21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. C. F. Adermann) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether it is the intention of the Government to investigate the possibility of fabricating aluminium ingots at Bell Bay, Tasmania, so as to extend the operations of that governmental project ?
– I confess that I do not know. The works at Bell Bay have only just been opened for the production of ingot aluminium. What plans, if any, beyond that point may be in contemplation I do not know, but I shall ask the Minister concerned to advise the right honorable gentleman, if he can, as to what he has in mind.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether it is a fact that the New South Wales State Government has decided to increase the quota of margarine which may be manufactured in that State from 2,500 tons to 9,000 tons per annum? Further, is one of the reasons stated for such action that New South Wales manufacturers may export margarine to Queensland and South Australia? Does not this action constitute a breach of an agreement reached by the States at a meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, which limited the amount of margarine to be manufactured in Australia? As the action of the New South Wales Government will aggravate an already existing threat to the economy of the dairying industry, is there any action that the Minister can take to influence the State Government?
– I make it clear that the manufacture of margarine in Australia is a matter completely within the control of State governments, and is an issue over which the Commonwealth Government has no control whatever. Insofar as there have been discussions of this subject by the Australian Agricultural Council, I point out that those discussions have been designed to try to achieve some uniformity as between States. As to the first part of the honorable member’s question, I know only what I have read in the newspapers, namely, that the New South Wales Government has decided to authorize a very substantia] increase of the amount of table margarine that may be manufactured in that State. If the reports are true, I can only say that such action does constitute a quite serious threat to the Australian dairying industry, which is already experiencing difficulties. The sheet anchor of the Australian dairying industry is the home market, and any alternative product permitted to be made and sold here must strike seriously at the opportunities of the industry to sell butter on the home market, and would have serious consequences for the Australian dairying industry. The weight of opinion among the States on this subject has been fairly clear. The present Government of Victoria is entirely against any increased manufacture of margarine. The South Australian Government has made its position equally clear. At the extreme reverse, the Queensland Labour Government has made it quite clear that, reserving only the issue of manufacture from imported products, it sees no reason why there should be any limitation upon the manufacture of margarine in Australia. Apparently, the attitude of the New South Wales Labour Government to that issue and to the consequences to the dairying industry is very little different from the attitude of the Queensland Government.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Territories. Does corporal punishment in the form of flogging still exist in Papua and New Guinea? Is it true that the United Nations Trusteeship Council has asked Australia many times to abolish corporal punishment, and that each time we have refused? Does the Minister or the Government feel that this rebuff is the way to win friends and influence delegates to the United Nations? Finally, will the Government immediately abolish this barbaric method of corporal punishment in both Papua and the trusteeship territory of New Guinea?
– Since the change of government in Australia, the law in respect of flogging in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea has been considerably modified. Whereas, under the administration of the previous Government, flogging was the punishment for a great number of offences, the offences and the circumstances in which flogging may be inflicted are now strictly limited.
– Flogging still exists.
– Flogging occurs in a limited number of case3 for juvenile offenders. I ask honorable members to imagine the position of a youngster who has committed some misdemeanour and who would suffer far less damage from a few strokes of the cane, in the same way as most of us received a few strokes of the cane at school, than if he were imprisoned. In recent years, the number of punishments by flogging, whipping - which would be a more exact term - or caning-
– One may give it any term one likes, but it is not flogging in the barbaric sense of whipping with a cat-o’-nine-tails a person lashed to a triangle. It is the administering of strokes of a cane in limited number. In recent years, the number of cases in which even strokes of the cane have been administered has been very small. Apart from the imposition of canings upon juvenile offenders, for whom caning is far more appropriate and less damaging than would be a term of imprisonment or being held under restraint in any way, the only cases of caning are those in which it has been inflicted for certain offences of violence which would be punished by flogging in Australia also.
– Has the United Nations Trusteeship Council objected to flogging in the territories?
– It did object, and, in response to its objections, this Government, unlike the previous Government, modified the law in respect of flogging.
– I address to the Minister for Labour and National Service a question that arises out of the information that the right honorable gentleman gave in answer to a previous question about the problems of employment that have arisen on the coal-fields. Does the Minister intend to confer with representatives of the industry from the ranks of both employers and the miners’ federation? Also, does the right honorable gentleman intend to consult his colleague, the Minister for National Development? I ask the second question because I should like to know whether the Joint Coal Board intends to seek markets outside Australia for our coal. I think the Minister will remember that Australia formerly had large export markets for coal, which were lost owing to unrest in the industry, and I should like to know whether it will be possible for us to regain those markets.
– I think I informed the House some time ago that my colleague, the Minister for National Development, and I had conferred with representatives of the employers, the miners’ federation, and the Australian Council of Trades Unions about problems that have arisen in the coal industry because of a falling off of demand and the substituted use of other types of fuel. At that time, having had some preliminary discussions, we told the deputation which we then received that we should like to have a look into the matters raised with us by it and then, have a further meeting at a convenient time. It has now been arranged for that meeting to take place on Tuesday of next week. I am not sure whether the representatives of the employers will be there, but I know that the union representatives are wishing to discuss with my colleague and myself certain matters, in particular, the employment situation which, because of the laying off of a certain number of miners, calls, in their view, for immediate attention. On that point, I may say that we have set up employment committees under the auspices of the Department of Labour and National Service. These committees are taking steps to place in suitable employment any coal-miners who may be thus displaced. I know that the suggestion about seeking export markets has been examined by the Joint Coal Board, but, on current costs inside Australia, I gather that it would be impracticable to develop any substantial export market. However, if the industry itself is determined to make strenuous efforts to overcome these difficulties, I believe that there are definite possibilities of developing the export trade. We shall raise that point when we are with the representatives next week.
– I should like to ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether he can give the House any information relating to the drop in employment on the waterfront. Is anything being done to reduce the quotas that have been insisted upon to handle the higher volume of imports that have been arriving in Australia, and the increased amount of shipping ? Has anything been done about appearance money for waterside workers? If the Minister has not done anything, can he take these matters up with the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board with a view to seeing whether they can be adjusted?
– The determination of the quota in any particular port is a matter for decision by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, which takes into account a variety of relevant circumstances which would dictate what is a desirable number of people to have registered in that port. I gather from the press that the Sydney branch of the Waterside Workers Federation has made an application for a reduction in the determined quota for that particular port. I have had requests from the president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions and the Waterside Workers Federation to meet representatives next week in Melbourne to discuss that matter and other aspects of waterfront employment, and I have arranged to do so. I shall keep in mind what the honorable member has put to me when these discussions are taking place.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether consideration has been given to establishing in Australia a national productivity council along the lines of that operating in the United Kingdom. I ask this question particularly in view of the importance of increasing productivity in this country. I am interested, too, to know whether any thought has been given to the sending of productivity teams abroad, for example, to the United States of America, to study the latest techniques in industry.
– Naturally, the Government has given a good deal of consideration to the general problem of improving industrial efficiency and increasing the productivity of industry. At suitable times, we have discussed this matter with representatives of management and labour. We have examined very closely what was done and is being done in the United Kingdom through the National Council of Productivity, and we have studied the experiences of those teams representative of management and labour, which went across from the United Kingdom to the United States of America, with a view to improving technical know-how and general efficiency throughout the United Kingdom. However, I think that the machinery we have set up in Australia, namely, the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council, will achieve for us some of the objectives which are sought by the National Council on Productivity. We have there a top-level representation of management and labour, under my chairmanship. The council meets quarterly and, at its last meeting, it discussed the subject of productivity and established a sub-committee, which is to report back to the next meeting of the council to be held in about a month’s time. As to the practicability of sending teams from industry to other countries, it is obviously a rather more difficult and expensive proposition to send them from Australia than from the United Kingdom, and it may be that we can achieve our objectives in other ways. That aspect has not been overlooked, and it will be fully explored within the council.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. In the event of large Quantities of Australian wheat of the 1954-55 crop not being sold for export or for Lome consumption, or sold at a price below the guaranteed price of wheat exported or consumed in Australia, will the Government pay growers for this wheat? If so, what will be the price per bushel?
– The honorable member will find reference to the subject in the wheat industry stabilization legislation, and in the practice of the Australian Wheat Board. In respect of this wheat, as in the case of other wheat produced during the stabilization term, a first advance is paid by the Government, and a very substantial first advance has been paid. To that extent, the growers have been paid. Historically, the custom of the Australian Wheat Board has been tu sell wheat in the order of its receipt into the board’s custody. I think that the wheat of No. 17 pool has now been almost completely sold, and that the wheat of No. IS pool, to which the honorable member has referred, is now being sold for export, as well as for local consumption, of course. The wheatgrowers will be paid in full for that wheat, and there is nothing for the honorable member to worry about.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Interior. The Auditor-General, in his annual report for the year ended the 30th June, 1955, in the section relating to the Department of the Interior, refers to certain matters associated with the administration of the Grafton to South Brisbane Railway Act 1924-1930. Can the Minister inform me as to the responsibility of the Department of the Interior in relation to this act?
– There appears to have been a slight error somewhere. Control of the railway in question was transferred some four years ago from the Department of the Interior to the Department of Shipping and Transport. I do not know whether the Auditor-General was omitted from the relevant mailing list, or whether the letter of advice to that effect went astray. However, I shall draw the AuditorGeneral’s attention to the fact.
– Has the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs noted the expressed intention of the Egyptian Government to purchase arms and modern war equipment from iron curtain countries, with a view to possible aggression against the state of Israel? In view of the desirability of maintaining world peace, and as the stated action of the Egyptian Government could rapidly provoke a conflict in the East, will the Minister cause the matter to be investigated as thoroughly as possible? If the reported intention is subsequently confirmed, can arrangements be made for Australian representatives at the United Nations to bring this matter before that organization, with the object of preventing, or endeavouring to prevent, such a traffic?
– I have noticed the references made to the purchase by Egypt of certain war equipment from countries behind the iron curtain. The matter is being very closely examined, and I shall ascertain just what, action can be taken. When I do so, the suggestions made by the honorable member will be taken into consideration.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture investigate the reasons why large quantities of tobacco leaf remained unsold in Western Australia after this season’s auctions? In view of the growers claims that of the 12S toils rejected by manufacturers, a substantial quantity was equally as good as that for which high prices were paid last year, will the Minister arrange for an inspection of this leaf? As the only leaf rejected in Queensland this year was rejected from the last sale, and as the Western Australian auctions took place some time after the Queensland sales, does that indicate that the manufacturers had obtained all their requirements from the earlier sales? Will the Minister consult with the Minister for Trade and Customs with a view to increasing the percentage of Australian tobacco leaf which is to be used before the rebate of duty on the imported leaf i« obtainable ?
– In response to somepreliminary inquiries that I have made about this matter, I have been informed?! that a certain amount of Western Aus-?*1 tralian tobacco leaf grown last season’; was affected by adverse seasonal conditions. I know no more than I have been told in that regard. I am making further investigations and, if necessary, I shall send an experienced and competent officer of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture to Western Australia to inspect the leaf concerned. I have taken similar action on other occasions in other areas with beneficial results, although I make it clear that it is no part’ of the Government’s policy to insist on the purchase by manufacturers of tobacco leaf that is not of a suitable type for Australian requirements. The percentage of leaf prescribed by my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs, to encourage the purchase of Australian leaf has been very carefully worked out to ensure the taking up of all usable leaf, but not to be more than the quantity of leaf available. I am keeping in close touch with my colleague about that matter, and it will be very carefully watched in connexion with the problem mentioned by the honorable member.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by stating that on several occasions the right honorable gentleman has intimated his willingness, or his intention, to appoint a joint parliamentary committee to consider possible constitutional changes. Can he give the House any idea when the necessary steps will be taken to set up this joint committee?
– The simple truth about this matter is that action should have been taken a fortnight ago. The delay is entirely my responsibility, but I have had many other things to do. I shall be happy to have the joint committee established during the currency of the present sittings of the Parliament.
– Has the Minister for Immigration any comments to make about the reported intention of a notorious German war criminal, appropriately designated the Witch of Buchenwald, to emigrate to Australia when she is f released from prison? £ Mr. HOLT. - I noticed a newspaper “report relating to the matter raised by the honorable member. I accepted the report with a great deal of reserve, because I saw that it was attributed to a roving reporter, and purported to report actual conversations with the woman in question who, I understand, is still in prison. Of course, it is utter nonsense to imagine that at any time Australia would accept this particular woman as an immigrant, but I take a more serious view of another statement made by the same reporter to the effect that she had said that friends of hers in Australia had indicated how happy they were, because that would imply some slur on very worthy German women who have emigrated here in recent years. I suppose the information available to us for checking on the security and other aspects making up the background of immigrants from Germany enables us to be more thorough than in any other country, largely because of the thoroughness, characteristic of the German people, with which they kept complete records. This material is supplemented by the information possessed by the intelligence organizations of both the United Kingdom and the United States services in that area. We have had a number of very desirable immigrants from Germany in recent years and I hope that Germans will continue to come here. Having had so little trouble with those in Australia since they arrived here, I hope we shall not have them humbugged and slandered by irresponsible people who make these wild references to them.
– Can the Minister for Social Services indicate any source of temporary finance, at a reasonable interest rate, to tide applicants for loans for war service homes over the waiting period laid down by the War Service Homes Division? This temporary finance is necessary in particular to meet cases where a home is ready for immediate occupation, because it is newly constructed or has been vacated by the vendor, and is liable to damage by
Vandals if it remains unoccupied. As early settlement is desirable for all parties in such cases will the Minister go into the matter and, in particular, ascertain if it is possible for the Commonwealth Bank to help cope with this problem and relieve the hardship which accrues to owners, builders and applicants under the present conditions?
– This problem has received the attention of the Government and, particularly, it has received the attention of the Director of the War Service Homes Division. There are many sources which applicants can approach should they want temporary finance and I suggest to the honorable member that he should approach insurance companies and other lending organizations to try and help his constituent. .
Honorable members interjecting, Mr. McMAHON.- The recent change insofar as it relates to old homes has not been made for a sufficiently long period to indicate how it will work out. So far as the Commonwealth Bank is concerned, it does lend a considerable amount of money to people who wish to purchase homes; and that supplements amounts made available by the War Service Homes Division itself. This matter is one of great importance and I shall certainly see that the division gives further consideration to the problem to see what can be done. I suggest to the honorable member that if he wishes to help a constituent in this matter he should work a little harder in order to obtain finance for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Navy. Statements issued by the British Admiralty indicate that plans are proceeding for the construction of guided missile ships to replace certain conventional warships of the British fleet. Is the Minister considering the inclusion of similar types of vessels in the future programme of the Royal Australian Navy? Also, is it a. fact that the first guided missile ship will carry a ship-to-air weapon but the system will be developed in future so that a ship-to-ship weapon nan be operated with the same equipment?
– Developments in the field of guided weapons and guided weapon ships, both in the United Kingdom and the United States of America, are being closely watched by the Naval Board. Consideration is being given to the inclusion of this type of ship in the Royal Australian Navy when a satisfactory stage of development is reached. For security reasons I cannot answer the honorable member’s third question.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that the Commonwealth-State apprenticeship committee of inquiry recommended, first, that the period of time served in national service training by an apprentice be taken as time served for the purpose of his apprenticeship; secondly, that all compulsory night classes for apprentices should be abolished forthwith and daytime technical training instituted ; and. thirdly, that apprentices’ rates of pay should be on the basis of a percentage of the tradesman’s rate and not on the basis of a percentage of the basic rate, as is now the case? If so, will the Minister indicate when the Government intends to take action to implement these recommendations by intervening in the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration for the purpose of having them inserted in all federal awards?
– During the debate on the appropriate Estimates, I explained in some detail the action that was taken by this Government following the receipt of the report of the apprenticeship committee of inquiry. I referred, not only to the action that we took, but also to the proposals that were made to the State governments which were the subject of discussions at a departmental level between officers of my department and of the appropriate State departments. J feel that on that occasion I indicated quite fully the course that the Government was taking.
– Does the Government intend to intervene in order to have these changes made?
– As the right honorable gentleman knows, that is a matter of policy, and I do not intend to make a statement on that point now. Most of the matters that were raised in the report were outside the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. If we can get a ready response from the State governments and an indication of the action that they propose to take, we will be in a better position to know to what degree supplein en la ry action by this Government is required.
Is’ UHT II QUEENSLAND POETS.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether it is a fact that shipping tonnage has been in good supply at Queensland ports for the removal of the 1955-56 sugar crop. If so, ran he say why sugar is piling up, with iiic result that the storage position at Lucinda Point, Bowen and Mackay is causing alarm to producers? What was the cad.se of the waterside workers’ refusal to work .ships at- Bowen on the 24th, 25th and of September? Can the right honorable gentleman assist in relieving the present strain on storage facilities at Lucinda Point and Bowen by arranging for faster removals so that the threatened imminent closure of the mills, with a resultant loss of sugar, will not eventuate?
– As the honorable member knows, we keep a close watch on the movement of sugar from the north Queensland ports. This year, the position at most of those ports has been satisfactory, bur at Lucinda Point and Bowen in particular, a serious storage problem is developing because the percentage of sugar being moved is lower than for the corresponding period last year. It is certainly not being moved at a satisfactory rate. We are having discussions and are taking such other action as we can to effect an improvement. I can assure the honorable member that the matter is not being ignored or overlooked. I am not able offhand to give the honorable gentleman precise particulars of the cause of the dispute at Bowen, but I shall arrange to have them conveyed to him.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. In view of the growing importance of the production of steel in Australia in the interest of defence production. industry, and general national development, and in view of the inadequacy of our present production of this item which, I understand, has necessitated the importation of £68,000,000 worth of steel over the last four years, will the right honorable gentleman take up the matter with the industry, or, better still, will the Government itself undertake to supplement steel production to enable us adequately to meet our requirements? To avoid exposure to considerable danger, such a centre of production might be established at a place removed from the eastern seaboard. Therefore, I should like consideration to be given to the claims that South Australia would have for an industry of this description, due to the fact that there are large deposits of iron ore in that State.
– As I understand it, the point of the speech that the honorable member has just addressed to us is that the Government ought to start a steel works. We have no such intention.
– I address to the Minister for Immigration a question concerning immigrant hostels, particularly the one at Balgownie. Has the population of the Balgownie hostel fallen considerably, although it is situated in a very nice place, close to a surfing beach? Is this due to a smaller intake of immigrants or to better availability of housingin the City of Greater Wollongong and the Albion Park-Shellharbour municipality? Further, is the demand for additional labour by the steel industry in that area being satisfied ?
– The Balgownie hostel is regarded by us as one of our key hostels servicing the south coast. I understand that there has been some reduction of the population of the hostel, but that is not due to a reduction of the number of assisted immigrants who have gone either to the hostel or to that area generally. We have had the rather encouraging experience in recent months of a more rapid movement out of immigrant hostels than was the case earlier. Indeed, the movement has been more rapid than we budgeted for. It appears to have been due to two principal causes: first, that we have been putting rather more pressure on employers to find accommodation for the labour that they secure from us, and secondly, that immigrants in the hostels appear to have been able to find accommodation rather more rapidly than was the case at earlier points of time. It may be that the gradual overtaking of the housing lag is having some useful effects in this direction. The honorable member for Macarthur has also asked a question about the supply of labour for the steel industry. Most honorable members will be aware that a very large proportion of the labour employed in the industry is European and British immigrant labour. We are hoping to continue to supply labour from those sources, although we must have regard to the demands of other sections of industry which are short of labour.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Supply a question which is supplementary to other questions asked of him in this House during past weeks about the doubt in the public mind whether there is any real difference between the quality of the high-octane petrol and the ordinary petrol now being sold. Has the Minister given any attention to the requests made in those questions for a test of the two grades of petrol to be made by the Department of Supply, so that the public can be assured that they are not being charged a higher price for so-called high-octane petrol which is no better than ordinary petrol ?
– What I did was to call for the papers, which I knew were in the department, relating to tests which the department had carried out on the two grades of petrol, in order to decide which grade should be used for departmental vehicles. I discovered that the department, as I think the honorable gentleman reminded me in his first question, had decided not to use the high-octane or super grade petrol in departmental vehicles, because with the exception of possibly two, all the vehicles in the departmental fleet have a compression ratio of something under seven to one. T do not want to be too technical, but that is my recollection. The advice from the suppliers of petrol, and the motor car manufacturers, is that vehicles with a compression ratio of less than seven to one do not get much extra benefit from the use of high-grade petrol which is, of course, more expensive. It is suitable, however, in vehicles with a high compression ratio. Indeed, I own a vehicle with a high compression ratio, and the high-grade petrol seems to me to be better. At least, I think I own the vehicle, although my family has other ideas. We have hundreds of vehicles in the department’s fleet, most of which are of the lower compression ratio class. We have decided, therefore, that there is no good purpose to be served in using high-octane petrol in those vehicles. I understand that that is also the experience of the Postmaster-General’s Department and other government departments. That does not mean, of course, that high-grade petrols are not suitable in the right sort of vehicle.
– May we take it, from the answer given by the Minister for Supply, first, that no departmental vehicle does use high-octane petrol and, secondly, that that is the result of tests made by some testing authority? May I take it that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization made the test?
– It was the department itself.
– May I also take it that the vehicles used by government departments include practically every type of vehicle that is in ordinary use by the people of Australia?
– No, by no means. That is not the position. What I said was that, with the exception of one or two vehicles recently bought, all of the vehicles belonging to the department have a compression ratio of less than seven to one. We concentrate on Fords, Holdens and Humber Pullmans and vehicles of that sort.
I >r. Evatt. - Do you not use highgrade petrol on Buicks?
– We have no new Buicks, and all of the old Buicks have a compression ratio of less than seven to one. I am not proposing to be drawn into an argument as to whether or not the super grade of petrol is suitable for the right sort of motor car. My personal experience is that it is.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether it is a fact that bounty payments to meat exporters were discontinued on the 30th September, and also whether the amount paid under this bounty is likely to be more than the deficiency payment we shall receive from the United Kingdom this year? Is it likely, therefore, that the levy will have to be re-imposed next year on export beef ?
– It is a fact that the bounty payment on beef exported to the United Kingdom was discontinued at the end of September. The entitlement due under the deficiency payment will not be known for some months, until after the end of the sales of the beef of this year’s Australian export season. It is possible that, whilst there was notionally a deficiency payment due some months ago, that could, as the result of subsequent price levels in the United Kingdom, disappear. That was explained- when 1 introduced the legislation, which was approved by the Parliament. That was at all times understood by the Australian Meat Board, and at all times understood by the beef producers of Queensland. Notwithstanding that, the United Graziers Association of Queensland, and the beef exporters’ representative on the Australian Meat Board - and indeed the whole board - have recommended the initial payment of the export bounty on beef. The board later recommended, by very substantial majority decision, an extension, in time, of that principle. When I was considering that recommendation, which I later approved, T sought, and secured, explicit assurances from the representatives of the beef producers on the Australian Meat Board that thbeef industry generally understood the possibility that a levy on beef next season could be necessary to offset an inadequacy in deficiency payment entitlement. That is clearly understood. An overwhelming majority of those engaged in the beef industry agree that what has been done has been of great value to the industry. They are the real judges of that fact. 1 do not set myself up as a judge.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. J amc.Harrison) asked me a question about thi; constitution of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, which is hearing the appeal of the Public Service Board on margins, and I promised that I would find out what arrangements were being made in relation to that matter. I am now able to tell the honorable member that this morning Mr. Justice Kirby and Mr. Justice Wright constituted the Bench. It was intimated by them to the parties that two alternative courses were open. One was to postpone the case until the Chief Judge was available again, and the other was to reconstitute the Bench by adding to it Mr. Justice Dunphy. All parties favoured the reconstitution of the Bench and the immediate pushing on with the case. It was therefore decided to resume the hearing tomorrow at half-past ten a.m., with the Bench consisting of Mr. Justice Kirby, Mr. Justice Wright and Mr. Justice Dunphy.
Mr. Justice Dunphy has apparently given time to reading the transcript and exhibits against the course of action indicated being followed. The following also emerged from this morning’s proceedings: The transcript and exhibits will be accepted for the new hearing. Mr Phillips, for the Public Service Board, has been allotted two days to summarize his submissions to date for the benefit of Mr. Justice Dunphy, and will complete his opening by next Wednesday. Mr. Eggelston, for the unions, will then proceed and the original time-table laid down will be followed for the remainder of the case. Messrs. Dunk and White, who gave evidence for the board, will be re-sworn for the purpose of confirming their evidence. Mr. Phillips said that they would be available for crossexamination, but Mr. Eggelston, for the unions, said that, as at present advised, he saw no need for any further cross-examination of them.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Australian National University Act - Australian National University - Report fm 1954.
I ask for leave to make a short statement in relation to this report.
