22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. C. F. Adermann) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Dr.EVATT. - Some time ago, the
Minister for External Affairs made a statement on the constitutional question that had arisen in Singapore. The right honorable gentleman then indicated - and I think the Prime Minister also said something to the same effect - that Australia’s views were affected by the fact that the dispute between the then Chief Minister, Mr. Marshall, and the British Government was in connexion with the degree of control over internal security that the British Government wished to retain. Has the Minister seen an official report of the proceedings in the Singapore legislature? Would it not be correct to say that the dispute was notso much connected with internal security as with two other matters? The first matter was the question whether Singapore should remain under the Colonial Office, to which objection was taken, Singapore preferring to be under the Commonwealth Relations Office. The other matter was the position of the Crown in Singapore, Mr. Marshall and his colleagues desiring that Her Majesty be represented by a GovernorGeneral and that the executive functions remaining in the British Crown in relation to Singapore be exercised by a special High Commissioner. Is that not substantially the point upon which the proceedings finished? Will the right honorable gentleman indicate that that is not a matter that should be allowed to prevent a, settlement of the question of the Singapore constitution?
– The right honorable gentleman may not have been in the chamber when I answered a question on the very point that he has now raised. I said then that the latest position - that is, about a week ago - was that Mr. Marshall, before leaving London, had suggested three things to the Colonial Secretary. The first was that the United Kingdom should intervene in matters of internal security in Singapore only on the basis of a resolution of the House of Commons. The second point was that there should be an Asian GovernorGeneral in Singapore, and the third point was that matters concerning Singapore should be made the function of the Commonwealth Relations Office and not the Colonial Office. When replying to those suggestions, Mr. Lennox Boyd said, in respect of the first point regarding internal security, that he thought there was a basis for coming to an arrangement on those lines, or something like that. At any rate, the suggestion was not rejected. On the other two points, about an Asian Governor-General and the translation from the Colonial Office to the Commonwealth Relations Office, he said that he believed the immediately prospective constitutional position of Singapore did not justify acceptance of those two suggestions by the United Kingdom. He suggested that they might be accepted at some future stage. However, the right honorable gentleman is, I understand, quite correct in believing that the matter does not rest now, to such a major extent, on the control of internal security in Singapore. Since I answered the earlier question, a new government has been formed in Singapore, and I understand that the present Chief Minister of that country has expressed his desire that discussions on these subjects should be resumed. I understand again that each side has at least not demurred at that suggestion, and I believe that in the present situation there is a possibility of further discussions taking place.
– The points outstanding seem insignificant.
– The discussions have apparently not broken down on any point that appears to us to be of major importance. I think that the right honorable gentleman is quite correct in taking that view. I hope the future holds possibilities of a resolution of the problems that concern Singapore, and in which Australia, although not directly concerned, is very greatly interested.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral any information to give the House as to the reason why the royal cipher is not used on all vehicles and structures in the Postal Department?
– My precedessor as Postmaster-General made a request that Her Majesty’s approval of the use of the royal cipher should be obtained. The request was made, of course, through the Prime Minister, and Her Majesty was graciously pleased to grant such approval in, I think, March last. The proposal was that the royal cipher should be used on such things as letter boxes; on postal vans, together with the words “Royal Mail “ ; and on buildings and other similar structures. When I received the approval I instructed the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs that the royal cipher should be used in. this way. I agreed that its use should be introduced gradually, so that new buildings or vehicles coming into commission should have the royal cipher placed upon them immediately, and that the cipher should be progressively placed on buildings and vehicles already in use. Quite frankly, I cannot inform the honorable member what stage has been reached in this matter, but if he has any information of an instance in which the royal cipher could have been used and was not used, I should like him to give me the information, and I shall investigate the circumstances.
– Has the Minister for Primary Industry read an article which appeared in the Melbourne Herald contributed by Dame Jean McNamara, alleging that because of lack of suitable officers, scientific advice, and funds, the campaign to infect rabbits with myxomatosis is waning? Will the Minister call a conference of State Ministers for Agriculture with a view to co-ordinating their efforts and arranging for the additional finance and scientific help that are necessary to combat the rabbit pest in Australia?
– I did not read the article to which the honorable member referred, and, frankly, I do not think that the statements made in it are correct.
– Well, I do !
– There is no shortage of funds for the purpose of conducting the myxomatosis campaign. There are certain technical problems that have to be solved. I shall take up these matters with the officers of the department under my control, and with the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and I shall make sure that the honorable member receives a complete answer to his question.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National (Service arrange for an up-to-date statement on the employment position throughout Australia to be made to the House before the conclusion of the present sessional period ?
– I do not know whether it will be practicable to have such detailed statement supplied within the time suggested. The honorable member knows that it is the practice of the Department of Labour and National Service to make a monthly report, covering the employment position throughout Australia, but I think that I can give the House some details which it will find of interest, especially in view of the criticism that one reads from time to time, usually emanating from Opposition sources, to the effect that in recent months there has been a substantial growth in unemployment. I have had occasion to look into this aspect, and I can tell the honorable gentleman that the employment situation appears to be reflecting, very usefully and in a desirable way, the economic policy which the Government sought to implement through the financial measures which it introduced in the autumn. On the 10th March, four days before the Prime Minister made his economic statement to the House, 6,057 persons in the Commonwealth were receiving unemployment benefit. By the 2nd June, the latest date for which I have the figures, the number of persons receiving unemployment benefit had dropped to 6,011. There had actually been a decline of 46 in the overall figure or, if one takes males only, a decline of something over 500. Moreover, during this period the number of work vacancies recorded at my department had declined from 48,000 to 35,000. So it will be seen that there has been a transfer of employees from some industries - and particularly the motor industry, in relation to which special measures were taken - to other industries which were actually short of labour. These shortages had been contributing to the inflationary pressure and the industries concerned were able to take up those whose services had been dispensed with elsewhere. This useful transference of labour was achieved without the number receiving unemployment benefit increasing. Instead, it actually decreased. I assure the honorable member that we shall continue to watch the position closely. The general Australian position is as I have put it. The situation in Western Australia does not conform to the general picture, and we are looking into the special problems which arise in that State. In addition to the monthly employment survey, we periodically examine, through the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council, on which management and labour are well represented, the whole employment story, and that will continue.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army, and relates to the use of the site in the Flinders Ranges, known as Alligator Gorge, as a jungle warfare training ground. I preface my question by saying that this gorge offers one of the most interesting scenic attractions in the Flinders Ranges. It is full of native flora and fauna. Bird and animal life, trees, native flowers, and other herbage of a very rich and beautiful type abound. According to the Field Naturalists Society of South Australia, some of the rare plants growing there are not to be found in any other part of the world. I ask the Minister whether, in view of the damage that would doubtless be caused by military manoeuvres, even if only of brief duration, and the fact that the Flinders Ranges are approximately 250 miles long, could not some other site be selected for jungle training and this locality, which is of a. kind only too rare in the Commonwealth, saved for the nation and for tourists.
– First, I would like to explain that each of the military commands in Australia has been instructed to locate sites suitable for conducting training in tropical warfare. Central Command is, no doubt, carrying out reconnaissance for the purpose of locating the most suitable site in South Australia. In doing so, it i3 quite natural, of course, that it should look at the site referred to by the honorable member. I should like to point out, however, that at this date no firm recommendation with regard to the site to be chosen has been made. When that recommendation is made by Central Command, it will come to me, through the Chief of the General Staff, for final approval. I can assure the honorable member that nothing will be done that will have the effect of destroying the native flora and fauna to which he has referred. A similar question arose when the Canungra training area was established in Queensland. That area adjoins a national park, in the electorate of the Treasurer. The fears that people expressed then have been proved to be not well founded, because no damage has been done, although the training area adjoins a national park. From correspondence that I have read in the local press, I know that the people of South Australia are very concerned about this matter. I assure honorable members and the people of Australia that the Army will be very careful to protect in every way possible this natural beauty spot, where native flora and fauna are so much in evidence. We must have some place to train troops in tropical warfare, but the request made by the honorable member will be taken into consideration.
– I address a question to the Minister for External Affairs. At the request of the United Nations Command, the activities of the Neutral Nations Truce Supervisory Commission were recently suspended in the Republic of Korea. What is the present position in relation to this matter? Is there direct evidence that the Communist forces in North Korea have violated the armistice ban on. arms increases? Also, is there any indication yet that North Korea will agree to a workable system of arms inspection ?
– The Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission, which was brought into existence to supervise the armistice in Korea, is composed of representatives of four countries -
Sweden, Switzerland, Poland and Czechoslovakia. It came to light about a month ago that the Swedish Government and the Swiss Government had protested that their inspection teams in North Korea were being rather crudely obstructed in carrying out their work of inspecting the ports of entry for the movement of troops that were laid down in the armistice agreement. Perhaps one of the most important conditions of the armistice was that there should be no build-up of forces or arms in either North Korea or South Korea. The Swedes and the Swiss found themselves quite unable to do their work of ensuring that there would be no such build-up. In fact, positive evidence has been provided that there has been a substantial build-up of both forces and arms in North Korea, through ports of entry other than those specified in the armistice document. So this matter was brought to the attention of the United Nations Command in Korea. After satisfying itself of the facts, the United Nations Command, through the Military Armistice Commission, announced that, within a week, the teams would be expelled from South Korea into the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. Subsequently the teams withdrew from the north. That happened, I think I am right in saying, on the 9th June - only about ten days ago. I may say that the inspection teams in South Korea were given complete freedom of movement and inspection. There has hee.n no complaint about the situation in South Korea. This matter was fully thrashed out before any action was taken. All the nations comprising the United Nations Command, including Australia, were not only advised, but also consulted. The action decided on was regarded as inevitable in the circumstances, and was agreed to unanimously. I cannot say that there have been any developments since the 9th June to make one hope that it will be possible to reinstall the inspection teams in North Korea in a way that would enable them to carry out their task conscientiously.
– Is the Minister for the Navy aware that ou Monday, the 18th June, certain firms on the Sydney water front, which were doing work for the Royal Australian Navy, received instructions to stop such work forthwith? As this action on the part of the naval authorities has caused confusion, and in some cases unemployment, will the Minister inform the House of the reasons for the issuance of this order?
– The Minister for the Navy is not in this House, but 1 represent him here. I shall have the contents of the question communicated to him and 1 am quite certain that, should he think it desirable, he will let the honorable member have a letter in reply.
-It is usual for questions directed to a- Minister in another place to be placed on the noticepaper.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Will he arrange for a qualified expert from the Department of Primary Industry to attend the tobacco auctions in Western Australia this year and to make an immediate examination and chemical analysis of any leaf that is rejected as unusable? The Minister will remember that last year a large quantity of Western Australian tobacco leaf was rejected at the sales as unusable, that there was a considerable difference of opinion about this matter, and that it was not until some months later that an expert from the department went to Western Australia to examine that leaf.
– The difficulties thai occurred in Western Australia in the sale of last year’s tobacco leaf are well known in the department, and consequently an instruction was issued recently that a departmental official was to proceed to the west and examine the possibilities of sale of this year’s leaf. I might mention to the honorable gentleman that this year the growers may expect a better sale for two reasons. First, the Government has decided to reduce the dollar allocation for the importation of leaf. Secondly, it has increased the percentages of Australian tobacco that must he used in tobacco and cigarettes if a customs drawback is to be obtained. Therefore, the Government thinks that this year an increased percentage of Western Australian leaf, and indeed Australian leaf generally, will be used. The honorable gentleman knows a lot about this matter, and if he thinks that any real help can be given by a departmental officer visiting Western Australia to test the quality of the leaf, should he make such a request I shall be only too happy to make an officer available. The Tobacco Advisory Committee is meeting next week, and I think that the whole subject of the sale of Western Australian leaf will then be discussed.
– Does the PostmasterGeneral agree that advertisements appearing in the press, wherein the Postal Department notifies vacancies in permanent positions for males from 18 to 50 years of age, are grossly misleading? Will the Minister have included in future advertisements a statement that applicants must also pass a stringent medical examination before they can be considered for permanent appointment, so that men seeking to improve their standard in life will not leave secure employment for a position in the Commonwealth Public Service which would be only of a casual nature should they fail to measure up to the absurd medical standards required by the Public Service Board? Is the Minister aware that almost half the officers of the department are temporary or exempt employees and do not enjoy the superannuation and other benefits which the advertisement mentions? Will the Minister discuss with the Acting Prime Minister the possibility of reviewing and easing Public Service regulations to allow the permanent appointment of young people, who, through heredity, may suffer from restricted vision or deformed limbs, providing a medical practitioner certifies that the disability does not and cannot affect or hinder the officer in the execution of his or her duties?
– I do not agree with the statement of the honorable member for Shortland that advertisements of vacancies in the department in various types of employment for persons between the ages of 18 and 50 years are misleading. Vacancies which it is desired to fill do occur from time to time and advertisement in the press and in the Commonwealth Gazette is the normal method of calling for applications for vacancies throughout the Public Service. Applications for appointment are made in the knowledge that certain standards, which vary according to the position, are required. I think all applicants are aware that those standards are a condition of entry to the Public Service.
– They are not aware of it.
– They should be if they are applicants.
– I cannot speak for all cases, but most advertisements of vacant positions state that certain standards are required. In any event, the requirements can very easily be ascertained, particularly in the larger cities, where there are stationed at the main post offices officers who are able to inform any one who requires the information. If a person interested in a vacancy calls at a main post office in the larger cities, he can readily obtain all the particulars applicable to the position. The honorable member referred also to the medical standards required of appointees to the Postmaster-General’s Department. That is a very sound and wise precaution, first, because it is often necessary to spend considerable sums of money in training appointees for the particular jobs they are to do, and, therefore, it is right and proper for the department to ensure that they are of a medical standard that will enable them to remain in the department for a considerable time in order to offset the expenditure on their training. Secondly, of course, superannuation and sick leave obligations make a thorough medical examination necessary upon appointment. Naturally, it is made by a. departmental medical officer. I cannot sustain the honorable member’s suggestion that the certificate of any medical practitioner should be sufficient for the acceptance of an appointee as medically fit. The department must refer applicants to its own medical officers, and their findings should be accepted.I think I have answered all the points in the question, which I jotted down quickly as it was asked.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. Many post and telegraph offices throughout the country are indicated only by the notice “ Post and Telegraph Office “. As each of these offices has a distinctive town or district name, will the Minister consider having this name also displayed with the post and telegraph office sign?
– I welcome the question, because it raises a very good point. I know, from moving through my own electorate, that the name does appear on some post offices, but, quite frankly, I cannot be sure that this is a general practice. It may be that the name is displayed only on buildings in which post offices have recently been opened. I understand that the honorable member refers more to townships than to large cities.
– I refer to small district post offices.
-! understand. I think it is desirable that an edifice of such importance as is the post office in any township or town should display the name of the post office, and, if I find it is not the general practice to display it, I shall see that the practice is adopted.
– I address a question to the Acting Prime Minister. I direct the right honorable gentleman’s attention to the serious difficulties now being experienced by the people of Flinders Island owing to the water-logged condition of the aerodrome there, which, I understand, will be unsuitable for use by DCS aircraft for the remainder of the winter. Will the right honorable gentleman take into consideration the fact that the residents of the island have no other means of transport to and from the island, and will he, on that basis, discuss with his colleague, the Minister for Air, the possibility of providing, temporarily, a Catalina service to the island in order to redeem what could develop into a very serious situation?
– I shall confer with the appropriate Minister on the observations and the request made by the honorable member.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service in a position to inform the House of the steps that are being taken to terminate the disastrous shearing strike which is threatening the national economy? Further, could he indicate what steps are open to the Government to use its influence towards terminating the strike ?
– Last week 1 gave the House some information as to developments which had occurred in Queensland in relation to the Queensland Industrial Court and proceedings which were pending before that tribunal. Yesterday, there was a development when the conciliation commissioner in the Commonwealth sphere, Mr. Donovan, had a meeting with the parties for the purpose, I understand, of determining one aspect of the wage question in particular, the basic wage increase and its application to this section of industry; but opportunity was taken to mention the matter generally before him. My information is that both parties requested him to defer further action for the time being as it was their intention to confer together on Wednesday of this week with a view to finding some basis for settlement. I would most certainly hope that it will be found at that discussion that a basis for settlement has emerged. I would also hope that both parties to this protracted and costly dispute will take into account its effects on the national economy as a whole, as well as the impact on their own special interests. I understand that Conciliation Commissioner Donovan intimated to the parties that he would be willing, if desired, to act as chairman at a conciliation conference. So we shall see what comes out of Wednesday’3 discussion. The conciliation commissioner has indicated his willingness to provide his services thereafter if he can usefully do so.
– Is the Treasurer aware of the dire hardship suffered by age and invalid pensioners trying to exist on the present rate of pension, owing to the high cost of living? Will the Treasurer have the matter looked at before this House rises later in the week?
If such cannot be attended to, will the Treasurer promise that any rise in such pensions to be made when the budget is brought down will be retrospective to the 1st July?
– The honorable member for West Sydney should know that the question raised by him involves a matter of policy. It will be considered at the appropriate time. It is nearly time the honorable member learned that.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation by stating that I have been interested to read that, notwithstanding the splendid safety record of the scheduled airlines in the United States of America, real concern has been expressed regarding the need for a more modern and efficient system of traffic control in airlanes and airports. The suggested action covers the installation at an accelerated pace of devices already available which can bring greater capacity and flexibility into the control of air traffic and the development of a bold new revolutionary system. Will the Minister advise the House whether the Department of Civil Aviation is being kept up to date with information and new developments of this nature from overseas? May any assurance be given that air traffic control in Australia is under constant review for the purpose of achieving maximum protection?
– I think I can assure the honorable member that air traffic control in Australia is quite as good as any other air traffic control in the world. Not only do we have all the latest information given to us, but our own officers go across to meetings of the International Civil Aviation Organization, and they have similar contacts with other bodies on the other side of the world. I know, from discussions with pilots on the international airlines, that they all speak in the highest terms of air traffic control in Australia. At present we have in operation one of the most modern control devices for air traffic control at the Sydney airport, and another is now being installed at the Melbourne airport. Similar devices will eventually be installed at all the capital city and other airports. The honorable gentleman may rest assured that air traffic control in Australia is at least as good as is such control in other parts of the world, and is possibly better. Certainly, the air safety record in Australia is infinitely better than it is in any other country.
– Will the Minister for the Interior say whether the Government has under consideration any proposal to vary the law as applying to landlord and tenants in the Australian Capital Territory, as it relates to thu ownership and tenancy of business premises? Does the proposed variation mean that the tenant will lose the protection that the law at present gives him against eviction from his business premises? Would the proposed amendment make it possible for large interstate firms to eliminate competition simply by offering a higher rental to the landlord than the occupant was paying, or could pay, and thus secure, with the landlord’s connivance, the eviction of a competing businessman from the premises in which he had established his business? Would the Minister consider having those proposals placed, as early as possible, before the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council so that there may be some public discussion of them? Would he also consider taking the unusual step of referring the substance of the proposed changes to the Chamber of Commerce in this capital city for its opinion?
– It is proposed to lift the landlord and tenant regulations as they apply to business premises, to which the honorable gentleman has referred, as from the 1st January next year. This, I think, will render some justice to the owners of premises who, for a long time, have been suffering under the disability that tenants have been, in fact, almost squatting in their premises at rents which have borne no relation to modern values. I think I can assure the honorable gentleman that none of the dire consequences that he has mentioned is likely
– Has the Minister for Primary Industry seen a recent announcement that the flour mill at Grenfell, in New South Wales, is shortly to close down as a direct result of loss of overseas markets in France and America? Is the Minister aware that other country flourmillers are experiencing the same difficulty in maintaining production because of the loss of markets? Will he advise the House what action the Government is taking, or proposes to take, to assist the flour-mining industry in the present situation of intense competition and difficulties in overseas markets?
– I had heard that the flour mill in Grenfell was in some difficulties regarding sales of flour to other countries and that there was, therefore, a possibility that the mill would close down. I think that the honorable gentleman will know that shortly before the Minister for Trade left on his mission overseas he made a statement on this matter, in which he pointed out that many Australian exporters wore finding difficulty because they had to compete with subsidized flour in other parts of the world. I am glad to be able to inform the honorable member that in my view representations made by the Minister for Trade and the Government have borne fruit, because cablegrams received by the Government in recent times give an indication that those who are selling bulk and dumped wheat recognize Australia’s problem, and some agree that they will make whatever attempts they can to prevent dumping in our traditional markets. I shall have a further look at the matter, and if anything more can be done through the inflence of the Department of Trade and our trade commissioners, I shall see that prompt action is taken.
– I ask the Minister for Externa] Affairs whether he is aware of three important statements that have been made recently.I refer, first, to the
We must realize how deep and sincere were Russian anxieties about the safety of her homeland from invasion. … In a true unity of Europe, Russia must have her part.
The second was the following statement made by Mr. Selwyn Lloyd, the British Foreign Secretary, on the 22nd May: -
I believe that the likelihood of attack is less than ever before. The Russian steamroller of to-day is not likely to be a military one. It consists of a great mass of technicians, teachers, businessmen and other experts, all intended to export communism at the same time as they export their goods and services.
The third one, which was published by the London Times, is as follows : -
The important thing is not who can drop the biggest bomb, but who can build the biggest dam.
Does the Minister consider that these statements indicate a great move from military to economic factors in world affairs? Does he consider that they have any relevance to the amount of money that is spent in Australia on war and defence, and the small economic ingredient in the South-East Asia Treaty Organization and the Colombo plan?
