21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the fact that talks are about to occur at the highest level between the four great powers, I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether he or the Government has made any suggestions in connexion with that meeting to any Power, and especially to the United Kingdom. If such suggestions have been made, will the Minister tell the House what the suggestions were, with a view to enabling a debate to be held on the subject?
– The subjects that have been decided upon for discussion by the four Powers, so far, are the future of Germany, the future security of Europe, and disarmament. That list will not necessarily be exclusive. The arrangements for the agenda are in the hands of the four participating countries. On the subjects that I have mentioned, particularly disarmament, Australia has had constant communications with the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Those communications have all been confidential. There is nothing else that I can tell the House with advantage on this subject at this stage.
– In view of the increase in the world surplus of wheat, is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture satisfied that Australian storage capacity will be adequate to cope with the estimated surplus of wheat in this country? If he is not so satisfied, what does he think could and should be done in order to remedy the position?
– The present indications are that the new wheat year might commence with approximately the same surplus of wheat as existed when the current wheat season commenced. That would indicate that existing storage capacity is sufficient. However, the position is not as simple as that, because the locality in which storage is required is a critical factor. An analysis of that factor has indicated that, on the basis of present optimistic crop prospects in Western Australia, storage requirements in that State are likely to be additional to existing storage capacity. That will probably not be the case elsewhere. Last year, when a storage problem arose in an atmosphere of crisis, .the Australian Government made certain arrangements for the Australian Wheat Board to establish wheat stores. In due course, these stores will be handed over to the State grainhandling authorities. Having taken that action in order to meet an emergency, the Australian Government considers that wheat storage is a function that ought to be attended to by the State governments, or, in the case of Western Australia, the co-operative grain-handling authority. That body has been given special statutory status in Western Australia and engages in the handling of grain other than wheat. The Australian Government is putting the position to those who are concerned with the wheat industry in Western Australia. The Government could not possibly accept a situation in which it would have to provide additional storage for wheat whenever it appears to be necessary, any more than it would engage to provide additional storage for fruit, beef, butter, wool, or any other primary commodity.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether, some time ago, M. Mendes France, when Prime Minister of France, announced that France would request to be admitted to the Colombo plan? Can the Minister say whether any action has been taken or is likely to be taken to accede to this request or what is Australia’s attitude towards it?
– It is true that during the prime ministership of M. Mendes France he announced that France would seek entry into the Colombo plan as a donor country. The procedure has been established, which I think is proper, that there should he unanimous agreement upon a. new country’s request to enter the Colombo plan either as a donor or a recipient country. No official request has been received since M. Mendes Trance made his public announcement but I expect that if it is received at the ministerial meeting of the Colombo plan countries at Singapore, in October next, there will unanimous agreement to France’s entry into the plan. Provided there is no disagreement on the part of any member country, the Australian Government will be agreeable to France becoming a member of the Colombo plan.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the Government has entered a protest - a most emphatic protest - to the appropriate authorities against the 10 per cent, shipping freight increase? In view of this increased freight charge, which will undoubtedly upset the whole economy of the Commonwealth, will the Government withdraw the sale or cancel any negotiations for the sale of the Commonwealth shipping line, which may have been entered into and use the line for the original intention for which it was built, which was a safety provision for the Australian trade? Will the Government take early action to increase the number of ships in the Commonwealth line and thereby save Australian export industries such as wheat, wool, barley, ‘dairy produce, meats, fruits, wines, and so on, because the payment of these extra costs will mean financial ruin to the producers ?
– I understand that this subject is to be discussed later today. In that case, no doubt whatever has to be said on it will be said in the course of that debate.
– Has the attention of the Minister for External Affairs been directed to a report that the Philip-‘ pines Government has decided that none of its troops shall be sent outside its dominions? In view of the fact that that country is one of the signatories to the Seato treaty and is bound by associated treaties with the United States of America can the Minister inform the House of the extent to which these circumstances are likely to affect Australia’s position in the supply of necessary defence forces?
– I have not seen the report mentioned by the honorable member nor do I know whether it came from an authoritative source or elsewhere. I shall most certainly read it. I shall then be in a better position to give the honorable member a considered answer.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House of the details of the publicity and trade promotion programme that is being undertaken by representatives of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture in the United Kingdom? Is it a fact that special additional staff members have been appointed to Australia House, London, to cater for this new Australian trade drive in the United Kingdom ?
– About a year ago, subsequent to certain progressive steps that had been taken to stimulate Australia’s trade promotion activities overseas, a director of trade publicity was chosen for appointment to Australia House. That officer has been at Australia House for approximately six months. In addition to the director, certain additional staff have been appointed to Australia House. The director acts in close cooperation with the statutory marketing boards, and other representative sellers of Australian produce, in trade promotion activities generally. In particular, a specialized system of approach to the United Kingdom market, region by region, in relation to particular commodities, has been evolved. Individual wholesalers and retailers have been canvassed in order to promote the sale of Australian produce. Widespread window displays in shops, appropriate showcard and poster campaigns, cooking demonstrations, and similar activities that are conducive to a more ready sale of Australian products, have been arranged. All of the reports that have come to me indicate that these activities are already achieving a useful result.
– In view of the decline that has taken place in the purchase of
Australian products in the United Kingdom, is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture satisfied with the quality and the extent of the publicity that has been given to Australian products in the United Kingdom ? If the Minister is not 30 satisfied, will he institute a campaign in order to improve the publicity by making it more modern and more original? Who pays for the publicizing of Australian products in the United Kingdom? Do manufacturers pay any part of the cost or is it entirely the responsibility of the Government? Can the Minister inform. the House whether a greater or a lesser amount than previously is now being spent on publicity in the United Kingdom ? Is the Minister satisfied with the labelling and packaging of Australian goods that are sent to the United Kingdom?
– I would not say, now or at any other time, that I was completely satisfied with the labelling and packaging of Australian goods. It is not conducive to progress to he completely satisfied. However, the present Government is spending more on publicizing Australian products in the United Kingdom than has ever been spent before. The Government has also taken action which is designed to stimulate statutory marketing hoards and other direct sellers to co-operate with the Government and each other in publicizing Australian goods. These endeavours are bringing useful results. A disproportionate amount of concern is attached to the packaging and presentation of Australian goods in the United Kingdom in view of the fact that an overwhelming percentage of Australian export earnings is in respect of products which do not carry their identity to the ultimate consumer. I refer to wool, wheat, and most of our meat. For many years, our dried fruits have not been packaged in a way that would indicate to the ultimate consumer that they came from Australia.
– Does the Minister not think that they should be?
– That is not a matter for the Government to decide. It is a matter for those who are selling these products. I think that the Australian Dried Fruits Association is one of the most active and forward-thinking commercial organizations in Australia. I have never before heard criticism of its marketing arrangements.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs explain to the House why the New South Wales AttorneyGeneral has been refused a diplomatic passport? Is it not true that diplomatic passports have been issued to high public servants and to members of this Parliament? Will the Minister explain why discrimination was shown in the case of the New South Wales Attorney-General t
– I shall answer the question. Neither discrimination nor discourtesy has been shown in considering the request of the New South Wales Attorney-General. The practice in relation to the issue of diplomatic passports has been worked out between the Department of Immigration, which is the issuing department, and the Department of External Affairs, because, quite obviously, if our diplomatic passports are to enjoy a ready acceptance in other countries, Australia must adhere to the generally accepted international practice. The departments have prepared a list of persons to whom such passports may be issued. It includes the Governor-General, the State Governors, Commonwealth Ministers, and senior members of the Public Service.
– And the Leader of the Opposition.
– The Leader of the Opposition has been so regarded also, because of his status in the House. Since this Government has assumed office, it has also included State Premiers in that list. I think that the Leader of the Opposition will know the practice followed by his own Government which, but for the inclusion of the State Premiers, was virtually identical with that which has been followed by this Government. Mr. Sheehan has been treated as any other Minister of a State government has been treated in the past. He has been issued’ with an official passport, and that should be adequate for the purposes of hh journey, as disclosed to us.
– My question is supplementary to that just asked by the honorable member for Wimmera. . I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether it is not correct to say that, in the case of a large hydrogen bomb explosion, the poisonous fall-out will probably kill animals and poison crops over a considerable area. Secondly, does not this bring the whole question of food storage into new focus? Thirdly, what steps will be taken in laying out this system of storage wheat facilities to see that the requirements of civil defence are met in the positioning of the stores? Fourthly, what approaches regarding wheat purchases have been made to the United Kingdom Government, which must put in large storages of foodstuffs if its population is to have any chance of surviving an atomic attack? Lastly, what measures havebeen taken to co-ordinate the activities of his department with the larger picture of the survival of Australians and of the free world ?
– The earlier question to which the honorable member described his question as being supplementary related to the normal functions of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture which is concerned to some extent with the storage of crops prior to disposal based upon ordinary commercial considerations. The much wider, and no doubt important, aspects to which the honorable member directs attention are not peculiarly problems for that department to consider, but they are, I understand, within the general consideration of the appropriate governing authorities in the light of the evolving circumstances of the atomic ago. I assure the honorable member that there is close cooperation between the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and the Department of Defence on such matters. As to what would be good in the interests of United Kingdom citizens, it is scarcely my province, and certainly not within my capacity, to tell the United Kingdom Government what it ought to be doing in the interests of its citizens. I have no doubt that that matter generally is under consideration by that Government. Insofar as food touches aspects of defence, I assure the honorable member and the country that there has been a close and continuing consultation by this Government, and myself on various occasions as its Minister, with the United Kingdom defence authorities. Indeed, there has been some discussion on the same subject with the Government of the United States of America.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the House is to be given the opportunity of having a report from him, or from any Ministers whom he may appoint to make such a report, on the building of a factory or factories for the manufacture of explosives at an estimated cost of £32,000,000. May we have some further information about this project and what is involved in the proposals so far as they will affect defence schemes in this country ?
– I shall have a talk with the Minister for Defence Production about the matter. The estimated cost is not £32,000,000 but approximately £23,000,000. The honorable member will realize that it is desired to produce in this country the capacity for filling ammunition. That is a matter with which the honorable member is extremely familiar. He will recall that a substantial amount of that capacity was developed during the war. After the war concluded, some of the establishments concerned were disposed of, Salisbury for other purposes and St. Mary’s for industrial purposes. It is the Government’s view that in the present circumstances it is idle to talk about having forces available for the defence of Australia unless we have behind them the filling capacity needed to provide all three services with ammunition. In to-day’s circumstances, this is no cheap undertaking. Therefore, the Government has occupied a good deal of time in conducting research into what ought to be done. In an appropriate place, it has decided that we must put ourselves in a position to have the filling capacity. I am sure that, of all honorable members, the honorable member for Sturt, as a former Minister forMunitions, will be most familiar with the pressing need for.capacity of this kind. The Government has directed its attention to the best way .of developing this capacity. The methods that it has chosen to adopt may, perhaps, be made the subject of a statement by my colleague, the Minister for Defen.ee Production, because the House may decide to say something about them. [ assure the honorable member that the methods that the Government has decided w adopt are calculated to produce the required results in the quickest possible time and in .the most efficient manner.
– Can the Minister for Defence Production say whether, in the opinion of most experts, decentralization is the only real answer to modern bombing attacks? If this is so, will he state why the Government has decided to expend £23,000,000 on the establishment of a munitions factory in one of the most crowded areas of Australia in the immediate vicinity of Sydney?
– The decision of the Government to establish the munitions factory in the area it has decided upon was based primarily upon the fact that the many services that are required for an establishment of this nature are available within a reasonable distance from centres of intense settlement. The area chosen will be suitable both from the points of view of safety and of the availability of necessary services and equipment for the carrying out of the job.
– In view of the fact chat the erection of a huge munitions plant, at an estimated cost of £23,000,000, near Sydney will make very great demands upon the labour force and material resources of this country, will the Minister for Defence Production give an assurance that the carrying out of that work, necessary though it may be, will not be allowed to interfere with the plans of this Government and of State governments for the provision of homes which are now in such short supply?
– The establishment of the munitions plant which has been envisaged will not, I hope, interfere with any housing programme of the State governments. The construction of the plant will extend over two years, and a survey which has been made has estab lished that the necessary materials and labour force will be available to carry out the work
– Will the Minister for External Affairs indicate to the House the opportunities available to officers of the Department of External Affairs to familiarize themselves with developments in industry and science within Australia? Has the Minister considered any action to enable young recruits to the department, who will later represent Australia overseas, to visit farms and factories and to meet people in different walks of life, so that their training shall not be restricted to part-time academic studies and to desk work in Canberra?
– A few years ago, I initiated a scheme under which officers of the Department of External Affairs are afforded the opportunity to undertake indoctrination tours to typical parts of Australia. I believe that between 40 and 50 officers have undertaken these tours and have visited primary and secondary producing areas, seen developmental schemes, and visited scientific research establishments. A party of officers of the department will make a conducted tour to Sydney, Newcastle and the Hunter River Valley in a few weeks’ time. On this tour they will be afforded the opportunity to have discussions with industrialists, trades union leaders, scientists, wine-producers and a wide variety of people who are connected with various occupations at which Australians earn their living. The object of the scheme is to ensure that these officers, who may expect to spend at least half of their working lives representing Australia overseas, shall know at least something of life in Australia beyond the confines of the department, the capital cities and the immediate areas from which they hail. Leading people in all industries have been most co-operative in the conduct of these tours and have given a great deal of their time and energy to addressing the groups that have travelled about. I should like to take this opportunity to thank all of the many people who have co-operated in this scheme of indoctrination of officer* of the department before they go oversea*.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I refer to the situation on the waterfront, which is ‘so important and vital to the economic welfare of Australia. Can the Minister give any information about the progress of the inquiry now being made into the stevedoring industry? “When is the report resulting from the inquiry likely to be completed and to be available?
– I understand that, following submissions to the committee of inquiry by counsel for the Australian Government, the committee communicated with the various parties represented before it and indicated a course of action which it proposed to follow. My information is that the committee will make a statement to-night or to-morrow. Following the receipt of that information, I will bring it to the notice of the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for Labour whether he will either tell the House, or have prepared a statement on, the number of working hours lost as a result of industrial disputes on the waterfront and the number lost through
Tain and other causes beyond the control of the Waterside Workers Federation?
– I do not think there is any need to prepare a statement because the information the honorable- member seeks is adequately covered in the report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board.
– No, it is not.
– If the honorable member desires to have the figures which cover the period from the end of last June to the present time, I shall ascertain what recent information I can obtain; but he will see set out in that report the break-up which shows the amount of time lost through industrial disputes, through rain, and as a result of non-productive time and other factors which have come within the purview of the board.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it correct that a proposition has been submitted to the major airline companies that they combine in the construction of their own passenger terminal building at the new Adelaide airport? Ji so, will this in any way delay the construction of the main terminal building at the airport?
– No proposition ha= been put to the major operators in that respect. It has been suggested to them in the course of conversation that they should examine the possibility of erecting some temporary building for their own use while our terminal is in the course of construction. It will probably take from two to two and a half years to construct the main terminal which has been started at West Beach, and, in the meantime, it. has been pointed out to the operators that if they want to use West Beach they should be prepared to contribute towards the cost of the terminal.
– Is the Minister for Air aware that there is a move to transfer the stores section of the department at Western Junction, Tasmania, to Melbourne, involving the transfer of thousands of pounds worth of wireless and mechanical equipment and spares? Has not the stores section previously catered for the north of Tasmania, from Wynyard to King Island and from Flinders Island to Launceston? Will not such a centralizing transfer interrupt efficiency within the department in northern Tasmania, delay repairs and increase costs because of the necessity for the extensive air freighting of such spares and equipment?
– I am not aware of the details of the projected move. I know that departmental officers have been round trying to tidy up, as it were, the various stores depots, and that everything they have done so far has brought greater efficiency, not less. I shall inquire into the matter, and makes sure that everything is going the way it should.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation made inquiries into the unfortunate air accidents at Forbes and Narromine? I understand that at Forbes five people were killed in an Auster aeroplane in which there should have been only two or three people, and that at Narromine four people were killed-
Were these aircraft under the supervision of aeroplane clubs, and if so, have any steps been taken to tighten up the discipline in the clubs?
– The accident at Forbes, to which the honorable member referred, involved an aeroplane that belonged to the Newcastle Aero Club. Lt was reported to the Department of Civil Aviation that some regulations were not being observed in the Newcastle area and on two occasions officers of the department visited that district and did their best to tighten discipline. The officers are satisfied that the regulations are usually observed but occasionally, no matter what is done in the way of regulations, some person just will not learn, or will only learn the hard way. The final report on the Forbes accident has not reached me yet. Also, I have not yet an official report on the unfortunate accident on Saturday last at Narromine.
– I direct a question 10 the Treasurer. Tn view of the increases of salary which have been granted to Commonwealth public servants, will he give consideration to granting increased superannuation benefits to retired Commonwealth public servants?
– The matter raised by the honorable member is obviously one of policy; and it will be considered by the Government in conjunction with the budget.
– Following on questions that I have asked concerning the closing of mines, I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that it is now proposed to close Pelaw Main colliery, the last mine at which I worked before I came to this Parliament, unless the men agree to fresh working conditions? ls this proposal the forerunner of what was known as the 1929-30 lock-out. when the men were forced to accept a 12-J per cent, reduction in wages although they had an Arbitration Court award? Is hp aware that the owners have set tip what is known as a Coal Conservation Committee, with only themselves as members of it, and have increased the price of coal in order to finance this proposal, which we all thought would lead to the stowage system in mining. We believe that there should be-
– Order! What is the question?
– Will the Prime Minister confer with the New South Wales Government and the Joint Coal Board in order to set up a statutory committee which will compel the coal owners to adopt a system of stowage similar to that adopted in Britain, France, Germany, and other continental nations, and also India, with a view to getting 95 per cent, of the coal deposits, whereas Australia
-Order! The honorable member is going right outside the scope of a question.
– Whereas Australia is getting only 30 per cent.?
– Order ! If the honorable member does not ask a question, I shall request him to resume hia seat.
– I am asking the question, and it is very important. Will the right honorable gentleman confer with the people to whom I have referred in order to conserve this coal, and to prevent homes and mines from being wrecked and ruined as a result of subsidences that have taken place in various parts of the coal-fields.
– I shall have the contents of the honorable member’s speech conveyed to the Minister for National Development.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that a manager or other high executive officer of a private business establishment can claim a deduction for taxation purposes in respect of the running costs of the car in which he rides to and from his place of business, whilst an employee who ia obliged to travel per medium of train, bus, or tram, gets no tax concession in respect of the amount expended in fares? If this is so, will the Treasurer take early action to put all employees on the same footing by making expenditure on fares an allowable tax deduction and thus end the class distinction which exists while the present system remains?
– The point raised by the honorable member will be taken into consideration.
– This is a technical matter, and I do not pretend to the House that I can answer it offhand. I shall have inquiries made through the Minister for National Development, and I shall give the honorable member a reply as soon as possible.
– My question to the Minister for the Interior relates to his recent announcement that, as from the 7th July next, rents of older government cottages in different suburbs of Canberra are to be increased by 25 per cent., 50 per cent, and 75 per cent. I now ask the Minister : Since, on his own figures, 12s. 6d. out of every £1 rent is for interest payment, how can he justify increased rents which will, in fact, impose substantial increases in interest charges on capital costs already fairly assessed, and which have not increased ?
– Even if the rent is broken up into various sections and the interest rates remain the same, the maintenance charges, capital costs and other items have increased very considerably and so the overall position would not be affected. Therefore, I cannot gather what the honorable member i3 driving at. I see he was at the meeting last night in connexion with this matter ; I am not allowed to say where it was,
– Order !
– Individual cases were brought up, and they will have to be taken into consideration, and, in fact, are being taken into consideration now.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Supply. Has the Bureau of Mineral Resources made laboratory tests of all samples taken from uranium leases in the Cloncurry area? Is it a fact that a new mineral unknown to geologists in this country has been found in ore samples from the lease known as the Mary Kathleen? If so, has the Minister any information to give the House on further investigations made by the bureau into this matter?
– I. desire to ask th: Minister for External Affairs a question in connexion with the Bandung conference, which was held recently and at which Australia had observers. Will honorable members be given an opportunity to peruse the report of such observers on behalf of this country? Will the Minister lay upon the table of thu House the report of those observers?
– Australia had no official observers at the Bandung conference other than two officers of thu Department of External Affairs, one of whom came from Djakarta and the other from. Canberra. There were two other Australian individuals who. went to the conference on their own account and who, I understand, have made their own reports. The ‘ Department of External Affairs has numerous reports, of the Bandung conference from five or six different sources but I consider that most of the information that has been obtained is not suitable for inclusion in a public report. The press reports of proceedings, including the resolutions of th*conference, sufficiently describe the activities at Bandung.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Territories been directed to a report that there is considerable waste of public money in the administration of Papua and NewGuinea? Is it not true that the administrative staff of the Commonwealth Depart ment of Works in Papua and New Guinea is out of all proportion to it? field staff? Will the Minister take action to stop this wastage and inefficiency, and would it be possible for the Public Accounts Committee to investigate th« position in Papua and New Guinea?
-I know nothing of these matters except hearsay. From hearsay, I understand that a person who is described as a member of the Public Service of Papua and New Guinea has made certain statements. When those statements were reported to me, I suggested that the individual should be told that he should make them either to the head of his own department or, if he thought that course was unsatisfactory, to myself as Minister for Territories, or to my colleague, the Minister for Works. The individual took neither of those courses.
– Why should he?
– Because that isthe normal process by which a public servant discharges his duty to the Public Service. Instead of that, this person chose to enter on some sort of a public campaign in criticism, not of the Government, but of his fellow officers, whom he charges with inefficiency and extravagance. I do not know what grounds he has. I do not know anything about this person. I have no information except what has come to me by hearsay, but I suggest again that if any officer of the Public Service of the Territory, whichever department he may be in, wishes to get a quick improvement either in the efficiency of the service to which he belongs or in the expenditure of public money for which be is responsible, his first approach should be to the permanent head of his department, or failing that, to the Minister who controls his department.
Motion (byDr. Evatt) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) and the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Davies) on the ground of ill health.
Mr.KENT HUGHES (Chisholm-
Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works). - I present the following papers : -
Commonwealth Electoral Act - Report, with mapsby theCommissionersappointed for the purpose of redistributes the State of Queensland into Electoral Divisions.
Ordered to be printed.
– As Chairman, I present the report, with minutes of evidence, of the Public Works Committee on the following subject: -
The proposed removal of the dual purpose jetty at Townsville, Queensland.
Ordered to be printed.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - I desire to inform the House that, during the recent recess, and at the invitation of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), a delegation, representative of the Senate and the House of Representatives and of all parties in the Parliament, and lead by Mr. President and myself, travelled to Darwin to attend the ceremonies connected with the opening of the new chamber to be used by the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. It was decided that, to mark the occasion, the Commonwealth Parliament would present a chair to the Council for the use of its President.
On the 25th March the delegation was received by the Council at its first sitting in the new chamber and the gift of the Parliament was formally presented. The thanks of the Council were voiced by the senior official member and an elected member, and were expressed in a resolution which was then passed. I have now received from the President of the Council a bound copy of that resolution, together with extracts from the minutes and the debates recording the proceedings. The resolution reads as follows: -
We. the Members of the Legislative Council for the Northern; Territory, in Council assembled, express our thanks tothe Senate and the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia for theChair which they have presented to this Council for the use of its President in the new Chamber. Their interest in the development of the Territory and the welfare of its people was evidenced when, by enactment of the Commonwealth Parliament, this Council was established, and we accept this generous gift as a further earnest of their continuing concern. It will stand as a connecting link between the two assemblies and will long be treasured by the Council as an historic possession.