– In presenting this report, I wish to recall briefly one or two comments I made to this House when speaking on the second reading of the bill to establish the Australian National University. I said then that if we expected to produce a full-blown university in a year or two, we would be making a mistake; that the need and the opportunity were perhaps most favorable to a post-graduate university concerning itself initially with problems that suggest themselves particularly for study in this city; that we could not establish a first-rate university merely by passing an act and providing some money, and that a secondrate university would surely do us harm. I confess, too, that I held some reservations about the attractiveness of a small and remote city to men of distinction in scholarship.
The report before us is not only a report on the financial transactions of the university. It is an accounting by the scholars of a year in the life of an institution that is barely six or seven years old. Until 1949, there were no facilities of any kind to enable recruiting in Canberra to begin. These facilities have been provided steadily with the goodwill, at all times, of Government and Opposition in this House, and I am gratified to draw the attention of the House to the fact that there is now in the university an impressive number of scholars and scientists of undoubted repute.
Before World War II., Australia sent most of its brilliant young men overseas for their advance training and research. Many of them did not return. I am far from wanting to deny to our people the very real advantages of oversea travel and education, but I am glad to record that in the Australian National University, as well as in the older Australian universities, we are now in a position to make much more satisfactory arrangements for them. Further, the tide has turned, and the Australian National University can now record that more than «. third of the students enrolled for higher degrees have come from overseas - from the United Kingdom, Canada, New
Zealand, India, the United States of America, and Malaya. The beginnings of a university - a first-rate university - can, perhaps, be laid in ten years; it can still be a second-rate one in twenty. The council of the university will, I am sure, not forget that if quality and integrity are their standards, the people of this country will hold expenditure on the Australian National University to be a wise investment.
– Will the Prime Minister move for the printing of the paper, so that honorable members will have an opportunity to discuss the report?
– Certainly. I move-
Unit the Report be printed.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
– I wish to make n personal explanation, because I have been immoderately and grossly misrepresented.
– What, again ?
– That is an apt interjection, as the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) should know. On Thursday last, an article appeared in the Melbourne Argus under the heading “ Why Stan Keon’s Face Was Long “- “ From Alan Reid “. The article received prominence in the Melbourne daily press, a.nd a similar article was published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph.
– No. This article appeared last Thursday. I will deal later with the article that appeared in to-day’s press. Last Thursday’s article contains matter which is a complete fabrication. I shall not quote the whole of it, because honorable members have probably read it, as have many people in the community. The offensive parts of it are as follows: -
When Mr. Menzies announced the salaries decision last night he was quite innocently wrecking a carefully thought out scheme that was designed to save some, at least, of the seven from political obliteration at the next election. lt had been decided in secret conclave by the seven to refuse the salary rise f«r parliamentarians which, but for Mr. Menzios’ intervention, would have come before the end of the present Parliamentary session.
This part of the article ends with the following paragraph: -
So they decided to reject it and to keep their decision to reject it carefully to them- m’1 es.
No such decision was ever made by my party, and Alan Reid’s statement is a deliberate lie, a story completely without any foundation of truth. It is a deliberate concoction, a fabrication, and an invention. Furthermore, it was known, not only to Alan Reid, but also lo other members of the staff of the
An/tlx. that, it was untrue. An Argus representative, not Mr. Reid. came to me on the Wednesday night before this damaging statement was published, and 1 informed him that there was no truth in it. He told me that he had heard the story mid wished to inform the editorial staff in Melbourne as to the authenticity of it. He knew, full well, that it was not true.
Now [ come to that part of this regrettable matter which calls for my personal explanation. On Thursday morning last, when this newspaper was published, members of my party and I were most disturbed that a journalist should have descended to making a false statement. Naturally, we were averse, as I believe every member of this House is averse, to resorting to the Parliamentary Privileges Committee for the settlement of a dispute of this kind. I shall have something more to say about that matter in a few moments. As a result, with the concurrence of all members of my party, 1 sought out Mr. Reid in King’s Hall and told him, in the plainest terms, that he was a liar. His reaction was to invite me to make a statement for him to publish. As all honorable members know, that is a political trick; and it is one that is well understood by members of this House.
– Order! The honorable gentleman must confine himself to ti personal explanation.
– I say that that is a simple and cowardly ruse whereby further advertisement can be given to the original lie; and I declined to be a party to it.
As I have said, an article similar to that published in the Melbourne Argus was published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, and Mr. Reid added to his previous dishonest utterances by writing the article for that newspaper. I have just been handed a copy of to-day’s Argus, which has just been delivered. As I have said, Mr. Reid added to his previous dishonest utterances by writing an article in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, in which he pretended to be an intimidated and threatened journalist honestly carrying out his job.
– He is the lowest thing that crawls round the House.
Honorable Members. - Oh!
– Order ! Honorable members must cease interjecting. Personal explanations should be heard in silence.
– He said- and I read from his article of to-day -
Since the Browne-Fitzpatrick affair the prospect of a term in Goulburn is no longer an outside possibility.
On the front page of the Argus he wrote in a different way. He said -
Watch yourself or you will go to gaol.
Then Mr. Reid, after taking this stance, went on to repeat his concoction, his fabrication and invention, which I am not going to reiterate and thereby give further emphasis to it. He said -
I was tackled on this. 1 was told the story was “a tissue of lies’”. As I lay no claim to infallibility T offered to publish* ting as an official rebuttal from the Party (though I had every reason, when writing the story, to believe it was true). It was nt this stage that a member said to me: “You could be dealt with for this story by Parliamentary privilege’.
– Who said this?
– I said it. The article continued -
Normally this could be dismissed lis the unthinking statement of an angry man. particularly as it was followed by the conciliatory claim: “But our Party does not du things that way “.
I said that also. I say that Mr. Reid had no reason, that he could give to me, to believe that this vile piece of dishonesty was true. He attempted to hesmirch my character and that of members of my party in his first article. and he has returned to the detestable practice in his second article.
The question of placing deliberate falsehood and further intimidating matter before the Parliamentary Privileges Committee is so serious as to be approached with the greatest reluctance by every member of this honorable House, and it is even more serious when it follows so recently upon a case, the impact of which was very similar to that of this article written by Mr. Reid. The members of my party, I may say-
– Order ! The honorable member must confine himself to a personal explanation.
-I, personally, have decided against referring the matter to the Committee of Privileges. Members of the parliamentary press gallery may rest assured that I have no desire whatever to intimidate them or to prevent them from doing their work. I understand completely the nature of their work, and so long as they keep within the confines of the code of ethics laid down by their profession, they need have no fear from members of this Parliament.
I should like to say that this subject of parliamentary salaries is one that is favoured by editors and members of the press gallery who themselves, in many cases, receive fat salaries - far greater than those of members of this Parliament.
– Order ! That has nothing to do with the personal explanation.
– They write articles on that subject. I contend that there is a proper authority which could deal with Mr. Reid. In view of the fact that our system of adjusting these matters through the Committee of Privileges is due for overhaul-
– Order !
– Our system requires sorting out, and I believe that it is the intention of the Government to do so.
– Order ! The functions of the Committee of Privileges have nothing to do with a personal explanation.
– This personal explanation might be concluded by a suggestion about how we could prevent matters such as this from occurring in the future.
– No, not under cover of a personal explanation.
– I say again that this is a matter of a very serious nature, and I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to direct the attention of the management of the Australian Journalists Association to it. so that this kind of thing will not continue, and so that honorable members may be protected from it.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Francis) read a first time.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to -
That Government Business shall take precedence over General Business to-morrow.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 4th October(vide page 1230).
Proposed vote.. £25,803,000.
Refunds of Reven ue.
Proposed vote, £22,000,000.
Advance to the Treasurer.
Proposed vote, £16,000,000.
Proposed vote, £16,070,000.
Proposed vote, £15,977,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– I wish to direct attention to the administration of the Repatriation Commission and the tribunals associated with it. Criticism has been made recently in relation to the determination of cases that have come before those tribunals, including one from my electorate. I speak at this juncture not as a lawyer but as a member of Parliament who has had to make representations in regard to these matters, and . also as an ex-serviceman not unfamiliar with the background of such cases. [ believe that there are certain fundamental weaknesses in the system by which we deal with claims by former members of the forces and their widows in regard to disabilities or death arising from war service. In the first place, I believe that it is a very grave weakness that the members of the entitlement tribunals do not enjoy secure tenure. It is a fundamental principle that judges shall have security of tenure and have nothing either to hope for or to fear from the government that appoints them, or any one else. Members of the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals are appointed for five years only and are eligible for re-appointment. T do not know any of these gentlemen personally and have no doubt that they are very estimable folk, but the principle adopted in their appointment is wrong. They should either be appointed for life or be ineligible for re-appointment. In making their decisions they should have nothing to hope for, or to fear, from the government that appoints them.
There is no appeal from the decisions of the tribunals on points of law, whereas in England there is. Again, in our country, lawyers may not appear before the tribunals. That exclusion was made at the request of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, but I believe that experience has shown it to be wrong. Worst of all, it is the practice of tribunals to refuse to permit the crossexamination of medical men. This is not laid down under the act, but, I understand, applies in most, if not all cases. I should like to cite a ease within my own experience to illustrate the slipshod way in which justice, or rather injustice, is done under the present system. The circumstances are a matter of very personal knowledge because I knew some of the people principally involved. The person in question enlisted in 1939, saw active service in the Middle East and, after being under fire in engagements that led up to the battle of Bardia, was admitted to Gaza Ridge hospital with a complaint that was provisionally diagnosed as being acute mania. A medical board expressed the opinion that, though there was an underlying basis, his disability was due to war service. He was returned to Australia and discharged as medically unfit, his disability being classed as not due to war service. He re-enlisted, was sent overseas, became ill again and was returned to Australia, He was first put into hospital at Concord, and was then sent to Goulburn for shock treatment. Discharged again, his disability was classed as “not due to war service “. From that time until his death in 1952, he suffered, during long periods, from the neurosis which had first shown itself during his war service. He and his wife, through the local repatriation doctor, several times tried to have him admitted to Concord hospital for treatment, but were always refused on the ground that his disability was not due to war service. In 1952 he died from acute mania and septic absorption from wounds in the wrists.
The claims made by his widow to the board, the commission and the tribunal were disallowed, apparently because he had once, while being questioned, stated that he had had moods of depression before his war service began. These, in fact, had occurred in a period of unemployment during the economic depression. The second basis for refusal was the premise that the psychosis from which he suffered was always innate. This premise is simply not true, and his admission that he had had moods of depression before the war was too slight to serve as proof that his disability was not due to, or aggravated by, war service. The evidence of his wife, acquaintances and employers tended to show his stability during the pre-war period. When an appeal was lodged under section 64 (7), further evidence material to the claim was given and his death was accepted as being due to war service.
Apparently there had been no proper examination by the tribunal of this case. The doctors involved were not crossexamined and it was only by the sheerest accident that the widow obtained justice. It was due to the accident that she happened to be my constituent and that my secretary, who happened to be a graduate in arts, and a student of abnormal psychology, was able to find relevant references in psychiatric textbooks to support the proposition that a proper decision had not been made. There was the further fortunate accident that I knew the people concerned and was able to get witnesses who could give evidence on the relevant matters. Only because of that series of accidents did this woman finally obtain justice.
I have quoted that case to demonstrate that the purpose of the present act is not being fulfilled. Under the corresponding English act medical evidence can be challenged and subjected to crossexamination. There can be an appeal on points of law, and lawyers are permitted to appear before the tribunal. I mention these things because it might be said that all this legal paraphernalia is impracticable. The plain answer is that it operates in England. In the view of some people who have examined this matter, we in Australia are far more generous than are the British authorities under their more legalistic system. If that is so, it is still more important that genuine cases should receive justice and that false claims should be rejected. I have quoted only one case, but I have before me details of half a dozen in which therehas been injustice because of a failure to apply proper legal principles. I am a great believer in the testing, by the principles of cross-examination, of expert witnesses, whether they be medical men or any one else, and clearly this can best be done by lawyers.
I wish now to refer to the onus of proof and benefit of doubt provisions which have been very much the centre of controversy in recent times. I have not time to deal with them fully, but I should like to quote what Mr. Justice Denning of the High Court of England had to say in the case Miller v. Minister for Pensions, reported in English Law Reports, 1947, volume 2 -
Where the cause of the case is unknown or imperfectly known, the only proper conclusion is that the Minister cannot discharge the burden of proof, because the unknown cause may be a cause incidental to war service, and for that purpose the evidence must reach the Same degree of cogency as is required in a Criminal Case before the accused is found guilty.
His Honour stated very clearly the position in regard to onus of proof, but I do not believe that the principle which he enunciates is being applied in Australia at the present time. There is also the question of what is to he done when doctors disagree, and whether a tribunal is bound to accept one set of medical evidence as against another, which is in conflict with it. A very common-sense rule in the matter has been stated by Mr. Justice Rich of the High Court of Australia. In a case in 1940he said -
I do not see why the Court should not begin its investigation before hearing the medical testimony from the standpoint of presumptive inferences which the sequence of events would naturally inspire in the mind of any common sense person, uninstructed in pathology.
Later he said -
If medical knowledge develops strung positive reasons for saying that the common sense presumption is wrong, the Court, no doubt, would gladly give effect to this affirmative information, but whilst science presents us with no more than a blank negation, we ran only await positive results, and in the meantime act on our own intuitive inferences.
I believe that what our tribunals have done in the absence of clear-cut medical evidence has been to substitute for their own common-sense judgment, the opinion of a medical man or medical men of their choice. Having regard to the experience that I and other honorable members have had of these cases, I suggest that the time has arrived when the Government should seriously review the provisions of the present law.I know that it has operated for a number of years, but in a young and vigorous country, such as we claim ours tobe. when we find that a thing is wrong surely we should right it. The mere fact that something has been in existence for a number of years is not sufficientreason for retaining it if we come to theconclusion that it is wrong.
I have notes of half a dozen cases that I could cite to the House, but there is not sufficient time for me to deal with them all. Indeed, it is not necessary for me to do so, because I feel sure that other honorable membershave had experience of similar cases. It does not follow that this proposal, if accepted, would involve the expenditure of a great, deal of additional money. It would result in a proper sorting out, by legal men. of the cases that are genuine from those that are not. The existing tribunals are merely administrative tribunals, and are entirely under the thumbs of the top departmental officers. I do not believe that the members of those tribunals are proceeding upon proper principles or that they have the independence necessary to enable them to establish the truth of the cases- that are presented to them. If appeals were allowed on points of law, the tribunals would have to set out in writing their judgments and reasons for decisions. That would compel them at least to clarify their minds. “While the tribunals can simply say, “ Claim allowed “ or “ Claim not allowed “, without having to give reasons; while they have medical men saying different things, and they can accept either view without paying much regard to the onus of proof, then they can arrive at quite wrong decisions. The present system is a slipshod one. Under it, claims that are not valid may be allowed, and claims that have merit may be and are refused in too many cases.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-(Mr. Bowden). - Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented ?
– Yes, in my capacity -as secretary of the Government Members -ex-Servicemen’s Committee. A suggestion was made that this committee has mot been taking an interest in repatriation matters. A bill will be brought before this House shortly dealing with repatriation. The Government Members ex-Servicemen’s Committee has for some time been having, and is still having, -discussions with the Minister for Repatriation, and members of the committee will take a considerable part in the debate on that bill.
.- I :agree, to a large extent, with the remarks made by the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) in regard to section 47 of the Repatriation Act, and the manner in which the principles set out in that section, known as the onusofproof section, are interpreted. Like the “honorable member for Bradfield, I believe that the time has arrived when a general overhaul of the Repatriation Act is necessary if the justice that we believe returned men are entitled to receive is “to be given to them. The experience that I have had, as a consequence of complaints from my constituents, indicates that the act is interpreted in a restricted manner rather than a generous manner. In the administration of an act of this description the outlook and attitude of both the Administration and the tribunals should be sympathetic rather than restricted. In order to indicate the anomalies that can and do arise under the Repatriation Act, in the short time at my disposal I shall direct the attention of the committee to some cases that indicate an extraordinary viewpoint by the Repatriation Department.
The first case concerns a man named Roy McEwen Johnson, one of my constituents, who served in World War I. This man, during the voyage home from the other side of the world, sustained a fall on board ship, as a consequence of which he developed a deep-seated abscess of the bowel. On his return to Australia he was admitted to the Caulfield Repatriation Hospital, where he underwent an operation by one of Melbourne’s most noted and distinguished surgeons of that time. After the operation, however, he continued to suffer not only great pain, but also great inconvenience. From that time onwards, he was constantly under the care of repatriation doctors. Eventually, and only recently, many years after the operation was performed, repatriation doctors discovered that there had been a failure to sew the bowel after the operation, so that all the inconvenience and pain that he suffered was solely due to what had occurred at the time of the operation. The stage has now been reached where control of the bowel has been completely lost, and he has brought his case under the notice of the Repatriation Department and sought an operation to have the condition corrected. An extraordinary position now develops. It is found that, in the meantime, this man has developed trouble with the prostate gland, which condition is now more serious than the bowel condition. He has been told by the Repatriation Department, “ Get the prostate condition fixed up, and after that you can come back and we will fix the bowel condition, but the responsibility and expense of the prostate operation are to bp borne by you “. From the end of World War I. until recently, this man was under the care of repatriation doctors. He was subject to examination and attention by them over a long period of years. Had chose doctors discovered the cause of the trouble earlier it could have been rectified years ago, but they did not make the discovery until, as a consequence of advancing years and general failure of health and constitution, other conditions arose. These other conditions are now held not to have been caused by war service, and for that reason the Repatriation Department will accept no responsibility for them. This man has reached an advanced state of inconvenience and suffering because of the original operation, and it seems to me not only unsympathetic, but also entirely unfair and unjust to say to a man who served in World War I., “We will not attend to this condition until you undergo the expense of an operation for the prostate condition”. The department should do both operations to give the man immediate relief.
I compare the viewpoint of the department in that case with its attitude regarding other complaints developed by exservicemen who are receiving repatriation treatment. If an operation is to be performed upon a returned soldier, and it is found that he has infected teeth, that may endanger the success of his operation, the department arranges for the teeth to be extracted free of charge, and that is considered part of the necessary precautions to be taken in connexion with the operation. If a man suffers from diabetes, the diabetic treatment necessary before an operation, or before treatment for a war condition, is given by the Repatriation Department. But in this case, where the ex-serviceman is unable to secure relief or control of the bowel until an operation is performed, the department refuses to perform it until the ex-serviceman undergoes a prostate operation at his own expense. Such a case indicates not only lack of sympathetic consideration by the department or by the tribunals responsible for the decisions, but also a lack of humane and just treatment of people who are entitled to receive such treatment after their war service. I suggest to the Minister for the Army, who is at the table, that a case such as this should be. further considered although it has been turned down by tri bunals and by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) himself, and that a humane, just and sympathetic attitude should be adopted instead of the attitude that this is no responsibility of the Government. The commission should not say to the ex-serviceman, “ Although we have been treating you for years and have only discovered the real trouble in the last few months, we shall not rectify that trouble unless you rectify the other trouble “.
– Does the honorable member suggest that prostate trouble is due to war service?
– No, but I suggest that the bowel condition is due to war service and that it cannot be fixed until the prostate condition is cured. I suggest that the decision of the commission should be reviewed and that the Repatriation Department should perform both operations.
The second matter I want to raise concerns the very niggardly attitude of the Repatriation Department with respect to the subject of teeth. On the 9th August, a new regulation was issued in regard to dental treatment, repairs, remodelling or replacement of dentures. Previously, if teeth were extracted because their condition was due to war service or so as to prevent infection following an operation, the Repatriation Department took the responsibility of providing dentures. When these dentures had to be repaired from time to time, or replaced, the Repatriation Department repaired or replaced them. But, under the new regulation, a differentiation is made in the treatment of ex-servicemen in regard to dentures. If it has been found that the dental condition is due to war service, then the necessary extractions take place, dentures are provided, and repairs are made to them for the rest of the exserviceman’s life. But under this regulation, if the teeth are extracted for the express purpose of preventing infection during the treatment of the patient, dentures will be supplied following the extraction but, from then onwards, the replacement of dentures or their repair is no longer a matter for the Repatriation Department, but an expense to be met by the man himself. I hold the view that such a provision introduces & meanness and pettiness into the treatment of returned soldiers which is not worthy of the Repatriation Department, its tribunals, or the people of Australia. Sympathetic consideration should be the keynote of the administration of this department. “While things such as that go on, the generous sympathetic consideration and treatment which we believe to be the right of every exserviceman are not being given to him.
Finally, I want to make a protest in respect of the way in which section 47 of the Repatriation Act, which concerns the onus of proof, is being administered. From all the complaints that one receives from constituents, and from such cases as that of Johnson which I have mentioned, it is clear that the tribunals are interpreting the subjects of aggravation and onus of proof in a manner thai: is totally unsatisfactory. It is pretty clear that it is impossible to say what is the cause of many diseases. Consequently, when the department adopts the attitude that diseases for which causes cannot be ascribed are not due to war service, it is indicating that it has some knowledge of causes which at the present moment are not recognized. I suggest, as the honorable member for Bradfield and others have suggested, that the time is ripe for a general overhaul of the Repatriation Act so as to rid the act of a lot of these anomalies and to avoid unjust treatment of the exservicemen.
Mr. FRANCIS (Moreton- Minister for the Navy and Minister for the Army) [4.0 1 . - It is very clear from the discussion in connexion with this proposed vote for the Repatriation Department that there is a lot of muddled thinking and uncertainty about various matters. I represent the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) in this chamber, and I shall endeavour to clear up some of the doubts that have been expressed. The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) tried to establish that the entitlement tribunals and the assessment tribunals were under the thumb of the Repatriation Commission. That is not so. The commission has no power to place those bodies under its thumb.
– Let me explain to the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) and to other honorable gentlemen who have more noise than facts. Any person who feels that he has some disability, however great or small, which he believes is attributable to war service follows this course: He fills in the necessary document. He has aid in filling it in. The document is examined by the local repatriation organization in each State. “Who are the members of those organizations? Every one of them is an ex-serviceman. Many of them are in receipt of a pension, and they are full of sympathy for the men who bring their claims to them. If the local committee is not satisfied that it has power to grant a pension, which it would like to do, the application is referred to the Repatriation Commission itself. The personnel of the Repatriation Commission are themselves ex-servicemen. I know them well. Many of them have been seriously wounded, and many of them have spent a lot of time in repatriation hospitals. They are the people who examine applications which are under review. If, with their experience and their desire to help, they are unable to establish that the disability is due to war service, the’ exserviceman can appeal to the tribunals. He appeals, in the first instance, to a tribunal the chairman of which is a legal man and an ex-serviceman with overseas service, who has probably been wounded. That man has had training in assessing the value of evidence and is able to prosecute hi3 inquiries effectively because of his legal training. The ex-servicemen’s association has the right to elect, and does elect, a panel of men from whom is chosen a man to represent it on the committee. There is also a third member. That organization gives ex-servicemen the best help that they could get.
– They only get it on paper.
– If it were not for the fact that this debate is subject to the guillotine, I would speak at length on this matter. However, if the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. “Ward) examined the number of pensions that were granted while the Labour Government was in office and ascertained the number of people who have been successful with their applications since this Government came to office, the result would stagger him. Two Ministers for Repatriation in the Labour Government were defeated in general elections.
– What has that to do with it?
– The honorable mem!>er does not like that, but he is arguing that this is unfair to ex-servicemen. I inform him that ex-servicemen have the profoundest confidence in the way in which the Repatriation Act is being administered by the Repatriation Commission, by the tribunals, and by the Minister for Repatriation. We have a Cabinet sub-committee the members of which are ex-servicemen, and they discuss (he problems of ex-servicemen and the resolutions that are carried at the federal congresses of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and other ex-servicemen’s oraganizations. We discuss these matters with representatives of those organizations in Canberra.
The honorable member for Shortland knows nothing about the repatriation procedure; he has never known anything about it. On every occasion that he criticizes the procedure, he flogs a dead horse, as I shall show shortly. The procedure laid down provides for the greatest possible degree of assistance to be given to every ex-serviceman and dependants who submit a claim to the department. In addition, every ex-serviceman in respect of whom a decision has been made by a repatriation board or tribunal has a right to produce any fresh, relevant evidence to the appropriate tribunal.
There was nothing abnormal about the case that was quoted by the honorable member for Bradfield. The procedure adopted in that case was a regular procedure. Decisions in relation to the granting of a pension, or the variation of a pension are made by the impropriate tribunal in the light of fresh, relevant evidence produced. I began by raying that the honorable member had an erroneous idea. In his temporary absence from the chamber, and with due deference to him, all T want to say is that his assertion that the tribunals are kept under the thumb of the Repatriation
Department is not in accordance with fact. They are not under the thumb of either the Repatriation Department or theRepatriation Commission; they function, entirely independently. In accordancewith the administration of the Repatriation Department, they are completely independent bodies.