– The honorable gentleman’s question is not an easy one to answer in a short time. I have read all the statements to which he has referred. I think he went on to ask whether I believed that those statements had any relevance to the defence and economic aspects of things. Yes, they do, but I should add another aspect - the political aspect. The defence, political and economic aspects are the principal aspects of matters that are concerning all the democratic countries at this time. If I am asked to say whether the present trend of events and the changed Soviet policy should lead to a reduction of Australia’s defence measures, I should say most certainly not. I should say also that that would be true of all the democratic countries. I believe that this alleviation - or liberalization, if we so like to describe it - of Soviet policy has been brought about by, as much as anything else, the strength of the democracies. If that strength were allowed to be seriously dissipated, I should expect Russian policy to change again. That, again, is not a subject with which one can deal in a moment or two. I have given what have seemed to me, from the commonsense point of view, to be the obvious answers, but the subject is one which could be dealt with at very much greater length.
– I direct to the Minister for Territories questions concerning the establishment of native co-operatives in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea some little time ago. First, are the cooperatives proving to be a success? Secondly, have they been subjected to any criticism? Thirdly, if a native does not join a co-operative voluntarily, are any means used to induce him to join?
– I shall answer the honorable member’s questions in the order in which they were asked. I should say that the success of the native co-operative movement in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is illustrated by the figures which indicate their expansion during recent years. Drawing on my memory, I. think that the value of the annual turnover of co-operatives in New Guinea has risen during the term of the present Government from something like £50,000 to close on £1,000,000, and the capital value” shows a corresponding increase. They undoubtedly constitute a very successful means - one which is favoured by this Government - of enabling the indigenous people of the Territory to take part in the development of its resources, la answer to the honorable member’s second question, I say that there may be some criticism of co-operatives. T should think that such criticism is sporadic and not sustained, and conies chiefly from those who, in any particular locality, may be affected by the activities of the co-operatives. For instance, if a man is conducting a store, he may feel quite legitimately that a co-operative store conducted by the native people themselves sets up competition to hi? own business activities. I do not think the criticism would be of a more serious kind Minn that. The third question related to *hp membership of those co-operatives and whether any compulsion wa3 used to make natives join them. Again I cannot cite every instance, but, speaking in general terms, 1 know of no case of compulsion, and compulsion to join a cooperative would not be consistent with policy. Our policy is that, when the point arises where the economic interests of the native people and their capacity to participate in economic development can only be served by a cooperative, we certainly use administrative officers to help them to organize a co-operative and to show them the way in which it should be run. We also train the native people as storemen and clerks to conduct the affairs of co-operative societies, but we regard the co-operative societies as a response to the needs of the natives and not as something to be imposed upon them at our direction.
– I desire to ask the Minister for External Affairs a question arising from that asked by the honorable member for Yarra.
– Make it easy.
– I will endeavour to make it easy. It is really a simple question. The right honorable gentleman had three questions put to him, and admitted that he could not deal with them on thi? occasion because they were most important. Has the Minister arranged, that there will be some debate before the House adjourns on these great questions, in all of which Australia is so vitally concerned ?
– I hope very much that such a debate will take place.
. - hy leave - On Wednesday last the report of the Public Accounts Committee on the Department of Civil Aviation was tabled in this House. It is a long and involved document and careful study is required in its reading. Undoubtedly it contains many valuable conclusions. I do” not intend to evaluate the report at this stage but to correct some most unfortunate comment in the press and elsewhere concerning that section of the report dealing with Sydney - KingsfordSmith - airport.
Traditionally, silence is imposed on public servants under the hot fire of criticism. In this instance I find the criticism so severe that, in the interests of justice and fairness, I must speak on behalf of senior officers of the Department of Civil Aviation, and others, too, whose professional reputations must undoubtedy be damaged if I fail to do so.
Honorable members will appreciate that the estimate of £5,000,000 for the cost of the Sydney airport was made in October, 1945, and it is understandable that the cost eleven years later has increased to £8,500,000. The Public Accounts Committee accepted this increase as more or less reasonable and inevitable, but suggested that little interest was shown by the engineers of the Department of Civil Aviation in the upward variations of the estimates. They referred particularly to an increase of £500,000 in July, 1955, on an estimate prepared in 1954 - just eight months previously. In paragraph 110 of the report the committee says -
Inaccuracies of this magnitude might well be regarded as prima facie evidence of a deplorable lack of efficiency.
It is important to note here that the final phrase “ deporable lack of efficiency “ was lifted out of its context, in some cases, and used as a basis for general criticism.
I feel that it is my duty to present the facts of this additional amount of £500,000 to the House. In paragraph 108 of the report, a committee member is quoted as saying -
I would have thought that you would have had a system under which, if costs incurred were found to be substantially in excess of estimates, there would be a high level investigation as to the reasons so that it would not happen again.
In actual fact, Mr. Deputy Speaker, what the committee member thought should happen does, in fact, happen, and it did happen on the occasion in question. Many points raised in the period covered by the committee occurred before I became Minister, but this particular increase came during my own administration, and, therefore, I have personal knowledge of it. The facts are that, in May, the Department of Civil Aviation advised me that the Department of Works had requested an increase of approximately £500,000 in the funds for Sydney airport. I immediately instructed the Director-General of Civil Aviation to inquire as to the reason for this increase so soon after the November figure. This was done and, as a result, a letter was received from the Director-General of Works explaining the reasons for the sudden increase.
These reasons advanced by the DirectorGeneral of Works were checked by engineers of the Department of Civil Aviation and appeared quite valid. However, the amount being of such magnitude, I had an itemized table of every phase of the work prepared by the Director of Airports, Dr. K. N. E. Bradfield, and engineers and surveyors of both the Department of Civil Aviation and the Department of Works. I will not worry the House with a long recital of the variations in the cost of individual items, which were checked, but these go in detail right down to drains, ashes, fencing and so on. I ask the House for leave to incorporate these relevant statistics in Hansard. There are seven pages of them, and I should not like to weary the House by reading them.
– Is leave granted ?
– No; I will not concur. I shall explain why later.
Leave not granted.
– With these figures, and accompanied by engineers of both the departments concerned, I myself then went to Sydney and, with the Department of Civil Aviation’s Regional Director, Wing Commander Hepburn, and the Airport Manager, Mr. Fraser, surveyed the whole project, inspecting and checking drainage, amounts of gravel, ashes, concrete, and every other item in the revised estimate prepared by the Department of Works. As a result, I agreed that the expenditure in the revised estimate was necessary and inescapable. However, this was not all. The amount being of great consequence, I referred the matter to Cabinet in Cabinet submission No. 43 of the 15th July, 1955. After a full investigation of all the circumstances and, I will remind honorable members, with Treasury examination and concurrence, the revised estimate was approved.
At this stage, I would remind the House of the statement in the committee’s report that “ inaccuracies of this magnitude might well be regarded as prima facie evidence of a deplorable lack of efficiency “. I submit, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that, on the contrary, the facts establish the most conscientious application of all concerned to their obligations and duties. The House will have noted that the phrase “ deplorable lack of efficiency “ has been lifted out of its context and used as a basis for criticism of a general character. Thus, Dr. Bradfield and other senior officers of both departments have been subjected to the gravest charges, not merely against their professional ability but their professional integrity, and I trust that this statement to the House will put their records straight. It is regrettable that these officers and their families have been grievously humiliated by this unfortunate criticism. Dr. Bradfield’s distinguished father gave Sydney its world-famous bridge; in years to come, I believe his son will be as highly esteemed for the airport at Sydney - a task which he and his staff will have completed in the face of difficulties of the utmost technical and financial complexity. I lay on the table the following paper : -
Kingsford-Smith Airport - Expenditure - Ministerial Statement. and move -
That the paper be printed.
, - I should like to say a few words about the statement made by the Minister -for Civil Aviation (Mr. Townley). The statement deals with a report made by the Public Accounts Committee - a most important document - on the administration from a financial point of view of the department administered by the Minister. It is signed by ten members of the Parliament, six of whom belong to one or other of the Government parties, and four to the Opposition party. The criticism in it is obviously independent and non-partisan. The committee’s investigation was obviously aimed only at ascertaining the facts, and its report contains detailed grounds for every one of its findings. In answer to that report, the Minister has come into this House and made an ex parte statement.
The statement is obviously not his own; it was obviously not written by him ; and it deals with only one aspect of the report.
– I wrote every word of the statement.
– I was trying to spare the Minister. I could not believe that any one would make such a statement without having himself investigated the department’s accounts. The Minister now wishes to cite a huge number of statistics in answer to this very serious criticism. I do not think he should be allowed to do so. If the Public Accounts Committee, having investigated the facts, makes a finding, the Minister concerned should ensure that the committee has an opportunity to consider any additional facts that he may wish to place before it.
The report is a most scathing indictment of the administration of the Department of Civil Aviation. It does not deal only with the question of the Mascot aerodrome. The Minister has picked one item of about 30 in relation to which his administration is condemned. At page 82 of the report, for instance, the committee pointed out the fact that the department does not normally prepare a statement of revenue and expenditure. Then it says, at page 83 -
The Balance-sheet is not a satisfactory statement.
It criticizes the administration of the department in relation to local authorities, and then it comes to its findings regarding Mascot. All that the Minister has done is to include in this document a copy of a Cabinet agendum which he had submitted for the confidential information of Cabinet.
– I rise to order. The right honorable gentleman has said that I have included in my statement a Cabinet document.
– I said the Minister had referred to it.
– I said that I had referred to a number of Cabinet submissions, and the Leader of the Opposition said that I had included one of them in my statement.
– If the Minister claims to have been misrepresented he may make a personal explanation later.
– The Minister said-
The amount being of great consequence, I referred the mutter to Cabinet in Cabinet submission No. 43 of the15th July, 1955.
If herelies in any way upon that document, which he laid before the Cabinet, he will have to produce it to this House. If he does not, it should be dismissed from consideration. That is obvious to any one with experience of Cabinet procedure. The report deals with matters concerning Mascot, and the committee makes the following criticism : -
We were surprised at the attitude shown by the Director-General to the failure of the Department of Works to supply statements of progressive costs of the developmental projects of the Department of Civil Aviation.
It also says, in paragraph 29 -
The way in which these Estimates were made and altered does not reflect credit upon the Department.
But that is only part of the story. This non-partisan committee, representative of all sections of the Parliament, said, at page 84 of its report -
Your Committee were told that the Department of Civil Aviation had not the faintest idea whether money voted would be spent within the financial year. This unconcern with finance is characteristic.
Here is a wholesale indictment of the department. I can give a dozen other instances. Further criticism appears in the report at page 84, paragraphs 40, 41, 42 and 43 ; at page 85, paragraphs 54, . 56, 57, 59 and 75; at page86, paragraph 81; and at page 88, paragraph 116. These criticisms appear in a mere summary of findings. The report does not contain the wholeof the evidence.
The Public Accounts Committee has made some pretty severe criticisms of departmental administration under the present Government, but there has never been a report by that committee so sweeping in condemnation as this one. It is quite correct for the Minister to move that the paper he printed, and I ask leave to continue my remarks.
– Ah !
– Otherwise, I shall have to go through every paragraph. It was the Minister who moved that the paper be printed.
– Is leave granted ?
Government Supporters. - No !
Leave not granted.
– The Leader of the Opposition should make his remarks now.
– As leave has been refused, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall complete my remarks by saying that the Minister has put before the House a number of submissions in an endeavour to answer a portion of the criticism contained in this report. It is not satisfactory that the House should accept the Minister’s statement at this stage. If the Minister has any further information on these matters which is relevant to the findings of the committee, it should be placed before the committee, which is the proper constitutional tribunal to consider it. That is my first point. Secondly, if it is desired to open up a debate on administration of the Department of Civil Aviation from the financial point of view, I submit that all the matters that I have referred to briefly must be discussed by the House.
Those are my comments on this attempt to gloss over, without any really full examination, a portion of this very serious report concerning the financial administration of the Department of Civil Aviation.
– It is a popular practice nowadays to criticize the administration of top public servants. That is a fact of which we are all well aware. Whether that criticism is justified is another matter, but I think all honorable members will agree that on many occasions a committee such as the Public Accounts Committee has quite erroneously castigated public servants without giving them the right of reply. As far as the officers of the Department of Works are concerned, the report deals with matters regarding which they were not given the opportunity to give evidence.
– I rise to order. The Minister has reflected upon the integrity of a committee appointed by this Parliament.
Government Supporters. - Ah!
– Never mind about “ Ah “. I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether the Standing Orders protect the integrity of committees appointed by the Parliament from imputations such as have been made by the Minister.
– Order ! The committee has not been criticized by the Minister.
– I do not propose to deal with this matter at any great length, because obviously there is a great deal of business to be dealt with by the Parliament regarding this and related matters. However. I point out, first, that the committee’s report was based on estimates made in . 1946. As the committee knows, or should know from the wealth of figures that it has seen during the course of its work, costs in 1952 were not less than two and a half times as great as costs in 1946. In 1956, costs are three times as great as would have been estimated in 1946. That is the first point to be considered. When this job was first undertaken, consideration was given to the type of aircraft then being flown, and the type of control systems required. In the course of time, and having regard to developments in aviation, changes have necessarily been made to the specifications. The next point that arises is that not only was a substantial proportion of the costs involved in relation to the aerodrome job outside the control of the Department of Works, but, also the jobs themselves were not in fact done by the department. I refer to works carried out by the Department of Public Works, the Main Roads Department, and the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board, all being New South Wales State instrumentalities. Those works included the diversion of Cook’s River, the re-location of roads, the construction of bridges, and associated works. In respect of every one of those projects the estimates given in good faith earlier have had to be increased, but the Commonwealth Department of Works had no control over the estimates made by those New South Wales instrumentalities.
It is well known to any one associated technically with public works that in the early stages of projects such as the one under consideration, estimates have to be made before full design and engineering surveys can he made. That is a factor which has had some effect on the costs of this project. If a non-technical committee of this kind is to criticize the manner in which technical works are carried out, I suggest that it should at least hear technical evidence from the departmentsconcerned.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) put -
That the debate be adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I lay on the table the following paper : -
Australian National Flag - Rules for flying the flag.
Honorable members will recall that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), shortly before his departure overseas, promised to make these rules available to the House. The Prime Minister mentioned, on the 1st May, 1956, that the rules had been drawn up by his department, and had been used over a number of years as a basis for replies to questions about the correct use of the Australian flag. It is evident that some people are still in some doubt about what (.he Australian national flag is, and how it should be flown.
It is hoped that the publication of these rules will, in the future, ensure uniformity in these matters throughout the Commonwealth. The Government believes that respect for the Australian national flag is the patriotic duty of all Australian citizens. If the flag is known and respected it will always be used in a manner befitting the national emblem. It was for this reason that sanctions against the improper use of the flag were not provided. It is not considered necessary at this stage to promulgate the rules under the Flags Act. In tabling the rules, I should like to mention that the Government is anxious to encourage the widest possible use of the Australian national flag by Australian citizens, who may fly it at any time, subject to these rules.
– I commend the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Arthur Fadden) upon having tabled these rules. Will he consider, during the recess, the advisability of making these rules regulations so that they shall have the force of law?
– As I have stated, the Government hopes that it will not be necessary to do as the honorable member suggests. However, if the Government finds that the rules are not being observed it will naturally give consideration to his suggestion.
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare that the Australian
Coastal Shipping Commission Bill is an urgent bill.
Question put -
That the bill be considered an urgent bill.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
– I move -
That the time allotted in connexion with the bill be as follows: -
for the committee stage -
to the end of clause 14, until 4.15 p.m. this day.
to the end of clause 16, until 4.45 p.m. this day.
to the end of clause 39, until 5.15 p.m. this day.
to the end of clause 43, until 5.45 p.m. this day.
remainder of committee stage, until 5.50 p.m. this day.
For the remaining stages, until 5.55 p.m. this day.
I have proposed this motion because of what occurred in this chamber last Friday. There was deliberate obstruction by the Opposition to the passage of this measure. The arrangements that had been made were violated. We saw the argument that occurred in the corner between the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). The members of the Opposition banded together to obstruct the passage of the bill. I have no doubt that soon members of the Opposition will rise in their places and say that what is proposed now is a scandalous procedure and a frustration of democracy. But you will remember, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that although those terms were used by members of the Opposition when the “ guillotine “ was applied to the Broadcasting and Television Bill 1956 a few weeks ago, they did not take up the whole of the time allotted for the discussion of that measure. They failed to take advantage of almost an hour’s debating time. That fact shows clearly that they are indulging only in a political manoeuvre when they rise to object whenever the “ guillotine “ procedure is proposed.
The Opposition has tried deliberately to obstruct this Government from doing its duty. The honorable member for East Sydney was the worst offender last Friday. He took advantage of every opportunity to prevent the bill from going through.
– Because you gagged me.
– I applied the gag because the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith broke the arrangement that had been made about calling for quorums. That arrangement was made so that the business of the House could proceed. The honorable member for East Sydney will never live up to an obligation. He is quite incapable of understanding the meaning of an obligation. I have proposed this motion so tha t we can proceed with the business of the House in a legitimate and orderly way.
– When the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) pretends to be passionate about a matter, the House should consider his real object. His real object in this instance is, not to protest against anything that occurred on Friday, but to hurry through the House a vital bill which affects the administration of valuable assets at present controlled by the Australian Shipping Board. The bill contains no fewer than 50 clauses.
– It is organized warfare now.
– We are quite used to that. The gentleman organizing it is the Vice-President of the Executive Council. He has talked about breaches of arrangements. I think my colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), will show that the breach of the arrangements was a breach committed by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, not by us.
– Why did you argue with the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) in the corner ?
– I did not argue with him at all.
– You did. The whole House saw you.
– I did not know that your spy system operated as well as that.
– We were in the House. We could not help but see it.
– Order ! The House will come to order.
– The bill contains 50 clauses. We are up to clause 4 now, so 46 clauses will have to be disposed of in 120 minutes from now. That is an average of a little over two minutes for a clause. Some of the clauses are formal, but many of them are of vital importance. Clauses 18 and 19, for example, deal with the freight charges that will be fixed by the Minister and the principles upon which the new commission shall base its charges. Are the members of the Australian Country party interested in those questions, or does two minutes for a clause represent the extent of their interest? Clauses 28, 29 and 30 impose a heavy financial burden upon the commission. Our submission is that that is being done purposely with a view to making the efficient administration of the government-owned line completely impossible. Let me refer the House also, just by way of illustration, to paragraphs (c) and (e) of clause 49 (1.). Those provisions give to the commission a regulation-making power for what is called the maintenance of order in connexion with the operation of shipping services. Clearly, that includes a power, over and above anything contained in other legislation, to penalize seamen for stoppages.
I say that the time allotted for the con sideration of these clauses is completely inadequate. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, before leaving for England, has sung what he possibly regards as his swan song, but it may well prove to be his goose song. The fact is that the Government knows that this bill is really an attempt to take the ships away from the people, not by direct sale, but by making impossible their management and successful financing, and then hand them over to its friends in the shipping combine of Australia.
.- First, I remind the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Erie Harrison), who is the Leader of the House, looks more like a gander than a goose. Next, I must take up the cudgels on behalf of the Australian Country party. On Friday last, with the full connivance of the Leader of the Opposition, 22 members of the Australian Labour party who were in this chamber deliberately set out to obstruct the passage of this bill, to such a degree that there were twelve divisions. If the counting of each division took four minutes, which is the shortest possible time, 48 minutes were deliberately wasted by the Opposition on Friday afternoon. Opposition members now charge us with seeking to push this bill through. We want to get it through so that at long last we may achieve some sort of co-ordination and satisfaction in shipping services on the
Australian coast. I think that the Leader of the House, in applying the “guillotine “, is adopting the wisest possible course under democratic government, in view of the attitude of members of the Opposition last week in deliberately obstructing the passage of the bill.
– He has been too generous.
– The people of Australia will be thankful for his action. As my colleague, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) says, the Leader of the House has been too generous for too long to members of the Opposition. I violently disagree with the belief of members of the Opposition that justice can be done to the consideration of legislation by sitting here all night. I approve of the action which has been taken by the Leader of the House. It is supported by all members of the Australian Country party, for whom I speak.
– The position is simply that on Friday morning last I discussed, as I usually do at the opening of each day, the day’s business with the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison), who is the Leader of the House, and I assured him that in the committee stage the Opposition would take the bill as a whole. At that time the Government was finding it difficult to get speakers, and I asked the Leader of the House whether he would allow two of our members to speak in succession. A number of honorable members did speak that morning, several on the Government side and several on the Opposition side, and the Leader of the House told me that he would allow two speakers in succession after lunch. I told him that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) would be one of them. He asked me about the maintenance of a quorum and I told him that no action would be taken, so far as I could prevent, it, to call attention to the state of the House or the committee. I went amongst all honorable members on our side who were present and said, “ I want our leader and one other member to apeak this afternoon “. The other honorable member happened to be the honor able member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). I said, “Please don’t start calling for quorums “. Unfortunately,I did not. see the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin), who was not in his place at the time. When he came into the House he called attention to the state of the House and the Leader ofthe House then said to me, “ Well, that is the end of the arrangement. I will gag the measure I said, “ Yon cannot gag the Leader of the Opposition “. He said, “ No, I will not gag the Leader of the Opposition, but I will gag the next speaker “, and the next speaker happened to be the honorable member for East Sydney, a former Minister for Transport, who knows more about transport and shipping than does the present Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), or any other member of the present Ministry. But that is by the way; it just happened that the honorable member for East Sydney was to be the next speaker.
