22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. C. F. Adermann) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether rural products provide the overwhelming bulk of Australia’s export income. Is this income of supreme importance to the Australian economy? Do adequate prices for products constitute one of the most important factors in encouraging farm production and have farmers succeeded in increasing production by 30 per cent.? I ask the Minister whether, if adequate prices are not obtainable, future investment will turn to other less-important activities, and whether the real return to farmers is falling because of rapidly rising costs which they are unable to control. Will the Minister assure the Parliament that he will do his best to advise the Government that the dairy price for 1956-57, and the subsidy, should be fixed at a level sufficiently high to ensure that the farmer and his family will enjoy decent living standards, comparable with those of the rest of the community, and that there is sufficient capital available to the farmer to allow him to re-invest in modern, efficient, costsaving techniques?
– The honorable member must have forgotten something.
– The comment of my colleague, the Acting Prime Minister, has rather put me off balance, and, quite frankly, has made me forget some of the six questions asked by the honorable member. The honorable member for Macarthur represents one of our great dairying constituencies, and does so with great vigour and determination.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ! If question time is to continue, silence must be observed.
– The honorable member represents his constituency with great vigour and determination, in a way that I certainly appreciate. However, he has asked six questions, and it is a little difficult for me to remember them all. One I would like to answer immediately. It was the question of whether returns to dairy-farmers would be reduced this year. Quite categorically I can state that returns to dairy-farmers this year will be substantially increased. It is quite true that reasonable prices must be obtainable for dairy products, in order to permit dairy-farmers to enjoy a reasonably high standard of living, and most dairy-farmers will agree that this Government has done more than any other government to ensure that reasonably high standards of living are enjoyed not only by dairy-farmers but also by all other sections of the Australian community. I assure the honorable member that the Government is conscious of the need to sustain living standards, and of the Importance of the role of the dairyfarmer in the economy of this country. The Government will do whatever lies in its power to ensure that living standards are maintained. The first question, relates to export income. The rural contribution to Australia’s export income is of the order of 85 per cent, of the total income. I shall look at the six questions asked by the honorable member as soon as I receive a copy of the Hansard proof, and will let him have a detailed reply to them.
– I again direct the attention of the Postmaster-General to the shocking state of the postmaster’s residence at the Campbell Town post office, 40 miles south of Launceston. Is the honorable gentleman aware that the postmaster and his wife are living in the residence attached to the office under conditions that are appalling when judged by modern standards? Is he aware that their furniture, clothes and floor coverings are being attacked by dampness and mould; that, because of dampness, the paper is falling off the walls; and that the health of the postmaster and his wife is constantly threatened by the dampness, the cold, and the mustiness of the placet
Finally, as I have inspected the building myself, and over a period of eighteen months have made strong representations to the department - as departmental officials in Tasmania agree with me - and as the local council supports the representations, will the PostmasterGeneral immediately call for a report with a view to guaranteeing finance so that early in the next financial year a new residence may be built and the office completely remodelled as planned!
– Honorable members are making speeches, not asking questions.
Opposition members interjecting,
– That was a conundrum, not a question.
– I thought the honorable member for “Wilmot was aware of the department’s plans in relation 10 the post office and the postmaster’s residence at Campbell Town. As a matter of fact, he mentioned this matter to me some weeks ago. Unfortunately, he has been away for the last few days and I have not been able to convey to him the information that I had prepared. The position is, as I thought he was aware, that plans for the improvement of the existing conditions at Campbell Town have been in hand for some time, but it has not been possible to proceed with those plans during this financial year as was originally intended. I assure the honorable member that the improvement of conditions at Campbell Town is under consideration and that the matter will be attended to in the next financial year. The plans provide for the taking over of the postmaster’s existing quarters in order to relieve congestion in the exchange and the postal department, and the construction of a new residence for the postmaster.
– The two questions that have been asked this morning so far have been too long and have contained too much comment. So that we may have effective questions and answers, I hope that in future honorable members .will reduce the length of their questions and that Ministers will reply briefly.
– My question, which also is addressed to the PostmasterGeneral, relates to the many abbreviations of place and street names in the Brisbane telephone directory. They are very confusing, not only to visitors, but also to many local residents. I ask the Minister whether, prior to the next issue of the directory, consideration can be given to eliminating all abbreviations that are not rendered absolutely necessary by reason of the amount of space that is available.
– I know that, not only in the Brisbane directory, but also in the directories for other capital cities, abbreviations are used for the purpose of saving space and keeping down costs and that, as a result, visitors find it difficult to recognize, say, a suburb or a street. I assure the honorable member that thi? matter is still under consideration and that whatever can be done to improve the position, consistent with keeping cost.* down, will be done.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. It concerns the agreement between the shipowners and the Waterside Workers Federation to which, I understand, the right honorable gentleman was a party. The agreement was aimed at making up quotas, where required. It was made in March of last year and was referred to in the report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. On tinface of it, it appeared to be operative throughout the whole of the committee’s deliberations. Will the right honorable gentleman tell the House whether he regards that agreement as being still operative? Will the Government endeavour to ensure, if possible, that in any arrangements made for making up port quotas or for some form of supplementary labour to be provided by the union, tho substance of that agreement will br observed ?
– The agreement to which the right honorable gentleman has referred has been operating since the time it was entered into. Although, perhaps, it has not been observed as fully as one would desire, operations have proceeded substantially along the lines then determined. If the right honorable gentleman examines more closely the legislation that was passed by the House last night, I think he will find that, in the legislation, we have attempted to give statutory recognition to the provisions of the agreement that are now in Operation. That, I believe, meets the point that he has raised.
– Will the Minister for Health give consideration to increasing the Commonwealth hospital benefits daily allowance, which is now 8s. a day and, in certain circumstances, 12s. a day? Increased costs have made it extremely difficult for hospitals to meet their commitments, and a . substantial increase of these payments would be greatly appreciated.
– During the last year, -Commonwealth assistance to the States by way of payments for hospitals amounted to about £10,000,000. [n addition, the Commonwealth is bearing almost the whole of the expenditure on the tuberculosis campaign - much of which is expenditure on hospitals. Whether any of these payments can be increased is a matter of policy that will be considered when policy matters are under review.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Acting Prime Minister, by stating that the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory recently appointed a sub-committee of its members to prepare recommendations to the Commonwealth on improvements of the functions of the Council as a legislative institution, with special regard to better representation of the citizens. As the affairs of the Northern Territory are solely the responsibility of the Commonwealth, will the Acting Prime Minister give a lead in furthering this move by the citizens of the Northern Territory by giving urgent consideration to the appointment of an all-party committee of this Parliament to consider all aspects of Northern Territory political representa tion, both in the local and the federal spheres, so as to ensure that a vital matter such as this will be taken out of the realm of party politics and that reforms will be discussed and recommendations made on a Commonwealth level? Recognizing the role that the Northern Territory is destined to play in the security of Australia, the Government should take prompt action to grant greater political responsibility to the people of thu north so as to establish the fact that they are full citizens of Australia, playing their part in its defence and advancement. I direct attention to this aspect, in view of the moves by peoples of other Commonwealth countries, such as Egypt, India, and Pakistan, which are aimed either in whole or in part at an improvement in their political status.
– In reply to what is described as a question, but is really a conundrum, if the honorable gentleman will place it on the noticepaper, I shall give it consideration.
– Has the Minister for Air any information to give the House on the recent Royal Australian Air Force goodwill mission to the United States of America? Further, can he indicate whether or not any modification will be made to Canberra aircraft to increase the comfort of crews when flying at high altitudes ?
– The full report on the flight to the United States of America has not yet been received by me, but I have received verbal reports and had conversations with persons who have been taking a very active interest in the matter. It was a most valuable exercise. One of the problems was an investigation of the heating and cooling arrangements in the Canberra aircraft. I have flown in these aircraft many thousands of miles, and this is not an easy problem, particularly in the tropics, where on the ground one gets very, very hot, but at an altitude, perhaps, of 45,000 feet, one gets very cold. Special experimental clothing is being provided for the crews, and I am hoping that from this flight to the United States we shall learn quite a lot.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: As, under existing conditions, most rural leases in the Australian Capital Territory will expire or come up for renewal in 1958. will he consider the setting up of an investigation into the present use of rural lands in the Australian Capital Territory, and the possible future use of those lands, having in mind the need to safeguard the interests of the capital city and the provision, for example, of milk supplies, root vegetables and other crops of that kind? In particular, will the Minister consider setting up a type of inquiry which would enable farmers and graziers with many years of experience in this Territory and the surrounding districts to give evidence as to the best possible future use of the land in the interests of the people of this growing city?
– The question posed by the honorable gentleman opens up a fair bit of ground. This is not a matter on which I should like to make a snap judgment. However, I shall give careful consideration to the problems raised, and to the suggestions made, because the question of future land use in the Australian Capital Territory is extremely important.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs anything to say about the report that the Federation of Malaya will send some officers for training in Australia with the Department of External Affairs?
– Yes, it is true that we have offered to help in the training of six Malayan officers who will, in due course, when Malaya achieves independence next year, form part of the body of officers to comprise the external affairs service of Malaya. I believe that these officers will arrive in about September or October. They will be here with us, under training, for six or nine months, or for any longer period that is necessary. We are very glad to extend this help under the Colombo plan. It is in line with our efforts to give all the practical aid that we can to the Federation of Malaya which, as we know, is rapidly advancing towards complete selfgovernment and independence under the Crown. It has a great many problems to cope with in anticipation of ful! independence within the Commonwealth, probably towards the end of 1957, and our training of some of its potential diplomats is part of the process of giving all possible aid.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Services. Are the shearers who are on strike under instructions from their union, and in violation of an industrial award, eligible for unemployment benefits? Are unionists who have imposed a black ban on the transport and handling of wool - a commodity that is vital to the economy of our country - eligible for unemployment benefits though their unemployment has been caused by their own industrial folly?
– A Labour government established the principle, and it was re-affirmed by successive Labour governments and Ministers for social services, that claims for unemployment benefits by members of a trade union which is a party to an industrial dispute - an illegal strike which has caused their unemployment - must be rejected. For the life of me, I can see no sound reason for deviating from that principle. As a consequence, claims for unemployment benefits by those who are involved in the senseless shearers’ strike are being rejected. It makes little difference whether it can be described as a black, white, brown or brindle ban.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. By way of explanation, may I say that two years ago I asked him to persuade Trans- Australia Airlines to improve the stock of Australian wines on its aircraft. The Minister being, as I believe, a friend of the wine industry - I hope a practising friend - promised to investigate the complaint. Whatever the result of the Minister’s action may have been, the position to-day is that ono can buy plenty of beer and whisky in mid-air, but very Little wine. This is like trying to fly with only one engine. Accordingly, will the honorable gentleman induce TransAustralia Airlines to rectify this omission both in the interests of discriminating travellers, and as a small means of helping the wine industry in its present difficulties f
– I thank the honorable member for Angas for his reference to my interest in an Australian industry. 1. know of his own interest in it also. Indeed, I know of no one who has pushed the claims of the South Australian wine industry as he has. It is for that reason that I reply with some regret to the question that he has asked of me. About two years ago he asked why Trans-Australia Airlines would not carry South Australian wines. I saw the chairman of the commission, and it was arranged that the airline would carry these wines. I regret to say that after it had been doing so for quite a long time it found that no one was drinking them. The honorable member suggested that it was like flying on one engine. Perhaps I could talk to some of the engineers and see whether they could use some of the wine in the fuel. Seriously, however, I will take the matter up again with the chairman of the commission and see whether he will perhaps give the suggestion another trial. Then the honorable member for Angas can continue his missionary efforts and we shall perhaps be able to get some good business for the wine industry.
– Is the Minister for External Affairs aware that a .committee of Nato reported on about the 27th May that substantial quantities of arms, said to be valued at 3,500,000,000 dollars, which were to be supplied under recent military aid programmes, have still not been delivered to European countries, and that these arms are said to be suitable for delivery to countries such as South Korea, Formosa, Siam, Pakistan and Turkey? Will the Minister say whether this indicates that European countries no longer consider that military defence is of high priority and whether the possible supply of these arms to the countries mentioned would be in the interests of peace in those areas?
– I am not aware of the particular incident to which the honorable gentleman has referred but, assuming that what he has been good enough to say is a fact, I would not believe, myself, from a general knowledge of the situation in Western Europe and the operation of Nato that the inference can he drawn that the honorable member suggests - that Western European countries are much less concerned with the matter of defence than they were some little time ago. I would believe that that is not an inference that can be properly drawn from this incident. However, I will go into it and if there is anything further that I can say that will be useful, I shall lr>*- the honorable gentleman know.
– By way of preface to a question which I address to the Minister for Health, I should like to say that the last meeting of the Commonwealth National Fitness Council was held in September, 1954, and I am concerned that little action appears to have resulted from the resolutions carried on that occasion. Will the Minister indicate whether plans are in hand for an early meeting of the council ? Will he be good enough to check on the minutes of the last meeting and advise me of the present position? Finally, what is the Government’s policy in respect to this important national fitness organization?
– The activities of the Commonwealth National Fitness Council are, I think, being satisfactorily carried out. I do not carry with me the detailed answers to the honorable gentleman’s questions, but he can be assured that there has been no noticeable diminution in the activities of the council. Those activities have been satisfactorily carried out. I shall further investigate the details for which the honorable member has asked and let him have them.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs inform the House what progress has been made in his negotiations with the Vice-President of the Executive Council, who is leader of the House, to arrange for a debate on external affairs in the remaining days of this session? The matter is urgent.
– The problem that faces the Vice-President of the Executive Council is a substantial one in getting through really what appears to my lay eye to be an appallingly large lot of legislation in the course - I personally would hope - of the next week. However, I know that I have the full sympathy of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, whose interest in international affairs is well known, as is also that of the Acting Prime Minister. I can assure the honorable gentleman that no stone will be left unturned or avenue unexplored in order to achieve the object of having a debate in this House on this important subject.
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister a question which is supplementary to the question which has just been asked. I am sure that the Acting Prime Minister will regard the matter seriously, considering the tremendous activity that has taken place in regard to international relations during the last eight or nine weeks. “Will the Acting Prime Minister treat the matter as of first-rate importance and try to arrange for some statement to be made by the Minister for External Affairs on matters of Australian policy and thus give an opportunity for some debate before this House adjourns? Otherwise, I suggest to the Acting Prime Minister that he will be putting less-important matters first, whereas the international situation is of supreme importance and should be debated. It has been practically promised by the Minister half a dozen times, and we should have it instead of having him answer “Dorothy Dix” questions every day, when he gives the House little bits of half-baked information.
– I am seised of the importance and also of the sincerity of the Leader of the Opposition’s question. I have nothing to add to the explanation that has already been given by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, as Leader of the House, or to that given by the appropriate Minister, the Minister for External Affairs.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to-
That leave bc given to bring in a bill foi an act to amend the Coal Industry Act 1946-1952 and the Coal Industry Act 1951.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– hy leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is purely consequential upon the amendments that are being made by the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and dove-tails the arrangements under the coal industry legislation into the over-all conciliation and arbitration scheme. As I mentioned to the House a little earlier, I did not bring the bill forward when the other consequential measures were before the House because, under arrangements which operate between this Government and the New South Wales Government, there is consultation on any legislation affecting the respective Commonwealth and State coal industry acts, and, up to that point, it had not been possible to complete that process. The New South Wales Government has now indicated its concurrence with the bill which I now present to the House, but it has expressed the wish that the reference to the Coal Industry Act in the proposed new section 41, to be inserted by clause 10 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, should be deleted. The Government included this reference in proposed section 41 only because it thought that, by so doing, any proceedings that might arise in the future under the Coal Industry Act would be facilitated, in that appeal procedures would be shortened. The matter is of no great consequence to the Government. Indeed, it may very well prove to be the case that there have never been any procedings under the Coal Industry Act that were taken on appeal to any superior court, and the matter may therefore be of academic interest only. In the circumstances, the Government is quite prepared to meet the desire of the New South Wales Government, and arrangements will
S>e made in another place to delete the reference concerned in proposed new section 41 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Proposed new section 41 provides for an appeal to the Commonwealth Industrial Court from judgments and judicial orders of inferior courts of the States in matters arising under that act, Part V. of the Coal Industry Act, or “the Public Service Arbitration Act, and to exclude appeals to other courts. New section 41 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1956 corresponds to the old section 31 which was held invalid by the High Court of Australia in 1955 in the case Collins v. Charles Marshall Proprietary Limited. The old section purported to give an appeal to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration from the judgments of any other court in matters arising under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, or involving the interpretation of that act or of an award, and to exclude appeals to other courts, tn drafting proposed section 41 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1956, we sought to avoid the invalid element in the old section. It seemed natural that the court should also be the court of appeal against judgments and other judicial orders under other Commonwealth industrial laws.
Mr. E. JAMES HARRISON (Blaxland) (11. 6]. - As the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) has said, the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1956 brings the coal-mining industry under the jurisdiction of the proposed Commonwealth Industrial Court. It brings the coal industry within the appeal procedure, as the Minister has indicated. As I have stated, at both the second-reading and committee stages of the consideration of other measures, this is one more step taken by the Government to centralize judicial authority in relation to appeals from all the Commonwealth industrial tribunals in Australia. Again I say that I do not think this procedure is sound. The Opposition vigorously protested against the inclusion of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority in the Government’s programme. It seems to me, particularly in view of what the Minister has said, that the coal industry is one industry in which, at any rate up to the present time, no procedure providing for appeals against the decisions of the industrial tribunal has existed. This is one industry that could well have been left out of this new industrial framework that has been adopted following upon the decision of the Privy Council in a case that has now become noted in Australian arbitration law.
I am not unaware of the fact that, as the Minister has pointed out, discussions have taken place between the New South Wales Government and this Government, as a result of which certain amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1956 are to he made in another place to give effect to the views of the New South Wales Government. Although, as the Minister has said, this bill is designed to give effect to a procedure - to put it in my own way - of bringing about uniformity in the matter of appeals on judicial principles, the Opposition, not having had much time to consider the matter in relation to the coal industry, feels that the New South Wales Government will find it even more difficult than the Opposition finds it to analyse the probable consequences of the right of appeal to the proposed Commonwealth Industrial Court. The Opposition, unlike the Minister, has not had the opportunity to discuss the matter with that Government. I voice, on behalf of the Australian Labour party, objection to the extension of this central control in every direction. I know the Minister can rightly say the Privy Council forced something upon the Government. The Australian Council of Trades Unions and the Australian Labour party feel that there was never any need for the proposed Commonwealth Industrial Court, and that the coal industry does not involve matters in which a judicial procedure for the hearing of appeals against decisions of industrial tribunals is necessary, or matters with which the proposed court should be concerned.
The Opposition took the view that the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority should he allowed to function in its own right to the maximum degree, without being subject to the overriding authority given to the proposed court. We believe, perhaps more fervently, that the same argument applies to the coal industry. Mainly as a result of what might be regarded, in one sense, as the good work, and, in another sense, as the bad work, of the Coal Industry Tribunal, the Commonwealth, the State governments and other bodies, in persuading the coalminers - I use the word “ persuading “ advisedly - to produce coal in sufficient quantity to meet the nation’s requirements, the miners, having now met the nation’s needs, have the door virtually shut in their faces because they are producing more coal than Australia can use. The surplus labour on the coal-fields is creating grave difficulties on the industry level, because we are in the midst of changing circumstances. In the light of those changing circumstances, the Opposition does not propose to support this measure but will vote against it. We are quite confident that, whatever agreement is reached between this Government and the New South Wales Government in respect of the coal industry, the New South Wales Government is not fully aware of all the implications of the industrial legislation that we have been considering for the last two or three weeks.
– That is a condemnation of Mr. Cahill, the Premier of New South Wales.
– Let me deal with that interjection. I am prepared to say this-
– Order ! The honorable member will address the Chair.
– I am prepared to say that there has not been a more diligent member in this House during the last three weeks than the honorable member who has just interjected, but all he knows even now about the industrial legislation that went through this chamber could be written on a cigarette paper. The New South Wales Premier and his Ministers are most capable men, but they have not had the opportunity either to listen to the debates or to analyse carefully the type of legislation that this Government is enacting. We will vote against this measure. That will perhaps draw the attention of the New South Wales Government - a Labour government of which we are proud - to what has been done by this Government. It will alert the New South Wales Government, if need be, to the fight that it must put up if the workers in this country are to be protected from what is being done by this Government. For that reason, the Opposition will vote against this bill.
– I wish to add just a few words, without repeating what the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) has said. My remarks are rather by way of a suggestion to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt). First of all, I pay a tribute to the honorable member for Blaxland and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) for their efforts on the series of industrial bills that have been before this House in recent weeks. Those measures constitute such complex legislation that one would be astounded if the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) could become fully acquainted with their ramifications. Conciliation and arbitration bills are really a branch of the Statute Law that needs special study and special experience. It has been fortunate for the Opposition, and for the House and the country, that the honorable member for Bendigo and the honorable member for Blaxland have analysed those bills and have put forward every point that the Opposition wished to raise.
I should like the Minister to consider the situation that I shall now outline. The honorable member for Blaxland referred to the Snowy Mountains scheme by way of illustration. That project is territorially confined to New South Wales and the actual employment is in that State. It is not a matter within federal jurisdiction by reason of any territorial connexion. It is, of course, claimed to be within federal jurisdiction because the Snowy Mountains Authority is a Commonwealth agency. But the major employment on the Snowy Mountains scheme is not between the authority and its employees but between contractors to the authority and their employees. That, of course, does not involve any employment by the Commonwealth. Therefore, grave doubt exists whether the Commonwealth has jurisdiction at all in the area.
What has happened there resembles the proposal in this bill dealing with the coal industry. In the Snowy Mountains area - and the Minister knows that this is precisely the position - the New South Wales Industrial Commission, through the President, Mr. Justice Taylor, has handled disputes between the contractors and their employees by way of New South Wales jurisdiction. But that is not the most important point. His Honour has handled those disputes by using the processes of conciliation. 1 think that every dispute of any importance in the Snowy Mountains area has been settled by conciliation.
– The Leader of the Opposition is now reviving a matter that we have already disposed of.
– I know that. I shall not go back to that matter, hut shall come to the bill before the House. As the legislation that the Parliament has passed relating to the Snowy Mountains scheme sets up a tribunal from which an appeal lies to the new Commonwealth Industrial Court, so the Minister, in order to maintain the same pattern, is adopting a similar procedure in this legislation relating to the coal industry.
– No. It has not been the practice to allow appeals from the Coal Industry Tribunal.
– It has not been the practice; that is correct.
– This legislation Heals with appeals from judicial orders.
– I am perfectly well aware of that. But I should like to ask the Minister, in connexion with all this supplementary legislation, where there mil, in fact, probably be no exercise of strict Commonwealth jurisdiction, not to keep these enactments on the statute-book, as is the case in connexion with the Snowy Mountains scheme. I quite realize that I have perhaps gone beyond the specific matter before the House in referring to the Snowy Mountains scheme, but I did so in order to illustrate the success of conciliation in relation to that project, and the need to apply that process throughout the whole of Commonwealth industrial jurisdiction. I do not wish to add anything further to what my colleague has said.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave - proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr. DEPUTY Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Proposed section 58 -
A licensee shall not broadcast or televise a programme except during such hours as the Board determines.
Senate’s amendmentNo. 1. - Leave out “ a programme “, insert “ programmes “.
. - I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
This is a relatively simple amendment, which has been introduced as a result of representations made to the Government by licensees who felt that some miscon- ception might arise from the wording of the bill, and that the known intention of theGovernment might not be carried out. The intention was that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board should be given a general supervision over the hours during which certain kinds of programmes should be broadcast or televised. It was felt, particularly in relation to television, that there are certain hours during which it is not desirable to televise programmes that are not suitable for children. On the other hand, there are hours during which programmes suitable for adults should be seen. It was the intention that this section should provide for some form of control over this matter. It has been pointed out that, by using the singular form “ programme “, it was possible to interpret the section, to. mean that it was to apply to a particular programme and not to types of programmes. That may be considered to be a fine distinction, but, as it was felt that there was some virtue in theobjection, we propose to give effect to the representations that have been made. The use of the word “ programmes” should make the intention of the Government clearer.
– The Opposition has no objection to the amendment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed section 88a- -
The Commission or the holder of a licence for a commercial television station shall not televise, either directly, or by means of any recording, film or other material or device the whole or a part of any sporting event or other entertainment held in Australia,after the commencement of this section, in a place to which a charge is made for admission, except in accordance with an agreement with the promoter of the sporting event or other entertainment.
Senate’s amendmentNo. 2. - Leave out pro posed section88a, insert the following new section : - “88a. The Commission or the holder ofa licence for a commercial television station shall not televise, either directly, or by means of any recording, film or other material or device or otherwise, the whole or a part of a sporting event or other entertainment held in Ana tralia, after the commencement of this section, in a place to which a charge is made for admission, if the images of the sporting event or other entertainment originate from the use of equipment outside that place.
– The last three words of the amendment constitute the significant part of it. 1 should like to make a brief survey of the negotiations that have led up to the introduction of this amendment. My remarks will apply, also, to the Senate’s amendment No. 3, which is consequential upon this amendment. It will be remembered that the Government’s original intention in relation to therather debatable question of the rights of sporting bodies and of television and broadcasting licensees was expressed in my second-reading speech. The Government felt that, for the present at any rate, it was desirable that it should refrain from intervention in the question of the terms and conditions under which sporting events should be broadcast or televised: It was thought thatit was a matter that could be best determined by private treaty between the parties. The Government realized that the parties involved hadcertain rights. Ihave stated previously that the sporting bodies have certain very definite, inherent rights in the programmes that they provide for the public, and that the licensees and the viewers have rights that must be protected. Originally, the Government did not introduce legislation to deal with this matter. However, I invited representatives of the sporting bodies and the licencees to confer to ascertain whether it was possible for them to come to a reasonable agreement on the various aspects of thi:! question. As a result of certain representations that were made to it, the Government decided to introduce two amendments to the bill, the first to protect the rights of sporting bodies in the broadcasting or televising of events within their grounds, and the second to provide that the Government should have certain powers of arbitration in the event of there being disagreement between the sporting bodies and the licensees. Those amendments were agreed to at the committee stage.
Later, at my request, representatives of the sporting bodies and the licensees met in conference and further considered the whole position. As a result, a deputation waited on me, requested that the hill be amended and submitted proposals which are now the subject of these amendments. The representatives of the parties stated, in effect, that, after further consideration, they thought that it was desirable to leave the terms and conditions under which sporting events should be televised from within the grounds to negotiation and private treaty between the licensees and the sporting bodies. They said, however, that they would like some protection against the possibility of television or broadcasting companies pirating events from outside the sporting arena, and that they would be. quite happy if I agreed to an amendment of the bill to provide for such protection. They added that if that were done, they would be quite willing that the terms and COn.ditions applying to the broadcasting or rule vising of events from within the grounds should be left to private treaty, and that such provision should be deleted from the legislation. They asked also for the deletion of the provision contained in proposed section 134 for the making of regulations to give the Govern ment powers of arbitration to determine any matter in dispute. That proposal - which represented the final outcome of extensive conferences and discussions between the parties - was adopted by the Government, and, as I have indicated, the amendment applies only to the televising and not to the broadcasting of events from outside the ground. Because the bodies concerned had arrived at an agreement, particularly in relation to the question of pirating by television companies from outside the ground, the Government decided to meet their requests. It will be noted that the amendment reads -
At the final interview that I had with those representatives, I stated that I had some doubt about the wisdom of applying the prohibition to broadcasting as well as to television services, because I felt that the broadcasting of sporting events had been operative over a considerable period of time and that, after some initial disputes, a satisfactory basis of agreement had been reached. The parties stated, in reply, that they would not press the matter in relation to broadcasting services, but that they had included reference to it because they thought it was logical that, if the prohibition were to apply to television services, it should also apply to broadcasting services. They added that they regarded the television aspect of the matter as being really important. Because the Government thought it was not desirable to interfere with the existing practice in relation to broadcastins: services, it did not, when providing for this prohibition, include reference to broadcasting services. After this decision had been taken by the Government, I notified the representatives of the sporting bodies and the licensees and. in reply, I received a number of messages from some of those who were present at the interview, expressing complete satisfaction with the final outcome of our negotiations and appreciation of the way in which the Government had met their reasonable requests.
I think that that is all I need to say in explanation. T believe that the amendment meets the reasonable desires of all those who are involved in this matter. It is indicative of the wish of the Government to handle these problems, about which we have quite a lot to learn, in a reasonable way and, as far as possible, to meet the requirements of those involved in them. In conclusion, let me say that I advised the licensees and the sporting bodies that if, in the future, it should prove to be desirable to take the same action with regard to broadcasting as has been taken in relation to television, we should be quite prepared to give further consideration to that matter, but that we were not making provision for it in this amendment.I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– I move -
That the Senate’s amendment No. 2 be amended by omitting all words after “ Commission “ to the end of the proposed section, and inserting - “or a licensee shall not -
broadcast a contemporaneous description of the whole or a part of any sporting event or other entertainment held in Australia, after the commencement of this section, in a place to which a charge is made for admission ; or
televise, either directly or by means of any recording, film or other material or device, the whole or any part of such a sporting event or other entertainment, except in accordance with an agreement with the promoter of the sporting event or other entertainment “.
When this matter first came before us, the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes) put forward a proposal, the substance of which was that it should not be permissible for licensees, without the consent of the promoters, to televise sporting events or other entertainments. The Opposition accepted that proposal in principle, but suggested that the provision should not be limited to television, on the ground that the principle involved applied equally to simultaneous broadcasts. The Minister said that he would consider whether he could give effect to our view when the legislation reached another place.
There appears to have been a complete departure from the decision that we made then. Our decision was that the Government should prohibit the pirating - I use the Minister’s word - of an entertainment or sporting event by a television licensee. That was considered to be vital, but the Senate’s amendment is drafted in such a way as to provide only that it shall not be permissible to televise an entertainment or a sporting event from outside the ground in which it is held. With the advance of science, it may be possible, without the knowledge or consent of the promoters to televise from inside the ground a sporting event at which 50,000 or 100,000 people may be present. I do not know how the Government has reached its decision on thi? matter.I cannot understand it. We know that when certain broadcasting interests in Sydney were not permitted to broadcast descriptions of races from a race-course, they erected towers outside the course and broadcast descriptions of the races from those towers. That was as glaring an act of piracy as could be imagined. It amounted to stealing the entertainment. It is true that many people are interested in horse-racing, but licensees, from a moral point of view, have no more right to erect towers outside a race-course for the purpose of broadcasting descriptions of the races than they have to use a similar device to televise such races.
We propose that there should be inserted in the bill the provision suggested by the honorable member for Chisholm, and agreed to unanimously here. The substance of that provision is that it shall not be permissible to televise a sporting event or an entertainment without the consent of the promoter. If piracy occurs, does the spot from which it takes place make any difference ? Under the Senate’s amendment, if the televising were done from outside the ground, that would clearly be piracy,’ but I point out that it might be possible, without the consent of the owner, to televise a sports meeting from inside a great sporting arena. If the intention of the Government is to prevent piracy, why does it say, “ We shall stop the pirating of an entertainment if it is done from over the fence, but not if it is done in any other way “ ? The honorable member for Chisholm saw the difficulty clearly. Other honorable members saw it clearly, too, and they agreed to his proposal. The only difference between us then related to simultaneous broadcasts. Honorable members on this side urged that simultaneous broadcasts of sporting events should be prohibited also, unless made with the consent of the promoters. We felt that that view should be considered, and the Minister promised to consider it. The time to take action is now - not later, when vested interests in connexion with it may have arisen. My amendment proposes that all words after “Commission” to the end of the proposed section be omitted and that there be inserted the following words : - “or a licensee shall not -
If that were agreed to, simultaneous broadcasts would be prohibited, unless made by agreement with the promoters - “(b) televise, either directly or by means of any recording . the whole or any part of such a sporting event or other entertainment, except in accordance with an agreement with the promoter of the sporting event or other entertainment.”