We were proud to receive the members oi the Delegation by whose hand the presentation was made anil were glad to welcome them in Darwin. We ask them to convey our greetings to their colleagues in the Commonwealth Parliament.
I shall direct that the resolution be entered in the Votes and Proceedings of this House and that the bound copy be placed in the records.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - I have received from the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) an intimation that he desires to submit a definite matter of urgent public importance to the House for discussion, namely -
The urgent necessity of immediate action to prevent the exploitation of Australian exporters and importers by overseas shipping interests.
Is the proposal supported?
Eight honorable members having risen in support of the proposal,
.- Last November, the Government arranged for the sittings of this Parliament to be extended and, with a great display of urgency, introduced a bill which it said must be passed immediately because of the effect that a serious situation which existed on the waterfront would have on Australian exporters and importers. As a result of an announcement by overseas shipowners of their intention to increase freight rates, a situation has now arisen which demands stronger and more urgent action on the part of the Government than the situation which arose last year. Overseas shipowners who are members of the conference which fixes the freight rates that are charged for exports from and imports into this country propose to increase freight rates on goods imported into Australia by 10 per cent. They also propose to bring before the next meeting of the conference a proposal to increase freight rates on exports from Australia by 10 per cent. According to the Melbourne Herald, the increased freight rates charged on our exports and imports will cost Australia at least ?15,000,000. Of this sum, ?8,000,000 will be spent on freight rates in respect of imports. It is possible that an even larger sum may be involved in freight rates on exports. lt seems quite likely that the increases will cost Australia ?25,000,000, if one takes into account the effect of the increased rates on the imported raw materials which manufacturers have to use in the production of goods which they export.
These increased freight rates threaten the internal economy of Australia, not only because their effect on the cost of living will be considerable, but also because they will affect Australian export industries which are struggling to maintain markets overseas. The wheat, meat, and butter industries will be particularly affected. It is not an exaggeration to say that this is one of the most important matters that we have had to consider in this Parliament for many a day. lt is obvious that if some of our major export industries have to carry this extra burden, struggling as they are to maintain their markets overseas, they will be seriously disadvantaged. If one take? into account what the Canned Fruit Board has said in its annual report, and the statements contained in the annual reports of other similar boards in relation to Australian exports, it is obvious that this increase in freights must be a serious blow to them and will possibly cripple their industries. Tha.t is a fact of which honorable members on both sides of the House are well aware, therefore I propose to spend no further time on it, except to emphasize again that this is a much more serious matter than that for which this Parliament was extended last November when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Munster for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), with a most dramatic air, introduced in this House the Stevedoring Industry Bill. This is a much more serious matter for the Australian economy and I hope, not, I must say, with a great deal of confidence, that the Government will treat it with the seriousness which it warrants, and that it will realize that this position cannot be left either to the cupidity of the ovrseas shipowners, or to the weakness of this Government.
Let me say to members of the Australian Country party that this matter will be a real test of whether they, indeed, represent in this Parliament the rural interests and are able to make their voices heard in the counsels of the Government. If this increase, with its inevitable affect on Australian primary and exporting industries, is allowed to proceed without drastic action on the part of the Government, it will be obvious that the Australian Country party is unable to state effectively to this Government the point of view of the primary producer, or is unwilling to do so. This will be a very severe test- of the effectiveness of the voice of Australian Country party members.
What is the position in relation to overseas shipping lines? Neither in the immediate or distant past, nor even at present, can one find any incidents in the history of the overseas shipowners which would give ground for the slightest confidence in their policies towards Australia, or suggest any other conclusion than that they follow a policy of extorting the maximum amount possible from Australian importers and exporters. I well recall an occasion when the right honor.able William Morris Hughes sat in this House, and I asked him to autograph my copy of his book Policies and Potentates. In that book, he gave a clear description of what happened when he went to Great Britain in the most critical period of the first world war and sought ships for Australian troops as well as for the export of wool, wheat, and other goods to the United Kingdom. He vividly recounted the reply of the British shipping interests to his request, “ You can have the ships, but you must pay the world price for them “. As he autographed my copy of his book, I referred him to that paragraph because it was relevant to debates then taking place in this House and he said, “They call them monopolists; what they should call them is pirates “. I hope that the language of that right honorable gentleman, used only a short time ago, is not still applicable to those shipping interests, but I fear, in view of recent events and the way in which they are demanding their pound of flesh from the Australian consumer and exporter, that those words have a most appropriate application to-day.
What is the position of these companies which complain that because of higher costs due to waterfront delays and other causes, they cannot possibly carry on without increased freight rates? I have consulted the Stock Exchange Official Year Book for 1955 and noted the profits made by the major shipping companies. For instance, the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, which is gravely concerned in this matter, was able to pay a 16 per cent, dividend, and what is more remarkable, according to the stock exchange records, it was able to make a distribution in 1952 of ordinary capital of 200 per cent, by way of added capital to its shareholders. That is just a “ battling “ company, unable to cope with increased costs. In actual fact, as far as Australia is concerned, overseas shipowners have not incurred any additional costs which would warrant an increase of freight charges. It is true that there has been some deterioration on, the waterfront so far as stoppages are concerned, but I do not propose to become involved at this stage in an argument on that subject. Stoppages have been a comparatively minor item, and as the Melbourne Herald points out, would not account for more than £300,000, whereas it is estimated that the increased freights are likely to result in a loss to Australia of about £15,000,000. Waterfront stoppages cannot be ignored, but that is a subject which must be considered entirely apart from the matter of freight increases. According to the Stevedoring Industry Commission’s report, only 4.5 per cent, of working hours were lost through disputes, whereas the time lost through non-productive working time in Australian ports was 30.1 per cent., a much greater percentage than that of Australian shipowners, clearly indicating the utmost inefficiency on the part of those in control of overseas shipping lines. If there is to be any argument about stoppages on the waterfront, the first thing this Government should do is to ask those people to put their own house in order and to do something about the tremendous wastage that is taking place in Australian ports where it appears that no work is being done on their ships for 30.1 per cent, of their working ti lue. That is not because of strikes or smoke-oha or for any other such reason; it is purely non-productive time because of. inefficient management on the part, of the people charged with the control of the ships.
I have been discussing the position of these poor unfortunate shipping companies who tell the Australian exporter and the Australian community that they must put up with these increased costs because they cannot possibly continue to send ships to Australia at a loss. I have already mentioned the increase in profits made by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company and I shall’ now read from an article which appeared in the Economist, a conservative British journal, on the 7th May, 1955. What it has to say about the Peninsular’ and Oriental Steam Navigation Company could apply also to most of the shipping companies-
P’. & 0; shows that, allowing for free scrip issues and’ expressing this year’s 16 per cent, in terms of the 1949 capital, there- has been an effective increase since 1949 from 12 per cent, to 48 per cent.
This is the company which,, at the. point of the pistol,, is to-day demanding _ a further 10 per’ cent, increase in its freights. The Orient company, another large shipping, concern, and I think a subsidiary of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company,, is in-, a. similar position* in regard1 to> profits. The “Port” line which also claims to have been incurring increased costs, and therefore must inscrease freights, has not only increased its1 profits, but also it has increased its capital out of its profits.. In’ 1951,. a distribution of 34 per’ cent; was made in the form of capitalization reserves. A similar position can he seen in regard1 to the Shaw Savill1 line: It has been able to issue additional shares to its share* holders to the value of millions of pounds. In that respect, it is like- the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company Limited which, last year, paid, a dividend which was equal to 48 per cent, on its 1949’ capital. The article in the Economist goes on to point out the favorable condition in which overseas shipowners find’ themselves, by saying; -
It is highly encouraging also that the group was able to emerge from last year with_ a higher net profit after tax and that the increased dividend of 16 per cent, (taking £1,200,000) is still handsomely covered. An air of stability surrounds- that increased pay ment …
Further, the writer adds -
Taken in conjunction with’ the “stead* course “ policy proclaimed by the chairman of Cunard and with the increased profit and slightly increased dividend announced bv United Molasses, investors may feel that some of the big shipping companies have now sighted a landmark - a point where they have- replaced much of their war losses with good’ modem tonnage, husbanded their resources in the face of high taxation, mapped out their stake in air transport and feel themselves strong enough to absorb the probable shocks of their constantly changing business.
They are the companies that are coming to us1 to-day and telling us that their financial position is such that Australian export industries, which are in a perilous position, must accept another impost of 10 per cent. The Government has a responsibility to resist, with all the resources at its command, that proposed increase.
We know what happened in. 1953. Apparently,, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) is a pliant servant, or, shall I say, he takes1 a very easy view of: the: claims: of the shipping, companies:. There was1 some argument about the> 10’ per cent, increase, tha* was claimed’ in 1953. The- Minister for Commerce and! Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) appointed an officer of hip department to conduct an investigation to. ascertain whether that 1©. per cent, increase was warranted’.. That officer was refused, adequate information by thshipowners in. relation to their’ profits or their working operations. The Conference lines have always, refused to supply such, information. The Government was compelled to direct- the officer to make inquiries in London into theoperations of those shipping’ lines: bin he> was- able to obtain very little information. Instead of a 101 per cent, increase being warranted, the utmost increase that could be substantiated was one of 4 per cent. Unfortunately, the Department of Commerce and Agriculture has’ refused to make available publicly the information that that officer collected. I sought a copy of his report to-day, but the department refused to supply one to me.
Therefore, I am unable to place the facts before the- House.
– Does the honorable member know the date of the report?
– It was in 1953, when the last increase was made. I ask the Government what its answer is to this ruinous claim by the prosperous overseas shipowners for a 10 per cent, increase. lt may rest assured that all of the debates that take place in the House, and all of the storm and the- flurry in the press, will not prevent the overseas shipowners from obtaining that 10 per cent, if they can possibly lay their hands on it. As every honorable member knows, the overseas shipowners are tough ba.bie3, and they will not withhold their claim’ because of talk. The Government has a responsibility to take immediate action to ensure that the Australian consumer, the Australian cost of living, the Australian exporter, and the Australian primary industries, are protected against this imposition which, in view of th-j facts that I have placed before the Houfe in the brief period of fifteen minutes that has been available to me, amounts to nothing short of extortion. I hope that the: House will take action in the matter.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
[3.38J. - The Government has no complaint with the action of any honorable member in seeking to direct attention to the serious effect upon the Australian economy, and upon particular industries, of a large increase in overseas freight rates. It is not necessary for me to accept all of the statements of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) in order to find myself on common ground with him in agreeing that the proposed increase is a serious matter, and that it warrants the consideration of the Government and the attention of the Parliament and the people generally. It is true that a country such as Australia, which has such a large overseas trade, which depends to such a vital degree upon its exports and imports for its very life, and which has to face such large haulage costs, must concern itself with overseas freight rates. The value of Australia’s annual imports is approximately £800,000,000. The shipping interests, which have indicated their desire to increase freight rates, carry to Australia approximately £500,000,000 worth of the imports to which 1 have referred. Those imports involve a freight payment of approximately £50,000,000, and a 10 per cent, increase obviously would, mean an immediate added cost of £5,000,000. That added cost is quite apart from the inevitable pyramiding of additional costs as the goods pass through the different channels of trade. Australia exports each year, through the Conference lines, goods to the value of approximately £450,000,000. At present rates, freight charges on those exports are approximately £25,000,000 a year. So, a 10 percent, impost would mean the immediate subtraction of £2,500,000 from the net realization of overseas sales, apart from secondary consequential effects. It will be seen that the proposed increase is a serious matter.
With the market changing, at present, from a clamant sellers’ market to a buyers? market, the value of our goods is determined by competition at the point of sale and use rather than by competition at the point of production. An almost equal disadvantage applies to our imports. As I have indicated, the proposed increase of freight rates has: caused the Government concern. But it does not follow that, because such an increase would be an impost on our economy, the Government must form the instant judgement that there is no case for any in, crease. This Government is not the kind of government - and I hope Australia will never have such a government - that reaches conclusions exclusively on considerations of its own self-interest, and which is not prepared to ascertain whether there is another side to the picture. I make that remark without any hint or suggestion of “ squaring off “. I am merely saying that the Government, believes that, when such a serious proposal is advanced, it ought to be considered on the basis of fact and not on the basis of prejudice.
How will it be considered? Apparatus, if I may so describe it, is in existence for examining this kind of proposal. I refer to the Australian Overseas Transport Association, which is commonly referred to as the A.O.T.A. That is an organization on which there is equal representation of overseas shipowners and Australian exporting interests, who, in the jargon that is used in relation to this subject, are referred to as the shipper interests. The shipper interests are the exporters. The association is resident in Australia, and it is recognized by statute. It was established in 1929. Its functions are largely influenced by, and it derives its authority from, legislation that was passed during the regime of the Scullin Labour Government, in 1930.
– What is the title of the act?
– It was an amendment of the Australian Industries Preservation Act 1930. The arrangement provides an opportunity, in effect, for the Australian exporting interests to sit on equal terms, and with equal voting strength, with the overseas shipping interests, and to discuss any suggestion for an alteration of freight rates, or any other aspect of shipping arrangements.
– Are all of the exporters represented on that association?
– All of the important exporters are represented, and all of them are entitled to be represented.
– Is the Government represented on the association?
– The Government, as such, is not represented, but it will be observed, as I unfold the story, that its place is recognized. Over more than the last 25 years, arrangements have been made each year in relation to overseas freight rates, and in relation to other matters which are equally a? important, such as the regularity of shipping services, the availability of refrigerated or cargo ships, the synchronizing of ships with wool auction sales or the sales of apples, or the marketing of export beef in north Queensland. All of those are part of the arrangements which are negotiated and, as history will show, they work effectively. There are, not unnaturally, reciprocal obligations on those who enjoy the advantages of regular schedules, and the assurance that there will be ships to lift their produce. These people assume willingly an obligation to give preference to the shipping companies which enter into this contract, the Conference line. That, I think, has worked quite well. It is, in effect, a negotiation conducted in strength between the organized Australian exporters and a group of overseas shipowners, not only British but also European, a group which in other circumstances could be regarded as a monopoly, a group which has such agreement within itself as, at first glance, to render it capable of dictating terms and conditions. That, in itself, would be an infringement of the Australian anti-monopoly law as set forth in the Australian Industries Preservation Act. An interesting feature of this situation is that the 1930 amendment of that act, introduced by the Scullin Labour Government is, upon examination, found to give countenance to a monopoly, but it does so in circumstances which are regarded as useful and beneficial to Australian interests.
– You did not repeal it, though.
– No one repealed it. It has been regarded as satisfactory. The really interesting thing is what will happen on this occasion, and the best guide is what happened in 1953. The overseas shipowners then indicated that there was a case, as they saw it, for an increase of 12^ per cent, in shipping rates.
– Ten per cent.
– They later amended it to a firm increase of 10 per cent. There was a discussion in the Australian and Overseas Transport Association! There has to be adequate notice to the Australian exporters, and opportunity for the making of representations. There was notice, and there was opportunity. They went into negotiation, and for the first time, at least in recent history - I do not know whether it was for the first time over - they were not able to resolve their conflicting interests. At that point, in accordance with the whole spirit and substance of the arrangement, they invited the Government to come in to analyse the facts, to weigh the evidence, and, in short, to use its good offices to try to bring about a mutually acceptable arrangement. The instrument of the Government in this case was the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, which necessarily had to work on facts. Dr. Westerman, the assistant secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, was the principal representative of the Government in these discussions.
– He said that only 4 per cent, was warranted.
– He asked for, and was given in confidence, some confidential information by the shipping companies. The honorable member for Yarra, said that he had asked for this to be made available. It is not the custom to make departmental files available. There is no report, in the sense in which we understand the term in this Parliament. Files exist, but it would not be in accordance with custom to make the files available. It would be a breach of faith to disclose the confidential information which was perused, first by Dr. Westerman in the department, and later by me. If, disregarding custom and breaking confidence, this information were to be disclosed, all I can say is that it would be the sweet end to our being able to get from interests which are not resident in Australia those relevant and confidential facts which were so usefully employed by the Government’s agency only a few years ago. I make no apology for saying that those files will not be made available.
The outcome of it was that the Department of Commerce and Agriculture was able to establish in the Australian Overseas Transport Association that there was not a case for a 10 per cent, increase, and finally the shippers who, after all, were the people who had a personal interest, were content to accept a freight arrangement which involved a 1i per cent, increase.
– What percentage increase did the department say was warranted ?
– The department did not make an explicit statement in that regard at all. It produced certain facts, and reached certain deductions from those facts. I can demonstrate no better the course which will be followed on this occasion than by reminding the country and the House of what occurred then.
What will happen now is that contracts which are not due to expire until September, I believe, will be the subject of immediate negotiation. The Government is concerned, and makes it very clear that it will aid the statutory body and the exporters. It can aid them in assembling facts and figures, but that does not involve a pre-judgment by the Government. I have not the slightest doubt, in the circumstances that exist, that the Government will come into this matter to use its good offices to bring about a settlement, as was done in 1953. I can say beyond any doubt that this Government will not be found indifferent to the consequences of a freight increase on. the Australian export industries and on. Australian costs. It will not be found indifferent to the consequences of the issue which is before us now, and it can be relied upon to interest itself, and exercise its good offices in a manner which will bring about whatever can. be shown to be a fair settlement.
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), speaking for the Government, has shown us no solution at all to the problem that has been put before the House. There is no suggestion of any practical way of handling this. He referred to the Australian Industries Preservation Act amendment. The only effect of that is that if the Australian Overseas Transport Association approves of the rates the shipping monopoly cannot be. prosecuted for a crime. In other words, if the association approves of an increase in certain circumstances, the monopoly is excused from the liabilities which would otherwise attach to it. The Minister gives no practical guidance at all. He was most apologetic. I remember his attack about six years ago on the overseas shipping combine, when he was speaking for the ‘Australian Country party. I remember the time when he was enthusiastic about the Commonwealth line of steamers. He said that that was the service which would protect us against exploitation. “What has happened to the Australian Country party’s enthusiasm for the Commonwealth line of steamers?
– I never said that. The honorable member is inventing it.
– That is one of the remedies which must be employed on this occasion. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), the honorable member for Martin (Mr. O’Connor) and other honorable members have repeatedly pointed this out. Instead of utilizing the asset owned by the people to compel a reasonable rate by competition, the Government has been, over a period of a couple of years, about to sell out the Commonwealth line of steamers. It did not dare to do so on the eve of the general elections; it was put off, but the negotiations are still incomplete.
How are we to get any satisfaction? Under pressure what will the shippers, the exporters and the importers do? They will have to agree. If they have no alternative method of transport, they will be placed- in a most invidious position. Therefore, there must be competition with this combine. It is a pernicious combine, because it has always exploited the people of Australia. Nobody knows it better than the Minister, and he has virtually said so in previous debates. I am sure that if the Ministers individually could give effect to what they thought was just, and in the interests of Australia, very drastic action would be taken, but the party behind them owes too big a debt to the overseas shipping combine. That combine is one of the greatest contributors to the funds of the Government parties, and therefore the Government does not dare to do anything about the increased freights.
I turu now to the remarks of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture on the second part of the case. Let me remind the House of the facts. In April, 1954, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) introduced a bill to reduce the stevedoring industry charges levied on shipowners from lid. to 6d. a m’an-hour. He stated that that action would lead to a reduction of overseas and interstate freights. Ho also criticized the management of thu stevedoring industry, of which the shipowners are part and parcel, because, through other companies and under other names, they make great profits out of stevedoring activities. I should like to know what the committee of inquiry into the stevedoring industry is doing to inquire into the profits made by the shipowners in the capacity of stevedoring companies. That committee was appointed under the authority of the Stevedoring Industry Act 1954. I understand that when the committee first met it decided that it would inquire into the profits of the stevedoring companies only at the conclusion of the inquiry and that it would not consider them as a matter of first importance, as it should have done. I do not blame the Minister for that decision, but I remind the House that a representative of the Government is a member of the committee.
On the eve of the general election, in April, 1954, the Minister for Labour and National Service stated -
I believe there is some considerable room for improvement in the managerial and operational side of this industry.
What happened? Interstate freights were reduced, but the overseas shipping combine completely ignored the Government on that occasion. One Australian newspaper, in an editorial published in -Tune, 1954, stated - . . the companies-
The overseas companies - will take sole benefit from the reduction by the Commonwealth last March of the shipowners’ Stevedoring Industry Board levy.
A share in this cut was immediately passed on to shippers by interstate lines who apparently are less hungry and better visioned than London owners.
That is not to say that the interstate shipowners are not hungry, but merely that they are not so hungry as is the overseas combine. Also in June, 1954, another newspaper stated -
Shipowners last year proposed to increase freights by 10 per cent.
After representations had been made by the Commerce Department, the increase was limited to 74 per cent.
After representations had been made to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the shipping companies were content to limit the increase to 7^ per cent.
Why should they have the right to fix their charges merely by private agreement? Why should not they have to justify the increase before a tribunal? The waterside workers and the seamen are subject to the authority of a tribunal which fixes a remuneration that it believes is just in .all the circumstances. The time has come when, under the Commonwealth’s legislative power to deal with trade and commerce, Parliament should enact legislation to establish tribunals that will fix freights fairly and justly. This judicial or administrative tribunal should take the public interest into account, and not merely the interests of the shipowners, the exporters and the importers. The general public, in the long run, have to bear the burden of increased freights, because invariably the increases are passed on to the public. The last-mentioned newspaper stated also - ‘
Overseas shipowners have received benefit, since March, of reduction from lid. to Cd. u ton in the levy to the Stevedoring Industry Board.
This enabled interstate shipowners to reduce freights by ls. 6d. a ton.
But the overseas shipping companies snapped their fingers at the Government, because it puts up only a sham-fight in opposition to them. I pay to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture the tribute that he knew the proposed increase of 10 per cent, was unjust - indeed, it was outrageous at the time - and that he had it reduced to 7-^ per cent., which was not so bad as 10 per cent, would have been, though that is about all one can say of it.
Mr. J. P. Abbott, a former member of this Parliament, has stated -
If the Government is not merely making a sham protest on the freight increases, then the first action it should take prior to any negotiations is to amend the Act by the deletion of clause 7 (o).
That is a reference to the Australian Industries Preservation Act. In other words, if the shipping companies will not submit to arbitration or to some means of assessing freights that will be fair and just in the circumstances, in the manner in which employees have to submit to arbitration, why should the shipowners have the benefit of the provisions of subsection (c) of section 7 of the Australian
Industries Preservation Act? Can they not be made to conform with the same law as all other companies in Australia are made to observe^ and if they are guilty of extortion to the detriment of the public,, can they not be made to suffer the penalties that are prescribed in the Australian Industries Preservation Act. The overseas shipping combine does not feel the slightest obligation to Australia. One can judge that by the freights that the overseas shipping companies have fixed for the transport of goods to Malaya. A priority rate is sometimes fixed according to the distance that goods are to be carried, and this operates to the great, detriment of Australia and gravely injures Australian trade with South-East Asia.
– The overseas shipping companies have virtually killed Australia’s trade with South-East Asia.
– As the honorable member has observed, Australia’s trade with South-East Asia has been virtually killed by the shipping companies. They care nothing for Australia. There is only one way to deal with them. First, . this Parliament, under the powers that it undoubtedly has to legislate for the Commonwealth, should enact legislation to regulate overseas trade. I am sure that the Government would receive the support of the Opposition in any such proposal. Under such legislation the Parliament should establish a tribunal to fix freight rates, not arbitrarily, but only after inquiring into the circumstances and after considering what is fair in the interests of the shipping companies, the exporters, the importers and the Australian people. If legislation of that kind were enacted, freights could not be increased without the approval of the tribunal. Let the shipping companies bring their profits into the light of day instead of bringing them forward only for the consideration of a committee of inquiry, which does not thoroughly investigate them. The shipping companies, which provide a service that is vital to Australia, should be put on the same footing as are associated bodies and organizations.