– That is only the Minister’sopinion
– T am stating the provision of the law - not only my view. Although some people are obsessed with the idea that these matters should bewrapped up in legal technicalities and procedure, and that lawyers should be permitted to appear for both sides, returned servicemen’s organisations havetime and time again expressed the wish that there should be an absence of legal formality in proceedings before repatriation assessment and appeals tribunals. They have stated that they do not want the law of evidence applied to determine relevancy. The policy that has been applied has ensured that, without applying the law of evidence, repatriation matters have been decided as quickly as possible with justice to the ex-servicemen concerned. That policy has been endorsed by ex-servicemen’s organizations in all parts of Australia. No loud-voiced interjection by the honorable member for Shortland can alter the fact that exservicemen’s organizations have carried resolutions approving of what has been done, and there is no request-
Mr. Ward interjecting.
– There is no request before the Government - certainly none from the honorable member for East Sydney; even if he had made a request, nobody would have taken any notice of it.
I shall now reply briefly to some of the observations that were made last evening by the honorable member for Shortland. He directed attention to the case of a war widow whose child could not receive pavment of war pension after having attained the age of sixteen years. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) interjected appropriately at the time, and I also endeavoured to help the honorable member in that way, because he wasflogging a dead horse. The repatriation bill which will shortly come before this chamber seeks to amend section. 39 (4.) of the Repatriation Act. Therefore, all of the horrible things that the honorable member has said in connexion with the matter were unjustified. The Government has acceded readily to all reasonable requests.
– On whose suggestion is the section being amended?
– It is being amended at the request of ex-servicemen’s associations.
– That is not so.
– Order ! The honorable member for Shortland is too vocal.
– The honorable member for Shortland referred to the case of an ex-serviceman, W. Richards, and he recited at length the disabilities from which this man is suffering. The matter has been carefully investigated by the Repatriation Department. Mr. Richards has been advised to appeal to the War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunal, and the appeal has been listed for hearing on the 18th October. As the matter has been already set down for hearing by the tribunal, it was quite futile for the honorable member again to flog a dead horse in this chamber. The honorable member seems to devote a considerable amount of his time to floundering around the country trying to discover matters on which to attack the Repatriation Department, which is doing such splendid work. Although I do not now administer that department, I did so for a number of years, and, as a result of my own experience, I am satisfied that lit is doing excellent work. In regard to thefirst case, although the honorable member knows that the law is being amended, he tries to create the impression that a terrible thing is being done. In the second case, he screams to high heaven about injustice, when the facts are that the ex-serviceman concerned is receiving all possible help. The only way in which his problem can be settled is by the matter being determined by the War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunal. I emphasize that the honorable member was aware of the fact that the relevant section of the act is being amended by a bill which is now before another place when he directed his remarks to the first case last night. He also knew that the second matter was listed for hearing by the War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunal, and once a matter is in the hands of that tribunal, no further action can be taken pending the tribunal’s determination, because it is an independent organization composed of ex-servicemen, one of whom has been nominated by the ex-servicemen’s associations in order to look after the interests of ex-servicemen. As I have already said, Mr. Richards has been notified that his appeal will be heard on the 18th October. On no other occasion have I heard repatriation matters presented in this chamber in a worse manner than were the cases presented by the honorable member for Shortland last evening.
.- I find it difficult to follow the reasoning of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis), particularly in relation to the onusofproof clause, which was dealt with only a short while ago by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey).
– Surely the honorable member does not object to my reasoning.
– A few nights ago, I carried out some research in connexion with this matter and studied a speech that was made by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) when his party was sitting in opposition, in which he referred to cases somewhat similar to those which were outlined by the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) last evening. The honorable gentleman dealt with no less than half a dozen of such cases, in which decisions unfavorable to the ex-servicemen concerned were made.
– And a change was made!
– I assure the committee that this Government has done nothing since it assumed office in 1949 to alter the onus-of-proof clause. However, I shall not pursue this line any further at the moment, because honorable members will be afforded an opportunity to discuss the matter fully next week when the appropriate measure is before them.
In the few moments at my disposal, I wish to refer to the Hobart Repatriation Hospital. This subject has engaged my attention for some considerable time past. Indeed, it has engaged the attention also of quite a number of other people in Tasmania, particularly the representatives of ex-servicemen. It has been pointed out time and time again, that as far as extensions to the hospital are concerned, the needs of Tasmania have been completely ignored by the Repatriation Department. I remember discussing this matter with the Minister as far back as May, 1954, when I pointed out that plans and specifications for the Hobart Repatriation Hospital had been prepared in 1949, and that when this Government assumed office they were shelved. Repeatedly since that date, representations have been made to the Minister to expedite extensions to the Hobart Repatriation Hospital. At present, the wives of ex-servicemen, and the widows of deceased ex-servicemen, cannot be admitted to that hospital. Of course, a similar state of affairs exists in relation to repatriation hospitals in other States. In looking at the annual report for this year by the Repatriation Department, it is indicated that-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The time allotted for consideration of the proposed votes for Miscellaneous Services, Refunds of Revenue, the Advance to the Treasurer, Bounties and Subsidies and War and Repatriation Services, has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Common wealth Railw ays.
Proposed vote, £3,336,000.
Proposed vote, £79,265,000.
Proposed vote, £5,352,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- I wish to refer to one matter that comes under the Estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department. It relates to trunk line charges for calls that go just over the boundary of the metropolitan area. I do this realizing the very great difficulties with which the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is faced in this connexion. In most cases concerning my electorate, I have found the department both helpful and constructive, but the problem to which I shall refer is genera], although it affects the electorate of Mackellar in particular. I wish to refer to it, both in its general aspects and its effect upon my electorate. Within the metropolitan area, a telephone caller gets direct dialling at a charge of 3d. a call. The annual rental for a telephone isa little higher than the rental for the telephones on the fringe of the metropolitan area, but not significantly so. In the metropolitan network area, the caller gets immediate connexion, no restriction of time, and a lower charge.
The charge for a call rises from 3d. in the metropolitan area directly to 8d. over the fringe of the area, but that is not the full measure of the difference. In place of unlimited time for the normal metropolitan call, the caller over the fringe of the metropolitan area is limited to three minutes and has to pay extra for the extension, so the average cost of the call is probably of the order of1s. 4d. to1s. 5d., a. very steep jump in the charges. In addition, the caller over the fringe gets a less efficient service because he has to suffer the delay of calling the trunk line switch operator and giving his telephone number, and so on. The exchange has the expense of writing out. forms for the short calls. In addition, the caller has to pay for each extension of time. I know that with large telephone networks, such as those of Sydney or Melbourne, it is difficult to know what, to do at the fringe of the area, but the jump in the charges is too steep.
WhileI was overseas recently, I took the opportunity of going to the telephone exchanges in London, where I received most courteous help from the representative in London of our PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I also went to the head-quarters of the Bell Company, in New York, which looks after the tariff rates for both Canada and the United States of America. I found that the systems in operation there do not have the steep step in charges which characterizes and, I think, mars the Australian system.
I realize that the department cannot go on extending the metropolitan network indefinitely. I know that services have to be paid for, but I think the department should be turning its mind towards some method of eliminating this steep and unreasonable step.
I have been told that the department has in mind the installation of multimetering equipment such as that which is found in the City of Greater London, so that there will be direct dialling with a. unit fee call, and so many units will be charged in accordance with the distance covered. There is much to be said for that system, but if the department installs such equipment, I strongly urge it not to include the time component, so that those who put their calls through the multimetering equipment will pay an extra charge for the extra length of the call in distance, but will not have to pay for the extra length of the call in time. Under that system, the caller would get the same direct connexion facilities as are given on the ordinary metropolitan network.
I wish to stress this matter in relation to a local problem in the electorate of Mackellar. I hope that the committee will forgive me if I bring before it something that I do not often refer to honorable members; that is, a local problem in connexion with my electorate. The exchanges of Avalon and Palm Beach lie just outside the fringe of the metropolis, but nearly all telephone communications from those exchanges go back to the metropolis because they are really part of it, and most of the calls are inward to Sydney rather than local calls. Even calls so far north as Dee Why and Collaroy have to go back to the Sydney exchange and out to Collaroy, holding valuable trunk circuits while doing so. The callers suffer delays and pay the full extra charge. That is not fair, because Avalon and Palm Beach are different from other places in that they are almost entirely surrounded by water. There is no similar situation in Australia, and that sort of anomaly certainly would not be permitted overseas.
I made inquiries in this connexion both in London and New York, and the principle is quite clearly established there that in place of an arbitrary radius, they fix the boundaries of their networks in accordance with the requirements of the population and the use of the telephones by the populations concerned. The same is true in Europe as I found, not from personal experience, but from inquiries 1 made in London. The Australian anomaly is almost unique. Although they have a radius system in England, it has been devised so that no anomaly arises such as that which exists at Avalon or Palm Beach. Even in Greater London, where there is a radius system such as we have in Australia, there is no anomaly such as that which exists in the electorate of Mackellar.
Further, the whole system as it applies to Sydney is anomalous, because something over half the total area covered by the Sydney exchange - a 15 miles radius - consists of water, and includes Broken Bay, Botany Bay, Sydney Harbour and part of the Pacific Ocean. Therefore, although the 15 miles radius seems a generous allocation, Sydney fares far worse than Melbourne, where only a small corner of Port Phillip Bay is concerned, and most of the area covered by the exchange is land. Sydney, as a whole, has been rather unfairly treated, and that applies to corners of the electorate that T represent. I ask the Minister to deal with this problem., first, as it affects all networks throughout Australia, and that, in particular, he will look at the anomaly to which I have referred in the Avalon and “ Palm Beach districts, and see if something can be done to meet the situation. I think that the subscribers in that district are in a worse position than are telephone subscribers in any other part of Australia. The Avalon-Palm Beach Peninsula is an area bounded on three sides by water, so that most calls go southward, and most of them are trunk calls.
I suggest that the Minister should give consideration to the proposals that I shall now make. First, I suggest that these places be included in the metropolitan network because of the anomaly that I have mentioned. Such treatment would not establish a precedent, because, so far as I know, there is no similar locality to be affected by his decision. If that proposal does not commend itself to the Minister, would he consider including these places in the metropolitan network, with a slightly increased rental? No subscriber objects to paying a fair amount for the use of a telephone, but subscribers do object to paying unfair amounts. The Minister might consider a small increase of the rental, or giving the subscriber an option along the lines of the system in operation in the United States of America. In that country, in similar circumstances subscribers have the option of maintaining the lower rental and being connected to the local exchange, or paying the higher rental for connexion to the metropolitan network. In that way justice could be done.
In the overall operations of the department, something along those lines would be a small thing, but for the people living at the northern end of my electorate, it is a matter of considerable importance, ff the Minister thinks that what I have suggested is too much to give, would he consider giving to the northern suburbs such as Manly, Dee Why and Collaroy, access to Avalon and Palm Beach without trunk charges being levied? That would be a minimum reasonable concession. I have looked into the technical side of this matter and I point out that no technical difficulty is involved in these suggestions. The inclusion of these places in the metropolitan network would result in an increased number of calls, and, consequently, increased revenue for the department. I emphasize the delays that occur on junction lines because of the twoway traffic to B 071 in Sydney, and back to Dee Why and Collaroy. It means the use of double lines, because each call has first to go to the central exchange in Sydney, and then back to the point of origin. Such a system is wasteful. If matters were arranged more reasonably, and junction line access were provided direct from Avalon and Palm. Beach through the northern suburbs of Sydney there would be an economy in the use of junction lines. In making these suggestions to the Minister, I do not wish it to be thought that I am unappreciative of what has been done in my electorate. I believe that telephone problems in my electorate have been reasonably met, but I do not think that this particular problem has been reasonably met. I repeat that, in my opinion, persons in the northern end of my electorate who are connected with the Avalon and Palm Beach exchanges are suffering a substantial injustice. The increase in the charge from 3d. a call to subscribers in the metropolitan network to an average of ls. 4d. to subscribers on the fringe of that network is too steep and is unfair to the latter subscribers. This Government believes in getting people away from the more congested centres, and that policy should be encouraged.
I do not want to put this proposal forward purely as a parochial matter. Something should be done on a nation-wide scale to remove anomalies and to inducethe steep rise in the call rate to people living on the outskirts of the metropolitan, network. If that is too much to ask at present, I ask that something be done on the limited scale about the very bad! anomalies that exist. So far as I am aware, Avalon and Palm Beach are byfar the worst cases in Australia; I do not think that there is any other district sobadly treated in regard to telephone matters. Even if the Minister cannot do anything on an Australia-wide scale, I ask him. to do something to remove the anomalies in my electorate.
– It would appear that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) will have a lot of parochial matters placed before him before this discussion ends. I could add to them, by reminding the Minister that some would-be telephone subscribers in the electorate of Blaxland, particularly those in the Cumberland-road end of the district, have been waiting for as long as ten years for telephone connexions. However, I believe that there are more important maters to be discussed than those which are parochial.
The Parliament is entitled to some explanation of the Government’s policy in. connexion with top-level officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department. Apparently, it is the Government’s intention to appoint additional deputy directors in. New South Wales. I placed a question on the notice-paper in relation to thismatter, but on examining these Estimates I am still at a loss to know what is happening in connexion with top-level positions in the department. I recall that when this Government came into office in 1949, there was, in addition to men holding high positions in the central office, a Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in each State. In New South Wales the Deputy Director had ten heads of branches and 22 assistant heads of branches under his control. At that time, administration expenses in New South Wales amounted to £38,884 for an administrative staff of 33 officers. I emphasize that that staff met all the requirements of the department during the period of the war. Later, the designation of a number of officers was changed; the deputy directors in the States became directors. In New South Wales one deputy director was appointed. Recently, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) spoke on Australia’s economic outlook, and urged the people to exercise economy in spending. The Government has acquiesced in the appeal by the Public Service Board against the payment of increased salaries to public servants, but, notwithstanding the Prime Minister’s admonition and the Government’s action in that case, these Estimates disclose that the top-level administration of the Postmaster-General’s Department will cost over £100,000 more than it cost last year. That is not a small sum, and I suggest that this is a matter which should be looked at. It may be that New South Wales is growing so quickly that there is justification for increasing the number of assistant directors from one to four. When we compare the treatment of top-level officers by the Government with the treatment meted out to public servants on the lower rungs of the ladder, we must wonder at the logic of the Prime Minister. For instance, the salary of the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in New South Wales was £2,085 in 1949-50. The amount set down for the current financial year is £3,600. [ do not say that the officer concerned is not worth that salary, but I question the position in regard to assistant directors.
The assistant director in New South Wales received a salary of £1,874 last financial year. The three additional assistant directors and the one already holding an appointment will receive salaries amounting to a total of £11,518 in the current financial year. Three addi tional senior officers have been appointed at a time when the Government is asking the people to practise economy. Appointments made in this fashion should be guarded against in every possible way. In Victoria, there was no assistant director provided for in the Estimates for 1954-55, but provision is made in the current Estimates for three assistant directors at a total figure of £8,S50. The position in all the States is similar. Three assistant directors are now considered necessary in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. The total salary to be paid to the three assistant directors in Western Australia is £7,134. I suppose one might say that the wide, open spaces of Western Australia require the attention of assistant directors, but that cannot be said of Tasmania, where three assistant directors have been provided for also.
I cannot understand why these appointments have been made. Every time a new office is established additional staff is required, and I cannot understand why the Government has made these new appointments at a time when it asks every one else to practise economy. The number of top-level administrators - director, assistant directors, and heads and assistant heads of branches - in New South Wales will increase from 3S to 45, with a steep increase of expenditure on salaries from £65,0S5 to £96,474. The total of the salaries paid to officers in this category in all the States, including Tasmania, will increase by more than £108.000. There may be a reason for this increase of expenditure. Admittedly, the salaries of officers already holding appointments have increased, and that would account for a proportion of the increase. However, I suggest that the additional appointments are bad at a time when every one is being asked to practise economy. At this time, the cost of top-level administration should be reduced wherever possible. As I have stated, no one would quibble about the salary of the assistant director already holding an appointment in each State, but the appointment of large numbers of additional top-level administrative staff is another matter. It is not clear what personal staff each of the new assistant directors will have. I suggest to the
Postmaster-General that this increase of administrative costs by more than £108,000 should have been examined very carefully before he approved it in the present condition of our economy.
I wish now to make a few brief references to the Commonwealth railways, which are setting an example to the rest of Australia in efficient rail haulage, lt may be said that the achievements of the Commonwealth railways with dieselelectric power could be equalled in every State. Diesel-electric traction is very much cheaper for a system such as the Commonwealth railways than is traction of any other type. It eliminates the haulage of coal, and requires very little water. I compliment the Commonwealth railways on their profits. Unfortunately, we have not yet found oil in commercial deposits in Australia. Although I know full well that those engaged in the coal industry feel very keenly about dieselelectrification, I do not hesitate to say that Australia as a nation must face the fact that, in heavy haulage, railways will always be superior to road transport. However, in giving effect to a policy of diesel-electrification, a growing nation like Australia cannot afford to neglect its responsibility to give service to the public.
Australian cities are widely scattered. It is of no USe for us to bewail the fact that the £23,000,000 ammunition filling factory is to be established at St. Mary’s. It is to be established there, close to the City of Sydney, whatever we may say. Sydney and Melbourne are the most important cities in Australia, and it is vital that they be linked by an efficient rail transport system similar to that of the Commonwealth railways. The dieselelectric services of the Commonwealth railways are equal to any in the world conducted under similar conditions. Knowing the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner’s approach to Australian problems, I might be excused for stating that it would be a good thing for Australia if we could forget about boundaries and inspire the various State railways services with the feeling that exists in the Commonwealth railways service under the administration of the present commissioner. The day when Australia as a nation could think in terms of State railways has passed. I make that statement in the knowledge that it will perhaps meet with opposition from the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen, to which I belong. The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner has not, by any stretch of the imagination, perfected the system of rail transport, but, by the adoption of diesel-electric traction, he has set the States an example that they must surely follow if they are Australianminded. In the long run, the railways services of the States must turn their attention to the provision of an efficient railways system linking the great cities of Australia. It seems silly to think that we can have an efficient system such as the Commonwealth railways operating services at a profit between a point in South Australia and Kalgoorlie, traversing a vast uninhabited area, and at the same time have the two main capitals of the country linked by a run-down system.
– The Commonwealth railways services from Darwin also are profitable.
-I do not want to discuss the Darwin services, because other factors affect them. I strongly urge, in the interests of Australia, that the time when rail transport must be considered at the national level has arrived. All sorts of national problems are considered at the national level these days. “We hear from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) about meetings of the Australian Agricultural Council which are attended by the State Ministers for Agriculture. But the most vital requirement for progress and the future development of Australia - economic transport - is neglected at the national level so far as it involves rail transport. I am aware that the railways authorities of the various States wish to retain their State rights. I finish on the note that, in the interests of Australia, rail transport should be co-ordinated in an efficient nation-wide system based on simplicity of effort, such a’, the Commonwealth railways, so that the nation may prosper as it, should.
– I wish to address my remarks to the proposed votes for Broadcasting Services and the Postmaster-General’s Department. First, I shall deal with the broadcasting services provided throughout the Commonwealth. With the coverage it has, the Australian Broadcasting Commission is giving very good service, but r,o-day I make a plea on behalf of those people who live in my electorate in the south-western part of Queensland. Since [ have represented that area in this Parliament, the Australian Broadcasting Commission has attempted to give those people better reception facilities by introducing broadcasting through the short wave system, but even that has not been good enough. The residents still have difficulty with reception. They can hear southern stations such as those at Adelaide and Melbourne quite clearly, indeed much better than they can hear their own Queensland stations; but they are Queenslandei’3, and they want to hear about things pertaining to their own industries. They want to be able to listen to what is broadcast over the Queensland radio network, and they are entitled to a better service in that respect. To give them this service, a new broadcasting station should be established in the far south-west
– What about full coverage of racing for the people outback?
– That is an apt interjection, because one of the main sports of the people out there is listening to the radio. Unlike the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin), they cannot go to the races on a gold pass. They listen to their radios; and they are handicapped by bad reception. I ask the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) to give this matter very serious thought. We are now contemplating the introduction of television to provide still another amenity for the people living in the closely settled areas. An immense amount of money will be expended on this project, and in view of those circumstances, the people of my electorate are entitled to some further amenity, even though it be only decent radio reception. I appeal to the Minister to examine the matter thoroughly. The present position is causing a great deal of discontent in the area and better radio reception would help to keep people in the outback.
I come now to the Postal Department itself. I realize that this is one of the biggest business undertakings in the
Commonwealth, and I admit that, generally speaking, the Postal Department is giving very good service, but at the same time I am confident that the mail received by every honorable member is comprised mainly of complaints from electors about the service of the Postmaster-General’s Department.
– Not mine.
– Most of my mail relates to postal matters.
– Mine does not.
– There is a good reason for the complaints, especially in the far west of Queensland, and particularly since the charges for telephone calls were increased a few years ago. Most of the complaints relate to the charges for calls late at night. The residents of these outback areas are not at their business premises or houses throughout the day. Most of them ar* out of doors doing work on their properties. They have not the time to come in to use the telephone during the day. They do most of their business over the telephone at night. In those circumstances, I earnestly suggest that the PostmasterGeneral give serious consideration to reducing charges for telephone calls to half rates after 9 p.m., because that is the only time when these people can do most of their business.
The people of my electorate in the far south-west are now enjoying better mail services because more air services have been introduced, but, the telephone is still of paramount importance to them. Night-time, after 9 o’clock, is the only time they have for doing their business. If a man wishes to make a call during the daylight hours, he often is required to wait for hours after booking the call. He is required to waste hours that he could put to much better and more profitable purpose on his property. Even if it meant increasing the overall telephone charge, I suggest that these people are entitled to the consideration I have mentioned, because they cannot conduct business satisfactorily on the telephone during the day time. I admit that the Postal Department, has installed more trunk lines out there in recent years, but the position has not, been rectified to the extent that we expected it would be. Again I ask that consideration be given to reducing telephone charges to half rates for these people after 9 o’clock at night.
– What rate does the honorable member suggest?
– Half the ordinary rate after 9 p.m. because the only time these people have to do most of their business is when they come in off their properties and farms at night.
The next matter with which I wish to deal relates to road transport for mails in some of the country areas. In the smaller country towns in particular, there has been a great deal of complaint about the late delivery of mails. This is not the fault of the Postmaster-General’s Department. That department has contracts with the railways for the carriage of mails. The Queensland railways are absolutely breaking down. The Railway Department cannot even run the trains to” time. Often, the mail is hours late on arrival at a country town. This throws the business of the residents into confusion. It is not fair to the employees in the post offices, especially the non-official postmasters, who have to live among the people. The employees of both official and non-official post offices in country areas are giving wonderful service, and they are not crying out for time and a half or double time for it. Many of them work on Saturday afternoons because they know the people need the service, and they give that service free, without all the squealing one hears in many city areas when employees are asked to work a few minutes’ overtime.
– They are on starvation rates of pay.
– They are not on starvation rates of pay.
– They are, throughout the country.
– As a matter of fact, many of the employees of nonofficial post offices are on a very good wicket. We appreciate the service they are giving and we put our hands into our own pockets to express our appreciation of their work.
– That is different.
– Order ! The honorable member for Watson has not got the call.
– In many of these areas, the mails could be transported more efficiently by road than by rail, as they are at present. Road transport of mails would give the people out there another amenity which is essentia] to them. I have made repeated representations for mail deliveries by road rather than by rail. Trains often run much too late. For instance, a train that might be due to arrive at midday on Thursday will not reach its destination until either Thursday night or Friday. It might bv carrying important letters, and their late delivery might mean unwarranted inconvenience to business people, who have to despatch prompt replies. People will not stay in these areas if they cannot get better service. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to give serious consideration to this vital problem in the outback.
I should like now to draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that in the whole of the Maranoa electorate - I am being parochial now - there is only one rural automatic telephone exchange. Many cornplaints would be avoided if a few more of these automatic exchanges could be installed throughout the area. I repeal that there is only one in the Maranoa electorate, and I do not think any representative of a country electorate can say he has fewer than one in his area.