We ask the committee to extend the proposal of the honorable member for Chisholm so that it will apply to simultaneous broadcasting as well as to television. We take the view that a simultaneous broadcast of an entertainment gives to listeners the pleasure of the entertainment, without the necessity to pay for it. In some instances, a sporting body may consider that a simultaneous broadcast will be helpful, not harmful, to its interests. If so, it will give its consent to a simultaneous broadcast and will make an agreement to that effect with the broadcasting companies.I agree with the Minister that if there are to be agreements, there must be some provision for implementing them. If the Government’s proposal were accepted, the position would he that licensees, without the consent of the promoter, could televise any sporting event or entertainment held in Australia so long as they did it from inside the ground’, which sometimes covers a huge area. I suggest that we stick to the principle that we laid down previously and that we apply it also to simultaneous broadcasting;.
The Minister said that the object of the Government was to prevent the pirating of an entertainment or sporting event by means of either television or broadcasting.
– From outside.
– That is the provision suggested now, but in the amendment that we agreed to previously the prohibition was not restricted to operations from outside. It applied to all telecasts made without consent - whether from outside, from inside or from above.
– The request emanated from the sporting bodies themselves.
– That occurred after we had dealt with the matter. I do not think that all of the sporting bodies of Australia will agree to this change, although the Minister has got some approbation from certain bodies. It is probable that most of them believe that the position is as it was when the bill left this chamber some time ago. We should insist that the Government give effect to the view that we expressed previously and, at the same time, endeavour to ensure that radio broadcasting licensees shall not indulge in piracy - to use the Minister’s word - theft or stealing of entertainments. It would be theft to broadcast an entertainment without the consent of the promoter, because it would be broadcast to people who had not paid for the privilege of enjoying it. That sort of thing should be stopped. Broadcasts without consent - whether they be made from outside, from inside or from above - should not be permitted. We do not know what devices will be developed that will make it easier for licensees to broadcast or televise events from inside sporting arenas, without the knowledge or consent of the promoters. Therefore, we should adhere to the view that we expressed previously. My amendment is designed to test the feeling of the committee on this important matter.
Mr. MACKINNON (Corangamite) 11.45]. - The explanation given by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) of the Senate’s amendment should commend itself to all honorable members. The amendment accords with the wishes of all interested parties. I do not think it is detrimental to the Minister’s standing that he has been willing to have another look at a problem of this kind and to try to arrive at a solution that accords with the wishes of the people directly concerned, and which incidentally, I believe, removes the responsibility of the Government to interfere in this matter. That point is being lost sight of. I believe that the object of the Senate’s amendment is quite obvious. The responsibility for policing the piracy of television will be taken from the control of the sporting body itself. It is something which the sporting bodies cannot deal with themselves. That is the first point. The other point is that it will give to the promoters of a particular entertainment or event the right to make their own arrangements. That is highly desirable. There will be less Government action and interference, which should be in the best interests of both the public and the parties concerned. If the committee examines the matter in that light, it will realize that although various amendments have been moved in both Houses, second thoughts may prove to be the best. I support the Senate’s amendment.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has put what I believe to be an unanswerable case. He made two points, that sound broadcasting of events from outside a sporting ground is just as objectionable as is telecasting events from outside the ground without the permission of the persons managing the sporting events, and that the clause as it now stands is weak, because it will not prevent people from broadcasting events from inside the ground or making film, or doing certain other things which will enable the property of the sporting body to be stolen or pirated and then used for the financial advantage of persons who happen to have licences for commercial television stations. The air is the public domain but, as soon as a company has control of a broadcasting or television, licence in this country, it regards itself as -a public benefactor and considers that the public should pay it tribute for using the public domain, when the position ought to be the reverse. In my view the day has arrived, or is about to arrive, when it will be possible for a person in one of the great stands erected by our sporting clubs to take a full length colour film of an event and use it, almost immediately or at some later time, for a television programme. How can the intentions of the Parliament in this regard be policed unless a person taking a film amongst 100,000 people can be detected ? It is of no use to say that that is not likely to happen. It can happen and I think that it will happen, because I have no faith in any commercial television station not looking after its own interests. I would not put it past any such company to make a film and thus steal the property of the persons who have gone to the trouble and expense of serving the community by organizing a sporting function. That happened in the past in several States of the Commonwealth in regard to broadcasting and it happened over quite a long period. The Minister says that the sporting bodies are not worried about pirating of events by broadcasting stations. I think that the position is a little different, and that the sporting bodies which came to Canberra to impress their views on the Government were so worried and concerned about the matter-
Mr. Turnbull audibly conversing with Mr. Davidson at the table,
– I wish that the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) would not interfere while I am trying to address remarks to the Chair for the benefit of the Minister.
– Order! The honorable member will resume his speech.
– I was saying that the sporting bodies were so worried about the prospect of television destroying future sporting events that they were prepared to compromise by accepting protection from the piratical intentions of television companies and leaving the dangers from broadcasting companies doing something similar to the future, but the dangers of broadcasting have again obtruded themselves. The other day in Melbourne commercial broadcasting stations again ganged up on the Victorian Racing Club, which said that it would not permit the broadcasting of certain information in regard to starters, riders and scratchings until five minutes before the start of each mee. The commercial stations said, u That is no good to us “, and threatened to go outside the race grounds in Melbourne and broadcast again, as they did years ago, from balconies on the opposite aide of the street from the race-course. They used to do that at Caulfield, but *hey cannot very well do it at Flemington. The attitude of most of the Victorian commercial stations on this issue is, “ If you will not do what we want you to do, we will take our own remedies and steal your programmes as we stole them before “. I think, therefore, that the Minister should accede to the request of the Leader of the Opposition and include in the amendment a reference to broadcasting. What as to be lost by it ? Nothing at all ! But we shall give protection to persons who are entitled to protection.
Sporting bodies are not the only ones to be considered in this matter. They have their rights, of course, but th( Parliament itself is bound to consider, not only the representations of sporting bodies, but also what is best generally for the whole community in all forms and types of entertainment. The Tivoli programme, or even some of the films shown in the big city theatres, could be stolen hy television companies. The Parliament has a duty to extend the protection suggested both by the Minister and, in wider form, by the Leader of the Opposition, if it thinks that it is desirable to do so. The Senate’s amendment is not as sound as the Government and some sporting bodies consider it to be. I think that the provision should go further. It is all very well for the Minister to say that the Government would be prepared to give consideration to this matter at some subsequent date, if it were found that the broadcasting stations were abusing the provisions of the act or not acting properly and fairly towards sporting bodies ; in other words, if there was reason to stop the programmes.
– The Government proposes to lock the stable door after the horse is stolen.
– lt is proposing to lock the stable door after all the horses at Flemington and other race-courses have bolted. The example I have quoted shown that it is incumbent on the Government to take action now to prevent the stealing by the Victorian commercial broadcastingstations of the property of the Victorian Racing Club. 1 happen to be a trustee of a very important body which controls the Melbourne Cricket Ground, and I know just how little commercial stations are prepared to pay to broadcast from inside the ground. As a matter of fact, they think that in making broadcasts they are conferring a public benefit.
– These are only fears which the honorable member is expressing to-day.
– The right honorable gentleman would not know because hfnever goes to a race meeting or to any other event conducted by sporting bodies. I do not know what he does with his Saturday afternoons, but he certainly knows nothing about the theft of the property rights of sporting bodies that have occurred in the past and can occur again.
– He goes to the Shakespearian Society.
– I do not think that the right honorable gentleman knows any more about Shakespeare than he does about racing.
– You are a. pretty good “ ham “ yourself.
– What did you say?
– T was not referring to you.
– Order ! Honorable members must cease interjecting.
– Only stubbornness on the part of the Government could make it refuse to accept the very reasonable amendment that has been suggested by the Leader of the Opposition. I am afraid that the members of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, who are charged with giving advice on this matter, think that the position in regard to broadcasting is ali right. It is not, and it should be made all right. [ ask the Minister to accept, for the first time since this Government came into power seven years ago, an amendment moved by a. member of the Opposition.
Mr. TURNBULL (Mallee) [11.56 J.The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), has just given us an excellent illustration of his abundant lack of knowledge of this bill. He was right on only one aspect, and he had a personal knowledge of that. He said nhat just because some people get a licence to run a broadcasting station they regard themselves as benefactors of humanity. Any one who listens to the honorable member for Melbourne speaking during the Labour hour on Sunday afternoon will know all about that. The honorable gentleman suggested that it was possible to broadcast from outside the Caulfield race-course but not from outside Flemington but for years when, owing to certain opposition, Mr. Eric Welch found it was not possible for him to broadcast from inside that race-course, he did so from a top window of the Angliss building, which is in the honorable member’s electorate. That reveals his abundant lack of knowledge.
– That is in the electorate of Gellibrand.
– There was no electorate of Gellibrand at that time. The honorable member’s electorate encompasses the Newmarket saleyards, which are right beside this particular building. At any rate, it is so close that it does not matter. Let us now pass on to something concrete. The Minister has said that, in conference with the television and broadcasting organ Nations, and the sporting bodies, he has been assured that the amendments are acceptable to them.
– They are acceptable to some of the sporting bodies.
– They are acceptable to all the principal sporting bodies, racing clubs and other organizations with which the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) has been in conference. I accept his assurance, and am therefore not prepared to support the amendment of the Loader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt).
.- I support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and believe that the indication of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) that already a dispute is pending over the broadcasting of races in Victoria emphasizes that the clause should include broadcasting, in order to protect sporting bodies that may wish to prohibit pirate broadcasting of their events. The honorable member pointed out that in Victoria the racing clubs have, because of poor attendances, sought to restrict the information available to the public from the various broadcasting stations. They have proposed that certain scratchings, or riders, shall not be given over the air until a few moments before races commence. Already one commercial station has indicated that it is not very much concerned about this restriction because it is prepared to return to the days when it had to erect towers and pirate race broadcasts. In England, television towers have been erected to pirate the televising of races. Surely it is reasonable to suggest that the amendment should be accepted.
– It is equivalent to what we have already adopted in regard to television.
– That is so. Some of the sporting bodies have accepted the Minister’s amendments because, in the first instance, they believed that they would get. nothing at all. They have accepted half a loaf of bread as being better than none. We have here an opportunity to do something to protect hem. I hope that this debate will lead eventually to an amendment of the Copyright Act which will enable sporting bodies to obtain protection, and that we shall no longer have to go to the trouble of inserting such provisions as this in legislation. The Minister also referred to the case put by the sporting bodies in regard to the establishment, under regulations, of a body to resolve disagreements between the sporting clubs and the telecasters.
The Government must surely doubt whether it has power to appoint a body to fix the price that shall be paid for this right. Does it not fall somewhere within the field of price control? If this Government has not the power to control prices, how can it give to a body the authority to say that the televising companies shall pay no more than a certain fixed sum ? We have now an opportunity, by supporting the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, to give the sporting bodies protection in regard to broadcasting as well as television. The need for this is highlighted by the pending dispute in Victoria between the racing flub and the broadcasting stations.
– I was very interested in the last few words of the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin), but I think that this discussion has brought forth, more than anything else, the fundamental fact that honorable members generally seem to have forgotten the main idea behind sport. We seem to have so channelled our thinking as to consider only sports, such as racing, which have a large public following and are in a position to command high fees for television or telecasting. A few years ago when I was fortunate enough to be in England, I was amazed that the British Broadcasting Corporation interrupted a television broadcast, at a most critical point in the third test match, to enable the children’s session to proceed with the televising of a puppet show. My admiration of the British Broadcasting Corporation was heightened when I realized that in Australia we would not think of interrupting the broadcast of a major sporting event such as a horse race, or a test match, merely to put on a children’s session. I think that when we consider these amendments we must remember the need to approach television in the spirit that one finds in England.
When broadcasting first started, the immediate reaction to the broadcasting of sporting events was indicated in a statement by sporting bodies that it would immediately cut down the crowds at matches. But I think it has been found that the reverse has happened. A balltoball description of cricket and descriptions of Other sporting events have only resulted in the stimulation of a greater interest in sporting activity amongst the public, and has been instrumental in increasing the crowds. We should realize that it will be impossible to telecast the whole of any match or event. Only excerpts will be televised. If the standard of sport is high in those excerpts, an- increased number of spectators will follow the sport and so telecasting will be an advantage to it. One has to take the view that, eventually, television will spread throughout the States of Australia. Although each State has its own sporting set-up, certain events are held throughout the land which are of vital interest to every one in Australia. Any amendment to this legislation must be designed so that the people in any far State would not be deprived of the right to see an event on the screens of television just because distance prevented them from being present at the actual event.
I think that the Government’s recommendation will provide a far greater safeguard in this respect than the one suggested by the Opposition. I think that the amendment suggested by the Opposition is far too drastic in its implications and would be seen to be a disadvantage if we looked forward to the day which, I hope, will not be far distant when television will be available to the people of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania and the other States that are not at present included in the provision of these services.
– What about Queensland ?
– I did not think of it. but I do include every State in Australia, because I have seen television. When I saw it in the United States of America, I considered that the longer we kept it out of Australia, the better But, having seen it in the United Kingdom, I felt that we could ill afford to be without it, because its educational value was so high and the programmes were so different from those in the United States. I know that the rejoinder will come from the Opposition that Australia will import American programmes. But the standard of programmes in the United Kingdom was far higher than chat of the American programmes, and many American programmes are well worthy of presentation here.
– That is the difference between public and private telecasting.
– That is true. But in Australia, I think, the general standard will be an average of the American and British programmes. Perhaps some spirit of idealism will instill itself into the operation of our television so that the children of Australia may benefit from it. Television will be a vital factor, one way or the other, to the children, and will act to the best advantage-
– Order ! We are not discussing virtues of television. We are discussing the n mend ment.
.- The necessity for the amendments that have been proposed by the Opposition and the Government to provide protection for sporting bodies in relation to the televising of sporting events has arisen because the present law is not satisfactory for the protection of the sporting bodies. I want to make that point clear. If the present law were satisfactory, the amendments proposed would not have been necessary. The present law is not satisfactory, in relation to both broadcasting and television. A new law is required for the protection of sporting bodies in respect of broadcasting and television. I think that this will be generally admitted.
However, the Government has chosen not to include in its amendment a protection in relation to broadcasting. It seems to me, therefore, that the amendments proposed by the Opposition are necessary in order to provide additional protection in regard to broadcasting. Also, the present law is not satisfactory, both in relation to operations carried on outside the ground and inside the ground. T want to remind the committee that there is a law at the present time which can be invoked to protect the sporting bodies and to settle issues that arise between television operators and sporting bodies. There is a law which can be invoked for operations outside the grounds and inside the grounds, and it is quite incorrect for the Government to say that we need a new law to cover the. situation outsidethe grounds but that the existing law will’cover the situation inside the ground.
The whole of this measure may well becalled successfully into question on constitutional grounds. The amendment proposed by the Government, as well as every other amendment, may become unsatisfactory, eventually, on constitutional, grounds. According to the Government,, the law which exists can be used to deal with this matter which arises both m. regard to operations carried on outside as well as inside the grounds. The Government has said that a new law is needed to cover the situation outside thegrounds, but that it will allow the existing law to operate inside the grounds. 1 say that if the sporting bodies are to> depend upon the existing law to solve problems that arise in relation to operations inside the ground, they may verywell find themselves in a very difficult position. The existing law is not good enough. I want to say this clearly tothe committee and to the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) : The sporting: bodies are not satisfied with the proposed amendment that the Minister has put before the committee. I am sorry that the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes), who was so concerned with this matter, is not at present in thechamber. If he were here to speak, as I speak, on the attitude of the sporting bodies to this measure, I am sure that the honorable member would support the amendment that he proposed and which was accepted by the Government some weeks ago.
– He told me personally before he left that he was satisfied with the present amendment.
– It seems to me that there has been a remarkable change, because many of those in amateur athletic and football bodies in Victoria are not satisfied with this legislation.
– Do they play football in Victoria?
– Of course they do.
– I should like to keep this matter on a serious level. The provision is this : The Government is saying, in substance, “ The existing law is inadequate to deal with a situation in regard to operations which are carried on outside the grounds “. That is accepted. I think that we all agree on that. A new law is necessary to safeguard the situation. But it is equally true that the existing law with regard to the settlement of legal problems inside the grounds is not satisfactory, and a new law is needed just as much in that respect. Could we make a situation fairer than by providing by a law that the televising and, for that matter, broadcasting, of -events cannot be carried on except in -accordance with an agreement with the promoter of a sporting event or other -entertainment? What could he fairer or more reasonable than that? But the Government is not satisfied to accept such a proposal. Why is the Government not -satisfied to accept it?
It seems to me that, some weeks ago, the Government was satisfied to accept an amendment which substantially provided for the implementation of that proposal but that a conflict of interest has -developed between the television operators ;and the sporting bodies. As a result of the assertion of the influence of television operators in recent times, the pressure of influence has changed and it seems to me that the Government has come down - as one could well expect - on the side of the television operators. The Government has provided legislation which is satisfactory to the television operators. The Postmaster-General has not told usthat there is any objection from the television operators to this measure. I bet that there is no objection. I bet that they are quite satisfied.
– The Minister said that.
– Yes. But the sporting bodies are not satisfied. If I have to choose between the interests of the sporting bodies, particularly the amateur ones - I am not so concerned with the activities of those which are generally based on gambling, such as racing - and those of the television corporations which, it is obvious, will wield a considerable amount of power in this country in the future, then I shall come down unhesitatingly on the side of the sporting bodies. I think that this issue brings out the necessity to make that choice. I should like to know more of the pressures, the influences that have been brought to bear on the Government, and the advices that have been conveyed to the Government in the last few weeks that have resulted in the production, in another place,- of these changes in this legislation. I think that what has happened is most significant, and before resuming my seat I want to say again that the sporting bodies are not satisfied with this situation. 1 put it to the Government, therefore, that it ought to consider, at this stage, a return to the kind of legislation that is simple and straight-forward, and provides, in relation to operations both inside and outside of sporting grounds, that such operations shall not be televised or broadcast except with the approval of the promoter, be it a person or an organization, of the sporting or other entertainment. I can see no reason why the Government will not accept that as a principle.
.- One point on which I am in complete agreement with the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) is his statement as to which side he would support in this matter, had he to choose between the interests of the sporting bodies and of the television operators. He has said that, he would come down on the side of the sporting bodies, and I am all with him there. I do not agree that any listener or any viewer has any rights in connexion with receiving sound or visual broadcasts over the air. The proprietorship rests in the sponsors or promoters of the events broadcast. So we are on common ground there.
Now I come to the vexed question that is before the committee. Whilst the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), second in command of the Opposition in this chamber, has advanced what appears to be a very good case, his case nevertheless falls down on one ground. The weakness of his case lies in the fact that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) has consulted with the sporting bodies in relation to the move now being made. The submissions now before us are the result of the consultations that have taken place.
– And at the request of the sporting bodies.
– I want to commend the Minister for going to that length. We do not very often have Ministers consulting people in regard to their wishes. The Minister has done the wise thing. He has taken both sides into consultation, not only the sporting bodies, but also the vested interests that operate sound broadcasting services and those that will operate television services, and the sporting bodies have expressed satisfaction with what is being done.
– I disagree. Not all of them have expressed satisfaction with it.
– Of course, there are always people who want something more. I am one of them. I represent Moore, and I ask for more. It is always easy to find somebody who is a little dissatisfied.
– The honorable member does not look like Oliver Twist.
– Obviously, it is not possible to satisfy everybody every time. There will always be somebody who differs ; but in this case the representatives of the organizations concerned have agreed with what is being done. Now, let us get down to the mechanics of the business. The protection of the Government is definitely required against the pirating of sporting events from outside the arenas or courts in which they are held, because the sporting bodies have no control over what goes on outside the sporting areas. The sporting bodies have said, in effect to the Government, “You look after the outside. Give us protection so that nobody can pirate our programmes “. The honorable member for Melbourne suggests that there is also a clanger of pirating from the inside. I feel that the sporting bodies are prepared to meet the circumstances inside the sporting areas they control. They say, in effect, “Let us manage the inside pirates ourselves. We shall negotiate, we shall come to arrangements, and satisfy ourselves about what goes on inside the grounds, but we are worried about possible pirates outside the grounds “. The reason for that attitude is plain.
The value of a sound broadcast or telecast of an event lies in its conveyance to the listener or the viewer at the time the event is happening. No sporting, body fears competition from films of sporting events that are screened hours, days, weeks or months after the event has taken place, because screening after the event represents no competition to the sporting body, which is, of course. relying for its revenue on admittance charges paid by members of the public at the sporting ground. But the outside television or broadcasting pirate, on the other hand, represents actual and immediate competition with the sporting body, because he is broadcasting or telecasting the event at the time that it is occurring. I, personally, would think twice about paying £1, or some other admittancecharge, to see the Melbourne Cup if J could sit comfortably at home before atelevision set and see the race run, as well as hear it described. It is the spectacular nature of events telecast or broadcast that is the draw, and a pirate who broadcasts or telecasts an event concurrent with its happening represents very serious competition to the sporting body promoting the event. As I have said, such competition is not represented by the screening of a film, or the broadcasting of a description, of an event after the eventis concluded.
So the submissions of the PostmasterGeneral are correct submissions. Hehas consulted all the people affected, and they are satisfied with what is being done. The Minister is to be commended on his action, and on the fact that he has attempted to meet the wishes of all concerned. The logic of the thing, as I see it, is clear, once its basic aspects are fully consideredI am very happy to support the Senate’s amendment.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman-
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman- Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the words proposed to he omitted (Dr. Evatt’s amendment I stand part of the Senate’s amendment.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment to Senate’s amendment negatived.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 59 -
Section one hundred and seven of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the words “, and, in particular for -
making provision for -
preventing interference to the transmission or reception of the programmes of broadcasting stations or television stations “.
Senate’s amendmentNo. 3. - Leave out all the words after “ thereof “, insert “ the words and, in particular, for preventing interference to the transmission or reception of the programmes of broadcasting stations or television stations’.”
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
The amendment omits an amendment made during the consideration of the bill in committee in this chamber. It is consequent upon the Senate’s amendment No. 2, which inserted a new proposed section88a in place of the section originally proposed.
– Order ! There is too much noise in the chamber.
– My remarks on the previous amendment apply also to this amendment. The two matters cover the same subject. This amendment simply means that in the section dealing with the power to make regulations, paragraphs (i), (ii) and (iii) are deleted. Those paragraphs provide for the making of regulations in regard to the settlement of disputes, and terms of the determination of such a dispute, and requiring persons to comply with the terms of the determination of such a dispute. This amendment is in accordance with the request of the conference to which I referred previously. The Government has decided to agree to that request. The one is corollary action to the action we have just taken.
. -The Opposition offers no objection to the carriage of this amendment made by the Senate. Members on this side have a feeling that the sporting bodies were taken for a ride by the television companies at the conference presided over by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) .
– No, I did not preside over it. The parties were entirely on their own.
– I think we are both right. There was a conference that slogged it out at the Senate end of the building for a couple of hours.
– That was only the sporting bodies; the television bodies were not there.
– Thank you for that information. Anyhow, all the bodies then came together under the benign influence of the PostmasterGeneral’spresence and ultimately they reached what I think is a compromise settlement. The sporting bodies were pleased to beable to get what they could , as quickly as possible to prevent the televisions broadcasters from being able to pirate their wares. I met some of the television, people afterwards and they said, “ The sporting bodies can trust us. We are prepared to make agreements.” I would rather have something in an act of Parliament than in a legal document, because other people might come along: at a later time and repudiate the agreement. It is always far better to have such things settled in an act of Parliament. We have not been able to get all we wanted in this amendment, but we accept what we have been able to obtain and do not oppose the carriage ofthe further amendment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Second schedule -
.- I move-
That the amendment be agreed to.
This is purely a drafting amendment, which follows the passing of the last two amendments. It provides simply for an alteration to the schedule, which is made necessary by the action the committee has just taken.
Mr.Calwell. - The Opposition agrees.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolutions reported ; reportadopted.
Sitting suspended from 12.89 to 2.15 [Quorum formed.]
Debate resumed from the 8 th June (vide page 3024), on motion by Mr. Townley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
-The House will recall that last week it was agreed, for purposes of convenience, that the discussion on the second reading of this bill and its cognate measure, the Australian Coastal Shipping Agreement Bill 1956, should take place concurrently.
.- This bill, together with the Australian Coastal Shipping Agreement Bill 1956, represents the first legislative action initiated by this Government, in its six and a half years of office, to deal with the most decrepit and inefficient arm of Australia’s transport services. The two bills deal with the coastal arm of our shipping services. They deal with the only section of our transport system which carries less goods and fewer people than it carried before the war. It deals with the arm of our transport services in which charges and freight rates have risen most sharply, being now five times as great as they were before the war. It is the arm of our transport services in which the equipment is most antiquated, and in which the least adequate measures are being taken to replace such equipment.
I have said that the legislation deals with the coastal section of our shipping services. Despite the trade problems that are increasingly crowding in on Australia, the Government has still made no attempt, in this or any other legislation, to deal with the problems of international shipping. As I said on a recent occasion, Australia is one of the dozen biggest trading nations in the world, and it is the only one of those nations which has no ships owned by its government, or by any company domiciled within its shores, engaged in international trade. To realize how far Australia has lagged behind other countries in regard to its shipping services, one need only compare our mercantile marine, which is entirely coastal and largely pre-war in vintage,, with that of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, West Germany, theNetherlands, Japan, and the other nations which engage in international trade taas great an extent as, or a greater extent than, we do.
The bill before the House at the moment is the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Bill 1956, which, as you havepointed out, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will be debated concurrently with the AustralianCoastal Shipping Agreement Bill 1956. The first of those two bills largely reenacts the Shipping Act 1949, which wasenacted by the Chifley Government, but not promulgated by that Government or by the present Government. It also puts in the form of an act the National Security (Shipping Co-ordination) Regulations, which, I think, are the last regulations still extant under the National Security Act and the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act. While we would applaud the enactment and promulgation of legislation in similar terms to thelegislation introduced by the Labour Government in 1949, or the regulationsintroduced by that government during the war we must, on this occasion, vote against this legislation both at the second reading and the committee stage, because of thenumerous alterations made to the provisions of the 1949 act and the National Security Regulations. Let me refer tobut three of those alterations, because my colleagues will be referring to others in greater detail later.
The first matter that 1 mention ha* already been referred to by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Townley), whointroduced the legislation. The qualification recommended by the Public Accounts Committee concerning the position of commissioners in the AustralianCoastal Shipping Commission ha& been ignored in this case, despite the Government’s unhappy experience with a similar statutory body, the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, and despite the practiceadopted by the Mother of Parliaments in the United Kingdom regarding statutory bodies that it sets up. Clause 13 of this- bill exempts a commissioner from disclosing his interest in a contract with the commission where his interest is a member of a company consisting of not less than 25 persons. That exemption is clearly inserted in this legislation because the whole operations of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission will be carried on through shipping companies, and it is clearly the intention of the Government that this commission should be composed of representatives or directors of private shipping companies. The Government was twitted about this in another place, and it did not deign to comment on the matter, because, clearly, there could be no comment favorable to itself. Those private shipping companies, of course, have hitherto, under the regulations, carried out all snipping operations conducted by what will now be the commission’s ships. The Government proposes to depart from the practice followed in England, and recommended in this country, in regard to statutory corporations, in order to give a special position to the nominees of private shipping interests, so that they can, within the law, carry on the operations of the commission to suit themselves. A conflict of duty and interest will result, but the Government is proposing to sanctify it by exempting those people from disclosing it.
Secondly, there is in this bill, as there was not in the 1949 act, a limitation on the power of the commission to borrow. You will have appreciated, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the effect of these bills is to impose a considerable number of duties and functions on the commission in carrying on shipping operations, and in the case of conflict between the commission and the private companies there is provision for arbitration by private, unaccountable persons. But any award which is made by such a private and unaccountable person, after arbitration, can be set at nought by the Government refusing to make the proper appropriation. The commission will have no capital except the ships that it will have at the commencement of its operations, and such appropriations as may be made. The legislation provides a limit of £1,000,000 on the temporary overdraft which it may secure, and, as the House will appreciate, £1,000,000 is not sufficient to build a ship in Australia of the size which is currently needed, nor to buy overseas such a vessel. It is not enough for the commission to carry out any of its obligations in a satisfactory manner. Therefore, even if an award is made in favour of the commission by one of these private or, as they are called, independent authorities, it cannot be effectuated until and unless thiMinister and the Government decide to make sufficient money available.
Thirdly, Part III. of the 1949 act, which is entitled “Licences”, has been omitted. That is a crucial section of the act, and it is one which we certainly believe, in the interests of Australian defence and trade, should be retained. The whole object of Part III. of the 1949 act was to ensure that no ship participated in interstate trade on the Australian coast unless it was less than 25 years old and had been built in Australia. Exceptions were made in relation to ships that were already carrying on such trade. Bui the Commonwealth, in the exercise of its undoubted powers beyond the three-mile limit and in relation to interstate trade, imposed the necessity for a licence to be held in order to ensure that thereafter the Australian shipping fleet would be modernized and would be Australian built. This Government proposes to delete tha! part of the act which, as I have suggested, is a crucial one in relation to both our trade and defence.
The companion bill, and the much more outrageous one, relates to the agreement. I am amazed that the arrangement should be called an agreement. Rather than being an agreement, it sets out terms of capitulation. There is not, in effect, agreement when one party to an agreement stands to gain nothing and the other party stands to lose nothing. The private shipping companies which signed thi? agreement include the companies that comprise the Associated Steamship Owners Federation, the Tasmanian companies, and a few of the stevedoring companies that are owned by members of the Associated Steamship Owners Federation and which, as you know, sir, are proprietary companies. The undertakingsthat have been given by those bodies under the agreement are so trite, brief and innocuous that I shall refer to them. Clause 5 (1.) of the agreement reads -
The Companies which are shipowners . . . undertake that . . .
they will acquire and maintain in operation vessels of sufficient number and tonnage and of such types as will, with the vessels of other companies and of the Commission, provide adequate, efficient and economical coastal and territorial shipping services; and (fi) they will conduct their shipping operations in an efficient and economical manner and under competitive conditions.
Sub-clause (2.) reads -
The Companies which are engaged in stevedoring or the handling of cargo . . . undertake that they will conduct the stevedoring of the Commission’s vessels and the booking niel handling of cargo carried in the Commission’s vessels in which they are engaged in » manner which i3 efficient unci economical and which ensures that the Commission’s vessels receive fair and equitable treatment.
Those are the only obligations that are accepted by the companies under an agreement which consists of 22 clauses.