I thought that during the suspension of the sitting for lunch the Leader of the House would have forgotten, and that his anger would have subsided somewhat. I had no further conversation with him. When the Leader of the Opposition finished his speech, the Leader of the House moved the gag and it was carried. Three of my colleagues said to me, “ That breaks the arrangement that was made about the honorable member for East Sydney. We will not honour any arrangement about taking the bill as a whole in the committee stage. We will take retaliatory measures “, and they did so. I do not think that there can be any disagreement with my statement of the facts. The Opposition objects to the application of the “ guillotine “ to the debate upon this measure, because it is a very important measure, upon which we would like to offer a lot of criticism. Half an hour for a number of clauses is not a fair time for a national parliament to allow in the consideration of a measure of this sort.
.- The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison), who is the Leader of the House, has said that the “guillotine” is to be applied on account of the happenings of last Friday afternoon. My colleague, the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), has pointed out that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), in conjunction with other members of the Opposition, caused the holdup that occurred on Friday afternoon. I do not agree with my colleague. It is well known to all honorable members who were here on Friday afternoon that the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), tried to stop the unseemly conduct of members of the Opposition, but they were both overruled. They tried to get some order, but they could not do so. Other aspiring leaders went into action. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) took complete control of the Opposition from the leader and his deputy. Every one who was present knows that that is so. If evidence of that is desired, I read, as I am now allowed to do, from the Hansard report of the incident. This is the report of what happened on Friday afternoon after the Leader of the House had moved that the House at a later hour resolve itself into the committee of the whole -
Mr. Deputy Speaker requiring honorable members in favour to call “ Aye “ and against to call “ No “, and honorable members calling accordingly,
– I think the “ Ayes “ have it.
– The “ Noes “ have it.
– The honorable member is the only “ No “.
– I am not. I call for a division. I want my rights in this case.
– Order ! Will honorable members who desire division on the motion please stand?
Opposition members rising in their places,
– Order! The House will divide.
The Leader of the Opposition and his deputy did not rise in their places; they sat tight. All the others rose in their places.
– -Not all the others rose.
– Indeed, their leader advised them to read the names he had written on the back of his copy of the bill.
– Order ! There are too many cross interjections.
– The honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths), by interjection, has said that all the rest of the Opposition members did not rise. I will accept that. There are some other Opposition members who like order, too, and are agreeable to supporting their leader and deputy leader, but enough members rose to show that the authority of the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy has waned completely, and that the Opposition is in the charge of other persons.
– We are not a totalitarian party.
– The honorable member for East Sydney should not look so cross about this matter. He received certain allegiance from members of his party who do not feel obliged to support their leader and deputy leader. Those members have transferred their allegiance to him. He should not be cross. In fact, he can hardly refrain from smiling because he is so pleased about these happenings, but if I were in the position of his leader or deputy leader I should not be very pleased. The honorable member for Melbourne said that he omitted to tell the honorable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr. Curtin) about the arrangement he had made with the Leader of the House. I wish to know why such a number of Opposition members spoke to the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith after progress had been reported and before he left the chamber. Why did they speak to him in no uncertain manner about his actions? I suggest that if the Deputy Leader of the Opposition told us the whole facts he would say that the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith was aware of the arrangement that had been made with the Leader of the House but preferred to oppose it and throw everything into the chance of getting his real leader, the honorable member for East Sydney, to join with him. I read recently that both of them have been appointed as parliamentary representatives on the new executive of the Australian Labour party in New South Wales. Any move by the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith to help his real leader in these matters would be appreciated by certain sections of the Australian Labour party, and no doubt he acted with that in view.
When Labour was in power the “ guillotine “ was continually applied, and on much less favorable terms than it is being applied to-day, but when Labour Ls in opposition it says, “ The application of the ‘ guillotine ‘ is contrary to democracy “, and makes all those other catcalls to which we have become accustomed. Some new members, even on our side, may say, “ This action is hardly fair”, but they were not here when Labour was in power before 1949. I enjoyed that privilege, if one could call it a privilege, and I know what occurred. Let Labour members who have come into this House only recently read Hansard and learn how the “ guillotine “ was used in those days and what a short time was allowed for the consideration in committee of most important bills such as the banking measures. Therefore, I say that the present Opposition is making only a fake protest. It is not acting in accordance with the true principles even of the Australian Labour party, and it is certainly not acting in accordance with the principles of democracy.
– The remarks of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) and the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) were completely irrelevant to the matter under discussion. The Government is attempting to impose a time limit on the consideration of one of the most important measures ever introduced in this Parliament. Every one should know that this bill concerns the fate of 50 magnificent ships owned by the people of Australia. The time allotted for the consideration of clauses 4 to 14 inclusive ended at 4 p.m.
– It will not end until 4.15 p.m.
– In any event, the time allowed is quite inadequate. The roneo-ed copy of the motion that I have shows that the time for the consideration of clauses 4 to 14 ended at 4 p.m.
– No. The honorable member is working under the old award! The times were changed after the motion had been roneo-ed.
– We are allowed only until 4.15 p.m. for the consideration of clauses 4 to 14, but the discussion of the motion, which was moved by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, has already lost us fifteen minutes.
– The Opposition has caused it to be lost.
– We shall have only until 4.15 p.m. to discuss clauses 4 to 14, and we shall then have half an hour to discuss clauses 15 and 16. It must not be forgotten that there are 123 members in this House.
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of the motion has expired.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 3347) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Yes “. There will be no discussion on clauses 4 to 14.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 15th June (vide page 3330).
Clauses 4 to 14 - by leave - taken together.
– I call the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam).
– Mr Temporary Chairman, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order ! A personal explanation is not appropriate at this stage.
Mr. WHITLAM (Werriwa) [4.13J. - Under the time limit imposed, the committee now has only two minutes in which to discuss clauses 4 to 14 both inclusive.
Conversation being audible,
-Order ! I ask the committee to come to order.
– What did you mean, Mr. Temporary Chairman, by your statement that it was not appropriate for the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) to make a personal explanation? A personal explanation may be made at any time.
– Order ! The honorable member for Werriwa may proceed.
– The Opposition objects to clause 4, which reads -
The Shipping Act 1949 is repealed.
We object to the repeal of that act, because the greatest safeguards that the Australian shipping and shipbuilding industries have ever had will be repealed with it. Section 29 of the 1949 act provides that ships may be built in Australia only under licence, and it stipulated certain standards of construction in the interests of defence.
Conversation being audible,
– Order ! There is too much disorderly conversation.
– Section 30 of that act provided that ships could not operate on the Australian coast unless they were under 24 years of age and were of Australian construction. Both those safeguards will be removed automatically by clause 4 of this bill. I would point out that, whatever may be said about the licensing provisions of the 3949 act, similar provisions have, in fact, been in force ever since 1817 in the United States of America, which has the largest merchant marine in the world. No ships are allowed to operate on the American coast unless they are registered and built in the United States.
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of clauses 4 to 14 has expired.
Question put -
That clauses 4 to 14 be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. j. McLeay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN Let rue hear the personal explanation.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member is out of order. He is dealing with an incident that occurred in the House, and it does not concern this committee.
Clauses 15 and 16 - by have - taken together.
– In the limited time at our disposal, which is just about 22½ minutes, I hope to be able to direct attention to a most important provision of this legislation. Clause 16 deals with the powers of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. The powers of the commission, under sub-clause (2.), paragraph (h), are said to be, “ subject to the approval of the Minister, to engage in stevedoring operations”. It is the intention of the Government that the commission which will operate Commonwealth ships shall not engage in stevedoring operations unless the private shipping companies, with which are allied the stevedoring companies, agree that the commission shall engage in stevedoring operations. So, even if, by some chance, a commission is established which will really develop the Commonwealth shipping line within the limitations proposed by this legislation the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) could prevent the commission from engaging in stevedoring operations. This would give the private shipping companies the opportunity that they want, through stevedoring operations, to sabotage the operation of the Commonwealth shipping line.
That is a practice that they already adopt. As everybody knows, the Government permits the private shipping companies to act as agents for the Commonwealth ships. They are not operated by the Government. They are Commonwealthowned ships but they are operated by the private shipping companies, acting as agents for the Commonwealth.
The thing that amazes me, having regard to the present set-up, is that the Commonwealth ships were ever able to made a profit. Had it not been, for th fact that a far-sighted leader of a. Labour government arranged for the appointment of Mr. Dewey us geneva! manager of the Commonwealth shipping line - and Mr. Dewey believed in the Commonwealth shipping line, and wanted to develop it, and opposed the policy of the present Government - the Commonwealth-owned ships would be operating at a loss to-day. Mr. Dewey has been sacked by this Government. Of course, the Government will say that his term of appointment had expired; but Mr. Dewey was always anxious to get an extension of his period of managership provided he was allowed to administer the line in the manner that lie wished to administer it, and that it would not be crippled. But, because the Government was satisfied that Mr. Dewey was not a man who would give effect to its policy, it has displaced him.
What is happening under the new managership? I think it was one of the members of the Government who made reference to the fact that in this year of operations the profit from the Commonwealth ships was much less than it was in the preceding few years. How could it be otherwise? Let me give the committee two illustrations of sabotage recently brought to my notice by men who are working on the waterfront. We hear members of the Australian Country party, in particular, talking about the slow turnround of ships and one would imagine, after listening to them, that the slow turn-round resulted from unwillingness by the waterside workers and seamen to work hard enough. As a matter of fact, members of the Waterside Workers Federation, and seamen, have continually complained to those in authority of the actions of the present control in sabotaging the Commonwealth shipping line and making it impossible for it to be an efficient organization. Here are two cases which occurred recently, which will illustrate what has been going on.
On Monday, the 11th June - only a week or so ago - the Commonwealth ship Tyalla was tied up at No. 8 wharf, Pyrmont, in Sydney. It was loading material and equipment for the Royal Australian Air Force at Darwin. Men on the 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift were issued with overalls so that they could load cement. That is the normal practice. After they had been issued with their overalls they were left idle until 6.50 p.m., but not at their own wish. They were engaged to start work at 5 p.m., but the first sling load of cement was loaded aboard the vessel at 6.50 p.m. ! The men loaded 5 tons of cement, and then stood idle because there was no additional cargo available to go aboard the ship. Then, although only 5 tons of cement had been loaded on the vessel during the several days it was tied up at that wharf, the men were paid dirt money from 5 p.m. on the Monday right up until the Thursday. The Macquarie Stevedoring Company Proprietary Limited, which acts as an agent of the Commonwealth shipping line in this particular instance paid these men dirt money although they had loaded only 5 tons of cement, and when the prevailing practice is not to pay dirt money until 20 tons of particular types of cargo have been handled. It is quite obvious why the stevedoring company did not worry about the costs in this instance, because, when the company acts as agent for the Commonwealth shipping line, it works on a 10 per cent, cost-plus basis, which means that the higher the company’s expenses in stevedoring operations on Commonwealth ships, the greater is its 10 per cent, margin on costs.
On the Thursday night, the men working on this same vessel were told to break up bundles of cypress pine to lay across the top of the cargo already loaded because, they were informed, there were to be 30-ton lifts coming aboard at Newcastle - that is, that crates containing material and equipment for the Royal Australian Air Force at Darwin, each weighing 30 tons loaded, were to be shipped at Newcastle. The members of the Waterside Workers Federation immediately protested against this proposal, on the ground that the placement of 30-ton lifts on top of the cypress pine would destroy this valuable timber. Yet the waterside workers are supposed to be irresponsible ! In this instance these allegedly irresponsible men were watching the interests of the Commonwealth, which are the interests of the people of Australia. And what happened when the members of the Waterside Workers
Federation protested against this proposal? Captain Parker of the Macquarie Stevedoring Company Proprietary Limited - I understand all the company’s employees are called captains, from the office hoy up - advised the men not to worry, because the Commonwealth had plenty of money. That was the advice given to members of the Waterside Workers Federation who protested against a proposal that would ruin a valuable cargo.
I turn now to another illustration of what is happening. The illustrations I am giving are indicative of what has been going on ever since private shipping companies have had a hand in the direction of the Commonwealth shipping line. Another Commonwealth line ship, Enfield, was tied up at Phoenix wharf in Sydney. Again, the Macquarie Stevedoring Company Proprietary Limited, a private stevedoring company which acts as agent for the Commonwealth, was handling this vessel. The company took a gang from the forward part of the ship, which was due to finish at 11 p.m., and engaged it for work the following day. The gang had finished the work on which it had been engaged, and was discharged at 9.45 p.m.; so on that particular night the gang had another one and a quarter hours for which it could have worked before completing its shift. The members of the gang were sent home at 9.45, but were brought in the following morning to do work lasting for half an hour. For doing that half hour’s work they were paid for four hours’ work, as is their due under the existing award, because four hours is the minimum period for which waterside workers may be engaged. The members of the Waterside Workers Federation on that job have told me that the work that they did on the morning in question could have been completed on the previous night, by working through the tea break which, T understand, is permissible under the award. But the Macquarie Stevedoring Company Proprietary Limited did not worry. I repeat, the men who were due to knock off work at 11 p.m. were discharged from work at 9.45 p.m., although they were paid until 11 p.m., and were brought on the next day and paid for four hours work for working for half an hour on a job that they could have done the previous night. And the reason for this is that the Macquarie Stevedoring Company Proprietary Limited is paid on a 10 per cent, cost-plus basis by the Commonwealth. That is why the company has been running up costs in the handling of Commonwealth steamers.
It is a well-known fact that when a private stevedoring company is handling a Commonwealth ship, and a private ship arrives and needs handling, the Commonwealth ship is pushed out into the stream, and its loading or unloading interrupted so that there may be continuous operations cn the privately owned vessel. So if a commission is to be established to run the Commonwealth shipping line, why should it not be given power to engage in stevedoring operations without having to have the Minister’s permission to do so ? Why cannot the commission be allowed to establish its own stevedoring organization? The reason is simply that the private shipping companies which, in common with other big business in Australia, control this Government, have ruled that their control of the Commonwealth shipsshall remain. The important weapon of control that these companies have in relation to Commonwealth ships is their control of stevedoring operations. This great organization.–
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I support the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward ) entirely in his quick summing up of the measure before us. The manner in which the Government is pushing this bill through all stages makes a shambles of the proceedings, because we have to try to give our opinions on the measure in a very short space of time indeed. The bill can be justly described as a shipowners’ bill. The Government has had three propositions before it. Clause 15 sets out the functions of the proposed commission and clause 16 sets out its powers. The Government has had three bites at this cherry, the cherry being the 43 Commonwealth-owned vessels. For several years the Government tried to sell them to private shipping companies but failed to do so because the companies could not, or would not, meet some of the conditions of sale. The Government’s second proposition was that a corporation should be formed, with the Government owning 51 per cent, of the shares and the private shipping companies the remaining 49 per cent. That proposal also somehow came to nothing. The private shipping companies therefore pressed the Government still further in order to let them get their hands on those ships. The measure now before us is the result of their negotiations. The private shipping companies have forced the Government to accept their proposal that they should run the Commonwealth-owned vessels through a commission. f have in my hand a copy of the legislation that was introduced by the Labour Government in March, 1949. Under that bill, Labour created a separate Commonwealth shipping line, to be run by the Australian Shipping Board. It was to compete in every respect with the private companies and was to handle its own ships. This Government has gone back to that legislation, and now proposes to establish a commission to consist, as did the Australian Shipping Board, of five members. As we compare the 1949 legislation with the measure now before us, we see the subtle alterations that have been made in order to give effect to this Government’s proposal to hand over the running of the ships to private enterprise. Section 5 of the 1949 act was the section under which Labour established a separate shipping line to compete with the private companies; but the Government has omitted that provision from this measure because it does not intend to establish a separate shipping line. It proposes, instead, to incorporate the 42 Commonwealthowned vessels in a private enterprise set-up. With the exception of the use of the word “ Commission “ instead of the word “ Board “, clauses 15 and 16 of this bill, almost in their entirety, have been taken out of the original legislation. That might seem to be quite innocuous, but it must be realized that these vessels will not constitute a separate line as was intended originally, but will be incorporated, as I have already slated, in a private-enterprise combine.
The Australian Coastal Shipping Commission will doubtless consist of five eminent shipowners drawn from private enterprise. Tasmanian members of the Parliament have been fighting to have a Tasmanian appointed to the commission so that that island State would be represented - utterly dependent as we are on shipping. Air transport handles only about 5 per cent, of the import and export traffic between Tasmania and the mainland. I think that the Government should consider the appointment of a representative from Tasmania. Claus 16 contains all the elements of a monopoly. The commission will be able to carry on the general business of a shipowner, to purchase and lease ships, to dispose of ships, and to dispose of land, buildings, wharfs, plant, equipment and stocks. In addition, it will be able to appoint agents for the purpose of carrying on its business. That clause provides definitely for private enterprise control of government-owned vessels. As will be observed to-night when we are considering another measure, the Government, by introducing this bill, has made true competition absolutely impossible. Government-owned ships will no longer be competing with private enterprise in the truest sense of the term.
– How does the honorable member know?
– It is here in the bill in black and white. When this bill becomes law, to all intents and purposes competition will be crushed. Yet this Government is the champion of private enterprise and competition !
– When it suits it.
– As the honorable member for Watson (Mr. CorE) says, when it suits it. Under this legislation, the Government will crush competition and will create one great private monopoly. I must concede that this is a very cunning, very subtle, and very clever bill. By introducing this measure, the Government is flying in the face of its own philosophy of allowing competition between private enterprises or between private enterprise and Government enterprise. For two reasons, competition from the Commonwealth-owned vessels will, to all intents and purposes, cease. First, the tonnage will be restricted to 325,000 tons and secondly, Commonwealth-owned vessels will be used on difficult developmental routes and will carry cargoes that attract the lowest freight rates. Let honorable members wait and see if I am not right when I say that cargoes that attract the lowest freight rates will be allotted to vessels operated by the commission, which really are our ships. As I have already stated, competition will be crushed out by this measure, which steamrolls across the Commonwealth shipping framework that the Labour party would like to see retained. The bill very effectively places in leg irons the existing 42 vessels and another thirteen ships that will come off the slips within the next two years. The maximum number of ships that the commission will be able to operate under this legislation is 56. The commission will not be allowed to expand its tonnage beyond 325,000 tons, but private enterprise has no restrictions placed upon it by this bill. It can develop, it can build ships, it can do whatever it likes; no restrictions are placed on it. When honorable members read the bill, and particularly clause 16, they will note the bad effect it will have. Private members of the Parliament have always been able to make representations to the Australian Shipping Board to get extra vessels to transport such commodities as potatoes and timber from Tasmania to the mainland, but to whom are we to go now?
– To the commission.
– Yes, to the commission, but we will now have to follow the labyrinthine ways of private enterprise. We may be lucky enough to get to the top man eventually, but by that time it will be too late. I cannot see how private members will be able to obtain any satisfaction as a result of making representations to the proposed commission. We always felt that the board wanted to help us and, as a result of direct representation, it has helped us time and time again. But the proposed commission will be a private-enterprise commission, and only if our desires fit in with its wishes will we be able to obtain any assistance from it. We will not be able to obtain assistance from the commission as quickly or as effectively as we obtained it from the board. That is a very serious thing.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) said that the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission will be run by private enterprise, and that it will be a monopoly. I do not agree with that statement, because the commission will consist of men who will use their own judgment about how it shall be run. If it is conducted on private-enterprise principles, surely that will be ever so much better than having it run on socialist principles. The honorable member for Wilmot said - and I wrote down his words as he spoke - “ This allows the commission to do whatever it likes, and no restriction is placed on it”. But 1 remind him that clause 16 (3.) reads -
The commission shall not, except with the approval of the Minister, purchase or dispose of assets for a consideration exceeding Fifty thousand pounds.
Let me repeat what the honorable member said. I wrote down his words, and Hansard will prove me to be correctHe said, “ The commission is allowed under this to do whatever it likes, and no restriction is placed on it “.
– I said the private shipowners were allowed to do whatever thev liked.
– The honorable member for Wilmot said that the private shipowner? were allowed to do whatever they liked.
– I say that he did not say that. However, even if he said that the shipowners would be allowed to do as they liked, I point out that the private shipowners will have to act through the commission, and that the commission will not allow certain things to be done. Therefore, the honorable member’s statement is wrong. We have heard a member of the Australian Labour party talk about competition, but I remind the committee that the Labour party wanted to crush private enterprise out of the shipping industry and have only a government instrumentality, just as it did when it wanted to nationalize banking. Everybody knows that. Did the Labour party want competition between the private banks and the Commonwealth Bank? No, it wanted a socialist monopoly. For the honorable member for Wilmot to say those things as though he were hurt must be beyond the comprehension of those who have listened to his remarks.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of clauses 15 and 16 has expired.
Question put -
That clauses 15 and 16 be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. j. McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 17 to 39 - by leave - taken together.
Clause 26 -
Nothing in this Act shall be deemed to prevent the making of an industrial award, order, determination or agreement under any Act (other than the Public Service Arbitration Act 1920-1955) in relation to persona appointed or employed under this Act or affect the operation of any such award, order, determination or agreement in relation to persons so employed.
– I move -
That after the word “ so “ the words “ appointed or “ he inserted.
This amendment is proposed in order to remove a minor drafting defect in clause 26. The object of the clause is to ensure that industrial awards under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and any other relevant Commonwealth acts may be made applicable to officers and employees of the commission. The expression “ persons appointed or employed under this Act “ is used in the clause and clearly covers both permanent officers and temporary or casual employees. However, the expression used later in the clause is “ persons so employed “. There is room for doubt whether that expression includes permanent officers. The amendment, therefore, proposes to substitute for the expression “ persons so employed “ the expression “ persons so appointed or employed “.