I arn glad to see that there has been no attempt to lay the blame for the freight increases on the waterside workers, who are usually blamed by Government supporters for these things. The waterside workers have had nothing to do with these increases of freights. They have not in any way caused increased costs that would make freight increases necessary. Apparently, the old view that the waterside workers are always to be blamed has been abandoned by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and I am glad to note his altered attitude. It is clear that the shipping companies are exploiting the people and harming Australia’s trade, and I hope that legislation will be enacted to deal with the matter.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– It is agreed on all sides of the House that the increase of shipping freights is very serious. It is a great pity that honorable members opposite did not address themselves to the matter as if it were a serious national question to be thrashed out in this Parliament by a consideration of the facts and the circumstances that are within the competence of the Parliament. Instead of doing that, they have sought to make a political and partisan approach to the problem. From the outset, this Government has taken the view that there was room for a great improvement in the shipping services of this country and, in particular, of performance on the waterfront. We have addressed ourselves to that problem from time to time ever since this Government took office, and, if time permits, I shall say something about it.
In view of the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), let me point out that the present freight increases are not the only ones that have occurred in the post-war years. The increases of overseas freight rates that have occurred since this Government took office have been comparatively small in contrast with those that occurred under Labour’s administration, when the Leader of the Opposition was a senior
Minister. When Labour was in office, coastal freight rates increased enormously. If all the necessary powers to take action to prevent these increases and to force shipping companies to conduct competitive services were available to the Commonwealth, as the right honorable gentleman asserts, why did Labour not prevent freight increases that were very much greater than are those that have occurred since this Government took office? This Government has set out to discharge its responsibilities in those fields in which the Commonwealth may act. It is a problem in which, I believe, a share of responsibility falls upon the Commonwealth Government, a share falls upon the shipowners and the stevedoring companies, and a. share falls upon the unions engaged in this industry.
I shall mention first what the Government has tried to do. We have tried to restore some discipline to this industry, and we have endeavoured to do that by a variety of legislative and administrative processes. First, we strengthened the powers of the Arbitration Court, which has the responsibility of dealing with industrial issues as they arise from time to time in this industry. When we brought forward legislation to strengthen the disciplinary powers of the Arbitration Court, its provisions were opposed by the honorable gentlemen who sit opposite, including the honorable member who submitted the motion which is now being debated. Although we appreciate the zeal that he is now showing in the fight against Communist influence on the waterfront, it is a pity that that zeal was not shown a little earlier, when legislation brought forward by this Government was before the Parliament, and had to withstand the blast of an attack by honorable gentlemen opposite. They attacked our efforts to strengthen the disciplinary powers of the Arbitration Court. They attacked the legislation we introduced to provide a secret ballot so that unions which had been infiltrated by Communists could exercise rankandfile control, and return to more democratic management. They opposed the legislation we brought in towards the end of last year, which was intended to bring h greater measure of discipline into the management and control of labour on the waterfront.
Now, when I am chided with the way things have worked out, I say this to honorable gentlemen opposite: If they had had the manliness to stand behind the Government when its legislation was brought forward last year, as we on this side of the House stood behind them when they were confronted with a general coal strike in this country, then the situation which subsequently developed in relation to the legislation I have mentioned would not have been brought about. But every measure that has been introduced by this Government was attacked by honorable members opposite. The emergency action which we took, and which was not taken by any previous government in this country, to restore some order and discipline to the waterfront was also attacked by honorable members opposite. I refer to the proclamation of the Crimes Act and the emergency use of troops when required. Honorable mem; hers on the Opposition benches gave vocal and moral support to those who were defying our policies at that time.
I mention these things because honorable members on the other side of the House would cultivate a feeling in the community that we have been idle in this matter. This Government has been more active in trying to cope with the problems of a disorderly and inefficient waterfront than any previous government in Mie history, of this country.
– What about freights?
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) will hear about these things, if he will just give me time. He now says, “What about freights?” The Leader of the Opposition referred to the inquiry committee which we set up. It was left to us to set up such a committee to investigate these matters. When the honorable gentleman was a senior member of the Government he made no attempt to inquire, formally or otherwise, into the private earnings of these companies, which were imposing freight increases at a very much more rapid rate during the term of office of the present Opposition than they have done during this Government’s term of office. We did set up a committee of inquiry. It has been charged with the responsibility of examining freight charges made during recent years, and the profit earnings of the companies concerned. We, as a Government, will be very much better informed on these matters when the committee, which we have clothed with full powers to compel the attendance of witnesses, is able to advise us as to the position.
I want now to refer to the two other bodies which have a very real responsibility in this matter. I shall not spend time now in speaking of the Waterside Workers Federation. That organization has an important part to play, as every honorable member knows. It is not a solution to the problem merely to say that that federation is under Communist domination. Of course it is under Communist domination ; that is notorious. The industry shows a loss of working time through industrial disputes which is 30 times the Australian average in industry generally. But there were industrial troubles on the waterfront before there was Communist leadership, and there would still be industrial troubles if Communist leadership were removed tomorrow. The degree might be different, but the problem would still exist, and I suggest that management cannot wash its hands of that problem. It is of no use turning to a government and saying, “This union is Communist-dominated; what can we do about it”? There are other sections of industry which have had to meet Communist influence, and management has tackled the problem in those industries with success. I believe that management on the waterfront, and in relation to the sea transport industry generally, could do very much more in relation to industrial disputes, which have become such a notorious feature of this industry, and also in relation to the efficient conduct of their own side of the operation.
I am not charging the shipowners with failing to carry out efficiently what I might term the mechanical side of running a shipping business. Their ships go straight from port to port, and they arrive at their destinations. I do not say that that aspect of the industry is not in accordance with the maritime tradition of the British people. But I believe that the management has fallen down on the job in its personnel relationships, in the normal exercise of a degree of supervision and discipline over its employees. There is no section of management more remote from its labour than are the toplevel executives in the shipping industry.
Although this may be merely indicative of a general situation because it refers only to coastal shipping, in the award given recently by Mr. . Justice Foster in relation to seamen, His Honour made some quite forthright observations. He found on the evidence that seamen working on ships around the Australian coast at the present time are being paid, in effect, for 64 hours’ work a week, when they are actually being required by their employers to work only 28 hours a week. His Honour made this comment -
I think the matter must be considered by the union, who surely cannot be satisfied that their men should be putting in four hours’ labour and taking out ten hours’ pay, when every other worker in Australia is putting in eight hours’ labour and taking out eight hours’ pay. From the owners’ point of view, it is nothing short of amazing that they should have allowed their discipline to sag so far as to make this sort of thing possible, and from the community’s point of view perhaps it is one of the explanations: why its transport service costs so much with such unsatisfactory results.
I believe that there is a responsibility on all these sections of the industry.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired,
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr: McEwen) put -
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archiecameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I rise to make a personal explanation., Last Thursday, during the course of a debate, reference was made to what is now known as the Nelungaloo wheat case. The matter was raised by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) ; it was also referred to by me and, subsequently by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam). The honorable member for Werriwa said, among other things -
It is quite plain, therefore, that neither the Labour Government before1949, nor the Menzies Government raised the inter8c point The appellant itself raised the point, and, by so doing, defeated its. own case in the Privy Council.
– Order ! How does that misrepresent the honorable gentleman?
– It suggests that all that I said in reference to the Nelungaloo wheat case was entirely wrong. I was not then in a position to verify the facts., I have done that since. This is the first opportunity that I have had to make a personal explanation. The interse question was not raised in the Nelungaloo case until the hearing before the Privy Council. Normally, the question of inter se jurisdiction would be raised when the plaintiff’s case had been completed.
– I rise to order. I do not want to prevent discussion on this point, but the question whether inter se was raised by the Commonwealth or by the other parties in the case does not constitute a misrepresentation of the honorable member.
– The honorable member, if he believes he has been misrepre^ sented, is entitled to explain the way in which he has been so misrepresented, but he is not entitled to raise new issues. He can deal only with those points on which he has been misrepresented. He may not bring, in anything new.
– With great respect, Mr: Speaker, I am raising no new issues. On Thursday it was alleged that the appellants had raised the inter se question in the Nelungaloo case. I want to contradict that now that I have been placed in a. position where I can verify the facts. That will, take me only a few seconds.
– I rise to order. The honorable member is seeking an opportunity at this time to contradict something that he1 said last Thursday. He says that he proposes to contradict something: A contradiction is not necessarily a matter for a personal explanation. According to the Standing Orders, an honorable member must have been, misn represented before he is entitled to make a personal explanation.
– I well remember the debate. I was in the chair at the time1, and it was alleged that certain remarks that the honorable member for Riverina made, were wrongly founded. If the honorable member considers, and is able to state now, that he was correct in hi> assumptions, he may proceed.
– With the forbearance of the House, it will only takt me two seconds to do so. In London, before the Judicial Committee, Mr. Pritt K.C., on behalf of the Commonwealth, raised the infer se question hut later abandoned, it. At a still later stage it was raised on behalf of the Commonwealth by Mr. Taylor,. K.C. Nelungaloc did not raise the infer se question, but strenuously resisted it until the decision had been given. Avoiding technicalities . the real problem raised by the honorabh member for Werriwa was that no mattei what his use of words might have been he endeavoured to create the impression that Nelungaloo raised the inter se question That is not so. It was raised by th» Commonwealth and by no one else.
Report of Public Works Committee. Mr. KENT HUGHES (Chisholm- Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works) [4.24]. - I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions 01 the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1953. it is expedient to carry out the following pro posed work which was referred to the: Parlia mentary Standing Committee on Public- Work* and on which the Committee has duly reported to this House the results of its investigations, namely: - The erection of a new automatic tele phone, excliange at Eedfern, New South Wale*
The. proposed work is required to meei the needs of subscribers’ development in the inner portion of the city and eastern suburbs and will replace the existing exchange facilities by the creation of s main switching centre to serve a. group of branch exchanges.
The committee has agreed that there Lan urgent necessity for the building and that it should be proceeded with as1 soon as possible. The estimated cost of the work is £442,000.. The committee ha? recommended in its. summary of conclusions that maintenance- work should be carried out on the existing post office without: delay. I concur in. the committee”’? recommendations and instructions will1 !>* issued accordingly.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1053, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the results of its investigations, namely: - The erection of now Australian Broadcasting Commission studios at Forbes-street, Sydney.
The proposed work is required urgently to house the master control switch room, network studios and recording centre for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The committee has stated in its summary of conclusions that the construction of the west wing, Stage 1, should proceed now, and that as the complete project is of an urgent nature, Stage 2 should be placed on an early schedule for works construction, and in due course Stage 3 should be constructed as soon as possible. The committee has also recommended that the foundations and framing should be strengthened to carry a limit height building if required at a later date, and that this alteration, which will involve expenditure of an additional £10,000 now, should be included in the present proposal.
I concur in the committee’s recommendations, and instructions will be issued accordingly. The estimated cost of the work in Stage 1 is £158,500, plus an additional £10,000 for strengthening the foundations.
– The Opposition has no objection to this motion any more than it objects to the first motion, but the erection of a new building in an inner suburban area in any of our Australian capital cities today generally involves the demolition of houses. Poor and antiquated as those houses may be, they provide a shelter for certain of our people, and it seems to us that before the houses are pulled down and new buildings are erected, some effort should be made to find homes somewhere else for the persons who are to be evicted. It is no use saying that it is the respon sibility of the State Government to find homes for these people somewhere else, either in Sydney or in a country town.
– There are no homes.
– As the honorable member for Parkes has pointed out, there are no homes available. As a matter of fact, 80,000 homes are being built at the present time and they are not sufficient to meet the demand. If the Australian Government pulls down houses in order to erect a building, which is considered necessary for the Australian Broadcasting Commission in this case, and in the previous case is required for the purposes of the Postmaster-General’s Department, it will create problems for the people concerned. I speak without any great knowledge of the district concerned in this instance although I have a general idea of it. The new building will be of no help to the dispossessed tenants of the properties to be demolished who, in many instances, will suffer great personal hardship.
Before a scheme such as this is put into operation an agreement should be arrived at with the State government concerned to ensure that the people who are dispossessed shall be properly housed under conditions that will give them at least similar amenities to those which they have enjoyed and in areas which are not located further away from the places of their employment.
.- So that honorable members will not be left with the impression that any houses are to be demolished under these proposed schemes, I hasten to inform the House that no homes will be demolished. The land has been available for the construction of an exchange at Redfern for some years and an area of land in Forbesstreet, which is partly used by the Australian Broadcasting Commission at the present time, will be utilized for the new studios of the commission. If honorable members are interested enough to read the report they will find that the activities of the Australian Broadcasting Commission are spread over a great number of privately owned buildings throughout Sydney. The committee has recommended that provision be made for the erection of the new studios on the site which has been held by the commission for a number of years and which is very suitable for the purposes for which it is required.
The Public Works Committee, in its investigations, always takes into consideration the point raised by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). I point out, however, that the honorable member himself advocated a scheme in Melbourne which involved the demolition of a large number of houses, [n this instance no houses are involved at all.
.- I approach this matter from the angle that it seems quite obvious that rural interests are being neglected when it is proposed to erect a new building in our largest capital city. Although it is no doubt a most desirable proposal and may be to a certain extent considered very necessary, the erection of smaller telephone exchanges in our rural districts should be given serious consideration. Quite frankly I find that some of the reports of the Public Works Committee are hard to follow. I read a report a while ago about the intention to construct an institute of dairying. Where was it proposed to be established ? It was to be established, not in the dairying country of Gippsland, but in the heart of Melbourne in the suburb of Moorabbin. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and members of the Australian Country party give lip service to the ideal of decentralization, but quite obviously it is impossible to have decentralization unless a system of priority for projects is established.
Apart from the general ideal of decentralization for social and economic reasons, there is also the aspect of defence to be taken into consideration, as the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has so frequently reminded us. No matter how desirable a project such as this might be, it is essential that all projects shall be undertaken in an agreed upon order of priority. I believe that the building of 100 homes in the country would be much more desirable than the erection of a building such as this in Sydney. No doubt some inconvenience is being caused to the staff of the Australian Broadcasting Commission at present, and it might be desir able to have all the studio activities gathered together under one roof in a modern building. However, I believe that it is far more important to have other works put in hand to enable the population of our capital cities to disperse. I do not support the motion. The Public Works Committee, instead of recommending projects of this nature, should recommend projects which would provide better amenities in country districts and recommend public works which would make it possible for us at least to make a start to achieve decentralization.
– That is not the committee’s function.
– I shall come to that in a moment. It should at least make a start by recommending works which will enable the population of our capital cities to be dispersed. I was alarmed to hear that the Government proposes to establish a £23,000,000 project in Sydney because services are available. Even though that may be so the site of the project is in one of the most vulnerable places in Australia. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) has said that it is not the function of the Public Works Committee to consider the aspect of decentralization. I think that it is the duty of the committee to take that matter into account and it should advise the Government on the priority of works submitted to.it.
I put it to the nominal representatives of rural interests and to other honorable members that it is about time that this Parliament saw that money expended on capital works is spent in the areas that need it most so that its expenditure in those areas will make possible the decentralization of the population of our capital cities. This would make a. start along the road to fulfilment of that policy to which for too long the representatives of rural interests have subscribed by words in this House but have not subscribed by effort and practical activity. Therefore I suggest to members of the Australian Country party, and other honorable members in this chamber who represent rural areas, that they have a responsibility to talk on matters of this sort whenever the opportunity occurs. No matter how good the claim might be for some work or other in a. capital city, it is the responsibility of those members to see that when the Government examines public works projects it gives priority to those that are most worthy of accomplishment. Projects of the nature that have been mentioned this afternoon will make life easier and more convenient for people in Sydney. The first work will, enable them to have more telephones; a new building for the Australian Broadcasting Commission will provide more comfort and convenience for its staff; but neither of these jobs will help to solve one of our greatest economic and defence problems - the tremendous conglomeration of population in centres such as Sydney and Melbourne.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1953, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the results of its investigations, namely: - The provision of a water supply storage system at Canberra. lt had become evident with the increasing population in Canberra and in Queanbeyan that the water storage on the Cotter would become inadequate. The main decision to be made was whether the provision of water from the Queanbeyan River and its lower cost should be preferred to additional storage on the upper Cotter River of water not requiring purification. While high-quality water would be obtainable from both sources, the committee, after hearing technical evidence and also evidence from interested parties, recommended the water should come from the upper Cotter. The dam required would be of concrete construction, founded on rock and storing 2,470,000,000 gallons of water. The total cost of the work which has been recommended by the committee is approximately £3.000,000 and provides for a concrete dam, pipelines and pumping plant. The immediate requirement is the construction of a concrete dam and » new pipeline to Queanbeyan, which are together estimated to cost £1,400,000.
As honorable members know, Canberra has doubled its population in the last seven years, and on present planning it i9 expected that the population will again be doubled in the next ten to twelve years. It has become necessary to proceed at once to increase the existing water supply to Canberra and to Queanbeyan. An agreement has been made that water be supplied for Queanbeyan as an adjunct to the system here in Canberra.
– Does this proposal affect the lakes scheme ?
– No, this is only the water supply and has nothing to do with the lakes. Had the Queanbeyan River scheme and the provision of the weir at Googong been approved by the committee, the work might eventually have helped the supply to the lakes. One of the main troubles about the lakes is the answer to the question whether in a dry season they will not so much dry up as become a marsh. I repeat that this has nothing to do with the lakes scheme at all. This project is merely related to the future water supply to the city of Canberra and to Queanbeyan.
.- The words of the motion are that it is expedient to carry out this work and I hope that it will in fact be completed with expedition. I am supported in that hope by a news item this morning that already work has begun on a road of access to Bushranger Creek, where the dam is to be constructed. I commend the Public Works Committee for the thoroughness of its investigation of these schemes and I commend also the officers responsible for the compilation of the committee’s report, which I have studied. I point to paragraph 14 of that report to stress the urgency for this work to go ahead. That paragraph reads -
It was represented to the Committee in evidence that, with the present trend of population increase in Canberra-
I interpose there to remind the House that the Minister has forecast that the city’s population will double within the next decade - the capacity of the existing water supply headworks may be overtaxed by the 1955-56 summer. …
This is the summer we are now approaching. The committee was faced with two propositions ; one for the construction of a dam at Googong on the Queanbeyan Biver in the State of New South Wales, an area over which, of course, the Commonwealth has some partial control in respect of water supply, and the other the Cotter River scheme which has now been recommended by the committee and towards the completion of which the Minister has moved. I am pleased indeed, and I am certain that the majority of people in Canberra are equally pleased, by the decision of the committee and the Minister to take the source of supply from the upper reaches of the Cotter River. The committee had evidence to support a contention that the Googong scheme would provide adequate water of sufficient purity and at much lower initial cost than could have been provided from the ‘Cotter system. For once I believe the vision of ithe future has overcome the expedient of the day. The Public Works Committee in recommending the Cotter scheme took the long view. It was quite evident from the evidence put before the committee, and from its recommendation, that although the Googong water would have been quite adequate and safe, the purity of the Cotter River water was far superior. Although the expenditure for the Cotter scheme is greater, the committee has recommended it and the Minister has adopted the recommendation. I hope that work will be pressed on. Of course in years to come, as is indicated in the committee’s report, the cost of reticulating water from the Cotter scheme will he lower because the water can be taken to the supply reservoirs in Canberra by gravitation. I commend and support the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Report of Public Works Committee. Mr. KENT HUGHES (ChisholmMinister for the Interior and Minister for Works) [4.43], - I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1!)13-1!)S3, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the ‘committee has duly reported to thi:’ House the results of its investigations, namely : - The construction of a new .bridge over the Molonglo River at Canberra.
In referring this matter to the Public Works Committee, I extended the terms of reference so that it could investigate the traffic problems of Canberra in the near future. I did not Tealize .that the committee would try to investigate those problems as far ahead as the end of this century. I thought that the members of the committee were a bit optimistic there. However, the committee made a thorough investigation into the various traffic problems connected with crossing the Molonglo River and at its request schemes were provided by the Department of Works for the bridges required in the future, together with the year-to-year programme of the whole of the work, with estimate? of cost. The committee, after due deliberations, has irecommended the adoption of a scheme which provides for the immediate erection of a two-lane bridge in the line of King’s-avenue, as well a> providing for future works. The estimated cost of a seven-span bridge within the limits of the present waterway, as considered by the committee, would be approximately £500,000 but the final design of the structure and the final cost will be dependent upon a decision on paragraph 61 of the report of the committee. When I say that I concur in the recommendations made by the committee, I concur in the construction of the KingVavenue bridge but at the same time it will be necessary to go ahead immediately with plans for the new Commonwealth-avenue bridge where the present bridge stands. Indeed, planning of the two bridges will proceed concurrently. When floods occurred in Canberra two years ago it was necessary to strengthen the bridge. If we did not undertake the construction of a new bridge, the maintenance of the existing bridge would ‘be very costly. It would have to be partly reconstructed in order to carry heavy traffic.
Some people may say that a bridge at Kings-avenue would force heavy traffic to travel a long way round. That is so, but because of the plan of development for the future, a greater residential density will have to be served by that ‘bridge than may appear at present. Therefore, I think chat the committee was right in its recommendation. But this is not the only bridge that requires attention. It will be necessary to reconstruct the Commonwealthavenue bridge within the next fight years. The Department of “Works lias concurred in the recommendations of the committee.
– Once again, I hn.i myself supporting the Minister for Works (Mr. Kent Hughes), with whom I am more frequently embattled than allied. I support the recommendations of the Public Works Committee and the motion moved by the Minister for Works. I am pleased to hear that he concurs with the recommendation of the committee, and that he recognizes the need to replace the Commonwealth-avenue bridge. Admittedly, the bridge, the construction of which has been proposed on the line of King’s-avenue, is necessary and will, in future years, act as a natural road of access between the northern an. southern suburbs of Canberra. But 1 think that the more immediate need is for the construction of a new bridge on .1 site slightly upstream from the present Commonwealth-avenue bridge. Provision has been made for a new bridge at Commonwealthavenue which, I believe, will always be the main link between the north and south areas of the city. I am aware of the evidence that was put before the committee as to the type of bridge that is required; but it seems to me that a two-lane bridge would not provide adequately for the future needs of the city.
I had hoped that the Public Works Committee would have accepted a recommendation from the Department of Works for the construction of a high-level bridge on the line of Anzac Park. The present bridge at that point is known .13 Scott’s Crossing. It is on the road which leads from Parliament House to St. John’s Church. It seems to me that the needs of Canberra will eventually demand the construction of that bridge ou the line of An,ac Park. At present, the road river Scott’s Crossing carries the greatest volume of traffic. That fact is mentioned in the report of the Public Works Committee which is a. very thorough report. I think that the decision against the construction of a bridge on the line of Anzac Park was made on aesthetic grounds only. It was felt that it would be improper to have a high-level bridge spanning the centre of the proposed lakes. I cannot agree with that viewpoint. 1 contend that a bridge must be constructed on the line of Anzac Park in order to provide adequate access from the north to the south of the city. It was stated before the committee that such a bridge would bring too much traffic into what has been called the “ Government triangle “, but such traffic could be governed by an ordinance on the municipal level.