Only one clause constitutes a burden to the companies and it is ineffectual, because they cannot be made responsible for it. It is a pious platitude. It is purely a precatory provision without any bite in it. Therefore, the shipping companies and the stevedoring companies which are owned by the shipping companies have undertaken to do no more than to act as would any honest and efficient operator. Experience has shown that they are neither efficient nor honest in their dealings with the Australian public or with the Australian Shipping Board, whose ships they have conducted on a commission basis over the last ten years, and which now, under this agreement, they will be able to conduct on the same basis for a further period of twenty years.
They are the only undertakings - and they are without sanctions - that have been assumed by one set of parties to the agreement. Every other clause involves some limitation upon the proposed commission. In fact, if the commission were a private shipping company and not a publicly owned instrumentality, and if the Government sought to impose upon it the conditions which, under this agree ment, the commission has voluntarily accepted, that private shipping company would be thoroughly justified in going to the courts on the ground that the Commonwealth was imposing unconstitutional and unjust terms upon it. Similarly, if it were a private company and if its directors entered into this kind of agreement with the other signatories, there is no doubt that the shareholders would be justified in having the directors indicted under the criminal law and the company laws of every State of the Commonwealth and of the territories. Thi? is an unconscionable agreement which no private company could get away with if it were dealing with other private companies, and which the courts would not allow the Government to get away with if the conditions contained in it were imposed upon a private company.
Of course, the agreement fits into the pattern which the Government has pursued in relation to all its business undertakings over the last six and a half years. Certain business undertakings formerly owned by the Government which compete fairly and successfully with numerous private business undertakings have been sold. I need to refer only to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and the Australian Whaling Commission. Each of those ;.3 a thoroughly successful undertaking which competed, not unjustly, with several other organizations that were carrying on a similar activity. When government undertakings have competed so successfully that private organizations might be forced to go out of business, the attitude of the present Government has been to fetter the publicly owned activity. In this respect, I need to refer only to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Trans-Australia Airlines and now the proposed Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. There is no doubt that, in the course of time, each of those instrumentalities would have taken over painlessly, and by sheer efficiency and modernity, the activities of private operators. Therefore, to save the private operators, the public operator has to be fettered. Competition is not fostered but curbed. In order to preserve private enterprise, which is inefficient, public enterprise must be restrained.
The Australian shipping line unquestionably has been a most successful public enterprise. It operates not only the greatest number, but almost all the modern ships on the Australian coast - certainly the only modern ships built in Australia. With two exceptions to which I shall soon refer, it is the only operator that places orders with Australian shipbuilders. If it were not for the vessels operated by the Australian shipping line, Australia’s coastal trade would have declined to a still greater degree. It is easily the most modern Australian fleet; indeed, it is entirely modern. All its ships have been built during or since World War II. Its cost was assessed a couple of months ago at £18,163,551. That figure includes the value that has been placed on the river«lass ships, which were built as an emergency measure during the war and which were no more intended to be used as the basis of a peace-time trading fleet than were the Liberty and the Victory slaps that were built in North America. Nevertheless, they have been charged against the board, and are regarded as part of its capital. The fleet consists of 44 ships, and 11 others are on order. I point out that the hill does not refer to or make provision for any ship that is to be built or orders that will be placed hereafter. No such ships .ire mentioned,
And no such contracts are safeguarded.
It is true that, during the immediate post-war years, the Australian shipping line did not make a profit. It lost money, and for several reasons. First, it was using only ships that had been built during war-time. Furthermore, in order to keep down costs to the consumer and to place as little burden as possible upon primary producers, freight rates were kept down. The Commonwealth shipping line was the only line, as it still is, to undertake developmental runs. In the last four years - indeed, I believe in the last five years - it has made substantia] profits. I have not secured the figures for the financial year ended on the 31st March, because they have not been presented to the Parliament. I do not know whether the report has been handed to the Minister. If so, we have not been told about it. But, on the basis of previous reports, I should expect it to make a substantial profit in that year also. For the financial year ended on the 31st March, 1952, the profit was £408,569; for the next year, it was £275,481; for the next year, it was £493,454 ; and for the year ended on the 31st March, 1955, it was £370,725.
Those are very creditable figures. We know that the Commonwealth gets the whole of the profits made by the Commonwealth shipping line, not just the tax paid on disclosed profits. The profit? made by the publicly owned line compare? very favorably with those made by the private, inefficient shipping companies which are signatories to the agreement contained in the second bill. The Adelaide Steamship Company, in the last financial year, made a disclosed profit of £139,518. It is not a pauper, but it cannot boast about its record, compared with that of the publicly owned line. Australian Steamships Proprietary Limited is a subsidiary of Howard Smith Limited, which, in its last financial year, made a profit from that and other activities of £471,383. Huddart Parker Limited, in its last financial year, made a profit of £404,658. None of those companies is a pauper and none of them really needs this subvention. The only things which they have to fear are their own inefficiency and the public line’s undoubted and increasing efficiency. But, as we have learned, the fact that a public enterprise is making money is, in the view of the Government, the very best reason why it should be either sold or fettered. The object of the Government in this legislation was stated by the Minister in rather bland, innocent-seeming terms. He said -
Tt has been the objective of the Government in drafting this bill to place the commission, as far as possible, in the same position as a private operator of ships.
We do not demur to that. But to what extent is the Government able to justify its claim? Let me recall what the private shipping operators of this country have done ever since we have had coastal shipping - which, after all, was the firstform of interstate transport in Australia. First, they were virtually free during the last six years - in defiance of the law. I make bold to say - and before the war they were certainly free to build ship? wherever they wanted to build them and of whatever tonnage they desired. Secondly, they were free to buy ships and to sell ships wherever they wished. They could buy ships of any tonnage from any source and they could send ships for sale to any destination. Thirdly, they could undertake the provision of shipping services to any port in Australia and they could discontinue such services to any port in Australia. Fourthly, they were completely free to fix what fares and charges they wished. Fifthly, they did their own booking, through companies which they owned or directed. Lastly, through companies which they owned, they carried out their own stevedoring operations.
The exponents of a free economy might well say that all that is in keeping with their doctrines and that that is how things should he. But I point out that in the United States of America - the only successful example of a free economy - very many and very strict bonds and fetters are put on transport operators. The United States, which, I think, has the largest mercantile marine in the world - certainly only the United Kingdom would have a larger one in service - has always insisted that American merchant shipping companies shall operate only modern ships and that they shall have been built in America. The Interstate Commerce Commission and other agencies of the United States Government have always insisted that there shall be no monopolistic practices by shipping companies or operators of other forms of transport in America, and that charges for transport between various parts of America and between America and other countries shall be fair and just. The United States Government rigorously superintends the activities of all American transport organizations - except in metropolitan areas they are all privately owned - in that country. That goes for the shipping companies as well as for the railways and the airlines. But in Australia there has never been any restriction of the operations of the interstate privately owned shipping companies, which provide the most inefficient of our transport services.
To what extent will the Government succeed in its declared objective of placing the commission, as far as possible, in the same position as the private operators of ships? With regard to the building of ships, there will be a limitation of the activities of the commission, which must build its ships in Australia. That is a most desirable limitation - one that should be imposed, as Labour imposed it, on all operators of ships in Australia. Secondly, the size of the commission’s fleet will be limited to 325,000 tons. There are circumstances in which an arbitrator, the Tariff Board-I should be the first to concede that it is an excellent arbitrator - can recommend that the commission be allowed to build more ships and increase the size of its fleet beyond 325,000 tons, but whether those ships would be built after the Tariff Board had so decided would depend entirely on the whim of the Minister or the government of the day. Whereas the private operators will be able to buy their ships wherever they like and to have fleets of whatever tonnage they like, the commission - the publicly owned operator - will be limited to building ships in Australia and will be limited also - this is the odious position - to a total of 325,000 tons.
There is a similar provision in regard to the buying of ships. The commission will not be able to buy ships overseas, and it will not be allowed to sell them overseas unless they are at least 25 years old. The private operators will be unfettered in regard to where they buy their ships. Except in the case of ships built in Australia with an Australian government subsidy, they will be perfectly free to sell whenever and wherever they like. They will be free to operate ships, whether bought overseas or built in Australia with a government subsidy, on the Australian coast or on any other coast. They will be free to charter ships, as they have done in recent years, wherever they wish. Our coastal shipping companies will be able to pursue the policy that they have pursued hitherto. They will be able to adopt an un-Australian, selfish attitude as regards the modernity and size of their fleets and the services provided by them.
The private shipping companies will still be unfettered in relation to the services they will maintain, institute or discontinue. The commission, on the other hand, will be given the burden - it can be given only to the commission - of opening up developmental routes. We know quite well that, but for the Commonwealth shipping line, Tasmania, the Northern Territory, Norfolk Island and the Territories of Papua and New Guinea would have been completely isolated on several occasions during the last few years. If it had not been for the Western Australian State Shipping Service, the whole of the Western Australian coast, as well as Darwin, would have been similarly isolated. The private shipowners of Australia cater for Australia’s fertile, crescent - and for that crescent only. They operate between Townsville and Adelaide in the winter and between Brisbane and Fremantle in the summer. As for the rich mineral and primary products of the areas left unserved, they are left to wither on the vine, so to speak. There has been no service at all to the outlying parts of the country. The shipping companies, the private transport operators in Australia, have done nothing whatever to develop our country. Tinder the agreement the Minister may decide and direct the commission to carry on some developmental services. If the commission makes a profit over all its operations it must bear the loss on the developmental services. If, on the other hand, it incurs a loss which may be a greater loss than it incurs in its developmental services, it is to be reimbursed to the extent only of the loss on the developmental services. There is no reimbursement of its general loss.
– Does the honorable member want it both ways?
– No, I want to be fair to both private and public operators. 1. should be perfectly content, and it would be consistent with the honorable member’s archaic philosophy and doctrinaire desocialization, if the private operators had the same benefits and handicaps as are imposed on the public operator. No handicaps are imposed on the private operators and every handicap is imposed on the public one. Under this agreement, the private operators do not undertake to carry out any developmental services and cannot be made to do so. The public operator oan he made to carry out develop mental services, to swallow the loss on these services if it makes an overall profit, and if it suffers an overall loss it is reimbursed for the loss on developmental services and that loss only. No consideration is given to the fact that while its ships might be engaged - and its ships will be the only ships engaged - in developmental services, it is being denied the opportunity to participate in the profitable services. It is made to take the worse end of the stick all the time, and the private operators are able to pick the eyes out of the trade every time. Of course, it suits honorable members who interject that public undertakings should be made to bear all these losses and handicaps, and of course it suits their book to be able to say, “ Here is a public enterprise which is failing, which does not return as good a dividend as is returned to private operators “. If the private, operators had been as responsible as the public operator in ordering ships in Australia and running a large and modern fleet, they might have merited consideration; but a3 I said before, they have suffered because of their inefficiency and their lack of faith and foresight in this basic Australian transport facility.
The next item I mentioned was the matter of fares and charges. The private operators in Australia are still left free to fix whatever fares and charges they wish to impose. There is no provision or undertaking in the agreement which limits them in any fashion whatever. The provision which is made as regards the commission is a curious one. The Minister may approve or disapprove of the fares and charges decided by the commission, but he cannot fix fares or charges. He can veto or endorse, but he has not the power of initiative. There could therefore be a stalemate between the commission and the Minister. In this bill we are not, as we should be, trying to use the Commonwealth’s inadequate economic and constitutional powers to suppress and eliminate cartels, monopolies, and restrictive trade practices; we are sanctioning and sanctifying them. We are asked to agree that the commission shall have the initiative and be able to thwart a government. In other words, the Queen’? adviser, who is elected by and responsible to the Queen’s subjects, is to have no say at all in the matter by way of initiative. One of the great arguments and justifications for public enterprise in Australia is that it has been able to compete against private enterprise and keep private enterprise within limits. That was the argument for the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited competing with the petrol companies and for Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited competing with the electronics, radio and television corporations. Here, we are entirely eliminating the very thing which we ought to be using the Commonwealth shipping line to effectuate and ensure.
The last function which the private companies have hitherto performed is to conduct their bookings and cargohandling, and through their “ stooge ‘’ companies, the stevedoring operations. In all these respects the commission is precluded for twenty years, the duration of the agreement, from carrying out any such functions at all. It is the only operator on the Australian coast which will not be free to accept bookings of passengers or cargo. It is the only operator on the Australian coast which will be unable to undertake stevedoring operations, and the only operator which will be unable to pick up and deliver cargo. It will be completely fettered. All its arrangements will continue to be made, as they have hitherto been made, by the private companies, the members of the Associated Steamship Owners Federation, which comprises the majority of the signatories to the agreement. It is not generally realized, of course, that the Australian shipping line has never been permitted to function - we did not permit it during the war or in the few post-war years that we were in office, and the Government, during the six and a half years it has been in office has not permitted it to function - as a line of its own. Its functions have always been performed on a commission basis by the private shipping operators. Of its ships, eight are run by the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited, six by the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company Limited, seven by Howard Smith Limited, three by Huddart Parker Limited and James Patrick and Company Proprietary Limited, four by Mcllwraith McEacharn
Limited and the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand Limited, two by the Melbourne Steamship Company Limited and William Holyman and Sons Proprietary Limited, and some individual ones by some of the smaller fry which form the tail-end of the signatories to the agreement. It has never been allowed to operate as a line of its own.
I propose to refer to the handicap which has been imposed on Australia by its shipping services in recent years. The position of the shipping industry is well known to the Government, although it has done its best to suppress that fact for some time. It will be remembered that last year the Department of Shipping and Transport presented to a meeting of the Australian Transport Advisory Council a lengthy, factual, and very moderate report on Australia’s road, sea, air and rail services. It showed that while shipping was still the cheapest way of carrying bulk cargoes and many other cargoes over any considerable distance, the equipment was the oldest and was getting older. Furthermore, of course, the Government had before it the Tariff Board report, which like all the board’s reports, is an admirable one. The shipbuilding industry was referred to the board in March, 1954. A report was made to the Government on the 16th June, 1955, and it was presented to the Parliament ten months later, on the 12th April this year. It was known when the matter was referred to the board, and still more was it known when the board’s report was presented twelve months ago this week, that the shipbuilding industry in Australia was in a parlous condition. It would have been completely extinguished in all shipyards except Whyalla, but for the orders placed by the Australian .Shipbuilding Board, which has sold most of its ships to the Commonwealth shipping line and some few, to which I shall refer presently, to the private companies which are the signatories to this agreement. In the board’s report on shipbuilding facilities in Australia, it is recorded that we build each year about 25,000 tons of shipping in our five shipyards. They are being run at one-third of their capacity, and they employ 5,000 men directly and indirectly.
In order to operate the yards at full capacity another 3,000 men would be required. We could achieve three times our present shipping production if we employed 8,000 men all told - another 3,000. In other words, our shipbuilding facilities, which were built up during the war and which would have died since the war but for government orders, are being used at only one-third pressure, and the men there are being used at only half pressure.
Page 13 of the Tariff Board’s report shows that on the Australian coast there are 66 vessels over 25 years old. One vessel, incidentally, was launched in 1875. It is older than any member of the Government parties in this House or in another place. In 1954, there were nine ships that had been built in Australia since 1945, nine that had been built overseas since 1945, and 40 that were between nine and 25 years old. Honorable members will see, therefore, that more than half of our shipping, in numbers and in weight, was built more than 25 years ago and is regarded as no longer economical to operate. Under the taxation law the ships have long since been written off. The private operators make their profits because their capital expenditure on ships in the first years after World War I. was very low indeed. The shipping companies aru making big profits on a small capital expenditure. The Australian Shipping Board’s profits have been made entirely on its war-time and post-war expenditure.
Last year’s report of the Department of Shipping and Transport said that the number of over-age vessels and the number chartered from overseas, indicated the desirability of acquiring a number of modern, Australian-owned coastal vessels to cater adequately for the coastal trade. The Tariff Board pointed the same moral on page 19 of its report - the industry is largely uneconomic and is not being conducted at a high level of efficiency. If the coastal shipping industry were subject to keen competition from a fleet of modern ships there would be some incentive to shipowners to acquire modern vessels.
The Commonwealth shipping line is modern and efficient and it is only because its competition is feared that this agreement has been entered into. Let me point out that, of the ships at present on order in Australian shipbuilding yards, three are for the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited - which takes a national and Australian point of view in. this, as in many other developmental matters - one is for the Western Australian State Shipping Service, and every other ship is on order to the Australian. Shipbuilding Board for the use of what: will now be the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. These are the eleven, ships mentioned in the second schedule of the bill. The twelve ships at present sought by private companies are all on order overseas. An alarming thing about the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Bill is that the last ship to be delivered to it is due in March, 1959- The Australian Shipbuilding Board has no further ships on order, and none of the private operators have placed orders with any Australian shipyard for ships. In contrast with the ageing, inefficient and largely chartered services of the private shipping operators, the Australian Shipping Board has a large, modern, efficient and Australian-built fleet. In conclusion, I must point our once again that this agreement has been brought about by the fact that if the private shipping companies were left tothe devices which they had pursued in recent years they would suffer from increasingly heavy and effective competition. The present Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) may not have, but certainly his predecessor has, automatically given the shipping companies licences to build and buy ships overseas. The bill now permits those companies to continue their neglect of theshipbuilding industry, without which Australia is vulnerable in its defence and itstrade.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It is always a pleasure to follow the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) because he invariably makes crystal clear just how much he and his party are opposed to our beliefs. There is no subterfuge or confusion in his statements. He is a member of the Australian Labour party and as such he believes in socialism. We are indebted to him for at least making that much clear. The hills before us provide for a commission to undertake the work of the Australian Shipping Board, which has operated under a regulation which, if challenged, could be shown to be invalid. In other words, there has recently been no legal basis for the operations of the Australian Shipping Board. If a lawyer of the ability of the honorable member for Werriwa, or of Sir Garfield Barwick, had attacked it, it would have gone. It was necessary for the Parliament to clean up that situation and to transfer the control of the government-owned shipping line from the board to a commission. Such a change is unthinkable to the Labour party because, after all, it affects a government-owned shipping concern.
The honorable member for Werriwa displayed his antagonism to the doctrines and principles which normally operate in a British community. He said that any privately owned shipping company must, of necessity, be inefficient. He did not bring forward any evidence in support of that contention. It must be very easy for him to come here and make statements which, in a court of law, he would have to support by evidence. The honorable member offered no evidence. He merely read out a long list of the profits that have been made by private companies and sought to leave one with the idea that because they were private they must be bad. He went on to imply that because the Australian Shipping Board’s undertaking was owned by the public it must necessarily be efficient. In short, he left us with the idea that anything that has to do with private enterprise is bad, and anything that is a public utility, or is run by the government, is necessarily good.
– That is only your opinion of the remarks of the honorable member for Werriwa.
– I think it will be the opinion of most people who were listening to what the honorable member said. He produced the figures of both the Australian Shipping Board and the private shipping companies, and said that the latter were inefficient, and even dishonest.
– So they are.
– That is typical of the approach of the top socialists. We believe that private enterprise is wholesome and efficient. It is efficient because it must make ends meet. It cannot go to the government or to the taxpayer to recoup its losses. The honorable member for Werriwa said that he was sorry that we were not allowing Commonwealth ships to trade overseas. His party would, of course, like that to happen.
The Labour party would like that to happen because the result would be that the taxpayer would have to bear the cost. The freight would not pay for it because our shipping could not compete against any overseas shipping concern because of the tremendous difficulties imposed on Australian shipping by the Communistled seamen’s union. That Communistled union, which will be supported by the new Labour party executive which is being imposed on the rank and file in New South Wales, has put up difficulties at all points for Australian shipping services. In company with the Communistled Waterside Workers Federation, the seamen’s union has blotted out the intra-state shipping services on the coast of New South Wales. They are gone. They are finished. That is because of the attacks by these unions, supported by the Labour party, particularly under its present control.
According to a brochure that honorable members have seen, half of the Labour party - the New South Wales section - states that the other half is unAustralian. In other words, half the Labour party says that the Communistdominated half of the Labour party is unAustralian. The honorable member for Werriwa said that the shipping companies were un-Australian. I want to refer anybody who heard the honorable member say that because the shipping companies are private companies they are un-Australian, to the statement in this brochure that half of the Labour party says that the other half is unAustralian. I say that the shipping companies have performed a service and have carted goods at a low rate. Of course, the shipping companies have got into difficulties lately because of the situation in which they find themselves.
First of all, the wharfs in most parts of Australia are out of date. In New South Wales, the wharfs are under the control of the State Government. The Maritime Services Board in that State has not attempted to keep up to date with modern handling operations and stevedoring services for the ships. So the ships have not been able to perform their usual services.
This debate gives us an opportunity to look at something which is very important to Australia. Over and over again, we have been told that transport is the highest charge in our costs. The cost of transport in Australia is about £1,500,000,000 per annum, or 371/2 per cent. of our national income - and that is only a basic cost. The cost of transport must be added to the cost of production of many goods, and it means that half our costs in Australia are attributable to transport. Half our transport is performed by shipping; that is to say, shipping carries half the ton-miles that are carried each year. Yet only £50,000,000 a year out of the transport cost of £1,500,000,000 is invested in shipping, such as the cost of wharfs, fuel and wages. As was said the other day, about one-thirtieth of the total cost of transport goes to shipping companies, yet shipping carries half the ton-miles carried in Australia and carries them at half the cost of other transport. That is a fantastic difference in the cost of carriage by shipping compared with the cost of carriage by road or rail. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which I remind the honorable member for Werriwa is building ships in Australia-
– I said that. It is the only private company which is doing so.
– The honorable member said that the Australian Shipping Board was the only authority that ordered the building of ships in Australia. I would like to say that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is building ships and is moving goods at the cost of . 19d., or less than onefifth of a penny, a ton-mile.
– It carries heavy bulk cargo
– Of course it does! The ships which used to carry small parcels are gone. They are finished. Their activities have been terminated by the succour which the Opposition members gave to the Communist-led unions. Except for the vessels of the larger companies that carry coal and heavy loads of iron ore, shipping has been largely put down the drain in Australia.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lawrence). - Order! The honorable member for East Sydney is interjecting from a seat other than his own.
– I will look after him.
– I do not need any protection. The interjections that Opposition members have made show how completely indifferent the Labour party is to the needs of the community. This Government is attempting to provide transport for the people of Australia. As I have said, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, with its ships, carries iron ore and coal for . 19d. a ton-mile. The cost of transporting goods by rail is between 3d. and 5d. a tonmile. The cost of transport by interstate hauliers is between 3s. and 5s. a tonmile. In 1952, the transport of goods from New South Wales to South Australia by road cost £15,000,000 more than the cost by ship. These figures show the tremendous advantage in the transport of goods by ship compared with other means of transport and the Commonwealth is entitled to do something about this. When we read in the Minister’s speech of the arrangements that have been made by the Government we know that its proposals represent a genuine attempt to get efficiency and to improve the situation. At least there will be a breath of fresh air. There will be a change, and change is always accompanied by different management and by attempts to get efficiency.
To get back to the argument as to whether private enterprise or government control is the better, obviously a private company has to be efficient in order to make its profits. Obviously, it tries to give service. If an industry - particularly a transport utility - is run by the Government, the men in charge of it are responsible to their Minister, as they would be in this case. Those who run such an organization are answerable only to the Minister and the party in power. Although the unsuccessful operation of the utility may affect their reputation, it does not matter very much to them if they do not make a profit, because they can get money from the taxpayer to meet the deficit. So Government supporters disagree with the idea of government ownership or government control. We believe that private enterprise is better. We believe that it is more enterprising. Its ideas are better. We believe that men who run a private show will sit up all night and think all night, if necessary, to try to improve it. The friends of certain people opposite who run socialized affairs in Russia have found to their dismay that when they have had government-owned farms they have not had enough food to eat and. have had to come to us to buy food, despite our costs. So it is true that private ownership, of farms in particular, is largely better in any nation than is the system in the Soviet. In other words, it is better to have private ownership, and the vigour and drive of private enterprise. It is on that point that we disagree with the Opposition.
In this case, the Government tried to sell the Commonwealth ships because it believed in private enterprise, but it could not sell them on satisfactory terms. So it did the next best thing. It brought in a bill to establish an Australian shipping commission and the idea of the commission is to take away-
– Order! The honorable member will take his seat for a moment. I am not going to allow the kettle-drumming which is being done in this chamber by somebody who is tapping with his foot. If I catch whoever is responsible he will be named.
– This bill will transfer control from the shipping board which operated under regulations which could have been declared invalid at any time, and the control will go to a legally constituted statutory authority known as the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. That commission, composed of men who will have the confidence of shipping interests, of industry, and of the people of Australia, will have as its responsibility, and its alone, that of the giving of good service. It will have the responsibility of working with the shipping companies in the interests of the people, not only in regard to stevedoring and other matters, but also in regard to the rendering of good service to the community. Set out quite clearly and succinctly in the bill is the fact that the object of the commission, and of the bill itself, will be to see that shipping and stevedoring services are improved - and, goodness gracious, there is room for improvement in our shipping. Our shipping services have run down. Although there are newer and more ships available, they are carrying less cargo than was carried before. The shipping industry in Australia has failed because the atmosphere on the waterfront has not been conducive to success. [Quorum formed.]
I think that the honorable member for Werriwa was present at the summer school of the Australian Institute of Political Science, and probably heard the paper delivered by Mr. Arthur Lowndes.
I propose to quote from that paper to show the prevailing situation in the Australian shipping industry - something that has to be faced, something that has to be improved. On page 4 of the paper, Mr. Lowndes said -
The decline in the volume of general cargo carried, at a time when population production and trade are increasing rapidly, is one of the most obvious signs of the malady affecting the industry.
In other words, the carriage of goods by ship is decreasing, and industry is being forced to use land transport. Rail transport is just about on its pink ear, and our roads are in a terrible condition. Mr. Lowndes continued -
Within New South Wales, the small cargo ships serving the north and south coast ports and Newcastle have virtually disappeared; these short hauls were bound to be most vulnerable to increasing competition from road transport and were in the weakest position to withstand the troubles besetting the industry. In the case of the north coast trade the final blow came when the New South Wales Railways entered into cut-throat competition by offering freight rates which were 60 per cent, less than rates elsewhere in the State, in what appeared to be a determined effort to eliminate sea competition at all costs.
It was almost a conspiracy between the State Government and the Communistled waterfront unions to cripple the shipping industry. An honorable member has interjected “ Not almost, but straight out”. Mr. Lowndes goes on to recall certain items published in the press, one of which, published in the Financial Review on the 12th June, 1952, reads - 193 ships with a gross tonnage of 568,559 tons, will be handling little more cargo than 101 ships, with a gross tonnage of 332,292, handled in 1935-39.
He gives another quotation, from the annual report of the Melbourne Harbour Trust for 1954, which reads -
Despite port modernization, mechanization and general improvements, only about half as much cargo daily moves across the individual wharves to-day as was handled daily in the pre-war years 1937 and 1938.
Mr. W. P. Bishop, AuditorGeneral of South Australia, in a report dated December, 1951, stated that the increased cost to South Australia alone of carrying from Sydney by road goods which might otherwise have gone by sea was ?15 million.
That last quotation by Mr. Lowndes is also from the Financial Review of the 12th June, 1952. He continues -
Those three quotations summarize much of the general picture - 50 per cent, more ships, and bigger ships too, are handling little more cargo than wag handled by fewer ships prewar; there has been major expenditure on port facilities but far less cargo is moved daily across the wharves; and the community is footing the bill, which is indeed a startling one.
Because of the difficulty of getting goods carried interstate by ship, and because of the confusion and difficulties on the wharfs, many manufacturing firms do not even bother now to try to ship their goods by sea. As a result of the experience of waiting for months to send their products by sea, and paying heavily while they waited, they now send their goods interstate by road. The waste of time, the confusion and delay in stevedoring operations, and the situation generally on the waterfront, have forced them to do that.
This bill, and the cognate measure before us, ought to act like a new broom. They ought to give us new thinking by new people in relation to our waterfront problem, and produce new and better arrangements. The support of the Government through this kind of measure will encourage people to invest more money in shipping, and enable the building of more modern ships. That is a very different situation from that which would obtain if honorable gentlemen opposite, with their notorious lack of financial knowledge since the loss of the late right honorable member for Macquarie, Mr. Chifley, were in office. If those honorable gentlemen were in office and the Labour party was being run as it is being run now, and with the Seamen’s Union of Australia and the Waterside Workers Federation led by Communists, then indeed shipping would have no chance to do a job, except a shipping line run by the Government at a tremendous loss. Mr. Justice Foster, whom I have never found very friendly to my line of thought, had some remarks to make about seamen. I do not know whether Elliott, the general secretary of the Seamen’s Union is here, but we had Healy, his opposite number in the Waterside Workers Federation, here in the gallery last week. I do not know whether he is here on this occasion. Mr. Justice Foster said that the seamen were working 28 hours a week for a wage of ?1,250 a year, and were not making the contribution to Australia or to the trade unionist? . ‘ gh they should, but that, on the r contrary, while good Australian workmen are trying to do something for their families and their country, the seamen are not pulling their weight.
– He did not say they were not pulling their weight.
– Well, my recollection is that he used much stronger language than that. The people of Australia refused to give the Government power to deal with the Communists, and we now have the impossible situation that two key trade unions, Elliott’s Seamen’s Union and Healy’s Waterside Workers Federation, are picking on this most important part of Australian activity, this sector of our transport through which we can be brought to near ruin, strangling and crippling it and making it carry less cargo. Fancy a situation like that occurring in Russia!
– Has the honorable gentleman ever heard of the Volga boatmen?
- Mr. Healy says, “ I am a Communist. I think differently from you people “. Mr. Elliott says, “ I am a Communist, and therefore I think differently from you people in a democratic country”. If Mr. Elliott were in Russia. the country whose regime he wants copied in this country, and were a union leader there, he would be an organ used for the purpose of pushing government activity on, and would be carrying out the wishes of the Russian Government by making men work harder, for 48 hours a week, whether they were pulling oars in Volga boats or engaged in any other occupation, and they would get very little food to sustain them while they were doing it, some of the food having to be imported from those so-called bourgeois countries in which people work honestly and hard on their own farms producing good food. I think Labour governments appointed Healy to the Stevedoring Industry Commission and Elliott to the Maritime Services Board. These are the men whose friends have now taken over control of the Australian Labour party. God help us if Labour returns to office and contributes further to the decline of shipping services! At the present time, Elliott and Healy have the complete confidence’ of the unions they represent, because, as I have said, they have been able to ingratiate themselves with the men, and because no one in the Labour movement has thought it worth while to undertake the job of wresting those unions from their control. The only people who have made a half-hearted attempt - the people known as the “ groupers “, who, unsuccessfully, put up a candidate against Healy - have been hunted out of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour party as a result.
At the present time, we have an incredible situation in New South Wales. The waterfront is under the control of Communist unions, and the newly elected New South Wales Labour Government - a “ grouper “ government - is bending over backwards in submitting to the will of the friends of the Communists. In a spirit of cynical opportunism, the New
South Wales Labour Government and other people are bending over backwards in their efforts to join with the left-wing extremists and the people who have paralyzed the waterfront industry and shipping.
The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) and the Minister for Air (Mr. Townley) have told us, in wholesome words, what is required in the shipping industry. The Government is doing its utmost to provide good shipping services and to have cargo handled efficiently on the waterfront. There is no danger of a Labour government taking over in the Commonwealth sphere, and the shipping companies may confidently give the service required, increase their investment, and construct more vessels in order to enable them to give good service. The Minister for Air, in his secondreading speech on the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Bill 1956, stated - the Government has always had in mind the primary consideration that whoever operates them, the ships should be so used that they would be of the greatest assistance possible in providing adequate and efficient shipping services on the Australian coast.