Amendment agreed to.
– I ask the Minister for Air (Mr. Townley) to look at clause 27 and, if he will, to explain something that I cannot follow. Clause 27 of the bill is identical with section 39 (1.) of the Shipping Act 1949 except that in the words in clause 27 (1.) specifying the categories that are excluded from the operation of the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act, the expression “ not being casual employees “ appears. Those words do not appear in section 39 (1.) of the 1949 Act. It seems to me, reading the clause briefly, that a person other than a seaman casually employed by the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission would not be covered by this bill if he were injured. I ask the Minister to have some inquiries made and to compare clause 27 (1.) of this bill with section 39 (1.) of the Shipping Act 1949. He will find that the words “ not being casual employees “, which are included in this measure, were not included in the act.
I should also like some information from the Minister concerning the apparent lack in this bill of any consideration being given to the ability of the board to enter into contracts of insurance regarding passengers and goods carried. In the Shipping Act 1949, section 16 enabled the board, if it so desired, to enter into contracts of insurance covering passengers and goods carried in the board’s vessels. There is no specific clause in this bill covering that matter. It may be covered by the provisions regarding the general powers of the commission. However, I ask the Minister in charge of the bill to provide us with more information about that matter.
I wish now to refer to clauses 17, IS and 19 of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Bill. These clauses are linked together, because the provisions of clauses 18 and 19 are stated to be subject, in each case, to the last preceding clause. Therefore, these clauses form a trilogy of operation, and they contain the kernel of this bill as regards the charges that may be made by the board and the nature of the undertaking itself. It seems to me that these provisions highlight a problem that is faced by a government such as the present one in regard to public enterprises. The Government says that public enterprises should be run according t.< what it calls commercial tests, but the prime test of a public enterprise is not that of private profit, but of national interest. It is obvious from clause 17 that the Minister has in mind that there will sometimes be a clash between considerations of private profit and of national interest, because clause 17 envisages that certain routes will not Inpayable in the commercial sense. There seems to me to be some confusion as to where the functions of the Minister, tincommission and the general manager begin and end, but a determination will have to be made as to which of the routenow served by the Australian Shipping Board are commercially profitable and which are not. The Minister is definitely charged with the responsibility of separat - ing the activities of the commission in regard to the two classes of routes. Hiis also charged with the duty of achieving a balance between the annual revenue and outgoings of this undertaking. “Whether this equation is to be achieved each year or over a number of years is not stated. I would point out that English legislation on such matters as this allows ;i certain amount of elasticity, because it irealized that there is no guarantee initially, or even in any particular year, that a commercial undertaking, whether privately or publicly owned, will make n profit. In one year it may incur a loss-, while in another year it may make a considerable profit. The English legislation, therefore, allows some flexibility, and the revenue and expenditure ariexpected to balance not in a particular year, but over a period of years. The legislation contains words such as. “ taking one year with another “. “We have in this bill a delightfully vague clause regarding the financial operations of the proposed commission. There has been no attempt made, either here or in the Senate, to indicate what is regarded as “ a reasonable return on the capital of the commission “. Those words appear at the end of clause 18 (1.)- which provides that the commission shall be run so as to give a reasonable return on its capital. I ask the Minister in charge of the bill, and his disciples who sit behind him, what they regard as a reasonable return on the activities of the proposed commission, bearing in mind that the commission has certain onerous obligations from a commercial point of view. Some of its routes will not be payable, and if there is to be a reasonable return on the overall capital outlay, the rates charged on what might be called the commercially sound routes may become exorbitant.
Another problem chat faces the Minister is that, in the last analysis, he will have to approve the freight rates determined by the commission. That, I suggest, is a fairly heavy responsibility. The freight rates, or “ the rates of the charges “, as they are called in clause 19, will be ultimately subject to approval by the Minister. He will not determine them initially, but will have to approve of rates recommended by the members of the commission. What will happen if a difference of opinion arises between the Minister and the commission in regard to freight rates? We, on this side of the committee, suggest that the Minister himself should accept responsibility for the freight rates that are charged, and that the legislation should not be left in such a form as will require the Minister merely to give some vague approval. 1 know that the duties of the Minister in a matter such as this are very dim. cu.lt. Reference was made by the Minister to certain observations of the Public Accounts Committee when it examined the administration of the Postal Department recently. Every time a member of the committee asked any witness from the Postal Department such questions as, “ Why do you charge 3-Jd. postage for a letter?” or “Why do you charge 3d. for a telephone call “ or “ Why does it cost so much to register an article for transmission through the post”, the witness replied, “ That is government policy, in the long run, and it is the Government that makes the determination “. There was uo doubt, however, considering the undertaking as a whole, that the same test applied in regard to the Postal Department as is sought to be applied in the case of this proposed commission. In other words, the Postal Department revenue from all sources should roughly equal its expenditure in all directions.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) has asked two specific questions about clause 27. He asked why the casual employees of the commission are not covered by the compensation provisions. The reason is that they work for different authorities at different times, and it is thought far better, in those circumstances, that they should be covered by the appropriate State legislation.
– But another clause of the bill proposes that there shall be casual employees of the commission. They will not be employed by anybody else. They are casual employees of the commission. If they are injured while carrying out work for the commission, will they be eligible to receive compensation?
– Yes. Clause 27 provides that the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act shall apply to officers of the commission, other than seagoing employees.
– The clause contains the phrase, “ not being casual employees “, and there is an earlier clause that is relevant to this question.
– They may be waterside workers or other employees engaged casually, and they will be covered by the compensation legislation of the particular State. Surely that is fitting. The honorable member’s second question concerned the reason for the commission being prevented from having insurance powers over passengers and freight. It is provided that the commission shall have wide powers to deal with all aspects of shipping, and it will have authority, under the provision which covers its general powers, to do all the things that the honorable member mentioned.
– I refer the Minister to clause 24, which says that the commission may employ such temporary or casual employees as it thinks fit. I take it, therefore, that there will be casual employees of the commission who will be employed for, say, two or three months, and not employed by anybody else. It would seem to me that those employees, if injured,, would be debarred from receiving compensation by the provisions of clause 27 (1.).
– Not at all. They would have to be covered by the State legislation.
– ls any other honorable member to be allowed to speak, or is this a duet?
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney must come to order.
– Any one working for the commission for that length of time would not be a casual employee, and would be covered by clause 27.
– Such a person might be deemed a casual employee, the class mentioned in clause 24.
– The honorable member may rest assured that he would be covered.
.- I am very much concerned about clause 18, which requires the commission, which will control 50 of the people’s ships, to establish services on non-paying routes in certain circumstances. The Commonwealth ships might, for instance, be directed in the national interest to trade between port A and port B, though this might result in a substantial loss. Obviously, it would be a route on which no private shipping company was willing to operate, because private shipping companies operate only on those routes which are immediately profitable or are likely to become profitable after a reasonably short period. The commission will be reimbursed for any loss that it sustains in operating a particular route by direction.
– Only if it has not made a profit on its general operations.
– That is so. If there is an overall profit no reimbursement will be made. I admit frankly that this clause is on all fours with the clause in the 1949 act, but under this bill restrictions are to be imposed upon the commission that were never imposed on the Australian Shipping Board. Another factor must be taken into consideration when reviewing the overall situation. Every one knows that at the moment the Australian Shipping Board - the government shipping authority - is short of ships. Certain services which should be provided are not being provided and others, such as that to Tasmania, are inadequate. When the bill is passed the Australian Coastal
Shipping Commission, though lacking sufficient ships, could be ordered to divert a ship from a profitable route to one serving, say, Wyndham or Tasmania. Certainly, under clause 18 a measure of protection is afforded by the guarantee of a reimbursement in respect of the direct loss on such a route, but what of the los? that will be sustained through the withdrawal of a vessel from a profitable route such as that between Sydney and Melbourne, or between any other two major ports that one likes to name? What of the indirect loss caused by losing contact with customers, and sacrificing goodwill that has been built up on the existing, profitable route? In the absence of som< explanation to the contrary from the Minister, one must conclude that in such circumstances the commission would operate under a distinct disability.
Honorable members can imagine the result of taking a first-class Commonwealthowned vessel off the run between Sydney and Brisbane and putting iton the ground of public policy - on the- run from Melbourne to Wyndham. One can imagine the loss of goodwill and the subsequent loss in earnings. So far as 1 can see, the bill provides only for recoupment of the direct loss on the unprofitable route. No provision is made for the recoupment of other indirect losses incurred by relinquishing profitable routes. Such losses are not mere bookkeeping entries and cannot be measured in terms of money. One cannot measurethe result of a loss of goodwill, or of custom that would have been gained if a certain ship had not been diverted from a profitable route to another that was not so profitable.
The private shipping companies are in a special class. No one can say to them under the bill, “ You shall undertake some of these unprofitable runs, and you will be subsidized for doing so “. That policy was initiated, and pursued by, Labour administrations, and was pursued by this Government also until quite recently. With the passage of this measure, the paying of subsidies to the private shipowners will cease because honorable members may be sure that government-owned shipping will be diverted to the unprofitable runs so that the private companies will be able to operate their ships on the most profitable routes in Australia. That sort of thing has already developed and it will develop still further as a result of legislation enacted by this Government some time ago. Special concessions were handed out to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and other organizations competing with TransAustralia Airlines. Here we have a clause which is specially designed to bring about such a state of affairs in regard to the people’s ships. Clause 18 reads - (1.) Subject to its obligations under the last preceding section, the Commission shall pursue a policy directed towards securing revenue sufficient to meet all its expenditure properly chargeable to revenue, and to permit the payment to the Commonwealth of a reasonable return on the capital of the Commission.
The word “ pursue “ is used. The clause does not provide that the commission must pursue such a policy as to-
– The wording of the clause is “ shall pursue “.
– We know that that policy will be subject to curtailment - to put it kindly - by the unconscious prejudice of the commission. Every one realizes that the Government will select a commission, at least four-fifths of the members of which will be imbued, either consciously or unconsciously, with the idea that the undertaking must not operate profitably. The end result will be that the commission will never want to acquire more ships whereas the trade which will be left in the hands of the private companies will be so profitable that they will see to it that they obtain sufficient ships to meet their own needs. The people of this country will, through taxation, pay a 33½ per cent. subsidy on the construction of the ships for the private companies. The whole thing will become a farce, and a fraud upon the people of this country.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The time allotted for the consideration of clauses 17 to 39 has expired.
Question put -
That clauses 17 to 39, as amended, he agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G.Freeth.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 40 to 43 - by leave - taken together.
.- I should not fail to direct attention to the fact that, for this group of clauses - which, in view of decisions already arrived at by the committee, are merely routine clauses, dealing with the winding up of the Australian Shipping Board - we have been allotted a half-hour for discussion, although we were gagged and restricted in our consideration of other and very important clauses. That appears to me to be completely ridiculous. Although these are only machinery clauses, the Government has decided that a. half-hour shall be allotted to us to discuss them. For the important provisions of the bill contained in clauses 4 to 14-
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) in order, Mr. Temporary Chairman, in discussing a matter that has already been decided by a vote of the House ?
– So far, the honorable member for East Sydney has dealt with the machinery clauses, as he has described them, and he is in order.
– I was pointing out, without wanting to discuss a decision of the House, that for the consideration of clauses 4 to 14 we were allotted ten seconds for each clause. Here are four machinery provisions which follow automatically on decisions made by the committee earlier, but for them the Government has allotted us a half-hour. If the Government really wanted this measure to be properly discussed, it would have given us more time to deal with the important provisions of the bill. It would not have divided the available time in such a way that, even in the short period available
– 1 rise to order again. J. point out, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the honorable member for East Sydney is definitely dealing with a question that was decided by the House - the application of the “ guillotine “.
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney is in order so far. I am watching the point raised by the honorable member for Mallee.
– Thank you, Mr. Temporary Chairman. The aim of the Government is not only to apply the “ guillotine “, but also to prevent the limited amount of time available being devoted to a discussion of the important provisions of the bill, to which the Opposition takes strong exception. The Government does not want the Opposition to be given an opportunity, for instance, to demonstrate to the Australian community that this is a complete sell-out by the Government of the interests of the community. The Government is aiming to earn - if I may use that word - the substantial donations that were made to the funds_ of the Government parties by the shipping companies during the last general election. Now it is footing the bill. It is giving to the shipowners what the shipowners expect it to give. This Government is not really the government of this country. It is merely the agent of big business and the private shipowners. That is the type-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member is getting a little wide of the clauses now.
– I have said all that I want to say about this group of clauses. I repeat that this is a shipowners’ bill, forced on a government which is only the agent of big business in this country.
.- I, too, deplore the fact that we have, comparatively, a plenitude of time to deal with four machinery clauses providing for the winding up of the Australian Shipping Board and the repeal of the National Security (Shipping Coordination) Regulations, whilst we are denied adequate time to deal with the preferential treatment of the private shipping companies and the stevedoring companies - which are owned by the private shipping companies - and the fetters which are placed on the operations and management of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, set up by earlier provisions of the bill.
I shall take this opportunity to refer to some of the provisions of the four clauses with which we are dealing now, insofar as they relate to other clauses which are not comprehensible without reference to these clauses. I shall refer also to the history of the Australian Shipping Board, which is to be wound up. Clauses 40 and 41 set out virtually the only capital, certainly the only specified capital, of the newly established Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. Paragraphs (a) and (V) of clause 28 state that the capital of the commission shall comprise the value of the assets enumerated in clauses 40 and 41 ; that is, that the capital of the commission will consist of the value of the ships listed in the first and second schedules of the bill. The first schedule lists 44 ships, which last March were valued by the new Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) at just over £18,000,000. The second schedule contains the names of eleven ships which are under construction, and which will be purchased by the commission.
I suggest that the relevance of these schedules is that, when read in conjunction with clauses 28 and 41, they show quite clearly that no specific provision is made for the future ordering by the commission of ships and, as we have learned from past experiences, that means that no specific provision is made for any ships to be built at any of the four Australian shipyards which have hitherto supplied ships to the Australian Shipping Board. Since the war, five Australian shipyards have built every ship which has been constructed in this country. The Whyalla shipyard has catered for the needs of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, and the other four shipyards have been entirely dependent on orders from the Australian Shipbuilding Board, which has sold ai of its ships, except nine, to the Australian Shipping Board that is now to be wound up. Not only are no ships under order by any Australian shipping company for construction in any of the four yards other than that of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, but also, after March, 1959, when the last of the ships mentioned in the second schedule is due for delivery, namely, Lake Macquarie, apparently no ships will be under construction in any Australian shipyard except at Whyalla.
This bill, which establishes the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, at least should ensure that the commission keeps up the supply of orders to Australian shipyards, but this it fails to do. The Tariff Board has stated that shipyards require orders three years in advance in order to maintain the training of labour and the ordering of supplies. The last ship which the commission will have under order will be delivered in March, 1959. We have not been told that, any other ship will be ordered between now and then to keep the other four shipyards in operation. Clauses 28, 40 and 41 make no provision whatever for the ordering by the commission of further ships from Australian shipyards. We have previously noted that the provisions relating to the commission’s overdraft are drastically limiting. The commission will have no independent discretion to order or purchase ships.
This is a useful opportunity to refer to the record of the Australian Shipping Board, which was established under the National Security (Shipping Coordination) Regulations, which are to be repealed by clause 43. The board has a good record in the establishment of Australia’s only modern merchant fleet. The ordering and building in Australia of the largest ships on the coastal trade, and the conversion from the high costs of war-time and the immediate post-war period to a profitable position constitute a creditable achievement. For the financial year ended the 31st March, 1952. the board made a profit of £408,569. For the corresponding period of 1953 it made a profit of £275,481. For the year ended the 31st March, 1954, its profit was £493,454, and for the year ended the 31st March, 1955, it made a profit of £370,725. Although I mentioned the matter last week, we have not yet been told the profit for the financial year ended the 31st March last, but from all indications it is apparent that in that year also a profit was made.
It will be noticed that I have cited figures which are lower than those used in previous contributions to the debate. The reason is that I have used the figures which were given to me by the board, after having made all allowances for depreciation, insurance, and so on. These figures show rather the net profits in the meaning ordinarily attached to that term in accounting practice. These are not amounts upon which the Government and the people of Australia receive income tax. They are amounts which go wholly to the Commonwealth. One often hears the trite argument that public bodies do not pay income tax. As taxpayers, surely we can see the merit of *he argument that it is better to receive the full profits, as we do from publicly owned enterprises, than merely 8s. in the £1 on profits in excess of £5,000, and 6s. in the £1 on amounts less than £5,000. Those are the amounts that we receive in tax from privately owned enterprises which make equivalent profits. Putting the position in another way, we make three times as much from publicly owned enterprises as we make from privately owned enterprises that earn equivalent net profits.
Clause 43 provides for the repeal of the National Security (Shipping Coordination) Regulations, under which the Australian Shipping Board has operated. Those are the regulations under which the board has placed with Australian shipyards orders for ships, and under which it has achieved, for the first time in Australia, some measure of efficiency and co-ordination in the routing of ships and the charges for passengers and. cargoes. Until the war, Australia’s shipping industry, the only arm of our transport services which was completely in private hands, was interested only in catering for certain Australian ports. It catered for the big centres of population, from which cargo could be taken to other large Australian ports, but it did nothing to develop outlying Australian centres and less-populous districts upon which we depend very largely for mineral and other primary produce. “We need only consider the plight which very often befalls the island of Tasmania in the potato and apple season. Private shipping companies have allowed that island to wither on the vine.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) did not so much criticize clauses 40 to 43, which are now before the committee, as complain that the committee has not been informed what action the proposed Australian Coastal Shipping Commission intends to take for the support of the shipbuilding industry in Australia. He suggested that the bill makes no provision for the proposed commission to order any ships in the future. That is just another aunt sally that the Opposi- tion has set up in connexion with this bill. It has thoroughly enjoyed the game of attempting to knock down an imaginary aunt sally that it has set up. It is surprising to hear Opposition members complaining about the restriction, of time for the consideration of this bill in committee, since, in point of fact, the time available under the time-table for the consideration of the bill in committee <s one hour greater than the Opposition was prepared to agree to on Friday
– Is the honorable member saying that an additional hour has been allowed because the Opposition protested about the time proposed to be allowed on Friday?
– The Opposition was prepared to agree that only two of its members would speak at the second-reading stage on Friday afternoon, that -the House would go into committee at 3.30 p.m., and that the bill would be taken as a whole and agreed to before the House adjourned at 4 p.m. That would have allowed only half an hour for the consideration of the bill in committee. Considerably more time has been allowed under the timetable introduced to-day.
The provisions of the bill in relation to shipbuilding are clear and explicit, because it places on the proposed commission the onus of maintaining and operating efficient shipping services around the Australian coast, and of providing vessels for those services. The bill empowers it to do all things necessary for the performance of those functions. The commission has complete and absolute power to order all the ships it deems necessary to establish and to maintain efficient shipping services.
– It may increase its fleet to a limit of 325,000 tons.
– Let me inform the honorable member, who comes from Tasmania, that it is considerably more than the tonnage of shipping available on the Australian coast at the present time. There i3 no justifiable complaint in this regard. The proposed commission will have the power to establish and maintain efficient shipping services, and to do all things necessary to enable it to discharge those functions. What more could the Opposition wish for? The commission is to be given tremendously wide powers. The crux of the complaint made by the honorable member for Werriwa is that the members of the commission have not yet been appointed and have not yet advised the Parliament what the future programme of the commission will be. That is what the honorable member really is grumbling about. If ever any one reached for the impossible and advanced utterly ridiculous arguments in this chamber, it was the honorable member for Werriwa. He complained that we have not been told what the commission intends to do about the shipbuilding industry. We have been told that the commission, which has still to be appointed, will be entrusted with the management of coastal shipping services and will have complete power to discharge its functions. I do not know what more could be wanted.
– It has not complete power. The honorable member does not know what he is talking about.
– Order ! I call the honorable member for East Sydney to order.
– I am sure the honorable member for Werriwa does not expect a bill of this kind to specify in detail the ships which it is intended to order during the next ten years.
– All the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) intends is that the private shipping companies should benefit.
– Order ! I call the honorable member for Lalor to order.
– The proposed commission will have power to order the ships required and to see that they are completed by the Australian Shipbuilding Board. It will continue to ensure, as the Australian Shipping Board has endeavoured to do, that we have adequate shipping services around our coast. It is silly for the Opposition to expect the House at this stage to be informed of the programme for the rationalization and improvement of shipping services to be adopted by a commission that has not yet been appointed. Clauses 40 to 43 provide for the winding-up of the Australian Shipping Board.
– What about the honorable member winding up himself?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I ask the honorable member for East Sydney to refrain from making useless interjections.
– The board will discontinue its operations as prescribed and will not hand over the whole of its fleet and its assets to the proposed commission at once, thereby ensuring that there will be no disruption of services and that power and authority will be transferred smoothly to the proposed commission, which is to be given definite instructions how it is to maintain coastal shipping services which have hitherto been very unsatisfactory.
Mr. Duthie interjecting,
– I invite the honorable member to tell us, if he will, that he is satisfied with the shipping services to his little island of Tasmania. I am certain he would stand four-square with me when I state, on behalf of Western Australia, that West Australians are not satisfied with their shipping services. No State that is dependent on shipping can say it is really satisfied with the services it is given. This bill will at least make an attempt to remedy the situation. I do not say it will remedy it, but it will at least be a step in the right direction. At least we are making a start to remedy a very unsatisfactory position.