The discussions of the Public Works Committee were widened in order to deal with the lakes scheme. I am pleased that the committee recommended that the west lake should be restored to the Canberra plan. Paragraphs (6) and (7) of section IV. of the committee’s report reads as follows: -
I hope that that ministerial action will be taken. The present method of notifying changes in the plan for the development of Canberra is inadequate. Notification is given simply by tabling a document in the Parliament. As documents are usually tabled immediately after questions, and the Clerk of the House makes his announcement when honorable members may be moving to and fro or leaving the chamber, it is quite possible for a document to be tabled without the knowledge of some honorable members. It seems to me that any proposal to change the Canberra plan should be brought before this House on a motion by the Minister for the Interior so that the House may have full cognizance of what is proposed and may debate the subject properly.
I had hoped that the Public Works Committee would bring forward a recommendation for the establishment by the Parliament of a joint parliamentary committee for the development of Canberra. I understand that such a recommendation may be made by another committee which is now sitting, and I consider the proposal to be desirable. I support the motion before the House. It is urgently necessary to proceed with the construction of the Commonwealth-avenue bridge concurrently with that of the King’savenue bridge, not seven or eight years hence. These two works should be undertaken concurrently. It is not beyond the resources of the Commonwealth to build two bridges at the one time.
.- I agree with the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) that the Public Works Committee has done a good job. The Minister for Works (Mr. Kent Hughes) is to be congratulated for having referred this matter to the committee. I hope that proposals for further works of this nature will be made in the near future because it is quite apparent that the national capital does need to have a considerable amount done at an early date. I hope, too, that the works which have been mentioned in this chamber this afternoon will he proceeded with at a faster rate than that which has obtained in the last few years. The wastage of public moneys on works in this city has been absolutely terrible, and would not stand up to a proper investigation. At some very large projects which are being undertaken in this area under the authority of the Commonwealth, the men work on the job for only five hours a day. That is no way in which to carry out any work. No contractor or private citizen would support a system such as that. An examination of major undertakings in Canberra would reveal, not only a lack of organization of man-power, but also an abuse of expensive equipment, much of which has been bought with dollars. There is every mark of inefficiency. I do not blame, the men on the job for that. The bosses are always to blame in such matters and some degree of criticism must fall on the responsible section of government administration.
I read with interest .some of the evidence that was given before the Senate Select Committee that is inquiring into the administration and development of Canberra. In my opinion, the best suggestion was made by Mr. Warren McDonald, a very capable engineer who has played a considerable part in the construction of Canberra. He said that he hoped to see the time when an authority would be reappointed for the administration and development of the national capital. He suggested that the best available man in the world should be placed at the head of that authority - an organizer, an engineer, and possibly an architect. I believe that we are absolutely footling with the development of the national capital. Some years ago there was in Canberra a considerable work force accommodated in hostels, and housing was proceeding at a fast rate, but due to Government policy, the expenditure on Canberra was cut down, the work force dispersed and hostels to a large extent were closed. Where workers are to come from for these new projects, 1 do not know. I welcome this sign of activity for further development of this city, and I hope that it will be carried out more efficiently than it has been in the past. I doubt whether the Department of Works as at present constituted is capable of doing an efficient job. I hope that the recommendations of Mr. McDonald will be adopted, that these great jobs should be done by the same kind of firms which carried out the projects at Kwinana in Western Australia, Altona in Melbourne and St. Mary’s in Sydney - highly efficient industrial concerns. They are the organizations to build our national capital in the most efficient and speedy, way, and in a manner most economical to the taxpayer, which is not a negligible consideration.
– Like the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), I ha.ve been disturbed al the lack of progress on projects which have been referred to the Department of Works. Many of them have waited for years for a start to be made. 1 compliment the Government and the Minister for Works (Mr. Kent Hughes) on the new idea that none of these projects shall be referred to the Department of Works until the necessary finance is available for them to be undertaken. It has given me satisfaction as a member of the Public Works Committee to know that the projects it has been investigating will he completed within the foreseeable future.
I wish to correct one statement made by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr, J. R. Eraser), who said that he did not approve of a two-lane bridge being constructed at King’s-avenue. I assure the honorable member that the committee in its deliberations agreed that foundations should be made for a four-lane bridge, although only two lanes would be built. Much evidence was taken on this subject by the committee and it was given earnest consideration. The project had to be examined as a completed work before the committee could reach a decision. Some difference of opinion arose as to which bridge should be built first, but members were guided in choosing finally the King’s-avenue bridge by the fact that in the event of the Commonwealth-avenue bridge being swept away by flood, traffic might be held up in Canberra foT two or three days, because there was no other high-level bridge available. The committee, therefore, regarded the King’s-avenue bridge a3 the first that should be constructed. Pull regard was had to the fact that with restriction on weight and speed of traffic using the Commonwealth-avenue bridge, it had an economic life of possibly 30 years. I do not agree that its construction should be delayed any longer than about seven years, as the Minister mentioned. Honorable members, the people of Canberra, and, indeed, all Australians must realize that this project has involved much careful thought. If the lakes scheme is to be completed within a reasonable time the foundations of all the bridges needed by Canberra must be laid within the next few years.
It has given me much satisfaction to 3ee the Minister bring this matter before the House so that a start may be made on this great project. It will prove to be a great asset in our national life; I agEee with the honorable member for Henty that a committee should beset u.p to watch closely the development of Canberra and to ensure that no deviation shall be made from the original Burley Griffin plaa without reference to this committee.
Question resolved in the .affirmafeivie.
Second Reading. Debate resumed from the 12th May (vide page 692), on motion by Sir Arthttb Fadden - That the bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of this bill is to place beyond doubt the law that the counterfeiting of sovereigns is an offence. Since August last year, when a verdict was given in a jury case in general sessions in Melbourne, the position appear? to be that sovereigns can be counterfeited with impunity because they are no longer current coinage. In that case, a man wa* charged with counterfeiting 700, or more, sovereigns. He was charged with possessing them with intent to utter them and also with the actual act of counterfeiting them. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), in his speech, did not make clear that the accused, apparently, would have been acquitted of the charge of possessing these sovereigns with intent to utter them because he was making earrings in the form of sovereigns. Judge Gamble, who heard the case, in directing the jury to acquit the accused, said -
The accused was charged that he had in hie possession counterfeit coins with the intent to utter them. I do not think there is any sufficient evidence before you that these coin.” were made for the purpose of being circulated as money, and I think it would be quite wrong on this evidence to say that that was the intention with which these were made. So tha-r that charge would fail on. that ground alone.
I should say that it is probably a matter of common sense that a man who makes ear-rings in the shape of sovereigns, or sovereigns in the shape of ear-rings, does not do so with the hope or intention of passing them as coins. In this case, apparently, there was no serious intention on the part of the accused to defraud by passing counterfeit products as sovereigns. All he was seeking, to do, apparently, was to manufacture ear-rings of a novel kind-. in the form of sovereigns, which would appeal to feminine purchasers. However, whatever his intention was, the point brought to light in the case was that even if he had been seeking to counterfeit sovereigns with the intent to utter them he still would not have been guilty of an offence, because, as Judge Gamble pointed out in his summing-up -
By virtue of the Banking Act of 1953, the Commonwealth Act, it is an offence to dispose nf sovereigns otherwise than to the Commonwealth Bank, so that if you had a sovereign and were disposed to regard it merely as currency and you went into a shop to buy something and paid for it with a sovereign, you would be committing an offence. In other words the Banking Act of 1953 has completely destroyed the character of a sovereign as money, as currency; it is no longer currency; it is now a piece of gold, and it is treated as gold and its sale and its disposal and its purchase, and so on, are all regulated on the basis that it is gold, not that .it is a. coin of the realm at all.
For those reasons, the judge directed the jury that, because the gentleman in question was not counterfeiting current coin, he had not committed any offence against the laws of the land. The Government seeks to meet that position by amending the act so that it will provide a new definition of current coin which will be in line with the definition in United Kingdom law. It is proposed that the word “ current “, in relation to coin, shall apply to any coins that are being, or have been, coined in a mint in any part of the Queen’s dominions. From the time that this legislation is passed, no one will be able, with immunity, to counterfeit sovereigns. Such a person would be counterfeiting a coin that either is being, or has been, minted in one of Her Majesty’s mints, and it is proposed that that fact alone shall constitute an offence.
The Treasurer pointed out in his second-reading speech that the bill is of particular interest to the United Kingdom Government, because, although sovereigns are no longer current coin of the realm in Australia, or indeed in other British dominions, they .are still used very largely in India, Hong Kong, South America, and the Arab countries. It is believed that to-day approximately 300,000.000 sovereigns are in circulation in those countries. As the Treasurer pointed out also, their value has fallen from £10 to a little oyer £3 for each coin, largely be cause of the very large number of counterfeit sovereigns that are now being made. As the value of the sovereign far exceeds the gold content of the coin, it is quite profitable for counterfeiters to make a coin of the same degree of fineness and gold content as the genuine coin, with the result that some of the Arab markets quote for both genuine and counterfeit sovereigns. Obviously, it is of great importance to the United Kingdom Government that the high value of the sovereign should be protected. Therefore, this bill is of far more than academic interest. It would be of no use to a counterfeiter to-day to go to great pains to counterfeit a sovereign in this country, because immediately he tried to pass it in exchange for goods he would be committing an offence. In any event, the rarity of the sovereign would direct attention at once to the counterfeit coin. From th« point of view of protecting the value of the sovereign in the Eastern countries in which it is still in circulation, the proposed legislation is important, not only to Australia, but also to the British Government.
The Opposition offers no objection to the passage of the bill, but it wishes to direct attention to clause 5, in relation to which the Treasurer has dragged out of the obscurity of the War Precautions Repeal Act 1920-1934 a provision in regard to the destroying or injuring or defacing of Commonwealth loan posters. As the right honorable gentleman stated in his speech, the provision is almost” buried in the War Precautions Repeal Act 1920-1934. It would have been a very good thing, indeed, if it had been buried there and not brought to light and included in the bill now before the House.
– Its inclusion in the bill is utterly ridiculous.
– As the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has stated, it is utterly ridiculous to include a provision of this kind in the bill. If some zealous officer of the Treasury found this provision almost buried in the War Precautions Repeal Act and thought it desirable to bring it to light and include it in the bill, I am sorry that the Treasurer himself did not .restrain the zealous action.
– I cannot take the blame for everything. This measure is directly the concern of the AttorneyGeneral.
– Then, I apply those remarks to the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer). I realize that he introduced the measure in another place; but the Treasurer introduced it in this place. Apparently, during World War I., when passions ran high, and when a narrow patriotism ‘ of a very fervent kind was prevalent, it was thought that agents of the Kaiser were going about damaging or defacing Commonwealth loan posters. Nothing was too bad for those persons, and a penalty was prescribed by the War Crimes Act for the purpose of preventing them from aiding the enemy and impeding the war effort by defacing loan posters that were being used to encourage people to provide the money that was needed for victory.
– The same thing happened not only during World War I. but also in recent years.
– What has happened in recent years?
– The defacing and disfiguring of posters. Surely, the honorable member has seen everywhere such whitewashed signs as “Bob must go”.
– I am only suggesting that it must have been only in a highly emotional and hysterical atmosphere that it was thought appropriate to impose a penalty of imprisonment for one year for this offence. We are not now living in that kind of atmosphere, and, surely, the deliberate importation into the Crimes Act 1914-1950 of a provision to make the appropriate penalty for defacing Commonwealth loan posters imprisonment for one year is plainly just a little bit silly.
– Of course, it is silly.
– It is just a little bit stupid. Surely, the ordinary laws of the States provide adequate means of punishing people who deface posters or who write something on them, or who draw a moustache on a face that might be depicted on a poster. That is the sort of thing that the provision covers.
– An easy way of getting out of it is not to deface the posters.
– The Treasurer quite rightly states that an easy way of getting out of it is not to commit the offence. But that statement hardly bears on the argument that the punishment ought to fit the crime. Such an argument may well have been used in the days when people were transported to this country for poaching a rabbit. It might well have been argued that that was a very severe penalty for that offence, and the then Treasurer might well have stated that an easy way to get out of it was not to do it. It is desirable that the penalty should be appropriate to the offence, and in these days, when we are not at war and when there is no real evidence of enemy agents deliberately going about and defacing Commonwealth posters, this provision could quietly have been dropped altogether. I suggest that it is just a little bit silly to include such a provision in the act, but that is the Government’s desire and responsibility.
The penalty for which provision is made in clause 5 is a fine of £100 or one year’s imprisonment. I imagine that that penalty has remained in force since World War I., when the value of money was much greater than it is to-day. If the Government desires to provide a severe penalty for an offence of this kind, it seems to me that a fine of £100 to-day is scarcely equivalent to one year in gaol. Owing to changing money values, many of such penalties have got out of proportion. If it is desirable to provide an alternative penalty to one of twelve month’s imprisonment, I suggest that that alternative should be a fine of £400 or £500 or more. If, on the other hand, the penalty of £100 is to be retained, the appropriate period of imprisonment ought to be much less than twelve months.
– I rise to support fully the contentions of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) in relation to the trifling matter of the defacement of loan posters -not even war-loan posters - the provision of a penalty for which, as that honorable member has stated, has been resurrected from the past and included in the bill. Surely this provision belongs to the Police Offences Act, and should remain there.
This bill seems to consist of two widely separated items. I call one of them the gold, and the second one the dross. The fact that people are counterfeiting sovereigns is a piece of private enterprise with which I have no patience. I am sure that the amendment of the Crimes Act, in suitable phraseology to enable these people to be dealt with, is a very useful and, indeed, a necessary measure.
The case that brought this matter to the Government’s notice is most interesting. The sovereign, that holy icon that we see no more, is just something within the memory of our grandparents, and we agree that it should be preserved from counterfeiting. I was interested in the statement of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), in his second-reading speech, that there are so many millions of golden sovereigns rolling round Saudi Arabia, India and Hongkong, and I rather feel that, though we have lost the first fine careless rapture of our own currency, the sovereign is doing quite well for itself somewhere alse in the world. We have not seen gold standard currency for very many years.
The proposed amendment of the Crimes Act seems reasonable and feasible, particularly in view of the recent court proceedings in relation to the misuse and debasing of currency. Then we go from the sublime to the ridiculous. Out of the blue sky, and apparently for no reason except that some researcher or draftsman has been looking through Commonwealth acts for the Treasurer and found this old provision about defacing war-loan posters, we have this new amendment. As the honorable member for EdenMonaro has said quite properly, this provision belongs to an age in which there was some warrant for the prosecution of malefactors who defaced war-loan posters, which were a part of the war effort and a part of the patriotic drive to raise money. Those posters cost considerable sums of money, and, in the circumstances, there should be, quite apart from the matter of ordinary police court proceedings, some protection for the
Treasurer and the national funds against the vandal. But is the provision to be placed in the Crimes Act, this compendium of terrible indictments which can be presented against the people of the community ?
People look askance at the Crimes Act; certain sections of which, willy-nilly, we have kept on the statute-book for our own protection. The act contains very many grievous sections, as we all know, and those provisions have been discussed in this House. The inclusion of a provision relating to the defacement of posters will belittle the act and make it insignificant. The posters advertise peace-time loans raised by the Government, which seems to let many other people go on the market for loans. It would be a moot question in the community whether the defacement of a large-sized poster such as the advertising people call a day bill, issued on be half of the Treasurer or the Government, would be a more grievous crime than the defacement of a local cinema’s poster of Marilyn Monroe. There would be a matter of form, as I am sure the Treasurer will agree. It is as silly as that. One of the major statutes of the country is to be altered by the insertion “of a section concerning war loans and war loan advertising. If the preservation of expensive advertising in war-time was involved I am sure the necessary provision could be made in someother way.
Honorable members on this side of the House see great merit in the protection of the currency, and applaud the bill for that reason, but as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has pointed out, the provision relative to the defacing of posters is completely out of place, absolutely unnecessary, and almost laughable, judged in juxtaposition with the more important matter of the national currency and its preservation from counterfeiting. The defacement of ordinary posters does not seem to have a place here.
I do not wish to bedevil the Treasurer on this subject, but I’ think that, for the sake of having sanity in this matter, he should agree to the deletion of the provision in regard to the posters, which does not belong in this act. I am sure that the States can properly control that matter under the Police Offences Act, so that we need not blow it up into a serious case, with penalties of a fine of £100 or one year’s imprisonment. The police are active in matters of vandalism, destruction of private and national property, and destruction of hoardings. The insertion of this provision in the Crimes A.ct would put it out of all proportion to its merit. I urge the Treasurer to reconsider the matter.
.- In general, of course, everybody in this House would support a provision designed to stop the debasing of the currency, but E may say that, since the 28th February last, my interest in counterfeit coinage has been, extended considerably. On that date, I heard Mr. J. V. Stout, the president in Victoria of the section of the Labour party led by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), say that the Cain Government was not worth a bad “ two-bob “. Therefore, my interest in counterfeit coinage then became much greater than it had been previously. I became interested, not knowing how much a bad “ two-bob “ was worth, particularly when the valuation was placed on that Government by a man who purported to be the president of the party from which members of that Government came. But that is by the way..
– Just a bit of propaganda !
– Precisely, to point out to the electors of Victoria that the president of the party to which Mr. Cain belongs believes that his Government is not worth a bad “ two-bob “. As my friend, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) says, it is propaganda, but a statement of fact. As the provisions of this bill relate to minting and coinage, I’ assume that I shall be entitled to refer to the peculiar position in which we in Victoria find ourselves in relation to the mint. The mint operates, I understand, both in Perth and in Melbourne, and is responsible, not to the Australian Government but to the British Treasury or some other section of the British Government. I think it is time that this Government took steps to bring the minting of coinage in Australia, and the actual mint, under the control of the Australian Government, in the same way as the Commonwealth Note Issue Branch. As far as I can ascertain, the mint is an institution of the British Crown, and does Commonwealth work in Victoria, and the State Government pays the salaries of the staff. In any case, the set up is most peculiar, and I think that reform is long overdue. 1 remind the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), that the matter should be examined, and the mint placed in exactly the same position as we insist upon in relation to the printing of currency. The mint should be responsible to the Australian Government, and to nobody else.
Previous speakers have referred to clause 5, and the provision for the penalty of a fine of £100 and imprisonment for one year for persons who disfigure Commonwealth loan posters or advertisements. I consider that the provision ie entirely out of place. I know very well that when Commonwealth loan campaigns are functioning, people are given little stickers, and they are likely to stick them on one’s front gate, on the front of a shop, or wherever they can. I have seen many of them on the walls of public buildings. An enthusiastic advertising expert, or whoever it might be who has charge of these matters, issues these stickers and they are pasted up in all sorts of places. We have reached the very peculiar position in which a person who tears down a poster or a small sticker a couple of inches square that has been affixed to- the gate post of his home by some enthusiast, will he liable to imprisonment for a year or to a fine of £100. I propose to move in committee that clause 5 be left out. It is obviously out of place in this measure, and is not needed. Any systematic or wholesale defacing of Commonwealth loan posters or advertisements can easily be dealt with by the local police. Many of these advertisements are placed in all sorts of positions and many of them are very small in size. It is ridiculous to suggest that, if they have been placed on private property, the owner, if he tears them down, should be liable to imprisonment for a year or to a fine of £100.
– Do> those small stickers come under the heading of posters ?
– I suggest that they are certainly advertisements, even if they are not posters.
– They are advertisements or notices.
– Yes. Small Commonwealth loan posters a couple of inches square have been stuck on my gate post by enthusiasts who obtained them from some source.
– But the honorable member has not defaced them.
– As soon as I can see them, I tear them down. If that is not defacing a poster, I do not know what is defacing one. Does the Treasurer seriously suggest that there has been a systematic campaign to deface these posters ?
– There has been a campaign by the people against whom the honorable member has such a dreadful set.
– I have seen thousands of prominent notices about troops for Malaya, and the like, painted up by supporters of the Australian Communist party at various times, but I have not seen a Commonwealth loan advertisement defaced by. the Communists. I have seen loan advertisements defaced by children, who deface all manner of posters, whether they are for the advertisement of motion pictures, loans, or anything else. I have seen loan posters defaced also by subnormal people who apparently feel that it is their duty to deface anything, no matter what it is. In my travels throughout Australia I have never yet seen a Commonwealth loan poster defaced in such a manner as to make it appear that there had been a systematic attempt to deface it and to destroy its appeal to the people. I have not seen evidence of that sort of thing, and. I do not think that the Treasurer will be able to prove to this House that such an attempt has been made. Some enthusiastic “ Com.” might have painted the words “ Support Evatt “ on a Communist poster, or something of the sort. An enthusiastic “ Corr..”, as well as painting his slogans on walls, bridges and the like, in his fervour, to exalt a certain right honorable gentleman, might decide to paint a slogan on a Commonwealth loan poster, but tha: would not be a part of a systematic attempt to deface those posters, and it would be a matter that could and should be dealt with by the local police under the Police Offences Act, or whatever might be the appropriate act of the State in which the defacing occurs. The Treasurer cannot justify clause 5, when it is seen in the cold light of day.
– He had it included in the bill when he found that he could not raise all the money he wanted.
– That may be so. He had to find some excuse. He could not blame himself, and, therefore, he had to blame some one else.
Sir Arthur Fadden interjecting,
– “We now have the Treasurer’s admission that he was not responsible for this provision. Obviously he does not like it. He realizes, as do honorable members on this side of the House, that it is too ridiculous for words, in the light of the penalties for which it provides. That being so, I trust that the right honorable gentleman will accept the amendment that I propose to move in committee for the deletion of clause 5. I am sure that if, in the future, it is necessary to take action to protect Commonwealth loan posters, the Treasurer will have no difficulty in obtaining the speedy passage through this House of any legislation that might be necessary.
– in reply - The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) has referred to the question of the Commonwealth owning its own mint. In fairness, I should state that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), during the term of the Labour Government, suggested that a transfer and re-organization should take place. There are many difficulties involved in the matter, but I assure the honorable member for Yarra that it has not been overlooked. It will receive due consideration from this Government.
The arguments advanced by the Opposition in relation to clause 5 might be described as much ado about nothing. Evidently, honorable members opposite labour under a misapprehension about the proposed section. It is nothing new. It does not prescribe a new penalty for a new offence. It is included in the bill merely for drafting purposes in order to improve the machinery of the law. It is to be inserted in the Crimes Act in the appropriate place, in the light of the other amendments of the Crimes Act in respect to the counterfeiting of the coinage. A similar provision has appealed in the War Precautions Act Repeal Act since 1920, when it was originally enacted. It existed throughout the eight years that Labour held office. The bill merely transfers the provision made in that act to the appropriate place in the statutes. It does not resurrect anything. In the circumstances, I cannot accept the proposed amendment.
It is all very fine for honorable members opposite to support the people who are likely to be guilty of the offence prescribed in clause 5. In the circumstances, the penalty is not severe. It was not thought to be severe when Labour was in office, and it was not thought to be severe when the War Precautions Act Repeal Act was enacted in 1920. Even if clause 5 were deleted from this bill, the provision would remain in the War Precautions Act Repeal Act. Therefore, the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Yarra would not achieve his objective.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time. In committee: Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to. Clause 5 (Destroying, &c, posters, &e., relating to Commonwealth loans).
– I regret that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has not appreciated the arguments in respect of this clause that were advanced by honorable members on this side of the House at the secondreading stage, and that the right honorable gentleman is unwilling to accept an amendment. The Opposition proposes to vote against the clause, because that is the only means of registering its attitude that is available to it. I point out to the Treasurer that when he stated that the clause does not resurrect anything, he contradicted an observation that he made in his second-reading speech. He said in his second-reading speech that the clause was resurrected.
– No, I did not I said that I was taking a provision from an inappropriate place to an appropriate place.
– I shall read to the Treasurer the report of his state- . ment.