That consideration is apparent throughout the agreement between the Government and the shipping and stevedoring companies.
– I am indebted to the’ honorable member for his interjection. Of course it is wonderful. This is the first time we have been able to be so optimistic about an industry that has been subject to the depredations of traitors and un-Australian people who may be likened to Dr. Klaus Fuchs whose counsel argued, before Lord Chief Justice Goddard, that the United Kingdom Government was responsible for the leakage of atomic information to the Communists because it knew Fuchs was a Communist when it appointed him, and because it knew, therefore, that he would reveal secret information to the Communists. ‘
– What has this to do with the bills ?
– I shall tell the honorable member. In the East Sydney electorate, the Communists control the waterfront industry. Those Communists are the creatures and the agents of Soviet Russia. They would cripple Australia’s shipping services and the stevedoring industry, which are vital to us. If men strike and deprive themselves of jobs in the coal mines, or in some other industries we may be able to turn to a satisfactory alternative, but there is no alternative to the wharfs. Exports of primary products must go through the wharfs, which may be likened to a throat held in the strangling grip of Communist hands, aided and supported by the Australian Labour party, as is indicated by the disgraceful happenings that we have witnessed during the last few days. However, there is a ray of sunshine, or what may, perhaps, be termed a silver lining in this cloud : Labour will not be elected to office while these things are happening. Indeed, the Australian Labour party will possibly disappear altogether. Perhaps we shall have a completely new political system in Australia, with the opposing sides known as Republicans and Democrats, as in the United States of America. In any event, the Australian Labour party should disappear. It has blown out its brains on the issue of the Communists controlling the waterfront. It has thrown out the intellectuals and the wholesome people who advanced the good ideas in the party. Any one who studies the present situation in Australia could not help being upset, worried, and almost despairing because the Australian Labour party has done this. It has been so completely concerned with its internecine strife that it has failed to put up any opposition to the agents of Russia, who have now won the day, and who now determine what the party shall do. As a consequence, it opposes these bills, which have been introduced by the Government to improve the situation on the waterfront, to improve shipping services, and to help maintain the stability of the Australian economy.
.- The House has been presented with two bills, one to establish an Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, and the other to ratify an agreement between the Government and private shipping and stevedoring companies. The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), made a desultory speech about shipping and communism, and in no way linked his remarks, which occupied about half an hour, with either of the bills that I have mentioned. In reality, he attacked the proposed commission. He said, “ I believe in private enterprise. We should sell the ships. There should be no government control over any of the instrumentalities engaged in the commerce of this country”. Having said that, he contented himself with attacking Communists and Russia. Is that an intelligent way in which to govern a democracy or to contribute to parliamentary discussions on subjects that are presumed to be of importance to the people of this country? Of course it is not.
I intend to make a few remarks about shipping generally and to link my remarks with the measure now before the House. Throughout the years, the shipowners have never been distinguished by either humanity or benevolence. The employees in the shipping industry worked long hours, under the most deplorable conditions, for mere pittances from the days of the sailing ships until fairly recent times. On no occasion has a shipping company gratuitously improved the working conditions of its employees. Every improvement has been won only after a strenuous fight against relentless opposition by the companies. The whole philosophy, and every action of the shipping combines, have been motivated by the good old rule that they shall take who have the power, and that they shall keep who can. The shipping companies, of course, did not exploit only the employees in the industry. They exploited every one who depended on their services. By increasing freight charges and fares to exorbitant levels, they built up vast fortunes over the years. They saw early that competition was utterly undesirable from their stand-point, because it prevented them from increasing freight charges and fares abnormally. So, cartels, monopolies and shipping combines were formed. They were formed irrespective of the nationality of the people who were running the ships. German ships would not compete with English ships. French ships would not compete with the ships of either of those countries. American ships would not compete with British sui pa nor with any of the European lines.
The shipowners entered into agreements to fleece the peoples of the various countries of the world and to impose an intolerable burden upon them in the charges that were levied for freights on the commodities that had to be shipped from one country to another. Because of Australia’s position, segregated from the rest of the world across thousands of miles of sea, we were victims of the shipping combines to an extent greater than most other countries. Whatever primary products we sent abroad, whatever manufactured goods or raw materials we imported, the levy upon those goods by the shipowners was such that they amassed vast fortunes at our expense and built tip gigantic lines of steamers. They lived, in luxury while primary producers were at their mercy. I appeal to honorable members of the Country party to give some consideration to those primary producers.
A Labour government saw that position and, despite the difficulties created by war, established a line of steamers to serve “the interests of the people of this country. That shipping line reduced the freights that were being charged to the people of this country.
– Nonsense !
– The Minister says that is nonsense. It may be nonsense, but I can quote one, Stanley Melbourne Bruce, who was the leader of a Liberal government. He said, while that line of steamers operated, that it had been of immense value to the people of this country. Mr. Bruce solemnly informed Parliament when the Commonwealth line was being sold that he had received a promise from Lord Kylsant that he would continue the same policy on freight that had been adopted by the shipping line when it was under government control, and that had saved such an immense amount for the primary producers. Not only did the Commonwealth line force reductions in freight rates, but it also prevented increases. Since 1923. the line was twice approached by British and foreign interests with a request to join in a general increase in rates. In 1925, the line was asked to increase freights by 10 per cent., it refused. It refused also in November, 1926, when it was asked to agree to an increase of 15 per cent, on practically all cargo from the United Kingdom to Australia.
– That was the BrucePage Government.
– Under the BrucePage Government, the line that was established by a Labour government was doing the work that Labour had intended it to do. But it was sold. In the ranks of that party at that time were members like the honorable member for Macarthur and the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). They demanded, of course, that this line be sold. It cost £7,000,000 and was worth at least £4,000,000 after allowing for depreciation. It was sold for £1,900,000 to Lord Kylsant, but most of that money was not collected. Lord Kylsant was a monopolist. He represented not one but a number of shipping lines throughout the world. The capital over which he presided, either as a director or as chairman, was about £90,000,000. Those shipping combines had been bleeding this country white when Labour established the Commonwealth line. But our shipping line was destroyed. The process then went on again.
Ultimately, a line was established to serve Australia’s coastal areas. Tt, was to enter into competition with privately owned ships. Its object was twofold: first, to carry out developmental work that private shipping lines would not carry out and, secondly, to keep down freight rates along our coastal areas for the benefit of primary producers and manufacturers. But when those objects were being achieved, an anti-Labour government came into power in this country and announced that it intended to sell that shipping line. It said, “ If we can sell the Commonwealth shipping line, we will sell it”. As the honorable member for Macarthur announced, it could not sell the line. The shipping companies would not pay the amount that the Government asked. If we take cognizance of what this Government did with the whaling industry, for example, when it sold for £600,000 assets of the people worth millions of pounds, the government to which I have referred would not have endeavoured to extract exorbitant prices from the shipping companies that operated around our shores. It would ask them for what would be a relatively reasonable price. The ships that were built in this country had already been written down by 33^ per cent. Yet that Government could not sell them to the shipping companies, although the prices that would have been demanded for them were immensely below the value of the ships that were to be sold.
What did the government that could not sell those ships decide to do? It decided to frustrate their operations. After all, it wanted to sell the ships. Why? Because it did not want a national line of ships to operate in competition with a private shipping line. That is right. Of course it is right ! If competition cannot be destroyed by giving the ships belonging to the people of this country to the private shipping lines at a cheap price, then there is another method of destroying competition.
That method is to enter into agreements with the private shipping organizations for twenty years. A commission is created. I personally do not care whether a national enterprise is called a board, a commission or a corporation, if it functions in the interests of the people. But whether it is called a board, a commission or a corporation, its fangs should not be drawn by the Government entering into an agreement with its competitors so that the private shipping companies get all the advantages and the nationally owned shipping line suffers all the disadvantages. If the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), who has been quietly interjecting for some time, created other than a nationally owned shipping line that suffered all the disadvantages, as against a privately owned line that enjoyed all the advantages, then it would be contrary to every principle that he has ever enunciated since he has been a public man. It is natural that honorable members who now occupy the treasury-bench should want to dispose of such instrumentalities as national transport organizations and the
Commonwealth Bank of Australia. The honorable member for Macarthur recently introduced a private member’s bill designed to frustrate the operations of the Commonwealth Bank. He wanted to proceed more rapidly than did his comrades with the destruction of that organization.
I have no objection to that sort of thing. If honorable members opposite believe in private enterprise, let them, if they will, fly the standard of private enterprise - the skull and crossbones. Let them go forward as brigands and pirate? and sacrifice the best interests of the community to the profit motive. But, let them not rise like hypocrites and humbugs and say, “ We are establishing a shipping commission so that the Commonwealth shipping line may expand and develop in the interests of the people of Australia “. They do not believe in the expansion and development of national enterprise.
– Who created TransAustralia Airlines? Answer that one.
– The Australian. Labour party created Trans-Australia. Airlines. As the present Government: was unable, because of political considerations, to dispose of Trans-Australia Airlines to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, it did with that organization what it now proposes to do with the Commonwealth shipping line.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Government is crippling it?
– It is endeavouring to cripple it. The Government announced its intention to dispose of the fleet.
– It did not.
– Can the honorable member for Gippsland pretend to me that people are in love with something if they decide, and definitely proclaim their intention, to dispose of it? The Government would have disposed of the shipping line if possible, and it said so. In his second - reading speech, the Minister for Air (Mr. Townley) said -
Having found it was not possible to sell the ships on terms satisfactory to it, it decided that they would be continued in operation under government ownership.
Did honorable members observe the manner in which the Minister made that statement? Tie made it with tears in his «yes.
– I should think so.
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) says, “I should think so as if it should be a matter of the deepest regret to any government that the ships should be continued in operation under government
– I did not say that at all.
– If the Government shad been able to do so, it would have .sold the Commonwealth line of ships to “the various companies that are parties to the agreement referred to in the Australian Coastal Shipping Agreement Bill L956. One has only to read the agreement to ascertain that, if neither the private companies nor the government line is serving a certain area, the government line can decide to do so. The private shipping companies will have all the profitable routes, and the developmental routes will have to be pioneered by the Commonwealth ships. In other words, the Government will show a loss on the lines that it pioneers in the interests of development. If the whole of the commission’s fleet is not utilized :for the purpose of development, some of its vessels will be used on the more established routes, but they will not be the routes that return the greatest profit. Under the agreement, the routes returning the greatest profit will go to the private shipping companies.
Nothing is more desirable at the present time than the development of our backward areas, and a consequent increase of population in those areas. It is our wish that this form of transport should be improved. We do not want it to be frustrated or placed in the hands of people whose only objective is the obtaining nf profits. The honorable member for Macarthur compared our railways systems with our shipping transport system, and stated that it was more -expensive to move goods by rail than by -sea. He is probably right, but what he did not point out in relation to the railways was that they were utilized in the development of this country and that they were so utilized because they were government owned and controlled. If the task had been left to private enterprise, the hinterland of this country would now be without railways. The private companies would have operated only on profitable routes.
– What about America?
– The story of American railways is the story of one of the most dastardly capitalistic robberies in the world’s history. The American railway companies grabbed the land and put the people off it.
– They impoverished the farmers.
– Yes, they impoverished the farmers. They made a profit every step of the way. Every mile of railway track that was laid in the development of the western parts of America was laid over the blood and tears of hundreds of the citizens of that nation.
Honorable members interjecting.
– Order! There are too many interjections.
– That is all right, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker. They are getting feebler and feebler. 1 think that the points I have made are very clear. First, I have no objection to a commission, board or corporation operating vessels in the interests of the Government and the people of this country, but I am opposed to the financing and organizing by the Government of a commission, board or corporation to be operated merely in the interests of profit-making instrumentalities. I am opposed to the making of an agreement between a government enterprise and its competitors with the sole object of depriving the government-owned enterprise of the opportunity to make profits and to compete on routes that are already well developed and profitable, in order that it can be utilized to pioneer lines that ultimately will be taken over and used by private enterprise for its own advantage. It is the old, old tale. This Government and similar governments have been responsible for such things down through the years. Labour pioneers an enterprise in the interests of the people, as it did the whaling industry enterprise, but as soon as that enterprise becomes profitable and Labour is temporarily off the treasury-bench, it is sold to private enterprise. Labour establishes a great national bank to assist in the development of this country and to help the primary producers, manufacturers and workers to overcome their difficulties. Then an antiLabour government comes into power and seeks to frustrate at every point the operations of that bank and, ultimately, to make it a buttress of the private bankina; institutions - an instrumentality that will assist private enterprise to amass greater and greater profits, rather than operate in competition with private enterprise and restrict its opportunities to exploit the people of this country.
I see that my time is drawing to ;i close. I think that I have made clear the fundamental principles involved in this agreement. It has been drawn up by a government which does not believe that there should be an Australian Coastal Shipping Commission - a government which wanted to sell the whole of the Commonwealth shipping fleet to private enterprise. Because it could not do thai, it is endeavouring by other means to achieve what it regards as a desirable result - that is, the elimination of competition by a government-owned shipping line with privately owned shipping lines. It could not achieve that result by selling the Commonwealth shipping line to private enterprise, so, by this agreement with private shipping companies, it is seeking to frustrate the efforts of the publicly owned line - which should be utilized in the interests of the people of this country, whose property it is - and to use it only as a buttress of private enterprise, in the interests of greater and greater profits for the private shipping institutions that are operating round the coasts of this country.
– Does not the honorable member like the bill?
– I do not like the bill, but my dislike of it is not greater than my dislike of most of the other measures that this Government has introduced. I have not the slightest doubt that, as a result of the operation of this legislation, freights will go up and that primary producers will approach their representatives in this Parliament. But their representations will be in vain, as are the representations they are making at present in connexion with advances from banking institutions. Labour totally rejects this agreement. “We do not believe in it. We regard it as contrary to our ethical conceptions. If we become the government of this country, we shall endeavour to terminate the unholy alliance set out in the second bill.
– The ultimate objectives of the two bills that we are considering are, first, the continuance of the Commonwealth shipping line and statutory provision for its control ; secondly, a set of rules and agreements for the rationalization of the Australian coastal shipping services operated by Commonwealth-owned ships and the ships of private companies; and thirdly - this point has been overlooked so far - the protection of the future welfare of the Australian shipbuilding industry. It will be interesting to recall what the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said in his 1949 policy speech about shipping in general and the Commonwealth shipping line in particular. Referring to the Shipping Act of 1949, which was sponsored by the Chifley Government but was never proclaimed, he stated -
We shall review the recent shipping legislation with a view to (a) maintaining Australian shipbuilding and repairing, by subsidy if necessary; (!)) encouraging the improvement of existing mercantile fleets, removing unnecessary ministerial controls such as that by which, under the recent act, no shipping company can secure a new ship at all except at the unfettered discretion of the Minister; (o) requiring the new government shipping line, to justify its existence nationally or competitively; (rf) encouraging, by subsidy, if necessary, more adequate shipping facilities for distant States, particularly Tasmania, which has no alternative major instrument of interstate goode traffic.
That is exactly what these two bills are designed to do. If we analyse that speech, we shall find that provision is made in these bills to carry into effect the major part of the policy enunciated in it.
A good dealhas been said in this debate about the proposed sale of the Commonwealth shipping line. One of the first acts of the Menzies Government after it came into power in 1949 was to inquire whether it would be possible to devise a better way of running our coastal shipping services, avoid the enormous losses that a socialist administration had incurred, and provide good services between the capital cities. It is interesting to note that in 1949-50, the first financial year during which this Government was in office, the Commonwealth shipping line made a loss of about £700,000. In 1950-51, the loss was just over £500,000. Then, in 1951-52, the acumen and skill of the late Senator George McLeay, ably assisted by Mr. Dewey as his right-hand man, began to take effect. In that year, the line, instead of being in the red, made a profit of £408,000. It has continued to make profits since then. When you compare the present position, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, with the position that existed under Senator Ashley’s administration as Minister for Shipping and Fuel, and when you recall that in one year alone during that period the Commonwealth shipping line made a loss of over £2,200,000, I think you will agree with me that Australia owes a great debt to that distinguished statesman, your brother. The Government was forced to the conclusion that it could not offer a proposition sufficiently attractive to persuade an existing private shipping line to take over and run the Commonwealth shippingline. So no sale has taken place. If I may be permitted to make a comparison, what has happened reminds me of the ballad that we used to sing some years ago about the Thing which was washed up on the shore. The unfortunate discoverer of the Thing could not get rid of it. Similarly, the Commonwealth, with due regard to the various restrictions placed upon the shipping line sale, was unable to get rid of the ships. The thought flashes through my mind that the removal of the threat of sale will also remove one of the main talking points of our colleagues From Tasmania, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) and the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), and of persons who are inclined to discuss the so-called disposal of the people’s assets in terms heard on the Yarra bank or the Sydney Domain. They would perhaps be better occupied explaining to the people what would happen if they were misguided enough to attempt to take part of their property into their own possession. A sale would remove the doubtful pleasure of having to contribute, as in the past, to meet the enormous losses that have been sustained. We can only hope that the line, under the efficient administration of the commission, will continue to operate on the present profitable basis.
At this stage I should like to make some observations in relation to one or two statements made by previous speakers. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), when discussing the agreement, asked, in effect, “ What sort of an agreement is this, whereby one side can gain nothing ? “ I suggest that he completely ignored the general public interest in this manner, and while it would obviously be pleasant if we could make sure that the line were dealt with satisfactorily, as I believe it will be, the main matter to keep in mind is the general public interest, and surely an efficient, competitive coastal service is far more important to the general economy of the country than obtaining some hypothetical gain by way of a Treasury book entry. The honorable member has what I believe is a mistaken idea that the commission cannot operate vessels outside Australia. While I do not think that it is envisaged at present, as a matter of policy, that the commission should operate overseas, reference to clause 15 (a) reveals that the functions of the commission are to establish, maintain and operate, or to provide for the establishment, maintenance and operation of, shipping services for the carriage of passengers, goods and mails -
So, it is quite wrong for anybody to suggest that the commission’s activities will be confined to coastal shipping, because the bill provides for an extension overseas, should it be so required.
A third point made by the honorable member for Werriwa was in connexion with booking and stevedoring facilities under the agreement. To be fair, I should say that the honorable member pointed out that the present practice has been accepted for a number of years under two governments of different political colours. An examination of clause 8 (6.) of the agreement should remove from honorable members’ minds any fear that the arrangement may be abused. The subclause provides -
Where, in the opinion of the Minister -
the stevedoring of the Commission’s vessels or the booking or handling of cargoes carried in the Commission’s vessels is conducted in a manner detrimental to the interests of the Commission by reason of inefficiency or because the Commission’s vessels are not given fair and equitable treatment; or
b ) the efficiency of operation of the Commission’s vessels is adversely affected by the arrangements made for handling the Commission’s vessels by reason of the inefficiency or inadequacy of the company concerned, and the Commission is not able to arrange with a Company for the satisfactory performance of the service or services, the Minister may refer the matter to the independent authority.
In the final instance, if the commission is not satisfied, it may set up its own booking and stevedoring facilities. So, it is quite wrong to say that it is a real disadvantage to carry on with the system which has been well tested over ten or fifteen years, and I atn thoroughly in favour of avoiding any extension of a government department which is not really in the interests of the service for which it is designed and which would only add to the cost. I think that we may now leave that particular argument.
The honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) referred to the operation by the commission of developmental lines and the operation by private companies of so-called profitable lines. He left in my mind, and probably in the minds of ali honorable members, the impression that the private shipping companies are to he given the right to conduct all the profitable services to the detriment of thu Common wealth shipping line. That is completely false. The legislation con tains no such provision. The bill provides that the Commonwealth line will undertake such developmental services a? the commission thinks fit. I think we may accept that. It is one of the prerogatives of such an authority to do such things. . It is quite obvious that Australia, as a maritime country, with an enormous coastline and long distances between centres of population, must rely to a large extent on coastal shipping. In the pre-war period, over 80 per cent. of all goods transported in Australia was carried in ships. Despite the increase in the number of ships available, that percentage has now been reduced to below 60 per cent. Various reasons were given for this by the Minister in his second-reading speech and by other speakers. The causes all boil down to the slow turn-round of ships, and various reasons have been given for that. In the pre-war period, 101 ships carried almost as much cargo between Australian ports as 204 ships carry to-day. There is only one logical explanation for that, namely, the slow turn-round of ships in port. That matter has been thoroughly discussed in the debate on other legislation, and I do not intend to elaborate on it. It would be idle to deny that a type of paralysis has crept over our wharfs and shipping and that it is having a detrimental effect on the Australian economy. The underlying objective of the bill is to give some confidence to the private lines in the face of the rising costs which now exist, and also some encouragement to carry on their activities in the future. Much has been said in another place about the limitation of tonnage. Under the agreement the Commonwealth line is limited to an ultimate tonnage of 325,000. At the present moment the line has a tonnage in the vicinity of 165,000. Within sight - that is, building - there is another 80,000, making a total of 247,000 tons. So, thereis room for further expansion of 50 per cent. Therefore, we cannot say that, the bill will limit expansion possibilities within the next ten, fifteen or twenty years.
– Oh !
– A point that may have been lost sight of by the honorable member for “Fremantle (Mr..
Beazley), who has just made a startled interjection, is that there is provision for the Commonwealth line to take over new ships being built. If they are not taken up by the private lines they can be acquired by and added to the Commonwealth line. This may make available to it extra tonnage during the period of the agreement. There are two aspects of the matter - an existing reserve of tonnage and a further source if expansion is required and private companies do not take up the tonnage available from the shipping yards.
I accept the arguments of the honorable member for Werriwa as following the party line, but I regret that he made no suggestion for the solution of the problem with which we are faced. I think that he will agree that while he was quite destructive in his analysis he did not hold out much hope for the future of the shipping industry. The only thought that I could glean from his remarks - though he did not actually suggest it - was that the whole of Australia’s coastal chipping should be nationalized.
– But for these bills that would be the inevitable economic trend.
– -If the policies advocated by the honorable gentleman were carried into effect that would undoubtedly be the result. That’ was evinced in the 1949 act, which, if it had been carried into effect, would have virtually strangled the private lines. Its legality was so doubtful that the government of the day did not have the nerve to proclaim it. What does the future of the industry hold? It is quite obvious that, because of rising costs and the uncertainty of sailing dates - which is a serious disadvantage these days - the Australian shipping lines are losing all their valuable general cargo. The position is similar to that of the railways as the result of the competition of road transport. Modern speedy road transport, which ensures quick delivery, is taking business away from these more sedate methods of transport, and we must face the position, I do not see how it. will be possible to halt the evolution of that type of transportation. It means that coastal shipping will be confined to cargoes in bulk, and tourist passenger traffic. We must, therefore, pursue the possibilities of heavy, bulk cargo. The development of bulk loading and discharging facilities will make this form of sea transport even more attractive. Though it may not be particularly remunerative to those who are running the service, it will at least provide an efficient and valuable contribution to the general economy of the country.
It could be suggested that the development of this type of shipping activity would tend to destroy the Waterside Workers Federation. I look at it purely from the point of view of the public- interest. Anything that will reduce costsand the time of turn-round of shipping is so vital to the economic conduct of industry, both primary and secondary, that we must adopt it. To carry this argument a little further, the major tragedy of the last twenty years is that Australia, a vast island continent, with magnificent sealanes serving our main centres of population, has been caught up in the rising tide of costs and has been forced to witness this great asset wasting away and playing a lesser and lesser role in our national transportation system.
Might I close on this note. I hopethat the bill will play its part in acting as a form of penicillin - an anti-bio tic - against the deadly infection which is well on the way to ruining the shipping services of the Commonwealth.
.- The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) has contributed some valuable thoughts to the subject of Australian shipping. If one looks at thi.agreement one can find in it certain experiences of the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) during his war-time administration which obviously burned deep. I do not proposeto discuss this measure from the point of view of private enterprise, versus government enterprise. I have heard that debated many times in the last ten years in this Parliament and the only comment that I want to make upon it is that in my opinion Australian businessmen are all socialists; they believe in the socialization of their assets but the individualization of their gains. We have had measure after measure, imposing tariffs. A tariff is a socialized loss. Businessmen are very willing to pass such losses on to the community but they are just as determined to retain their gains. That is very human; but I wish to discuss this measure from the point of view of that section of the agreement which the honorable member for Corangamite evidently felt himself under an obligation to defend.
I regard as mistaken and unwise the tonnage limitation of 325,000 tons. The official war histories of the United Kingdom published by Her Majesty’s Stationery Office have one or two comments to make, in the volume entitled Merchant Shipping and. the Demands of War, on the Australian situation during the war. As the,t. underlie the formation of the fleet, originally, it is of value to quote them. At page 236 we read -
The United Kingdom went without the imports but other Commonwealth territories, too, paid a price in order that the populations and armies in the Middle East might be supplied; for it would not have been possible to supply them, while providing for this country’s own diminished needs, except by taking ships out of other cross trades, not obviously contributing to a military purpose, that served, particularly, South Africa, India, Australia mid New Zealand.
In consequence, the noose began to close round South Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand in the later part of 1941, as it had begun to close round the Middle East after France fell. There were fewer ships coming to these countries from outside the area than in peace, and of the ships inside the area, including such as could not be removed from it because, like the old crocks in the coal shuttle, they were too slow and dilapidated to be used elsewhere, fewer were available for their use.
If honorable gentlemen are interested, there is an historian named Hasluck, I think, and at page 169 of The Government and the People, this historian, Hasluck, who, in another connexion, is the Minister for Territories, tells us about the Prime Minister’s complaint. Another historian, Long, in his book, To Benghazi, actually quotes the Pirime Minister’s telegram. In a telegram to Mr. Savage, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, the present Prime Minister of this country, who was also then Prime Minister, said -
Another consideration which has puzzled us is that whereas we are finding the greatest possible difficulties in obtaining even a fraction of the shipping needed for some of our export commodities, it seems to be assumed that there would be no difficulty in securing ships and naval convoy for a military force.
In other words, the right honorable gentleman was saying this : “ The United Kingdom Government controls all the vital parts of shipping. They will give us ships to move troops. They will not give us ships for our commodities “. I do not, for a minute, make that point as a criticism of the United Kingdom Government. The United Kingdom Government was then subject to a tremendous assault in the sea-lanes by German submarines. I am not even primarily interested in attacking the old agreement about the disposal of the old Commonwealth shipping line to private enterprise except on one ground, and that is that it was disposed of to overseas private enterprise. If the Government led by the Right Honorable S. M. Bruce believed in private enterprise, and if that Government’s policies were endorsed by the nation, its action in disposing of the ships was perfectly democratic. But what was plainly foolish was the disposal of the ships to overseas countries so that when the emergency came, the Government had no authority over them. Now, the ships of private enterprise in this country played a very big part in the war - those of them that were any good. Such ships as Manoora, Kanimbla, and Westralia were taken over by the Royal Australian Navy, as were many of the ships of Burns Philp Proprietary Limited.
– Half of them were sunk by enemy action.
– That is so. That, of course, is why I criticize, particularly, the clause which relates to limitation. Except for the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which is investing money in the construction of ships that have a special character for the transport of iron ore, there is not significant private investment in shipping in Australia.
– “What about the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited ?
– The significant investment has been made by the Australian Government which, at the present time, owns 44 ships. Under this agreement, the Commonwealth can construct another 170,000 tons of ships. I am quite unable to follow the logic of the Government. This agreement contains many clauses which envisage the possibility of war. There is every indication that if there were a war the possession, at the outset, of a large mercantile fleet would be of major importance to national survival. It is not much use trying to organize ship construction in war unless one has enough ships to take the initial shock. This Government is spending £200,000,000 a year on defence and that £200,000,000 represents the Government’s estimate of the gravity of the international situation. In its naval defence thinking, it has constructed, at a cost of about £20,000,000 each, two escort carriers for the purpose of protecting merchant ships against attack from the air or by submarine; and it has invested in anti-submarine aircraft such as the Fairey Gannet. All these things show that the Government envisages an attack on merchant shipping as a characteristic of the war.
Now, whom does the Government envisage as the possible enemy? There is not any use pretending that it is any other power than the Soviet Union. And what is the position of the Soviet Union? According to the British Admiralty’s latest estimate, the Soviet Union possess 30 modern cruisers, 120 modern destroyers, 500 modern submarines - the largest submarine fleet in history - and 4,000 aircraft of a fleet air arm, a good half of the aircraft in which have ranges which would enable them to fly from the present borders of the Soviet Union far out into the Atlantic. Moreover, according to the British Admiralty, there is considerable evidence that the Soviet Union has evolved elaborate systems of mining; that a very large proportion of Soviet submarines are adapted to mine laying; that a feature of their experimental work has been the laying of combinations of mines which will sink a minesweeper with one mine if it has been adapted for sweeping up another; and that these mines are of the greatest explosive power which will be very difficult to sweep.
I should like to invite the attention of honorable gentlemen to the stop press column of to-day’s Melbourne Argus. There they will see that the liner. United States, which is of 53,000 tons, was shaken by the explosion of a British naval mine and that when there was criticism of this action it was revealed by the Admiralty that the mine was 3^ miles distant from the ship. That may give honorable members some idea of the power of the explosion. We have every indication that if a war occurs - and the Government, by its £200,000,000 defence expenditure annually envisages that a war will occur - a tremendous assault will be launched on the British merchant marine. I invite the attention of the House to the fact that for nearly all of 1940 Nazi Germany was only capable of keeping at sea at one time about 30 submarines. The British Admiralty has stressed that the Soviet Union has 500 submarines ready. So there would be a tremendously powerful attack on our merchant ships. In addition to that, the new power of aircraft must be taken into consideration. We almost look back to a distant age when it could be said that most of the shipbuilding yards of the United Kingdom, during the last war, were immune from aircraft attack and could go on with the job of building ships to replace those that were being sunk by submarine action. There is not any person in this House who does not recognize now that every shipyard in the United Kingdom would be subject to massive bombardment in time of war. So not merely is the assault on ships at sea likely to be vastly expanded but the capacity to construct them is likely to be greatly reduced.
These are among the possibilities which motivate the Government’s expenditure of £200,000,000 a year on defencesevere mercantile shipping casualties, limited capacity to replace, and new and powerful anti-ship weapons. If the Government envisages the possibility of a war, it is as justifiable to build merchant ships and put them in moth balls as it was to spend £1,500,000 on the cruiser H Hobart, and put it in moth balls. “What, in the name of heaven, is the sense of building up an escort fleet if there is nothing to escort? “What is the sense of saying to the people of Australia, “ We are going to spend £200,000,000 a year on defence because there is a likelihood of war” and limit merchant ship construction when you know that a merchant ship is as much a part of the defence equipment of this country as the hundred Centurian tanks that have been accumulated and ten helicopters - which the Minister has just informed mc have been acquired by the Royal Australian Air Force? The possession of merchant -ships is as much a part pf our defence as is any other aspect of the Government’s defence programme. That, of course, is why the Australian Government started to construct merchant ships during the last war.
One of the other things worth commenting on is, I think, the limitation of construction, an important point which the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) attempted to minimize. What is happening in the construction trend is that ships are getting larger and larger. The later Commonwealth ships tend to be in the vicinity of 7,000 tons or 8,000 tons gross, and the 170,000 tons, with the present Commonwealth trend to build ships of 12,500 tons, will probably represent another twelve or thirteen ships, perhaps sixteen ships, which would make a total Commonwealth fleet of 60 ships. There is not much likelihood of any vast private investment in shipbuilding. Shipbuilding in Australia is, of course, sustained by subsidy, so that what is called private investment in shipbuilding in Australia is another example of socialized losses. The community bears the loss and makes it worth while for private enterprise to place its orders in Australia.