Mr. Duthie interjecting,
– Evidently, the honorable member is quite prepared to allow the unsatisfactory conditions about which he has complained very freely in this chamber to continue rather than to support a progressive measure which constitutes an attempt to remedy the situation. Nothing could be worse than the existing circumstances, as I am sure the honorable member will agree. Whatever we do, it can only improve the position. I look forward to the benefit Western Australia will receive from the transfer of the functions of the Australian Shipping Board to the proposed Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, which is to have very wide powers. Western Australian consumers and industries will benefit considerably by this transfer of functions.
We in Western Australia shall be able to get goods from the eastern States at prices comparable with those paid in the other States, because we shall pay shipping freights which will be much less costly than the air and road transport to which we are now forced to resort in order to get goods when they are required. The honorable member for Wilmot should support me and should plead the cause of Tasmanians in the same way that I plead the cause of Western Australians. Once the proposed commission is functioning effectively, and has rationalized shipping services and provided adequate shipping for Western Australia, which is so urgently needed, industries in Western Australia will be able to compete on an equal basis with industries in the eastern States, since the Western Australian industries will no longer have to pay the exorbitant freight charges that they pay at present because they are forced to resort to every available means of transport. Western Australian consumers, also, will benefit considerably by the operations of the proposed commission. I remind the committee that Western Australian imports from the eastern States are about £91,000,000 worth of goods a year. The transport charges on those goods are enormous. The rationalized shipping services which will operate as a result of this measure will mean considerable savings to Western Australia. They will mean also-
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- In answer to the chiding of the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) that the proposed Australian Coastal Shipping Commission has not yet been appointed, and therefore cannot make its plans known, I merely point out that clause 30 of this bill limits the overdraft of the proposed commission and so circumscribes any of its plans. Section 19 of the Shipping Act 1949 imposed no such limit. Secondly, this bill does not preserve-
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of clauses 40 to 43 has expired.
Question put -
That clauses 40 to 43 be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. Freeth.)
Majority . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
– An amendment has been circulated
Motion (by Mr. Ward) proposed -
That the Minister for Air be not further heard.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! As the time allotted for the consideration of the remainder of the hill has expired sucha motion is not acceptable.
Question put -
That the remainder of the bill and the amendment circulated by the Government be agreed to, and that the bill be reported with amendments.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. Freeth.)
Majority . . . . 21
Circulated amendment -
Amendment. - After “ Stevedoring Industry Act 1940-1954 “ insert “ Stevedoring Industry Act 1950.”.
Bill reported with amendments.
– Order ! The time allotted for the remaining stage? of the bill has expired, and the question is -
That the report be adopted, and that the bill be now read a third time.
Mr. Ward rising in his place,
– The time allotted has now expired.
Mr.Ward. - You said, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the question now before us was -
That the report be adopted, and that the bill be now read a third time.
I wish to oppose the third reading of the bill.
– The allocation of time for the remaining stages of the bill has expired.
– Cannot you stretch it out a bit, Mr. Deputy Speaker?
Question put -
That the report be adopted, and that the bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to8 p.m.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 15th June (vide page 3326).
.- The committee now has to debate the Australian Coastal Shipping Agreement Bill 1956. This measure sets out an agreement between the Commonwealth Government, which owns the only modern as well as the largest fleet of ships on the. Australian coast, and the members of the Associated Steamship Owners Federation, the Tasmanian shipping companies, and some of the stevedoring companies owned by the members of the Associated Steamship Owners Federation. It is said to be an agreement; but it is merely a capitulation, because the private shipping companies give nothing and the Commonwealth shipping line loses a great deal. Under this agreement the Commonwealth shipping line, alone amongst shipping organizations, will be unable to carry out stevedoring operations; it, a.lone amongst shipping companies, will be unable to book cargo or passengers; and it alone amongst shipping companies will be unable to handle cargo between the wharfs and the consignors or consignees. It will operate its ships through its competitors - the private shipping companies.
The agreement is for a period of twenty years. We are therefore dealing with the future - the next two decades - of Australian coastal shipping: The way in which the Government is dealing with it is not to spur on the private shipping companies, which have let the coastal trade down, but to fetter the Commonwealth shipping line, which has been the one hope of the coastal shipping trade. You will remember, sir, that the Government attempted to sell the shipping line. That was its declared objective, but after six and a half years it has failed to do so. Therefore, in order to preserve the private enterprise which has been inefficient, it has decided to cramp the style of the public enterprise which has been the hope of the shipping industry. For twenty years, therefore, the Commonwealth shipping line will be bound hand and foot in relation to its tonnage, the routes it will operate, its fares, and all ancillary operations.
Statements have often been made - and frequently with justice - about Australian road and rail transport. I am not aware of any criticisms having been levelled against Australian air transport, which is a credit to us. Whatever may be said about the efficiency of road and rail transport pales into significance when compared with what can be said about sea transport on the Australian coast. It is the only form of transport that is entirely in private hands, and it is a disgrace to private enterprise. But for the existence of the Commonwealth shipping line, the Australian coastal fleets would be older than the equipment of the Australian railways or the metropolitan train and bus services. The privately owned shipping fleets are the only forma of transport that carry fewer passengers and less goods to-day than were carried before World War II., and they take longer to carry them. If any honorable member looks at any report of any of the 25 port authorities in Australia, he will observe that the quantity of goods carried interstate by ship is now only half of what it was before the war. The equipment used by the private shipping companies is older than that operated by any other transport system. Moreover, the service is declining, and is slowing up the whole time. If it were not for the Com- monwealth shipping line, which comprises the greatest number of modern ships on the coast, there would bc very little future for the Australian coastal shipping trade. I direct the attention of honorable members to the report of the Tariff Board which was presented to the Government, in June, 1955, and which was presented by the Government to the Parliament in April of this year. At page 13 the board said that private shipping owners in Australia owned 124 ships. Of those, 66 were over 25 years old. In other words, they were well beyond the recognized standard of efficiency, the limit of which private shipowners and the Government alike estimate to be twenty years of age. Forty ships owned by the private shipping companies were between nine and 25 years of age, and only eighteen had been built since “World War II - nine overseas and nine in Australia. Ten were built before World War I., and of those one was built before the Boer War and one before the Zulu War - in 1875, to be precise. There we have the picture of an’ ageing and diminishing fleet in the hands of the private shipping companies.
By way of contrast, we have the picture of the Commonwealth shipping line, which, in this measure, the Government seeks to fetter. The Commonwealth line owns 44 ships, 36 of which were built in Australia. All have been built since 1943, which means that the oldest of them still has before it approximately another seven years’ efficient service. The Commonwealth line also has eleven ships on order. Except for one ship that is being built for the Western Australian State shipping service and three that are to be built at Whyalla for the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, they are the only ships on order in Australian shipbuilding yards. It will be noted that the private shipping companies have not a single ship on order in Australian shipbuilding yards. They have twelve vessels on order overseas but, as far as they were concerned, the Australian shipbuilding industry could have perished. Let us compare Australian coastal shipping with the coastal shipping industry of the United States of America, which is largely in private hands, but which operate only American-built ships. As you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, know, the American Government will not regis ter a ship for the American coastal trade unless it has been built in American shipyards. The agreement now before the committee provides no such guarantee for Australian shipyards. If one is to judge by the practice adopted in recent years by Australian private shipping companies engaged in the coastal trade, they would let the Australian yards go out of existence rather than order ships from them. That is in spite of the fact that, as was pointed out by the Tariff Board in the report to which I have referred, Australian shipyards still deliver ships in half the time that is required by United Kingdom shipbuilding yards and, when one takes into account the Commonwealth subsidy of one-third of the cost, at no greater expense than the cost in the United Kingdom.
When one refers again to page 13 of the Tariff Board’s report, one sees that, although the board estimated that it would be necessary for the private shipping companies to order 140,000 deadweight tons to replace average ships in operation, they have on order only onesixth of that tonnage, namely 24,670 dead-weight tons. They have on charter 76,000 dead-weight tons of shipping, and as far as the Australian shipbuilding industry is concerned, they have shown no interest whatever. As the board points out, the Australian shipyards are operating at only one-third of their capacity. By employing 8,000 men instead of tinpresent number of 5,000, they could operate at full capacity and build three times as much shipping as they are building now. If they were to construct three times as much shippingthat is, if our shipyards were to use the facilities that they have at their disposal - only then would there be some hope of having modern and efficient ships on the Australian coast. This bill makes no provision for that service whatever, and it would be necessary for the Australian shipyards to operate at full capacity for the next ten years to replace our over-age ships, and our over-age ships alone. Instead of tackling that fundamental requirement, the Government is crippling the Commonwealth line, which alone haiundertaken the responsibility of ordering modern ships in Australia in the interests of our trade and our defence.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- If I understood the honorable member for “Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) aright-
– The honorable member for Canning is better than I am; I could not understand a word.
– I said if “. One would assume that the honorable member for Werriwa was intending to convey the impression that this agreement did everything detrimental to the Australian shipping services and the Australian shipbuilding industry. He said, in fact, that the Commonwealth shipping line would be bound hand and foot. I admit that the agreement states that the Commonwealth, shipping line shall have ships to the extent of 325,000 tons, but the agreement also states that if the private companies do not construct or have constructed sufficient ships to provide an adequate service on the established routes, the Minister can place this matter before the independent authority, and if the indepen-dent authority agrees with the Minister that there is still inadequate shipping, the Minister can authorize the commission t« have constructed ships sufficient in number and tonnage to maintain an adequate and satisfactory service on the Australian coastline.
Clause 13 of the agreement states that if the Australian Shipbuilding Board advises the Minister that orders held by the Australian merchant shipbuilding yards for the construction of new tonnage for the coastal and territorial shipping services are less than is necessary to enable the industry to continue in operation at a reasonable level of production, the Minister may take action by referring the complaint of the Australian Shipbuilding Board to the independent authority. After giving a certain period of time to the private companies either to lodge orders or do something about meeting the amount of tonnage needed, the Minister may then take such steps as are practicable to place orders with the Australian shipbuilding yards for the construction of ships of the tonnage specified by the Minister or determined by the independent authority. He may also authorize the commission to place orders with the Australian shipbuilding yards to the extent of any deficiency.
The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) spoke about the use of the word “ may “. This afternoon, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said that “ shall “ should be “ must “, or something of that nature. If the Labour party is adopting the tactics of splitting stra ws in order to gloss over their very poor showing with this bill and the one with which we dealt previously, then the best thing for them to do is to continue endeavouring to split straws on particular words. If the Leader of the Opposition believes what I think he believes by introducing the argument on the word “ may which is as much as to say that any Minister would run away from his responsibilities, then, once again the Leader of the Opposition out of his own lips has decried his own Australian fellow-man. I would walk from here to Perth if any Minister, when he has this power, allowed the Australian shipping services, whether Commonwealth, private or anything else, to deteriorate to such an extent that it would be detrimental to the interests of the Australian people and Australian industry. The honorable member for East Sydney can also come in on this, because he is a man who time and time again, expresses his desire to get something done; yet when he has the opportunity, he does net seize it. It has been pointed out that he goes so far as to take the power out of the hands of the Leader of the Opposition in order to upset the progress of legislation here.
I should like to hear the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) later, if he thinks that what I am saying is wrong. I recommend that he read this agreement from start to finish. If he does, he will be able to say that this agreement gives the private shipping companies an opportunity to get on their feet, despite the fact that the honorable member for Werriwa said a few moments ago that this would not spur private shipping lines to get on with the job. If my memory serves me correctly, 73 ships are required now adequately to complete the fleet on Australian waters. The private shipping companies under this agreement are given a certain time to provide that shipping While they are given that time to pro r idu the extra shipping, the Commonwealth shipping line will maintain its quota of 325,000 tons. I defy any member of the Opposition to say that this agreement does not provide means for the Minister and this Government to force the private shipping companies to build those extra ships. If the companies do not, the Government itself can build them.
– It is a private shipping line bill and the private lines will exploit the people by increasing fares and freights.
– After what the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) did in 1949 in respect of the whaling industry and shipping, I would not expect him to say that about this legislation.
– The whaling commission made a profit, and then this Government sold it down the river.
– The honorable member knows that when the Labour party had the opportunity to do something for the Australian shipping services, it introduced legislation that prevented any one from buying a ship, registering a ship that was 9e& or selling one outside Australia to get money to buy a new ship. It brought down legislation that put a complete and absolute stranglehold on shipping services.
– It was a black-out.
– As the honorable member for Gippsland said, it was a complete black-out so far as shipping services on the Australian coast were concerned. Those of us from the distant States realized that only too well. But I say again that this measure gives a spur to the private shipping companies to get on with the job.
The honorable member for Werriwa said that this bill prevents the commission from carrying on stevedoring and booking operations. I admit quite frankly that at the moment it makes provision for other people to carry out those services, but it goes further. This is the point on which I join issue with the honorable member for Werriwa. This agreement provides that if the stevedoring and booking companies do not do the joh to the satisfaction of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, then it can carry on those activities. In fact, the agreement tells it to do so.
– The commission will consist of a couple of lawyers and accountants.
– Lawyers and accountants! I have very little time for the first mentioned and quite a lot for the second. From the point of view of thu ordinary Australian - and not of the legal man. - I maintain that the agreement is a fair one. lt gives the private shipping companies the opportunity to do something about the inadequacy of the shipping services and, if they are not prepared to get on their feet and provide the ships, the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission can enter the field and build the ships, as I feel certain it will.
.- The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) has made a number of contributions on the subject of shipping. T cannot understand how he can accuse the former Labour government of having done nothing about shipping when it built 44 ships. It is the management of those ships that is now under discussion. Th? Labour Government was the first government really to intervene in this field in recent years.
– That is not correct, of course.
– No; there was a Commonwealth shipping line before that. But those ships were constructed in Australia and we are discussing them now. When the honorable member was talking on this matter some time ago he spoke about the Government having a mandate for this kind of legislation. I do not know that I believe in the theory of a mandate. A Labour government in 1943 put forward an electoral proposal about the reform of the Constitution, but its proposal was rejected at a referendum. The party to which the honorable member belongs twice promised during successful election campaigns to ban the
Australian Communist party, but when the proposal was put to the people by way of referendum, it was rejected. Therefore, we do not know exactly what constitutes a mandate. I do not know the opinions of the electors of Fremantle on a wide range of subjects, because the electors do not correspond with me on most of those subjects. However, if the honorable gentleman subscribes to the theory of a mandate, he should not vote for this legislation, because the proposed agreement will bind this Parliament for twenty years. It will bind not this Parliament only, but the next six Parliaments. At some future election a Labour government may be returned, with proposals in regard to shipping of a different character from those of the present Government, but that Labour government will be legally impeded by this legislation that we are considering. If the honorable member can honestly say that that is in accordance with his theory of a mandate, it is a strange kind of mandate that he has in mind.
The honorable gentleman should also perceive the absurdity of attempting to legislate for the next twenty years on a matter of such importance as shipping. We cannot project our minds ahead, but we can look back twenty years. That takes us back to 1936, the year of the abdication of King Edward VIII. If the Parliament had attempted at that time to legislate in respect of shipping for the following twenty years, of what value would its decisions have been, when one considers that the war occurred during that period, and governments were forced to take action that could not possibly have been envisaged in 1936? It is perfectly clear that no parliament can legislate intelligently on a matter such as this for a period of twenty years. A. provision that contains an attempt to bind all future Parliaments for the next twenty years is a completely unscrupulous one. It shows a determination on the part of this Government to bind its successors, no matter how many times the Australian people may change their mind, and no matter what kind of mandate is given to succeeding governments. This Government is obviously determined that the shipping industry in the future will he operated according to the Go vernment’s ideas, irrespective of future developments. If the honorable member subscribes to the theory of a mandate, he must obviously vote against this legislation.
There is a demented paradox in this legislation. It reminds me of the claim made by Hitler, every time he invaded a country, that he was liberating that country. The preamble to the agreement states that one of its purposes is to encourage shipbuilding. At the same time the Government proposes to place a limit of 325,000 tons on the tonnage of shipping that may be operated by the commission. I do not know how the Government can claim that it is encouraging Australian shipbuilding by placing a limitation on it. If the Government really wished to encourage shipbuilding it would surely remove limitations, rather than impose them.
The honorable member professes io find in clause 13 of the agreement certain powers of compulsion, which he has greatly exaggerated. Some of the expressions contained in this clause have no legal significance, and the honorable gentleman knows as well as I do that if the agreement purports to compel a private company, on the direction of the Minister, to build ships, it is extremely probable that it is constitutionally invalid. Furthermore, the Government has included these provisions in the agreement at a time when the private companies have twelve ships on order abroad. Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that during the currency of this agreement there will bc any valid ground for compelling companies to purchase further vessels from Australian shipbuilding yards. So that what purports to be a provision, with teeth in it, to compel private companies to have ships built in Australian yards, is an extremely unreal provision, if it has any legal force at all, because of what is being done at the present time in a practical way by the private companies.
The provision for the maintenance and continuation of shipbuilding in Australia has been dealt with by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam’), and if it be correct, as he contended, that we could treble the rate of construction by increasing the number of men working iu Australian shipbuilding yards from 5,000 to 8,000, the Government should seriously reconsider its whole policy in relation to Australian shipyards. The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) is here to-night. I remind him that the Government has recently bought a very large tanker for the use of the Royal Australian Navy. I think it is named Wave Austral. That is the only tanker owned by the Australian Government. It is to be used for refuelling aircraft carriers at sea. During World War II. we had the utmost difficulty in getting tankers to provide us with the fuel that was vitally necessary for many of our industries and many forms of transport. If the Government is so greatly interested in accelerating the rate of ship construction in Australia, it might consider placing orders for the construction of tankers, and actually using tankers, carrying the Australian flag, to transport our liquid fuel. After all, in the year before last we paid £stg.80,000,000 in shipping freights. In the year 1951-52, the amount paid in shipping freights was £stg.!40,000,000. The Government professes to be very concerned about conserving sterling, and to that end it has placed restrictions on imports. One way of conserving sterling would be to operate a few more of our own ships. It is astonishing that, in all this talk about the relation of this legislation to defence, we have heard not a word of any intention on the part of the Government to build tankers, and, if what the honorable member for Werriwa said about the rate of construction is true, tankers could easily be built in this country.
.- The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), said that he could not understand why thi3 agreement should have a period of operation of twenty years. If we want the proposed commission to carry out constructive forward planning in this industry, surely twenty years is by no means too long a. period of operation for the agreement. The honorable member also said that the Government has no mandate to bind the Parliament for twenty years, but I would remind him of the effort of a previous Labour government to nationalize banking. It did not seek to do that for twenty years; that was for keeps! We are asking the Parliament to endeavour to rationalize our coastal shipping industry for twenty years, but the Labour party attempted to nationalize banking, which is the most important aspect of our economy, forever. When one analyses the humbug that comes from honorable members opposite, one wonders how we put up with it.
No one can be proud of our shipping industry. We know that shipping should be one of the cheapest forms of transport, but this is not so in Australia, as one can readily learn from a perusal of the Tariff Board’s report on the shipbuilding industry. That report shows that to transport motor tyres from Melbourne to Adelaide, door to door, by rail costs £11 a ton, whereas the charge for sea transport is £37 5s. lOd. a ton.
– At which page of the report does this appear?
– It is at page 7. The honorable member would not be able to read it if he had it. The charge for transporting motor bodies from Melbourne to Adelaide by road is £12 a. ton, and by sea it is £20 19s. Sd. To transport motor tyres by rail from Melbourne to Brisbane costs £30 a ton, and by sea £40. In any other country shipping freight rates are lower than the rates by rail or road, but in Australia the position is exactly the reverse. We have heard Opposition members say that we are transporting a lesser quantity of goods by sea now than, we were in 1938. The Tariff Board gave certain views in its report as to the responsibilities of labour for this state of affairs. It said -
It is common knowledge that many goods formerly transported hy water are now conveyed by rail, road arid air. And it was made abundantly clear at the inquiry that more cargo could be carried at lower costs if a faster turnround of vessels could be achieved.
Mr. Haddy, the representative of the local shipping industry, complained -
The other day we heard member after member defend Mr. Healy in this House. The greatest bugbear to coastal shipping is hold-ups and industrial disputes, which are increasing our costs. If we want to rationalize and improve our coastal shipping, here, surely, is one way in which .ve can do it. No one is proud of our shipping industry. It has a very poor record indeed. I do not blame the unions entirely for that; both sides are responsible. But Ave do know that the unions have a lot to answer for.
The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) spoke very wisely of the need to build tankers. I agree with him on that score. Nothing in the agreement will prevent the commission from having tankers built for overseas trade. The honorable member has given us one of the few constructive suggestions that have come from the. Labour party during this debate. There is a great deal of sense in the suggestion and I see no reason why, in time, the commission should not adopt it and have more tonnage built for overseas operation. The Government could certainly look into the possibilities of overseas operations under the agreement. Government shipping services have, generally speaking, been operated at a loss. This would be one way of rationalizing our shipping and lowering freights on both primary and manufactured products.
We should also aim at obtaining a proper schedule of operation on interstate routes. Given time, this too will be possible under the agreement. The only contribution that Opposition members have made to this very important debate has consisted of some extraordinary statements about subterfuge, monopolies and private enterprise attacking the worker, r support the bill.