– I said -
The present opportunity is being taken te transfer to the Crimes Act two almost buried provisions-
– When the Treasurer takes almost buried provisions and brings them to light again, he u resurrecting them.
– They have to be dead in order to be resurrected - although these are almost dead.
– The Treasurer may make that point on a technicality if he pleases. His question is whether they are buried or almost buried, resurrected or almost resurrected. Our contention is that they are far better dead in any case. The result of the inclusion of this provision in the Crimes Act will be that one may see a magnificent display of posters, one of which, as the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has reminded us, will be the beautiful figure of Marilyn Monroe advertising a forthcoming attraction at the picture theatre, and an adjoining one will show a picture of the Treasurer urging people to support a Commonwealth loan. If a boy with a pencil and a desire to alter things has a choice between drawing a moustache on Marilyn Monroe, which, every one will agree, would be defacing a thing of beauty, or drawing a moustache on the portrait of the Treasurer-
– Or horns.
– Which the Treasurer himself has said might be an improvement, then the miscreant would have to choose to deface the work of art and beauty, because the penalty for that offence would be a fine of 10s. or a. couple of pounds, whereas the penalty for defacing the portrait of the Treasurer will be to languish in durance vile in Her Majesty’s prison for twelve months or more.
– And deservedly bo.
– The Treasurer has now, of course, completely changed his ground, but those of us who can picture those two portraits on the posters know which we would prefer, in the interests of artistry and beauty, to be defaced.
The point made by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) is equally important. He has pointed out that Commonwealth loan stickers are handed out almost indiscriminately to any member of a committee or any voluntary worker who is prepared to stick them up. If one of them is stuck up on a person’s front gate, then, under this provision, it will be almost more than his life is worth to remove it. He will be liable to a penalty of a year in gaol if he attempts to do so.
The Treasurer has also said that this provision has been in Commonwealth law for 3’5 years, more or less, and because it has been there for 35 years, it is hallowed by tradition and should never be altered. That is a typical view of the political school that the Treasurer represents - what has been good enough for our grand-parents is good enough for us, and because this has been in the law for 35 years, it should not be altered. This provision has been brought to light by the Treasurer, and the Parliament is asked to re-assess it and re-examine its value and importance. I do not think that any one here will disagree with me when I say that the imposition of a penalty of a year’s imprisonment for defacing a loan poster, in time of peace, is absurd and stupid, and is liable to bring the law into disrespect. The penalty should fit the crime. The crime itself is not a serious one. The laws of the States make ample provision for the punishment of a person who defaces posters. This provision should be removed from the bill, and the Opposition proposes to vote against it.
– We have heard much ado about nothing. Obviously, the
Opposition does not believe in statute law revision ; honorable members opposite do not believe in marshalling the laws into the proper and appropriate acts as a result of experience, and the effluxion of time. It is desirable that a provision which has remained in the law for so long should be unrepealed, and that it should be in a part of the law where it will be known, rather than in a part of the law where it is practically forgotten and likely to be overlooked. As a matter of fact, the culprits, or prospective culprits, would not know that they were committing a crime, or the extent to which they could be dealt with. It is by no means certain that State laws would be available to give the protection given by this provision. In any case, it is desirable that offences relating to Commonwealth administration should be in Commonwealth laws and under the administration of the Commonwealth.
The penalties mentioned are maximum penalties, and they have been in force for at least 30 years. They have been in force during the term not only of the preceding Labour Government, but also of an earlier Labour government. Proper draftmanship, and the proper marshalling of the laws, demand that such a section be taken from an inappropriate act and inserted in an appropriate one. It is ridiculous in the extreme for honorable members opposite to come here now, in this year of grace, and oppose the provision. Furthermore, the penalties cannot be said to be inconsistent with other penalties in the Crimes Act. I have no intention of accepting the amendment.
.- It seems to be useless for honorable members on this side of the House to try to convince the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) that he should remove this ridiculous penalty from the bill. We consider that the clause should be deleted, but if the Treasurer is not willing, surely he will agree that the penalty is just too silly for words.
– It is a maximum penalty.
– Maximum or not, if the Treasurer would break the penalty down to £10 or £5, or something of that order, it would provide a sufficient deterrent to those persons who were likely to deface posters. I am quite astonished that some members of the Liberal party, who claim to be supporters of liberalism, have not criticized this completely stupid penalty of £100 fine or a year’s imprisonment simply for tearing the corner off a poster, or putting a moustache on the Treasurer’s portrait, or, as the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has said, adding to that portrait a tail and horns. Quite frankly, I am astonished at the Treasurer’s insistence on this matter.
– The honorable member will get used to that.
– It seems that a parliamentary draftsman, in drawing up this legislation, has referred to other acts, and has found a provision which he said, quite naturally, belongs in another act, and he has brought this provision to light. Surely the Treasurer ought not to insist upon the inclusion of this provision in the Crimes Act in the form in which it has stood for 30 years. Now that it has been brought to light, this is the time to amend it. I challenge the Treasurer to name an occasion when this provision has been invoked for a prosecution.
– Why should the honorable member be frightened about it ?
– It has been in the law for some 30 years, and it has never been invoked. Why leave it unaltered so that a magistrate, who happens to have a bad liver and finds before him a person, whom he does not like, accused of tearing a corner off a poster, may be able to impose a penalty of £100 fine or imprisonment for a year? Surely the Treasurer will agree that legislation which is not required should not be allowed to remain in force. This penalty is certainly not required, and if the Treasurer has any softness of heart at all, and if he can be persuaded to pursue a reasonable course, I am convinced that he will agree with me.
– What do the honorable member’s supporters think of this ?
– They are unanimously behind me. They will undoubtedly support a suggestion either that the clause be deleted or that the penalty be amended to provide for a fine of not more than £10. I again plead with the Treasurer to reconsider his attitude.
– Now that this matter has been raised, I ask the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to clarify a point raised by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon). The clause states that a person shall not, without lawful authority, destroy or remove a war loan poster. It seems to be the opinion of people outside the Parliament that if some one came along and plastered a big Commonwealth loan notice on my front wall, thereby defacing it, I would not be able to remove it. I want, for the information of the people., to clear up whether one can lawfully remove a poster that is unlawfully placed on one’s property in that way. One often sees on a wall the notice, “ Bill sticking prohibited “. That means that no bills are to be placed there, but a person will come along and do just that. Does this clause mean that a poster or sticker, which has been placed, for instance, on a shop window and is blocking the view into the shop cannot be removed just because it refers to the war loan? I would like the Minister to express an opinion on this so that people will know where they stand. Some individuals take a delight in annoying other people by putting up notices where they are not lawfully entitled to put them.
I take it that when a contract is let for the placing of advertisements, it is expected that they will be placed ob proper hoardings and other places prepared to receive them, and not on shop fronts. If they are put on shop fronts, are the owners to be compelled to leave them there under penalty of being fined £100, or, perhaps, sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment? Now that the point has been raised I think that the Treasurer should clear it up.
– In reply to the point raised by the honorable member, I am not a legal man, but I understand that the words “without lawful authority” used in the clause are intended to permit an unlawful poster to be removed. Because the law provides a penalty for a breach, it docs not follow that a breach will be leeined to have been committed when the matter goes before the court. The action must run the course of the law, and it is for the magistrate or judicial officer presiding to decide whether there has been a breach, the extent to which the law has been broken, and the penalty that should be imposed. Very much has been made of the suggestion that it is a dreadful thing to fine a person £100 for removing a poster. The penalty of £100 provided is the maximum penalty. An offender might be fined only 10s. The dame thing is true of the whole of the law, and especially the Crimes Act with which we are dealing. It is considered that that is the appropriate act in which to include this provision.
.- Mr. < !hainnan-
Motion (by Mr. Gullett) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.) Ayes 51 Noes . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Question put - That the clause be agreed to. The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mb. C. F. Adermann.) Ayes . . 49
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Clause agreed to. Remainder of bill agreed to. Bill reported without amendment; report adopted. Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 12th May (vide page 694), on motion by Mr. Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill seeks to make five amendments in the Public Service Arbitration Act. The Opposition finds those amendments reasonable enough and is prepared to allow their speedy passage through the House. Before the bill is passed, however, several honorable members would like to express some comments on the amendments proposed in it.
– There are not several honorable members in the House on that aide.
– By the time I finish, the House, as the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) knows, will be as crowded as usual. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), in his second-reading speech, pointed out that the purpose of the first amendment to the principal act is to make positive provision in accordance with the interpretation of section 19 recently given by the High Court, permitting representation of organizations by an officer or member oven though that officer or member is legally qualified. Some difficulties were experienced about this matter and there has been a great deal of discussion of it. Though subsequent decisions have made it plain that this form of representation is permitted, the Minister for Labour and National Service has decided, and members on this side agree with him, that the act should be amended in the specific fashion proposed. The Opposition finds this amendment reasonable and accepts it.
The purpose of the second amendment in the bill is to permit parties, in proceedings before the court or the Chief Judge by way of reference or appeal from the Arbitrator, but not in proceedings before the Arbitrator himself, to be represented by counsel or solicitor with the leave of the tribunal. This also is aimed at clarity. Indeed all the amendments are, in effect, either clarifications or the granting of discretion on some points to the Arbitrator himself. This, second amendment is not opposed. The third amendment is meant to make clear that part of a claim, application or matter may be referred by the Arbitrator to the court, or referred back from the court to the Arbitrator. The fourth amendment is closely allied to this one. The Minister will correct me if I am wrong. The Arbitrator formerly was expected to hear all claims before him, regardless of whether they were irrelevant or frivolous, but under this bill he will have a discretionary power to decide which matters need not be dealt with because of irrelevancy or for other specified reasons. The fifth and final amendment overcomes the trouble that developed with respect to the determination on margins because there was no date to the decision. Later decisions have made the intention of the court on this matter quite clear, and the amendment nails it down. It makes it plain that 30 days is the requisite period that must elapse after a determination has been tabled in both Houses of Parliament before it may become effective. The purpose of all the amendments is to clarify and to make smoother in operation the provisions of the Public Service Arbitration Act, and the Opposition supports them.
.- Section 19 of the act as it stands in the absence of the first amendment proposed in this bill prohibits a legal man - counsel or a solicitor - from appearing in the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. One purpose of this section was to make arbitration proceedings less costly. The unions found that when they engaged counsel to appear in court, the legal representatives dragged proceedings on and litigation cost the unions a. lot of money. The other purpose of the section, of course, was to simplify proceedings in the court and to put the representation of the parties in the hands of persons who were in touch with problems affecting industry. The first amendment proposed in this bill arises out of an incident in the court quite recently when Mr. Smith, who is the general secretary of the Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association, sought to appear for his union, but because he had legal qualifications, he was temporarily prevented from doing so. This amendment clears up that point and specifies that a union representative, even though he has legal qualifications, is permitted to appear for the union. It would not be correct to prevent a man from appearing because he was legally qualified.
The second amendment contained in the bill provides that when cases are referred back to the Chief Judge or to the High Court, or when there is an appeal, the parties concerned may engage counsel. I disagree with that proposal because it will delay further the resolution of issues in the court. The party to which E belong disagrees entirely with the right of appeal to the court. The members of my party believe that things should be left as simple as they were and that there should be the least litigation possible in these matters. When a matter is referred back to the court on a constitutional issue there would not be the same objection as we have to the appearance of counsel on other types of matters and on appeals. I consider, first, there should be no appeal and, secondly, if there must be an appeal, the union officers are quite competent to deal with whatever problems might confront them.
I consider that too much discretion is given to the Arbitrator in the fourth amendment to the principal act contained in the bill. The measure provides that if in. the opinion of the Arbitrator a matter is too trivial to be dealt with or that it should be left to another tribunal to be dealt with, or if he considers it is in the public interest not to proceed, ho can refuse to proceed with it. I realize that the act can be properly used; it can also be improperly used. There have been conservative arbitrators in the past and such men, had they been given this power, could have used it to refuse wage justice and deny improvements in the conditions of public servants. This was done before just because a conservative arbitrator considered that in matters brought before him it would not be in the best interests of the union to proceed. This is a peculiar power to place in the hands of one man, and the Government should .«ay why so wide a power is necessary. The Minister might explain why this amendment is needed. The matter with which the remaining amendment deals is, I understand, before the court in Melbourne. The question at issue is whether or not the determination can be made retrospective, and argument hinges on the date of its operation, so I do not intend to discuss that aspect of the bill.
.- As the bill is suitable to members of the Commonwealth Public Service organizations I presume that the House will pass it, but it does seem that this measure, like so many others that have been presented in this Parliament, will add to the legalisms that are now entering into the fixation of wages and conditions, whether of Commonwealth public servants or other employees. I put this observation to the Minister at the table, as one who has had considerable experience with the fixation of wages and conditions in the Victorian public service : The Public Service Board there consisted of an independent chairman, a representative of the Treasury, and a representative of the employees, and that body was able to make decisions on claims much more speedily than decisions are made now in relation to Commonwealth public servants. Many applications on behalf of Commonwealth public servants take days, or even weeks and months, to be heard, with a great deal of evidence and a great deal of expense. I am one who believes that the less legalism there is in the fixation of wages and conditions the better it is for both employer and employee. I believe to a large extent in the round-table approach, in collective bargaining as some like to call it. People representing both sides of an industry, who have a good knowledge of it, should get together around a table with an independent chairman in order to iron out difficulties and reach a decision.
When I was secretary of the Victorian Public Service Association I found that, in consultation with representatives of the Public Service Board, we were able to deal with certain problems in an hour or two. Similar cases dealing with exactly the same categories of employees, when heard before the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator, have required a lengthy procedure including the calling and swearing of witnesses and the proving of evidence. Wage fixation is an inexact science. It is not a matter that is capable of exact measurement or proof in the way that matters which are argued in other jurisdictions are capable of measurement «nd proof. Therefore, I suggest that the -least possible amount of legalism should be connected with such cases. Relevant legislation should be directed towards removing, as far as possible, the intrusion of lawyers and legalism into the deliberations of the Public Service Arbitrator or any other wage-fixing authority. By far the most efficient and the speediest method of settling differences is the meeting of employer and employee representatives at a round-table conference with an independent chairman. Such conferences result in decisions which are much more acceptable to all parties concerned than decisions which have resulted from legal proceedings.
I suggest that Public Service organizations would obtain much speedier and more satisfactory settlement of their claims if such claims were considered by an independent chairman presiding over a meeting of representatives of employers and employees, instead of by a court with its lengthy procedure. Those present at such a meeting would know the industry with which they were dealing and would be able to make a decision without undue delay. I suggest to Commonealth public servants and to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) that instead of taking further steps to involve Public Service negotiations in legalism they should move in the reverse direction. I am certain that any section of the Commonwealth Public Service which arranged for its representatives to meet those of the Public Service Board at a round-table conference with an independent chairman would arrive at a satisfactory solution of most of its problems much faster than it is able to arrive at a solution at present. The Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator could constitute a final court of appeal for aggrieved parties.
Of course, if the secretary of a Public Service organization happens to be a lawyer, that is no reason why he should be disqualified from exercising his functions as secretary of the organization. I do not believe that wage fixation is an exact science which can be argued in the same way as a legal case or which can be proved in accordance with the ordinary criteria of science. Most of the problems of wage fixation are matters of “ by guess or by God “. So far as the Public Service is concerned, the Government should be moving more towards conciliation and less towards legalism. Certainly, in this bill, the Government has taken only a small step towards permitting the intrusion of further legalism into Public Service arbitration. But I suggest that the Public Service would be better satisfied and departments would be able to settle their staff problems satisfactorily if their representatives met those of the employees at a conference with an independent chairman. Such an arrangement would obviate the necessity for days, and indeed weeks, of evidence which sometimes have to be produced before the Public Service Arbitrator. It would be wise to leave the Arbitrator as the final court of appeal for the Public Service. Most problems connected with classifications and salaries could be settled at a level lower than the Arbitrator without legal apparatus.
I suppose that the major item of expenditure for nearly every trade union is legal expenses. In almost every city, barristers are receiving a lucrative income from trade union briefs to appear before a supreme court, the High Court of Australia, or the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, in appeals from decisions of various lower authorities. The less legal intervention we have in the fixation of wages and conditions the more industrial peace we shall have. I do not look forward with satisfaction to the expenditure of large sums of the workers’ money in legal expenses because in nine cases out of ten, their problems could be settled by both sides conferring around the table under an independent chairman. The Public Service is a large body. It includes people in every category of labour, from the highest professional positions down to the lowliest labouring positions. The Government should give serious consideration to the manner in which the many industrial problems concerning all sections of the Public Service should be determined. I suggest that the best way to determine problems would be, not by increased legalism, but by roundtable conferences. In that way, nine.tenths of the problems of the Public Service could be solved and employees could be saved the expenditure of thousands of pounds in legal expenses. People who are familiar with the problems of the Public Service could settle them in such a way that they would remain settled. I hope that the Government will bear in mind what I have said. I assure the Minister for Labour and National Service that, having had considerable experience in this matter as the secretary of the Victorian Public Service Association, I am convinced that problems can be settled most satisfactorily and speedily by a conference of representatives of the parties who know the working conditions concerned at a round table under an independent chairman. The Public Service Arbitrator should be retained as an appeal tribunal, but problems should be settled, if possible, at the grass roots. Knowing that the Minister for Labour and National Service is keenly interested in this problem, I hope that he will take some notice of what I have said.
– in reply - I thank the House for the constructive way in which it has approached this measure. This is not a large bill, but it is of considerable significance, not only because of its importance to Public Service organizations, but also because of its bearing on arbitration matters generally. I should like to make two references to the remarks of the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa). I do not wish to ignore the remarks of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), the official representative of the Opposition, but, as he was in a benign mood, he was disposed to bless the bill. The honorable member for Banks raised two questions. First, he mentioned that lie. personally, disagreed with the appeal process and matters of that kind, and secondly, he questioned the wideness of the power given in the public interest to the Arbitrator to reject as trivial or on other specified grounds some of the matters which might come before him. As to the first point, I know that there is some difference _ of view, particularly among trade union officials, as to the desirability of an appeals system in relation to those matters which come before arbitration tribunals. In my own experience in dealing with these matters, however, I have found that their opinions tend to vary, according to the needs of the situation. For example, some of those who, at other times, were disposed to disapprove of an appeal process found their views modified at the time when the conciliation commissioner rejected an application for a margins increase in the metal trades. Indeed, it was partly, and significantly, as a result of the representations made to the Government from trade union circles at that time that the act was amended in a way which enabled that margins decision to come before the Full Court of the Arbitration Court. Those who appealed from that decision have had no cause to be sorry that an appeal provision did exist.
Apart from the illustration I have given, the Government’s motive had even wider and sounder reasons behind it. On questions which involve some major matter of industrial principle which could affect a wide range of industry, it is desirable, in a system in which conciliation commissioners are operating in various sections of industry, that there should be a decision available from a higher source which can be applied in a general way and, therefore, those differences of approach can be avoided which so frequently, as has been discovered in the past, are a source of industrial friction. Such a system has much to commend it.
The honorable member’s second point about giving a power of such discretion to the Public Service Arbitrator is soundly based. From time to time matters come before him on which hearing may bo taking place before other , tribunals, particularly the Arbitration Court, and which raise almost precisely the issue which is brought before him at that time. It is clearly desirable that the Arbitrator should have some power either to reject or to defer an application which comes before him until he has had an opportunity to learn what the other tribunal has decided in that particular matter.
The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) raised the question of turning to the round-table method of negotiation rather than involving the arbitration process in too much legalism. The honorable member’s comment calls for some reply because if his statement were allowed to go as he made it an impression could be created that the round-table process either does not exist or that it is very rarely employed. On the contrary, the round-table method of negotiation is followed in many sections of industry. Indeed, even within the Public Service, where one would expect to find, having regard to the number of persons involved, rather more formality in dealing with these matters than occurs in the negotiations which take place in a particular industrial establishment in private industry, there has been a long history of negotiation on the part of the Public Service Board and those who represent Public Service officers. It may be useful to remind the House that even in the major matter which is now the subject of appeal before the Full Bench of the Arbitration Court, and on which, therefore, I shall not dilate, a firm offer was made by the board to the Public Service organizations which, far from being considered unreasonable by the general public, received a critical reaction - certainly from some quarters - as being too liberal. The fact is that the Government does not resort solely to this arbitral process in which there is legal representation. Indeed, the process of conciliation is carried to a point at which provision exists for the appearance of counsel before the tribunal only in the circumstances set out in the legislation. It is not an automatic right of appeal, and the decision whether counsel shall be allowed to appear in those particular instances rests with the tribunal itself.
On these aspects of industrial argument - many of them having an incidence outside the parties who are immediately concerned - it is desirable that where agreement cannot be reached by the parties themselves - and it is only those matters on which they do not reach agreement that get to this stage - not only should the tribunal be empowered to give a binding decision but also in order to help ifr. Holt. it in cases where it considers the circumstances appropriate, it should have the assistance of counsel to reach its decision as promptly and as speedily as circumstances allow.
It is significant that - presumably under the influence of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who, himself, has had an extensive experience of various phases of the Australian legal system - the Opposition as a whole has decided to support this legislation. “Without reflecting on those lay advocates who have appeared before the arbitration tribunals from time to time, it is the considered judgment not only of the members of the court - the Chief Judge has made reference to this fact in his report - but also of all objective observers generally, that proceedings before the court can be shortened rather than lengthened by having experienced counsel to present matters which are relevant and with the shortest possible argument, rather than have lay advocates with less experience either as to relevancy or to the proper method of presenting their case.
The Government and its supporters approve the principle of conciliation and the round-table conference procedure. More than once in this Parliament I have said that, despite the criticisms that have been levelled against the Australian arbitration system, it is probably the best system that has been devised anywhere in the world to resolve industrial issues, provided that the parties to those issues come to the tribunal with a willingness to have it deal fairly and justly with the problems that they present. If the arbitration system break down, the logical procedure is to look for the cause of the trouble. At times when this has happened, invariably the cause has been the fact that one or more of the parties is not willing to accept the decision of the umpire because they are determined to obtain a result whether by decision of the umpire or by direct action if the umpire does not’ decide according to their wishes. The Government strongly believes in negotiation in the hope that agreement will he reached entirely, or certainly, in part. It is only when the marginal area is reached on which the parties have not been able to agree that the issue becomes a proper matter for determination by a tribunal. Even as to that marginal area it may only be on particular aspects f difference that the court will exercise its discretion to allow counsel to appear. I arn of the opinion that this measure will not involve us in more legalism. Plenty of scope for conciliation and negotiation between the Public Service Board and those officers of the Public Service who come under its jurisdiction still exists. Tt will be only in those cases in which it is impossible to obtain agreement that the Arbitrator will be called in, and it will be only in those cases in which the Arbitration Court decides that the matters raised before it on appeal are of sufficient consequence to warrant its intervention that they will be taken on appeal. Even in that field, it will be only in those eases in which the arbitration tribunal decides that counsel will be of assistance to it that the provisions of this measure will apply. I appreciate the constructive manner in which the House has debated the measure, and I hope that we shall have no cause to regret having dealt with it so speedily.