There are chances, in the event of war, -of continuing uninterrupted building of ships in Australia. T here are not great -chances of continuing uninterrupted building of ships in the United Kingdom in the event of war. It seems to be quite illogical for the Government to say, on the one hand, that we have an international emergency which justifies the expenditure of £200,000,000 on defence, and on the other hand to enter into an agreement which places a limitation on its own actions in regard to the construction of merchant ships; because, if the Government thinks that the world is in such a state that we can afford to limit our construction of the things which would be among the major targets in a war, then ‘ how oan it justify the expenditure of £200,000,000 a year on defence? If we tell the taxpayers that we are going to impose taxes on them such as to productrevenue of £200,000,000 a year for expenditure on defence alone, then obviously we envisage the international situation as being such that there is likely to be a very strong attack on merchant shipping. So there does not seem to be any sense in an agreement to limit the construction of merchant ships. I think that we should continue to build ships in thi? country.
The second thing worth commenting on is that we should be prepared to build ships which are uneconomical!? fast. The Minister’s statements in reply to questions that I had on the notice-paper shows that the fastest of the Australian ships is Boonaroo, which can do 13 knots, and that the slowest is one of the smaller vessels which can do 9 knots. The ships that the Commonwealth once owned, the “ Bay “ liners, were ships of such high quality that, when they were twenty years old, they were able to be mounted with 6-in. guns and be used as armed merchant cruisers, Jervis Bay being a very famous example of a former Commonwealth liner put to such a use. To-day, defence against torpedo attack lies, to some degree anyhow, in speed. It will no longer lie in convoys. There would he nothing more foolish than to send 50 or 60 ships in close formation so that one atomic bomb could sink the lot. The line of thought in British aerial and naval authorities now is that ships henceforth must proceed singly. The most likely form of defence of these ships is for each ship to carry a helicopter which would work in conjunction with listening devices, depth charges and allied weapons in protecting the ship as it sails singly.
Another point is that the merchant ship As a more important instrument in a . likely future war than it was in the late war. Whenever a German armed merchantman came in contact with a British, cruiser it always sheered off very quickly because it was no match for it. The merchant ship was at a serious disadvantage because of the superior armour plating of a warship. That waa the ease, except for the disastrous instance of H.M.A.S. Sydney, where faulty tactics destroyed the value of the warship’s guns,
And the value of the warship’s armour plating, which could have withstood the fire of the merchantman. But to-day, the thickness of armour plating would mot matter if a ship were the target for an atomic rocket. The ship would be destroyed whether it was a battleship with 15-ln. armour plating, or an ordinary merchant ship with 1-in. plating. Therefore, merchant ships armed with atomic weapons and so constructed as to be able to carry rockets, would be a powerful means of defence against attacks which are likely at sea, and could play a more important part than they did in the last war. I believe that Australia should go on building merchant ships and, for its own security and the security of the British Commonwealth, should not put any limitation on their construction. Since .[ Relieve that, I believe that the Government is mistaken in entering into an agreement to limit construction of mer.chant ships. Australia must go on building ships beyond this limit of 325,000 tons, and put them into international trade. The agreement covers only internal trade.
A strange fate seems to dog Commonwealth ownership of ships. Take, for instance, Monarch of Bermuda, a -vessel of 20,000 tons which was renamed New Australia. We have entered into an agreement whereby we bring out immigrants in that ship, and we crassly say to the British shipping interests that the ship must travel back empty to the United Kingdom. I cannot see any sense in such an agreement unless pressure was put on the Commonwealth Government to waste a ship and send it back empty, except, of course, when it took the Russian Ambassador and his staff back to Europe, lft seems to me that we1 should build ships for the international trade, even if we have to subsidize them in order to enable them to face overseas competition. To-day. we spend £140,000,000 sterling a year on shipping freights. The Government say.we must conserve our overseas balances. If we were subsidizing our own ships, even with the additional cost being concealed by the subsidy, that would be a# effective a way to conserve our sterling balances, although inflicting some/ cost on industry, as is the Government’s present method of restricting imports, which also inflicts some cost on industry. Therefore, we should, in my opinion, build ships. If we on this side of the House take office as a Labour government we will be hound by this agreement, we will have to honour the agreement of which this Parliament approves ; but I believe, for the security of the nation, we should go on building ships, and we should also put ships into international trade. During the last war we discovered that “ no ships “ meant “ no sovereignty “, and that is the position that this country will find itself in again under this limitation of ship construction, a limitation which entirely contradicts the Government’s defence policy, and contradicts also the likely necessary measures of self-defence against the power which the Government says is likely to be our enemy - Soviet Russia - a power which is peculiarly adapted in its weapons for an assault on shipping.
.- It has been very interesting to listen to the lecture on defence strategy to which we have been treated by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), and it is encouraging to know that at least one member of the Opposition is interested in preserving the defence of this country. I believe that a great deal of what the honorable gentleman said is worth while, and should have been said, but, in my estimation, he put far too much emphasis on the value of shipping as a means of defence. The possession of merchant ships in war-time is, of course, vital to this country; but so are all other forms of communication - road, rail and telegraphic. This country must develop in order to be strong, and we on this side of the House want to see that development encouraged and aided, not hindered as it has been by the activities of the supporters of the members of the Opposition.
It would certainly be admirable for Australian shipping to engage in overseas trade, but we should have to reduce costs to enable it to do so. In order to give the House some idea of the prohibitive cost of engaging in overseas trade with Australian ships, I shall compare the cost of shipping goods around the Australian coast with the freight rates charged for Australian exports by the overseas shipping lines. The cost of shipping general cargo on any coastal vessel from Melbourne to Sydney is 1 31s. Cd. a ton. The cost of shipping goods from Brisbane to Hamburg in an overseas vessel is 223s. 9d. a ton. To give a better illustration, the cost of shipping u ton of cargo a distance of 1,841 miles from Fremantle to Darwin is more than the cost of shipping it from Brisbane to Hamburg, a distance of 13,490 miles. If we could run overseas ships as economically as the overseas shipping companies operate them, it would be possible for Australian companies to engage in overseas trade. But it is obviously out of the question for us to do so while our costs are as high as they are at the present time.
These two bills are an attempt to nationalize the coastal shipping trade. I believe they will be eminently successful, and I congratulate the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) on obtaining the signatures of representatives of the shipping and (stevedoring companies on the agreement made with the Government. I would remind the honorable member for Fremantle that the agreement makes provision for the event of war.
– I said that twice.
– Should war threaten or break out, it will be possible either to engage more shipping by charter, or to construct additional vessels in Australia. The importance of shipping to the Australian economy, in peace-time as well as in war, can be gauged from the fact that one-third of the national income is spent on transport, and that shipping offers by far the cheapest form of transport, in spite of the high costs that I have mentioned. In the financial year 1953-54, shipping was responsible for more than half the freight carried by all kinds of transport expressed in ton-miles, at an average cost of .Sd. a ton-mile. I have included bulk cargo with general cargo. We must remember that our coastal shipping industry receives far less assistance in the form of subsidies, and requiries a smaller capital outlay than the railway or road transport systems.
About 11,000,000 tons of cargo a year is carried interstate, 3,000,000 tons of which consists of general cargo. Bulk cargoes generally are coal, iron ore, limestone, and sugar. As the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) pointed out earlier, bulk cargoes are carried at very low charges. As a rule, coot of transporting iron ore from Whyalla averages .196d. a ton-mile. In spite of the cheapness of sea transport, the amount of general cargo handled has fallen off in recent years. Some companies claim that the volume of cargo carried by sea between Sydney and Melbourne has declined by as much as 40 per cent, within the last year. The report of the Melbourne Harbour Trust for 1954 states that only half as much cargo is handled annually as was handled in 1937-38. The unreliability of shipping time-tables and the heavy handling charges, in the main, account for the fall in the demand for sea transport. The honorable member for Macarthur pointed out that the South Australian AuditorGeneral, in a report dated December. 1951, claimed that the carriage bv road from Sydney to South Australia of goods that might otherwise have been transported by sea costs South Australia an additional £15.000.000 a year. T have cited these figures just to indicate, the vital importance of sea transport to our economy.
I believe that nationalization would not solve the problem. Some other solution must be found, and these hills ure an attempt to find it. I believe they do not go far enough and that we should adopt a new method of cargo handling which has recently been put into practice in the United States of America and in other countries - a method which the Minister for Shipping and Transport has recently made a tentative step towards adopting. I refer to the use of “ roll-on-roll-off “ ships, as they are called in the United States. These are specially designed freighters into which goods are loaded aboard trailers; so that the goods are handled only twice in transit - once at the consigning warehouse, and once at the receiving warehouse. This virtually eliminates stevedoring costs and reduces the freight charges, because the ships turn round much more quickly than normal freighters do. In practice, these “ roll-on-roll-off “ ships enter and leave port on the same tide. They are almost continually at sea, and loading and unloading take only a few hours. They carry about half as much cargo as a normal freighter carries, owing to the bulk of the trailers, hut this is offset substantially by the great saving of handling charges. We should adopt this method in Australia. When these measures become law, the Government will have the legislative machinery necessary for the construction of such ships.
– One is being built now.
– As the honorable member for Fremantle is so interested in the defence of Australia, and in the expansion of the merchant marine for defence purposes, I recommend the proposal to him. These special ships would be much more effective in war-time than would be the normal freighter, which depends on hatches, winches, holds, and the antiquated system of handling which has been in use in the shipping industry for a thousand years or more without change. We must adopt modern and sensible practices in this conservative industry, and, as I have stated, when these measures become law, the Government will have the legislative machinery necessary to put these new methods into practice, and thereby encourage and stimulate private enterprise and infuse new life and vigour into Australia’s shipping industry.
– Private enterprise lias been doing that for 100 year?, and shipping is in the state it is in to-day.
– I did not catch the honorable member’s interjection.
– Does the honorable member mean that he could not near it?
– I could not understand it. I turn now to the replacement of Taroona, which runs between Melbourne and Tasmania. Taroona is what 1 would call hybrid. It carries passengers, cars and freight transports. It isan estimable type of freight and passenger carrier for that service, but what we need along the main coastal routes around the mainland of Australia is the type of ship that is being built and used largely in America. It is a ship devoted entirely to the carrying of freight. The ship for the Tasmanian trade is based on the type of cross-Channel ship which is used in Europe, though I should think it would be more akin to the North Sea type of carrier than the Channel type. lt will probably do a very good job, especially with the handling of urgent and special freight for Tasmanian ports. But the type of vessel needed around the Australian coast is the type now being developed in America, which would carry at least 100 large trailers.
I have some figures on these ship* from recent American periodicals. One type of ship, of which ten have been ordered, carries 250 fully loaded trailers. Ten ships of that type would cost 115,000,000 dollars. They are being built for the American Hawaiian Steamship Company and will operate across the open sea. I could quote a number of other private companies in America which are adopting the “ roll-on-roll-off “ principle. That principle is quite new. Tt was started in America, in 194S and has multiplied at a very fast rate, despite the fact that the capital outlay for shipping is very considerable indeed. It is quite obvious that the need must exist for all these companies in America to swing over suddenly to this form of transport.
There is another advantage in this system. It would take the trailers off the roads. Any one who has travelled between the capital cities on the eastern side of the continent knows that the highways are being knocked to bits by tremendous trailers carrying freight from Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney to Brisbane and back. It is obvious that if that system continues at the present rate, we will need to spend many millions of pounds on the main lines of communication between the major capital cities. How much better would it be to build ships with that money instead of pouring it into roads, which will only be destroyed again ! That money could be used to build the type of ship I have mentioned, so that the trailers could be *ent to the capital cities by sea.
The “ roll-on-roll-off “ type of ship will need a new type of port facility. That is an advantage, because our ports are now outmoded. Like our roads, they need, many millions of pounds spent on them to bring them up to date and to make them efficient. That money could be largely saved by using the type of ship to which I have referred and a new type of installation in the harbours. We are fortunate in Australia in that all the capital cities have large harbours, which offer scope for marshalling yards, road connexions and the type of installation that is needed by this form of ship. This ship usually loads at the rear end and needs a special ramp so that vehicles can run on or off, as the case may be. Marshalling yards are necessary to save time with the loading and unloading process. On page 49 of The Harbour for the 1st May, 1956, the following quotation appears : -
The United States Government is to institute a plan for the study of poor facilities to accommodate new roll-on-roll-off ships soon to be built for several slapping companies in the United States. Mr. Clarence Morse, Maritime Administrator, has stated that his organisation will engage architectural and engineering technicians to undertake the study.
The study is expected to reduce to basic terms the facilities which would be required to accommodate each of the types of rollonrolloff vessels that have been proposed to the administration in various applications for construction aid. The scheme will also give full consideration to ship-berth facilities, railway and lorry traffic circulation, and other related facilities.
That example could be followed in Australia. The Government should make inquiries to find out just what is happening in America in this direction and1 should take action now to apply the principle to Australian conditions and to seeto it that we have the facilities provided; and the shipping constructed in Australia, to make this system work here. Australia is admirably suited to its application, because of the distance between its main, centres and because its main centres axelocated along the seaboard. The strainthat is at present unsuccessfully borne by road and rail systems could be taken by~ the new shipping service.
At this point I should like to correct the honorable member for Fremantle on onepoint. His statement about the limitation on the extension of tonnage is not quite correct. The agreement makes provision for the extension of the commission’s tonnage if the shipping companies are not providing adequate services. If honorable members are interested in the new principle that I have mentioned, I can refer them to two pictures of the new steamer that is being built at the direction of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) for the Tasmanian trade. They give some indication of the type of vessel.
– I mentioned the limitation of tonnage not because there might not be ships to meet present needs but because the limitation would prevent shipsbeing built for reserves. That is as much a part of defence policy as anything else.
– I see the honorable member’s point, but the matter of priorities is one for the Chiefs of Staff to determine. Australia’s role in any future conflict would be that of a major supply centre. The interpretation of the needs of a major supply centre must be left to the proper authorities, and they are the Chiefs of Staff. They must decide the defence strategy, which cannot be left to armchair strategists.
– Ships will be sunk and must .be replaced. Under aerial attack on shipyards, that will be difficult.
– I do not think we can anticipate at this stage what kind of conflict we are likely to he engaged in, if any, in the future.
– Does the honorable member think that there could be any conflict in which ships would not be -soak?
Ifr. IAN ALLAN. - It is quite conceivable that a future conflict could avoid Australia entirely and that an atomic bomb would not be dropped on Australia. But I do not propose to become involved in a debate on that matter. No one can. foretell the future. All we can say is that Australia must develop a balanced economy. Australia must become vigorous, wealthy and strong, if we are to maintain our heritage and develop this country in security for future generations. That applies particularly to the enemy within, who is far more dangerous, far more insidious and far more deadly in his operations than any aggressor from without. It is quite plain to any one who has studied or thought about the possibility of a future conflict that the main form of attack will he by use of the Trojan horse technique. I advise the honorable member for Fremantle to direct lis attention to the existing weaknesses within this country, because, as the Russians realized a long time ago, the deepest form of warfare is the cold war, which operates on the minds of men and destroys them not physically but morally. I commend that thought to the honorable member for Fremantle and to his companions who occupy the Opposition tenches.
.- The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) has dealt extensively with the “future construction of ships in Australia. I agree with much that he has -said. I believe that he has conducted a certain amount of research into this subject, and I commend him for it. Much that he said was constructive. He also referred to the new ferry steamer that is to be provided for the Tasmanian run. I commend him for his reference to that point also, because the Tasmanian members of the Parliament have been endeavouring for some years to secure a suitable steamer for the Tasmanian run. I hope that he will lend his support to me, to the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), and other Tasmanian members of the Parliament in an effort to ensure that the construction of the proposed steamer will be completed earlier than three years hence, as has been suggested. Unless it is constructed earlier than suggested, it is certain that Tasmania will be without suitable shipping transport, because I am quite certain that Taroona, the steamer at present operating between Tasmania and the mainland, will not continue to operate for that period.
The honorable member for Gwydir did not deal to any great degree with the bill itself. As I suggested a few moments ago, he discussed the future of the Australian shipbuilding industry, but he ignored almost completely the provisions of this measure. At one stage, however, he referred to the fact that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) will have power to ensure that sufficient ships are built in this country. One clause of the bill provides for certain restrictions in that direction, and the Opposition finds itself in disagreement with the Government on that matter. The bill is described as a bill to establish an Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. In actual fact, it flows from the frustrated efforts of a government which, over the last seven years, has endeavoured to dispose, by one means or another, of the Commonwealth line of ships. That it was unsuccessful in its efforts is due entirely to the fact that the shipping companies were not prepared to accept its terms. The Government has admitted that it tried unsuccessfully to sell the Commonwealth line of steamers to private enterprise, lt is an open secret that the shipowners were aware that, if they waited long enough, they would secure the vessels under their own terms. They have some knowledge of the Government’s record in regard to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and more recently the whaling station in Western Australia, all of which have been disposed of merely to satisfy the whim of a government, which has developed a fetish for disposing of national assets without being able to offer any valid reason for doing so. The private companies were aware of the pattern that had been followed by the Government in relation to the disposal of national assets, and therefore they were prepared to wait, knowing that, if the Government could not dispose of its shipping line, in due course it would adopt other measures equally effective in order to kill the line, to restrict its operations, or to stunt its growth.
It has been suggested that, under the terms of this bill, Tasmania’s requirements will be safeguarded. I need hardly emphasize the importance of shipping to Tasmania, an island State. Time and time again ships of the Commonwealth line have come to Tasmania’s assistance to remove perishable cargoes that have been left by private shipping companies to deteriorate on the wharfs. All Tasmanian members are fully aware of that situation, and they acknowledge that Tasmania would never have overcome its repeated crises in exporting apples, potatoes, timber and other products, or in importing essential supplies, without the sympathetic assistance of the Commonwealth shipping line. Its abolition, or the curtailment of its activities, could have the most serious consequences for that State. I have searched through the schedule, but have been unable to find any clause that would suggest that Tasmania’s difficulties in this respect would be overcome or its interests safeguarded.
The Commonwealth shipping line has been extended in recent years, and it is making a handsome profit. Few people in Australia wish to see it disposed of or to have enforced the restrictions that are imposed by this measure. I need hardly refer to the organizations in Tasmania that have frequently approached the Government and asked for a more rapid expansion of the Commonwealth shipping line, that it be placed on the same basis as Trans-Australia Airlines, and operated and managed by its own staff. Organizations such as the Tasmanian. Timber Owners Association and the Tasmanian Farmers Federation could not be described as being unsympathetic towards the present Government. I quote the following passage from an article that was published in the Tasmanian Farmer on the 19th January, 1956 -
The inescapable fact is that if there is to be a monopoly controlling interstate shipping, Tasmania would be far better off if the monopoly were Government-owned and representations’ at political levels carried weight in the denning of the policy.
Rather than a monopoly at all, the commonsense solution would be to set up the Commonwealth line of ships - with proper safeguards to provide for the provision of an adequateservice to remote parts of the Commonwealth - as a separate trading organization on similar lines to that very efficient and profitable enterprise T.A.A. . . .
I suggest that the organization which is responsible for that article could not be described as being unsympathetic to this Government. It recognizes and appreciates the value of the Commonwealth line of ships.
That point of view was upheld by the Public Accounts Committee in its report on the Commonwealth’s shippingactivities as far back as 3926. The committee reported as follows : -
To arrive at a decision, apart from the question of Government policy, as to whether the Commonwealth Government line should be continued, there must be considered what benefits have accrued to the country by the establishment of that Line, and whether such benefits have outweighed any financial loss incurred as a result of its trading operations. The evidence so far placed before the Committee indicates that not only has the Commonwealth. Line been directly responsible for actual reductions in freights, but that the presence of the Line has exerted a material restraining influence against proposed increases. Whilst it is difficult - in fact, almost impossible - owing to the many factors to be considered, to indicate in figures the actual gain to Australia by such action, it appears to the Committee, from the evidence already heard, that the shippers and primary producers of Australia have derived much benefit from the establishment of the Commonwealth Line of Steamers.
It is interesting to recall the history of that first Commonwealth shipping line. It will be remembered that between 19 IT and 1924 the Commonwealth line owned a total of 54 ships, which had proved to be a tremendous success, not only on the Australian coastal routes, but also on overseas routes. The Bruce-Page Government set out to destroy the line and succeeded in disposing of it in 1927 - twelve months after the interim report of the Public Accounts Committee to which I have just referred.
The Opposition has frequently referred to the Government’s intention to sell the Commonwealth shipping line. Our allegations have always been denied, yet the
Minister for Air (Mr. Townley) now states in his second-reading speech that it is an open secret that negotiations have been carried on with the ultimate purpose of disposing of the line. Naturally, as the profits and popularity of the line have increased, the private shipowners have become more adamant in their demands that action be taken to curb effectively the activities and the progress of the line. That agitation has been acknowledged by the bill that we are debating now.
Let us examine the main purpose of the bill. It is to establish a commission, to repeal the national security regulations, and to transfer the assets of the Australian Shipping Board to the commission. The commission will consist of five members - a chairman, a vicechairman and three other members. The Minister for Air has not suggested who will comprise the commission. Indeed, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, for reasons best known to him, refused to do so in another place. But I believe that it must be obvious, at any rate to all honorable members on this side of the House, that the commission will be comprised of representatives of private shipping companies. That is indicated by clause 13 of the bill, which, refers to a commissioner who is directly or indirectly interested in a contract made or proposed to be made by the commission, otherwise than as a member, and in common with the other members, of an incorporated company consisting of not less than 25 persons. Power will be given to such a commissioner to engage in contracts with the commission, provided that he discloses his interest. I suggest that that shows clearly that the commission will be comprised of representatives of the .private shipping com.panies. I have no doubt that more will be said about that clause, with which we disagree, when the committee stage v reached.
The personnel of the commission is a matter which vitally concerns Tasmania. For that reason, I want to discuss briefly the question of representation on the commission. I stated earlier in my remarks that Tasmania, as an island State, is completely dependent upon ship ping. It is the only State of the Commonwealth which has no alternative method of transporting its goods to other States. Every other State of the Commonwealth can use railways and main highways, but Tasmania is completely dependent on shipping for the transport of the goods which it exports and imports. Therefore, if the Government really desires to provide adequate safeguards for Tasmania, it will ensure that at least one member of the commission shall come from that State.
I have already pointed out that the commission will consist of five members. Surely we can expect that the Government will appoint at least one person from Tasmania as a member of the commission - even a member of a shipping company if it so desires, or some one expert in shipping matters. The Minister for Air is a fellow Tasmanian. I ask him to refer my request to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I am sure he will agree with me that it is important to Tasmania that at least one member of the commission shall come from that State. No one can speak with more authority about the shipping problems of Tasmania than some one who is actively engaged in that industry. All honorable members have heard the remarks that have been made from time to time by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) and myself about Tasmania’s shipping problems.
– What about the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Luck) ?
– I concede that point. I have said before that I believe that Tasmanian members of this Parliament have been able to speak with one voice on the question of shipping. Tt would be bad for the economy of Tasmania if we could not sink our political differences when dealing with that subject. We have been able to do so in the past and T have no doubt that we shall continue to do so in the future. Before I leave this matter, T anneal again to the Minister to give consideration to my request that at least one member of the commission be drawn from Tasmania.
To-day. the Commonwealth shipping line is operating under national security regulations. Certainly, the Opposition has no objection to the line being based on some statutory provision, nor to the repeal of the regulations and the transfer of its assets to the proposed commission. After all, that is in conformity with much of Labour’s legislation of 1949. The matter that is of paramount interest is the effect that the legislation will have on the people - that is, the people who will use the ships, as well as those who depend upon them for the transport of the goods that are used in everyday life. l t T3 because we believe that the proposed legislation will not improve the present unsatisfactory conditions prevailing round the Australian coast that we are utterly opposed to the Government’s proposals.
The Labour legislation of 1949 left the fixation of fares and freight charges to the Australian Shipping Board, but, under the terms of this measure, the fares and charges fixed will be subject to the approval or disapproval of the Minister.
There is an obvious reason for the insertion of the clause which will give the Minister that power. If the commission were to decide on what it considered to be a reasonable freight rate, but that rate was not acceptable to the private shipowners, they could, I suggest, appeal to the Minister, who would have power to reject the commission’s figures. Tt could be that the Minister considers that that provision is necessary to prevent the commission from reducing the level of freight rates currently in force and being charged by the private shipping companies. It could, of course, have the opposite effect of forcing up freight rates to an uneconomic level. [ remind the House of the discussions which have taken place in this Parliament on the question of the freight rates fixed by both the shipping companies which operate round the Australian coast and the overseas shipping combine. In both cases, there have been substantial increases of freight charges in recent years. Only last year, the overseas shipping combine announced that it would make an increase of 10 per cent, in the freight rates for cargoes which it carried to and from Australia and New Zealand. Sixty per cent, of our imports and 90 per cent, of our bulk exports are carried by these companies, for which service they receive approximately £80,000,000 each year. An increase of 10 per cent, in freights was completely unjustified,, and an increase of 7i per cent, was finally decided upon. I remember that on that occasion the matter was debated as a matter of urgency, and the Government’s, answer was given by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). It is true that he expressed himself as being utterly opposed to the action of the overseas shipping companies in proposing an increase of .10 per cent, in freight rates, but at the end of his speech he admitted that he was powerless to take any action to prevent the increase. Ultimately, an increase of 7 A per cent, was applied. Unless the commission is given the opportunity of deciding on economic freight charges for carriage of goods in its ships, there canbe no real competition, and the same unhappy conditions in relation to freight charges and increases will prevail in thefuture as have prevailed in the past.
I desire to deal with that part of the bill which refers to the functions of the commission in establishing new servicesIn his second-reading speech, the Minister referred to the power that will be vested in the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) toexercise some control over the commission in the establishment of new routes,, and matters relating thereto. TheMinister said -
Where he considers it is necessary to meet the needs of a particular a,Tea, and is in the public interests, the Minister may direct the commission to establish a shipping service tomeet those particular needs. Where a service is established at the direction of the Minister and results in a loss and the commission’* operations for the year also result in a loss, then the commission is entitled to be reimbursed for the loss on the service or the losson the year’s operations whichever is the less. This power will enable the Minister to ensure that where they are necessary developmental trades will be undertaken by the commission to areas where the commission, would not normally provide services because they would not be payable from a commercial’ point of view.
I suggest that the last sentence is particularly important. The Opposition agree? with the general principles expressed inthat statement, because we have always believed that an important function off the Commonwealth shipping line is to provide services on routes which are not being given an adequate service by private shipping companies. But as I understand the position, and I have carefully studied the relevant clause, if the commission incurs any loss in its operations on a developmental route it will not be reimbursed to the full extent of that loss. Let us consider a hypothetical example, where the loss on developmental services is £400,000, but the net loss on trading for a full year is only £20,000. The amount paid to the commission will not be £400,000, the loss incurred in developing the new route, but only the £20,000, which represents the overall loss of the commission on the year’s operations. In those circumstances, the commission’s balancesheet would show the commission in a bad light. Had it not been forced to engage on a developmental service involving a loss of £400,000, it would certainly have completed the year’s operations with a substantial profit. Developmental services are necessary. They are partly the responsibility of the Government, and the commission is entitled to be reimbursed to the extent of the loss incurred on such services.
The shipping companies are parties to this agreement, but they will not be expected to develop unprofitable or uneconomic services. The Minister said that private companies would not be expected to undertake developmental trades because they would not be payable from a commercial point of view. These companies will be free while commission ships are engaged on developmental services, to operate on firmly established and profitable routes. I need hardly stress that once a route has been established and is a. profitable undertaking no clause in the bill prevents ships of private companies from operating on the route. The agreement is to be effective for twenty years. During that time the gross tonnage of shipping operated by the Commonwealth line must not exceed 325,000 tons. At present, the line has in operation, under construction, or on order, a total of 247,000 tons. Thus, it will he permitted to add, during the next twenty years, only 78,000 tons of shipping, or less than 4,000 tons a year. I refer to clause 7 of the schedule, which states -
Except as otherwise provided in this agreement, the Commission will not operate in thecoastal and territorial shipping services,, vessels, including vessels under charter, whichin the aggregate exceed 325,000 gross registered, tons.
I regard this clause as being most unsatisfactory, as it will limit the operation and expansion of the commission’sservices for the next twenty years. I said earlier that there were insufficient ships operating on the Australian coast. Obviously, private shipping companiesare not interested in expansion. If they were, they would have expanded yearsago. There is an immediate need for twoadditional ships on the Tasmanian run. The Government is aware of that need. It knows, also, that the only source from which additional shipping space may bemade available is the Governmentoperated shipping line. Yet, knowing this, the Government proposes to restrict the increase of tonnage to approximately half a ship, on an average, each year for the next twenty years.
The Government will no doubt argue that the Minister will have power todirect the attention of the private shipping companies to a lack of shipping on any route, and to direct that the deficiency be made up within a specified time. But the bill provides that the shipping companies may dispute the Minister’sdecision, in which case the matter will be referred to an independent arbitrator, and consequent discussions may be drawn out for months. I suggest that that provision reflects little credit on the Government. On the one hand there is an acknowledgment of the critical shortage of ships in Australia. On the other hand, private shipping companies aresatisfied with the number of ships now operating on the Australian coast, and legislation is introduced to restrict the commission’s fleet to a limit of 325,000’ tons for the next twenty years.
Labour’s 1949 legislation aimed at encouraging and fostering the shipbuilding industry. Clause 13 of the schedule covers future policy in regard1 to shipbuilding in this country. My first comment is that it gives to private companies a complete monopoly over shipbuilding rights in Australia for the next twenty years. My second comment is that a great deal of force or compulsion will have to be exercised by the Minister to make shipowners fulfil their obligations. This matter may also be referred to an independent tribunal, with consequent delays, and even in the event of a decision being in the Minister’s favour, he may or may not authorize the commission to make up the deficiency by placing orders. I want to deal very briefly with shipbuilding in Australia, as it is affected by the restrictions imposed under the bill. It is interesting to note that the industry was constituted in 1941 under national security regulations. At thai; time there was practically no shipbuilding in Australia. I wish to refer to the Tariff Board’s report on the shipbuilding industry, and to deal very briefly with the new tonnage rates required for the period as outlined in the report from L954 to 1964.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. TURNER (Bradfield) [5.36J.- The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), who represents a constituency in Tasmania, very rightly, in his opening remarks, expressed concern for the shipping services to that island. He intimated that the best means of preserving Tasmania’s shipping interests would be to create a monopoly of coastal shipping in the hands of the Government shipping line. He well knows that the bill makes very proper provision for the needs of Tasmania and, indeed, of other outlying areas. He knows very well that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) lias retained power to direct the Commonwealth shipping line, which is substantial now and will have its tonnage increased, to provide developmental services if necessary. Also, there is provision in the bill for compensation of the shipping line by the Government where losses occur on those services.
