as a result of the controversy that followed his action definite and specific instructions were issued in Victoria by the commissioners responsible for the drawing up of the map showing the boundaries of the new electorate that no details whatever were to be given to anybody. The matter was confidential and the commissioners were asked to complete their report under the statute on a confidential basis. The Government Printer of Victoria, who was to print the maps, wa* instructed not to make any information available to any person until the commissioners themselves decided to publish it.
I am not arguing whether it was good or bad for the matter to be kept confidential or whether that ought or ought not to have been done. The simple position is that highly paid public servants who had taken an oath to preserve confidence in relation to matters that come to their notice by virtue of their positions were expected to take notice of their direction to keep these matters confidential, but that instruction was not observed by them. Every member from Victoria well knows that the Premier of that State was able to tell a favoured few, prior to the date of the official announcement of the new boundaries, just where they were likely to be - not merely in a general way but specifically, street by street and boundary by boundary. Inevitably, in a party like the Labour party, where many decisions depend on who wins a selection ballot, there was quite feverish, activity prior to the official announcement by the commissioners in relation to the control of branches of the Labour party that were transferred from one district to another. It is a serious matter for this Parliament to know that some of the highest-placed officers in both the Commonwealth and State public services should have betrayed the oath of office taken by them when r-hey were appointed to confidential positions, by telling persons who are not entitled to know important and confidential facts. That is the position in Victoria.
– Who were the commissi ioners in Victoria?
– The Commonwealth Electoral Officer for Victoria, Mr. Nance, the Surveyor-General for Victoria, and one other person, who, I think, was the Victorian Chief Electoral Officer. I inquired from the Chief Electoral Officer where some of the new boundaries were to be and he told me he could not give me the information, but it was apparent to me that some people had it already. One of those persons was the Premier of Victoria, who passed it on to his colleagues who represent Victorian constituencies in the Federal Parliament. When I pressed the matter strongly by asking the Chief Electoral Officer whether any member of the Electoral Commission in Victoria had made that information available and he assured me that such was not the case, t told him I had made certain investigations on my own account and that it was obvious that the information had gone to the Victorian Premier from the Victorian Government Printer. He declined to comment on my statement, but I believe that that is what happened.
The maps showing the new boundaries and the confidential information relating to them should not have been divulged by the Government Printer under his oath of office, but the fact is that this confidential matter was conveyed to the Premier of Victoria, who evidently was prepared, to allow a senior public servant to betray his oath of office by imparting that information to him before it was made available to th« general public. I am not saying whether it is right or wrong for these things to be kept confidential, but it was a serious breach of oath to divulge it.
I raise this matter not only because of the redistribution maps which are important in political spheres - politicians naturally like to know what new areas are included in their electorates so that they can begin organizing immediately - but also because examination papers for university and secondary school examinations are printed in the confidential room of the Victorian Government Printing Office. If confidential electoral information can leak from that office to the people of Victoria, it is possible that other information might be divulged also, and such a happening at once undermines confidence in the Government Printer.
I ask the Minister for the Interior to make an immediate investigation into the printing of the maps showing the redistribution of electorates in Victoria and then report to this House. The Chief Electoral Officer was agitated about the matter when I interviewed him and said he proposed to make a report to the Government on it. Honorable members will not be satisfied until they have an assurance from the Minister that public servants charged with responsibility for the preparation of confidential information for either the Australian Governnent or any State government will be faithful to their oath and will not disclose it to any one.
– The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) has drawn attention to a point of principle, and it is only to that matter that I wish to refer very briefly. In my opinion, the commissioners responsible for the redistribution proposals in New South Wales were not entitled to disclose the contents of those proposals at the stage at which they were disclosed. Undoubtedly, the proposals were disclosed in New South Wales. Whether such action was justified in the light of practice I do not know. I should have thought that it was quite wrong to disclose them. If such action is wrong in New South Wales, it is wrong in any other State, but there is not the slightest evidence that anything was disclosed to the Premier of Victoria. The honorable member for Yarra himself does not say so.
– Of course I do.
– On every occasion on which the honorable member made a statement, he prefaced it with the word “apparently”. What facts are there before the House to suggest that that was the method of disclosure?
– The Premier of Victoria told everybody in the State Parliament House.