I ask the Minister to examine that matter in my electorate; other honorable members can speak for themselves. I do not want the Postmaster-General, or his employees, to think that I believe they are not doing the job as well as they are able, but I do think that there is room for improvement throughout the department. I do not want the persons concerned to regard as a condemnation the suggestion that I am about to make. I think that the time is ripe for a panel of efficiency experts to be brought from the other side of the world, for instance, from the Bell Telephone Corporation, in the United States of America, to go through the department and determine whether some alterations should be mad? to the organization. I could suggest improvements and I think it would be to the advantage of the department to have somebody point out where improvements could be made. Efficiency experts are availed of to a considerable extent in other parts of the world and I think that we could derive some benefit from an examination by them of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
– I was interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe), but if the organization of postal services in Australia were compared with that of other countries the comparison would reveal our organization in a very favorable light, and I do not think that we would have very much to learn from other similar organizations. I was interested in the comment by the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) on the increased expenditure brought about by the introduction of many new administrative positions. The Postal Department is a very big enterprise; in fact, it is the biggest in the Commonwealth. Therefore, the creation of additional positions is understandable. During my experience as an officer of that department, I always found that if a section of the staff was a man, or, on the basis of manhours, half a man, short of its requirements, it had to suffer for a long time before that situation would be corrected. There was never any over-eagerness on the part of the department to increase the number of positions. That applied to shortages of staff amongst the rank and file, but amongst the senior positions the situation was never so difficult. From time to time I read the Gazette in order to keep in touch with my former colleagues in the department, and I am glad to see that their positions in the service are very much better than they used to be. As a matter of fact, I am sure that I am not a little envious of them. I do know that when I worked in the Postal Department I always had a little credit in the savings bank, but nowadays I have to work on an overdraft. I am very pleased that my former colleagues are faring better than they used to, and I hope that they meet with great success in the margins case before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
I wish to refer to the re-organization of the mail branch in Sydney. Recently the president of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union in Sydney, Mr. McLachlan, the vice-president, Mr. Southwell, and the secretary, Mr. Lynch, waited upon me, my colleague Senator Ashley, who is a former PostmasterGeneral; and also the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Lemmon), in regard to the lack of provision at the General Post Office, Sydney, for the proper handling of mail matter, and suitable working conditions for employees. Those officers handed me a book, which outlines the reorganization of the mail branch in Sydney, but I think that the plan which is there set out is concerned mainly with re-organizing the present mail branch rather than with pushing ahead more speedily with the provision of a mail branch which will adequately cope with the volume of mail which must be handled. The first section is headed “ Reorganization of Sydney Mail Branch, 1953” and reads -
This proposal is designed to enable the existing space occupied by the Mail Branch at the G.F.O. Sydney to be rearranged so that it will, in association with the installation of the new type of sorting equipment, provide sufficient accommodation for the efficient treatment of mail traffic during the next ten years, by which time it is anticipated new premises will have been erected and be available for use for mail purposes in Cleveland-street. Redfern .
The historical background relating to the origin and development of the plan is briefly set out as follows. In 1047, the deficiency of working and storage space was such that a proposal was formulated to remove the Ship Section on the second floor to premises away from the G.P.O. so that adequate space provision might be made for expansion in the Suburban and Country divisions. At that time the disposal of traffic was unsatisfactory and heavy “ leave-overs “ were the order of the day. Failure of the Mail Branch to dispose of traffic according to schedule had widespread repercussions and, besides causing public inconvenience, was involving the Department in heavy payment of overtime to postmen in the metropolitan area where the afternoon loading was disproportionate to that of the morning.
I understand that since that report was made the position has become much worse, and that the re-organization of the present General Post Office could not possibly meet the situation, because the necessary space is not there. I directed a question on the matter to the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony). Of course, he admitted that the position was as serious as I stated it to be, and he said that a building, to cost about £3,500,000 to £4,000,000, was planned for erection at Redfern. At the moment, there seems to be no real effort to bring that plan to fruition. The Public Works Committee has not yet examined the position, which therefore is a long way from being remedied, and it is this aspect which concerns the union officers who are responsible for improving the conditions under which their members work. In their deputation to us, they mentioned a number of points, which they summarized as follows : -
The G.P.O. Sydney has been user] mainly as a Mail Branch for many yeaTs although according to departmental heads it was never actually intended for that purpose. Because of the influx of thousands of migrants and thu rapid advancement and extension of many new businesses, the volume of mail articles handled at the Sydney Mail Branch has doubled itself in the last seven to eight years. The staff in that period has had to bc almost doubled to handle this additional mail matter, with the result that working conditions have become most unsatisfactory because of overcrowding, excessive dust and heat and the loss of many amenities such as clothes lockers, wash and shower rooms, &c.
The position has become so serious that the transport trucks and vans which have to take the mail in and out of the basement under the Sydney G.P.O. cannot now handle the volume of mail articles.
In 1952-53 land was purchased by the department at Redfern for the purpose of building a Sydney Mail Branch. Plans were drawn up involving quite some considerable expense. These plans were adopted and the new building was to be completed some time in I960. This is an impossibility now for the simple reason that the building has never been commenced.
Therefore, according to the report of the department, the building could not possibly be completed by 1953. The report continued -
When the budget for J 063 was brought down commencement of the new mail branch building was postponed until 1958 with the proviso that machinery at an estimated cost of £250,000 would he installed to handle the traffic until 191S3 and the machinery to be in operation by Christmas 1955. To date no workable machinery has been installed.
Installation of some new machinery is at the present time proposed at the expense to union members of loss of precious space and amenities. An important room, known as the Label Room, accommodates some 50 mail officers has been removed to allow installation of machinery. The men in the “ new “ Label Hoorn which is 20 feet square, work under suffocating conditions as the room contains no windows, one door, and the only ventilation is by a forced draught, brought about by huge fans which have to be kept going even in winter time. (Words cannot adequately describe working conditions in this room.)
Other sections such as the City Postmen’s Section, Receiving Hoorn and City Box Boom, are in a similar position, due to the fact, that alterations have taken away valuable air space.
There are well over two thousand Mail Officers employed in the Sydney General Post Office and in spite of the union’s efforts in having fluorescent lighting installed plus many fans &c, the conditions .are far from satisfactory; in fact, in summer time conditions are archaic.
The present building has been in use as a Mail Branch for twenty-five years and can no longer cope with the volume of mail of to-day. The building of a new Mail Branch should therefore be commenced immediately.
The money spent on the original plans which ran into some thousands has been completely wasted as all they proved was that the “planners” were incompetent as the volume nF mail estimated to be handled in the new building had it been built to schedule has practically trebled itself instead of doubling itself as estimated, and now not only is 8 new building required but also a new plan.
I direct the attention of the Postmaster General to those plans in order to indicate that they are already obsolete, although they have not yet been put into effect. The officers are very concerned about the lack of amenities, which are so poor that they do not even comply with the provisions of the New South Wales Factories and Shops Act. Indeed, where one man originally worked in a certain space, now two men are required to work in the same space. The union is most concerned about this matter, because it is fully aware of the unsatisfactory conditions under which its members work.
Another matter that I desire to bring to the attention of the committee is the determination of the Government to increase the fees for public telephone calls from 2d. to 3d. I suggest that it is very cumbersome to use three pennies in the department’s telephone slot machines, and the Postmaster-General could very well allow the present charge to remain unaltered as a concession to the many thousands of people who cannot obtain or cannot afford a private telephone. I recently received a reply from the Postmaster-General’s Department to an inquiry that 1 addressed to it about the number of public telephones in Australia, and the estimated cost of their maintenance.
– And I have no doubt that the honorable member noticed that the Government is losing money on public telephones.
– That is so, but I suggest that increasing public telephone calls by Id. will not overcome all our difficulties. Even if public telephones now show losses, the Postmaster-General’s Department is a department that should provide services for the people, and therefore it should allow the present charge to remain as a public service. The losses at present incurred could be offset by increasing the charges in some other branch of the Postal Department. For instance, the present cheap rates charged for the carriage of newspapers could be increased.
– But why should not the people who use the telephones pay for using them?
– Our public telephone system is operated at a small loss of about £10,000 a year. If charges are increased to 3d. a call, that loss will bo transformed into a profit of about £340,000 a year. I suggest that most of the operating cost of the public telephones comes from the maintenance of the delicate slot receptacles. They are very easily damaged, and I believe that the cost of maintenance will greatly increase when people have to use 3d. instead of 2d.
I am well aware of the fact that vandalism costs the Postal Department a tremendous amount of money each year, and I believe that a lad who would raise his hat when he walked past a private bank would throw a brick through a government-owned telephone booth. Many young men seem to have no respect for public property. I am glad to know that the Postal Department shows educational films from time to time to inform the public of the methods of vandals, and how much it costs the Commonwealth to repair the damage done by them. That form of publicity should be encouraged.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) concluded his remarks in this debate by referring to the Commonwealth railways. I agree with him that they are most efficient. As one who has had the pleasure of travelling on them, I express my appreciation to the authorities for their efficiency and for the comfort that they make available to passengers. I also agree with the honorable member for Blaxland that for quite a long time to come rail transport will be the best means of transporting heavy loads over long distances. However, I disagree with his suggestion that the Commonwealth should take over State railways. Because some States show losses on their transport systems, that is no reason why the railways of those States should become a Commonwealth responsibility. All too often these days, when State services are being carried on at a loss, people seem to think that the solution of the problem is for the Commonwealth to take over those services. Recently, the Commonwealth has been asked by some people to take over responsibility for State education. Other people have asked the Commonwealth to accept more responsibility for State hospitals. We have been asked to take over responsibility for the construction and maintenance of roads and public works in the States, and now it is suggested that we should take over State railways.
– I suggested that the Commonwealth should take over the co-ordination of State railways.
– Once the Commonwealth assumes any responsibility at all for State railway systems, it will be asked to take more and more responsibility until finally it has taken all responsibility. If the Commonwealth should take over all the works and services that it has been asked to take over, the States will be left with little or no responsibility at all, and that will mean the end of our federal system. Of course, it is well known that some sections of the Labour party want centralized control of everything in Canberra, and want to see the State governments abolished, but the Liberal party is not prepared to see that done.
I now desire to refer to the Estimates of the Postmaster-General’s Department. I agree with the statements of some honorable members who preceded me that the officers of the department are efficient and understanding. However, I believe that the Postal Department has a difficulty all of its own. When a manufacturer proposes to establish a new industry in a district, or a businessman decides to extend his business into another area, or when a home-builder decides to build his home, he investigates the communications that are available in the particular area with special reference to road, rail, power and water services. He then establishes his business and finally makes application for a telephone only to find that one is not available to him. Then he complains, generally through his local member, that the Postmaster-General is ruining his business because he is unable to get a telephone. The fact remains that in Australia we are short of telephone services. Honorable members realize that the reason for this, to a great extent, has been the tremendous lag that occurred during the war years when services could not be supplied. In addition, the demand has increased due to the increased population of Australia. By and large the department has done very well in supplying the present services.
I should like to make two suggestions in respect to the telephone branch. In New South Wales, applications for a telephone are dealt with in a central office in Sydney and, I presume, the same procedure obtains in other States. Some years ago, as honorable members no doubt recall, local officers had the responsibility of granting these applications. A resident who desired a telephone made his application to the central post office in his district and it was dealt with by the telephone officer for that district. That was a far better system. I am not criticizing any particular officer, but with thousands of applications centralized at Sydney it is obvious that some confusion will occur. This Liberal Government believes in decentralization and I know that the Postmaster-General himself is a great believer in that policy. By carrying out my suggestion he would be able to decentralize some of the responsibility in the Postal Department.
My second suggestion relates to the great success in rural areas of the R.A.X., or rural automatic exchange. Because of this I ask whether it would be possible, in planning the development of telephone services during the next few years, to pay greater attention to the establishment and development of such exchanges in rural areas. I am glad the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) brought an important subject to our notice this afternoon when he referred to those areas on the fringe of the metropolitan network from which telephone subscribers have to originate trunk line calls in order to communicate with city and neighbouring suburban areas. The honorable member pointed out, rightly, that because these subscribers have to use the trunkline service a great deal of extra line is used. The originator calls the trunk centre in Sydney and very often his call goes out to a point close to the area, in which it was originated. The honorable member asked the PostmasterGeneral whether he could consider this matter on a national level and if not, whether he would consider it in a parochial way from the point of view of those areas in Australia which are suffering the greatest difficulty at the present time. Naturally, the honorable member for Mackellar quoted certain areas in his own electorate. He pointed out that people living within the metropolitan area can make a call for the cost of 3d. the duration of which is unlimited, whereas those just outside the metropolitan area have to pay at least 8d., which is the minimum trunk line fee, and there is a limit on the time of the call. The suggestion was made that, perhaps, the extra cost involved could be met by a slight increase in the rental of those who have telephones outside the metropolitan area which are connected with the metropolitan network. I urge very strongly that the suggestion made by the honorable member for Mackellar apply to places in my own electorate such as Mount Colah, Mount Kuring-gai, Berowra and Cowan. Those are four examples which come under the suggestion made by the honorable member for Mackellar, which I support.
– What about Gosford?
– The Postmaster-General, who has just interjected, recently informed me that in the near future Gosford would have an automatic exchange. Since he has been good enough to mention the town of Gosford, I hope he will not mind if I bring to his notice an application by the Shire of Gosford for a licence for a radio broadcasting station. He will remember that for a number of years applications have been made by several interested bodies to establish a broadcasting station in the central coast area. To-day, I received a further letter from the Shire of Gosford, which is one of the applicants. It reads -
I refer to my letter of 18th March and your reply dated 21st March regarding application by Council for the granting of a licence to operate a broadcasting station, transmitter, studios and offices at Gosford. lt has now been brought under the notice of the Council that a broadcasting licence has been granted for Moree, and it will be appreciated if you will again raise the matter of a licence for this area with the Honorable the Postmaster-General.
The reason why this request is made to the Postmaster-General is that in this developing area of the central coast, which embraces two shires, there are now approximately S0,000 residents. No one broadcasting station makes a programme available for the area, with two minor exceptions. The first is that a commercial broadcasting station devotes one hour of its programme a week to this area; and the second is that at 6.30 a.m. daily the area shares in the regional news which is broadcast from 2FC. Apart from those small services this area has no broadcasting service of its own. I remind the Minister that the population of the area is increasing and that during six months of the year there is an influx of visitors to the district. Businessmen and those who live in the rural districts feel it would be of great advantage to the district if it could have its own broadcasting station devoted to its interests. It is known that one of the greatest difficulties preventing the granting of a licence is the lack of channels available for new stations. For that reason I ask whether it would be possible for the Postmaster-General or the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to grant a licence on the condition, first, that the wave-length was similar only to that of another station in a distant part of Australia and, secondly, that the power was restricted so that signals would not interfere with those of existing stations. I again submit that request to the PostmasterGeneral in the hope that it will be possible for him to send departmental officers to the area to investigate the position. The reception from Newcastle and Sydney stations is not good during the daytime, and the broadcasts of only a certain number of metropolitan and Newcastle stations are received with clarity at night-time. The signals of a broadcasting station at Gosford would not interfere with those of any television station that may be established. I think the Postmaster-General appreciates the need of this area. I know he is sympathetic towards such applications, and I hope that it will now be possible for him to take further interest in this matter.
– I propose to direct my remarks to the activities of the Postmaster-General’s Department. I refer, first, to the chaotic condition of Australia’s telephone system. I am not worrying particularly at the moment about trunk lines, but about the provision of telephone services. The position has been deteriorating gradually over the years. I have asked the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) for information at various times, but I have discovered that, although he has been able to inform me that telephones are now being installed at a greater rate than in the past, the rate of applications exceeds the rate of installations. I was astonished two or three weeks ago when the PostmasterGeneral, in reply to a question, informed honorable members that 70,000 new services were being installed each year but that 130,000 applications were being received annually. That means that only slightly more than 50 per cent, of the applicants are obtaining telephone services. Those figures indicate not only that the department is gradually slipping backwards in the installation of services, but also that it has apparently reached the conclusion that it cannot do anything about the matter and has decided to let the position drift.
Some considerable time ago, I directed attention to the necessity to increase largely the number of technicians and linemen in training. They are the people who actually install the telephone services. On that occasion, I was told about some of the difficulties that are experienced in obtaining youths who are willing to become, in effect, apprentices to those two skilled trades; but I have not heard since of any real effort having been made to overcome those difficulties, or of any real increase in the number of technicians and linemen in training. The position is now more chaotic than it has ever been in the history of Australia. When I first obtained a telephone service, it was installed within three days of submitting the application.
– Was the honorable gentleman a member of the Parliament then?
– I was then employed in the Engineering Branch of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, but no influence was used. The engineer asked me if I wanted it in a hurry, and added, “If you want it in a hurry, you may have it to-morrow “. I replied, “ No, I am not in a hurry “. The result was that the installation was effected within three days. Some people who have been in a hurry to obtain a service, have submitted an application at 1.1 a.m., and had a telephone by 3 p.m. on the same day. Now, an application is pigeon-holed for about five years. The local member of Parliament is brought into the picture and, after he has written a letter or two, the application is found and is given some consideration. After a lapse of months or perhaps years, the applicant is informed that he will receive a service and is asked to forward six months’ rent at his earliest convenience. His earliest convenience, of course, is immediately, because he thinks that he will obtain the service forthwith, but, if he obtains it within four months of paying his six months’ rental, he is rather lucky.
Something must be done about the matter. So far as I can see, the PostmasterGeneral is taking no interest whatever in having the position rectified. On the contrary, he has agreed to proposals the implementation of which will mean that his staff of technicians and linemen will be drained off to work on the provision of a luxury service. The offer of higher pay by manufacturers of television receiving sets will attract technicians from the department. The Government has issued licences to four commercial companies to build television stations, and it has decided to build two such stations itself. It is generally believed that the capital cost of each of those stations will be in the region of £1,000,000, which means that a capital expenditure of £6,000,000 will be required for the provision of television stations. Although I have not been able to ascertain the exact amount, a considerable portion of that sum of £6.000,000 will represent expenditure of dollars on the importation of capital equipment from America at a time when Australia is supposed to be short of dollars and when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has announced that the Government proposes to impose import restrictions. Thus, whilst it is proposed that essential imports shall be restricted because of what the Government describes as our present economic crisis, provision is being made for dollar expenditure to import equipment for what is purely and simply a luxury service.
The position would not be quite so serious if the sum of £6,000,000 represented the total capital expenditure on the introduction of television to Australia. Complementary with the establishment of television stations is the provision of television receiving sets. In fact, local manufacturers are now setting out to build such sets. Purchase of the necessary equipment for those sets will require a capital expenditure of millions of pounds. A considerable part of that money will be expended in America, England, and possibly Europe, with the result that our adverse trade balance will be further upset. If television proves to be the success that we have been led by commercial interests to believe it will be, we may expect that within two years of its introduction approximately 1,000,000 receiving sets will be sold throughout Australia. When television was first mooted in this country, we were told that the cost of a receiving set would be approximately £120. Later we were told that it would be approximately £150, and then it was suggested that the cheapest set would cost £175, with others as high as £300, £400 and £500. If we accept the figure of £200 as being a reasonable estimate of the cost of a receiving set, it follows that 1,000,000 sets will cost the people of Australia £200,000,000. The vast ma jority of those sets will be purchased under the hire-purchase system of finance. It can be expected that the hire-purchase companies will be called upon to provide at least £150,000,000 over the first two years to finance the purchase of television receiving sets. But the Prime Minister, in his statement to the nation last week, told us that it was necessary to reduce the volume of money used for hirepurchase transactions.
The right honorable gentleman has told us the causes of our present economic difficulties. He has told us that it is necessary to reduce capital expenditure. He has already taken action to restrict imports from both sterling and dollar areas. He has consulted with the banks about methods to tighten up credit. He has consulted with the hire-purchase companies with the object of getting them to reduce their lendings and increase the deposits required. But, while he is appealing to the nation to do all of those things in order to save the economy of Australia, the Postmaster-General, with the consent of the Government - he is only one of the people who must bear the blame - is issuing licences for television stations, and the Government is making available dollars for the importation of capital equipment for television from dollar areas and is permitting the importation of similar equipment from sterling areas. The Government is appealing to the general public, to industrialists and to financial institutions to soft pedal, to reduce their expenditure in. various directions, but at the same time it is making provision for all kinds of capital expenditure on what is purely a
Luxury industry, the establishment of which will involve an expansion of hirepurchase operations.
I have nothing against television. But we have clone without it so far, and we can continue to do without it if we are in a serious economic situation. If there could be a change overnight from a system of radio to a system of television which involved no expenditure on receiving sets and other equipment, everything would be all right. But radio stations will continue to operate, side by side with television stations. We are told that the television stations will provide a. 2S-hour or a 30-hour service each week. Radio stations provide a 24-hour service every day. Radio can be listened to without being looked at, but television has to be looked at as well as listened to. So we shall have the two systems operating side by side.
The Government stands condemned for permitting the expenditure of huge sums of public and private money on the introduction of a purely luxury industry which we can do without, whilst at the same time it is restricting imports of necessary commodities and is asking the industries which are producing the necessaries of life to cut down their capital expenditure. I believe that one policy is a direct contradiction of the other. As the Government is asking the people of Australia to reduce capital expenditure and also to reduce purchases on time payment of various appliances, it should set an example. This is one of the fields in which it could do so. I believe that the cry for television comes mainly from commercial interests, which can see big profits in it.
– Arthur Warner!
– The only reason why Arthur Warner and many others are advocating the introduction of television is that they can see a profit in it. They are not advocating it because it may be good for the people of Australia. It is simply a question of profit. If this Government were to adopt the policy of the previous Labour Government and decide that television should be a government monopoly and that no commercial interest should be permitted to exploit it as an advertising medium, the cry for television to-day would not be nearly so loud as it is, but as soon as we let commercial interests into it, they see a chance to make a profit.
Advertising television will be a source of expenditure and loss to our economy. Television programmes are much more expensive than radio programmes. In many instances, they are five, and even ten times more expensive. In the case of commercial stations, advertisers will pay the bill. Those advertisers will not pay the bill out of the goodness of their hearts. ‘They will pay for advertising only with the intention of making additional profits, and a number of them will make additional profits. I have heard it said time and time again that advertising increases business, and that, with an increase of turnover, overhead expenses and prices can be reduced, but I have never yet seen that work out in practice. An example of what I have in mind is radio advertising. All the big oil companies of Australia advertise regularly and extensively over the various radio stations, but all that advertising of the various brands of petrol - to-day they say “ Change to ICA “ and to-morrow they say “ Change from ICA “ - has not increased the sale of petrol in Australia.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I should like to say a few words this afternoon on the Estimates for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. To begin with, may I add a few words in support of the proposition put forward earlier in this debate by my friend the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) ? He asked for a reduction in the gap between metropolitan and near-country or extra-metropolitan telephone charges. I think the honorable member for Mackellar has drawn the attention of the committee to an anomaly. It is one of which every rural member must be acutely aware, especially if he has an electorate such as mine, which runs fairly close to a metropolitan area. I hope the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) will bear those considerations in mind and see whether a more equitable arrangement can be made.
I should like also to express my appreciation of the Postmaster-General’s Department, as I know it, in South Australia. I suppose that, over the course of a year’s duties, all honorable members of the committee have, in a sense, more to do with that department than with practically any other government department.
– I have more unfinished files on that than on anything else.
– The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) may have something there, but I think he will agree that, however capable and enthusiastic the officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department may be, they are labouring under very real difficulties, certainly with shortages of labour, one might say, and inadequacy of funds superimposed by the economic circumstances of the time, and also, as we all know, by considerable shortages of equipment. I should like to express my appreciation of the officers of the department in South Australia, particularly the Director of Posts and Telegraphs, Mr. Fountain. He is a most able, enthusiastic and vigorous gentleman, who, I am sure, working in private enterprise, would be in receipt of remuneration far greater than is accorded to a departmental head, even under the salary increases granted a few months ago by this Parliament.
The main matter that I have risen to speak about this afternoon is line construction. I ask the Minister whether he will consider a general reorientation of the attitude of himself and his officers to this question. It must be apparent to all honorable member as they travel about Australia that the suburbs of our capital cities, all of our provincial towns, large and small, and all of our villages are defaced in their appearance by the increasing number of overhead telephone lines. There is a continual conflict, I think honorable members will agree, between those who are trying to improve the appearance and amenities of our cities, towns and villages on the one hand, and those who are endeavouring to improve, as quickly as possible, the mechanics of modern civilization. It is, in truth, a war between utility and beauty.
In my own experience in South Australia this practice of erecting overhead wires as a matter of course results at times in the ruthless hacking down of existing trees, the prevention of the growth of young trees which have been carefully and assiduously planted, and the prevention of any of these trees attaining a real degree of maturity and assuming the shapes that are characteristic of them.
I shall give the Minister and the committee two examples of this which have come very forcibly to my notice. The first occurred last year in a town which T have the honour to represent - Tanunda - which may well be called the pride of the Barossa Valley, in South Australia. By Australian standards Tanunda is a relatively old town. It was settled approximately 110 years ago by Germans. Everybody must be aware of the industry and the excellent qualities of German immigrants, especially in the nineteenth century. These people display a very great civic pride. Tanunda, without any exaggeration of language, is one of the show country towns of South Australia. Imagine the horror of these good people when, about a year ago, the officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department descended upon the town, like a swarm of locusts in the result, and, without seeking adequate co-operation from, or even consultation with, the local council, so severely. mauled - it would be quite untrue to use the word “ pruned “ - many of the trees in various avenues of this delectable place that much of the appearance of the town was marred, and will remain marred for a number of years. I think the Minister and the committee will agree that that is just the kind of thing which no enlightened government should allow to occur.