.- Not one subject conies before this House for debate but the honorable member for Hume (“Mr. Anderson) speaks upon it. One needs hardly remind oneself that he represents a primary producing community. Almost everything that he says falls in the same narrow groove. I remind him that the only difference between a grave and a groove is the depth. He has just remarked that the proposed commission, which will operate the 44 Commonwealthowned vessels, could have ships built for overseas trade. Clause 48 of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Bill, which we passed this afternoon, specifically lays down that none of the Commonwealth’s vessels may be operated on overseas routes. This, indeed, is one of the faults that we find with the bill. We believe that Australian ships should compete with privately owned shipping lines which trade overseas, but the bill prohibits this.
Australia has thirteen river class vessels - River Burdekin, River Burnett, River Clarence, River Derwent, River Fitzroy, River Glenelg, River Hunter, River Loddon, River Murchison, River Murray, River Murrumbidgee and River Norman. They are of between 9,000 and 10,000 tons and, if fitted with refrigeration, could be used on overseas routes. It is about time that an element of real competition was injected into our overseas shipping services. At present the big privately owned shipping companies are operating under a gentleman’s agreement, and certainly not on a truly competitive basis any more than are the private banks of Australia. If Labour were in government we would install refrigeration on ships of this type and put them on overseas routes to provide real competition for the great shipping combines which, notwithstanding that they have had a 15 per cent, increase in freight rates in the last eighteen months, now seek another rise. The honorable member for Hume may rest assured that whenever there is a prospect of higher freights the private shipping companies will not be far away.
When these two related bills have been passed by Parliament we shall have a shipping monopoly on the Australian coast. The Government’s action in handing over the Commonwealth’s vessels to a commission of five, who will doubtless be private shippers, is no more than clever camouflage to hide the true purpose of the measure, which is to crush effectively competition between Commonwealth and privately owned vessels. Private enterprise is afraid of the competition that the
Commonwealth ships offer, and has persuaded the Government to bring down this legislation. As a result of this Cleveland subtle arrangement we shall not, while this Government is in office and these measures are in operation, have genuine shipping competition on the Australian coast.
As the honorable member forFremantle (Mr. Beazley) pointed out, the agreement is to be for twenty years. This is the worst legislation that this Parliament has ever brought down. When Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was fighting for its very life against the competition offered by Trans-Australia Airlines, the Government brought down legislation making available to the private company 4,000,000 dollars worth of imported planes, and also made generous taxation concessions. In the same way, the private shipping lines feel themselves unable to compete with the Commonwealth line. These two bills, which have been brought down to rectify that position, will not deceive any one who understands shipping or any one else who can see through them.
The agreement isbetween the Government and fifteen stevedoring companies and relates tobookings and stevedoring operations for the Commonwealth’s 44 ships, as well as the further eleven ships thatwill come off the slips in the next two years. Those activities will be taken right out of the hands of the Government and placed in the hands of the proposed commission. Clause 10 of the agreement provides -
If at any time, in the opinion of the Minister, it becomes necessary to acquire further tonnage in the coastal and territorial shipping services -
by reason of the tonnage available being insufficient to maintain adequate services on established routes; or
to provide for a foreseeable expansion of trade in established routes; or
for the purpose of providing tonnage for new routes, the Minister shall give notice to the Companies accordingly, specifying the amount of further tonnage which he considers to he necessary . . .
The interesting feature of that provision is that the private companies will take the cream of the trade routes. They will pick the eyes from thecoastal trade.
This commission will see to it that the Commonwealth ships will operate on the worst routes - the routes that do not pay - and that the better paying routes will be given to the private shipping lines.
The Commonwealth ships will be used on developmental routes. In the years to come, quite a few new routes will have to be opened up round the Australian coast and more ships will have to be allotted to some of the present developmental routes. The Commonwealth ships will be used for developmental routes, and the Government will pay a subsidy to offset losses. The private shipowners will not be asked to usetheir ships to carry cargo on non-paying routes. It will be the Commonwealth vessels which will be used to serve remote ports and to carry cargoes for which the freight rates are lowest. The freight rate for general cargo, for instance, is higher than the rate for timber or for potatoes. That sounds ridiculous, but it is true. as we know from experience in Tasmania. During the last four years, Commonwealth ships have been used to carry to the mainland most of the Tasmanian timber and potatoes. That proves that our vessels have been operating on routes where the cargoes carried bring in the lowest rewards.
Another interesting point is that disputes on which agreement cannot be reached will be referred to an independent authority, which will arbitrate on them. There isno mention in the legislation of the personnel of the independenauthority or how the authority is to be established. It is mentioned for the first time in paragraph 12 of the agreement. Who willconstitute the independent authority ? That is something which all honorable members on this side would like to know.
Honorable members opposite have spoken of this new commission as being like the Australian National Airlines Commission. It will be nothing of the kind. It is true that Trans-Australia Airlines is under the control of the Australian National Airlines Commission with the Minister for Civil Aviation in charge, but there is genuine competition between Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited in every phase of their operations.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) took exception, to a certain extent, to my colleague, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), speaking on so many of the measures which come before us. We are very proud of the honorable member for Hume. He is very versatile. When he speaks on a subject, he brings real wisdom to bear and he reminds members of the Opposition of many points which, I am sure, they had not thought of before. It is only natural that, coming from a primary producing electorate, he is interested in a subject such as this.
No matter what bill comes before the Parliament, it is of great interest to the primary producers ofthis country, but, perhaps no bill interests them so much as does a bill relating to shipping. A large proportion of the products of the man on the land is sent overseas. In accordance with the proportion of his products which is sent overseas, this country is prosperous or is in a state of depression. If we do not send overseas enough of our goods to enable us to buy from other countries the goods which we need from them, this country suffers. Therefore, all members of the Australian Country party believe that they should speak on all matters that interest their constituents and are of great importance to the whole of Australia.
I was surprised -when the honorable member for Wilmot, referring to the fact that the honorable member for Hume had complimented the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) on a suggestion that tankers be built in this country, said that we should not be able to send those tankers overseas. He contended that the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Bill 1956 would prohibit that. I believe that the honorable member for Wilmot took a quick look at the bill, read the first few lines of one of the clauses and took the rest for granted. At the risk of being accused of tedious repetition, I shall read the relevant clause of the bill to which the honorable member for Wilmot referred. As he referred to that bill. I assume that I shall be in order in doing so also. The clause to which I refer states that the functions of the commission shall be -
) between a place in a State and a place in another State ;
The important provisions come next. -
between a place in the Commonwealth and a place in another country; and
Therefore, I cannot see any reason why tankers that we build could not operate between Australia and the United Kingdom, the United States of America or any other country with which we trade. It would fee quite in order to permit them to do so. If the statement of the honorable member for Wilmot were not contradicted, many people who have not had an opportunity to read the bill would
Relieve that the honorable member had corrected a mis-statement by the honorable member for Hume.I rose chiefly to put that matter right.
The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. Fraser) has made a remarkable interjection. He has said that I would not have known that if the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) had not told me about it. If the information is correct, does it matter where I got it ? I do not remember whether I got it from the honorable member for Canning, but, even if I did, it is still correct the honorable member for Wilmot is still wrong, and the honorable member for Hume is still right. Interjections such as that made by the honorable member for the
Australian Capital Territory do not do any good. We are seeking for the truth, but smart interjections such as that may lead people away from the truth of the matter under discussion. I have given the truth of the matter.
Once again, the honorable member for Wilmot dealt with the question of competition. The cry of the Labour party now is, “ Competition, competition “. Honorable members opposite say that what happened when they were in power does not matter, and that what is important now .is what is happening now. Surely they have not changed their policy so quickly as that! What competition did they decide to allow when they introduced their banking legislation, providing for a complete socialist monopoly of banking in this country? As the honorable member for Hume says - I have got my information from him this time - that banking monopoly was intended to last, not for twenty years, but for all time. As a leading member of the Chifley Government said at that time, you cannot put the feathers back on a plucked fowl. Thank goodness, the fowl was never plucked! To-day we have both the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks. They are going along together quite well, in competition, under the banking legislation introduced by this Government after it came into power. We have provided for the kind of competition about which Labour now speaks all the time. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) said in answer to a question last week, I think, that Labour’s’ policy is democratic socialism, whatever that is.
– What is wrong with it?
– If we had democratic socialism, there would be no competition. If the socialization of industry, production, distribution and exchange were accomplished, there would not be much left that was unsocialized Why should we consider for one moment any plans for socialization ? Whenever socialization has been tried, it has been a failure. This nation has been in existence for about 170 years. Private enterprise has built Australia into the great country that it is now. Every building in Sydney and Melbourne, every farm, every bridge over a river, every road that runs and every steam engine that puffs in this country was built by private enterprise or from private enterprise money. Labour wants to tear down private enterprise and introduce socialism.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! Will the honorable member please relate his remarks to the bill?
– Clause 18 provides that the commission must operate a shipping business and ensure that freights are as low as possible. The Minister has the right to keep freights at the lowest possible rate that permits efficiency of service. I am pleased that once again the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), by entering the debate, has given the Australian Labour party the benefit of his wide knowledge.
Mi-. CREAN (Melbourne Ports) [8.51]. - The bill is for the purpose of approving what purports to be an agreement. But I suggest that in an agreement there should be a certain equality of give and take on both sides. It seems, from a careful reading of the bill, that the only gain that the Commonwealth will make is set out in clause 5 (2.) of the agreement. The clause provides that private companies will conduct the booking and handling of cargoes in respect of the commission’s vessels in an efficient and economical manner. This is being conceded, after legislation has already denied to the commission the right to book and handle cargo. The Government having tied the commission’s hands, the commission is now to be assured that its ships will be efficiently handled. I suggest that that is a most one-sided agreement and it clearly indicates the kind of policy that is being applied by the Government. However, the important matters in this agreement are those which were included in legislation passed by this chamber a few hours ago. This surely must be humiliating, and perhaps it indicates the lack of trust of certain persons in the Government that provisions which are already part of a statute of this country should be written into this agreement. I refer particularly to clause 14 of the agreement which specifies the policy which must be pursued by the commission in the fixing of freights and the methods by which it shall operate. In this agreement between certain private concerns and the commission, which is in effect the Commonwealth, there are very vague terms and their meaning has not been indicated, either in this place or in the other place where this measure was considered. I hope that the Minister in charge of the bill will give some indication of what is at the back of the Government’s mind. Clause 14 (1.) of the agreement states -
The Commission shall pursue a policy directed towards securing revenue sufficient to meet all its expenditure properly chargeable to revenue and to permit the payment to the Commonwealth of a reasonable return on the capital of the Commission.
What is envisaged by the term “ a reasonable return on the capital of the commission”? I suggest that this is an important provision, because a Labour government established the shipping line to combat what we regarded as a monopoly, by which certain private shipping organizations were fleecing the people by charging exorbitant freight rates.
It is all very well for persons like the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) and other Government supporters to stake their lives on some principle which they call private enterprise, with which apparently is connected the element of profit. Government supporters seem to suggest that there is something virtuous in profit. We on this side say that profit comes only from the pockets of the public which consumes articles or uses services. Shipping freights are an example of the kind of thing I mean. To our minds, in a country like Australia, for shipping, or any other form, of transport, to provide a service to all citizens in the community, irrespective of the State in which they reside, profitable routes must be balanced against non-profitable routes. If that had not been the case, certain parts of the country would not have had adequate transport services at all. It is all very well for my friend the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) to say that, but for private enterprise, not a steam engine would run in this country. Many ships and steam engines would not have run if the running of them had been left to private enterprise. It was left to public enterprise to introduce a properly integrated system with service to all sections of the community. That was done when the Australian Shipping Hoard was established by the Labour government. It is still presumed, even by the Government, that if certain areas had to be looked after by private enterprise they would not be served at all. These parts of the country have been served by the public service, because the profit made on routes where business was brisk and frequent was used to subsidize and develop services to other areas. We on this side say that the interests of national development should override private profit. In the interests of national development, there is still required in Australia an organization which is established not from a motive of commercialism or private profit but from a motive of national interest and public service. That was the purpose of the establishment of the Australian Shipping Board by the Labour government, but that organization is being destroyed by means of the two measures which we have been considering to-day.
This agreement is one-sided. It is rather like the fifty-fifty pies about which we spoke years ago, which were made from a mixture of one horse and one rabbit. The only rabbit in the hat in this agreement is in clause 5 (2.). The Government, having denied the commission the right to handle cargo and book passages, seeks from the private companies an assurance of a fair deal in respect of those services. What kind of an agreement is this ? It is a one-sided agreement, of the kind that the apostles of private enterprise, including the honorable member for Hume, are only too ready to extol. I repeat that certain parts pf Australia would not have obtained transport facilities from private enterprise, and it is doubtful whether they will receive them in future, after the passage of this measure. A mystery, which has not been explained lies in the way the system is to be operated. How can we be sure that it will run evenly, receiving revenue from non-profitable and profitable lines? Will this agreement mean that the private shipping concerns will be able to say, “ The government agency will so cripple itself on poorly paying routes that it will charge higher freight rates on good routes and will therefore not be competitive with us “ ? Will the commission be forced to charge higher rates because it has to meet losses on unprofitable routes? That was the pattern envisaged in respect of air services in this country. The area in the great heart of this continent which is represented by my friend, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), would not have been served by private undertakings, but Trans-Australia Airlines put the profits made on its paying routes between Melbourne and Sydney, Sydney and Brisbane, and Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, into the development of services in the sparsely populated areas of central Australia. This has given new life to the people there. This sort of transport and the great public transport undertakings generally would not have been developed by private enterprise.
– Order !
– I was very interested in the discourse of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) on private enterprise and profit, and, in particular, in his reference to clause 14 of the agreement. He said just what this clause intends. Sub-clause (1.) reads -
The Commission shall pursue a policy directed towards securing revenue sufficient to meet all its expenditure properly chargeable to revenue and to permit the payment to the Commonwealth of a reasonable return on the capital of the Commission.
Sub-clause (3.) provides that, if the approval of a. Minister is required for freights and charges, that Minister must bear in mind the requirements of subclause (1.). The honorable member for Melbourne Ports is a qualified accountant and a man with some business knowledge, and I think it would be clear to him that the agreement requires the proposed Australian Coastal Shipping Commission and the Minister, in fixing charges, to bear in mind the costs that a business would normally have to meet. If that were not done,’ the commission would be at an advantage because it does not have to pay all kinds of local government and civic rates and taxes, State and Commonwealth taxes, and other charges that go to make up the costs upon which the private companies base the charges made for their services. The commission could then fix its freights and charges at such a low figure that the private companies could not afford to compete with it. It is obvious that, to ensure fair competition, the commission and the Minister mus bear in mind the provisions of subclause (1.) of clause 14 of the agreement. The matter is as simple as that. It boils down to a normal fair business arrangement. It is not the obligation of the commission or of the Minister to take profit and profit making into consideration in fixing the commission’s charges. They must take into account what would be the normal charges of a business undertaking, and those charges would include provision for an anticipated reasonable return from the capital invested in the undertaking. The Treasury expects a reasonable return from the government shipping line.
I turn now to the question of developmental or non-paying lines, in contradistinction to profitable routes. We have had illustrations of what happens in thi? country in relation to government enterprises which are supposed to undertake developmental work, but which take no cognizance of the legitimate costs of operating services.- What do we find in relation to rail services, which are cognate with shipping services? All rail services are steadily losing vast sums of money which are recouped to the railways and governments from the pockets of the people. This means that those of us who do not use the railways subsidize those who do so that they may enjoy cheap freight rates and fares.
– That is not right.
– It does not matter how we say it. The losses may become budget deficits. Cheap fares and low freight rates, or, to put it another way, fares and freight charges which do not meet the cost of operating the services, are charged those who use the services, and the deficits are made up by the taxpayers who do not use the railways.
– The farmers benefit in rhat way.
– The farmers have never sought something for nothing. They contribute more than their fair share to the community.
– They receive most of the subsidies.
– Of course, they do. 1 have never changed my ground on that matter. Subsidies are paid out of protective tariffs. The primary producer should not lose all the time. He expects some form of protection, and he expects others to come to his aid sometimes. I think the Government is very wise to make sure that our shipping services will not get into the same position that the railways arc in. This measure, in conjunction with the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Bill 1956, distinguishes between paying routes and those which should be undertaken, as a national obligation, for developmental purposes. Let us not hear talk about private enterprise not undertaking pioneering and developmental work.
– It will not do so.
– It has done so, but there are limits beyond which it cannot go, and beyond which it is a national obligation of governments to initiate developmental work and encourage pioneering. But if, as so often happens, the whole lot were lumped together, and there was no distinction in the books of the proposed commission between paying lines and non-paying lines, the commission would charge, on its paying lines, sufficient to meet the losses on non-paying oi- developmental lines, and the charges of the private companies would increase accordingly, because they would charge on their paying lines the equivalent of what the government enterprise charged on its paying lines. Members of the Australian Labour party, as I understand it, suggest that the private shipping lines, which would not have to meet losses on non-paying lines, should be able to increase their charges on paying lines and make additional profits. I would not be such a benefactor to the private shipping companies as Labour members would be.
– But the honorable member does not control the Government.
– You may grumble, bin the Government will not do as you and your friends wish.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! I ask the honorable member for Moore to address the Chair.
– -I agree with you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that I should do so. I know very well that you have considerable knowledge of shipping problems, because you represent that very lovely little island of Tasmania. I know you appreciate the problem. Labour members ‘accuse and criticize the Government for not allowing the private shipping companies to fleece those who depend on their services. Opposition member? would say that paying lines should carry the losses on developmental lines, and that it was fair for the companies to raise their charges to the level of those of the government enterprise, although the companies would not have to meet losses on developmental lines which would have to be met by the government undertaking. I say it would not be fair to allow the private companies to do that.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The feature of this debate is that members of the Australian Country party are the only Government supporters who have contributed to it. That is amazing to me, especially after hearing the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) and the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who expressed concern because they said it is the farmer who provides the wealth of the country and it is the farmer who will suffer if adequate shipping services are not maintained. Do not the members of the Australian Country party realize this? We have heard clause after clause discussed in this debate to-night. I do not express concern about any particular clause. My concern is about the whole bill. Every clause of this bill concerns an agreement. What is the agreement? It is rotten to the core - the whole lot of it - because the agreement will hand over to the private shipping companies resources owned, not by the Government or any member of the Government, but by the people of this country. The Government proposes to hand over to the private shippers of this country property that rightly belongs to the people; and it proposes to hand it over to them for twenty years. “We all know that when the Government hands it over for twenty years, it will, in effect, hand it over for ever.
The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) said that all that this bill is designed to do is to get on with the job of getting ships and snipping services. He believes, apparently, that the best way to get on with the job is to hand over to the private shippers the 44 ships of the Commonwealth and the eleven ships that are on order.
– Who said that?
– I cannot expect the honorable member to remember what he said, but the Hansard record will show that the honorable member said that the Labour party is opposing the Government’s effort to get ahead with the job.
– That is true.
– The honorable member’s idea of getting ahead with the job is handing over our property to the private shippers. Members of the Australian Country party are carrying on the debate for the Government. I agree that there are not enough members of the Liberal party in the chamber to-night to form a. hopscotch team, and that somebody has to talk from the Government side, so it is left to members of the Australian Country party. But it is amazing that members of the Australian Country party do not realize the effect that this bill will have on the primary producers of this country in the final analysis.
I always like to follow the honorable member for Hume in a debate for the reason that the honorable gentleman just cannot resist the temptation to attack trade unions. Even on this bill, in which there is no reference to trade unions, he could not resist the temptation to mention the Waterside Workers Federation and say that members of the Labour party last week defended Mr. Healy. He could not get above it because he is such a reactionary.
– He is an old tory.
– And they say that there is no tory like an old tory! As I said before, I like to follow the honorable member for Hume in a debate. Of course I do, because I am a defender of the trade unions. I am of those who at all times will be a defender of the trade unions. So that fact puts the honorable member for Hume and me always at loggerheads. But worse than that ! The honorable member for Hume was dishonest. He said that the Commonwealth shipping line had not been paying.
– I did not say that.
– I repeat that the honorable member said that the shipping line was not paying and that the Government should dispose of it. The honorable member can check in Hansard that he said so. That is what he said according to my hearing. I am going to throw the lie right back into his teeth. Following are the amounts of profit made by the Commonwealth shipping line in the last four years: -
If the honorable member wants to base his attacks on falsities he cannot blame honorable members on this side of the chamber when they put him back in his seat. It makes me vomit to hear members of the Government say, “ We did better than you did. What did the Labour government do?” What does it matter what the Labour government did or did not do? What we have to be concerned about is that this is just one more attack on socialism.
– Hear, hear! The socialist speaks.
– Aha, the honorable member for Hume is in again. He asked a while ago, “What did you do about banking? You had no mandate for the banking legislation, and if you had been successful, the banks would have been nationalized forever “. There is a difference between the banking legislation and this legislation.
– The banking legislation was for the good of the people, and this can do nothing but harm to the Australian people. I put it to the committee that this Government has no right to deal with the people’s property in the manner it is doing. Let the Government be honest and say, “ We are going to do the same with this as we did with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and eventually we will not own any ships “.
– Rubbish !
– The history of the tories in this country as far as shipping is concerned is not very good. This is not the first shipping line that the Commonwealth has owned. It owned another line at one time, and what happened to it? The then government did not even get pa]d what it asked for the line, although it sold the ships for about a quarter of what they cost to build. If the honorable member for Hume, with his reactionary mind and reactionary thoughts is prepared to maintain this attitude, let him be honest and stand up and say, “ What is going to be done with this line of ships is what we did with the line that the Commonwealth owned previously, what we did with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and what we did with Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited”.