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 12th May (vide page 695), on motion by Sir Eric Harrison -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition offers no objection to the passage of this piece of legislation, but it desires to make a few observations upon the history of the wine industry. As the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) has stated, the first bill in relation to the wine industry, which is important to Australia and more important to South Australia than to any other State, although important to New South Wales and Victoria, was introduced in 1924 when the industry was in difficulties, and when it was necessary to do something to rehabilitate it. As the right honorable gentleman has also stated, the measures that were then adopted provided for the payment from general revenue of a bounty on wine that was exported. In 1930, payment of the bounty into a fund was authorized. The first piece of legislation that was passed was called the Wine Export Bounty Act, but the fund that was established pursuant to the passing of that act was called the Wine Export Encouragement Account. It seems that, by 1947, a sum of £1,100,000 had accumulated in that account, and it was thought that the bounty should be discontinued. The second act that was passed, the Wine Export Bounty Act 1947, provided that £500,000, or approximately one-half of the accumulated sum, should be placed in a trust account known as the Wine Industry Assistance Account, and the balance was transferred to Consolidated Revenue. Whether it was right to pay £500,000 of the wine-growers’ money into Consolidated Revenue is a matter that might be argued, but the Chifley Government did so because it was thought that possibly there was no need to continue to assist the industry in the way in which it had been assisted.
The 1947 act contained a provision that the moneys remaining in the trust account could be expended within a period of ten years for the benefit of the industry, provided the Tariff Board was agreeable to such action being taken, and provided also that the Government, through the Minister for Trade and Customs, made a determination in the matter following the receipt of the Tariff Board’s report. An application that was made in 1949 for the use of £300,000 for advertising purposes was refused. I do not know why it was refused; but it seems that money ought to be expended in the advertising of Australian wines. We have been told by the Vice-President of the Executive Council that the sales of wines have receded in recent times. Australians who have returned from overseas have reported that it is almost impossible to obtain Australian wines in London. One of my electors has informed me that, after receiving hospitality from a number of people in England and Scotland, he desired to send to them presents of Australian wine, hut, when he searched London for it, he was unable to obtain any. He returned very irate.
– Very often Australian wines are blended with foreign wines.
– I thank the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) for the observation that very often Australian wines are blended with foreign wines. Such action does not do credit to Australia, because the opinion of those persons who claim to be best able to judge is that the quality of Australian wines is equal to that of wines from any other country. The wine industry is one that we ought to help to encourage. I have made inquiries in Australia, and I have been informed that, until recently, Australian wine-producers could sell in this country almost all of the wine that they manufactured, and that, therefore, they were not interested so much in the overseas market. Australia could produce more wine than it is producing, and it could produce it in other than the three main wine-producing States. We ought to be able to market all the wine that we are able to produce, and I think that we would be able to do so if we were to engage in a proper advertising campaign and if we were to encourage the people of Europe to drink our product. Australian wine, taking it quality for quality, is cheaper than most of the wines that are made in other countries.
The proposals contained in the bill are a step in the right direction, but they are really not sufficient. As I have already stated, the industry asked for the use of £300,000 in 1949 for advertising purposes, but it was refused that money; yet there is no provision in this bill in 1955 for extensive advertising, or, indeed, for an advertising campaign at all. The purpose of the bill is to make provision for the use of the existing annual levy of £32,000 on grapes, and for the acceptance of an offer from the wine industry of £4,000 annually, those two sums to be paid to an institute which it is proposed to establish for the purpose of conducting research into matters associated with wine-making, grape-growing, and joint wine-making and grape-growing work.
As a research undertaking, the project is worthy of support, but no suggestions have been made about the manner in which, after the research has been conducted, and when the quality of Australian wines has risen above the present high level, the advantages of the use of this Australian product might be brought to the notice of the outside world. I suggest that either the wine-growers were wrong in asking for the sum of £300,000 in 1949, or that they are wrong in not asking for that or a similar sum to-day. The Government ought to consider making available more money from the existing fund of £500,000. or out of other moneys which, I have no doubt, will be subscribed by the winemaking and wine-growing industry, and with the assistance of government intervention for the purpose of putting our wine on the world market. The provisions of the bill for the establishment of the institute are quite sound, and it will certainly be a well-managed body, because, as the Minister has disclosed in his secondreading speech, the official members of the council of the institute will be the chairman and two other members of the Australian Wine Board, an Australia e Government representative and a representative of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. I have no doubt that the council will do very good work. I thank the Minister for making available to me copies of certain documents held by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan). I hope that all honorable members have copies of them so that they may consider the rules of the institute, and if they ?r> desire, they may move amendments in committee.
The provision that no further money* from the Wine Research Trust Fund will be paid to the institute if an alteration i.made in the memorandum or articles of association without the approval of the Minister is sound. I hope that my friend, the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison), who represents the Minister for Trade and Customs in this House, will tell us something of the Government’s plans, not merely to help this institute, but to popularize the sale and use of Australian wines overseas.
– I must apologize for trespassing again on the time of the House, hut most of my colleagues are busy in Victoria winning an election and, therefore, I have the unenviable duty of speaking on the various bills that come before the House. [ view with a certain degree of diffidence the proposal for the extension of the sale of Australian wines overseas, until such time as the quality and the standard of the wines themselves have vastly improved. Visitors from abroad say that when they ask for Australian wines overseas, particularly in England, they have the greatest difficulty in getting them. Such a request is considered extraordinary, because most of the Australian wines that are sent overseas are cheap, fortified wines, the type which, in this country, we know by such terms as “plonk”, “steam”, or “bombo”.
I regret that the wine industry in this country, which has a big future iri catering for the requirements of the Australian population by producing the ordinary table wines - the light, dry, red unfortified wines - is not devoting itself to meeting the requirements of the Australian population for that type of wine, but is producing an overwhelming preponderance of the fortified, sweet wines which go by the names I mentioned a moment ago. There is in Australia to-day a growing demand which is not, as yet, being met by the Australian wine industry for table wines - the light, dry, reds and whites, with low alcoholic content - which are the normal accompaniment of a meal on the Continent and which ought to be the normal accompaniment of a meal in Australia. A glass of red wine in front of a man sitting down to a meal in this country is usually regarded by most Australians as evidence that he is well on the way to being a “pinky” fiend or something of that nature, whereas to those who enjoy with their meals a glass of light, dry, red wine, it is a matter of civilized drinking, which does not lead to some of the more distressing scenes that we see in our capital cities with those who drink otherwise. I suggest that the Australian wine industry, if it is looking to its future, could well devote its time and attention to producing the light, dry, red wines, which are required to satisfy a growing demand on the Australian market, instead of looking to an overseas market, which now is a market for fortified, sweet wines of a very high alcoholic content, usually sold to those on low incomes in Europe as a means of achieving “ steam “, or warmth, or whatever it might be which those wines might give to them.
I do not think that the Australian wine industry ought to be satisfied to be predominantly a purveyor of what we might term, in the parlance used in my electorate, “fourpenny darks”, and that, to a very large extent, is being produced by that industry to-day. Paced with these problems, the wine industry, instead of turning to where there is a real demand for a good product, that is, light, dry wines with a low alcoholic content, is endeavouring, by means of this bill and by other means, to seek the promotion of the sale of the types of wine that it is already producing. The Australian wine industry has great scope for expansion in this country, because a good, dry wine produced in Australia can match the dry wines produced in any part of the world. A visitor to the Hunter River valley may meet Mr. Maurice O’Shea, who, I suppose, is one of the best wine-makers in the world. I had better not advertise any particular label, but I emphasize that wines are produced in that district which can more than hold their own with any wines produced in France or any other part of the world.
The Australian wine industry should be concentrating on producing that type of wine, first of all for the home market, in which there is tremendous scope for development because, as honorable members know, very few brands of light wines can be relied on as being reliable either as to date or label. A big demand exists for wine which will be known to be true to type and label. The industry should concentrate on producing that type of wine to satisfy the demand of the Australian market - a demand that does not lead to alcoholism, nor to the degrading scenes one sees as a result of people drinking to excess the heavily fortified sweet wines produced, to a major degree, by the industry to-day. I put it to the
Minister, and to the wine industry, that their future-
An Opposition Member. - A couple of experts.
– That may be so. We need more experts on reasonable drinking in this country. The more experts we can have on this subject, and the fewer experts in the fortifying of “fourpenny darks “, the better off we will be. Continued dependence on the overseas market for a cheap, heavily fortified wine, is not the future for the Australian wine industry which I, and I am sure other honorable members, want to see. There is a demand for light, dry wines of low alcoholic content.
– Red wines.
– Red, white, whatever colour one desires, whether it is hock, Reisling, claret or burgundy. In the present condition of the Australian wine industry, the proposed Australian Wine Research Institute should be asked to investigate the development of an export market, not for the heavily fortified sweet wines, but for the light, dry wines, which, from my own experience, I am convinced would more than hold their own in European markets, even against the products of France, Spain and other European wine-producing countries. The institute might well devote much of its energies to the conversion of the Australian industry from the production of highly fortified sweet wines to the production of light table wines.
In view of the great sales of highly alcoholic sweet wines produced in this country, some of the funds that are to be expended under the authority of this bill should be devoted to research into the problem of alcoholism. No one, least of all the representatives of the wine industry, can be satisfied with some of the sights that one sees about the capital cities, and even in country districts, when the customers of the wine bars and wine shanties are thrown out at closing time. I am not in a position to state whether these unfortunate people are brought to this condition by defects in their own characters or by the qualities of the wine that they consume, but I am sure that no one is satisfied with this state of affairs.
The people concerned are not by any means all elderly. Many of them are comparatively young men and women. There are far too many citizens of this country who are obviously the victims of alcohol in the form of the products of the Australian wine industry. I am sure that the persons engaged in the industry do not regard that situation as a happy one, and I know that a great many other people do not regard it as happy. Those unfortunate alcoholics should not be abandoned, or left to their own resources, if there is any means by which they can be helped. The financing of assistance to those people should legitimately be the responsibility of the wine industry and the other liquor industries, which should devote some of their surplus funds to bodies such as the Australian Wine Research Institute, which might undertake research into the problems of alcoholism.
– What about the beer trade?
– The beer trade should be made to contribute funds, to be devoted to research into this problem, which, as any one who cares to think about it can see, is a very real problem in Australia. From my association with various bodies and institutions that care for alcoholics in Melbourne, I know how great a problem alcoholism has become. As I have stated, it is a problem not only of elderly people, but also of many young people who otherwise would be fine specimens of Australian youth, and who, for some reason, have fallen foul of alcohol, often in the form of the highly fortified wines of high alcohol content that are advertised widely in the propaganda of the Australian wine industry. The consumption of these wines has reduced many of these young people to the condition of almost helpless alcoholics. The wine industry and the other liquor industries undoubtedly would support a proposal that some of the surplus funds, the existence of which has been disclosed this evening by the Government, should be made available for research into the problems of alcoholism and for the care of the unfortunate victims of alcohol. We cannot continue simply to shrug our shoulders and to leave those unfortunate people to sleep in the parks. We cannot politely dismiss them from consideration as “ plonkos “. We have a responsibility to do something for them, and I am sure that those who would be most pleased to see something done for alcoholics are the people engaged in the great wine industry, which gives a great deal of good, decent enjoyment to the people generally, who consume the beverages that it produces.
Unfortunately, it is not possible for me to move an amendment to achieve the objective that I have mentioned, but I suggest to the Vice-President of ‘the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) that if the wine industry has any surplus funds, some of them should be devoted, first, to the care of the unfortunate people whom I have mentioned and, secondly, in some degree, to research into possible methods of removing what I am afraid is a very great evil in the Australian community. Thirdly, I trust that the Australian Wine Research Institute, when it is established, will devote a considerable part of its energies to the promotion, not of the heavily fortified sweet wines of high alcoholic content, but of the light table wines of low alcoholic content, the enjoyment of which has been a feature of the European civilization, and which, I am sure, will be a feature of the advancing civilization of Australia.
, - I agree with all that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) said about the improvement of the quality of the light, dry Australian wines. Australians, at times, have become rather too complacent about the quality of their wines. From time to time, we certainly produce wine of excellent quality, but it is not usual for us to do so every year in every wine-producing area. The establishment of an Australian Wine Research Institute is long overdue. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, for some years, has conducted research into wine-making, particularly into the production of sherries, so far as its funds have permitted. The small wine research establishment of that organization will now be transferred to the new wine research institute, which will conduct research on a much wider scale than the limited funds of the Commonwealth Scientific and
Industrial Research Organization have allowed it to do in recent years.
It has been suggested - I understand by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) - that the funds to be expended under the authority of this measure might, with more advantage, be expended to subsidize the grape-growing industry.
– I stated that more money should be expended on advertising in addition to the expenditure on the research institute.
– That is. another problem, and it is a problem of the wine industry itself. I do not consider that every industry should turn automatically to a government for financial aid in the sponsoring and development of its markets; nor do I think that the industry which produces the raw material - in this instance the grape-growing industry - should constantly look to a government for assistance. The funds available to the research institute will not be very great. The institute will have available about £20,000 a year. That amount will be none too great for a reasonable research programme. If that money were to be disbursed in subsidies to the grape-growers on the one hand, it would not go nearly far enough. On the other hand, if it were expended to sponsor and develop a market in Great Britain, or elsewhere, again it would not go far enough. Easily the best way to expand the market for Australian wines in Great Britain would be to improve the quality of our wines. I say, with great respect, to the people engaged in the industry that there is still plenty of room for improvement in the quality of their products. Possibly, Australia will one day be well known as a country where fine wines are grown; not in every wine-producing district in every year, for that would not be possible in any country. But we have the required types of soil and a suitable climate for the production of wine. Perhaps all that we lack is the particularly expert knowledge that is essential. If we overcome these deficiencies, we shall one day be able to produce as high a proportion of fine wines as any other country can produce.
I welcome this bill. I shall speak mainly about its implications for scientific research, of which I know a little. Scientific research in this industry, as in a score of other industries in Australia, is long overdue. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has been trying to stimulate scientific research in industry in a dozen fields with indifferent success. It has found that only two or three industries are willing to devote funds to research, and even the financial assistance given by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has met with little success in stimulating scientific research in industry. We now have an opportunity to promote research in the wine industry. This will be the third, or, at most, the fourth, industry in Australia to have established an industry research association.
I shall say no more than that. I believe that this is quite easily the most intelligent way in which we can use this relatively small amount of money, which may be as much as £100,000 for capital equipment for this institute, and a total of £16,000 from one source, plus about £4,000 from the industry itself. In conclusion, I repeat that, in my opinion, the quality of our wines will be our best advertisement, and the best stimulus for overseas markets for them.
.- Wine has existed, and has been used ever since civilization began. It has been the theme of song and story throughout the history of not only the British people, but the people of all nations. It has been associated from time to time with other things in which men are interested. “ Wine, women and song “ is a phrase that is frequently used to illustrate the things in which man takes enjoyment. Even some, although not all, of the austere members of this Parliament have enjoyed those things, and no doubt they have agreed with people who, down the years, have lauded wine, women and song. A very famous man said on one occasion -
I wonder often what the vintners buyOne half so precious as the goods they sell.
He, obviously, was an advocate of wine, and a person who believed in it. Some people have thought that other things were better than wine. I recall the poem -
Drink to me only with thine eyes,
And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kiss but in the cup, And I’ll not look for wine.
So there are two different opinions on the subject of wine, women and song. I also know that quite a number of people are fond of singing, but I have not such an intimate knowledge of that subject as I have of the other two.
The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) dealt very broadly - much too broadly, I think - with the position in relation to Australian wine. Before the war, Australia produced the best sauterne in the world, and also an excellent sherry. Unfortunately, our wine-growers have followed the requirements of impractical drinkers, and to-day it is almost impossible to obtain a dry sauterne or a dry sherry. Sweet sauternes and sweet sherries are not wines in the real sense. The people who want to sell the goods must produce the goods which can be sold in the world markets. Our clarets, on the whole, are excellent, and their quality remains unchanged. Those dry wines are very good, but my friend the honorable member for Yarra did not mention the best of them all; it is a sweet wine. I hope he has tasted sparkling burgundy. I am a wine drinker, and sparkling burgendy is my drink. You can have all your French champagnes, and all your beer, but give me a sparkling burgundy. If any one wants a better drink he will have a wide search for it.
Here, we see private enterprise opposed to private enterprise. It is true, particularly before the war, that many of. our excellent wines, for overseas sale, were mixed with other inferior wines. Consequently, Australian wine never achieved the reputation to which it was entitled. Our wine producers did not endeavour to produce a better article, but allowed themselves to be influenced by people with deteriorated tastes. They now produce these sweet wines which, as I have said, are not wines at all, because light wines have to be adulterated to make them sweet.
I am in agreement with the proposal to investigate the industry, but I believe that a certain degree of power should be granted to induce the producers to make a first-class product. Then something could be done to ensure that the producers were protected, and would receive full value for their first-class product. Time does not permit me - to deal with the chemical details of ordinary or average wine compared with “ plonk “. The honorable member for Yarra has a very poor practical knowledge of “plonk”, or of the ordinary, average wine. One does not need to study the chemical details to know the difference; one needs to try both of them. The ordinary, average wine is a drink which one takes at dinner, and it does not upset the system. But “ plonk “ is dynamite, [t is a chemical combination which cannot be classified in relation to wine.
We could debate this subject for a long time, Mr. Speaker, particularly if we had some of the subject material. I do not see any objection to the proposal that the Government is bringing forward, and I hope that this measure will result in an improvement in Australian wine, as suggested particularly by the honorable member for Yarra, and as hinted at by me.
– I find myself somewhat in accord with many of the views that have been expressed on this subject, but we have listened to some words of counsel which darken wisdom. The fact may have been overlooked in this debate that the wine industry is fairly closely interlocked with the dried fruits industry. I understand that when a glut of dried fruits occurs, it is possible to convert a considerable proportion of the grapes into spirit, or wine. Certain limitations are imposed by agreement or regulation upon that practice, and those limitations may be altered if the market for wine is expanded. The proposal before the House, as I understand it, is intended to give the wine industry the benefit of research into the chemical qualities of wine, and, I assume, will aim at a general improvement in wine. But I trust that the proposal will also extend to the organization of markets for wine.
I do not profess to be an expert on this subject. I am approaching it from the point of view of one who is associated with primary industries, of which this industry is one. Many persons on the land have been engaged in this industry. In the past, the industry was pioneered by people on the land. The position in Australia, and especially New South Wales - on which I can speak with perhaps some authority - is that the sale of good wine is hedged about with many difficulties. By good wine I do not mean expensive wine. There is in New South Wales a considerable number of hotels that are known as tied houses. It is common belief, if not common knowledge, that these do not in any way assist to promote the sale of wine, particularly wine of good quality. The tendency is to divert the custom towards the product of the breweries, to which the houses are tied. That is, in all probability, one of the reasons for the trouble to which the honorable member for Yarra referred when he spoke of a poor kind of wine, highly fortified with spirit of such doubtful quality as to increase drunkenness.
I am satisfied that Australia can, and does, produce a considerable quantity of the best wine in the world. I am also cognizant of the fact that in recent years we have brought to this country about 750,000 people from lands in which it is normal to drink what is known as unfortified natural wine. Those who travelled through Europe before World War II. know that it was just as common to put a small pitcher of light red wine on the table as it was to put a jug of water on the table in Australia. The reason was, of course, that in many parts of Europe, it was very difficult to get pure water, whereas one could get a pure and light wine, which was infinitely preferable to a great many of the things which we drink in this country. There is no doubt that there should be a closer watch over the kind of stuff that is sold to the Australian public. There should be a recognition of the fact that those who have come to us from overseas will change, to some extent, the habits of the Australian people. They will tend to follow the habits of their ancestors, and seek the kind of drink to which they have been accustomed.
That is the Australian aspect Research should not be limited to any one phase such as the actual growing of the product and the combating of disease, but should extend to other aspects also. One of the most important is that of overseas marketing. While I was travelling abroad a couple of years ago, it struck me as extraordinary that one could get beautiful Australian wines on the ship, both coming and going, but could not get them in the greater part of Great Britain, or most other places for love or money, to use a homely expression. While travelling through Great Britain, I inquired for wine at an hotel in one of the big provincial cities. They produced something that they alleged was Australian white wine. If it had been, it would have been a disgrace to this country. One could get other wines there also. Some were described as being bottled in a certain country, although they were not said to be the product of that country. I came away with a shrewd suspicion that a great deal of our good Australian product was mixed with inferior stuff and foisted on to the market by this method at a lower price. Who is to blame for that? I came to the conclusion that it was the people associated with our own wine industry, because they had not anything like a proper organization for selling. If they had as good an organization for selling wine as we have for selling butter and wool they would not have nearly so much trouble. If there were an Australian national trade mark which could, perhaps, be used in association with famous names it would set a standard, but until the industry puts its house in order and sees that our wine is marketed as an Australian product of high quality, the industry is likely to remain in the trough and cannot blame either the Government or the people who refuse to buy its product. As I have already said, I believe that, speaking broadly, Australian wine is equal to the best in the world. I understand that some wine of high quality is being sold in relatively small quantities, but I am now speaking of the general situation.
I do not wish to delay the passage of the bill. As I began by referring to the interlocking of this with another impor-
Mr. Drummond. tant industry, perhaps I may go back to it and say that I hope, for the benefit of those who have invested their money, and for the benefit of the country that stood behind the returned soldiers in establishing vineyards, that this will prove to be one of the steps in bringing our wine industry to that state of organization upon which so much depends.
.- I rise to support the bill, and I shall not keep the House very long. I think that a word ought to be said, in the first place, in defence of the Australian wine-makers. This industry exemplifies private enterprise at its best. Wine-makers came to this country, where wine grapes had never before been grown, or wine made, and built up the industry in the face of disadvantages just as great as those that have faced pioneers elsewhere. Because of their application and industry, the; established wine-making as we know it in Australia. Every year brought its improvements; every year increased the turn-over; and every year helped to consolidate an industry that is now one of our major primary activities.
It is comparatively easy to criticize the quality of wine from time to time, especially if, like the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), one does not drink it. Australian wine is the product of perhaps 100 years of intensive application by people who have devoted their lives to that field. In all fairness, I suggest that people both at home and abroad get the quantity and quality of Australian wine for which they are prepared to pay. I do not think that that can be disputed hy any one who cares to make a fair analysis of the position. The wine-maker seeks to market the very best product, both here and abroad. Because much of the wine industry of New South Wales is to be found in my own electorate, I know, from personal observation, that the wine-maker seeks, in every conceivable way, to improve the quality of his product so as to meet economic circumstances. If the people want wine of superlative quality, then, of course, they should demonstrate in some practical way a willingness to pay for wine of that quality. On the other hand, if people want wine of an indifferent quality, then it is obvious that the wine-makers must make wine of that quality and sell it at a commensurate price.
This criticism of the industry arises only when a bill like this is before the House. When the vats of the winemakers are full of wine of superlative quality, no one either in this chamber or outside of it takes the slightest interest in the economic consequences of that state of affairs. It has happened frequently that the vats of all our winemakers have been full of wines of superlative quality which, for a variety of reasons, they could not sell. A little bit of consideration from a government might have got them over that hurdle, but, in fact, they had to reduce their intake of wine grapes, and the consequences of that had ultimately to be borne by the wine-grape growers.
Criticism may be levelled against the Australian wine industry, but I repeat that people get the wine they are prepared to pay for ; they can get wine of a better quality as soon as they manifest a desire to pay the appropriate price for it. Much can be said in defence of the Australian wine-makers, but I believe a great deal more can be said in defence of the Australian wine-grape growers, who established a new industry in a new country and had to go through all the hazards that are incidental to a venture of that kind. There have been periods when the industry has prospered and periods when it has had to face losses that could have been catastrophic to these valiant people. They stuck to their task through good seasons and bad, and produced wine grapes that can hold their own with grapes grown anywhere else in the world.
There are difficulties of production - technical difficulties associated with the growing of the right kind of grapes in the right sort of place. The Australian grape-growers have accomplished a great deal in the resolution of that very difficult problem. I think it is. right to say that throughout the whole of our country the appropriate grapes are being grown in the appropriate places.