I do not propose to pursue the honorable member into every corner of his argument. I have listened to the whole of every speech that has been made in the course of this debate, and if I were to pick out one or two things that have been paramount in the remarks of honorable gentle men opposite I would say that there has been, first, a beating of the drums of hate against the capitalists - in this particular case the shipowners - and, secondly, much talk about the fetters and gyves said to be imposed upon the government shipping line in relation to the private shipping companies. So far as the beating of the drums of hate is concerned one may still hear, though faintly, echoing down the arches of 2,000 years, the words, “ Blessed are the peace-makers “. It is of little help in this world to hark- upon the old enmities, whether between the capitalists and the proletariat so-called, between the Irish and the British, between the Israelis and the Arabs, between the white man and the brown or, indeed, any of those other enmities that bedevil the world in which we live. Consequently, I propose to have nothing more to say about that persistent line in the argument of the Opposition.
So far as the second line of argument, is concerned - that which lays emphasis upon the supposed fetters and gyves that are to hamper the government shipping line - all I have to say is that a government instrumentality is clothed in the full legislative authority of this Parliament and it can draw upon the almost unlimited resources of the taxpayer, and to speak of it as suffering grave disadvantages as compared with private enterprise would be ludicrous if it were not tragic. Whatever the provisions of this legislation might be, the fact that this Parliament remains the powerful patron of the government shipping line, and that through some other legislation which may be drafted from time to time, it may draw upon the resources of the taxpayer, leaves the proposed instrumentality in a paramount position. If, in this bill, some attempt - and I think a very reasonable attempt - has been made by the Minister for Shipping and Transport to put the government and the private lines upon the same parity, I think that most of us will agree that the means used have been very fair indeed, to say the least.
I turn from these matters to a consideration of the bill, which I approach from the only possible stand-point, namely that of the interests not of this or that section but of the Australian people as a whole. As we all know, transport accounts for something like one-quarter of the total cost of all goods that we buy in the shops. Therefore, anything that bears upon the efficiency of an important transport service affects all of the people of Australia, and our whole economy.
Coastal shipping is tremendously and vitally important to Australia. When one considers that one ship, with a cargo of 3,500 tons, carries as much as do fourteen goods trains, or 300 semi-trailers, one realizes how important this method of transport is. It achieves economies in man-power, operating costs and capital costs that neither rail noi’ road transport can hope to effect. Ships need no permanent way. They sail easily over the mountains, the hills and the plains of the wide ocean, and their terminal facilities are very much cheaper than are those of road and rail transport.
For bulk cargoes, of course, coastal shipping is supreme. For example, it costs something like .2Sd. per ton-mile to take ironstone by sea from “Whyalla to Newcastle or Port Kembla. That is only one-sixteenth of the comparable rail freight. The disadvantage suffered by shipping, as compared with the railways, on short hauls is exemplified in these figures: The rail freight between Sydney and Melbourne - unless, of course, it has again been increased as a result of recent happenings - is £14 15s. a. ton for ordinary general freight. Between Sydney and Albury, however, it is £17 17s. 6d. So, it costs less to take goods from Sydney to Melbourne than it does to take them from Sydney to Albury, the reason being, of course, that the railways have entered upon a freight war with coastal shipping. One could give other examples. For instance, it costs £17 16s. a ton to send goods by rail from Sydney to Brisbane, but £19 7s. a ton to send goods from. Sydney to Lismore, a much shorter distance. If the railways were to run the ships off the sea I have no doubt that rail freight would soon be increased, and Australia would lose a most important part of its transport services. I am not complaining about these things, but. merely pointing out how vital is coastal shipping to our whole economy, and how important is the place it holds in the transport system.
In recent times we have witnessed an attempt to murder coastal shipping, and have seen a decline in general cargo handled. In 1939, 1,900,000 tons of general cargo was handled in the port of Sydney. By 1954 that figure had fallen to 1,200,000 tons. In the interval, freight rates have increased almost sixfold as a result of various factors, but especially the restrictive practices of the waterside workers. There has been a tremendous decline in the efficient handling of cargo.
Now, the Maritime Services Board in New South “Wales keeps an index showing the tons handled per ship work hour. That index shows a base figure of J 00 for 1939, and in 1955 the figure was 50.S. In other words, half as much cargo is being handled to-day as was handled in 1939 by a comparable number of men. Already, quotations have been made in this debate from the Financial Review of the 12th June, 1952, to this effect: 193 ships, with a gross tonnage of 568,559 tons, will be handling little more cargo than 101 ships, with a gross tonnage of 332,292 tons, handled between 1935 and 1939. Again, in the annual report of the Melbourne Harbour Trust for 1954, it is stated -
Despite the port modernization, mechanization and general improvements, only about half as much cargo daily moves across the individual wharfs to-day as was handled daily in the pre-war years 1937-38.
If one examines the cost of coastal shipping, one finds that stevedoring costs amount to between 60 per cent, and 65 per cent, of the total cost of moving cargo coastwise, and that 1.0 per cent, to 15 per cent, is taken up in crews’ wages. Seamen, in fact, work between 28 and 35 hours a week, but are paid as if they worked for 64 hours. The overtime paid to seamen is equal to the amount of their award wage with the result that their “ take home “ pay amounts to from £1,500 to £2.000 a year - I am speaking of an ordinary seaman - in addition to the board and lodgings, such as it is, on the ship. Quite frequently, it will be found that on the list of salaries and wages paid on a ship, the captain runs second, third, or even sixth, and the cook sometimes receives more than the captain. I mention these things, not by way of incrimination, but merely to. emphasize the condition into which coastal shipping has fallen in this country because it has been deliberately sabotaged by the waterside workers and the seamen’s union. It is no accident that both these unions are controlled by Communists whose object it is to strike a blow at one of our most vital activities, the transport industry.
Let us look at the second attempt at murder - the murder of the private shipping lines. Hitherto, the Government shipping line has paid no taxation, [t has always had the capacity to engage in a freight war at the expense of thi! taxpayer. It was always possible for the government shipping line, in order to run a private shipping line out of business, to cut its freights below an economic figure, and to make good the deficit from the taxpayers’ funds. That was the set-up -as it existed. Again, it was always possible for the government line to replace the private shipping companies that had, for a number of years, acted as its agent for booking cargo and for stevedoring purposes with some other organization, or its own. and so deprive the private companies, however satisfactory their services may have been, of some sort of revenue, properly earned,
And so put them in a position in which they were less able to compete with the government line.
Above all - and I want to stress this most of all - the Commonwealth shipping line has always been able to draw on the taxpayers’ funds for the replacement of its ships. The total amount of capital, public and private, invested in the shipping industry is about £57,000,000. Yet, by 1960, only a few years hence, 80 ships will be over 25 years of age and will have reached a stage at which they need to be replaced. It will cost about £60,000,000 to replace them. I am referring both to government-owned and privately owned ships. It will be obvious that the crisis facing the coastal shipping trade is the problem of replacing ships which, in a few years, will be out of date and for the replacement of which capital has to be found.
What an inestimable advantage the Commonwealth line has in that regard 1 It can draw on the taxpayers’ funds for replacement. Where can the private shipping companies find funds for replacement? This is a tremendous handicap. Of course, a ship now costs about five times as much as it would have cost 25 years ago when most of these vessels were built. So even though, through provision for depreciation, a company has recovered, say, £300,000 spent on a ship 25 or 30 years ago, to-day it will cost well over £1,000,000 to purchase the same kind of ship. So, despite tax concessions for depreciation, no matter how liberal they may have been, it has not been possible for the private shipping companies to have put by money to replace their ships.
Of course, members of the Opposition will say that the companies can obtain their money from their huge profits. It is hardly necessary for me to say that those huge ‘ profits are a figment of their imagination. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), in speaking on the Stevedoring Industry Bill 1956, pointed out that the Australian Shipping Board had made a profit of 7.4 per cent, for the year ended the 31st March, 1955, not taking into account any interest that it ought to have paid. If one deducts from the profit of 7 per cent, the interest which the board should have paid, corresponding to the dividends that would be paid by a private company, then the profit is very small indeed. If one assumes that the Australian Shipping Board was properly conducted, then one can presume that the private shipping companies, too, do not make any substantial profit.
Recently, the profit disclosed by two of the largest coastal shipping companies on the year’s operations amounted to about 4 per cent. So they are not making profits out of which, they could have set aside a sufficient reserve. They cannot go to the taxpayers for money. If they approach the public for funds, they are not likely to find investors coming forward with substantial amounts for the purpose. In view of the threats of nationalization that are continually hurled from the Opposition, and in view of the continual turmoil and disturbance caused by the Communist-led unions - the Waterside Workers Federation and the seamen’s union - can one expect the investing public to be especially interested in putting money into a private shipping company for the replacement of ships?
I believe that this is the nub of the matter. This is the respect in which private shipping companies stand at an enormous disadvantage compared with the government line, far outweighing any of the trumpery disabilities attaching to the government ships about which honorable members of the Opposition have been speaking. I believe that the private shipping companies, having pioneered these services at a time when the States were not interested enough in them or were not capable of doing anything about it, and having run these services over a period of 80 or 100 years, are entitled, as members of this community, to be given the opportunity of carrying on their services in the future as they have done in the past.
I believe that we could learn something from what has been done in the United States of America where tremendous assistance is given to shipping companies. Besides the advantages that are given to them in Australia as regards a subsidy for the construction of ships in local yards, the American Government provides a shipping company, on the payment of 25 per cent, of the cash price of a ship, with finance for a period of ten or fifteen years to enable the company to acquire a new ship. That government imposes no tax on a ship replacement fund in the hands of the company until a new ship is actually turned over to the operator. I am not suggesting that, necessarily, these particular things should be done in Australia. But I do say that this bill, which is designed to give the private shipping companies an opportunity to carry on their business, cannot succeed unless something is done about this replacement problem. Unless the Government has some proposals to announce in the budget to meet this situation, I believe that the bill will fail in its purpose, that the private shipping companies will not be in a position to take up the challenge, and that as their over-age ships become due for scrapping, they will not be able to replace them; whereupon, under the provisions of this measure, the Commonwealth shipping line will build the additional tonnage. So we shall find socialization creeping on in the future as it did in the past. Of course, for all I know, the Government may have in mind the tackling of this problem at an appropriate time, and may announce its proposals during the presentation of the budget.
I wish now to say something that arises from the fact that so many of the ships on our coast are out of date. This bill provides an opportunity for the construction of new ships that will better serve the needs of the coastal trade than has been the case in the past. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) has very rightly directed attention to the prodigious scope open to up by improving methods of handling cargo. He has referred to the “ roll-on-roll-off “ ships used in the United States of America, which are specially constructed so that trailers can run on at one end of the voyage and run off at the other end, thus reducing labour to a minimum. It may be said that a great deal of storage space would go to waste if that method were adopted, but the time saved in getting ships loaded or unloaded and out to sea again would amply compensate for any loss in that direction. At present ships in Australia spend twothirds of their time in port, and onethird of their time at sea, compared with, the pre-war position when they spend one-third of their time in port and twothirds at sea. By the use of the kind of ship mentioned by the honorable member for Gwydir, it would be possible for ships to spend less time in port.
There is also a great opportunity for the use of containers for the stowing of cargo and for the improvement of port facilities, particularly the provision of more cranes on the wharfs. Surely it is not beyond the wit of man to devise means of handling cargo in wet weather ! Five per cent, of labour time on the waterfront, for which the waterside workers are paid, is taken up in waiting, with their hands behind their backs, for rain to cease. That percentage is equal to the percentage of time lost in stoppages. That is certainly a problem which should be tackled. “We should investigate fully the possibility of mechanizing, to the very limit, the loading and unloading of ships, so that rain and such other disabilities can be ignored. I believe that this is an opportunity which poses a real challenge to the Government. “We had a similar problem regarding mechanization in the coal mines. The miners resisted mechanization. Later, they had the idea that they, could still draw the same money for doing less work, while the machines did the work. However, as time went on, and more mechanical equipment was installed in the mines, and as men dropped out of the industry because of age and other reasons, it was possible to make mechanical coal-mining a payable proposition.
I believe that the Government has two duties. The first is to ensure that the replacement problem of the private shipowners is met in some way similar to the way it has been met in the United States of America. The second is to press on, at all costs with mechanization on the waterfront, thus reducing to a minimum the need to employ labour in the handling of goods, as manual labour is being reduced to a minimum in the coal mines. As wastage occurs in the industry, it will not be necessary to replace wharf labour. These are things which the Government owes to the economy and the nation.
I want to emphasize again that I am not concerned with the rights of this or tha’ section of the community. I hope that we all view this matter from a national stand-point, and recognize that improvement of the efficiency of our transport is absolutely vital to us. The duty of the Government is not to any particular section of the community - not to the shipowners nor the doctrinaires - but to the community as a whole, so that our economy can rest on sound foundations.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– The Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Bill 1956 is designed to establish a commission to take over the operations of the Commonwealth-owned ships. The
Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), in his secondreading speech on this bill in another place, said -
Until now, these ships have been operated under the authority of the National Security (Shipping Co-ordination) Regulations. This is obviously undesirable, and it is necessary that their mode of operation be placed on a more satisfactory and permanent basis.
The Government has given long and careful consideration to the future of the Commonwealthowned vessels.
I might add that these vessels have been operating at a considerable profit and have helped to keep a brake on the private shipping interests. The Minister made a very pathetic effort to justify this bill when he stated -
It must be admitted that since the end of the war, shipping services on the coast have not been all that might have been desired.
I do not propose to embark on a detailed discussion of why this has been so. . . .
That admission by the Minister who is charged with responsibility for the control of shipping on the Australian coast reflects very great discredit on this Government, which has now been in office for almost seven years. It is definite proof of very grave maladministration. The Minister, of course, introduced this bill under pressure from the shipping combine, which has been untiring in its efforts to get control of the Governmentowned vessels. The Government, emboldened and arrogant as a result of its success in disposing of various assets which belonged to the taxpayers, such as the Commonwealth’s interest in Amalgamated “Wireless (Australasia) Limited, the Glen Davis shale oil works, and Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and the Australian “Whaling Commission’s establishment in Western Australia, and other profit-making enterprises, at bargain prices, is now following in the footsteps of a previous Government formed by the Nationalist party and the Australian Country party, which, led by an individual named Bruce, disposed of a Commonwealth line of steamers to the overseas shipping combine for nothing. The Commonwealth did not receive one penny for a line of steamers which had cost the Australian people several million pounds. Nevertheless, Mr. Bruce, the Prime
Minister of the day, was subsequently elevated to the peerage, and now enjoys the very doubtful distinction of being known as “ Viscount Bruce “. One wonders whether history will repeat itself, since this Government, under the terms of this bill, seems to be paving the way for the disposal of the present Commonwealth shipping line to the shipping combine, thereby removing the protection that Australia’s primary producers, and the nation in general, have had in the past from this rapacious body of shipowners which is ever ready to pilfer and plunder.
Let us consider some of the features of the bill. The Minister for Shipping and Transport, referring to the views of the Government in his second-reading speech, said -
Having found it was not possible to sell the ships on terms satisfactory to it, it decided that they would be continued in operation under government ownership. At the same time, the Government recognizes the . . . private shipping companies . . . and has, therefore, taken steps to ensure that these companies are placed in a position … to continue . . . providing shipping services in our coastal trades. To this end, the Commonwealth has entered into an agreement with a number of shipping and stevedoring companies.
The word “ number “ is very important. The Minister then stated that a commission will be appointed to give effect to this agreement. He continued -
The commission will consist of live members, one of whom will be chairman and another vice-chairman. The normal term of appointment of commissioners will be five years, but the initial appointments are for varying periods so that one commissioner will retire each year.
This manoeuvre, of course, will make it possible for the Government to replace retiring commissioners, in the course of time, by nominees of the shipping combine, which will eventually control all the activities of the Commonwealth shipping line. This method was adopted by the present Government when it placed the Commonwealth Bank of Australia under the Commonwealth Bank Board. “We all know how private interests have strangled the bank since.
The lengths to which this Government is prepared to go to meet the wishes of the shipping combine, which, must wield a terrific influence on the members of the Cabinet, are shown by a provision of the bill which allows a member of the com mission even to have an interest in a contract with the commission, provided he refrains from voting on that contract. This is a staggering provision which will surely lead to corrupt practices. What could happen should be plain to all. There could arise a position in which five members of the commission might have an individual interest in every one of five contracts with the commission. A mutual agreement between the five that a contract in which one of their number was interested would be supported by the others could ensure that each contract would be successful. What an extraordinary situation ! I suggest that the Minister for Shipping and Transport should reconsider this matter in the interests of public decency before an ugly public scandal arises. Can it be that the Government has no conception of the requirements of public decency and that it is intoxicated with power. It will surely have a rude awakening. The Government, in this provision, has certainly left the door wide open for corruption.
To develop my argument effectively, I should like to mention a few of the interests associated with the shipping combine on the Australian coast. Firstly, there is the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company Limited, which is commonly known as the A.U.S.N. company. This company, which has its registered office in London, is owned entirely by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. Among the directors, who are mostly Englishmen, are the Right Honorable Lord Huntingfield and the Right Honorable the Earl of Inchcape. The Earl of Inchcape I think, may be the son of the Earl of Inchcape who was associated with Mr. Bruce in the sale of the Commonwealth shipping fleet in the 1920’s - . a transaction which resulted in Lord Kylsant, who was one of the directors of the company concerned in it, serving eighteen months in prison for embezzlement. Another director of the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company Limited is the Right Honorable Viscount Simon. Another company interested in the shipping combine is the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand Limited, which also is part of the Peninsular and Oriental group.
It is interesting to note, when commenting on the provision permitting contracts with the proposed commission, that there are two major stevedoring companies operating, one in Sydney and one in Melbourne. It will be necessary for the commission to engage stevedoring companies to load and unload its ships in port. I shall quote a few of the names of people who are interested in the stevedoring companies. The shares of the Macquarie Stevedoring Company Proprietary Limited are held by William and Company Proprietary Limited - the holding company in Australia for the Australasian- United Steam Navigation Company, which is connected with the Peninsular and Oriental group - Mcllwraith McEacharn Limited, the Adelaide Steamship Limited, Huddart Parker Limited, Howard Smith Limited, and the Melbourne Steamship Company Limited. Then, we find that the monopoly which controls stevedoring in Mel.burne is called the Melbourne Stevedoring Company. The shareholders of that company are the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company, Howard Smith Limited, Adelaide Steamship Company Limited, Huddart Parker Limited and Mcllwraith McEacharn Limited - the some companies in the reverse order.
The commission that will be set up by the Government has no power to do any stevedoring. It must go to the stevedoring companies and get them to do the work on the ships. The five commissioners will be selected by the shipping combines and will be representing one of the shipping companies. Of course, they will not be there to vote when their contract is being considered, but they must be the successful tenderers. It is the sweetest little racket that has ever been perpetrated on the people of Australia. The Minister said -
It has been the objective of the Government in drafting this bill to place the commission, as far as possible, in the same position as a private operator of ships. The commission, therefore, has been given a very considerable degree of autonomy.
The Minister is so kind and generous to the shipping interests that in this bill he has stripped himself of most of his powers. He has powers to approve of freight rates, but he sternly warns himself that it is a power of approval or disapproval only. Whether it is right, or wrong, he can say only “ Yes “ or No “. He has not the power to fix freights for the government line. He ha? no power to initiate changes in th,freights charged by the commission, but he has one direct power. Where the Minister considers it is necessary to meet the needs of a particular area and it id in the public interests, he may direct the commission to establish a shipping service. This provision is very interesting. If that shipping service results in a loss, the commission is to be reimbursed by the taxpayers. The other party to the agreement does not, of course, participate in losses. The taxpayers have to shoulder the burden. The shipowner.1 go their merry way servicing the profitable routes and making their usual heavy profits, while the commission’s ships art left with a bag full of non-profitable routes which will be financed by the taxpayers. This is certainly a one-way racket and the more I look at it, the more I wonder at this blatant, impudent attempt by this Government to bloat the profits of its wealthy supporters at the expense of the people of Australia. Complete contempt of the public interest is the only way to describe it.
Honorable members may ponder over the next provision, which ensures thai neither the Minister nor the commission can reduce freights to a level which will be to the detriment of the private shipowners. The Government’s concern for the welfare of the huge companies is really pathetic. This provision means that in the event of the commission, by greater efficiency and better administration, beginning to show a profit and wishing to pass on to the general public - and also the interests represented by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), who has been quietly interjecting - the advantages gained by reducing freights, it cannot do so because that would place the private shipowners at a disadvantage. Their profits would be reduced if cheaper freights became the order of the day. It is plain to see the strangling effect of this legislation on the Commonwealth line of steamers and the favorable effect it will have on the already high profits of the shipping combine. Dividends, of course, are sacrosanct.
Lt would be appropriate to have a look at the huge profits, made by the shipping conference members. Let us look at the Peninsular and Oriental group, which is the largest of the English shipping empires and has extensive interests in local shipping subsidiaries that trade around our coast. This company has subsidiaries in practically all nations of the British Commonwealth and is active iii all the trade lanes of the oceans of the world. It completely owns twenty shipping companies, many of which trade on the Australian coast. Its total profit - now called a trading surplus by the companies - over a period of seven years between 1949 and 1955, the post-war period^ reached the staggering figure of £34,974,367. This was several times as much as the company’s paid up capital in each of the seven years between 1949 mid 1955. Any one who bought £100 Peninsular and Oriental deferred stock at a cost of £10S has received a good income over the intervening years and now holds an investment worth £1,000 sterling. Other companies trading around our coast, such as the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited, Howard Smith Limited, and Mcllwraith McEacharn Limited, are making profits which can only be described as fabulous. They are the people who are receiving such favorable treatment from this Government by the provisions of this bill.
Let us look a little further. There is a provision which makes the commission liable to pay tax under the Commonwealth tax laws, including income tax mid sales tax. The Commonwealth will pay tax from itself to itself. This is, of course, only a further manoeuvre. The Minister said that this measure is in line with the policy of placing the commission in. the position of a competitive business undertaking. How does the Government reconcile this position of competitive business with a previous provision which denies the- right of the commission to reduce freights if successful business operations warrant? It completely bewilders the interested observers. Clearly the Government is bending over backwards to satisfy the demands of the shipping octopus which wrings the last drop of blood out of the Australian, taxpayer.
The Minister goes on to say that the bill provides that the Minister may, with the concurrence of the Treasurer, and on behalf of the Commonwealth, purchase ships and dispose of them to the commission or to any other person. The phrase “’ any other person ** is very important. That would include any person connected with the- overseas shipping combine. This is a provision which the Minister should examine carefully. “We all must support a programme of shipbuilding from a defence point of view. We all agree on that, and also to establishing the industry on a firm basis in Australia so as to keep a regular tempo, of employment with the resultant training of apprentices for the future welfare of the industry,, which must be given careful study.
We must always keep in mind the fact that most of the combine ships that are trading on the coast are in the coffin ship class. They are in the vicinity of 30 years of age, and have outlived their usefulness. One ship that trades on the Australian coast, Canopus, has never yet been kept on an even keel. That is the kind of vessel in which men have to risk their lives in the interests of the shipowners.. One night, Canopus will go out and never return. It will be swamped by a wave and will founder, simply because it is two or three degrees off an even keel. Honorable members opposite may laugh, but perhaps one night, one of their relatives may be on that vessel and, if there is a disaster, will fail to return. The ships belonging to the private combines are 30, 40 and even 50 years of age. On the other hand, all the ships that will be controlled by the commission are at the most only ten years old. It is possible that the commission’s almost new ship* could be transferred to the private companies at a greatly reduced price. That could be done by employing the old trick used by Lord Bruce, Lord Kylsant and Lord Inchcape in the ‘twenties. The value of the Commonwealth-owned ship« was written down to a ridiculously low figure, and then they were given away. The present Prime. Minister (Mr.
Menzies) is on his way to London, and who knows he is not making some kind of agreement with the Earl of Inchcape and other interested people? Of course, it might be pointed out that new ships could be purchased from the Australian shipyards, thus keeping the shipyards in operation and keeping men in work. However, it would take a considerable time to complete those new ships.
It is true that the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Bill contains a provision which restricts the transfer or mortgage of Australian ships under the age of 25 years. Why the legislation does not provide for a prohibition of the transfer or mortgage of such ships is beyond my comprehension. The Minister for Air (Mr. Townley), who is in charge of the bill in this House, could easily arrange for the insertion of a provision to prohibit and not merely to restrict such a transfer or mortgage. To include provision only for the restriction of such transfers leaves the way open to the legal eagles to find a loophole so that, as in the past, these private interests may get hold of Australian-made ships. Everybody knows that the shipping combine is capable of doing anything in order to justify its demands. By introducing a bill of this kind, and by providing for a restriction and not a prohibition of such transfers, the Government seems to be eager to appease its wealthy supporters who have one thought in mind, namely, the complete control of shipping on the Australian coast.
Members of the Australian Country party, who are supposed to represent the primary producers, who in turn are at the mercy of the shipping interests when they seek to send their products abroad, blame Communists on the waterfront and in the seamen’s union for strikes and all sorts of things. They throw a smokescreen around the evil intentions of the shipowners. They are prepared to pass the people’s ships over to the shipping combines, and do everything in the interests of their wealthy supporters. I invite members of the Australian Country party, when a vote is taken on this measure, to protect the interests of the people who have elected them to the Parliament and to ensure that the interests of the primary producers are not crippled by the extortionate freights that will be charged after this measure becomes law. We of the Labour party-
– Which Labour party?
– We of the Labour party - the only Labour party, which has not changed its name or, like the hybrid party opposite, changed its colour, over the past 75 years - express our strong opposition to this measure, which will mean the destruction of the Commonwealth shipping line. We are fearful about the interests of the primary producers. One of the uppermost thoughts in our minds is in relation to the interests of the primary producers. Labour is pledged, immediately it is returned to office in the very near future, to repeal this measure.
.- 1 really wonder whether I should make any comment on the speech of the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin). I think he is living a good deal in the past. He has brought into the debate a lot of inaccuracies and irrelevancies that have nothing to do with this measure, which deals with the present, and, we hope, the immediate future. The honorable gentleman ended on a very unhappy note when he cast longing eyes over to this side of the chamber and said that, when the Australian Labour party regains the treasury-bench it will repeal this measure. I think that his action in referring so glowingly to the Labour party was akin to whistling . as he passed the political graveyard, and I wonder whether the sentiments that he expressed are shared by his colleagues. It is in line with the Labour tradition and the Labour approach to matters of this description that Opposition members should cloud and misrepresent the purpose of the two bills under discussion. Their action in doing so does not surprise supporters of the Government. Labour’s sadly worn catch-cries about another sell-out, about the disposal of the people’s assets, and about the Government playing into the hands of the capitalists, have been repeated so often, and are reiterated now with so little enthusiasm, that I venture to suggest that even its own supporters have not much faith in them.
Let us reduce this matter to its right perspective and examine the main provisions of these measures. The bills go a long way towards establishing a situation in which the Commonwealth shipping line, sponsored by the Government, and the private shipping interests will be enabled to continue in their own spheres of operations. At the same time, the measures provide a means of safeguarding the trading interests of both parties to the agreement. That should lead to a system of competition which did not formerly exist and, as a result, shipping should be conducted on more economical lines. Finally, the provisions of the bills will safeguard the maintenance of the Australian shipbuilding industry.
In tracing the course of events with a view to placing the matter in perspective, it is well to recall that the Commonwealth shipping line was formed during World War II. to meet the urgent need for ships caused by the nation’s war commitments. There was not enough shipping in private hands to meet an emergency of that kind. A great many more ships were required, particularly in view of the fact that a large percentage of the privately owned ships already had been sunk by enemy action. Therefore, the Commonwealth shipping line was an expedient to meet the demands of war and the difficult years of peace immediately afterwards. But there came a time in those days of peace when a government, non-socialist in its outlook, had to consider whether it would be more prudent to continue the Commonwealth shipping line in operation as a government undertaking or to free it from political control. I hasten to say that a socialist government would not be disturbed by considerations of that kind. It would be quite happy to facilitate the expansion of a government-controlled shipping line to such a degree that free enterprise shipping would be forced out of business eventually. That would be entirely in accord with the Labour government’s policy of nationalization, which was applied to the shipping industry and extended to banking and medical services. But, happily, the life of that government was terminated by the Australian people in 1949, when they expressed their views in no uncertain way and threw the socialists, neck and crop, out of office. Now the Labour party sits down and howls as it sees another plank of the socialist platform being thrown overboard by the bills now before the House.
Transport presents a vexed problem which cannot lightly be dismissed. It looms very large in the economic life of this country, because, from the time of manufacture, practically everything that we use has to be transported at some stage. Quite frequently, up to 40 per cent, of the cost of an article is accounted for by transport charges. Australia is unfortunate in that its large industries and its concentrations of population are scattered over a large area. Most of the development that has occurred has been confined to the seaboard of the continent. Our coal deposits, our iron ore deposits, and our timber-producing and sugarproducing centres - to mention only a few of the things we need - are spread throughout Australia.
Accordingly, we require an efficient merchant marine. That is essential, not only for the efficient conduct of our affairs in peacetime, but also to meet the needs of defence if another war were to break out. Therefore, every endeavour must be made, not only to maintain our existing fleets of merchant ships, but also to provide incentives for their expansion. Sea transport, in normal circumstances, should be the most economical means of carrying goods, particularly heavy cargoes, but a labour shortage and industrial disputes have harassed Australian shipping. The inevitable result of the slow turn-round of ships is that a great deal of cargo is being diverted from sea transport to other forms of transport. In those circumstances, private shipping companies would be unable to carry on if they did not have subsidiary interests. That is the answer to the proposition advanced by honorable members opposite this afternoon that the shipping companies have been making great profits. A fall in revenue does not affect the Commonwealth shipping line to the same degree as it affects private shipping companies, because any loss that the government-owned line incurs is borne by the taxpayers - not, as in the case of a private company, by shareholders.
A great deal of play has been made on the so-called profitable trading operations of the Commonwealth shipping line. 1 was prompted to ask for a balance sheet, so that I could examine the operations of the line as disclosed in that document. But I discover that, under the present system, there is no requirement that a balance sheet shall be printed and issued. Prom £12,000,000 to £18,000,000 of public money is being used by the Commonwealth shipping line, but there is no requirement that it shall present balance sheets to the Government or to the legislature. That is a. matter to which I draw the attention of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) and those who sit with him on the Public Accounts Committee. I consider it to be quite wrong in principle that, although so much money is being devoted to one project, there is no requirement, either implied or expressed that the accounts of the organization shall be presented to the Parliament. It is pleasing to see that, by clause 39 of this bill, the annual report and financial statement, together with a certificate by the Auditor-General, will be required to be placed before the House each year by the responsible Minister. I hope that the first statement of account will bring in the ships, either at their book value or at their written down value, and will disclose fully the assets of the Commonwealth shipping line.
Contrary to popular belief, the Commonwealth shipping line has incurred a total trading loss of £1,500,000 since its inception. According to information that I have been able to secure, heavy losses were incurred in 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1950. The largest loss, £2,593,283, was incurred in 1948. That figure includes interest charges. There was a change for the better from 1952 onwards. In 1952, a profit of £739,000 was made. After adjustment of interest, a nett profit of £353,000 was shown. It is interesting to note that in 1955 - apparently the last year for which figures are available - the profit, after adjustment of interest, was only £28,135. That was equal to a return of about one-quarter per cent, on the capital involved. In the first three yeaTS, 1944, 1945, and 1946 profits were made, but thereafter, until a Liberal go vernment came into office, the affairs of the line slipped very badly. In 1951, after an allowance for interest the board’s loss was £524,000, but in 1952, when the sound administration of the Liberal Government began to bear fruit, that was converted into a profit of £408,500. Last year’s profit of £28,000 no doubt reflects the fact that, in common with the private shipping industry, the Commonwealth line is battling to show a profit, as the effect of high costs, strikes, and the general upheaval mitigated against the making of any profit during that year. I think that it is fitting to say at this stage that the losses were turned to profits under the steady hand and guidance of the late Senator George McLeay, who was Minister for Shipping and Transport at that time.