– Those proposals should not leak out, but many people are interested in them. I doubt whether the statement of the honorable member in relation to Victoria is correct. We know that in New South Wales there was some disclosure of the proposals. That is a very good reason for not accepting the recommendations of the commission, because, if commissions should make disclosures as they have done in certain cases, it is a fairly good prima facie step to guess just how they carried out their duty under the statute. I do not know anything about what happened in Victoria, and I do not accept the statements that have been made. I do not think the honorable member for Yarra has clearly stated that the Premier of Victoria did anything improper.
– I do now, if the right honorable gentleman did not understand me before.
– You did not say earlier that he did.
– I do now, anyway. The Premier of Victoria had these particulars, and he spread information to his friends.
– The honorable member does not know that of his own knowledge.
– I do.
– He is just repeating hearsay.
– I am sorry to have to say .that the statements made in relation to the principle involved in this case are true. Apparently there were disclosures, or certain leakages, of information in at least -one State, and possibly in more than one State. I am not too sure that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) were correct in stating that the commissioners gave the information before the day on which the maps were published, but I shall have that matter checked. There certainly was a leakage of information in Victoria, because many of the redistribution proposals were published in one of the daily newspapers - I speak subject to correction - on the 24th February, which was one month ahead of the 24th March, the day on which tha announcement was made in the Gazette, and the maps were displayed at the recognized post offices. Immediately the Chief Electoral Officer discovered that a leakage had occurred and that the information had been published in one of the newspapers, he asked the Victorian redistribution commissioners to make investigations. He also asked them what steps they had taken to ensure that none of the information would leak out before it was published by them. As a result of that request, the chairman of the commission informed the Chief Electoral Officer that the maps had been prepared in the Victorian Lands Department, that the Victorian SurveyorGeneral was one of the commissioners, and that he and the Surveyor-General had impressed upon all of the members of the staff of the Lands Department who were handling the maps that the information was confidential, and that it was not to be disclosed. Similar action had been taken in relation to the Victorian Government Printer.
As a result of these investigations, it seems to be correct to say that apparently there was a leakage of information from the Victorian Government Printing Office. I do not say that the Victorian Government Printer himself was responsible. In view of this incident, and another that occurred when I was a Minister in a Victorian Government when a certain anti-Communist bill was passed out from the Government Printing Office to a Communist meeting before Cabinet even saw it, I am afraid that further investigations will have to be. made to ascertain whether we should find an alternative to the Victorian Government Printing Office for the printing of confidential Commonwealth documents. I cannot make an investigation into what happens in the Lands Department or the Government Printing Office of Victoria. It would be necessary to ask the :State Government to carry the investigations a stage further. Everything points to the fact that a leakage did occur, but I am not saying that any particular individual, including both the Victorian Government Printer and the Premier, is responsible. The evidence contained in a report that I have obtained suggests that the leakage was at the Government Printing Office. I am sorry that this incident has occurred. It did not alter the position eventually, as the commissioners had completed their deliberations. Some people had the information earlier, but I do not think that anybody knew at that time that there would be an election in Victoria. Even so, it will not have made any difference, because the election will be fought on the old, and not the new, boundaries. But it is disturbing to discover that leakages have occurred. I shall do my utmost to carry the investigation further, but, under the circumstances, I cannot order a Commonwealth investigation into a leakage from the Victorian Government Printing. Office.
– I suggest that a report on the facts should be obtained before the boundaries are debated.
– The leakage did not make any difference to the boundaries, because the commissioners had finished their deliberations. They did not’ make any alteration to any boundaries, or to any redistribution, as a result of it. As I said, they had finished their deliberations, and the maps were being prepared so that they could be displayed. Therefore, the disclosure could not have had any effect on the commission’s deliberations.
– Will the Minister expedite i be completion of a. report, if he is able to- obtain one ? After all, it is a Commonwealth matter.
– I. am prepared to read a report that I haveobtained, if the House wants it verbatim.
– Read it, by all means.
– It states-
Further to telephone conversation of even date I desire to advise that every effort was made by the Redistribution Commissioners in the State of Victoria to prevent any premature disclosure of the distribution proposals. To this end and before any material was made available to the Government Printer in this State, the Chairman of the Commission interviewed the Government Printer for the State of Victoria, in the presence of the second commissioner - the Surveyor-General for the State of Victoria - and two members of the staff of the Surveyor-General. At this interview the method of handling the mapping side was discussed and the Chairman of the Commission brought under the notice of the Government Printer the need for special’ steps to be taken to prevent any leakage of maps or printed statements.
The maps in this State wore prepared by the Lands Department under the guidance of the State Surveyor-General and first copy was made available to the Government Printer early in February.