I almost forgot the honorable member for Mallee and that would have been a pity. When the honorable member was speaking, I thought of what the wise old man said - that it is not the best carpenter who makes the most chips. I can say that the honorable member for Mallee makes a terrible lot of chips, but whether he will be a carpenter when he grows up I shall never know. He was talking about chips. The honorable member attacks me because he knows that I am shy and have not a heavy voice. The Commonwealth shipping line has eleven ships on order, all of which will be built in Australia. Apart from the Broken Hill Proprietary Com pany Limited, the private shipping companies have twelve ships on order, all of which are being built overseas, a procedure which has been approved by the Minister, as the honorable member for Moore said a while ago. The Minister must watch the matter of freights. What is wrong with him ? Does not the honorable member for Moore, and every other honorable member, know that this agreement will completely remove power from the Minister and the Commonwealth in respect of freights ?
– Not on the surface. Well, we shall see how it works out. That is in the agreement.
– Of course, it is in the agreement.
– Then tear the agreement up for all the good it is.
– We have heard the usual extravagant remarks from the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds). Of course, I realize that he is from Queensland, and that his electorate includes the coastline of a very important part of this Commonwealth, which is served well by ships-
Mr. Ward interjecting ,
– I expect the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) to keep his mouth shut when other people are speaking, if that is possible.
The honorable member for Herbert, in his opening remarks, made a very extravagant statement to the effect that this bill involved the selling out of the resources of the Commonwealth shipping line. Well, the views of honorable members of the Opposition on this bill are conditioned by their political attitudes. I believe that, the Government has placed before the Parliament a proposition which can have beneficial effect on the general conduct of shipping in Australia. We, in this great continent, rely to a very great extent on shipping as a means of transport, due to the fact that we are on an island thousands of miles away from the important centres of the world. Not only do we rely on shipping to provide us with our requirements from overseas, and to carry our exports to their distant markets abroad, but we also rely on it, to a large degree, for the conduct of our interstate trade. If tins Parliament and this Government can provide a means of overcoming the bottleneck in Australian shipping to-day, thereby giving us a satisfactory answer to our sea transport problems; then it will have served a very useful purpose by placing this measure before us.
I deny completely the statement of the honorable member for Herbert that the bill involves a sell-out of the Commonwealth shipping line. I say that this bill is an attempt to approach our shipping problem with the idea of not only encouraging the Commonwealth shipping line to continue the work it has been doing, but also encouraging the private shipping lines, which have in the past - and do not let us deny this fact - provided a very useful service to Australia. However, due to the competition of subsidized ships during the war period, and subsequently due to the competition of the Commonwealth shipping line, the private shipping companies had no inducement to extend either their fleets or the services that they were providing. It is no good denying the fact that people in business who are having the bone pointed at them by being faced with competition from grossly subsidized competitors - competition which they are not in a position to face and still be able to meet their responsibility to their shareholders - are in a most disadvantageous position. Therefore, it was reasonable for the private shipping lines to ask, “ Where do we come in on this proposition?” This bill provides the answer, I believe, to the satisfaction of the people as a whole.
I suggest that what is really motivating the opposition to this bill from the Labour party is not solely the Labour party’s traditional socialistic policy. I believe that honorable members opposite have in the back of their mind3 the thought that here is a very successful government-run chipping line which a turn of the poli tical wheel might place in the Labour party’s hands, when its members would be able to have free trips and would be able to provide a few jobs for their friends. I think that that is the thought behind all the socialist theory we have heard talked in this place on this subject. Such an outlook is neither for the good of the people of Australia nor conducive to economic development.
Let us look at the period when honorable gentlemen opposite “were in office and had the opportunity to control the Commonwealth shipping line. When the honorable member for Herbert was speaking I referred him, by way of interjection, to the fact that in 1.948, during the Labour government’s term of office, the line was under the control of Senator Ashley, as Minister for Shipping and Fuel, and made a record loss of £2,200,000. Its losses in a three years’ period under Labour totalled more than £4,000,000, an amount which the public had to find. The honorable member for Herbert stated that the line was making a profit, and quoted as proof of his statement figures relating to financial years since this Government has been in office, and when the line wa& under the ministerial control of the late Senator George McLeay. Those profit? were made after thi3 Government had had the opportunity to bring good sense and direction into the management of the line. The successful years of operation of the line which were cited by the honorable member for Herbert were from 1951-52 to 19,53-54. In each of those years the Commonwealth shipping line ran at a profit, and those profits represent the difference between honorable gentlemen opposite and us, because we try to approach such matters from the point of view of the general public welfare. We are not concerned with book entries in the Treasury, or with hypothetical profits. In this bill we are placing before the people of Australia a proposition that should be of value to them over a period of twenty years, designed to regulate and increase the flow of shipping around our coasts - something which will be of real value to Australia in the future.
Mr. MAKIN (Bonython) [9.26J.- If the committee desired any further proofs in regard to the spirit that is actuating this agreement the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) has supplied them, because he indicated that the purpose of this agreement was to give greater assurance to private shipping companies in respect of the future that they faced.
– That is correct.
– Similar statements have been made by other honorable gentlemen opposite, including the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), who said that this bill will provide the shipping companies with an opportunity to get on their feet. So it is quite evident that the great shipping combine, which has fleeced the Australian primary producer to such a degree, is to receive more special consideration from the Government.
The agreement before us is certainly a new kind of procedure in respect of coastal shipping. Never before has there been an agreement of this character in Australia. It is natural to ask why such a bill as this has been introduced. It must have some main purpose behind it. I have no doubt that those who framed this agreement, particularly those on the shipping side, had the very best lawyers that it was possible to get in order to see that their interests were fully protected, and that the shipping interests would gain from the bill. The provision that the agreement is to operate for twenty years is simply fantastic. If I 3it in another Parliament, and there is a change of government, I shall feel under no obligation whatever to be bound by this agreement, and I shall vote for its revision or cancellation. I wish to leave no doubt in the minds of honorable members about my personal attitude towards this measure. “When I observe how Australian private shipping interests have failed to modernize their fleets, I realize how utterly incompetent they are to provide a reasonable shipping service. To give them an almost exclusive right to determine shipping freights and fares i3, in my opinion, to fail to realize what are om- obligations to the Australian public. I feel that Opposition members are entitled to express their condemnation of this proposal, which does not display a sense of honour or of decency. That being so-
– lt is not so.
– I say to members of the Australian Country party that their reasoning is quite inconsistent. They have sought again to decry public ownership. They have endeavoured to decry those things that form part of the very life of this community.
– Socialism !
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) may condemn socialism if he wishes, but let me say to him that the community that he represents in this chamber could not possibly exist without the publicly owned water supply and irrigation system that has been provided in that area. In reply also to the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), let me say that the total length of railway track in Western Australia if greater than that of the whole of Britain. I remind him that Britain has a population of 40,000,000 people to accept the financial obligation of such development, whereas in Australia the obligation must be borne by 9,000,000 people. The provision of our railways systems, which have been the chief means used to develop many areas of Australia, is due to the foresight and courage of those who have gone before. I offer no apology for the part that public ownership has played in the development of this country. Private enterprise, on the other hand, only want? to make a profit at the expense of the general public and to pay as large dividends as possible, but to give as little service as possible in return. Honorable members opposite will not be able to persuade the Australian public to believe the arguments they have advanced in support of this measure. Bather will they discover that the people will give a very cold reception to this proposal.
I feel that liberalism has let this country down very badly. During World War II., it was more evident than ever before that, ns a result of neglect, private enterprise was incapable of giving to the people the service that they had a right to expect. The lives of many people were sacrificed because the Australian shipowners and former governments had failed to realize their obligation to provide a shipping service that could do the job required of it, not only in peace-time, but also in times of emergency. Unless ive do our part to rehabilitate, reorganize and modernize Australia’s mercantile marine, and unless we provide the shipyards with the work that is necessary to fit the Australian coastal fleet for emergency conditions and to train artisans in shipbuilding work, we shall be failing lamentably in our obligation to the Australian nation. Therefore, I ask the people of Australia to bear witness to what is happening in this chamber in relation to what I feel is the sacrifice of the Commonwealth shipping line.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
. -This bill contains words which ought to give new hope to those persons who believed that, under a Labour government, Australia’s shipping arrangements were being ruined and that the shipping services had. not recovered from the blight that was imposed upon them by that government. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) used a very apt phrase when he spoke about pointing the bone. If ever a bone were pointed, surely it was when the Labour government pointed it at the shipping industry. We have heard a lot about the profits that have been made by the Australian Shipping Board during the time this Government has been in office, but what happened under the Chifley Government ?
– We subsidized the industry to keep down fares and freights.
– My word, Labour did subsidize it !
– We subsidized it heavily.
– There is no doubt about that.
– And the Chifley fi was worth three of this Government’s £l’s.
– Let us look at the losses that were incurred on these 41 ships when the Chifley Government was in office. In 1945-46, the board lost 1,874,460 good £L’s. In 1946-47 it lost £4,226,780. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was then a member of the Ministry, but, because he was busy on other things, I do not suppose he had time to look at the position. The Chifley Government did subsidize the board.
– That is right. Now the honorable member is being honest.
– The board lost more than 4,000,000 of those wonderful £l’s the honorable member speaks about.
– It was a subsidizing of the primary producers in the main.
– The Chifley Government certainly did subsidize the board. In 1947-48, the loss was £4,047,480.
Mr. Pollard interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Lalor must not interject.
– The total loss for the three years was £10,188,720. My word, they did point the bone!
– Never mind about the bone. They lined your pockets for you.
– The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) said that we on this side of the chamber could not get above criticizing unions. He taunted us with that statement. In other words, according to the honorable member, if we say anything about a Communist union, we are doing something that is low. According to him, we must not criticize a union, particularly if a Communist is in charge of it. Apparently that is not done now in the Labour party. It is wrong to criticize a trade union if a Communist is leading it. But let us examine the argument that was used in England recently by a. Communist who was facing 14 years’ penal servitude for giving away secrets. He gave secrets to Russia, but he pleaded that the British Government was responsible for giving away the secrets because it knew he was a Communist. In other words, the barrister who appeared for that Communist said, “ If a man is known to be a Communist, then the Government is responsible for what he gives away to Russia because it knows he has another loyalty and a greater loyalty than the one to his own country “.
Labour members said that Government supporters were low because they dared to mention that a trade union has not done its best for this country when that union is led by a Communist. That Communist came to this Parliament to see that the left-wingers followed the Communist line. We must not dare to criticize them because it is low to criticize a trade union that has Communist leadership. That is the depth to which we have sunk. We dare not criticize a union when a Communist is in charge of it because he is something sacred, the mysticism of the central line of the Labour party, or the policy of the Labour party stated by the sacred Communist. Therefore, we must not dare even to speak about the union.
– I rise to order. Would you inform me, Mr. Temporary Chairman, on what clause of the bill the honorable member is speaking?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN’.Order ! The committee is considering the bill as a whole and the honorable member is addressing his remarks to the same clause and the same bill as that mentioned by other speakers.
– Thank you, Mr. Temporary Chairman. God forbid that the day is ever reached when people in this country are silenced because they dare to protest against the stranglehold that the Communist-led unions have, so to speak, upon the throat of Australia through which goods must pour to earn income for us overseas. But it does not matter to the people on the other side of the chamber if we lose money, so long as the shipping line is socialized.
– If the honorable member can get away with these remarks, he can speak on the bank bill that he desires to introduce.
– If the honorable member for Bass wants to support socialization, let him do so. But I say to him that the socialist bone that has been pointed at the private shipping companies has been removed. The immediate answer to the socialist bonepointing is that when the socialists were in power the Australian Shipping Board lost £10,000,000 in three years, and the taxpayers of Australia had to foot the bill. Now that the socialists are not in power, gradually the shipping line is being brought round because of decent management; because decency is in charge; because the disreputable policies of honorable members on the other side are not now allowed to point the bone; and because there is some opposition to the depradations of the Communist traitors who lead these trade unions. I call them Communist traitors. The people of Australia made a mistake when they did not give us the power to deal with Communists who are in key positions in key trade unions such as the shipping trade unions.
The bill is an attempt to give further encouragement to the shipping industry - and to some extent a stronger word than “ encouragement “ could be used. Clause 13 (1.) reads-
If the Australian Shipbuilding Board advises the Minister that orders held by the Australian merchant shipbuilding yards for the construction of new tonnage for the coastal and territorial shipping services ure less than is necessary to enable the industry to continue in operation at a reasonably adequate level of production, the Minister may, having regard to the advice tendered by the Australian Shipbuilding Board . . .’ /live notice to the Companies specifying the tonnage which in his opinion should be ordered from the Australian shipbuilding yards.
– Is not that nice of him.
– It is an attempt to see that sufficient ships are built.
– It does not get him anywhere.
– The honorable member for Lalor says it does not get him anywhere. Of course, that proves that he has not read the agreement. If I am permitted to say one word for every tcn uttered by the gramophone on the front bench, I should like to point out that if the companies do not agree with the opinion of the Minister, they may give notice to the Minister and the Minister may refer the matter to the independent authority. The independent authority will consider the situation and if the shipping companies still refuse to build enough ships, then the Minister may, if the companies do not take such steps as are practicable to place orders with Australian shipbuilding yards for the construction of ships of the tonnage specified by the Minister or determined by the independent authority, as the case may be, authorize the commission to place orders with the Australian shipbuilding yards to the extent of the deficiency.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This bill has raised for discussion the question of what is known as rating, or in what way shall the costs of operations of a large-scale enterprise be charged. This has been discussed in the course of the debate as though it is merely a political matter. Rut it is a matter that has been examined at great length in the literature on accounting and public administration. There is a very strong case frequently on technical grounds for charging a price to the consumer considerably less than cost of production. That principle has guided the operation of Australian railways during the greater part of our history. It guided the operation of the Commonwealth shipping lines in the second phase as it did in the first phase of their activities. In regard to the first phase of the operations, after a very lengthy examination in 1927, the Public Accounts Committee reached this conclusion -
Not only has the Commonwealth line been directly responsible for actual reductions in freights but the presence of the line has exerted a material restraining influence.
That is to say, it has exerted a restraining influence on private companies, which would have maximized their profits and prices had they been able to do so. In 1927 the committee recommended that in the interests of Australia the line be continued. It was then operating as a very strong and effective competitive factor. The report of the committee in 1927, however, was not sufficient to prevent the Bruce-Page Government of that year from taking action with regard to that line. The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) said a few moments ago that ships could not be given away. If the action of the BrucePage Government was not giving away ships, then I have never heard of action that was. The cost of construction of those Commonwealth ships up to 1927 was £7,527,504. If depreciation is allowed, the figure comes down to about £5,000,000. The sale price of those ships was £1,900,000. And in fact, that has not all been paid yet ! If that does not illustrate quite clearly that you can give away ships, I do not know what the honorable member for Macarthur would require for proof.
The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), in dealing with the important technical question of the pricing of a service from a large economic unit, said that the Australian Country party, of which he is a member, has never supported a policy in which the railways allowed cheap fares and freights. The honorable member is not here to hear my remarks; he is probably outside reading his speech. I know that Victoria is a long way from Western Australia, and perhaps the honorable member for Moore has never heard of this, but recently the Liberal party Government now in office in Victoria proposed to increase country fares and freights as well as city fares and freights. The numerically small Country party on which the Government depends in the Legislative Council, delivered the ultimatum to the Government that if it increased country fares and freights, it would go out of office. This Victorian Country party, which, of course, supports low freights and fares only in the country, was successful with its ultimatum to the Victorian Liberal party Government, and country fares and freights were not increased.
The question of whether the full cost of production should be charged in prices is one that has been elevated to the level of a principle in this debate and earlier debates. Tn the debate on the bill relating to the disposal of the Australian Whaling Commission’s undertaking, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who is now absent overseas, expounded the principle that it was necessary for the Government to carry on what he called pioneering activities, and that when it had carried them on at considerable cost to the taxpayer - to the amount of something like the £10,000,000 that the honorable member for Macarthur mentioned a few minutes ago - it was right for the Government to sell the pioneered operation to private enterprise. The first move made by this Government in relation to the Commonwealth ships was to try to sell them to private enterprise. More than £20,000,000 would have been involved, however, and the private companies could not muster that amount of money. Therefore, we are now faced with legislation that has a different objective.
There are two rival interpretations of the objects of this measure. The Government’s interpretation is that this bill will subject the 44 Commonwealth ships, and ships to be built subsequently, to control which will produce efficient and profitable operation. The other interpretation is that of the Opposition, which says that the main purpose of the bill is to hand over control of the Commonwealth ships to the private shipping lines, so that they will not operate competitively with private ships, and will be made to serve those private interests. Let us examine several aspects of the legislation in order to test those two interpretations. First, the legislation sets up a commission and hands over to it, to a large degree, control of the whole enterprise. The legislation that has been passed by this chamber earlier to-day provides for the appointment of five commissioners. That provision was rushed through this chamber so rapidly that we were given five minutes to consider it and other provisions, and we were not able to discover from the Government any information that would contradict the belief held by honorable members on this side of the committee that those five members will be appointed to represent the shipping interests. That commission will now be given power, for a period of twenty years, to operate merchant vessels. Clause 6 of the agreement provides -
Subject to this agreement, the Commonwealth undertakes that, during the currency of this agreement -
it will not, except through the agency of the Commission, operate or arrange for the operation of merchant vessels
That clause hands over to the shipowners’ commission the power of the Commonwealth to operate merchant vessels. Is that consistent with our interpretation or with the Government’s interpretation? Of course it is consistent with the interpretation that the intention of the Government is to hand over control of ships on the Australian coast to the private shipping companies. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) said - and he should know - that the shipping companies had not had, in the past, sufficient assurance of an unqualified scope of operations around the coast. Well, they will get it now! This measure means more business for the private shippers. That is the correct interpretation of this measure.
Clause 7 (1.) of the agreement limits the tonnage of ships that the commission may operate. It says -
Except as otherwise provided in this agreement, the Commission will not operate in the coastal and territorial shipping services vessels, including vessels under charter, which in the aggregate exceed 325,000 gross registered tons.
Is th at in the interests of efficiency or in the interests of the shipping companies? This agreement imposes no limit on the number or weight of ships that may be operated by the shipping companies, but the number of vessels that may be operated by the commission is limited for twenty years to the 44 efficient and modern vessels now in the possession of the Commonwealth, and a. number of other vessels to bring the total fleet up to 325,000 tons. Is that limitation in the interests of efficiency or of the shipowners ?
That, however, is not the end of the matter. The agreement - and what an agreement it is ! - provides that the commission is not to engage in stevedoring operations. Clause S (1.) provides -
The Commission will not, except as provided m this agreement, engage in stevedoring operations ….
That prohibition remains on the commission for twenty years. Does one have to be a socialist to object to that kind of agreement? It means more business to the private shipping companies, which run the stevedoring operations. Clause S (2.) provides -
Subject to. the provisions of this clause, the Commission shall arrange for the stevedoring of, or the booking or handling of cargo carried in, its vessels ….
The booking or handling of cargo will be an extremely efficient method of determining which operator shall be given the trade. This provision hands over to the shippers’ commission the power to determine where the trade shall go.
– Full details of their business will have to be disclosed.
– That is so. What is contemplated in this provision is very much like handing over to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited the power to determine the bookings on Trans-Australia Airlines. Imagine the difference that that would make to the two airline operators ! In the words of the honorable member for Corangamite, what a great assurance this bill and agreement will give to the private shipping interests! How happy will they be now to look forward to the future, a future in which their profits are secure. I should imagine that the achievement of that end is what the honorable member considers to be his duty in this chamber. As the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) said during a debate recently, this Government is a private enterprise government, and its duty is to look after privateenterprise.
– Order! The honorablemember’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Yarra (Mr . Cairns) gave support to some of the comments made earlier by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean).. Before I deal with those comments, 1 wish to reply to some remarks made by the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) and the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds). The honorablemember for Bonython charged the Government with some dishonest practice in. negotiating this agreement. He used extravagant language.
– He would be right!
– Of course, I should not be surprised if those remarks had been made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), but, coming from a man of the calibre and integrity of the honorable member for Bonython, they are very strange indeed.
– Not so strange as the honorable member may think.
– Apparently not. but they appeared to me to-night to be strange. The honorable member charged the members of the Australian Country party with supporting the building of railways and with wanting to destroy shipping transport. I point out to him that, except in a very few instances, I have never known of private enterprise undertaking the construction and running of railways, although in most cases where it has done so, those railways are still in operation. I also point out that long before any government of this Commonwealth ever thought of establishing a Commonwealth shipping line, private shipping interests were doing a good job on our seaboard. As I am reminded by the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock), the New South Wales Government at present wants private enterprise to take over its railway system.
– No, it does not.
– Yes, it does. It has been chasing private interests all over the world to that end. However, that is getting away from the matter before the committee. I do not know where the honorable member for Herbert obtained his information, but he charged me with having suggested that we should hand over the 44 Commonwealth ships now in operation, and the eleven that are in course of construction. I will be perfectly frank and say that I did not know, how many ships the Australian Shipping Board had in operation until the honorable member mentioned the number. Then [ looked at the agreement and found that there were 44. I never mentioned 44 ships, or the eleven that might be in course of construction.
– It is very difficult to discover what the honorable member is talking about.