The second example is an urban one. Those honorable members who happen to know the completely unattractive approach to Adelaide from Port Adelaide, may recall the avenue of poles of all descriptions - telephone poles, electricity poles, and others - which line this approach to such an extent that the Portroad is called by most people in that part the “ Polish corridor “. I think that the Minister will concede that this kind of thing is most undesirable.
So I suggest to the committee that it is about time that we started to adopt an adult attitude to this whole question. If we compare our practice in this country with that followed in the United Kingdom and in practically every nation of western Europe - certainly in every country in western Europe with which I am familiar - and in many parts of the United States, and even here in our own national capital, we will find that, as a matter of course, in those places telephone lines are put underground in cables so that there is no interference with the development of the parks, gardens and avenue3 of trees that have become accepted on a universal scale as the concomitants of civilized living. What we are doing now, is, of course, perfectly understandable for a country in its pioneering stage. But I think the committee will agree that, in the high rainfall areas and closely settled areas, we have certainly long ago advanced beyond that stage. So I say to the Minister that it is time we had second thoughts on this subject. Of course, there is an obvious objection to my plan, on the ground of expense. My reply to that would be that if we are to bring ourselves in line with the rest of the world this is a burden which must be accepted. Again, so far as many hundreds of villages throughout Australia are concerned, if we encourage tree planting and put cables underground, the work necessary would be, I imagine, on a relatively small scale because, in the main street of the average village in this country, it would be necessary to sink wires for only half a mile or three quarters of a mile, and the job would be done. I think the Minister will see some advantage in the proposal. Also, of course, there is the argument of economic durability of wires in cables as compared with that of overhead wires. We are all well aware of the pathetic spectacle, from time to time, of broken telephone wires as a result of gales. We had them in South Australia, and I believe in Victoria also, only last Saturday. This eventuality, too, could be obviated by laying the lines underground. As it is, the present practices are severely discouraging tree planting by local authorities and also individuals, especially in the country, and also the development of public gardens. They are also depriving Australians of a very real need for shady trees in our hot summer climate. Equally bad, they are tending to give a crude, harsh, materialistic air to the urban and rural scene. In short, “what we are doing now with our present methods of line construction is to create ugliness, and impede the cause of beauty. So 1 submit to the Minister that there is a pressing case for reform. I agree, of course, that it can be achieved only gradually. I am not suggesting that the Minister order his officers suddenly to put all the wires in Australia underground within a short, mensurable, period. But I do feci that the Minister could well make a beginning in this regard. If he were to do so [ have no doubt that he would thereby set a very healthy example to other public utilities, such as the various State electricity commissions and other bodies. In an ideal state of political society, there would bt>, amongst other ministries, a Ministry of Aesthetics, which would be consulted and which would advise on all engineering construction and developmental work, especially in the phase we are in in Australia to-day. That may well seem a Platonic dream, and I do not suppose that any member of the committee will live to see it in this century, but I believe that ultimately something of this nature will come. In any event, there is something akin to it in the various countries of western Europe under the appellation of “ Ministry of Fine Arts “. Whether or not honorable members agree with such a suggestion, I think the committee will most certainly agree that the time has come when governments should pay more heed to such things and acknowledge that the easiest, and cheapest way should not be the criterion of construction, and that governments should also accept that, in the last resort, what appeals to the highest senses of the human mind is far more important than any material or business consideration, or those of pure efficiency.
.- The group of Estimates now under consideration deals with the business undertakings of the Commonwealth, and, as it happens, they are all in the field of communications. The Australian Government is the best placed of all governments in Australia to co-ordinate and regulate communications in general. It is, moreover, solely charged with communications in the field of broadcasting and telephones and - insofar as railways are concerned - the Commonwealth Railways. I propose to discuss the operations of the Commonwealth Railways and the telephone operations of the Postmaster-General’s Department. Admittedly, it is not easy to give those operations the consideration which they deserve, because Parliament has not. received the annual reports which the respective acts require should be presented to it. More than 50 acts of the Parliament require that annual reports shall be presented to the Parliament, for the very good reason that honorable members should examine the financial and administrative operations of the undertakings they have established. Many of these acts of Parliament require that several separate reports be made. Although the budget debate is now concluded, and the discussion on the Estimates will end in 24 hours’ time, only twelve reports have so far been presented. In the circumstances, it has been and still is practically impossible for honorable members to devote proper attention to the operations of the various bodies that are required to furnish reports. The law, in fact, is largely being stultified.
Section 41 of the Commonwealth Railways Act requires that the commissioner shall, as soon as possible after the close of each financial year, submit to the Minister an annual report, and the Minister shall present the report to Parliament within fourteen days of receiving it. So far, Parliament has not received the annual report of the commissioner for 1954-55, and consequently my remarks will have to be based on the reports for preceding years. The last of these to be presented to Parliament is dated the 1st September, 1954, and it was tabled on the 10th November, 1954.
The commissioner, in his report for the year 1951-52, referred to breaks of gauge and the handicap which they impose upon the operation of his system. He said -
As a first stop towards the provision of a uniform railway gauge between Brisbane and Perth, it is strongly urged that consideration be given to the conversion of the existing 3 ft. 6 in. gauge railway Broken Hill to Port Pirie Junction to 4 ft. Si in. gauge.
In the following year, 1952-53, he devoted four pages of his report to the subject of breaks of gauge, and said -
The position created by breaks of railway gauges in Australia has been the subject of many discussions and investigations, and has been mentioned in my reports for previous years, with particular emphasis on the adverse effect that the disabilities arising from breaks of gauge have on the operations, and, consequently, the finances of CommonwealthRailways.
It is recommended that serious, urgent consideration be given to standardizing the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line between Broken Hill and Port Pine, over which heavy tonnages are hauled annually, and which forms an important link, both strategically and commercially, between New South Wales and Western Australia. In addition to minimizing the delays to passengers, freight and mails at Broken Hill, conversion of the line to standard gauge would -
provide a continuous standard gauge railway between Brisbane and Kalgoorlie, a distance of 2,676 miles;
shorten the rail route across the continent by 252 miles;
eliminate two breaks of gauge;
permit of fluidity of rolling-stock on the New South Wales and Commonwealth systems; and
be a permanent asset to Australia.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the sitting was suspended for dinner, I had been quoting from the last available reports of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. He urged the standardization of certain sections of the Australian railways to enable the Commonwealth railways, particularly the Transcontinental railway, to make still greater profits. I had read from his report of 1952-53 to show the advantages which, ho believed, would flow from the standardization of the railway between Port Pirie and Broken Hill. The commissioner coneluded that four-page section of his report on standardization by saying -
It is believed that, if the railroads of Australia were operated as a unit by private enterprise, economic considerations would have long since compelled action in the matter of providing a uniform gauge, at least between Brisbane and Fremantle.
In his report for 1953-54, which is the last available to members of the Parliament, the commissioner returned to the same theme. He said -
Because I regard this subject as a matter of national importance, I again take the liberty of drawing attention to it.
The committee will notice his growing exasperation with the lack of interest the government had shown in his urgent pleas. He continued -
It was shown that, in many cases, goods railed from Sydney to Perth reached their destination much later (by rail) than if they had been carried by sea, often at a cheaper rate.
He referred to the difficulties involved in carrying Holden motor bodies, for instance, from Adelaide to Perth, and he mentioned the unnecessary delays, waste of man-power and money involved in the two changes of gauge.
I quote the example of the Commonwealth railways because they are undoubtedly, and have been for nearly 40 years, exclusively the concern of the Australian Government. The States are not primarily concerned with standardizing gauges. Victoria, quite naturally, does not see why it should standardize the railway line between Melbourne and Albury, because New South Wales would get as much benefit from that action as would Victoria. Queensland does not really see much point in constructing a railway line between, say, Bourke, Hughenden, Dajarra, and the Northern Territory border, because such a line would benefit areas in the Northern Territory, which the Commonwealth administers, and would benefit areas in New South Wales more than it would benefit Queensland. Western Australia, of course, is too poor to standardize the gauge between Kalgoorlie and Perth. But standardization of the line between Port Pirie and Broken Hill is something which the Commonwealth is obliged to carry out by an act which we passed in this Parliament in 1949. The South Australian Parliament passed similar legislation in the same year.
It is nothing novel, of course, for this Government to disregard an act of Parliament. We have become used to breaches of treaties between the Commonwealth and the States in regard to housing and finance. I suppose we should be blase about yet another flouting of the law, in this case of an act introduced by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who was responsible for the dieselization of the transcontinental railway and its subsequent prosperity.
Earlier in this debate, it was said that the Commonwealth should take over the State railways. That seems to me to be an eminently reasonable proposition, because surely the railways are a national means of transport. They carry a quarter of the passengers, as well as a quarter of the freight, of the country. Railways represent a means of transport which can be operated on a national scale by this Government alone. If the Commonwealth were to take over the State railways, at one blow it would abolish all the deficits which are suffered by the State governments. We should remove the imposition of £1,000,000 pay-roll tax paid by the New South Wales railways ami £600,000 pay-roll tax paid by the Victorian railways. We should enable gauges to be unified between the State capitals. We should ensure that the outback was developed and our economy decentralized. Above all, we should save man-power and reduce costs.
The other subject of the Commonwealth’s business undertakings, communications activities, with which I said I would deal, relates to communications administered by the Postmaster-General’3 Department, particularly telephone services. Here again, honorable members are handicapped by the fact that there is no current information available to them, although the Postmaster-General is also obliged, by statute, to make an annual report to the Parliament. As I was saying before dinner, there are more than 50 acts of this Parliament which require more than 60 annual reports to be presented to the Parliament, and although the budget debate has long since ended, and discussion of the Estimates will conclude in 22 hours from now, only twelve of those 60-odd reports so far have been presented to the Parliament. That is, the speeches which we have presented on the budget and the Estimates have been made in the dark. We are, indeed, actors in a farce when we discuss financial and other operations upon which we have not the latest information.
The latest report which the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) has made available concerning his department is that for the year ended the 30th June, 1951, which was presented to the Parliament on the 1st June, 1955. The report shows that, at least as regards telephones, the department carries on a very profitable business. In 1952-53, it made a profit of £2,931,597, and in 1953-54 it made a profit of £3,221,100. The profits, in the latter year, counterbalanced the losses it suffered on postal and telegraphic services. Therefore, there should be little doubt that the provision of telephones is a profitable matter in this country. But the report gives very little comfort to honorable members, and still less to the growing number of members of the public who are awaiting telephones.
The Postmaster-General states that, in the year 1953-54, 93,007 telephones were added, but that applications for new services, at 114,615, were a record. Applications were 26 per cent, more numerous than were those lodged in the previous year, and I understand that the rate of applications has increased since then. The Postmaster-General goes on to say -
In spite of the greatly improved rate of connexion of new services, this abnormal demand resulted in an increase of 5,451 in the number of waiting applicants. At the 30th June, 1954, 05,100 applications were on hand for which facilities were not immediately available; 46,827 were in metropolitan areas and 18,303 in country districts.
It will be noted that the PostmasterGeneral refers to an abnormal demand. I contend that it is not an abnormal demand. On the contrary, it is completely normal and has been so ever since the war ended. So long as we continue to have immigration on the present scale, births at the present rate, and extension of settlement in the countryside and, still more, in the outer suburbs of the big capital cities, this demand will continue to be not abnormal but normal. The Government should reconcile itself to that fact.
The simple truth is that the budget never makes sufficient money available to provide for the current applications, let alone the accumulated back lag. Only a week ago, the Postmaster-General stated that the department was installing about 70,000 telephones a year, and was receiving about 130,000 applications for service. The biggest business in the country - a business which is bigger than the New South Wales railways, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and General Motors-Holden’s Limited - is being grossly undercapitalized. It is a business that makes a considerable profit, and it is high time that the Government, having been in office for almost six years, realized that telephone services require more capital and appreciated the great hardship which is being inflicted on many people by their inability to obtain an essential service.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I want to suggest to the Government that it is time some far-reaching changes were made in the machinery of allocating channels in the radio frequency spectrum, controlling their use and licensing the users. The mounting demand for all manner of radio services is creating tremendous pressure on our radio frequency channels, which should be conserved and enhanced in value by wise use. This places a tremendous responsibility upon governments, but because of the technical nature of the problems involved, it is easy for governments, and for this Parliament, to overlook the significance of the dangerous position into which we are drifting. With these thoughts in mind, I should like to direct the attention of the committee to certain aspects of the introduction of television. I do so, first, to foreshadow the grievous results of blunders which I believe have been made but can still be corrected, and, secondly, to demonstrate that the dangers attaching to television may well extend to all other aspects of the radio problem if we do not employ more imaginative and realistic thinking than we have heretofore.
The 1953 Royal Commission on Television was empowered to inquire into an industry whose every aspect is affected to an extraordinary degree by technical considerations, yet, because of inexcusable neglect, the terms of reference virtually excluded technical evidence. As a result, the report of the commission was greatly deficient in some respects. I hope that the Government will be persuaded that these deficiencies ought to be corrected before the pattern of television operation becomes firmly established. The terms of reference authorized the commission to inquire into the question of the number of national and commercial stations that could be established and operated, having regard to financial and economic con>siderations. The terms invited only the merest- passing reference to technical matters. Unhappily, the record indicates that, as a result, Australian authorities who were competent and willing to give most valuable advice were not heard. Paragraph 91 of the report reads -
Although, as we have already pointed out, the question of technical standards is not a matter embraced specifically by our terms of reference, we felt obliged to examine the implications of the evidence presented to us with respect to the bandwidth of the frequency channels . . .
In other words, the commission found it almost impossible to consider the problems of television without taking technical evidence. Again, in paragraph 101 we read -
We also received evidence on other aspects of the frequency problem, such as the incidence of interference, shadow effects, and aerial design and efficiency, which we do not feel it necessary to review in this report.
From that one may draw the clear inference that matters of vital importance to the beginning of a new industry, and to its future development, were put aside as being of no particular importance. However, the commission was. so impressed by what little technical evidence it did take, that it felt impelled to make the following powerful and penetrating recommendation : -
We strong! v recommend that the department should thoroughly and critically examine the frequency position, in consultation with the other departments and authorities which are concerned. . . .
One wonders how much stronger the commission’s recommendation would have been if it had been in a position to take the fullest technical evidence. Then the commission made the very mistake against which it had warned the Government. On an insufficient examination of the facts, it recommended that Australian television should begin by using only the radio frequency channels between 49 and 2:1.6 megacycles per second, known as the V.H.F. band. In justification of this thoroughly bad decision, it said -
It seems evident that the channels which have been reserved in the V.H.F. band are sufficient to meet requirements for a considerable time. “ A considerable time “ is, of course, very indefinite. It would be at the end of this indefinite period that the trouble would really begin. Now, I should like to turn to the implications of this shortterm, and certainly short-sighted, recommendation. For all practical purposes ten television channels will be available on the very high frequency band. By permissible duplication of channels in different parts of the country it will be possible to operate, without undue interference, perhaps 120 or more stations. The commission, apparently innocent of the problems involved, expressed the hope that a few more channels might be provided by re-arranging the frequency reservations for other services in or near the television band. Its satisfaction with the number of channels was based on the assumption - which I shall prove to be foolish - that it would be sufficient to provide, say, three stations for the capital cities, two for Newcastle and one for each town of more than 5,000 people. As we have already decided to permit both national and commercial stations to operate, the provision of three channels for Sydney, for instance, is completely inadequate. In other words, television development will be frozen from the beginning because we have already licensed Sydney’s full quota of channels. Under present conditions it will be impossible to license adequate competitive services in such large centres as Orange, Canberra, Goulburn, Bathurst, Newcastle, Lithgow and “Wollongong-Port Kembla. The use of the very high frequency band alone will, within ten years, impose impossible limitations on the growth of television services in New South Wales.
I want now to give an illustration of the kind of difficulty into which this sort of thinking can lead us. The history of television in the United States of America provides, in almost every respect, a preview of what will happen in Australia under the present proposals. Television in that country began with the use of twelve channels on the very high frequency band, but by 194’S the industry had outgrown all available channels. The Federal Communications Commission froze all applications for four years so that a complete survey of the country could be made and a table of frequency allocations could be worked out. When it had completed the survey it decided to use the 500 to 855 megacycles per second, or ultra high frequency, band. Then the trouble began. In 1954 the American public owned 30,000,000 television receivers, 90 per cent, of which could receive only stations on the very high frequency band, which had previously been used. This meant that licensees going on to the ultra high frequency band in areas where a very high frequency station already existed found themselves without an audience. Many soon became bankrupt. So bad did the situation become that the United States Government felt obliged to set up a Congressional Committee to look into all aspects of the problem. A measure of the difficulties involved is seen in a recent statement from Washington that -
The first anniversary of the hearings on U.H.F. finds the air full of proposals, plans and talk of investigations aimed at helping U.H.F. in some way.
The point about all this is that these difficulties could have been avoided if the United States Government had used both ultra high frequency and very high frequency in the beginning, and allocated the systems to different areas. The Federal Communications Commission now admits that in precise terms. Australia is heading for exactly the same mistake. It has already made it in broadcasting. We operate only 150 broadcasting stations on the 107 available frequency channels which support 2,700 stations in the United States - a country of comparable size. Having received a second warning from the United States’ experience with television, it would be folly of the worst kind to restrict television to the very high frequency band. This is not the only problem of this type which calls for consideration at the moment. There is the question of power for television stations. We propose to operate all stations on 100 kilowatts of effective radiated power, regardless of frequencies, but the merest technician knows that a station on the high frequency end of the band requires 300 kilowatts to do a job which a station on the more favoured low frequency end can do with only 100 kilowatts. This mistake must be corrected before the stations commence operating, otherwise the consequent later adjustments will be more expensive. Any suggestion that has been made that these deficiencies in the transmitters can be compensated for by inviting the televiewers to install a more efficient, and therefore more expensive, receiving aerial system is not only thoroughly unsound, but technically and economically backward, and we should not tolerate it. Within the very high frequency band there is an allocation of 90 to 108 megacycles, which has been set aside for the introduction of frequency modulation broadcasting. Already, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has advocated that we should commence developing this service. But the royal commission suggested that it would get two more television channels if frequency modulation reservations were used. In other words, the royal commission proposes to solve the television problem partially by destroying the possibilities of frequency modulation, or at least posing the problem of where we are to find the frequency channels for it.
Again, there is, in the television band, another channel used at present by the Department of Civil Aviation for aircraft distance measuring equipment. I say quite plainly that this is a service which should never have been allowed to begin in this band, but once the system is introduced it will be a time-consuming and expensive job to remove it. The fact that it is there is merely one more illustration of the sort of waste which can go on when we have this piecemeal allocation of frequencies. The responsibility for these allocations rests with the Postmaster-General’s Department, guided by a frequency allocation committee, on which are represented organizations which themselves are users of the channels. While they bring a very great responsibility to the task, there is no doubt that their prime responsibility is to the organizations they represent on the committee. The whole system is an invitation to inefficiency and waste.
I hope that the Government, having adopted most of the recommendations of the royal commission, will also accept the recommendation quoted in paragraph 106 of the Commission’s report, which states -
We strongly recommend that the Department should thoroughly and critically examine the frequency position, in consultation with the other departments and authorities which are concerned . . . Electronics is becoming increasingly important, both for civil and defence purposes, and unless there is a critical examination of the allocation of frequencies, as we have recommended, a problem comparable to that arising from the lack of a uniform rail gauge in Australia might present itself.
If the commission’s recommendation has validity as applied to television, it has equal validity as applied to the entire question of the allocation of our radiofrequency channels. It may well be that the time has come foi- the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, as a trading and public service concern, to give up its control in this important field. At least, the Government should give some thought to that suggestion. In any case T believe that the Government should immediately set up a committee of inquiry to deal with the important technical matters not considered by the Royal Commission on Television. The terms of reference of such a committee should be wide enough to allow the most searching inquiry into the whole question of availability and use of radio frequency channels. It should be required to advise the Government whether the time has now arrived when telecommunications should be handed over to an independent authority constituted along the lines of the Federal Communications Commission in America, which administers these matters in the public interest, necessity and convenience. As in America, so in Australia there would, I believe, be very great benefit in hearing public testimony when such matters as applications for, and renewal of licences are before the committee, because, as I point out in conclusion, these radio frequencies are among the most valuable items of public property.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It is not often that I find myself in agreement with the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall), but there are one or two matters to which he has referred about which I entirely agree with him, although probably for a different reason. The honorable member for Paterson, on a motion for the adjournment of this House, one or two nights ago, complained very bitterly that a government committee, of which he is a member, had been misrepresented by a newspaper correspondent. The honorable member argued that this committee was not critical of the Postmaster-General’s Department or of its administration. To-night, however, he has devoted the whole of the time allotted to him in this discussion to completely destructive criticism of the proposals of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in regard to television. It is, in my opinion, a very serious and well-founded complaint that he makes against the Postmaster-General and the Postal Department.
Prom a Labour viewpoint, the great importance of television in the field of propaganda is readily recognized. If one political party in this country can exercise a monopoly over television, that party will have tremendous power in the future. Therefore, we must examine the matter very carefully, and take into account what the honorable member for Paterson has said, because he is a practical man, not in the actual field of television, but in the field of radio broadcasting, which is very closely related to it. The honorable gentleman speaks with some authority, and he says that the effect of the Government’s proposals is to exhaust all the avenues available to it for the allocation of channels for the purpose of television in Australia. The reason why the Government has adopted the outmoded system of using very high frequency channels is obvious. Those channels are very limited in number, and, therefore, if the Government can allot all the available channels before any succeeding government has the opportunity of doing anything about it, it believes it can tie up television in the interests of the antiLabour parties. That, in my opinion, is exactly what the Government intends to do.
We have heard members of the Australian Country party and of “the group “ talking about the necessity of putting television aside for the time being. I think there is some argument in favour of such a proposal. On a previous occasion the Government did put it aside, and for the very same reasons which are valid to-day. I refer the Minister to page 12 of the royal commission’s report, which states -
On the 12th March, 1952, the Government decided that the introduction of television into the Commonwealth should he held in abeyance for the time being. In announcing this decision, the Postmaster-General-
And that was the same gentleman who is Postmaster-General at the moment - said that the Government had felt obliged to review its policy in many matters, including television, because of the very drastic change which had taken place in the Australian economy as a result, primarily, of alterations in the balance of overseas payments.
If that was a legitimate reason in 1952 for delaying the introduction of television into Australia, it is just as strong a reason, or even stronger, to-day. But the Government does not now propose to delay it; it wants to hurry on with it. Let me say this to the Postmaster-General : I have read very carefully the report of the Royal Commission on Television, and the report contains a number of very important observations in regard to this matter. I have also noted that the licences that have been issued have been granted to people who frankly admitted, when cross-examined before the royal commission, that they were tied up with anti-Labour politics in this country. They admitted it. Those people included the Henderson group with Associated Press, linked with radio station 2GB and the Macquarie network; and the Packer group with Consolidated Press, station 2SM, and several other radio stations. These people have the newspapers and radio tied up, and now the Government wants to hand over the control of television to them. It wants a monopoly in the field of television.
I ask the Postmaster-General whether the men who can be regarded as expert in this field of activity have not said quite plainly to the royal commission and to the Government that, in their opinion, there should be public ownership of television transmission. Do they not believe that these various companies which develop programmes and films for television purposes ought to be solely engaged in that activity, and that the allotment of their time over the system ought to be controlled by public authorities? No doubt the Postmaster-General will reply to my statements by telling us what happened at the time of a general election. He will say that every political party gets its opportunity of broadcasting over the national stations and over commercial broadcasting stations. But the PostmasterGeneral cannot produce any authority to show that there is any obligation on the commercial broadcasting stations to give time to any political party during an election campaign. The arrangement merely exists in the form of what is termed a “gentleman’s agreement “ - an agreement which the radio stations conveniently break when it suits them. They are not impartially allocating time for political addresses.
In Melbourne, the Melbourne Herald group has a radio station. The AgeArgus group, which is linked with Hoyts theatres, has a station as well. What remains for the people who come on the scene later? The report of the royal commission mentions the possibility of political parties getting licences for television transmission in the future. But what channel will be available to them? They will be forced out into the field of the ultra-high frequency channel, as the honorable member for Paterson has said. Experience in the United States of America has shown that if high-frequency transmission is first brought into use, ultra-high frequency transmission must obviously fail. Many people who have undertaken ultra-high frequency transmission in America have finished up in the bankruptcy court.