As I stated earlier, by that time they had arrived at their decisions, and no alteration to their decisions was made from the time that the maps were sent to the Lands Department and the Government Printer. The report continues -
Every officer handling the maps in the Lands Department had been suitably instructed with a view to maintaining a confidential regard thereto until the day of publication (25th March, 1955).
However, some leakage in this State occurred about the middle of February and it would appear that the Government Printing Office must be held responsible for the leakage of the Victorian redistribution proposals.
On the date of the publication of an article in the Melbourne Art/us (24th February, 1955) on redistribution plans I telephoned the Government Printer for the State of Victoria and informed him in terms of the foregoing.
– How many persons in the Government Printing Office may have had access to the maps?
– I am unable to state that.
– I presume that there would be a large number of such persons. ‘
– It is not of much use trying to protect Jack Cain. He is responsible.
– All I know, from my experience as a Minister in the State of Victoria, is that there is a confidential room at the Victorian Government Printing Office, as I understand there is in every other State Government Printing Office, that all confidential matter is handled on a secret basis, and that any prints that are made are filed until they are distributed by that room. But two copies of a bill disappeared from that confidential room without even the Government Printer knowing about their disappearance. It was said to be absurd to suggest that those bills could disappear before the Cabinet had seen them, but the detectives who investigated the matter found that two copies of the bill were missing.
– That matter is far removed from the Premier of Victoria.
– I do not know anything about the Premier of Victoria, and I am not entering into that discussion. The fact that the leakage did occur caused considerable perturbation, because when confidential documents are printed in any government printing office, it is expected that they will remain confidential until they are released in the proper manner.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Imperial Force Canteens Funds Act - Thirty-fourth Annual Report by the Trustees for year 1953-54.
Bankruptcy Act - Twenty-sixth Annual Report by the Attorney-General, for the year ended 31st July, 1954.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land, &c, acquired for -
Defence purposes - Tumbi Umbi, New South Wales.
Department of Air purposes - Hobart, Tasmania.
Postal purposes - Burra, South Australia.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Postmaster-General - I. C. Lawson, A. B. Liubinas, A. Ozolins.
Public Service Arbitration Act - Determination of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration (Miscellaneous No. 11 of 1954) - Australian Air Pilots’ Association.
Repatriation Act - Repatriation Commit sion - Report for year 1953-54.
House adjourned at 11.11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
asked the Prime Minister. upon notice -
What was the total number of permanent employees in the Commonwealth Public Service at the end of March, 1955?
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice: -
n asked the Trea surer, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Airlines applied for a licence to import one DC6B aircraft at a cost, with spares, of up to 1,950,000 dollars. Both applications were refused.
n asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
Will he state whether it is the intention of the Government to review existing legislation which provides - (a) that no unemployment social service benefits shall be payable in respect of the first seven days of unemployment; and (6) that the payment of unemployment benefits shall not be made retrospective?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The question involves Government policy, which it is not usual to disclose in replying to questions. A waiting period prior to the commencement of unemployment benefit is a universal feature of all national schemes of this nature. In some countries it is as much as fourteen days. The question of retrospect ive payment of unemployment benefit arises only where there is some delay in the establishment of eligibility. There are few such cases, but, when a grant is approved, payment is made retrospective to the seventh day after unemployment’ commenced or the seventh day after the claim was lodged, if later.
s asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
St. The fundsare allocated to the States in the proportion of applications on hand and being received each year and the building position in the State. The position in Queensland in respect of building applications is that the waiting period before processing commences is thirteen and a half months compared with the fifteen months average throughout Australia. The waiting period in respect of existing properties is the same in all States, and as the rate of receipt of applications for this class of assistance in Queensland is higher in proportion than the rate of receipt of applications in other States Queensland receives the benefit. A separate record of the £2,000,000 has not been kept, but the total estimated expenditure on existing properties for Australia during 1954-55 is £14,200,000 of which the expenditure ; in Queensland will be £2,241,000.
b asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
ke asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the sharp-drop in the price of tea at the recent Ceylon tea auctions, what action is proposed to ensure that the retail price of tea - the’ price paid by housewives - is correspondingly reduced?
– The Minister, for Trade and Customs has furnished the following answer to the honorable member’s question : -
It will be some weeks before the tea, which has been purchased at reduced prices in Ceylon by the Tea Importation Board, will be available in Australia. The action to be taken as a consequence of the fall in Ceylon prices will be decided at the appropriate time.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 May 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1955/19550510_reps_21_hor6/>.