– My honorable friends opposite do not agree with me, but his was a jovial presence which is sadly missed by many honorable members on this side of the House. It seems that the Commonwealth line was obliged to pay interest at the rate of 4 per cent, to the Treasury for advances made. On the basis of profit earned, the yield was very moderate indeed; it hovered round the 4 per cent, to 6 per cent, mark, after deducting the 4 per cent, interest which the undertaking was obliged to pay to the Treasurer. No dividends had to be paid to shareholders and the line was not obliged to pay company tax. Had it been obliged to pay company tax at the rate of about 7s. or 8s. in the £1, the profits made in the profit-earning years would have been halved. Those persons who say that we are giving away the people’s assets or selling out to capitalists, and that this was a highly profitable venture must stop and think again of the £12,000,000 invested in it. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) said this afternoon that £18,000,000 was employed, but if we accept the figure of £12.000,000, in the profitable years the line earned about 2 per cent, on capital. I am sorry to disagree so profoundly with my friends opposite, but as the Commonwealth line is not obliged to pay tax, it can hardly be said to have been engaged in trading on a reasonable basis of competition with free enterprise. Nor can it lie said that the Commonwealth line was the magnificent money spinner that we are asked to believe it was.
The supporters of free enterprise will welcome the provision in the bill that competition will be more just in future, i)3 the bill provides in clause 36 that the line will be subject to income tax and sales tax under the laws of the Commonwealth. This will bring the shipping ventare into line with another government venture, Trans-Australia Airlines, which until 1952 was also free from taxes. A notable exception to this rule, of course, is the Commonwealth Bank, which is not subject to the same conditions. Contrary to general belief, the whole agreement does not involve any cash consideration but is purely an agreement for future operations. It is therefore somewhat in line with the legislation introduced by a previous Labour administration, namely the Shipping Act 1949, which that government, even in the first blush of socialization, hesitated to- proclaim, indeed, the act was never proclaimed to be. law. One of the. reasons is not very hard to find. The 1949 act contained licensing provisions in relation to those who wished to operate ships. The first such, provision was, quite rightly, that ships could operate only if they were less than 24 years old and had been built in an Australian yard. The second provision was that a licence to build- would bc granted at the Minister’s discretion. In other words, the Minister could say whether ships were to be built, when they were to be built, and what were to he the details of their construction. The escape clause for these restriction <» was that these powers were conferred in the interests of defence, but the 1949 act undoubtedly clothed the Minister with such power that it is now a rel et to realize that the 1949 act will be abolished under one of the provisions of the bill. I do not expect that honorable members opposite will be delighted with that early provision in the bill.
One must realize that one of the most formidable considerations for those engaged in the shipping industry must be the replacement of their vessels. In Australia it is generally conceded that a vessel loses its real economic earning capacity within twenty years, and the Taxation Branch allows a write-off of 5 per cent, per annum over that period. I understand that the United States of America writes off its ships over a shorter period, and it was previously the policy of an Australian line to replace vessels in fifteen years. The problem, however, is that ruling costs represent many times the original cost price. Thi.’ private lines are at many disadvantages; one of which, I may say in passing, is that the Government has not been particularly generous to industry generally in the matter of depreciation allowance. But that is another story, and I hope that when the Government directs Its attention to the preparation of the next budget it will give to private members an opportunity to express their views on the subject of depreciation allowance. The Commonwealth line too will also find the problem of replacement costs looming in the future. Its oldest vessel, River Clarence, which was built, I believe,, in 1943, has, on the basis of an economic life of twenty years, another ten years of profitable use. Costs are continually rising, and I think that it would cost about £1,000,000 to replace River Clarence, which cost about £600,000. The bills under consideration, however, attend to the matter of the replacement of ageing ships. If private interests do not replace their obsolete tonnage, the commission which the hill will establish may be empowered by an independent authority to build for itself and thus replace the obsolete tonnage. This will not only ensure adequate shipping on the coast but will also safeguard the future of the Australian shipbuilding yards. The criticism of the arrangement - and it is a just criticism - that has been voiced’ especially by honorable members from’ Tasmania is that neither the Commonwealth line nor the private shipping lines may care to trade on what may be called unprofitable runs. The bills take care of this situation and give power to the commission to instruct the Commonwealth line to run on these routes and be specially reimbursed in the event of loss, provided that there is an overall loss on the general trading of the undertaking for the year. This I accept as a generous approach by the Commonwealth line, and I hope that il will not he involved in losses on the developmental runs.
In all the provisions of the bill the Minister has displayed an imaginative approach, and he is to be commended upon presenting to the Parliament a reasonable solution to a very difficult problem It is a very real, national problem and our country’s cause is not assisted by such announcements as we have had recently from the Leader of the Opposition, and again this evening from the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith, that a Labour government would repeal these provisions as soon as it regained the treasury-bench. This is indeed a strange outlook. Labour has always been pleased to engage in what is sometimes referred to as the battle between capitalism and socialism. It has always paraded a synthetic cynicism towards the employment of private capital, yet, in my experience, there is no one harder than an Australian labour man turned capitalist. It is different in the United States of America, where the worker and the employer have a mutual respect for the employment of capital.
It seems that Labour is on the threshold of a re-orientation of its own political ideas. In South Australia the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) is vigorously and openly espousing the cause of socialism. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is Deputy Leader of the Opposition, is following a line which he is pleased to call “ democratic socialism “. What exactly this means is not quite apparent, but doubtless the honorable member will, in his inimitable style, eventually instruct us upon it. Other Labour supporters are emerging from their domestic political disputes to consider the problems of automation. Yet I wonder whether, in these moments of creative thought, they ever take the time to consider that when the State goes into business it is guided not by economics and finance but rather by party politics and political advantage. The obvious disadvantage of a government in business is that it can never make its decisions in time to enable effective action to be taken.
The right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) has said that if Labour comes to office it will repeal this legislation. So be it; but if this country is to prosper and develop it will sooner or later bc obliged to seek outside capital. The Americans are pleased to call this “ venture capital”, but I cannot, for the life of me, feel that American business will be prepared to invest money in Australia in the absence of a guarantee that we shall not have the very thing which the Leader of the Opposition proposes. No country in the world will invest money in Australia, be it for shipping, transport or any other form of developmental work, if it is afraid that an irresponsible government will deprive it of its assets. The socialist always advances the argument that compensation will be offered, but for a classical example of this line of thinking I would refer honorable members to the seizure, not of public assets, but of privately-owned assets by the NewSouth Wales socialist State Government in the case of the Balmain Electric Light and Power Supply Corporation Limited. Here was a private industry which was giving far better service than was any government-controlled organization of the same kind; yet the State Government grabbed it, and has kept the shareholders waiting six weary years, without paying them any interest or giving them a settlement of their just claims. It was suggested that the company should be paid £2,400,000, a figure based on the capitalization of the company’s prospective profits. The company, on the other hand, has claimed £4,S87,000, a figure based on the replacement cost of its assets. The last shot in this socialistic battle for the private assets of the people is that the State Government is to legislate to close the whole deal. Yet private enterprise must, somewhere along the line, be useful to the socialists. Recently, the New South Wales Minister for Transport, in his perplexity and worry over transport problems, said that he would sell out the tram, bus and railway services, lock, stock and barrel to private enterprise if it would assume all responsibility for them. I suggest to the honorable member for Melbourne, who is so interested in democratic socialism, that this is socialism in reverse.
This hill is somewhat in the nature of an experiment - a trial to see whether government and private enterprise can work in harmony. I commend it to the House and ask that it be given a fair trial. I should also like to pay a tribute to the Minister and his departmental officers for the hard work which they must have done in obtaining agreement on both sides.
.- I have listened attentively to the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler), but I do not think that I need devote much attention to his remarks. I shall content myself with making one or two comments in passing. The honorable member extolled the virtues of private enterprise. I have been astonished at his views, as a Liberal supporter, on the place of private enterprise, and publicownership - or socialism, as he is pleased to call it - in the economy. Obviously, he has no idea how advanced were the Liberals of 30 years ago compared with himself. He seems to have no conception of the fact that most of the vast socialistic enterprises of the State of Victoria were the brain children of the Liberal party of those days. The Liberal party of to-day seems to have gone substantially to the right, as compared with their colleagues of 30 years ago.
I remind him, too, that even in the State of South Australia we find Mr. Playford adopting a socialistic approach when the question of the people’s basic needs arise. We find that Mr. Playford, despite the protests of the companies which had until then conducted the electricity supply, took over the whole show, lock, stock and barrel. That genetleman in common with other Liberal leaders in this country, realizes that when it comes to the basic human necessities and the great public utilities, no government, however reactionary, can let control pass into the hands of private enterprise. One may ask the simple question, “Why?” The equally simple answer - which applies to the measure before us also - is that when it comes to private enterprise, and in particular to great soulless corporations such as the shipping companies, the banks, the electricity, water supply and tramway authorities, after all, in the final analysis, it is the object of these great corporations, at the end of the year’s operations, to say to their shareholders, “ We have been able to extract from the community in return for some services a handsome profit for you “. That is their primary consideration. One can understand it. If the Minister for Air, who is in charge of the bill, or the honorable member for Mitchell, were a member of a great public corporation or company, whether General Motors-Holden’s Limited or the International Harvester Company Limited, or any other concern, his main concern would be the maximum profit that he could report to his shareholders at the annual meeting and the maximum of profit would be extracted whilst giving the minimum possible service to the people concerned - that is to say, the minimum of service to the extent that it would not interfere with the demand for their goods.
– That is a libel.
– It is not a libel, lt is a fact. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), with his primitive outlook, knows that, as a farmer, he played an active part with fellowfarmers in the adaption of a type of farm socialism by taking from John Darling and Son Proprietary Limited, Louis Dreyfus and Company Limited, and Bunge (Australia) Proprietary Limited the right that they formerly exercised to deal in wheat. Even conservatives such as the honorable member for Hume then said, “ We are all in favour of a form of semi-public enterprise, backed by the statutory laws of every State in the Commonwealth and backed by the law of the Commonwealth itself, under which no wheat-farmer, large or small, shall be allowed to market his wheat except through an instrumentality of some socialistic character - through his own marketing organization”. Members of the Australian Country party are interjecting. I knew that I would have them on their feet on this issue. Every time the Australian Country party is in trouble, every time that its members want more water for their land, what do they seek? They seek an extension of their irrigation services by the States in which they live. They express in no uncertain manner the desire that the control of the water, the charges and the distribution of .the water shall be in .the hands of a public authority. Ever since they have been participants in composite ministries, whether Federal or State, and the .plums of office have been available to them, what do we find when a discussion arises on a bill such as this which involves a public instrumentality or service? The .members of the Australian Country party are barracking for private enterprise. They are barracking for the rights of the shipping .services of private enterprise, as at present known in the shipping world, to continue their extortion of the primary producers of this country.
Only two or three weeks ago in this Parliament, somebody asked a responsible Minister - I think it was the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) - whether it was a fact that the overseas shipping companies were charging a particularly high rate for shipping our goods to overseas markets, and if it was a fact, why were the shipping companies charging such a high rate ? The answer, if not in the same words, at least in similar words, was that among the many reasons for the increase in freights -to the overseas markets was that during the last few months there had been a very heavy demand for shipping for the transport of coal across the Atlantic. It is quite obvious, in those circumstances, that the “increase in freights and the heavy imposition on the primary producers had ho relationship to the cost of transporting the primary products of this country. There was a heavy demand. There was a shortage of ships. The private shipowners, naturally, because they love to go to their shareholders’ meetings at the end of the year and declare what handsome dividends they have paid, said, under conditions of shortage, “ Yes, whack another 10 per cent, or 15 per cent, on to shipping freights “. A net increase of 1.6 per cent, was made in freight for the carriage of primary products.
After the shedding of some crocodile tears by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who is a member of the Aus tralian Country party, and after some minor protests in the press, a reduction of about 2 per cent, was made in the increased shipping freights on our exports. Of course, those wise old birds, the directors of the overseas shipping companies, when they pushed freights up by 15 per cent, included in that amount 2£ ,per cent, to allow for the rate to be pulled down a bit.
The honorable member for Mitchell has indulged in some very interesting comment. Among the comments that he made in regard to shipping was that in 1945 and in some later years the Australian Shipping Board did not show any profit. But he did not tell this House that it was the policy of the Labour Government at that time to peg freights and prices and to keep under control in the interests of the people -of this country all those factors which might increase the cost of living. Just as State railways charge less than cost to carry the products of the primary producers and, of course, lose money thereby, so a loss was .shown on the Commonwealth-owned ships, in those circumstances, for some years. After the defeat of the prices referendum, the economy of this country resorted to an open go for everybody, with the resultant trebling of tie inflationary trend, and this Government allowed an increase in freights to a reasonable level by the Australian Shipping Board. Since that time the board has made very respectable profits^ As a matter of fact, in the five-year period up to 1955, its profits amounted to £1,500,000. When the honorable member for Mitchell tells stories of this character, he should relate the relevant facts.
It is quite true that the railways and public instrumentalities in almost every State in the Commonwealth have been showing substantial losses, I suppose, for a quarter of a century because they have not, in all cases, increased their freights to primary producers, manufacturers and all sorts of other people in line with the increased costs of the day. In other words, they have been subsidizing the decentralization of industry. They have also been subsidizing the primary producers and well do the primary producers know it! When freights are raised from time io time, there is a howl from the pri mary producers hut freights on primary production are never raised to the extent necessary to allow the railways to show a profit. The losses are partly met by the imposition of increased fares and freights on the millions of patrons of suburban sections of the railways. Those people contribute the great bulk of the revenue which offsets some of the losses suffered by giving substantial bonuses and concessions to the primary producers. If, to-morrow, any government proposed to sell either the State railway systems or the Commonwealth Railways, there would be a howl of protest from one °nd of the land to the other.
Let me return to the bill. This bill is very important. It incorporates an agreement. There are, in fact, two cognate bills and one should be read in conjunction with the other. One cannot be satisfactorily understood without reference to the other. But it is worthy that this Souse and the people should know that the agreement authorized in this measure is to be current for twenty years. The Government proposes to tie up ships, owned by the people of this country - many of which were built during the war, and some since - and restrict their activities for twenty long years. Whatever future circumstances may be, their activities are to be restricted very severely for twenty long years. Why? In order that they shall not compete in what the Government terms any unduly unfair manner with the private shipping lines. Let us look at the facts. This agreement not only covers the period of twenty long rears, but also creates an instrumentality, or at least gives the existing instrumentality a new name and a new form, to take over the ships owned by the Government and operated by the existing instrumentality. It is well that the public should know the full facts of this, because some people think that the Commonwealth owns only a few ships. The truth is that the Commonwealth to-day owns no fewer than 44 ships, which are operated on its behalf by the Australian Shipping Board. The names of these ships are listed in the schedule to the agreement. They are magnificent ships. In addition it has eleven ships on order in the great shipbuilding yards of this country. The ships owned by the Government, which are to be vested in the proposed commission, the new instrumentality, are the following : - Baralga, Bilkurra, Binburra Boonaroo, Bulwarra, Carcoola, Coolabah, Dalby, Dandenong, Daylesford, Delamere, Delungra, Denman, Dubbo, Edenhope, Elmore, Enfield, Eugowra, Euroa, Inyula Lake Eyre, Nilpena, Noongah, Ransdorp, River Burdekin, River Burnett, River Clarence, River Derwent, River Fitzroy, River Glenelg, River Hunter, River Loddon, River Mitta, River Murchison, River Murray, River Murrumbidgee, River Norman, Talinga, Timbarra, Tyalla, Wangara, Windarra, Yanderra, and Yarrunga.
The following ships are under construction, and are to be purchased by the commission : - Illowra Iranda, Lake Barrine, Lake Boga, Lake Cola:, Lake Illawarra, Lake Macquarie, Lake Sorell. Lake Torrens, North Esk,* and Smith Esk.
It is known and admitted in the Tariff Board’s report on shipbuilding that the Australian Shipping Board operates these vessels on interstate trade, and that that fleet represents the largest shipping venture on the Australian coast in respect of numbers and tonnages. What does this measure propose to do ? It seeks to establish a new instrumentality to be called the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission to replace the existing Australian Shipping Board. We have one bill which deals with the functions of the new commission, a not very close analysis of which shows that most of its provisions are on all fours with the 1949 act, which the Labour Government did not proclaim. But there are some very important omissions. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland), referred to one omission in particular - the absence of licensing provisions to which he took objection. He said that the licensing provisions were probably included in the 1944 act in order to evade or overcome, some constitutional bar. Let us look at the licensing clauses in the 1949 act. I do not think that any reasonable honorable member who has the interests of the shipbuilding industry, and the safety of sea travellers at heart, as well as the interests of economy and efficiency, could reasonably object to the licensing provisions in it. Section 29 of the act reads - (1.) The Minister may, in his discretion, grant licences for the construction of ships to which this Part applies. (2.) A licence under the last preceding subsection may be granted subject to such conditions relating to the tonnage, design, fittings, gear and time, place, standards and methods of construction, of the ship as the Minister determines.
Is there anything wrong with that, when coastal shipping is the verylifeblood of the nation’s interstate transport? These are reasonable standards with which any company having a ship built was asked to comply. The 1949 act also dealt with defence requirements - and I emphasize this provision. Section 29 (3.) reads -
The powers conferred on the Minister by the last two preceding sub-sections are conferred for the purpose of ensuring, in the interests of defence, that the shipbuilding industry is established in the Commonwealth on an adequate scale and is maintained in continuous operation, and, in particular, for the purpose of ensuring -
the use of the labour of persons engaged in the building of ships, and of the facilities of shipbuilding yards, to the best advantage;
Is there anything wrong with that? -
Section 29 (4.) reads - (4.) At the request of the licensee, the Minister may revoke a licence under this section or may revoke or vary any condition, or add to the conditions, to which such a licence is subject.
Very important conditions!
I remind honorable members that when, during the war, the Labour government took control of Australian shipbuilding, under national security regulations it had ever in its mind the very vast and important functions merchant shipping will always play in time of war.
In addition, the 1949 act provided that, except with the special permission of the Minister of the day, no licence could be granted to any company in respect of a vessel more than 24 years old at the date of the application for a licence. No such provision exists in the present bill.
We also find that although the bill sets out the functions of the new authority, the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission - a very imposing name which would lead one to think that it would have very extensive functions - in the cognate bill there is an agreement which substantially restricts the operations that that body may engage in. We find that, except in the most extreme circumstances, the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, the authority which is to own and control more than 50 magnificent ships, may not arrange its own stevedoring, may not do its own booking, may not establish, in effect, its own branch offices. As long as we can remember, the private shipping companies have, in every capital city, in every port in Australia, offices wherein they carry on their booking operations and from which most of their administration flows. But the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission is to be restricted to a head office, and is to be informed that its bookings and its stevedoring arrangements must be carried out by already existing stevedoring authorities which, as everybody knows, and even the Government knows, are controlled and owned by existing private companies. What a horrid state of affairs! If one of the commission’s ships is to bring 20,000 tons of sugar from Queensland to Melbourne, the booking for that trip must be made through Huddart Parker Limited or Mcllwraith McEacharn Limited, or some other shipping company. The shippers inform the company that they want it to arrange for the shipment of a Government-owned cargo of 20,000 tons of sugar by medium of a Commonwealth-owned vessel.
– They do not do that at all.
– Yes, they do, because up to the present, as the honorable member, whom I will not allow to sidetrack me, knows full well, the Australian Shipping Board has been using the booking and stevedoring facilities of the private companies. Is that correct?
– Exactly ! Is there any reason why, when this instrumentality is being established on a new basis, the Government should not have the wisdom and foresight, and be sufficiently strong, to see that the new body exercises some rights in respect of booking and stevedoring such as are already exercised by the various private shipping lines? ls there anything wrong with that?
– No. We will do it.
– The honorable member says the Government will do it. i t can be done only after the proposed Australian Coastal Shipping Commission has been to a private shipping or stevedoring company which has refused to do the work at certain rates suggested as fair by the commission. A very strange state of affairs will arise. If that situation occurs, it will not be the Minister who will authorize the commission fo go to some one other than the recognized existing stevedoring companies to have its booking and its stevedoring operations arranged. An independent authority, who will be a barrister or solicitor of the High Court of Australia or the Supreme Court of a State or an accountant selected by no less a person than the president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Australia will decide whether the Commonwealth-owned shipping line will have the right to arrange its stevedoring and booking functions with some one other than a private stevedoring company.
– Abdication !
– Abdication by the Minister of his undoubted authority. That is lovely! It is only one anomaly in the bill. Surely it should be the right of what will be, to all intents and purposes, a newborn shipping line, which will undertake the major part of the sen transport around the Australian coast to have a status equal to that enjoyed bv practically all the shipping companies now operating in Australia. But the proposed commission will be deprived of equal rights, for the profit of the stevedoring companies and the private shipping companies which are interested in stevedoring companies.
This is essentially a committee bill. L wish to refer to the other limitation upon the proposed commission. This instrumentality, with its 50 splendid vessels, will be limited, for a period of twenty years, to a total of 325,000 tons of shipping.
– Shocking !
– Shocking, indeed. No matter how necessary ships may be, provided the Minister or the Tariff Board - in this instance, the Tariff Board will be the arbiter - is satisfied that the private companies have sufficient ships, the proposed^ commission’s fleet will not be allowed to exceed 325,000 tons of shipping. If the matter is disputed, it will be referred to the Tariff Board to determine. No such limitation is placed on the private shipping lines in this country. They operate in Australia as separate entities distinct from the parent organizations. Every one knows they have their parent organizations. That is entirely natural. If they like to put their heads together and try to wipe out the Commonwealth shipping line, they may go to work, and, by substantial development, ultimately put themselves in a position to injure the Commonwealth shipping line very severely indeed, because the Commonwealth shipping line will not be able to expand its fleet beyond a certain tonnage except under certain circumstances.
– Have the private companies made a single concession in the agreement ?
– Not one. I suggest that perhaps the Government indicated to the private shipping companies that it was friendly towards them. Perhaps it submitted to them a draft agreement prepared by the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor, and said, “ Boys, look this over, see how it suits you, and then let us know what you think of it “. The private shipping companies always have at their disposal the very best legal brains in the. country. They pay for their services, of Gourse. I have no doubt that some very clever Queen’s Counsel advised the shipping companies, which then conferred with the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), or the Government at large, and suggested sufficient amendments to the Commonwealth’s draft of the agreement.
– The shipping companies probably prepared the agreement.
– They probably did. In any event, they suggested sufficient amendments to make the agreement the tightest and most restrictive under which any Commonwealth instrumentality has ever operated.
I heard an honorable member in this House to-day utter a tirade of abuse of the waterside workers, the Australian Communist party and its influence, and what he called the Communist domination of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. Throughout my fairly long acquaintance with the public affairs of this country, the shipowners and their satellites have been the worst employers Australia has known. I remember a strike that occurred in Melbourne when I was a lad. The seamen struck there because they wanted bacon and eggs for breakfast. The press of the day, which was supposed to be somewhat more enlightened than the shipowners, said, “What a dreadful thing! Fancy seamen wanting bacon and eggs for breakfast!” If it had not been for the militant and vigorous leadership of the waterside workers through whom the men exercised their rights, irrespective of the political faith of their leaders, they would not have obtained one tittle of the concessions and conditions they enjoyto-day. In the battle on the waterfront, the waterside workers feel it does not matter who leads them. Because of the efforts of their leaders, they are in a better position than ever before, and they owe the country nothing.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- We have heard quite a tirade from two Opposition members, who have alleged that members of the Australian Country party have no concern for those engaged in the export trade, and treat them with complete’ indifference, lt appears to me that those two honorable members have not read the bills before the House. A provision in the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Bill 1956 enable.0 the proposed Australian Coastal Shipping Commission to engage in overseas trade if it so wishes. I do not propose to traverse the question of exporting wheat, as the honorable members for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) did, but I tell him., quite frankly, that members of the Australian Country party probably have a greater interest in the export of Australia’s surplus products than he has. Members of the party to which I belong do not want the situation that has existed over the years to continue and, in an endeavour to bring into the shipping industry some sanity, they are quite prepared to support these measures. I, personally, have no love for the shipowners.
– Hear, hear!
– I have less low for anything that the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) would like to introduce in this country in the name of socialization. I recall the honorable member for Lalor speaking about licensing in this House when the 1949 measure was under consideration. Those honorable members who sat in this chamber at that time will clearly recall that the Labour Government stated that it wanted this power of licensing. If any one takes the trouble to examine the 1949 act, he will find that, instead of the licensing of ships being placed in the hands of the Australian Shipping Board, which the Labour Government established under that act, it was placed under the direct control of the Minister. Paragraph 3 (b) of section 30 (3.) of that act deals with licensing, and gives the Minister power to refuse a licence to a ship which was not built in an Australian shipyard.. The sub-section states - (3.) The Minister shall: grant’ a licence under this section, on application, in respect of a ship to which this Part applies if that ship - (&) was built in an Australian shipyard or was at any time prior to the commencement of this Act, engaged in trade exclusively between places in the Commonwealth or in a Territory of the Commonwealth.
As everybody knows, as a consequence of the war and so on, it was almost impossible for many concerns - shipping people particularly - to obtain a ship from the Commonwealth shipyards. But because a company may be forced to go overseasto obtain a ship to engage in trade here, the Minister himself, without reference to anybody else, could refuse a licence for that ship. One instance is provided by the Australian Whaling Commission on the coast of Western Australia. Every member of this House knows that 1 opposed that measure on that occasion and was very glad only recently to support the proposal for the disposal of the assets of the Australian- Whaling Commission.
The honorable member for Lalor, in a painful sort of way, said that this agreement would, tie up Australian ships for twenty long yearn That is partly true. T hope it will not tie them up, but that they will keep moving. However, if the agreement does tie up the ships, it will be only the coastal shipping.
The honorable member concluded by criticizing the fact that the commission would not do its own stevedoring or bookings. I am not doubting what he says, but the Government does not want to engage in that type of business as yet. But if the companies performing the stevedoring and booking work for the commission do not carry it out satisfactorily and efficiently; the Minister has power under the agreement to see that it is done efficiently, and if necessary he can establish a stevedoring and booking agency. The honorable member for Lalor, in the first few minutes of his speech, directed an attack to this corner of the House. I say to him that we members cf the Australian Country party have a greater concern about shipping than probably he or his colleagues have.
This afternoon we were treated to a lecture on defence by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). I do not like to take him to task very much, but I remember him savins that this legislation provided for the limitation of the construction of ships. He followed that statement by saying that private enter prise had never shown any real interest in building ships in this country. 1 come back to what I said a few moment4ago, that until this Government took office private shipping companies and private shipowners were never encouraged to- build ships here. I invite honorable members to look at the 1949 act. My friend, the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) gives a little giggle, but I point out to him that in the 1949 act, as the honorable member for Lalor said, the Australian Shipping Board, under the control of the Minister in the Labour Government, could direct the design, the fittings and everything else that went into a ship. I do not support any suggestion that it has ever been the prerogative of the Commonwealth Government to determine completely what private enterprise will do and how it will do it.
I say to the honorable member for Fremantle and to any of his colleagues who feel like supporting him that private enterprise was never given any encouragement by the Labour government to build ships or to endeavour to obtain ships. The companies could not get ships from overseas. They could not sell a ship that was over 25 years of age because the Labour government would not license it, and they could not sell such a ship overseas to obtain money to buy a new one. Who in Australia in his sane senses would buy a ship over 25 years of age, knowing full well that he could not get a licence for it? It was a stupid provision. It was another attempt by the Labour government to socialize the shipping industry, both the building and traffic activities, on the Australian seaboard.
I want to go further. It is obvious that the honorable member for Fremantle did not properly read either the agreement or the bill. The agreement gives the commission power to possess shipping up to a total of 325,000 tons, but that is conditional on the companies providing the rest of the shipping requirements for the Australian coastal, trade. If we. look, at the agreement further, we will find that the Minister has power, and the commission has- power after referring to the Minister, to have ships built to make up any lack in shipping requirements on this coast. Every protection is afforded in this agreement in respect of shipping on the Australian coast. 1 say quite frankly and without any hesitation that if the private shipowners will not honour this agreement right to the very letter, it is up to the Government - and I do not care what government it is - immediately to put into effect the clauses of this agreement which empower the Government to construct the ships necessary to carry on the trade around the coast. When Labour members say that we are completely disregarding Australian shipping - and I take it that they mean coastal and overseas shipping - it is obvious that they have not read this bill. I refer them to clause 15 of the bill. I point out that this clause is exactly the same as section 15 of the 1949 act. Clause 15 reads -
The functions of the Commission are -
I claim - and I have the assurance of the Minister that this claim is correct - that that clause empowers the commission to engage in shipping overseas or anywhere else. . So I say to the members of the Opposition- -
– Where are they? There are only two here.
– That surprises me. I look around the chamberand I find that there are only two Opposition members here. They are not interested, but they claimed that they were interested. They were attacking this clause and Government supporters for completely disregarding the overseas shipping trade. I want to go a little bit further. This provision is wide open and permits the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission to engage in shipping anywhere it might wish. If further evidence is required that it may do so, we need look only to clause 16 (2.) (m), which empowers the commission to do anything incidental to any of its powers. It is unnecessary for the honorable member for Fremantle in particular and the Labour party in general to give us a lecture.
I am reminded again that there are only two Opposition members here, but I suppose they are as good as the rest of them. It is wrong for members of the Labour party, supported by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), to say that this measure will destroy shipping in this country.
The honorable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr. Curtin) read his speech to-night. I do not know who wrote it for him. I mentioned it to the Leader of the Opposition, who said it was a good speech. So I take it that he may have had some hand in the preparation of it. The honorable member for KingsfordSmith read every word of his speech. I say this deliberately because he did not utter these words in the heat of debate. His speech was written, it was premeditated and it was prepared before he came into this chamber. He said that this Government cannot reduce rates in respect of the ships that it may have running on the coast. The inference, quite clearly, was that the commission was to be put under the thumb, as it were, of the shipowners, and as a result would not be able to carry out its functions and ensure to the people of Australia a satisfactory and efficient service by its own ships and those of private enterprise. I wish to correct the statement made by the honorable member. T ask him and the other members of the Australian Labour party to look as clause 18 (2.) of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Bill, which reads -
The Commission shall conduct ite shipping services as efficiently as possible and shall, subject to the last preceding sub-section make its shipping services available at the lowest possible rates of charges.
I wish to say to Labour party members through you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the statement of the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith to the effect that this Government was endeavouring to kow-tow to the shipping companies is completely false. If the honorable member looks at the bill, he will find that clause 19 provides that the charges of the commission are subject to approval by the Minister. I say without any equivocation that any Minister in this Government who endeavoured at any time to use his powers to ensure that such charges were rigged - and that was the inference to be drawn from the remarks of the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith - would not last very long in the Ministry. 1 am only taking the honorable member to task for the simple reason that he stood in his place and read every word of his speech, which is evidence of the fact that it was prepared outside and brought into the chamber. I have every consideration for a man who makes a mistake in the heat of debate, but not for a man who deliberately reads a speech which contains statements like those that were voiced to-night by the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith. He said that the Minister could sell ships, and he referred the House to clause 47 of the same measure, which reads -
The Minister, with the concurrence of the Treasurer, may, on behalf of the Commonwealth and for the purposes of the Commonwealth, purchase ships and dispose of ships so purchased to the Commission or to any other person.