Let me put a simple proposition. It is said that the sets that will be made for the reception of television transmission on the very high frequency channels can be converted so as to receive transmissions from stations operating on the ultra-high frequency channels. But it has been estimated that television sets will be very expensive and that, in many cases, they will be far beyond the reach of the Australian worker. The owner of a television set would be obliged to pay an additional £20 - estimated on present-day costs - in order to convert his set to receive ultrahigh frequency transmission. Is it not quite obvious that, if an Australian worker has a set with which he is receiving programmes on the very high frequency channels which he regards as quite satisfactory from an entertainment viewpoint, he will not pay an additional £20 in order to have his set converted, merely because it would enable him to view the programmes transmitted over the ultra-high frequency channels? Therefore, I say that it is quite obvious that the Government’s plan is to give a monopoly in this most important field.
What is the Government doing with respect to country districts? The PostmasterGeneral will know that it was admitted by practically every witness who gave evidence on this subject before the royal commission that it will be years and years before many country people will get the benefits of television. What are they to be expected to do? Are they to be expected to finance this costly system of television transmission so that it may be received by those who are fortunate enough to live in the big centres of population? If the Government wants to use the high frequency channels, let it use them; but let it, at the same time, allocate certain channels in the ultra-high frequency channels so that other people who are seeking licences at present can get licences and start off on a level footing. If stations are established under the system that the Government has proposed, it will be too late to make any changes.
What are the great advantages that are claimed for this particular system ? It is said that it has a greater range. That is true. But if it has a greater range, that is all the more reason why those channels should be used in country districts instead of in the great cities. In my opinion, the ultra-high frequency channels, when they are arranged, should be reserved for the big cities where a greater variety of programmes can be provided. I agree with Sir Ernest Fisk. It is a mistake on the part of any government to place control of this great medium of propaganda in the hands of any particular group. It is no use the Postmaster-General saying, “ These licences have been issued to commercial interests who are not committed to any political party “. There is not an honorable member on either side of this chamber who, if he speaks honestly, will not admit that the existing licences have now been put into the hands of people who, for many years, have been bitterly anti-Labour.
Let me now examine the committee to which I referred initially. It is quite obvious that the backbenchers on the Government side of the chamber are very bitterly dissatisfied with what the Government proposes to do. The Government has been asking people to make sacrifices. It has asked State governments to reduce their expenditure on public works. It has proposed to economize with respect to Commonwealth works. Does it mean to say that television should receive priority over schools, hospitals, important road works that are required in country districts, and the improvement of inadequate telephone systems about which people in every part of the Commonwealth are complaining? Are these works to be curtailed? According to the Government’s policy, they are to be curtailed. But television is not to be curtailed. The reason the Government does not want to interfere with the introduction of television is that its own people are in control of the system and the Government believes that if it delays the introduction of television, then, with the turn of the political wheel, a Labour government may be in control of the country. The Government knows that if Labour has the chance of establishing television, it will do what Sir Ernest Fisk suggested should be done. It will establish public ownership of television transmission, and will not hand it over to commercial groups as this Government has done.
Now I want to say a word concerning a quota for Australian artists in relation to the programmes that will be provided over the television system. Although Australian artists may not have the same reputation as many of the bigger names overseas, there are many first-class artists in this country. They have been demanding that they should be given a quota with respect to television services. They have demanded that a proportion of each programme should be reserved for Australian artists and Australian productions. What is wrong with that request? Unless the Government takes some action, this country wi/1 become the victim, more and more, of American propaganda. Imported films and imported plays will be used on the Australian television system, and Australian artists will bo lucky if they ever receive a place on any television programme. The royal commission stated its belief that those who control the issue of licences should arrange for some priority to be given to Australian artists and Australian productions. But what is the use of mere words? Australian artists ure asking that the condition be written into the terms under which any licence is issued that at least 55 per cent, of television production shall use Australian artists and be Australian productions. One would have thought that this Government, which always professes to put the interests of Australia first, would have given the Australian artists the opportunity of playing some part in the development of this great and coming industry. Therefore, I appeal to the Government to withdraw its present proposals, and review them. I appeal to the Government to delay the introduction of television until such time as this country can afford the expense. Let the Government satisfy the demands of country districts for much more urgently required services.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I should like very much to direct my remarks to the proposed vote for the Postmaster-General’s Department. It is most unfortunate that I shall not be able also to comment on the proposed votes for the Commonwealth railways and the broadcasting services ; the limitation of time compels me to confine my remarks to the Postal Department. All government departments are open to criticism. If the Postmaster-General’s Department is subjected to more criticism from the rural communities than is directed to other departments, it is entirely due to the fact that the Postmaster-General’s Department is more vital to those communities than are the other departments. It is from that aspect that I shall approach the subject-matter of ray speech.
The Postmaster-General’s Department has been criticized during this debate by honorable members representing metropolitan constituencies, nearmetropolitan constituencies, rural constituencies that have reached almost complete development and are in a static condition as far as development is concerned, and those who represent fast-expanding and developing areas; I am proud to say that I represent one of these areas - Riverina. The department has always been vital to the people of Riverina and, indeed, to people in our hinterland, who are utterly dependent on it in order to maintain contact with what could be described as the outside world. I want to emphasize the point that there are constituencies in which the department has reached a stage of comparative perfection, where all the services provided to the people have been available to them for some considerable time, and where there is no room for further expansion or development. We need to contrast the circumstances of people who live in these constituencies with those of people who live 200, 300, 400 and 500 miles away from the capital cities of our States, in order to gain some conception of the vital importance of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, which is a gigantic commercial undertaking. In this financial year, the people of Australia will have to make available to that department approximately £80,000,000 for the provision of its normal services and to carry out the expansion that is within its physical capacity. An amount of £80,000,000 is a considerable sum of money. It has to be found, not by the Government, but by the people of this country. In the rural communities where there is a great deal to do, where already there has been large expansion and much development, there is a sense of public bewilderment. The people cannot understand how it happens that in this age and generation, with all our mechanization, they cannot be given the services that they have enjoyed in the past, and get the services that they need to-day. People believe that if and when they reach the stage that they need a telephone service,’ and can pay for it, they should only have to get in touch with the
Postmaster-General’s Department and within a reasonably short period the deed would be done. But it is not possible for the deed to be performed so readily. Similar comment could be made in relation to those of us who have enjoyed mail services. If we believe that those services should be extended, we think that it should only be necessary to make application to the appropriate person for the services to be extended.
Many people have similar views in relation to normal construction jobs, such as the construction of post offices. Fifty years ago, there was no difficulty in constructing post offices because there was no shortage of material, an unlimited supply of labour was available, and, after all, not many post offices were required. But to-day, every community wants post offices. All communities in expanding and developing areas want extensions to their existing post offices, and they want thom to be constructed of the same material as was used in the original building. But because there is a chronic scarcity of these materials and labour, it is physically impossible to do these jobs in that particular way. Every brick that is put into a post office or a public building of any description is a brick that is taken away from a home; every nail that is put into a public building is a nail that might have been driven into the wall of a house somewhere; and all the labour engaged in the construction of these premises could be used in the provision of houses elsewhere.
Because of the confusion that exists in the public mind, I want to make an appeal to the Postmaster-General, who is present in the chamber, to improve his public relations by taking the people in these localities into his confidence and telling them just what are the present-day circumstances. It is not only a matter of the provision of £S0,000,000 or £180,000,000; it is a question of the physical limitations of the Postal Department and other departments. It is a delusion to imagine that the Postal Department is a self-contained or a selfsufficient department, and that if the Postmaster-General wants to establish a new post office in some particular area i* is simply a matter of decision, as far as be is concerned, and that the department oan resume the necessary land, put up The necessary building, and the deed is done. That is not the position at all. For expansion projects, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is utterly dependent on at least two other departments. It cannot stand possessed of any land at all. It may be that actually it wants to acquire land, but it is the Department of the Interior that ultimately acquires the land and stands possessed of it. Nor is it possible for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to construct a building. It is the Department of Works which constructs the building, and so the Postmaster-General’s Department is dependent to the degree I have mentioned on the Department of the Interior, in relation to the acquisition of land, and the Department of Works for the construction of the building.
In my own particular area, where there is great expansion - there will continue to be great expansion there over the next few decades - the people are bewildered because, 30 or 40 years ago, there was no difficulty in building a magnificent post office. To-day, the expansion of the Griffith post office has been rendered necessary by the concentration of people and commercial enterprises in the town, but it is physically impossible for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to provide extensions in conformity with the original building. It is necessary to contravene the local building regulations, and to indulge in improvisations, in order to meet the situation. The choice lay with the Postmaster-General to decide whether he would concentrate on this aspect of his department and establish magnificent buildings, but leave the trunk line and other telephone services in the wretched condition that they were in in 1949, and leave the mail services as they were when this Government came to office. The Minister decided - rightly, in my opinion - that he would do first things first. There are now throughout the country literally thousands of miles of steel construction for trunk lines, hundreds of rural automatic installations, and extensions of services generally. Because of these things, he has been forced by the
Department of Works physically into the position of having to confine his building construction to these wretched improvisations that we all abhor. In the town of Hillston, for example, a magnificent post office was built 50 years ago. To-day, although it is crowded and congested, it is physically impossible for the PostmasterGeneral to do anything about extending it. The Department of Works is laden to the extent of letting contracts to the value of more than £1,000,000 a week, or more than £50,000,000 a year. There are physical limitations to what that department can do just as there are physical limitations to what every other department can do.
In addition to these matters, there_ is the problem of increasing costs arising out of the calamity of the 40-hour week, which was introduced without regard to the development necessary in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. What a disaster it was to reduce the capacity of that department in one fell swoop by knocking off one-tenth of the operative hours worked each week! That was a stark tragedy, and it was not the only tragedy. All the demands for changes of one sort and another that are constantly being made, without due regard to the circumstances, must affect the costs of the Postmaster-General’s Department more viciously than they affect any other department. Everybody is in favour of increased benefits, but few are prepared to pay for them.
The 40-hour week - which could be described more properly as a 36-hour week - is a classic example. All who benefit from it are in favour of it, but no one is prepared to pay for it. There has been much howling, whining and recrimination from honorable members opposite about the costs that their own folly has brought about, and they have not the courage to rectify the position. The same comments could be applied to mechanization. I have done the kind of physical labour that was done at one time in the Postmaster-General’s Department. Then those concerned got machines to do the work, but instead of the machines digging more holes or enabling more work to be completed more rapidly, they were used to reduce the amount of work done. That is nothing more or less than a corruption of mechanization.
The same thing applies to the transport system. There was a time when the transport work of the Postal Department was done with horses. Motor transport was introduced in the normal sequence of events, but instead of operating busy transport services to expedite their journeys, the departments concerned are using that transport system to give them ease and affluence.
The Postmaster-General’s Department lias attempted much, and much has been done, but there is still a great deal to be done in my own electorate, and I believe that applies to every electorate in Australia where development is taking place. The towns and villages in my electorate need improved buildings, as a matter of urgency. The buildings constructed for the department should conform so far as practicable to the building ordinances in the localities concerned. Thousands of telephones are required throughout the Riverina. More mail services are needed throughout the electorate. There is need for a general expansion of services, and I make an impassioned appeal to the Postmaster-General to give a complete explanation to the people concerned if he cannot do what they ask. The Minister should bring to an end the sense of bewilderment that confounds people who have made requests for services and do not know why the department is unable to proceed with the work. It is comparatively easy for the Postmaster-General to state in an authoritative way, “ It is physically impossible for us, under the present industrial conditions, to build post offices worthy of the requirements of the community “. That, surely, is simple. It should be said, if for no other reason, as a measure of our own industrial folly.
.- If the committee wanted any proof of the fact that the administration of television was too much for the present PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony), honorable members have had it from the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall). I do not say that without some knowledge of the Minister’s ability, but it is obvious that he is prepared to take notice of decisions of some of his experts, particu.larly on matters to which reference was made by the Royal Commission on Television, without exercising any deep thought of his own.
If television is to be of any great value, the Minister and his department should have dealt with it after taking into consideration world events- and the situation in the United States of America to-day. Obviously, the report of the Royal Commission on Television has become out of date. Otherwise, the Minister could never have insisted upon, and continued to follow, the course he has adopted. He should have taken into consideration the important factors associated with this extremely valuable invention from which Australia could benefit greatly.
I remind honorable members particularly of the short-sighted policy of the Government in dealing with television licences. It is useless for the PostmasterGeneral to indulge in gymnastics and all sorts of facial contortions. Honorable members have seen him employ those tactics time and time again when replying to questions that have been addressed to him. The Minister has never given a definite answer on this matter. The simple fact is that, as a result of the policy enunciated by the Minister, the Government has given substantial concessions to overseas newspapers and television interests. The formula adopted by the Minister providing that no overseas company may have more than 15 per cent, of capital as its share in a television licence, is misleading. It does not mean that no Australian company can be controlled by overseas television interests. There is nothing to prevent holding companies of Australian newspapers being sold lock, stock and barrel to foreign interests. In that way, those interests can take over control of any television licence. Under modern company law, an organization need hold only 15 per cent, of the capital to do so. The Minister’s approval of four licences to interests interlocked with overseas companies, including overseas newspapers, film and theatre companies, is evidence of that. The Northcliffe stable is well represented, alongside other powerful combines, such as those represented by Fairfax and Packer. The interlocking of those companies is such that the Australian interests in the industry will be submerged and forgotten.
What of the Australian interests in this important modern development? What of the men, women and children who should enjoy television? Have they been considered fully by this Government and by the Minister? Have their interests been protected? . What sort of programmes are to be presented, and what share will be given to Australian artists? Very little consideration has been given to them. The proposed television coverage has been restricted. It is doubtful whether the great majority of the Australian people will ever be able to afford to enjoy the wonderful invention of television if the Government’s present policy on television is continued. It is obvious who will derive most from it - the monopolies to which the Government has turned a blind eye.
It is proposed to operate television in Australia on what are known as the limited V.H.F. or very high frequency channels. The initial television structure is to operate on ten of those channels, and only eight will be available until the 1st July, 1963. The Minister and his officers have not been far-seeing enough. In adopting this method of high-frequency television, the Government is repeating America’s costly mistake. It is a wonder that the Minister did not know of it, and a greater wonder that the experts who advised the Government did not inform him of what had happened there. Apparently, they did not do so. The Government should prepare for an overall plan, and cater for the future needs of all the people, not merely a few who can afford the costly sets that will result from the Government’s short-sighted policy. It should provide the highest cover, known as U.H.F., meaning ultra-high frequency, which would give 50 channels instead of the ten channels proposed by the Government. To continue the present policy is to create a monopoly in this country similar to that in the countries I have mentioned.
Another aspect which should he taken into consideration is the experience of America with the limited cover provided by the V.H.F. system, which operates in ten channels. When the United States changed to the broader cover - the U.H.F. system - due to the unsatisfactory experience of the V.H.F. system, the change-over, as has already been pointed out by the honorable member for Paterson caused widespread failure among broadcasters, rendered television sets useless, and increased the cost to the American people. They had to change their sets and make a number of structural alterations. Obviously, the Government’s advisers have not learned from the experience of the United States.
It is clear that the huge companies associated with television are not making any attempt to encourage people associated with the legitimate stage to take part in this great venture. The Packer and Henderson groups of television interests have purchased, or have had import licences granted to them to purchase, huge quantities of film from overseas, to the value of £30,000 for each group. The Packer and Henderson groups are connected with the London Daily Ma.il and the London Mirror, and huge companies in other countries. Why is the Government giving these companies the opportunity to introduce trash to Australia? It is obvious that no television stations will operate in Australia for some time. The result will be that these imported films will be stockpiled. Australian men, women and children are to have thrown before them television films consisting in the main of rubbish - films dealing with sex and crime, and films rejected by other countries. In the United States a commission, known as the Harris Commission which was set up to investigate this vexed question, submitted a report couched in the strongest language concerning the films that were being shown. Are these films to be allowed into this country, and are our children to be subjected to their influence, instead of having presented to them clean programmes provided by Australian artists? It would appear that Australian artists are to be given only second consideration. No attempt has been made by these interests to encourage Australian talent or to use Australian artists. These companies are concerned only with profits and high dividends. Moreover, most of the money they will make will leave Australia for overseas countries. Australian artists will be given little encouragement, with the result that, as in the past, they will have to leave Australia to get recognition. At the same time, enormous sums of money will be spent to bring artists here, from overseas. It is time that the Minister adopted an Australian spirit, designed to encourage Australian art by providing a quota for Australian artists on television programmes as is done in the United States and Canada and, I believe, in other parts of the world also. These things have never been thought of by the Minister or his colleagues. The Australian Television Rights Council some time ago issued a pamphlet in which reference was made to a great number of people, all of whom were connected with art in Australia. Men and women of reputation in the field of music and art have been ignored by this Government, which is without an Australian outlook. These companies are not concerned that Australia has produced some of the best artists in the world. Australia has no reason to be ashamed of its contribution to the world’s art; this country has produced many artists of world reputation, but unfortunately, Australians are not given a fair go in their own country, and must go overseas to obtain recognition. The Minister has refused to incorporate in the act, or in the regulations, any provision that would ensure that Australian artists would be given a fair go. It is time that the Government took steps to give them an opportunity to display their talents.
Television should be used in the interests of the whole of the people in Australia. They should be able to enjoy its benefits at the earliest opportunity, but it seems that only a few will be able to do so because of the restricted nature of the Government’s proposals. It is for that reason that I raise my voice in protest. It is all very well for some members of the Australian Country party to laugh, but they should be concerned about the people living in country districts. Too many members of that party forget their constituents when they come to Canberra, although when they are in their electorates they profess to be full of solicitude for them. They are not concerned with the welfare of the people as a whole. I urge the Minister to review the whole position in relation to television while he is still a responsible Minister. It is clear that some honorable members sitting behind the Minister do not think that he has given this matter full consideration. The honorable member for Paterson certainly has misgivings, and it is time that the Government did something. The Government is acting true to form, because from the moment it came into office it has been concerned with the interests of monopolists. That has been its attitude in connexion with, this great public utility, instead of acting in the best interests of the men, women and children of this country by using television to educate them in things worthwhile. Unfortunately, the Minister is more concerned that these companies shall make huge dividends. I do not know whether he is connected with these companies in any way. I suppose he is entitled to be connected with them, if he so desires. However, this is a subject that should be above personal interests. It is a matter of love of country and of doing the best for our own people. It is about time Ministers and the Government took cognisance of those important matters. I conclude my remarks by saying that it is not too late for the PostmasterGeneral to attend to them. The time is now ripe for him to reconsider the entire position.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I had not intended to address the committee until the closing stages of the consideration of this group of Estimates, but, in view of certain remarks that have been made by various honorable members who have discussed television, and particularly by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton), I think it appropriate for me to address the committee now. From the remarks of various honorable members, one would imagine that the Government had rushed into television without any consideration of the problems involved. I should like to review the facts so that honorable members shall be aware of the exact position and of the manner in which we have arrived at the present stage of the introduction of television in Australia. When this Government took office in December, 1949, the Chifley Government had invited tenders for six national television broadcasting stations. I found those tenders on my table when I became Postmaster-General in December, 1949. Everything was then in hand for the introduction of television in each capital city on a huge scale. Six years ago the Australian Labour party, members of which now suggest that we should be hesitant about introducing television and that we should not enter into it without due care, and so forth, had plans well in hand for the full-scale introduction of television.
– For one station in Sydney.
– Labour planned to establish one station in each capital city - six stations throughout Australia. The Government examined the tenders that had been called by the Labour Government, and decided that the introduction of television on so large a scale was too big a project to be undertaken without further investigation at that time.
– Or at any other time.
– Or, as my colleague says, at any other time. The report of the Royal Commission on Television recommends the gradual introduction of television. Passing on from 1949, I should like to point out that the Government considered what should be done about television. By 1951, it had almost decided to introduce it on a limited scale, but the economic recession of 1951 and 1952 hit Australia and there was some unemployment. As a result, it was decided to postpone the introduction of television until a more propitious time. When the recession ended and more normal conditions returned, the Government decided that a full public inquiry should be made before television was introduced. It appointed a royal commission of six persons from various sections of the community, and from various States, to take evidence in country areas and in the cities, and to recommend to the Government what should be done. The commission was a very good one. It took evidence from a great many people, and its report is now in the hands of the Government. I suppose most honorable members have read it. I have a copy of it before me. The royal commissioners made many recommendations, and I do not propose to weary the committee by enumerating them. The substance of the report was that Australia should introduce television, on a limited scale, as soon as was practicable.
In answer to those honorable members who have stated that it is too soon to introduce television in Australia, no matter how quickly we move television will not be established here for another fifteen or eighteen months, but I should like to mention some of the countries that already have the benefit of it. Television is already operating in Morocco, Canada, Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico. the Argentine, Brazil, Japan, the Philippines, Hawaii, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and about 27 other countries, including, of course, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Yet we are told by certain people that it is too soon to introduce television in Australia, which has some prestige in the world and is regarded as an advanced industrial country! We are told that it is too soon for us to consider this modern development of civilization.
The Government has accepted the royal commission’s report and will give effect to almost all the recommendations made in it. Certain of those recommendations relate to licences for stations in Sydney and Melbourne. It was recommended that, as a beginning, there should be one national station in Sydney and one in Melbourne, and two commercial stations in Sydney and two in Melbourne.
– How many channels will that leave for future allocation?
– I shall deal with that matter in a moment. The Government intends to give effect to the recommendation. Instead of awarding licences to its favorites by singling out certain people and bodies to whom to grant them, it allowed the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to determine who should receive licences. The board is composed of independent gentlemen of high repute It has taken evidence about the capabilities of applicants to provide and properly maintain a television service, and licences have been granted on the basis of the board’s recommendations. The Government did not depart in any particular from the recommendations made by the board after a semi-judicial inquiry.
– That suited the Government, and that is why it was done.
– Order ! Interjections must cease.
– The Government’s action was contrary to what would have been done by a Labour government, which would have handed out television broadcasting licences to its friends, as it did with radio broadcasting licences. This Government acted in accordance with the findings of a semi-judicial inquiry.
I turn now to a highly technical matter - the selection of frequencies - on which it is scarcely competent for me, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) or, for that matter, most honorable members, to express a knowledgable opinion. The royal commission took evidence on the question whether the ultrahigh frequency system, the very high frequency system, or both, should be adopted. The Government accepted the recommendation of the royal commissioners that the very high frequency system should be adopted. All I know about the two kinds of frequency is that very high frequency, technically, is supposed to be very much superior to ultra-high frequency, and that one of the disadvantages of the very high frequency is that it allows a very limited number of broadcasting bands, whereas, ultra-high frequency allows an almost unlimited number of bands but provides a very much inferior service. The fact is that in every country that has introduced television up to the present time, according to my information, the very high frequency system has been adopted. We shall not need 15, 20 or 50 channels in Sydney, Melbourne or anywhere else in Australia. Television is a very expensive amenity. A television station cannot be established for less than £750,000, and it is uneconomic for more than, perhaps, three stations to provide services for a city of fewer than 1,500,000 people. I do not think there is a city in the United States of America of 1,500,000 people or fewer that has more than three television stations, although more stations could readily be provided if economic considerations permitted. Technical experts have advised the Govern ment that the very high frequency system will be adequate for Australia’s needs, probably for all time.
– The Postmaster-General is not an expert.
– My friend, the honorable member for East Sydney, is an expert on many things, including very high frequency and ultra-high frequency, which is more than I pretend to be. I simply accept the advice of men who have devoted their lives to the study of these problems - the advice of the experts of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the Postmaster-General’s Department and others who advise the Government on this matter. No one else is really qualified to give it.
– Is Mr. Allsopp an expert?
– We take the advice of those who are competent to give it.
– Is Mr. Allsopp an expert?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order !
– Is Mr. Allsopp, the man whom the Minister appointed to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, an expert ?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! These interjections must cease.
– I have briefly reviewed the situation relating to the adoption of television in Australia. If any charge can be made against us, it is that of being a bit behind the rest of the world in getting going; but perhaps it is better to be a little late, and to learn from the experiences of the rest of the world, than to be a little early and learn the harder way. For that reason, I think Australia has pursued a very sound policy in connexion with television. Surely no person in this country thinks that we should be behind all the other countries I have mentioned with relation to this modern method of living! As a matter of fact, in the United States, television has become one of the first ten greatest employmentproviding industries. Television provides employment in the fields of culture and art; it provides employment for artists, actors and photographers.
– Not culture.
– Yea, culture. That is borne out by the fact that the most popular television programme in America to-day is one that televises Shakespearian plays, and I should imagine that we here could with advantage have a little more of that branch of culture. One honorable member interjects that this criticism is “Much Ado About Nothing”, and I agree with him.