The wine-grape growers’ problems are not solved when the problems of production have been overcome. The next problem to be faced is that of harvesting, and time after time the people engaged in this industry have produced a prolific crop of wine grapes of superlative quality only to have their hopes dashed by unfavorable harvesting conditions due to the weather. That has happened time after time and no one knows it better than you, Mr. Speaker. These hazards, both of production and harvesting, have to be borne by the grower and no one else. The people who criticize the quality of our wines are not concerned at all with these major problems of production and harvesting, nor are they interested in the matter of marketing. Time after time I, and other members who are interested in the wine industry, have made representations to various governments to introduce some machinery that would allow the wine-grape grower, on the one hand, and the wine-maker on the other, to get together before the crop is harvested and reach agreement on a remunerative price. However, largely because there is no way of knowing what people are prepared to pay for wines or how much wine the market is likely to need, the wine-makers are diffident about entering into negotiations of that description with the wine-grape growers. Because the winegrape grower is helpless to solve the problem of marketing, he is left suspended in mid-air. His grapes are ripening in the field, but he has no earthly idea what they will be worth no matter how high their quality may be.
This is a lamentable state of affairs, and I suggest to the House that those who spend so much energy and time criticizing the wine industry would be better employed if they devoted some of their time, and more of their energy, to resolving the problems of marketing, and if they were to press for the formation of some organization that would enable the wine-maker and the winegrape grower to get together and agree upon a remunerative price for grapes. As long as we attempt to escape our responsibility for the solving of these problems, and devote ourselves to criticizing the quality of Australian wines, we shall merely be evading the . issue.
– I cannot, like the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), talk about the drinking qualities of wine, but I do happen to know a little about the difficulties of the wine industry. I am sorry the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) is not here, because he represents a district from which a large proportion of our wine is produced. He and yourself, Mr. Speaker, represent most of the area in South Australia where the wine industry exists. You are not able to take part in this debate, but I feel constrained to say a few words to-night on the subject.
The Barossa Valley is known throughout Australia, and probably in many parts of the world, as the greatest grape-growing valley in this country. In saying that, I have no wish to disparage the Murray River lands or the district that the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) represents. Excellent grapes are grown there, but it remains true that the wine industry in Australia is largely situated in South Australia. A month or so ago, I visited one of our big wineries in the Barossa area and witnessed the processes that took place in the making of wine. In some cases the maturing of really good wine takes a long time, and I must say that the wine-makers in our district in South Australia are doing their best to produce a very good product. “ Plonk “ has been mentioned here to-night, and I remember years ago visiting a very old winegrowing area where wine of a sort could be bought for half-a-crown a gallon. That is the sort of wine to which the honorable member for Yarra was referring, but any one who wanted a good wine had to pay three times as much for a gallon. As the honorable member for Riverina said, the person who wants a good-quality wine should be willing to pay the price for it.
The object of this bill is to make money available for research, not so much into the growing of wine grapes, as into the making of wine itself, but this will not solve one of our greatest difficulties. That difficulty is the competition that the Australian wine-making industry faces from overseas producers. I do not know whether anything done by this research institute will get over the difficulty of competition from countries that are nearer to Great Britain. For many years,
Australia depended on Great Britain fo<an outlet for the great bulk of wine produced in this country. As all honorable members know, I am a teetotaller, but, in my opinion, however much is done about getting good wines for the people in Australia to drink they will not b*converted into a wine-drinking community. These people who are coming her«from Europe, and who have been accustomed to drink the wines of European countries, will gradually get away from that habit and drink the kind of beverage that is already popular among Australians. When the general public here want a drink they think more about hops than about grapes.
I do not know whether the money that will be made available under thi* bill for research into the wine industry will help the grape-grower in this country. The honorable member for Riverina mentioned the situation of the man who tend* the vines and grows the grapes. In many instances he is dependent upon the winemaker to take his crop, but many of tb> wineries, instead of being interested it. making good drinking wines, are monconcerned with the making of brandy. A tremendous quantity of the grapes grows here is converted into brandy - not into the high-class wines that have been mentioned during this debate. Whatever else may be done by this research institute, I hope that it will find means of assisting the growers of grapes, particularly the ex-servicemen who have taken up blocks on the Murray River and on other irrigated lands and are looking for some one to purchase their crops. You will recollect, Mr. Speaker, that a couple of years ago this House dealt with a measure concerning the dried-fruits industry, and grape-growers were mentioned then. One of the reasons why so many vats in the wineries are full is that many persona found that they could make more money out of selling currants, and sometimes sultanas and lexias, to distillers for distillation into spirit than could be obtained from selling their fruit to be dried. That condition of affairs developed in a fashion that was not helpful to the wine industry itself, much less to the dried-fruits industry.
I do not wish to labour this subject, but in South Australia, where the greatest quantities of wine grapes are grown, where the big wineries are situated, and where this research institute is located at present, the wine-makers themselves are doing a lot of work for the production of high-class wine. As the honorable member for Riverina put it, the question is related, not only to the making of wine, but also to the selling of it. Where will the wine industry of this country dispose of big quantities of wine, many types of which might take three years to mature? A good price will be needed for those. The cost of providing storage for maturing is considerable. Even in the last year there have been complaints from some of the growers in South Australia that they have nowhere to dispose of their crops. T cause the vats in the wineries are full, the wine-makers do not want any more grapes. Under the war service land settlement scheme, men have been placed on irrigated lands along the Murray River and in other areas, and have planted vines to grow grapes. What is to be their position? Not many years ago in South Australia, a limit was placed on the area that could be planted with new vines. I do not know whether such a restriction obtained in other States, ft might have applied in the Riverina district and the Murray River irrigation areas. The restriction was eased to a degree, and a great many more vines have been planted since.
I gather from my reading that a quantity of Australian wine goes overseas in bulk and might be mixed, as honorable members have said, with cheaper wine and sold without disclosing its Australian content, but I still believe that this country is not able to compete effectively in price with the wines produced in some other countries. Years ago, Australian wine was granted preference in relation to customs duties and tariffs in British countries, and the cost of production then was much lower than it is to-day. Despite increased costs the value of that trade preference is now only one-third or onefourth of what it was. In those circumstances, how can Australian wines be expected to compete in European markets with wines from South Africa, Portugal,
Spain and France? The wine industry really needs something to ensure that those who arc growing grapes on huge areas that have been planted for many years will have a chance of success.
I read a few days ago about a wine expert from France who was visiting South Australia. He said that some South A m tralian wines were of a very high quanty but he pointed out also that a variety of wine that produces grapes from which high-quality champagne is made in Franco, might not be so successful in Australia where, because of the different soil and climate, the flavour of the champagne is also different. He mentioned that in France many of the older vines that were growing on land that had been cultivated for a long time were being rooted out, and the land was being used for growing other types of grapes or for other purposes altogether. He stated further that it might be necessary, and it certainly was advisable, in this country for something to be done in those areas where the types of grapes being grown were not altogether suitable for the purposes to which they were being put, and to get rid of some of the vines that were not quite suitable for the production of good grapes. I support this measure, not because I like alcohol, but because I realize that there are many men on vast areas of land devoted to grape-growing who are dependent upon the production of grapes for their living. Some of the most prosperous country towns in South Australia depend on the wine industry. In the circumstances, I consider that this House would be quite justified in supporting the measure that the Government has brought down, and I hope that the bill will result in the wine industry receiving some assistance and being enabled to produce a better type of wine for the Australian people. I also hope that the measure will be the means of giving those men who are growing grapes to-day a chance to get a reasonable return in the future for the labour and capital that they have invested in the industry.
.- This bill is designed to make certain money available for the benefit of the Australian Wine Research Institute. Honorable members from both sides of the House have spoken in detail on all aspects of the wine industry. The Australian Country party is very pleased to know that the measure has now reached such a stage that we may reasonably hope that, within the next few minutes, it will be passed by the House, and that very soon money will be made available for research into the wine industry, and to stimulate our export trade in wine. We heartily support the remarks of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton), who has acted as spokesman for the Australian Country party on this measure.
– in reply - I do not wish to take part in any controversy with regard to the qualities of Australian wine, and I know nothing of “ bombo “ and “ fourpenny dark “. All that I want to do at present is to confine my remarks to the measure before the House. As we are now dealing with matters of nature, the subjects mentioned to-day by a great number of speakers can be said to be like the flowers that bloom in the spring. In other words, they have nothing whatever to do with the Sill before the House.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) made a fervent appeal for money to publicize Australian wine, and to establish markets for that product. In a groat peroration, he said that he would like the Vice-President of the Executive Council to tell honorable members what the Government intends to do about this matter before the bill is passed. Let me remind him that certain money which was taken by way of excise was held by the Chifley Government until 1947, by which time it had amounted to approximately £1,100,000. Then the Chifley Government decided that it would take £600,000 of that money and put it into Consolidated Revenue. In other words, that Government was going to confiscate the revenue from excise placed on this particular industry, and put it into Consolidated Revenue. Then the Chifley Government decided that the sum of £500,000 should be made available to the wine industry, and placed in a trust account to be known as the Wine Industry Assistance Account. [Quorum formed.] I believe that I made a mistake when I sought to give the honorable member for Melbourne some information. He was out of the House at the time, and the young pretender to the position that the honorable member for Melbourne holds, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), took over and called a quorum. I notice that the honorable member for Melbourne has now entered the House, and I shall therefore take the opportunity to remind him that the fervent appeal that he made for the use of this money for publicity purposes was completely destroyed by the action of the Chifley Government of which he was a Minister.
In 1947, the money remaining in the sadly depleted trust account for the wine industry, which amounted to £500,000 after £600,000 had been filched by the Chifley Government and placed in Consolidated Revenue, was put into a trust account to be expended within ten years for the benefit of the industry. However, that provision was subject - and this is a most important point - to an investigation by the Tariff Hoard of any request for assistance, and subject also to the then Minister for Trade and Customs making a determination thereon. Consequently, honorable members will perceive that the Chifley Government passed the responsibility for making decisions in regard to this money to the Tariff Board for investigation and report.
When the industry asked, the Government for £300,000 out of the sadly depleted account for advertising purposes, it was refused, no doubt on a recommendation of the Tariff Board. The then Minister for Trade and Customs, acting on behalf of the Government, refused to make that sum available for publicity purposes. Now the honorable member for Melbourne has come forward and has stated that the sum pf £100,000, or the balance in the account, should have been used for publicity purposes. Apparently it is a matter of other times other ideas. It is pertinent to ask the honorable member why his Government did not use the money for publicity purposes when it had the opportunity to do so. As I have said, a request for £300,000 was refused by the Chifley Government. In 1951, the wine industry itself came forward and asked, not that this money should then he used for advertising purposes, but that it should be used for research into matters associated with wine-making, grapegrowing and joint wine-making and grape-growing work. The industry knew that this sum was available to it, and it knew that the previous Labour Government had refused to allow the industry any part of it for publicity purposes. I have no doubt that that Government came to the conclusion that the industry itself, if it produced palatable wines that would have a demand overseas, should publicize those wines itself and, by its own advertising, obtain the necessary markets.
This Government believed that it was fitting and proper that it should endeavour to establish the industry on a sound basis, so that it would be able to produce wine that would command a market overseas and would pay for the money spent on advertising. Therefore, we decided that we should make a sum of money available for research. We decided that £100,000 should be made available for buildings and equipment and the like, and that the balance should be funded to earn interest to keep the Australian Wine Research Institute in operation. This money will be devoted to research with regard to wine, and, as I point out to the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) who is concerned with grape-growing, research into grape-growing will play a most important fart in the Australian Wine Research Institute’s activities. The institute will investigate such matters as virus diseases in grape vines. The honorable member for Riverina will know just what that will entail, and the effect that it will have in the general raising of the quality of grapes that will be grown in Australia. It will make investigations into the very point raised by the honorable member, the establishment of varieties in certain districts, decisions as to which varieties are the best to grow, and the suitability of those varieties to different environments. It will also investigate soil types affecting yield and quality, and fermentation and maturation of wine, which will be very helpful in the establishment of high quality wines. Other subjects concerning the production of the superlative wines to which the honorable member for Riverina referred will be investigated as they arise. I have .no doubt he will be very satisfied with those inquiries.
The point is that the industry knows what it wants. It is the industry’s money which is being made available for this purpose, and the industry has applied along the lines set out in the bill. The matter has been investigated by the Tariff Board. The legislation conforms with government policy, and all honorable members commend it. Those who have spoken about the need for legislation of this kind have done so in highly eulogistic terms. That being so, I look forward with confidence to the rapid passage of the measure through the committee stage.
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 10th May (vide page 580), on motion by Sir ARTHUR Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a bill to approve a new agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, which makes provision for the selling, on terms, of what we, in New South Wales, call “ Housing Commission homes “. This has been a contentious matter, and for a long period of time amendment of the agreement has been sought to allow the sale of houses to people who have lived in homes provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, some of them for as long as six or seven years. At long last, this decision has been reached. There has been a conference between the States and the Commonwealth, and out of that conference has come this amended agreement. After six years, this agreement is now before the House, but I am sorry to say that, from the point of view of the Opposition, it is a most unsatisfactory agreement for various reasons which I shall attempt to explain. We intend to move an amendment to the bill. Further opposition would be useless, because the agreement has already been signed, but because of the importance which attaches to the agreement, we hope to be able to bring some sanity to the Government on this vexed question of housing.
Since this is an agreement that is capable of wide debate, we would like to point out some very serious flaws in the whole set-up. Housing is one of the most difficult of the .problems which we have to face, and one which neither the previous Government nor the present Government, nor, for that matter, any other government, has been able to solve. It is truly heartbreak house in this communtiy, and any attempt to do anything along the right lines should be encouraged, whether it comes from this side of the House or from any other section of the community. The new agreement provides that, in the selling of homes to the tenants of government houses, 5 per cent, deposit shall be charged on the first £2,000, and 10 per cent, deposit on the balance in excess of £2,000, with 45 years to pay. The maximum loan will be £2,750, and the rate of interest will be 4£ per cent. That is all wrong and will contribute nothing towards a complete new deal for the homeowner. In these circumstances, the worker will be unable ever to own his own home. The Government will be at the disadvantage of loss of investment in housing. Nobody will be better off, and millions of pounds will have gone down the drain because the Government has not looked at this matter in the way in which it should have looked at it.
Housing to-day is not a business proposition. The task of housing the people of Australia, which has proved so intolerably hard for every government that has attempted it, is a matter in which finance must be combined with an element of social service. Even the most hidebound, conservative organizations in private enterprise have realized that housing, which became a service that had to be provided during the war, must have an element of write-off in it. Great companies, such as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, the Zinc Corporation, and others that come to mind easily, long since have decided to writeoff, not thousands of pounds, but millions of pounds in housing projects because of the cost-plus system and other things. How is it possible to get level prices or a fair area of agreement when houses cost so much in one year, so much more the following year, and so much more still in the years that follow on? This agreement that has been foisted on the States is only an indication, in the view of honorable members on this side of the House,, that the Government is running away from the housing problem. The Government is getting out of it as fast as it can. and is tumbling all the problems on to the States. The real problem here, of course, is that the deposits are much too high, the loan too small, and the rate of interest too great. If there is a desire to keep these people as permanent residents, then this is only lip service to the idea that a man should own his own home.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), some years ago, said that every man should sit under his own grape vine, which was a nice piece of borrowing from thescriptures. However, I do not think that the Government has any intention of fulfilling that promise. If this is an indication of what the Government believes should be done in regard to housing, and if this is a test of its sincerity, then it is woefully and lamentably lacking. I say again - and this is the essential point with regard to housing .to-day - that we have to write off millions of pounds in respect of housing projects, whoever bears the cost. We are putting a pretty hard burden on the ordinary people of this country by asking them to put up, not for weeks or months, but for years, with inadequate housing, which is one of the most crippling problems of domestic life, as well as one of the most serious political problems of the day. A discontented community would veer away from the democratic ideal, under the impact of great housing anxieties. Yet we tumble a million immigrants into the country and say to the workers of the community, “ Well, everything is all right. In due course von will get houses “. The problem is not being tackled with imagination and statesmanship. This housing agreement indicates just how fumbling and footling is the approach of the Government to the matter. This agreement is one of the small segments of the housing problem, but before any agreement is made at all, there must be a writing-off of costs. There is no doubt about that. How much money, as a result of war damage, has gone down the sink? How much wartime expenditure and how many debts have been uncollectable, or made a charge upon the community? There has been no return from them. Why should housing be bedevilled by the fact that it was the victim of all the maladies of war ?
Having delivered itself of this amended agreement, the Government is going to put hardship in the way of people who have lived in Housing Commission homes for some time, and who now seek to own them. The Government should consider the personal tragedies of some of these people. In New South Wales, of course, some of the people obtain Housing Commission homes in ballots, but others spend months, and sometimes years, in housing settlements, enduring sub-standard conditions, in the belief that sooner or later they will get a home from the Housing Commission and that when it does turn up sooner or later, the rent that they have paid and the improvements they have made will be added to their deposit and help them to purchase the homes. To-day, from a banking and general investment point of view, housing is not a good investment because of the long-range terms and the policing of the arrangements. As there are easier ways of raising revenue, the Commonwealth Government and some sections of the State legislatures, run away from their responsibilities in connexion with this matter. When we talk seriously of social services, we do not mean only comfort for the aged and some measure of security for the widows, the sick and the unemployed. If we are sincere, we also mean a measure of social services in the way of shelter for the man who is working to produce wealth and rear children. The sufferings of these men are aggravated because of the inability of those in authority in this country from lack of wit or wisdom, to evolve a suitable and widely embracing housing scheme which will meet all requirements.
The proposed agreement covers merely a section of a problem which involves many considerations. The only way to meet it properly is to return to the policy of the Australian Labour party that was enunciated at the last general election. The Labour party suggested then the sale of houses at low interest rates on small deposits. Consequently, in due course, I shall move the amendment that I have foreshadowed, and I shall endeavour to explain to honorable members the reasons that lead the Opposition to submit this amendment. Too many different types of houses - weatherboard, fibro and brick - are erected in too many different areas at too many different times to enable a mean price to be established. The Opposition wants to ask the Government a number of questions in connexion with this matter. The Government will not reply, of course, because it has put the onus on the States, but the Opposition wants to know what prices will be charged under the agreement. Will the buyers bc charged the sum that the houses cost to build, with some servicing charge, or their value to-day, brought about by inflation, the difference in standards, and the increase of the basic wage? Will the Government give the persons concerned a reasonable chance to own a home at the cost of construction to the Government, or will it enter into the competitive field of landlordism as an Australian Governvent selling the houses through the State governments ?
All these details have been left aside, but the stark skeleton of this scheme emerges in the shape of an arrangement for the sale of the houses based on too high a deposit, too small a loan, and too high a rate of interest. I ask the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), who is an expert in finance, what good can come of it? Why has there not been a more humanitarian approach to this problem! What is the use of talking about a good housing scheme when even the Government, in its perplexity, has been approached by the real estate agents to evolve a scheme because it has fallen down on the job itself? With due respect to honorable members, such as thi. honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), who are associated with the land and estate industry, they are definitely not the people to propound housing schemes. None of their propositions would be acceptable to the great majority of the Australian people because, primarily, they represent the exploiters who, prior to 1939, made it impossible for tenants to get a house to rent, and allowed houses for sale to run down because there was not enough profit in the industry for them then just as there is none at all in it for them now except at shockingly inflated prices.
In connexion with the agreement which is under discussion, there is a simple proposition to put to the Government, and I ask the Treasurer to consider it and to accept the amendment. I invite the Government and its supporters to consider the proposed 5 per cent, deposit on the first £2,000, 10 per cent, on the balance, and repayments at 4$ per cent, interest, and apply those terms to the problem of a working man anywhere in Australia, but particularly in New South Wales, because I am conversant with the conditions in that State. Honorable members who consider the matter closely will find that the price of a three-bedroom home, on the latest figures issued by the Housing Commission of New South Wales, is £3.936. How glittering, how immensely attractive is this scheme to the man who lives in such a home? On tho amount of £3,936, the only loan a prospective buyer will be able to obtain is a maximum amount of £2,750. The buyer will then be left with a balance of £7S6 to provide. On top of that, he will have to find a deposit of £100 on the first £2,000 and another £75 or £80 on the amount over £2,000 to make up the additional £750. That means that a buyer will have a total of almost £1,000 to find before he can start to own a home. Under the terms of his agreement, he will have to pay 4LJ per cent, interest over a term of 45 years. The whole proposition is impossible. There may be small fibro or weatherboard homes available for less than that price, but in the majority of the States the concentration has been on good, stable brick homes, and under this agreement the average worker will have to find the amounts and pay the price that I have mentioned. Some small reduction might be made by allowing the buyer some of his rent as deposit, but that is infinitesimal.
Housing is not attractive to banks to-day and it does not appear to be attractive to governments. The Australian Government already has huge sums involved in housing, and honorable members opposite will ask me how additional funds can be provided. I say that the Government must be prepared to write off substantial amounts. It has written off money in other directions, and it could not do better than to write it oft* in connexion with housing. We have 1,000,000 immigrants in Australia, but even with the use of that man-power, wi’ have not been able to build 1,000,000 houses since World War II. The grand total is no more than. 600,000. The problem is fairly and squarely before us. We have to do something dramatic instead of relying on this small, rather niggardly scheme. The Government is merely pushing away the problem by handing it over to the States. In effect it is saying, “ We have provided the States with the money and, constitutionally, they have tho knowhow, the power and the organization to collect money”. That is the Government’s attitude, but as a scheme for making the people who are already in these houses prosperous, and encouraging further development, it is without any usefulness whatever.
The only way to handle this problem is to reduce the deposit to 5 per cent, overall, no matter how much a house may be worth. That is in consonance with the policy that was enunciated by the Australian Labour party before the 1954 general election. There should be an interest rate of 3 per cent, payable on a monthly balance. I remind the Government that money has been provided to the States at 3 per cent, for the housing scheme. If that is not correct, the Minister has misinformed the House, because the information that was given on this matter in the last debate in this chamber was to that effect. If the States received the money for housing at that figure, they should charge only that rate of interest to the purchaser. There should be no limit to the loan to cover the price of a house, or at least, the maximum should be £3,500. As it is, the States are to be left with the problem.
Some interesting figures have been prepared in connexion with the purchase of houses on long terms. The average worker considering a proposition such as this will say to himself, “ I have 45 years to pay”, but does the average buyer consider how much he will have to pay for a house under this arrangement, and how much he would pay if the interest rate were lower and the term of repayment shorter ? I have some interesting figures which show how much less a purchaser would have to pay over 29 years at 3 per cent., compared with 45 years at 4£ per cent, as the Government now proposes. The contention of the Opposition is that a saving of £1,277 can be made on a house purchased for £2,750 at 3 per cent, over 29 years. With the concurrence of honorable members, I suggest that the following table be incorporated in Hansard : -
It will be seen that the total payment on terms of 29 years and interest down to 8 per cent, would result in a saving of £1,227. These are extraordinary figures and they show that the developing interest over the 45 years mulcts the worker in many thousand of pounds for the purchase of a small home. The figures show that the total payment made by a purchaser who repays a loan of £2,750 over a term of 45 years at 4£ per cent, interest would be £6,435. If the interest were reduced to 3 per cent, he would pay only £5,021. The total additional interest cost at 4^ per cent, as compared with 3 per cent, would be £1,414. So we come to the simple proposition with regard to this matter - and I want the Treasurer to note it - that if 3 per cent, interest were charged on housing loans for terms of 45 years, the amount paid by the purchaser on a loan of £2,750 would be £5,021, or £1,277 less than he would pay if the interest rate were 4£ per cent. Since the money has been provided at 3 per cent., it would seem to be reasonable accounting, in all the tragic circumstances of housing in this country, and of the difficulties that we have met with, to do something of this sort.