As far as I can see, there is nothing wrong with that provision, and I do not think that any man in his sane sensed, looking at it objectively, would say that there was anything wrong with it. But the honorable member for KingsfordSmith, supported by his leader, and the honorable, member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who were sitting on the Opposition front bench, and other members of the Labour party with their cries of “ Hear, hear “, endeavoured to convey to the people of Australia the impression that the clause indicated that there was some thought of intrigue in the mind of the Government.
Let me quote from the Shipping Act of 1949, which was introduced by the Australian Labour party. Section 33 provides -
The Minister may, on behalf of the Commonwealth, with the concurrence of the Treasurer purchase ships and dispose of ships so purchased to the Board or to any other person.
The wording of that section, with one exception, is exactly the same as the wording of clause 47 of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Bill, which has been so vehemently criticized by Opposition members. The only difference is that section 33 of the 1949 legislation contains the word “ Board “ whereas the clause of the bill now before us uses the word “ Commission “. If ever there was a pure illustration of downright hypocrisy and untruthfulness in this Parliament, it was the statements that emanated to-night from the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith. I am glad of the opportunity that is afforded to me, while these proceedings are being broadcast, to prove the falsity of the statements of the honorable mem her.
The honorable member also quoted clause 4S, and said that all that the Minister would be able to do would bc to restrict the transfer or mortgage of ships. I do not intend to read the clause, but I want to say that, in relation to it, he adopted the same tactics that he adopted in regard to clause 47. With one exception, section 31 of the 1949 legislation down as far as sub-clause (4.) is the same as clause 48 of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Bill 1956. Section 31 (1.) of the 1949 act commences with the following words -
A person shall not, except with the consent of the Minister (proof whereof shall lie upon him)-
And I emphasize the word “ him “. Clause 48 (1.) of the bill now before the House reads -
A person shall not, except with the consent of the Minister (proof whereof shall lie upon that person )-
The only difference between those two provisions is that this measure contains the words “ upon that person “ whereas the 1949 act uses the words “ upon him “.
– Clause 48 of the bill now before the House contains three subclauses which do not appear in the 1949 act.
– I thought my legal friend from Werriwa would come in on that. I was rather meticulous about emphasizing that I “was dealing with the respective provisions down as far as subclause (4.).
Air. Whitiam. - The honorable member was being meticulous, but not accurate.
– Thank goodness, the draftsman has become a little more adept and has put the remaining provisions of the 194’9 legislation into a smaller compass in the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Bill. As I said at the outset, I support these measures, [f the Government had attempted to sell the ships, I might have adopted a different attitude. I think that the Government, in its effort to ensure that a satisfactory and efficient shipping service shall be provided, has done the logical and sensible thing in establishing this commission and in endeavouring to give to private enterprise some encouragement to get on with the job. If my memory serves me correctly, private enterprise has before it the job of building 73 ships and that cannot be done in a couple of days. We can take the 1949 legislation as being evidence of the fact that, if the Labour party had its way, private enterprise would never have an opportunity to build ships in Australia for coastal shipping. We would be held up to ransom by the Australian shipping line probably for some considerable time. I think that the set-up envisaged in this legislation is parallel with the relationship between Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. * Quorum formed.]* It is evident that the members of the Labour party have as much interest in the subject-matter of this legislation as an infant child. Almost all of them were standing outside the doors of the chamber while the bells were ringing for a quorum. There are still only two of them in the chamber. Probably the rest of them are licking the wounds that a gentleman named Chamberlain from Western Australia inflicted yesterday. I shall leave that matter there and come back to the bills.
T believe that this legislation will give rise to arrangements between the Commonwealth shipping line and the private shipping companies similar to the arrangements between Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Trans-Australia Airlines. I support it wholeheartedly, because I believe that the outcome will be that the people of Australia will have satisfactory and efficient shipping services. Under the legislation, the Minister will have power to open up new services. If a service is not being conducted satisfactorily by a private shipping line, he will be able to take action to improve it. If it were necessary for the commission to provide a service to any area, the taxpayers might have to foot the bill. We heard members of the Labour party complain about that to-night. Why is it wrong to ask the taxpayers to meet any losses which the commission may incur as a result of providing services to certain ports? I remind the members of the Labour party who are present - there are still only two of them here, but they have changed places - that, but for the fact that the Western Australian Government provided a shipping service to the north-west of that State, the people in that corner of the continent would have been without sea, rail or road transport services. The two members of the Labour party present in the chamber say that it is wrong to ask the taxpayers to meet a loss incurred by the commission in providing a service to ports that do not enjoy regular shipping services. I remind them that such services would be provided for the benefit of people who produce the food that they eat and material for the clothes that they wear. Those people are entitled to shipping services and the general body of taxpayers in Australia should bear any loss that the commission incurs as a result of providing them.
I have discussed with the Minister the question of shipping services to Western Australia. I am glad to be able to say that he is of the opinion that there will not be any considerable hold-ups of shipping services to that State. While I have been a member of the Parliament cases have been brought to my notice of local authorities in Western Australia being compelled to pay from £2,000 to £3,000 more than the normal price for earth-moving equipment, owing to shipping hold-ups on the eastern seaboard.
The goods were shipped, in Commonwealth vessels, only because the Minister for Transport interceded on behalf of those authorities. Before I read the agreement I was a little sceptical. I wondered whether it would permit either the privately owned lines and the Commonwealth line to evade their responsibilities to Western Australia, but I am happy to be able to say that it does provide for suitable and satisfactory services to Western Australia.
I cannot see anything wrong with this legislation. The Labour party has criticized it. I ask honorable members opposite, through you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, to say just what is wrong with it. Let them take the 1949 act, which was introduced by a Labour government, and compare it with the bills we ari considering now. The only real difference they will find is that the socialistic sections of the 1949 legislation have noi been included in these measures.
– The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) told you what was wrong with this legislation.
– I replied to the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith while the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) was outside the chamber, t regret that there is not enough time available to repeat my remarks for his information. The only real difference between this legislation and the 1949 legislation is that the Government has omitted from these bills the sections of the 1949 act which tended towards socialization of the shipping industry. I support this legislation wholeheartedly, because I believe it will bring about rationalization of Australian coastal chipping services.
– I rise to order. I want to know, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, whether it is an affront to thi3 Mouse that, because of a deliberately engineered plan, honorable members on the Government side are left to maintain a quorum. Members of the Opposition, who have alleged that they are very concerned about these bills, walked out of the House, making it necessary for honorable members on this side to maintain a quorum. I direct your attention to the fact that, while the honor able member for Canning was speaking there were only two Labour members present.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lawrence). - All that is necessary is that there shall be present one-third of the total number of members of the House, excluding the member for the Australian Capital Territory and the member for the Northern Territory. As the required number of members is present, the House is in order.
.- The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) devoted the greater part of his speech to a reply to statements made by the honorable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr. Curtin). He alleged that the honorable member for KingsfordSmith had read his speech. The honorable member for Canning read great slabs from two bills, and then he referred to copious notes, in much the same way as did the honorable member for KingsfordSmith.
I did not intend to refer to oversea.shipping, but I feel that I should make one reference to that subject, in view of the fact that the honorable member for Canning had so much to say about how the Australian Country party was protecting the interests of the primary producers of this country. The overseas shipping combine is charging about 13s. 6d. to transport a case of Tasmanian apples. Picking, packing, sorting and handling charges amount to about 10s. a case. The price of a case of apples on the overseas markets is 28s. sterling or 35s. Australian. So, after paying freight charges, the fruit-growers are left with lis. 6d., out of which they have to pay for sprays and maintenance of machinery and meet other production costs.
The total Tasmanian apple crop is about 3,000,000 bushels. The gross return to the growers is about £5,250,000, and the shipowners receive £2,000,000. The shipowners receive more for carrying a case of apples than the grower receives for producing it. What has the Australian Country party done in this Parliament to protect the Tasmanian apple-growers? Other primary producers who are exporting from this country are in much the same position with regard to freight charges. The Australian Labour party is hostile to these two measures because we who come from the far-flung parts of the Commonwealth know that bound up in the matter are increased freights. The shipowners’ association always takes its cue from the overseas shipping combines, which own the majority of the ships operating in Australian waters. We are hostile at the suggestion that the people of north Queensland and north Australia generally can be held to ransom and forced to pay the rates which the shipowners decide to charge.
The House is considering two bills. One is to constitute the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, and the other to provide for the ratification of an agreement between the Commonwealth, on the one hand, and thirteen shipping companies and two stevedoring companies on the other. As the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith has pointed out, many of those thirteen companies are subsidiaries of, or connected in some way with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. The two stevedoring companies, as he informed the House, have as shareholders shipping companies which have signed the agreement. What of the other stevedoring companies? Why were they not invited to participate in this agreement? Et is interesting to relate that, as the honorable member for Canning said, the Chifley Government introduced a shipping bill, but it wa3 never proclaimed because the Labour Government was endeavouring to obtain the best man available for appointment as chairman of the board which was proposed to be constituted. He arrived, in the person of Mr. Dewey, and from 1950 onwards, the Commonwealth line of steamers showed a profit. The Government has now introduced a bill to constitute a commission to run the line. But, to cite the words of the Minister who introduced the bill to the House, it was introduced only because the Government - found it was not possible to sell the ships on terms satisfactory to it.
These 44 modern ships could not be sold. The shipowners wanted them, but at giveaway prices, and the Government knew full well that if it acceded to the shipowners’ request for the sale of the ships at bargain-basement prices, then) would be a terrific outcry from the elector? and savage attacks by the primary producers. Quite obviously there would have been hostility from the general public if this line had gone the same way a3 the Government’s interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and the whaling station in Western Australia. The Government tried to strangle TransAustralia Airlines in the interests of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which, incidentally, is owned by overseas shipping interests. The Government guaranteed Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited an overdraft of £4,000,000 in hard-to-get dollars to enable it to buy aircraft to compete with the Australian people’s own airline. Running through this legislation are signs which show that this is a question not of socialization, but of handing over to private interests the assets of the Australian people. This is only a snide way of achieving this end without making it too obvious that the ships are being handed over to the shipping combine. The Commonwealth line, in the early stages of its operations, like TransAustralia Airlines, did sustain a loss, because of the cost of establishment, but that lies behind it, and ahead lie profits each year for the line. But this Government has seen fit to scrag this line to prevent it from functioning at a profit for the Australian people. The Government is playing its part by handing over a shipping monopoly in Australian waters to the overseas shipping cartel.
When World War II. broke out in 1939, Australia’s merchant navy was the oldest in the world. Under national security regulations the Government had to requisition all types of vessels, large and small, in order to transport troops, materials, supplies, and all the impedimenta of war. By 1939, the persons whom the honorable member for Canning rose to defend, the owners of merchant ships, who must have been conscious of their responsibility and of the elementary and vital part of a merchant navy in defence, had allowed the fleet to decline to the point where it was the oldest merchant navy in the world, and 50 per cent, of the ships of the fleet were obsolete and over twenty years old. The shipowners knew their obligations in matters of defence but they were not concerned about them. They were concerned only with profit and getting everything they could out of the industry. All they are concerned about now is utilizing their influence over the Government to have introduced legislation to effect a curtailing of the activities of the Commonwealth line, so that the profits of privately owned ships will not be interfered with by a publicly owned instrumentality.
Further, in 1939 Australia had no shipbuilding industry. There was a dock at Cockatoo Island, but apart from that there was nothing. The United Australia. party-Australian Country party Government, the forerunner of the present Government, did nothing to force the overseas shipping combine to build up this country’s merchant fleet or to establish the necessary shipbuilding facilities so that there would be available to the Government a merchant fleet of modern ships backed by necessary ship repair facilities. That Government was not concerned about the matter. In the middle of fighting a total war, the Labour government had to set to and organize the establishment and expansion of the shipbuilding industry and the construction of merchant ships. This Government now wants to strangle the shipping line which was developed during wartime. The Commonwealth line, which was established during the war, developed after the war and continued to expand. The private shipowners now want to get hold of it. They want to stop the serious competition of new modern ships. They are not concerned about public interest or public service or the importance of a modern merchant navy to defence. These bills have been introduced to enable the Government eventually to hand over the Commonwealth shipping line to private shipowners. It will be able to say, “ The shipping line has not paid “. The Minister said, in his second-reading speech on the Australian Coastal Shipping Agreement Bill - . . one of the objectives of the Government was to protect the position of the private shipping companies and to place them in a position whereby they would be able to continue to play their due part-
I emphasize the words “ due part “ - in the provision of efficient shipping services in the Australian coastal trade.
Those are the Minister’s own words in introducing the bill which will ratify the agreement. From time to time we hear members like the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) screaming about competition. They say, “ We must have competition. Competition is the lifeblood of industry.” But this measure will take away the competition which at present exists and, as I shall show in a few moments, leave the field open for the privately owned ships. In the same way. Trans-Australia Airlines has been restricted in providing air services by what is called “ rationalization “. Rationalization is to be applied to the shipping industry in order to curtail the activities of this publicly owned instrumentality which is providing a public service at a profit to the people of Australia.
The bill provides that the Minister may direct the commission to employ the Commonwealth ships on unprofitable lines and thus, as I said a moment ago, operate at a loss. The Minister, speaking on the agreement bill, said that the Government was - . . determined, however, to avoid the position a rising under which the Commonwealthowned vessels will expand unnecessarily into trades which are being efficiently served by the private shipping interests.
The Minister admits that the Government does not want to enter into competition with the privately owned shipping companies. It does not want the Commonwealth line to prosper. Is it any wonder that Labour members show hostility towards this bill, which is a snide attempt to get around public opinion and make the. Commonwealth ships available to the shipping combine of this country? The Commonwealth line will run on the unprofitable routes only, and if those routes become profitable they will be given to the privately owned ships. Similarly, if the private shipowners find that a run has become unprofitable, they will ask the Minister to direct the Commonwealth line to use its ships on that run while the privately owned vessels continue to operate on the profitable runs. Another matter to which I wish to refer is the. attempt of the Government to grant a monopoly to the private shipowners. The Minister, speaking of the Government, said further -
Still less is it prepared to place any of those companies in anything approaching a monopolistic position.
That is an admission that the Minister is conscious of the fact that these bills will create a private monopoly on the Australian coast, to the detriment of those who will be so unfortunate as to have to pay the increased freights.
I should also like to refer to the tie-up between the Commonwealth line of steamers and the Commonwealth Steamship Owners Association, known as the C.S.O.A. That association consists of the eight principal shipping companies engaged in interstate trade. These companies have organized themselves in this way, supposedly for industrial purposes. They are the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company Limited, Australian Steamships Proprietary Limited, Huddart Parker Limited,. James Patterson and Company Proprietary Limited, Mcllwraith McEacharn Limited, Melbourne Steamship Company Limited, Adelaide Steamship Company Limited, and the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand Limited. Honorable members may not be aware of the complex and interlocking relationship of these companies. This is partly revealed by the bill, where the name “ Holyman “ appears more than once.
Inquiries in the Parliamentary Library reveal just how interwoven are these companies amongst themselves and with overseas shipping interests. For instance, the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company Limited is a subsidiary company of the British India Steam Navigation Company,, which, in turn, is a member of the Inchcape group - the Peninsular and’ Oriental line. Mcllwraith McEacharn Limited is a British company and the majority of its shares, are, held in England. The Union
Steamship Company of New Zealand Limited is another Inchcape company. Within Australia, Huddart Parker Limited and the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand Limited control two shipping companies engaged in interstate trade with Tasmania, namely Tasmanian Steamers Proprietary Limited and William Holyman and Sons Proprietary Limited. The two firstmentioned companies also have a large interest in Melbourne Steamship Company Limited. In addition, within Australia, the eight companies of the Commonwealth Steamship Owners Association are closely interlocked with industry generally, either by controlling subsidiary companies, or by themselves being the subsidiaries of non-shipping companies. Their principal interests are the holding of shares in collieries, sugar refineries, steel processing, airways and coal distribution. That shows what is really happening ; yet the honorable member for Canning has the audacity to talk about socialization versus private enterprise! The bill not only hands over a public utility to a monopoly, but hands it over to a monopoly which is closely linked with other monopolies in this country. Yet Government supporters want to know why the Labour party is hostile to the setting up of this new commission !
The bill provides that the Commonwealth line shall not undercut the private shipping- lines, and the Commonwealth line is, moreover, a member of the Commonwealth Steamship. Owners Association. That association, which includes the eight companies- whose names I have read out, fixes fares and freights and decides the routes on which the various ships shall run. The eight interstate shipping companies are organized into another body which is known as the Associated Steamship Owners. Its head offices are in Melbourne, and it has branch committees in each capital city. Before World War II. this body met and determined interstate routes, passenger fares and shipping freight rates.
During the period 1939 to 1945- World War II. - control of these routes was taken over by the Commonwealth Shipping Control Board. Also, the passenger and freight rates were regulated under the .price control regulations during the war. The pre-war system now operates. So the Associated Steamship Owners, not the Minister for Shipping and Transport, will decide the routes on which the ships will run. Yet there are pious words in this bill indicating what the Minister will do in regard to fares and freights. The honorable member for Canning made a song and dance about fares and freights, saying that the Minister had to approve them. But the Minister will not fix the rates. He may only approve them. Can honorable members visualize a Minister associated with this Government doing anything contrary to the wishes, wants and desires of the Associated Steamship Owners? No! The inclusion of these pious words in this measure is so much tripe and humbug.
As I have said, the bill provides that the Minister can only approve fares and freights. He cannot fix them. What will happen if there is a deadlock between the Minister and the commission ? What will happen if the commission, wants to provide the Australian people will reasonable fares and freights which may be below the rates of the private steamship companies? There will be a deadlock. The Minister cannot fix the rates. He can only approve or disapprove them. What will happen then? The shipping combine will fix the freights. The shipping combine has already done so. Suppose the commission objects to the rate so fixed. This bill makes no provision to meet that eventuality. The Minister will not decide the question. He will only be able to approve or disapprove what has been done.
This is a shipowners’ bill. The provision to which I have referred indicates that, on the subject of fares and freights, the shipowners will take their cue from the overseas shipowners, who are their masters. The Minister may approve or disapprove the fares and freights. In other words, an open cheque will be handed to the shipowners to go for their lives for the next twenty years. The shipowners will fix fares and freights. There, will be independent authority to do so. There will be no arbitrator. In other words, the overseas shipowners will tell Australian shipowners what the fares and freights will be. I revealed, at the beginning of my speech, how the primary producers of this country are being treated by the overseas shipping interests, and I showed that the overseas shipowners got more out of proceeds from the sale of a case of apples than the grower.
The Government has the hide to talk about inflation, and screams at people to produce more. Yet it proposes to hand the control of fares and freights in this country to outside interests, whose activities will not be curbed in any way whatsoever. The Australian Country party has shown scant consideration for the primary producers, when their interests have clashed with those of overseas shipping companies. I say to the Government that the increases in prices that have taken place in the last eighteen months are not justified. There should have been active competition, not a tie-up between the Commonwealth line and the shipowners for the purpose of keeping down freights and fighting inflation. Active competition would have kept down the cost of production and the cost of living. At the present time, an inquiry is proceeding into conditions on the waterfront, and the shipowners have been asked to produce their accounts. This inquiry has been going on for more than a year, but the shipowners have not produced the accounts.
This bill is full of meaningless verbiage. The Minister has been asked why decisions are being made for the Government by the Associated S’teamship Owners and why the Minister can only approve or disapprove. In view of the political kidney of this Government, the Minister will make a decision to meet the wishes of the shipowners. If the Government were honest and wanted the competition that it speaks about, it could have instructed the Australian Shipping Board to engage in active competition with the private steamship companies of this country and in every way fight to keep out of any entanglement with cartels and combines. By active competition the board could have kept down freights, and kept down the cost of living and, in consequence, played an important part in avoiding inflation in this country.
.- The speech of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) paid no account to the great difficulties in the Australian shipping situation. The honorable member does not appear to realize the importance of shipping to the economy of this country, and the fact that things are by no means well in the shipping industry. This bill represents a sincere endeavour by the Government to assist in clearing up the difficulties in the shipping industry. The bill provides that the Commonwealth ships shall not be handed over to the private shipping companies; yet any one who listened to the honorable member for Kennedy would imagine that the government ships were being handed over, lock, stock and barrel, to the private shipowners. The fact is that those ships are to be placed under the control of a statutory commission - the same sort of proposal as was contained in the Labour Government’s 1949 legislation, which was never proclaimed, and so did not come into force. It is quite erroneous to suggest that the government ships are to be handed over to private; shipowners.
In addition to providing for the establishment of a new shipping authority, and for the government ships to be put under the control of that authority, the bill provides also that the Australian coastal shipping trade will be protected. People who are interested in the coastal shipping trade will be happy to know that their interests are being thoroughly preserved under this hill, that the coastal shipping trade will continue, and that it will be properly looked after.
The bill provides also for the maintenance of shipbuilding in Australia. In fact, the only real point of controversy in the bill between the Government and the Opposition is the provision for fair competition between the government-owned ships, to be controlled by the proposed commission, and privately owned vessels. The reason why that provision is the subject of controversy in this House is that the Labour party believes in the socialization of shipping. That is a plank in its platform. The Labour party, therefore, does not want to see fair competition between government-owned ships and privately owned ships. It would like to put an end to the privately owned shipping companies which are operating in the coastal shipping trade. The members of the Opposition make no bones about that. And the reason why they are so angry, and why the honorable member for Kennedy raised his voice as he did, is that honorable members opposite realize that this bill will thoroughly frustrate, for many years to come, their socialistic ambitions in respect of the shipping industry.
As I have said, the difficulties in the shipping industry do not appear to be realized by the honorable member for Kennedy. He certainly did not mention them. The fact is that the Government has made it quite clear, for many years, that it desires to sell the governmentowned ships. That was made clear in this House by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) in a speech that he made in 1952. We all know that if the Government had been able to sell the ships it would have done so. But it wished to sell them on its own conditions which provided some very important protections for the Australian economy. One condition was that the ships were not to be sacrificed, that the price to be paid for them was to be adequate and proper. The second, and even more important, condition was that the coastal shipping trade was not to be sacrificed - that is to say, that the Government would not sell the ships unless they were to continue to be used, by the purchaser, in the coastal shipping trade. Because no purchaser who would meet these condition? came forward, the Government retained the ships.
The Government still had to deal with the difficulties in the shipping situation. In spite of .the impression that one would gain from some of the remarks of honorable members opposite, the companies1 which own ships that ply in the Australian coastal trade are not heavily capitalized. In fact, even the largest of them have had no increase of capital since the early 1920’s, and are in great difficulties, particularly in these day.1 when the cost of running their ships is 30 high, and when the cost of replacement of ships is astronomical. Investment in the coastal shipping trade in Australia is not a good investment. Over the years, after paying tax - I emphasize the words “ after paying tax “ - the net profits of the coastal shipping companies, paid out by way of dividend, have worked out at less than 4 per cent.
Let us contrast the position of the government-owned line with the private shipping companies in regard to the replacement of ships. In order to pay out of its earnings for the replacement of a ship which cost £300,000 originally, a private shipping company would have to earn no less than £1,170,000; whereas, because of tax concessions, the Government would have to pay only £700,000 to replace such a ship - a difference of £470,000! That shows the inequality of the position, which arises from the fact that the Government shipping line can purchase ships free of tax. That is thi kind of disadvantage under which the private shipping companies have operated.
The record of government ships is not such a wonderful record of success. For many years they showed a serious loss. It was only after this Government took office that they began to show a profit - and that profit, of course, stemmed to a great extent from the fact that the Government line did not have to pay tax. Yet, even the profit shown since this Government has been in office and has enabled the making of a profit by the ships is a very small return, indeed, for the amount of capital invested.
We have an unhappy state of affairs in respect of both privately-owned and government-owned ships, and something has to be done about it. Of course, one appreciates that the Labour party does not like this bill, because it realizes perfectly well that with the private shipping companies in the serious position that they are in it would require only a government prepared to take the step of reducing freights, and therefore prepared to lose money which the taxpayers would have to find, in order to put the squeeze on the private companies. I am not concerned as to whether the Labour
Government’s 1949 act was, or was not, intended to bring about socialization of the shipping industry. There is much to be said in favour of the view that that was the deliberate intention of the act. But there was no necessity for the Labour Government to rely on the act in order to achieve that result. It could have applied an economic squeeze, had it continued in office, and could thereby have put the private shipping companies out of business altogether. Honorable members opposite know that that is so. They would have done so had they had the opportunity, and that is the reason why they are so annoyed about this bill.
Let me give a few instances, from the economic stand-point, of the difficulties of the shipping industry to-day. Whereas it took 42 days before the war to turn a ship round, it now takes 70 days. In respect of hours worked last year, Mr. Justice Foster pointed out that the seamen were paid for 64 hours’ work weekly, but, in fact, worked only 28 to 35 hours. He used moderate language when he described that as “ staggering “. The honorable member for Kennedy has made much of the freight charged by the shipowners for the transport of a case of apples, but he did not tell the House that threequarters of the freight charge is absorbed by wages and stevedoring costs. The shipowners are not making undue profits out of freight charges. It is very convenient to believe in high wages, as the honorable member for Kennedy does, and then to tell the primary producers that the shipowners keep for themselves the whole of the freight charge, although it is perfectly well known that nothing of the sort happens. In that difficult position, the Government decided to introduce a measure that would stabilize the position on the waterfront, as we believe the Australian Coastal Shipping Agreement Bill 1956 will do, by providing for the continuance of shipbuilding and for the operation of the government-owned ships by a commission in fair and reasonable competition with the privately owned ships. This bill merely serves those purposes. It is quite idle for Opposition members to say it means all sorts of things which cannot be read into it.
The private shipping companies have a definite obligation to provide services adequate for Australia’s export trade. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) stated that no penalty or sanction is to be imposed upon them if they do not do so. It is clear that there is a most important sanction, because, if they do not do so, they will lose their business. The bill provides that, if the private shipping companies do not operate adequate services, the proposed commission will be entitled to acquire additional ships in order to provide adequate services. Consequently, if the private shipping companies fail in their duty to do what they have undertaken to do, they will be out of business. What stronger sanction than that can here be?
The honorable member for Kennedy and other Opposition members said that the proposed commission will operate the government-owned ships only on unprofitable services. Where is such a stipulation to be found in the bill? Nowhere does it so restrict the routes on which the government-owned ships are to operate. They can be used on the most profitable routes and also on developmental routes. This bill is designed to serve the public interest, and, if a centre has not an adequate shipping service, it is proper that the Government should step in and accept the duty to provide proper shipping services. It has been said that developmental services will not be profitable. Much governmental expenditure is not profitable but is quite proper for developmental purposes. Another complaint made by Opposition members is that the bill limits the tonnage of shipping operated by the commission to 325,000 tons. The Government does not at the present time possess nearly that tonnage. The total tonnage of ships in service, ships under construction, and vessels proposed to be constructed, is 247,000 tons. There is a considerable leeway to be made up before the limit is reached. However, that is not the end of the matter, because the bill provides that, if it is necessary to extend an established service, or to establish a new one, the proposed commission may acquire vessels in excess of the tonnage limit.
There is no restriction on the tonnage of shipping that may be employed by the overseas shipping lines. Opposition members complain also that the proposed commission will not conduct its own stevedoring operations. The Commonwealth has never conducted such operations for itself. Exactly the same practices adopted in the past will be adopted in the future, and the stevedoring work will be done for the proposed commission by the private companies, as they have done it for the Commonwealth in tinpast, with the proviso that this arrangement will continue only so long as it i? satisfactory.
Those are the main criticisms that have been directed at the bill. When the measure is analysed, the wild statements made by Opposition members are shown to be nothing more or less than wild statements. The bill is clearly based upon a desire for fair and reasonable competition. It is intended that the proposed commission shall make profits and that those profits shall be subject to taxation. We are not going to allow to continue a state of affairs in which government ships have such great advantages over privately owned ships as they have had in the past. This is a worthwhile measure which will help to eliminate the trouble on the waterfront and to relieve the shortage of shipping. As I stated earlier, it is opposed only because the f orces of socialization on the Opposition side of the House realize that, with a measure of this kind in operation, their hopes of socializing shipping will be at an end.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Makin) adjourned.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order ! Does the honorable member claim that he has been misrepresented ?
– The honorable member may proceed.
– I shall be brief. During the debate on the motion for the adjournment of this House on the 12th
June, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), in a reference to members of the party to which I belong, used the word “ guts “ on three separate occasions. That is reported and confirmed in Hansard. The Melbourne Herald to-night has an article headed “ Gutter Talk in Parliament “ and it reads thus -
When members lose their self-control in Parliament, they not only degrade themselves but harm the parliamentary institution. The abuse that was shouted across the chamber of the House of Representatives on Tuesday by the honorable member for Lalor, Mr. Pollard, set a new level for the inexcusable.
Addressing the Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Casey, Mr. Pollard said, “You ought to talk about guts. All you want to see is other people’s guts spilled . . . You’re nothing but a rotten, low-down louse “.
In any other setting, it might be true that a man who uses the language of the gutter is smearing only himself. But in the national Parliament, abuse of this sort is an insult to the nation.
It is surely not too much to expect all sides of the House to unite against such outbursts. All parties have some interjectors who need curbing. Virility in debate is good but Parliament will function better, and with more public respect, if it insists on reasonable behaviour.
I have looked at Hansard, and there are no remarks attributed to me. That is understandable, because I did not reply to the Minister for External Affairs except by interjection. I did not use all the words attributed to me by the Herald. The paper attributed to me the statement, “You ought to talk about guts”. 1 certainly said that. I also said, and it is truly attributed to me, “ All you want to see is other people’s guts spilled “. Perhaps I should not have said it, but I did say that, and I take no objection to its being reported. But I certainly did not say, by way of interjection, to the Minister, “You’re nothing but a. rotten, low-down louse “. I did not use those words, and I want to make that quite clear. I may add that it was the Minister for External Affairs who set a bad example by talking about guts, but no reference is made to that fact in the Melbourne Herald.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Sir Eric Harrison) read a first time.
House adjourned at 10.49 p.m.
The following answers to question were circulated: -
t asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Four systems are at present in use - (a) 13-year-old (duration of course four years): (6) 15-10 year (intermediate) (duration of course, two years); (c) 15A-1CJ years (new normal) (duration of course, three years);
See answer to question 4.
Mi1. Beazley asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
There are no helicopters in service with the Australian Military Forces, the civil defence authorities or the Department of Civil Aviation. The Royal Australian Air Force if responsible for air-sea rescue operations. 2 and 3. The role of the helicopter and its possible uses to meet service requirements, including the protection of convoys and the saving of life at sea, are under constant surveillance by the services. The Navy and Royal Australian Air Force helicopters have in th* past played an important part in relief opera tions in various emergencies. 4 and 5. The Navy and Supply Department helicopters are United Kingdom Bristol Syca mores which carry four passengers (including a winch operator) and a pilot. The Roya”l Australian Air Force helicopter is a United States Sikorsky, which carries three passenger* in addition to the pilot.
n asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. There has been no decision in construct an all-weather road from Alice Springs to the South Australian border.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 June 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19560614_reps_22_hor11/>.