I do not propose to dwell on television for longer than is necessary to answer, as best I can, the points that have been raised. As I have said, I prefer to rely on matters relating to the technicalities of television, on the advice of men who are appointed to do that job. I am quite satisfied to accept the advice and recommendations of the royal commission after it had heard all the experts - those in favour of ultra-high frequency and those in favour of very high frequency. The Government has adopted those recommendations. [ wish now to say a word or two about, the remarks made by the honorable member for Riverina with respect to the services which the Postmaster-General’s Department should provide, but sometimes either does not provide or furnishes inadequately. As the honorable member for Riverina very rightly pointed out, the development in Australia hasbeen enormous since the war, and it is very difficult to keep pace with actual demands. The Government has made available to me, as Postmaster-General, during the six years I have hold that office, approximately £150,000,000 for the provision of engineering services, post offices, improved trunk line services, rural automatic exchanges, telephones and various other things which the community demands. In expending that £150,000,000. we have opened 549 new post offices of which 67 were in new buildings, we have installed over 150 new telephone exchanges, all of good quality, and have added 400,000 people to the telephone list, even though there are quite a number of applications outstanding, because applications are coming in at a much faster rate than we are able to deal with them at present.
When we attained office, there were 150 rural automatic telephone exchanges throughout Australia. To-day, there are over 700. This is one of the greatest amenities that can be provided in any country district. Before that, the residents of most small country communities were cut off from communication after 6 o’clock at night on week-days and from 12 noon on Saturdays until Monday morning, and for an extra day if the Monday was a holiday. As a consequence of the installation of these little rural automatic telephone exchanges, which we have scattered throughout the length and breadth of the country districts of Australia, those people are now in communication with civilization, with their doctors, their stores and their friends, for 24 hours a day for 365 days m year. Previously, they had that communication for only a very short period of the year.
I shall deal now with the services enjoyed by the people in the country, particularly the residents of the outback. We have established regional stations for the Australian Broadcasting Commission wherever we have been able to put them. We have established at least twelve of them with the result that those people who get mail only once a week and who previously did not know what was happening in the world, now have a news service provided by these stations, at the expense of the Government, about five times a day. They are no longer isolated as they were formerly. Those are only one or two of the improvements we have effected in the living conditions of these people.
The honorable member for Riverina raised the question of better public relations. He asked whether the department could give the community better information about the reasons why we were not able to erect the buildings that local authorities sometimes expected. The reason is that we just have not got the resources. As the honorable member rightly pointed out, if we erected all brick, iron and steel buildings wherever we went, that would mean the withdrawal of the materials so used from house building, shop construction and various other private enterprise activities. The Government has been most restrained in the use of those materials which private enterprise and private people need so desperately to-day. I, as PostmasterGeneral, have been compelled sometimes to authorize the erection of prefabricated buildings in brick areas. I very much regret having to do that, but in most cases, wooden buildings, when they have been constructed, are used only as a temporary means of providing service. The provision of this service is the essential consideration. If people want telephone services, we have to erect buildings of some kind, and if we cannot build in brick, we have to use wood, or there will be no service at all. The alternative to no service is the adoption of the various expedients to which I have referred. I regret that we have to do it, and I am sorry we cannot do more, but I think we have established a great record over the six years we have been in office.
– In discussing the Estimates for Broadcasting Services, amounting to £4,684,381, we should not forget to offer a word of congratulation to those broadcasting services which supply us with service from 6 o’clock in the morning until 11 o’clock or half-past 11 at night, day after day, year after year, perhaps without the community really noticing it. As I am confident that people do appreciate it, but have no oppportunity of expressing their appreciation, it is only right that we should congratulate those who provide such an excellent service.
– The people pay pretty highly for it, too.
– They pay £2 a year, but I am sure they get good value for that £2, and probably better value than if they spent the £2 in many other ways.
I wish to refer in particular to-night to the broadcasting of the parliamentary debates, conducted by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. These broadcasts are often criticized, not because of any defect on the part of the broadcasting services but, I feel, because of defects on the part of certain honorable members who do not bother to prepare their speeches and who deliver them in a most uninteresting way. I have always said to those people who complain, “ Of course, you have one remedy. You can always turn off the switch “. I feel sure that honorable members will agree with me when I say that that is an extremely shallow sort of reply. Obviously the correct answer is that honorable members should give of their best, and do their best to ensure that something worth saying and worthy of this great Parliament does go over the air. I think it calls for the greatest respect on the part of honorable members. Much of the criticism of the broadcasting of parliamentary debates is not completely thoughtful. A good deal of it is made without taking into consideration the enormous value of the broadcasting service to the people. Generally speaking, honorable members have the opportunity to indicate their own individual ideas and their own thoughts on a subject, and that is a very great advantage. If honorable members so wish, those thoughts are broadcast, completely unedited, to millions of persons throughout the length and breadth of the country, who are listening in the comfort of their own homes. Such an enormous advantage is surely worth retaining, and it outweighs any of the criticisms which are levelled at present.
The general opinion is that broadcasts from this chamber are unedited and go out to the listening public in the way the speeches are made, but there is a need for great watchfulness, because it is possible for an honorable member’s views to be edited in just the same way as our newspapers are edited, and for the independence of honorable members to be curtailed. The parliamentary broadcasting system can be abused and, in fact, there is evidence that it is being very foully abused at the present time. It is quite possible, of course, for one to surrender his individuality to some person behind the scenes and to say those things which are required of him, which do not represent his own views, but which are received by the public as though they were his own views. His statements are then accorded the respect which the public normally accords to utterances of honorable members. In that way an honorable member’s independence is submerged and his individuality completely distorted. He may come under the power of the leader of his party. His output may be edited, just as much as the material published in newspapers is edited. The listening public might be completely misled by remarks of honorable members for whom they normally have a high respect. I have said that abuse of the broadcasting service is taking place at present. I say, with regret, that certain honorable members of the Opposition are engaging in a campaign of falsehood almost from day to day. I say advisedly that this campaign of falsehood is not just the ebb and flow of emphasis, which one normally expects during the course of parliamentary debate and which sometimes amounts to exaggeration. It is not that at all ; it is a very serious matter, and it is being conducted in a serious setting, in combination with edited material in newspapers. The tone of this abuse of the parliamentary broadcasting service during this sessional period was set by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), who went to Queensland and said that members of the Anti-Communist Labour party believe in atomic warfare.
– Order ! That matter has no relation to the proposed votes.
– I must mention it, because it gives the setting to what I have to say.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member must not mention it.
– The complete campaign of falsehood was commenced in this way. That statement was followed in this chamber by the words of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who also made a statement which was completely unfounded, to the effect that members of this party were endeavouring to expel one of their number and were then sitting in caucus, and deciding to expel him. Immediately after $iis statement was made, one newspaper man came to my office in order to find what truth there was in it. He found me quietly dictating a few letters to my secretary, my deputy leader at a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and other members of the party attending to their duties around the House. That was part of the campaign which is being conducted by certain members of the Opposition at the present time, and which follows a deliberate pattern.
– Did the honorable member hear what his deputy leader said to me the other night?
– The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has not been corrupted, but he will be in due course. This was part of the campaign of falsehood, and the parliamentary broadcasts can be abused in this way, in the same manner as items in newspapers can be edited so as to render an abuse of the great responsibility of the press. This campaign of falsehood which I have referred to was taken up by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward).
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member will get closer to the Estimates.
– This is an abuse of the broadcasting of parliamentary debates, and I must mention it.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable gentleman will not overelaborate it.
– The honorable member for East Sydney brought into this chamber the same line of deliberate falsehood as did the honorable member for Parkes when, on the morning of last Thursday, he spoke over the broadcasting system and a deliberate concoction went out to the listening public.
– The honorable member should read what his deputy leader, the honorable member for Yarra, said to me.
– It was not a matter of emphasis, but a deliberate concoction which was broadcast, and I was obliged to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for East Sydney was told of this falsehood and was given an opportunity to retract it. Of course, one would not expect him to do that, but he was given the opportunity to look up the records. However, after lunch he continued in the same vein and this deliberate falsehood was broadcast from the Parliament to the great listening public of Australia. I was obliged to rise a second time and draw attention to the falsehood, which was part of a campaign to abuse the broadcasting service of the Parliament. The campaign was continued in the evening by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), who repeated the deliberate lies and falsehoods which had been uttered by the honorable member for East Sydney, and so he further abused the parliamentary broadcasting system. These incidents fit into a great pattern of falsehood to which I was forced to refer to-day in relation to offences committed by a member of the press. There one can see an abuse of the parliamentary broadcasting system, combined with an abuse of the press. It is all most regrettable. I mention it because the people who listen to these broadcasts need to be protected. They need to know which honorable members are responsible and just whom they can trust. “When they hear honorable members they want to know if they are really honorable, or whether their word is something which is used most casually and carelessly, as unfortunately is sometimes the case in this chamber. The listening public is entitled to expect that the truth, be adhered to very closely and that deliberate falsehoods be not made the basis of parliamentary debate, because such behaviour is completely unworthy of the Parliament. The people expect that members of the Parliament should be completely honorable in every way and be prepared to stick to the truth. In conclusion, I say that if the people listen to members of the Australian Labour party (Anti-Communist) they will hear the truth. They will hear words which are uttered honestly and sincerely on behalf of the people of this community, and for their benefit.
.- The present is an appropriate occasion to say something about the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) and his department. I have no doubt that all honorable members are fully aware that although the PostmasterGeneral is sometimes not able to please us when we make representations to him, he at least gives all our representations the closest personal scrutiny. Therefore, we all should be grateful to him and to the officers of his department.
During this debate, we have heard much about the shortcomings of the Postal Department, and therefore it would be well for us to consider the facts about this department, and to remind ourselves exactly what has been achieved by it. I do not believe that any one would pretend that the department is perfect, or that it does not have its difficulties. However, let us consider the five-year period which ended in December, 1954, and compare that period with the previous fiveyear period. For the five years which ended in December, 1954, 150 new post offices were opened, 400 new and improved road mail services were introduced and 47,000 new subscribers’ lines were opened in country areas. During the five years that preceded that period, when the department admittedly faced great difficulties at times, only 31,000 country subscribers’ lines were opened. During the five-year period to December, 1954, 180 rural automatic exchanges were installed, whilst in the previous five years only seventeen were installed. Moreover, at the present time, the number of deferred applications for telephone services has been reduced by about 40 per cent.
There are still shortcomings in the Postal Department, but we have only ourselves to blame for that, because it is for the Parliament to decide whether it will make sufficient money available for the department to provide all the services required. With all the goodwill in the world, and with all the hard work possible, the Postal Department cannot satisfy the demand for telephone and mail services unless it has sufficient funds to carry out the work. The department is at present stretched to the limit of its capacity and, in all fairness, we should recognize the excellent job that the PostmasterGeneral has done in difficult circumstances. At the same time I point out, as a member of the Parliament who represents a country electorate, that our country telephone services still need a great deal of work done on them. Only to-day, I tried to telephone a person in my own electorate and continually got the reply from the telephone operator, “ We are sorry, but it is impossible to get a clear line for you “. I remind the chamber that that place is only 130 miles from Canberra, and that my failure to make contact was rather serious. Other honorable members who represent country electorates have had similar experiences.
There are many country areas which, although provided with telephone services, are unable to make full use of them because of faulty equipment, old equipment or lack of equipment. I believe that all such areas should be carefully examined, although the PostmasterGeneral has given a great deal of attention to country areas, and is doing as much as he can to improve their services. Nevertheless, the Postal Department needs more funds to relieve the grave deficiencies that I have mentioned.
I was very glad to hear the PostmasterGeneral say that he intended to adopt a large part of the report of the Royal Commission on Television, and I shall later refer to some of the recommendations that that commission has made. According to the budget, a grant of about £1,500,000 will be made to the Australian Broadcasting Commission for television services. That money will be expended on studio equipment, transmission equipment, buildings, sites, works and other equipment. The Australian Broadcasting Commission is a most efficient body, and it provides at present very good and well-balanced radio programmes. The commission will be very jealous of its reputation, and therefore it will aim to provide high-class television programmes which will require not only the £1,500,000 that I have already mentioned, but many more millions of pounds in order to achieve the objective set by the Government.
Television is a very expensive luxury, and it should be clearly recognized that it will require ever-increasing amounts of money in order to carry on. “We have already decided to allocate about £1,500,000 for television during this financial year, but it is pertinent to ask how much we shall allocate next year. The amount of money required each year will increase in snow-ball fashion. As the Government has entered into the television field through the Australian Broadcasting Commission, it must encourage the introduction of television into this country. That, in its turn, must force along commercial television at a great rate, because everybody knows that commercial television cannot afford to fall behind the government television services. Now, what will the race be tween the commercial stations and the government television stations, efficiently controlled by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and well endowed with funds, mean to those stations? It will involve a great demand for skilled workers and for technical equipment, which are already in short supply, and a demand for scarce dollars and for sterling funds. In short, it will mean that we shall use more of our overseas funds which we can ill afford to lose. The race will also mean that other sections of the community that wish to import goods from overseas will have to do without them. The Government has rightly asked for restraint in spending, and has set a brave example itself by pruning public works by £10,000,000 and by cutting its own imports by £56,000,000. It has also pegged the salaries and allowances of members of the Parliament. Here, in television, I submit, is a wonderful opportunity for the Government to take yet a further step to show its genuineness and its real desire to economize. “Whatever views I may have personally about the matter, television is coming to Australia, but the Government should aim to dampen down its rate of progress.
The history of Australia has shown that private enterprise has pioneered many of our services. After private enterprise had pioneered civil aviation the government-owned Trans-Australia Airlines came into the field and gave us all a very good service. Private enterprise pioneered radio, and then the Government came in and set up the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I suggest that private enterprise can pioneer television, particularly in country areas, and that it should be allowed to do so. Honorable members should remember that if commercial enterprises suffer losses, they lose the money that they have risked themselves, and it costs the country nothing. Paragraph 324, on page 63 of the report of the Royal Commission on Television, reads -
Wo received evidence from n number of licensees of metropolitan commercial broadcasting stations to the effect that they would gladly accept the responsibility of operating country stations in conjunction with city stations. We are of the opinion that every encouragement should be given . . . ( them ) .
I have found a keen resentment in country areas because country people will have to pay heavily for television in Sydney and Melbourne, but have no prospects at all of getting television services in their own areas. It is estimated that years will pass before television reaches the country, and I suggest that the Government should hasten slowly in this ‘ matter. Commercial stations should be established in the country if private interests are prepared to set up adequate facilities. Licence-fees received from viewers could be paid partly to the Australian Broadcasting Commission television organization and partly to the particular commercial television station, provided that the Australian Boardcasting Commission could use the channel of the commercial station. So, there would be, in effect, a composite station. Commercial enterprise would go into the country, set up the station and take the risk, and then the Government, following the pattern it ha3 followed in aviation and radio broadcasting, could come along and partly use the facilities provided by the commercial enterprise. Under such a scheme only those people who could afford a television set would have to pay for television. On the other hand, under the present proposals, every one throughout the land will have to pay heavily for the very doubtful privilege of going to Melbourne, or Sydney, to see a television show. Whether they will be possessed of a set or not, they will still have to pay for television if the present suggestions are adopted.
The royal commission is quite clear on this matter. I should like to quote a few extracts from the report of the Honorable R. C. Wilson, M.L.C., a man of great experience and of high standing in the community. He said - ff television is to be taken into lesser populated areas, then I think it can be done only by having a single station in each rural area and there must be co-operation between the national authorities and the commercial interests in doing this.
He then discussed the licence-fees, and went on to say -
I think the commercial station should receive assistance up to the amount of licence fees paid by its viewers.
He concluded by saying -
I do not want television to become merely another expensive luxury to be viewed only by dwellers in some of our already overcrowded capital cities.
He expressed very strongly the views of many hundreds of thousands of people throughout the length and breadth of this land.
In conclusion, I suggest that the Government should follow its own excellent, example of cutting down expenditure. This is one class of expenditure which it could cut down, and such action would receive the approval of every person in. Australia. Let commercial interests pioneer television in the country areas if they want to do so, and then the Government can come in and use commercial stations part-time. By that means a great injustice can be averted, particularly to people in country areas who will have no opportunity of seeing television for years. Under the system that I am suggesting to the Postmaster-General only those persons who possessed sets would be required to pay for television. They would support their local station ; and people without sets would not be burdened with the extremely high costs of a television system. Such costs could be damped down if the Government continued to follow the policy it has adopted in respect of aviation and radio broadcasting.
Mr. CLYDE CAMERON (Hindmarsh) [9.55 1 . - At the outset I desire to say something about the remarks passed by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua), who referred to the standard of parliamentary broadcasts. I entirely agree with what the honorable gentleman said about the need for parliamentarians to maintain a proper standard of debate so that the listening public may have the opportunity of hearing well-informed contributions instead of personal insults. But it was, I think, rather odd that the honorable member for Ballarat, of all people, should say that, when he is the leader of a group which has carried on the kind of personal vilification of which he complains. He of all people complains of the very thing his own supporters are notorious for in this chamber. I recollect that only last week the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) said to the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) that he was full of free whisky.
– So he was.
– Everybody knows that is not true.
– You are a degraded liar; say that outside.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member for Lalor will stand up and apologize to the committee.
– He said I was full of free whisky. He knows I am a temperate man.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member will withdraw the term “ liar “.
– I withdraw it.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for Fawkner will withdraw the statement he made; and there will be no repetition of it.
– I withdraw it.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.And the honorable member for Hindmarsh will keep off the subject of whisky and proceed with a discussion of the proposed votes before the Chair.
– Something I am very concerned about is the failure of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) to give a satisfactory answer to the questions that I have repeatedly asked in this House concerning the telephone tapping that I am certain is going on in this community through the telephone branch of the Postmaster-General’s Department. Few people will be happy with the Postmaster-General’s evasiveness in answer to the questions that I have levelled against the Postal Department regarding telephone tapping. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his replies, is equally evasive. All that the Prime Minister will say is that members of the Parliament are not having their telephones tapped; but then he goes on to say that the question of whether or not private citizens’ telephones are being tapped is one which he cannot answer for security reasons. This evasiveness on the part of the Prime Minister and the Postmaster-General strongly suggests to me that private citizens are having their telephones tapped; and if that is so, then telephone conversations between members of Parliament and such private citizens are also being listened to by secret agents.
This practice must be known to the Postmaster-General’s Department. If the tapping of a particular line is allowed, it must of necessity violate the privacy of every individual with whom that person may speak, including his member of Parliament. The identity of the person at the other end of a tapped telephone line is generally unpredictable, so there is no way of giving him protection once the principle of telephone tapping is accepted. The telephone tapper gets either all or nothing. Telephone tapping is a potentially dangerous weapon to put into the hands of any government, whether it be Liberal, Labour or Country party or any other particular colour of political thought. It is so comprehensive as to pick up all conversations on a tapped line including those between solicitor and client, minister and parishioner, husband and wife or doctor and patient. I am certain that the public does not realize the comprehensiveness of the tapping of any particular telephone line and for that reason the gravity of the action is not generally recognized. This question involves one of the basic distinctions between the democratic form of government which we all love and cherish, a government which recognises the sanctity of the freedom of the individual, on the one hand, and totalitarianism on the other which subordinates the individual completely in the name of security for the state. No consideration is given to the rights of the individual. When national security becomes the sole test, individual freedom is blotted out. When individual freedom is blotted out, it becomes very difficult to distinguish between democracy and totalitarianism. If our sole aim is total security, we must destroy the sanctity of conversation between client and lawyer, patient and doctor, minister and parishioner, and even between wife and husband. The fact that dictatorships use such methods does not justify our doing so too. There are still distinctions between dictatorships and democracy which must be remembered. Each time we chip away at some vital democratic value, we destroy, without the aid of the subverter or traitor, what that person threatens to destroy. If we accept the principle that the end justifies the means, we unwittingly compromise that which we wish to make secure. Let us not mince words in talking about this matter. Telephone Japping is a weakening of democracy. Let us fight totalitarianism, traitors and subverters, but let us not destroy our own democratic heritage. I have more love for democracy than to agree to sacrifice any of its vital factors for the mirage of protection that we think we derive from telephone tapping and other practices that are characteristic of totalitarianism.
The mere fact that a person holds Communist views does not mean that he is engaged in treasonable or subversive activities. Some of the rank and file members of the Communist party are loyal Australians. Many of them fought in World War II. and some of them in World War I. They honestly believe that assertions that the Communist party is subservient to a foreign power are nothing more or less than capitalist propaganda. They genuinely regard communism as being a political philosophy which, in a free country, they have a perfect right to espouse. Some of them, have changed their minds and have left the party.
– Order ! The honorable member is getting very wide of the Estimates. He is giving a political dissertation on communism.
– If you will not let me mention that matter, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I shall leave it, but this is the relevance of my remarks : Everybody knows that agents of a foreign power would not be so na’ive as to use a telephone for their subversive activities because they know that they are tapped. Miss Elizabeth Bentley, a former Communist courier, who directed the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to Harry Dexter White, said she did not think that telephone tapping .would have helped to make a stronger case against Communist agents. She added -
We were too frightened of telephones; we never said anythting over them. We used the telephone, yes, but our code was so mixed up that an outsider could not have gotten and understood it.
Even if the indiscriminate tapping of telephones would help the security service to catch spies and saboteurs, it could hardly be justified unless we were prepared also to agree to the interception of mails and the reading of private correspondence. Unrestricted power to search the home of a suspected person, the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, and a judicious use of the thumb screw and the rack would also help the security service to get convictions against suspected saboteurs and subversive agents. No free and civilized society, however, would allow such methods to be used.
I think there was a good deal of truth in the statement of Inspector Nowling of the Detroit vice squad when he said that the police were getting lazy and that, instead of getting their information by proper means, they preferred to sit in an easy-chair with their earphones on. A country in which law-abiding citizens fear to discuss confidential matters over the telephone has already acquired some of the atmosphere of the police state. I direct the attention of honorable members to a statement made in April last by Senator Alexander Wiley, who was chairman of the judiciary sub-committee of the United States Senate, during an inquiry into the use of wire tapping for national security purposes. That gentleman, who could not be described as being a Communist sympathizer, said -
I feel that it is incumbent upon us to take note of the vast and ever-increasing degree to which communications are brazenly intercepted. The traditional privacy which we have come to associate with the American way of life is being diminished more and more by all sorts of electronic devices.
New York police wire tapper Kenneth Ryan told Senator Wiley’s sub-committee that on one occasion he heard Mrs. Roosevelt talking on the telephone about the President’s bath. Attorney-General Herbert Brownell, junior, in his evidence before that sub-committee, asked -
How can we best achieve a proper balance between the safety of the nation and the precious liberties of our people?
An attempt to do so was made last year by Senator Pat McCarran when he introduced into the United States Senate a bill which provided that it was an offence punishable by five years’ imprisonment or a fine of 10,000 dollars, or both, for any person to listen in to a telephone conversation without the written authority of a Supreme Court judge, who would give such authority only upon being satisfied that a particular person might be carrying on activities that were a danger to the security of the state.
Whilst I feel unable at this stage to depart from my earlier view that telephone tapping, rifling of mails and thirddegree methods of detecting crime are alien to a free and civilized people, I point out that the bill that was introduced by Senator Pat McCarran represented a vast improvement on the system that operates in Australia under which any one has the right to listen in to a private telephone conversation without the authority of a judge of the High Court of Australia or of a State Supreme Court, or even the written authority of the .Commonwealth Attorney-General. Under the present system, anybody is allowed to listen in, and people do listen in. No denial of that statement has yet been given by the Prime Minister. Mr. James Ply, of the United States .Federal Communications Commission, aptly described telephone-tappers when he said -
They are the least admirable of the groups of creatures that qualify for membership of the human race. They violate every sacred relation established by God and protected by l.i w: husband and. wife, parent and child, minister and parishioner, doctor and patient, lawyer and client. It is a patent fact that (lie wire tapper invades privacy more outrageously and procures more detailed information on people’s intimate affairs than could an intruder making an unlawful search or seizure.
I believe that the security service and persons inside the Postmaster-General’s Department are tapping telephones without authority in many instances merely because the victim is a radical or is associated with radicals, and without the slightest basis for supposing that that person is engaged in subversive activities or is doing anything that is a danger to our security. In this country, dissent is now being mistaken for treason. The power to tap public or private telephones is too great a power to lodge in any individual. Power begets power, and the use of power for .the sake of power is tempting. Such inordinate power could be used even for political purposes and thus abused. The Government has no right to allow telephone tapping unless it is able to declare honestly that it would be happy to hand such power to a government with opposite political views. I ask Government supporters whether they would be happy to clothe a future Labour Attorney-General with, such enormous powers. If the answer is “ No “, the case for telephone tapping is completely destroyed. If it is “ Yes “, it merely shows that Labour supporters have qualities that others do not possess.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- We have listened to-night to another of those long dissertations that we so frequently hear from the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). It was one of his favorite dissertations and, like other speeches of his, was probably designed to breed suspicion and to undermine public confidence in what is otherwise a very well conducted public utility. Probably he would be the first to complain if, when he wanted to make a telephone call urgently, the telephone service broke down, as no doubt it would do frequently if insufficient maintenance work were done.