If the Government intends to drive a hard business deal, in which it goes looking for its money - and after ten years of anxiety regarding housing there is still no proper solution to the problem - I suggest that there are at least two moves open to it. One is that a certain proportion of the money involved must be written off, if not now, at least in due course. The solution of the problem offered by the Labour party is that loans should be issued on 5 per cent, deposit and should bear interest at the rate of 3 per cent. That is the only valid means by which the people living in these houses can eventually own them instead of merely acquiring an equity in them and passing it on to their children, leaving it to them to pay off the balance. But in the meantime the statistics that I have cited give an illuminating picture of how the interest rate will cripple people who are paying fantastic prices for homes. There is, of course, a problem of the outside purchasers of workers’ homes, which has also been tackled. Some imagination will be needed there and some courage too. The Government has no answer to that. I suggest that it should look at the position as I have pointed it out without delay. At this stage, I shall propose an amendment. I move -
That all words after “That” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: “the bill be withdrawn to enable the amending agreement to be revised with a view to providing that the minimum deposit on sales or terms shall be 5 per cent, of the purchase consideration, and that interest on purchase money outstanding shall be at the rate of 3 per cent, per annum, computed on the monthly balance, and that the maximum advance be £3,500 “.
To sum up, the position that the Opposition takes in this matter is, that there has been an unusually long delay in the negotiations between the States and the Commonwealth in relation to the housing agreement and the fixation of terms for the purchase of houses by tenants who desire to own them. After that long delay, it is extremely hard to understand why the States have accepted the conditions imposed upon them by the Commonwealth without protest. They have had a particularly bad spin from this Government in relation to housing. [ understand that this Government proposes to get out of the housing business as soon as possible. It is apparent that the Government is seeking to do so on the most profitable terms from the viewpoint of its accountancy section, but on the worst terms possible from the viewpoint of the States and of the people. Upon this Government’s attitude towards housing will be built the whole attitude towards housing in the future. While the deposit remains high, and the interest rate is too high, but the maximum loan is low, there cannot be too much hope for the wholesale purchasing of homes under the housing scheme. I should like the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to consider the suggestion made in the amendment - and it is a reasonable one - that 3 per cent, be the operative rate of interest, and that £3,500 be the maximum loan. We should prefer it to be a little higher, but I would settle for approximately £3,500. A deposit of 5 per cent, in respect of the first £2,000 of the loan and 10 per cent, for the amount in excess of £2,000 is quite out of the reach of the average working man, unless he has some source of income other than his wages, which the average worker does not possess.
If the Government is abdicating its position in relation to the terrific problem of housing, and is leaving the field to private enterprise - God help us if it is so doing - and if the Government no longer intends to be the banker for the States in regard to housing, let it do something reasonable in respect of the terms and conditions under which purchasers can obtain the homes in which they live. This is the big point. No one can consider the housing problem without considering Government policy in relation to housing which is implicit in this agreement. Why is it that a man in this country, a young worker with, say £2,000 in hand as a deposit, who goes to the peoples’ own bank, which was created by Commonwealth legislation and which holds the deposits of the people of this nation, and asks for a loan to complete his purchase of a house, should be refused the requisite finance point blank? I shall explain why. The Government knows the reason. It is because housing loans require administration. They are difficult to administer and they are long-range propositions. Young people should be assisted from the accumulated capital of the nation to buy their own homes. But because thic matter has become a question of rigid policy, there is no possibility of their getting money from the Commonwealth Bank or the trading banks for homes. The position, which is bad enough in thi, planned scheme between the Commonwealth and the States, is intolerable where a man is struggling under his own efforts to obtain a house for himself, his wife and family. What is happening to the deposits that are lying in the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks? They are being lent to money lenders and time-payment organizations, who make quick returns of up to 30 per cent. A higher .proportion of the money should be made available for housing.
What is the Government’s attitude to housing ? This is one of the most horrible and grinding problems that confronts the nation because of the Government’s rigid credit control which will bring a lot of problems in this country as time goes on. If a worker cannot get a house at a reasonable price under the scheme because of the restrictions made on the advances to the States for housing, the individual cannot be blamed for thinking that the Government could have overcome this problem if it had pushed on with its housing programme more swiftly and more enthusiastically, as it would have done had it been more sincere in this matter. So, on three counts in relation to this agreement the Government stands condemned. The Government has no desire to interest itself in housing as a social service in the community. It is not a mere matter of pounds, shillings and pence. While all the pother goes round about communism by the splinter party in this House, we witness the spectacle of bad housing conditions, misery in the home, and exservicemen waiting two years for a loan from the War Service Homes Division. It is these very conditions that create communism. People have been waiting five, six, seven and up to eight weary years for homes. Diggers wait two years for loans. Under the present housing system even after having participated in a ballot another three or four years may elapse before the applicant is able to get his own home. Do honorable members consider that such a state of affairs is conducive to the maintenance of a democratic, stable community? Wise and intelligent thinking by the Government in relation to housing would avoid a lot of trouble. The Government has failed to use its imagination in connexion with housing problems. The provision of housing is one of the services that must be given to the community. If the activity of private enterprise in the construction of housing has been crippled by its attitude to profits, surely it is logical to expect that any government worth its salt should move in and do something to meet this problem.
Matters relating to the provision of housing and the provision of finance for the purchase of houses are in a horrible mess. Everybody knows that housing is the Government’s most carping and cruel problem. Its solution calls for imaginative thinking, but the Government is not using its imagination. If the alteration to the housing agreement which has been accepted by the States is an earnest of what the Government can do in connexion with housing, then the country is indeed in grave difficulties. If this is the best that the Government can do, and if the great financial institutions, including the banks, have not done their best to assist eager young men and women in financing the purchase of homes, then there is something wrong with our particular form of democracy and with the Government. If the whole economy of Australia is to be geared to quick profits for people who were previously known as black marketeers and profiteers instead of benefiting the honest folk who preserved this country in time of war and who are developing it in time of peace, there is something wrong with our system of government.
It is all very well for those who are safely housed to consider this problem objectively and to look upon it as one that cannot be cured. If we do not make a vigorous attempt to cure it, certain changes will take place in public thinking. We are faced with a problem which we have not had the courage, the wit or the ingenuity to solve. We must solve it promptly. It is a challenge to every member of this House. The solution offered by the Government is not encouraging. It is obvious, from an examination of the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, that the Government intends to relieve itself of its obligations in relation to housing as fast as it can do so. If the Government intends to cease providing money for the construction of houses I hope that we shall not be confronted with the horrible alternative that has been suggested by Mr. Lyle Moore, who is a very well-known member of the Liberal party. It is a poor state of affairs that a section of the community which has done nothing to solve housing problems for twenty years should sardonically produce a plan because the Government can do nothing. This problem lies fairly and squarely on our lap, and honorable members should not run away from it. Because most oi the taxing power in Australia has been placed in the hands of the Government, housing must be one of its major responsibilities. If the Government merely seeks to push on to the States the onus of finding a solution of the housing problem it will create a shambles. The bill before the House will add to the frustration of many people who desire to purchase a home but who will not be able to purchase the house in which they live because of the terms and conditions that have been laid down by the Government.
The problem has not been solved. The agreement between the Commonwealth and the State should be revised. It is for that reason that I have proposed an amendment to the motion before the House. Under the Government’s proposal, the deposit required for the purchase of houses will be too high, the amount of the loan will be too small, and the interest rate will be too severe. Those factors will form the ingredients of disaster for people who have already suffered because of the housing position. The Government’s scheme should provide for a lower deposit, a larger loan, and an interest rate which the man who wants to own a house will be able to pay.
– What did Mr. Chifley do about houses?
– It was the late Mr. Chifley who first brought this matter to light. It was a Labour government that introduced the housing scheme. I do not receive the interjection of the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) with any great pleasure because it concerns conditions which are intolerable to many people. That is the sort of yahoo interjection one would expect from the Minister. I appeal to the Treasurer to examine this proposal. The States would be delighted to receive from the Government a proposal which would give workers an opportunity of owning their own houses in their lifetimes.
– Is the amendment seconded ?
– I second it.
.- In this debate the House has had a further exhibition of the great division that exists in the Australian Labour party. Probably all honorable members have seen copies of tho CommonwealthState Housing Agreement which has been signed by some important personalities. It bears the signature of Mr. J. J. Cahill, the Labour Premier of New South Wales. It has been signed by John Cain, who, I believe, was the Labour Premier of Victoria. It has been signed by Mr. V. C. Gair, who, I believe, is the Labour Premier of Queensland. It also bears the signature of Mr. A. R. G. Hawke, who is the Labour Premier of Western Australia. Consequently, the Labour Opposition in this House is advocating one policy while the Premiers of the Labour States are advocating another. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has been very voluble and very sympathetic towards those who are househungry. One would imagine that he was very sincere in his desire to provide hous ing for the people of Australia. The honorable member belongs to a party which had a chance to implement the policy that he has advocated, but it did not avail itself of that opportunity. Now, the honorable member wishes the Government to give away millions of pounds. He said that the Government would have to write off millions of pounds with respect to the housing scheme. I agree that housing is a social problem which needs to be treated on a nation-wide basis. Many of the honorable member’s proposals, if applied to a national scheme, might have some reason in them.
To-night, the House is dealing with an agreement between the Australian Government and the States under which it has advanced certain moneys to the States under particular conditions. The purpose of the agreement is to vary those conditions to allow the purchase of houses instead of the renting of them. The question is simply one of arriving at an alternative basis for the States to repay to the Australian Government the money they owe to it. That is stating the matter in simple language. The honorable member for Parkes has engaged in a great deal of idle talk and has shed crocodile tears this evening. He has tried to convince the people that he is sympathetic to their housing needs, whereas in fact he is not. He was a member of the government which was responsible for the introduction of the legislation that is now being amended. The original measure was introduced in 1945 and was assented to os the 11th November of that year. The recital to the agreement states -
Whereas at conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers held during the month* of August, 1944, and August, 1945-
When Labour was in control of this Parliament; - proposals were agreed upon relating to the carrying out of rental housing projects by the States.
The agreement makes no provision for persons to become home-owners. In 1945, when the nation was emerging from the war, the agreement was intended to supply money to the States for rental projects - to create in the community a huge tenancy with the State governments as landlords.
That was a serious matter, because at that time throughout Australia labour in the building trades was scarce, and it was impossible to obtain a full supply of materials. Tens of thousands of people were eager to build or to buy their homes, but this agreement deprived many would-be home owners of any chance of owning their homes. The facilities to build or buy were taken from them and the housing funds were applied to rental projects only. The honorable member for Parkes had the temerity to say to-night that Opposition members had waited a long time for a variation of this agreement - as though they had inspired the idea and were in support of an amendment to provide for home ownership. Members of the Opposition are branded by the original agreement because it was their intention - and it still is - to make the people of Australia subservient as tenants to a great octopus of government landlordism. That was the idea inherent in this agreement. At the time it was entered into, the Opposition was in government, and the bill ratifying it was piloted through the House by the famous Mr. Dedman. I have read the record of the debate. Honorable members who are now on the Government side then argued that some provision should be made to enable people to become home-owners. To that suggestion Mr. Dedman replied, “ We do not want to build up a nation of little capitalists “.
– He said nothing of the sort.
– That report has been recorded in Hansard, It is now a matter of history and the Labour party can never deny it. The policy of the Labour party is not to provide for homeownership but to try to subject the people in every possible way to government domination. All the States in Australia became parties to this agreement except, in the first instance, South Australia, which was then governed by a Liberal administration. That State entered into the agreement within the last two or three years only because of certain conditions that were made relative to the sale of houses. It is interesting to notice that the Liberal Government of South Australia was able, through its Housing Trust, to assist the people to buy 50 per cent, of the houses that it built. Those dwellings were financed, not with money made available to the States under this agreement, but from South Australia’s own savings bank, and people were encouraged to become home-owners. I have not up-to-date figures but according to statistics available at the end of last year, in New South Wales only 4.28 per cent, of the houses built by the New South Wales Housing Commission had been sold to tenants or occupiers. In Victoria the position was far worse - indeed it was tragic; - because only .34 per cent, of the government-built houses at that time had been sold to the occupiers. The position in Queensland was a little better because there the percentage was 5.3. In Western Australia, the figure of 40 per cent, when a Liberal government was in office has been reduced to 17 per cent, since a Labour government has been elected. Those figures show conclusively that the Labour party is not in favour of home-ownership and that its spokesmen are simply mouthing their words when they say that it is. Public opinion has forced the Labour party to give its support to this amendment.
In one of my first speeches in this House, about five years ago, I suggested that provision should be made in that agreement to give tenants the right to purchase their homes and I was challenged all over the House. Labour was not then in favour of home-ownership, but gradually it has come to think that it may gain some political advantage if it agrees to such a scheme. The firmly established policy of the Menzies Government is to do everything in its power to enable people throughout Australia to become home-owners. Everybody knows that housing commission dwellings are not the ideal type of house that a private purchaser would choose. They are not necessarily situated in suitable positions. The policy of housing commissions as huge government organizations is to build houses where they choose and of their own design, and the wouldbe owner must submit to having a number pasted on his back and then try his luck in a ballot. That is not my idea of home-ownership. I am in favour of a national scheme of home-ownership which will give the right to people to buy their own homes under proper conditions. That is not what this agreement provided.
The policy of housing commissions has been to ignore the wishes of would-be purchasers. On the whole, housing commission homes are of poor design and, in the metropolis of Sydney insult is added to injury by offering them for sale. I have no doubt that similar types of homes have been built in other States under government housing projects, even though they have not been directed by a Olive Evatt. One may see all over Sydney both large and small blocks of flats, the foundation stones of which have been laid by the Honorable Olive Evatt. Those flats are supposed to be the homes of the people who occupy them. They are represented to their occupants as the “home you own”, in fulfilment of the old British tradition that a man’s home is his castle. I wonder what the thoughts of some of those people are when they walk through their front doors and see the foundation stones of the “homes for the people with the Honorable Olive Evatt’s name on them. There is nothing more anathema to the people of Australia than that type of home. In many cases, the houses that have been built by the State housing commissions are not well built. The only reason why the owners accept them is their inability to obtain homes by other means.
All of the States could have adopted schemes of their own such as that which South Australia adopted years ago. I understand that all of the States except Queensland have their own savings banks and they could have helped themselves through those institutions if they had really wanted to do so. The States have received over £200,000,000 under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. I understood that that money was provided for the purpose of overcoming the housing problem, but every one knows that in most of the States - at least in New South “Wales, with which I am more familiar - the shortage appears to be getting greater. The last report of the New South Wales Housing Commission shows that, to the end of last June, 159,639 people had applied for homes. Why is the shortage of homes so great, and why does the shortage appear to be greater in New South Wales than in any other State ? Doubtless the House, and the people generally, will be interested to have a few preliminary figures that have been made available following the last census, the final figures of which are not yet available. I have the figures only for the capital cities, but they show that in the capital cities there are 4,853,334 people and 1,363,145 dwellings, or one dwelling for every 3.5 people. The 1947 census revealed that in Australia there were 7,579,358 people and 1,879,204 dwellings, or one dwelling for every four people. The statistics appear to show that the construction rate is gradually overtaking the demand for houses but, on the other hand, there is still a great shortage of homes. One extraordinary fact that is revealed by those figures is, that New South Wales has more dwelling units per capita of the population than has any other State - one for every 3.37 persons - yet in New South Wales the shortage appears to be greater than in any other State. Can any honorable member provide the reason for that apparent anomaly?
– Yes. The honorable member’s figures are crook.
– In Victoria, there is one home for every 3.56 persons; in Queensland, one home for every 3.65 persons ; in South Australia, one home for every 3.56 persons; in Western Australia, one home for every 3.77 persons ; in Tasmania, one home for every 3.67 persons; and, in the Australian Capital Territory, one home for every 4.07 persons.
– Where did the honorable member obtain his figures?
– Never mind.
– The honorable member made them up.
– He got them from a pak-a-poo ticket.
– The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) could get them from the Commonwealth Statistician if he asked for them. Land and tenancy controls are responsible for the distorted state of affairs that exists in New South Wales, where great numbers of the properties are not fully occupied and where many others are occupied to the point of indecency. There is no doubt that the housing problem with which Australia is confronted has been caused by State Labour governments - nothing more, nothing less. From time to time, one hears the statement mouthed all over the place that the Australian Government restricts its finance. The Government does not restrict its finance. Not one Commonwealth restriction remains in force. The only restriction of which I have any knowledge is one that has been imposed by the New South Wales Government on the building societies of that State to restrain them from operating at the rate of interest that is demanded by the insurance companies. The Australian Government can deal with the housing problem only under its defence powers, by agreement with the States, for its own Commonwealth public servants, or to the degree that money may be supplied through the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. The Commonwealth Bank has not a bottomless pool of money; it is a banking institution. It must run its affairs in a business-like way.
The restrictions that have been imposed by State Labour governments have completely destroyed the incentive of the people to invest their savings in property or real estate. Under normal conditions in a free economy, money for housing flows from a number of sources. It flows only to a limited degree through the trading banks, because their function is to provide finance for commercial turnover and not for long-term lending for home construction. It was the function of the insurance companies, of the trustee companies, and of the small trust estates that were administered mostly by lawyers to provide money for housing purposes. In that way, the savings of the people flowed through the economy of the country, and people were never short of money for home-building purposes; but, as I have already stated, the incentive for investment has been deliberately destroyed by State Labour legislation of restriction and control. The terrible position in which Australia finds itself is that the only source of money for homeconstruction purposes is the Commonwealth Bank. That is a terrible position for a country to arrive at. To allow the country to remain in that position would not be in the best interests of the people. The transfer of hundreds of millions of pounds’ worth of property has been frozen as a result of the restrictions that have been imposed. Consequently, the money represented in that property is not flowing through the economy.
Some people have the distorted idea that we may help to overcome the housing problem by diverting new money to the provision of loans for new buildings only. That idea may appear to be all right superficially, but to say that new money helps the building industry does not provide the answer to the problem. The housing problem may be overcome only by freeing the economy and allowing the hundreds of millions of pounds that are, in effect, frozen, to flow through ±he economy so that property may be transferred, so that competition between the market for new homes and the market for old home? may be encouraged, and so that people may not be forced into the position of buying new homes on inflated conditions. It means that the people of Australia will then have some way in which they may have their housing problem solved. We shall be simply chasing the shadow all our lives if we think that the housing problem can be cured by a process of restriction and restraint. That cannot be done. All it means is the building up on the one hand of a huge government organization, the maintenance of which will cost the taxpayers millions of pounds, and on the other hand, a rise in the cost structure, which will make it almost prohibitive for young people to acquire homes of their own. Those are the problems, and they are much deeper than those dealt with in a superficial way by the honorable member for Parkes who merely tried to ingratiate himself into the hearts of the Australian people. Let us have a practical and honest approach to the real housing problem. Let the States take proper steps to solve it. I am sure that they will find that the Australian Government will not lag in playing its part to encourage widespread home ownership in the proper way. Certainly, this agreement should go through, because the
Government is in favour of doing what it can in the matter. When honorable members opposite claim that the amount of the proposed loan of £2,750, to home purchasers is not enough, they should remember that the maximum loan for war service homes is the same amount.
– That is not enough.
– That may be, but we cannot solve this problem without taking into consideration the other matters that are involved in it. The same observation applies to the matters set out in the proposed amendment. One cannot alter one provision in this agreement between the Commonwealth and States and apply conditions to it, and, at the same time, ignore other provisions and, in effect, let the bulk of the people go hang and suffer the loss of these umpteen millions which the honorable member for Parkes, apparently, is prepared to see them lose. Is that a fair proposition? Surely, the Australian people would want to know something about that. It is all very well for the honorable member to be a good fellow and play up to the people who are seeking homes by telling some sob story. Let us be practical about the problem, and get down to tintacks. Let us do the right thing, and there will be no doubt that the people will benefit; but they will benefit only at the hands of a sincere government such as this Government, which is prepared to do the right thing by them, instead of the kind of thing dished up by the Labour party which is not sincere, as is completely proven by the fact that it is the author of this obnoxious agreement which we are discussing to-night.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Thompson) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Ebic Habbison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- 1 return-
Motion (by Sir Ebic Harrison) put - That the question be now put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Regulations - 1054 -
No. 14 (Mining Ordinance).
No. 15 (Police and Police Offences
Ordinance). No. 17 (Traffic Ordinance).
Papua and New Guinea Act - Ordinances- 1053- No. 2 - Drugs 1P52. No. 80 - Appropriation 1 053-54. No. 04 - Ordinances Interpretation (No.
No. 05 - Quarantine. No. 00 - Infanticide. 1954- No. 0 - Explosives 1053. No. 9 - Liquor (Natives) 1053.
No. 31 - Petroleum (Prospecting and
Mining) . No. 34 - Parliamentary Pagers.
No. 38 - Police Offences (New Guinea). No. 3!) - Police Offences (Papua). No. 40 - Sale of Meat. No. 41 - Fees (Surcharge). No. 42 - Workers’ Compensation. No. 45 - Native Women’s Protection.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Civil Aviation - J. E. Wheeler. Defence Production - D. G. Cooke. Postmaster-General - P. J. Keane. Repatriation - M. D. Margetts.
Services Trust Funds Act - Australian Military Forces Relief Trust Fund - Seventh Annual Report, for year 1953-54.
Wool Products Bounty Act - Fifth Annual Report, for 1054.
House adjourned at 10.50 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is “ No “.
t asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Traxa Moth Aircraft.
E.–On the 3rd May, 1955, the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn); asked a question -concerning the -disposal -of Tiger Moth aircraft. I bow wish to fjrve the following reply to the honorable member’s question -: -
Tiger Moths are first offered to government departments and ooro -clubs subsidized by the CTommniiwpa-lt.il. When -snrpUret aircraft heonme available they are Allocated -to aero .-clubs on the recommendation of the Department of Civil Aviation, having regard to the number of pupils being trained and the number of aircraft already .in their possession, as well as the clubs’ obligations for training national service trainees. Aircraft available to date are -far short -of the total requirements of aero clubs* consequently none have .been available for public tender or auction over the past twelve to eighteen months, during which period 28 aircraft have been released to aero clubs. An important factor is that it is a -condition of release that the aircraft are returnable to the Royal Australian Air Force if required in an emergency for training purposes. The only aero club known by the’ Department of CivilAviation to have aircraft in storage is. the Royal Ifcw South Wales, who have not received any recent allocations iand who bought aircraft after the war when very ln.rge surpluses were available. Some other clubs have unserviceable or crashed aircraft in stovre. Information -from tile Department *f Civil Avia tion indicates that all aircraft allocated .by :the department are bein” used to the fullest extent possible. Tiger Moth aircraft are not ideally suited for top-dressing or spraying purposes owing to limited load capacity.
s asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice - 1. How many national service trainees were killed or injured during each of the yean 1952, 1953 and 1054, and to which arm of the services did they .belong? 1!. What were their -names and ‘the -rank held in the service?
– Preliminary investigations show that the information requested by the honorable .member, so far as it relates to the Army, will involve considerable searching of records and accordingly could not be made available for some time. To provide the honorable member with the information it would be necessary to transfer to the task of compiling it sftafiE which are fcorne on the establishment for other duties and whose work, -which is of an important financial iiatare, -would ie left undone. I can therefore give only a general reply to the honorable member’s question. Compensation paid on account of Army personnel for the financial years 1952-53, 1953-54 and 1954-55 up to the 31st March, 1955, amounted to £95,322.
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has furnished the following replies to the honorable member’s questions: -
e asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 May 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1955/19550517_reps_21_hor6/>.