But 1 did not rise to deal with that subject. I want to join with my colleagues, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer), in saying a few words about telephones in borderline areas, just outside the cities. There is a part of my electorate which comes within that category. The City of Chelsea covers a very narrow strip of land, about a quarter of a mile broad. On the west side there is the sea, and on the east side there is a swamp. Therefore, it is not very likely that the city will expand very much. The arc of the circle of the metropolitan area cuts it in the middle. Two large segments of the circle are entirely devoid of houses, where telephones would be necessary. One of the segments is covered by the sea and the other by marsh land. One half of the Edithvale district is in the metropolitan area and the other half is in the Chelsea area. The result is that when people on one side of the street make a telephone call, they are allowed an unlimited time for a charge of 3d., whilst people on the other side of the street have to pay 8d. for a call lasting only three minutes. Mordialloc, which is well within the boundaries of the metropolitan area, is an important centre, but if the people want to use the telephone for business purposes or to make appointments, they have to put through a trunk call, although Mordialloc is just on the other side of the dividing line.
It is very interesting to see how people react to this position. There are a number of public telephone boxes on the other side of the line. Whenever one passes those boxes, one always sees some people waiting to make telephone calls. In these days when economies are necessary, people think out ways to economize a little.
I do not want to take up the time of the committee further. I rose to make a plea on behalf of the people in this area and to support the pleas made by the honorable member for Mackellar aud the honorable member for Angas on behalf of people in other areas, one in Sydney and the other outside Adelaide. I should like to say, in conclusion, that I believe the postal and telegraph services are lifelines of our economic and social existence. I compliment the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) on the progress that the Postal Department has made in the postwar years.
.- I want to make a few observations about the Commonwealth Railways. It grieves me to have to say that the Commonwealth railways tracks are of two gauges, 4ft. 8½ins. and 3ft. 6in. The 3ft. 6ih. tracks are situated principally in South Australia. Some years ago, a Labour government made a move, under the excellent ministerial guidance of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), to standardize Australian railway gauges, but the South Australian Government was the only State Government that entered into an agreement with the Commonwealth for that purpose. Consequently, the Work on the standardization of railway gauges in Australia that is now in progress is confined to South Australia.
I think the Commonwealth Commissioner of Railways is deserving of every commendation for the efforts that he has made to bring the Commonwealth Railways up to their present very high standard of efficiency. I am one of those who believe that the railways will continue for many years to be the principal carriers for the Commonwealth. Australia is a great primary producing country, and the railways represent the only means by which the products of the great pastoral industries can be carried at cheap rates and at reasonably, high speeds. That is well known, particularly in Queensland, where it is necessary to move cattle, not only from the areas of production to the meatworks, over distances of perhaps 1,100 or 1,200 miles, but also from drought-stricken areas to other areas where they can be placed on agistment. That requires a cheap and reasonably fast means of transportation, which can be provided only by the railways.
The Commonwealth Commissioner of Railways is increasing the length of standard-gauge line in South Australia. A line is being constructed to the Leigh Creek coalfields - which has my enthusiastic support - and also to the cattle trucking centre of Marree. The line to Leigh Creek will be as modern as any other line in Australia. The Commissioner has told us that, with the present 3ft. Gin. line from Leigh Creek to Port Augusta, it is possible to haul a load of only 800 tons, hut when the new standard-gauge line has been completed it will be possible, with a double-headed diesel-electric locomotive, to haul a load of 5,500 tons of coal from Leigh Creek to Port Augusta. Those are sensational figures which have some bearing on the economics of carrying coal from the place of production to the power stations where it will be used. It is intended to push the line on to Marree, which, as I have said, is a cattle trucking centre. It is the point to which many cattle produced in the Channel country of Queensland are driven, over the Birdsville track, so that they can be trucked to markets in
Adelaide. We were told some time ago by the Minister who was piloting the bill through this chamber that the construction of the line to Marree would make it possible for Queensland cattle from the channel country to be delivered to the Adelaide markets with a saving of two days in transit. It is regrettable that the Government could not be persuaded to show the same interest in the cattle industry in Queensland, and to assist the Queensland Government also to construct a cattle transport railway whereby cattle produced in the Northern Territory and the Barkly Tableland could be brought to the meatworks in Queensland in a reasonable time. However, the Government’s interests are certainly centred on the southern States, and, of course, the railway to Marree is being constructed. I am pleased to say that the most modern construction methods are being used in the building of this line. I do not propose to set out the peculiar features associated with its construction. Suffice it to say that it will be a most modern railway in every respect, and it will redound, to the credit of the commissioner and all his employees who are associated with him in its construction. The Commonwealth railways are completely dieselized, and this has enabled the commissioner to show a profit on the operations of his department.
I am one who, during the recent parliamentary recess, filled with the spirit of adventure, decided to go through the centre of Australia to Alice Springs. I travelled via the Commonwealth railways through the desert and through Marree to Lake Eyre. I did not know that there was so much sand in the world as I saw on that trip. My object was to see for myself the places that the Commonwealth railways serve in central Australia. It is an adventure to travel by that railway. The audacious and ambitious South Australian Government of 1882 laid the line, and I am afraid the track laid in 1882 is still there. There are large gaps in the lines, possibly for the sake of economy. When the train attains a speed of over 25 miles an hour one is certainly risking one’s life and limb. It gets well beyond the rocking stage, and if one should be fortunate enough to be asleep when the rocking starts, the rocking and bouncing of the train would certainly wake one up. However, the train crews on that trip display the greatest courtesy and interest and it is an experience never to be forgotten. I should say that any man who can drink a cup of coffee on the central Australian railway on the way to Alice Springs, without spilling it, is capable of achieving anything in life. However, all these things notwithstanding, the employees of the department are paying great attention to the safety of the track; we read of no accidents occurring on it. Great service is being given by the Commonwealth to the people who depend on that line, and I am sure it is very much appreciated. The commissioner is giving very good service indeed.
There is one tragic experience which should bring tears to the eyes of any Australian who loves his country and wants to see it develop, and who regrets the mistakes of the past. That experience is to arrive at the station called Port Pirie Junction and see there three different railway gauges - the 5ft. 3in. gauge from Adelaide, the 3ft. 6in. gauge from Broken Hill, and the 4ft. 8½in gauge to Port Augusta. The existence of these differing gauges is a tragedy that stems from the past, and I am afraid that that old error will be maintained for a long time. I feel that, in the interests of Australian development, we should proceed with the standardization of rail gauges as rapidly as possible. I should like to see the recommendations made by the commissioner implemented as soon as possible, mainly those in respect of the standardizing of the line from Port Pirie to Broken Hill, and the construction of a standard-gauge line from Port Pirie Junction to Adelaide. We would then have a continuous standard railway gauge line from Adelaide to Brisbane, passing through Sydney and tapping the whole of New South Wales. We know that Adelaide and other cities of South Australia are becoming important producers’ of secondary products, particularly in the automobile and general engineering line. With the construction of a standard-gauge line between Brisbane, through New South Wales, and Adelaide, it will be possible for those South Australian products to be carried speedily all the way up to Queensland, as well as to New South Wales, at costs considerably below the present freight charges. I feel that, in the near future, it would be advantageous, not merely to the State governments, but also to the entire people of Australia, if Australia’s railway systems were controlled by the Commonwealth. A really sound move could then be made to bring about an effective system of decentralization. The system of freight charges operated by the State railway systems includes preferential rates for the haulage of goods over very long distances to favoured ports. With the railway systems controlled by the Commonwealth, the State governments would be relieved of the enormous and crippling financial burdens which their railway systems represent, and sensible freight rates could be made to apply so that the products of the land could be hauled to the ports that are closest to the point of production. I shall conclude on that note. I have nothing but the highest praise for the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, and all the employees of the Commonwealth railways who are playing such a noble part in maintaining good service under difficult conditions in the most remote parts of the Commonwealth, carrying the railways through ‘the desert, yet always smiling and cheerfully giving the good service that the people expect.
.- Two sections of the Estimates before us with which I wish to deal concern the Postal Department and Broadcasting Services. I have listened to some of “the criticism which has been levelled at the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) during the debate on those proposed votes, and in a number of instances I would suggest that “honorable members who have offered criticism of the department and the PostmasterGeneral might turn their eyes inward and inspect their own capacity to do the job. Speaking from my experience I can say that my relationships with the Postal Department, its officers in Western Australia, and the PostmasterGeneral have been of a very Happy kind. I have not got all that T wanted from them, but I do not expect anybody ever will get all that he wants. Yet I could not wish for better service than I have received. I know that the department has difficulties, and that its prime difficulty is not that of finance. It is lack of man-power and materials. I should like to offer a word of advice to the Postmaster -General. In view of the urgency of the demand for additional telephone services he might consider getting the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) to make some special effort overseas in order to bring telephone technicians to Australia under our immigration scheme. He may have already done so, but I should be happy to know that it has been done. I am convinced that it is the only way to overcome some of the lag in the supply of telephone services, a lag that is due to the inability of the department to do a great deal in a short time. I cannot help but commend the department for the splendid relationship which exists between its officers and the general public. It is most obvious in Western Australia, and I am confident that it can be attributed to the influence of the Minister. The officers are keen to give the public efficient and courteous service.
When I was honoured with the task of representing my vast electorate, I interviewed the Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Western Australia, and also the telephone authorities, and suggested what I should like to have done. I discussed the matter also with the Minister, and said that I was desirous that people in the far outback areas should be given a priority for telephones and communication services. Some of these settlers are 60, 70, 80 miles, or even further, from a doctor, hospital or store and have to .rely entirely on road delivery mail services for communications. The roads are bad, but they have to travel them with sick people, and to obtain their ordinary requirements. I suggest to representatives of metropolitan electorates that they might show a spirit of unselfishness, and consider the difficulties of ite outback settler who lacks this vital means of communication. A resident in a metropolitan area is often within two minutes walk of a doctor, or five or ten minutes’ travel to a hospital, and the local store is just around the corner. Every possible convenience and facility is near at hand. It is the people in the outback who need telephone services. Often, the saving of a life depends on some one being able to use the telephone to contact a doctor or hospital, describe symptoms of the patient’s illness and receive advice for treatment before taking him a journey of four or five hours over bad roads to the nearest centre where medical treatment can be obtained.
During the time that I have represented my vast electorate, the Postmaster-General has directed that miles of new trunk-line services should be provided in the outback districts, and for that the residents are extremely grateful, but it has been a costly undertaking for both the department and the subscribers. I suggest to the Minister that, in view of the excellent profit which he was able to report last year from the telephone services, a review might be made of the conditions under which they are provided to the people in the outback, with a view to reducing the cost of installation. The department might bear a greater proportion of the cost. .Some settlers are called upon to pay as much as £500 or £600 to have a telephone connected to their properties, and they are prepared to pay it because of their urgent need for this vital modern means of communication.
I hope that the Minister will use his influence to have an improvement made in the broadcasting services to Western Australia, particularly in connexion with programmes. I know that the Minister’s right to have a say in the programmes of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is very limited, but I wish that he could examine some of the” complaints that are being made about them. I have in my hand a newspaper article that satirizes the efforts of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in these words -
The A.B.C. has at last achieved fame. It has done the impossible. It has squared the circle. It has produced Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark.
How? It has produced a kindergarten session without a kindergarten! It is an anaemic emasculated, devitalized, invertebrate, synthetic, insipid session.
Those words were written by Professor R. G. Cameron, of the Western Australia University, in connexion with the Australian Broadcasting Commission programme from the eastern States. Professor Cameron is a member of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s Advisory Committee in Western Australia, but obviously he was never consulted when a change was made in the programme, and a kindergarten session without a kindergarten was broadcast. It was a canned programme.
According to information that I have received from the commission, live broadcasts of the kindergarten session originated in the Perth studios of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in 1942. Miss Margaret Graham began early morning kindergarten sessions, and was assisted by children in the studio. The unseen audience of children were able to enjoy that programme because they could easily picture the children in the studio participating in the broadcast. An absolutely useless programme has now been substituted for that session. It may be all right for the eastern States which have not had the benefit of live broadcasts of this kind. According to the commission’s report last year, Miss Graham deserves the highest praise for her kindergarten session in Western Australia. She has conducted it since its inception in 1942, but within recent months she has been relieved of the daily broadcast and now is on the air only three times a week. On the three remaining days of the week a children’s programme is transmitted from the eastern States.
I ask honorable members to imagine what sort of a childrens’ session could be presented by a supposed kindergarten expert singing songs to herself and telling stories to herself, and because no children were present, being entirely oblivious to the reaction of juvenile listeners. Such a programme would lack personality, and I suggest that the Minister should discuss with the Australian Broadcasting Commission the abolition “of such childrens’ programmes, and the re-introduction of live programmes, at least in Western Australia. The authorities controlling the broadcasting services do not seem to have a full appreciation of the vast area of the continent. It is little short of criminal that the local Argonauts childrens’ session in the evening has been eliminated, so that Western Australian children now have to listen to a prepared programme from the eastern States. The Western Australian Argonauts session was one of the most valuable childrens’ sessions heard in the Commonwealth, and it was greatly appreciated by a listening audience of thousands of boys and girls. It was once the finest programme broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but now it is the worst, as far as Western Australia is concerned, because the children are not able to participate in it, as they did formerly. Previously, the broadcasting staff who handled the various parts of the programme, such as those dealing with art, flora and fauna, and local affairs, were not able to keep pace, in Western Aus- tralia alone, with the entries submitted by the children of that State. How, then, is it possible for a. session, conducted for the same length of time, to provide persona] interest throughout this vast continent? As I understand it, the purpose of the session is to teach the children to understand more about their country and its conditions. We on the western seaboard do not want to become American-aping people as those on the eastern seaboard have become.
– Withdraw that !
– I shall do nothing of the kind, because it is the fact. The people in the eastern States imitate people who live thousands of miles away. I have devoted my attention to the kindergarten session and the Argonauts’ session because they are the main sessions with which children are concerned.
Although the members of the public pay fees to the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the provision of radio programmes, the commission has appointed a great number of technical people who prepare and submit to the listeners not what the listeners want but what they think the listeners should have. If the basis of the Australian Broadcasting Commission programmes is to be educational and not of an entertainment nature only, then the commission should start in the right way with the children. It is with the children that the greatest good can be done. It is silly to deprive the children’s session of local interest entirely.
In the report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission for last year, some reference was made to the fact that this kind of thing was being done in order to prepare for television. It will be at least a couple of years before television makes its appearance in the eastern States, and goodness knows when we shall get it in Western Australia. There is certainly no sign of it yet. Therefore, we are to be subjected, for perhaps a decade, to programmes which are prepared entirely in the interests of the people on this side of Australia.
– Parochial !
– It is all very well to say that I am being parochial when I speak in the interests of Western Australia. The fact is that this kind of thing is being done in the interests of the eastern States alone. It is time that those States adopted the national outlook that we in the west have.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- - I assure the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) that we are very sympathetic concerning the difficulties he is experiencing, but the honorable gentleman represents an area which is so far from the metropolis that he cannot expect to have all the advantages that come naturally to us. For my part, I should like to see those advantages enjoyed by the people of his electorate, but I remind him that he supports a government that will not even think of doing anything to help him. In making speeches here about these things, he is only wasting his time and beating the air, and if I may say so, to-night he has been beating the air rather wildly.
My remarks will be related to the subject of Commonwealth railways, because I appreciate that, in the space of fifteen minutes, it is not possible to deal with all the items that are covered by this section of the Estimates, although they all deal with communications. I had the advantage of having eight years’ experience in administering the Department of Civil Aviation, and I think it can reasonably be claimed that that was a very progressive, period, and that the department also was progressive. As was stated, by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts), I feel that we have to depend on the railways as the main channel of communication in Australia. The honorable member for Griffith made an excellent speech, in the course of which he described his. visit to central Australia, and listed some of the difficulties that the people in that area experience. I join with him in offering congratulations to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner for the splendid work that he has done in recent times. He has long been an advocate of the standardization of rail gauges throughout Australia. That is a wellworn subject, about which nothing of a very constructive nature has been done by this Government nor, I am willing to admit, by the previous Labour Government, although it must be said that, when the war ended, there was very little manpower available for the purpose of undertaking what everybody seems to desire, if we can judge by the speeches that are made in this Parliament. However, the Labour Government used what man-power was available to strengthen the 1,008 miles of line between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie, and in that way provided a much better train service. The available man-power, which consisted mainly of immigrants, was used to strengthen the tracks, which enabled the speed of the trains to be increased to such a degree that 70 miles an hour is not now beyond the limit, whereas, prior to that time, the limit was 45 or 50 miles an hour.
I feel that in the present Commonwealth Railways Commissioner we have a man who has vision. I wish to deal with the commissioner’s reports in the same way as they were dealt with by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), who pointed out that the reports are coming ta the Parliament aS too late a stage to be of any advantage to honorable members who wish to speak in this debate. If I remember correctly the figures referred to by the honorable member for Werriwa, 50 or 60 reports should be furnished under statutory obligation each year to the Parliament, but only twelve of those reports, have been furnished so far this year. I myself am at a disadvantage in not having the latest report of the Commonwealth’ Railways Commissioner, although his- previous report was very instructive, as was the one which preceded it. In all of those reports, the commissioner supplied information of very great value to Australia, and if the reports had been acted upon, I think we would not be wanting for a great many of the things that we are without to-day.
The state of communications, in Australia at the present time is really a disgrace to the country. Opportunities have always existed, as the necessity has always existed, for the standardization of railway gauges, but the fact is that the interests of the States seem to preponderate. I agree with the honorable member for Griffith that the time has arrived to standardize our railway gauges. I do not know whether that could he accomplished under the Constitution as it is at the moment, but since the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) announced to-day, in answer to a question asked by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), that he intended to discuss proposed constitutional alterations with the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), perhaps the constitutional position regarding the standardization of railway gauges could be kept in mind then.
These railways, in respect of which the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner has done such a very good job, run through the most sparsely populated areas of Australia. Yet, they have been brought from a stage at which they were regarded as hopeless from an- economic point of view, when it was thought that they would never pay their way - indeed, I think it was never expected that they should, having been built largely for strategic reasons and for the movement of large bodies of troops from one part of Australia to another - to their present state of prosperity. In recent years, by means of dieselization and strengthening of the track, they have been made to pay. As a matter of fact, they yielded, apart from interest, approximately £500,000 profit in the year to which the 1953-54 report referred. The particulars which I have extracted from the 1952- 53 report, and also from the 1953- 54 report, illustrate the big advances that were made in one year alone, because dieselization was almost completed in a year. In 1952-53 a deficit of only £17,861, excluding interest, was achieved, and in 1953-54, there was a. surplus of £505,000.. That was an enormous improvement, and this year the surplus should approach £1,000’,000. The railways have so improved that it is no longer an ordeal to travel on them. They are, in my view, the best in Australia. I have travelled on them on several occasions in recent times, and though when I am in a hurry I travel by air, I find the rail service very fast indeed. The reduction in travelling time of 24 hours is a remarkable achievement on the part of the commissioner, his officers and the men who are undertaking the heavy work that is essential on that kind of track. Every one concerned is co-operating splendidly and doing a grand job. The way in which they have made the railways pay is to their everlasting credit. I believe that if diesel electric engines were used, even thi line between Port Augusta and Alice Springs and that between Port Augusta and Marree, when completed, could be made ‘to pay, despite the sparseness of the traffic offering. That is something that the State railways, despite the great populations that they serve, have not been able to achieve. It seems to me that the time must soon come when the States and the Commonwealth will have to consider the desirability of the Commonwealth taking over the State railways.
I rose principally to point out that the chaotic state of our communications is adding greatly to the already high cost of living in Australia. Recently the Treasurer (.Sir Arthur Fadden) made it clear that one of Australia’s troubles was the high costs of industry. High freights add to the costs of industry and therefore to the cost of living. It has been estimated - and I do not pretend that the estimate has been verified - that one quarter of the present high cost of living is attributable to high freight on goods, especially food, such as meat. This is particularly apparent at places like Albury, where goods must be tran sf erred from -one train to another.
I was a railwayman for many yeans and, with colleagues who have been railwaymen also, I think that this Parliament should set up an all-party select committee on the whole problem of Australia’s railways. I am not authorized to speak on behalf of my party, but I believe that men such as the honorable member for Mackellar (Mir. Wentworth) and the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) would be prepared to lend their aid in such an undertaking. These and other honorable members have repeatedly made intelligent contributions to debates on the railways. Such a committee would not have to decide whether railway gauges should be standardized because every one agrees about that, although practically nothing is being done about it. The committee would decide which of the proposals should be undertaken first, and its deliberations could proceed while work was in progress. The prognostications of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer lead us to believe that very soon there will be a pool of unemployed. The improvement of our railway system would offer one means of absorbing them, and we ought now to be considering plans to meet such an emergency.
The honorable member for Farrer is of the opinion that the first thing that should be done is to put in a. third railway line between Albury and Mangalore. 1 shall not attempt to say any more about that, in the short time that is left to me, because I do not, wish to do the honorable member an injustice. Some Western Australian members no doubt feel that standardization should first be undertaken between Kalgoorlie and Fremantle. Others, including myself, believe that we should first standardize the gauge between Broken Hill and Port Pirie. If Victoria has been too slow to seize the opportunity to standardize its main lines it deserves to be left out of the picture. That may not be a very wise thing for a Victorian member to say, but I feel that it should be said. Victoria is neglecting its opportunity. If standardization of gauges were carried out, we should have a 4-ft. 8^-in. line right through from Kalgoorlie to Brisbane.
There are in the 1953-54 report some remarks on economics which it would do members good to read. I am afraid that often reports are so out of date when we receive them that we neglect to read them. I repeat that the Government should seriously consider appointing an all-party committee to’ report to Parliament upon the action to be taken, and the priorities to be observed, in removing our present railway difficulties. I do not mind if honorable members regard me as an enthusiast on this subject, which I have consistently raised for some years now. Honorable members should not use the Estimates debate as an opportunity to abuse one another. I certainly have not done so.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. I am advised that in January, 1942, one Peter Bogdanich made application for the consent of the Attorney-General to a contract for the purchase of a block of land at Warriewood, New South Wales, from George Jovanovich, acting under power of attorney for his brother Spasoje Jovanovich. The application was made pursuant to regulation 15 of theNational Security (Land Transfer) Regulations. The application stated that Peter Bogdanich was of Yugoslav nationality and in fact he held a Yugoslav passport, No. 2085/725/20, issued at Dalmatia. Yugoslavia was in 1942, as the honorable member will recall, subject to enemy occupation. From the formal point of view the application was in order and was accordingly referred to the Investigation Branch for report. Since there was no security objection to the transfer, the Solicitor-General, under delegation from the Attorney-General, gave the necessary consent to the transfer on the 1st March, 1943. It is a fact that Spasoje Jovanovich has made a number of representations for the recovery of his former property since his discharge from the armed forces. 3 and 4. There is nothing that the Government can do to assist Mr. Jovanovich in this matter. It must be remembered that he gave his brother a power of attorney to act for him and that, if he now asserts that his brother acted improperly, his complaint should be against his brother and not against the Government. I sympathize with him in the matter, but I see no reason why the transaction should be set aside at this late stage. Peter Bogdanich has been resident in Australia since 1927, a fact that was apparently taken into consideration when consent was given pursuant to the National Security (Land Transfer) Regulations, and, indeed, he has since been naturalized. Even if the consent were improperly given, a conception which the facts do not substantiate, regulation 13(1) made the transfer binding since it provided that a transfer entered into, and an instrument executed, in contravention of the regulations should not thereby be invalidated. The matter is perfectly straightforward and Mr. Jovanovich’s present attitude appears to be the result of displeasure at his brother’s method of exercising the power of attorney and not at any alleged injustice worked by the law as it stood when the transfer was made. The National Security (Land Transfer) Regulations have since been repealed and I know of no other case in which an injustice under these regulations has been alleged. I can see in this case no danger to ex-serv icemen as indicated by the honorable member. wollongong hospital.
– On the 27th September the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Davies) asked the following question : -
I ask the Minister for Health whether it is a fact that the Government installed a pathological department at the Wollongong Hospital and later withdrew its support, with the result that the hospital authorities have no chance at all of handling such cases. Will the Minister ensure that some action is taken so that the people of Wollongong district will not be deprived of these services?
I now furnish the following reply to the honorable member : -
Pathological departments arc established as part of the services provided by public hospitals in capital cities and the larger country centres. The Commonwealth maintains health laboratories to provide a pathological service in fourteen of the smaller country centres at strategic points throughout Australia. From 1948 until recently Wollongong was one of the centres at which a Commonwealth health laboratory was established. The area has developed to such an extent in recent years that a pathological service is now more appropriately the function of the State public hospital. The State health authorities were advised to this effect about twelve months ago so that they could make arrangements to continue the service initiated by the Commonwealth.
d asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 October 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1955/19551005_reps_21_hor8/>.