– I do not need to go back to the agreement of 1927 to build up a speech. I am dealing with the particular measure that is before the committee. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), in a flight of fancy, said that the Commonwealth shipping line will not be able to trade overseas. He read clause 48 of the bill that was passed earlier this evening by this Parliament. That clause has nothing to do with trade overseas. In fact, if he cares to examine clause 15 (a) (iv) and clause 15 (a) (v) of that piece of legislation he will see that it is expressly provided that the Common wealth shipping line can. engage in overseas shipping. The honorable member went on tn talk about Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Although this Government may have made provision for Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to obtain certain spare parts and aircraft, and to gain some relief in regard to sales tax, no Labour government would ever give that company an opportunity to buy new aircraft or parts or relief from sales tax. Instead, every assistance was given to Trans-Australia Airlines. I daresay that I have travelled more on Trans-Australia Airlines than has any Labour member. Honorable members opposite are too one-sided. They spoke about the possibility of accidents, yet they deliberately tried to strangle thi= private airline and prevent it from getting new equipment. Honorable members can imagine the result of such a policy. Labour set out deliberately to cause all possible damage to the company regardless of the travelling public of thiCommonwealth.
I want now to have something to say about the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) about stevedoring and bookings. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports said that the commission would be denied the right to handle cargo.
– That is so.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) supports that contention, but I remind these gentlemen that clause 16 (2.) (h) of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Bill, which this chamber passed earlier to-day, permits the commission to engage in stevedoring operations, subject to the approval of the Minister.
– Only in very involved circumstances.
– The proposal is expressed in a wealth of words, but it is clear that if the agreement is not carried out to the letter, the Commonwealth may undertake its own stevedoring and booking. Clause 5 (2.) of the agreement reads - (2.) The Companies which are engaged in stevedoring or the handling of cargo jointly and severally undertake that, during the currency of this agreement, they will conduct the stevedoring of the Commission’s vessel? and the booking and handling of. cargo carried: in the Commission’s vessels in which they are engaged-
I invite honorable members to mark these words - in a manner which is efficient and economical and which ensures that the Commission’s vessels receive fair and equitable treatment.
These companies, which are all listed in the schedule, have undertaken to carry out this work for the commission efficiently and economically, and have promised that the commission’s vessels shall receive fair and equitable treatment.
I take exception to the manner in which clause 8 (1.) of the agreement was quoted a few moments ago by the honorable member for Yarra. He read only the first few words - (1.) The Commission will not . . . engage in stevedoring operations.
The honorable member deliberately refrained from quoting the first lines in full. In fact, they read - (1.) The Commission will not, except as provided in this agreement, engage in stevedoring operations.
That is entirely different from what the honorable member quoted. As my colleague, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) remarks, it is typical of the misleading tactics that the Labour party is adopting during this debate. It is obvious to every one that honorable members opposite are very sore about the fact that this bill puts another spoke in the wheel of socialism. They do not want to see Commonwealth and private ships operating side by side. If the agreement is not honoured the Minister has power to act, but that is not the whole story. Clause 8 (1.) of the Commission’s undertaking prohibits it, except as provided in the agreement, from engaging in stevedoring operations in connexion with the coastal and territorial shipping services, or undertaking the booking or handling of cargo carried in its vessels in the coastal and territorial shipping services. Clause 8 (6.) provides -
– What about clause 9 ?
– I would love to talk about it, but as the honorable member knows, there is no clause 9. At leastI have shown that I have read the agreement. That is more than most of the honorable member’s colleagues can say.
– The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) would be the only honorable member who could speak at length on clause 9.
– I thank the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) for reminding me that our legal friend from Werriwa is perhaps better equipped than is any one else to discuss that imaginary clause. Clause 8 (6.) 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
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.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It is quite obvious that the Government’s aim is to put a strait-jacket on the Commonwealth shipping line. I am not surprised at this because the Government parties are powerless to resist the demands of the private shipping companies, which subscribed so heavily to their funds for the last election. The private companies are the real masters of the situation. What is the position at the moment? Government supporters especially those in the corner, have a great deal to say about free enterprise. How can they speak of free enterprise when the Commonwealth shipping line, irrespective of what development takes place in this country in the meantime, will be restricted for twenty years to a shipping tonnage of 325,000 ? How can it be regarded as capable of providing fair competition for the private shipping companies? As members of the Australian Country party know full well, in many directions government enterprise is proving much more efficient than is private enterprise, and the latter, in . order to operate, successfully, have to persuade anti-Labour governments to cripple their rivals.
Let us first examine the proposed Commonwealth shipping line. It is perfectly true, as Government supporters have said, that for some years the Commonwealth shipping line did not make profits. In fact, it had annual deficits. This happened because, during a difficult economic period, the then Labour government deliberately used the Commonwealth ships to keep down freights and thus subsidize the Australian primary producer, who was very much in need of assistance. During that period even the private shipping companies were not doing well. The Commonwealth line was not alone in encountering difficulties. This Government claims that it was responsible for the changed fortunes of the Commonwealth line which has, in the last four or five years, made profits. Is it not a fact that a Labour government brought a shipping expert, Mr. Dewey, to this country, and that that gentleman’s efforts to reorganize the shipping line produced the changed situation? As a matter of fact, Mr. Dewey gave the Government many headaches, because it knew that, under his wise managership, the Commonwealth shipping line was paying handsomely. What did the Government do then? First of all, it got rid of Mr. Dewey. Of course, honorable members opposite will say that the term of his contract had expired. We know that Mr. Dewey was eager to secure an extension of his contract, but only on the condition that he should be free to develop the
Commonwealth shipping line in the way in which, as an efficient shipper, he knew it could be developed. The Government sacked Mr. Dewey, in effect, and appointed another gentleman in his place. As a result of that change of managership, the Commonwealth shipping line merely had a line ball in its last year of operations; it made a profit of only a few thousand pounds. There is no doubt whatever that the aim of Government members is to make the Commonwealth shipping line a losing proposition, so that, within a few years, they will be able to say to the Australian people that they are saving money for the taxpayers by sacrificing the Commonwealth ships to private enterprise.
Let us examine the attitude of these private shippers. It seems to me to be rather remarkable that the Government has such a great deal of sympathy for them - so much so that one would imagine that they had rendered great services to Australia. The stevedoring operating companies which have been crippling the operations of the Commonwealth ships are subsidiaries of the private shipping companies. When this Parliament established a committee of inquiry to examine the whole of the stevedoring industry, who were the people who refused to produce their books, accounts and balancesheets for examination by the committee? They were the representatives of the stevedoring companies and the private shipping companies, on behalf of which this Government is now moving in such a beneficial way.
The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), seems to believe that the shipping companies operating round the Australian coast are in dire need of some assistance from the Government, owing to the activities of a Communist-controlled trade union or its members. There is not a Communist union in Australia to-day. In every trade union in Australia to-day, the Communists are in a minority. But we do not have to look to the trade unions for evidence of sabotage of shipping and shipping operations. Trade unionists are intelligent men, and they know that if they sabotage an industry that gives them employment, they will injure only themselves and those dependent on them. I stated this afternoon in the discussion of another measure that it was not the trade unionists who were sabotaging the operations of the Commonwealth ships. I said that that was being done by the private shipping companies, through their subsidiaries, the stevedoring operators. I referred by way of illustration to two Commonwealth ships Tyalla and Enfield, the operations of which, in recent weeks, have been sabotaged by the activities of the Macquarie Stevedoring Company Proprietary Limited. That company, acting as an agent for the Commonwealth, is paid on the basis of 10 per cent, plus on costs, which means that the higher the cost of either loading or discharging a vessel, the greater is the profit that the company makes.
The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) said that, under this measure, the commission which will control the Commonwealth ships will not be denied an opportunity to engage in stevedoring operations. I venture to express the opinion that, when this legislation has been put into force, the commission will not be permitted to establish a stevedoring organization except at ports where private companies are not operating. If Commonwealth ships are directed to provide what is regarded as a developmental service to ports not served by private shipping lines, where no private stevedoring company is operating, those ports will be the only places where the commission will be permitted to establish stevedoring organizations.
Let me turn to the question of fares and freights. It is evident that the members of the Australian Country party are already feeling uneasy about this matter. They are afraid that when they go back to their electorates, the primary producers - who have more to lose as a result of high freights than have any other members of the community - will begin to criticize and attack them. So they have pointed to the provision that freights and fares cannot be varied, except with the approval of the Minister. Do they imagine for one moment that that pro vision was put into the bill to protect the people who use the shipping sei1 vices of this country? It was put there to protect the private shipping companies. There is a very remote chance that the new commission will be comprised of men who will pay some heed to the requirementof the Australian community and wilt try to force down fares and freights. So the Government has inserted that provision in the bill in order that the Minister will be able to override the commission and force fares and freights up to a level satisfactory to the private shipping companies.
Let us turn again to the shipbuilding industry of this country. The Labour party has the proud record of having built and developed the Australian shipbuilding industry and Australian coastal shipping services. Honorable member.opposite can talk, if they like, about that being a form of socialism. But w< developed a great national industry, upon which Australia would be largely dependent in the event of war with an overseas power. What do we find to-day’? This Government claims that it believe.in maintaining and strengthening tinAustralian shipbuilding industry. Is not it a fact that at the present time thenare twelve ships on order overseas for private shipping companies? None of those companies could have ordered ship.to be built overseas unless it had first obtained the approval of the Minister for Shipping and Transport.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I wish to correct one or two statements made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), although he made one statement with which I agree - namely, that primary producers are vitally interested in freights, particularly shipping freights. He stated that the fleet controlled by the new commission would be limited to 325,000 tons. I advise him to read the bill a little more carefully. If he does so, he will learn that no such limitation is contained in it. I refer the honorable member to article 10 of the agreement, which states -
If at any time, in the opinion of the Minister, it becomes necessary to acquire further tonnage in the coastal and territorial shipping services -
by reason of the tonnage available being insufficient to maintain adequate services on established routes
Those are the key words. That provision will permit the commission to acquire any tonnage which, in the opinion of the Minister, is necessary.
– Up to 325,000 tons.
– There will be no limitation to 325,000 tons, provided that the Minister is of the opinion that it is necessary to acquire further tonnage. If the honorable member wishes, I shall read the remainder of the clause, which is as follows: -
– What about article 12?
– I do not think it necessary to read the whole of the bill to the members of the Opposition, who, obviously, have not studied it to any degree, although it has been before the committee for some hours now. Another obviously false statement made by several speakers on the Opposition side of the chamber was that, under the bill, the commission will not be empowered to undertake stevedoring operations or the booking and handling of cargo.
– It is all qualified and hedged round with conditions.
– Certainly, the provision is drafted in legal language, but there is provision for the commission to engage in stevedoring operations, and to engage in any booking or handling of cargo that is necessary for the efficient operation of the services. I think that the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) asked why this agreement had been introduced. That is pretty plain to any one who knows anything about the shipping business. The obvious reason is that we are not getting the service which we should be getting from our shipping trade. It is running down hill, and something drastic had to be done very shortly. The total capital invested in our shipping trade is £57,000,000. The life of a ship is estimated at between 20 and 25 years. Within the next few years we must replace80 of the ships now trading because they are more than 25 years old, and their replacement cost would be about £60,000,000, which is more than the total capital value of the asset now. That is quite a large amount for the number and size of the companies engaged in this trade. I would say that it is impossible for them to meet that cost and replace that number of ships in the time required. We have an antiquated fleet and we must have it replaced as soon as possible. Some of these companies may be making good returns on their operations, but the majority are making only a very small profit. Two leading companies of the seven in the Australian Steamship Owners Federation made only 4 per cent. on their capital over the last four years and that is certainly not sufficient to allow them to set aside enough to allow for replacement cost. The cost of building ships has risen to from three to seven times the pre-war cost and it is now almost prohibitive for private companies. Some of the reasons why shipping companies make so little profit in the Australian trade are to be found in stevedoring activities.
We have heard much from the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) about stevedoring. He had obviously been listening to his master’s voice and we were treated to quite a story from him about the hardships of the stevedoring trade. I do not need to touch on that matter except to say that it has been estimated that stevedoring costs in our coastal trade amount to 60 per cent. of shipping freights or more. Crew wages are also a very considerable item. Together with stevedoring costs, they make up 75 per cent, of all shipping costs. In regard to crew wages, I refer to the statement of Mr. Justice Foster of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, when he reviewed the new award in May, 1955. He pointed out that seamen were paid for 64 hours a week, although they in fact worked from 28 to 35 hours a week, depending on whether they performed watch duties. Mr. Justice Foster described this fact as “ staggering “ and said that it was - a matter for urgent consideration by the union and by shipowners who had let discipline sag so far.
He went on to say -
From the community’s point of view, it is one explanation of why the transport industry costs so much with such an unsatisfactory result.
I suggest that there is no need to look very far to see why shipping companies cannot meet the present day replacement costs of ships, and why the coastal shipping trade is falling into decay. It might interest honorable members to know that if Australian ships were to ply overseas, our shipping freight charges would be vastly more than they are at present because of high crew wages. An Australian ship carrying 10,000 tons of exports would need an increased freight payment of nearly £2 a ton to cover the extra cost of wages alone in the journey to Europe. That is a staggering figure. I put it to the committee that it would be impossible under those conditions for Australian ships, manned by Australian crews paid Australian rates of wages, to carry our exports overseas in competition with overseas shipping lines.
-What sort of wages do the companies pay?
– I shall give an example from my personal experience of the rates of wages paid on the Australian coast. The commodore of one of the leading lines, who presumably would be earning about £3,000 a year, plus keep and expenses, is eighth on the pay list of his particular ship. The cooks, engineers and various other important men on the ship earn far more than the captain earns, and this particular captain is commodore of the fleet. That gives some idea of how the costs of operating our ships have skyrocketed in recent years.
– This is a corrupt bill from start to finish, as its provisions show. To bear out my contention, I should like to refer to the subject of tonnage, which was mentioned by the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan). Clause 10 of the agreement provides -
If at any time, in the opinion of the Minister, it becomes necessary to acquire further tonnage in the coastal and territorial shipping services
by reason of the tonnage available being insufficient to maintain adequate services on established routes; or
to provide for a foreseeable expansion of trade in established routes; or
for the purpose of providing ton nage for new routes, the Minister shall give notice to the Companies accordingly, specifying the amount of further tonnage which he considers to be necessary and the time within which he considers that the tonnage should be acquired.
He will specify the amount to the private companies. That is why his specification could be unlimited. Clause 7 provides - (1.) Except as otherwise provided in this agreement, the Commission will not operate in the coastal and territorial shipping services vessels, including vessels under charter, which in the aggregate exceed 325,000 gross registered tons.
That shows that the commission is tied down to 325,000 tons and that the private companies may operate in an unlimited field. The sweetest racket that has ever operated under the auspices of any government is disclosed by the stevedoring clause. The door is being deliberately left open by the Government to allow its wealthy supporters to enrich themselves and strangle competition. Clause8 (1.) provides -
The Commission will not, except as provided in this agreement, engage in stevedoring operations in connexion with the coastal and territorial shipping services, or undertake the booking or handling of cargo carried in its vessels in the coastal and territorial shipping services.
Sub-clause (2.) reads -
Subject to the provisions of this clause, the Commission shall arrange.
It is to be allowed to do that - for the stevedoring of or the booking or handling of cargo carried in, its vessels in the coastal and territorial shipping services to be conducted by one or more of the Companies as the Commission may from time to time select
The major stevedoring company in Sydney is the Macquarie Stevedoring Company Proprietary Limited, which has only very small competition. I turn now to the companies that are shareholders in the Macquarie Stevedoring Company Proprietary Limited. They include the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited and the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company Limited, both of which are owned by the Peninsular and Oriental group. Then we have William Holyman and Sons Proprietary Limited. A member of the Holyman family has had dealings with this Government in years gone by as a representative of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which also is a subsidiary of the Peninsular and Oriental group. There we see the tie-up. Another shareholder in the Macquarie Stevedoring Company Proprietary Limited is Interstate Steam Ships Proprietary Limited, which also belongs to the Peninsular and Oriental group. Other shareholders are Mcllwraith McEacharn Limited and the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand Limited, which also is controlled by the Peninsular and Oriental group. The same companies, which belong to the Peninsular and Oriental group, are shareholders in the Melbourne Stevedoring Company Proprietary Limited. I suppose this group controls many of the trade routes of the world.
The proposed Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, through the Minister, is to deliver itself, holus-bolus, into the hands of the shipping companies. There is no denying the fact that they are completely corrupt. The ships at present operated by the Australian Shipping Board arc to be delivered into the hands of the Peninsular and Oriental group, which, about 30 years ago, obtained another Australian shipping line. It seems to be the favourite group of Liberal and anti-Labour governments in Australia. About 30 years ago, the Australian people owned a shipping line, which was worth between £10,000,000 and £15,000,000. The gentleman who was then Prime Minister of Australia now glories in the title of “ Viscount Bruce “. In order to gain favour with the people who later made him a viscount, he handed over the Australian people’s ships, lock, stock and barrel, to his English associates, who, of course, belonged to the House of Lords. Among them were Lord Inchcape and Lord Kylsant. The latter served eighteen months in prison for his part in the handing over of the ships which belonged to the Australian nation. Could history be about to repeat itself? There is now in London a gentleman who is the leader of this Government. Is he contracting to do what Viscount Bruce did - to sell an Australian shipping line for the doubtful honour of being created a viscount? I do not want to mention any names, Mr. Temporary Chairman, but it is obvious to whom I refer.
– Order ! It is about time the honorable member mentioned the clauses of the bill.
– The U vessels of the Australian shipping line can carry a lot of cargo, and the loading and unloading - commonly called stevedoring - will be done for the proposed commission at the convenience of the stevedoring companies. My colleague the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said earlier to-day that, if a commission vessel is tied up at a wharf unloading, and a privately owned vessel enters port and wishes to unload, the commission’s ship will be removed from its berth so that the privately owned vessel may be tied up and unloaded. Work on the commission’s ship will be resumed when the stevedoring company is ready. This bill reeks of corruption. It leaves the door open for further corrupt practices.
– It removes the door altogether.
– That is so. The committee can take it from me that, when the doorway is left wide open, the vultures of the big private shipping lines will be ready to rush in. I think this bill-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I do not think much weight can be given to the remarks of the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin), who cannot even read the agreement. He read sub-clause (1.) of clause 7, which states -
Except as otherwise provided in this agreement … the Commission will not operate . . . shipping . . . vessels . . . which in the aggregate exceed 325,000 gross tons.
– Read the provision made elsewhere.
– Opposition members can read it for themselves. Sub-clause (1.) of clause 13 of the agreement provides that, if the Australian Shipbuilding Board reports to the Minister that the shipbuilding yards have not enough orders to maintain a reasonably adequate level of production, the Minister may, in certain circumstances, order the private shipping companies to place orders with the shipping yards.
– Yes, but subclause (5.) reads -
The Commission may place such orders as are authorized by the Minister under the last preceding sub-clause, and the aggregate tonnage which the Commission is under this agreement permitted to operate shall be increased by the amount of tonnage so ordered by the Commission.
Opposition members have deliberately attempted to mislead the committee about clause after clause. They continually talk about stevedoring. The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith said the private stevedoring companies would remove a Commonwealth ship from its berth in order to work a privately owned ship.
– That has happened many times.
– I think it is fair to say that the Opposition has continually harped on the fact that the stevedoring companies will act for the Commonwealth. I am sure they will agree that they have criticized that arrangement, not once but time and again. The honor able member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said twice that the stevedoring companies would sabotage the Commonwealth.
– Not that they would, but that they have done so.
– I shall demonstrate the humbug of Opposition members. Who did the stevedoring work for the Commonwealth shipping line under the administration of the Labour government from 1945 until 1949 ?
– Those were difficult postwar years.
– The private stevedoring companies did the stevedoring work for the Commonwealth shipping line from the end of the war until the present Government took office. Exactly the same conditions will continue to operate as existed before this Government took office. Up to 1949, according to the Opposition, the private stevedoring companies gave good service, but Opposition members now suggest that the same firms will not give proper service because the present Government is in office. I am sure the committee will realize the utter humbug talked by Opposition members about the stevedoring companies, which handled vessels of the Commonwealth shipping line when the Labour government was in office.
Opposition members have said that the Government is not looking after the public interest. That is complete nonsense. When the Government produced the bank legislation, speaker after speaker on the Opposition side said that it represented a deliberate attempt to strangle the people’s bank. Speaker after speaker, using identical phrases, said that we were out to strangle the people’s bank. Has the bank been strangled ? Instead of being strangled it has gone from strength to strength. To-day, speaker after speaker on the Opposition side has said that we are out to strangle the people’s shipping line. The same humbug goes on all the time. Nobody will listen to Opposition members or believe them if they cast their minds back, because they will know how often the Opposition has been proved wrong.
Words have been put into my mouth that I have never said. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) accused me of attacking the trade unions at every opportunity.
– So the honorable member has.
– If the honorable member looks through all my speeches, which would probably be good for his education, he will find that I have never attacked trade unions on the ground of trade unionism. I have attacked the bad practices which trade unionism in Australia has introduced, because I believe in freedom. I like my freedom and I like all people to have their freedom and there are practices of trade unionism which deny man his freedom. That is what I attack. The principles of trade unionism I support entirely.
Time and time again, members of the Opposition have spoken about socialism. The honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) should know better because at least he has been to a country which has proved the value of private enterprise. He has spoken about the public ownership of water supplies and other undertakings. There is no reason why the Government should not attempt certain undertakings such as water supply or the sign-posting of roads. Do we suggest that the police force should be handed over to private enterprise? Of course not! There must be a certain amount of public enterprise, but private enterprise is more efficient in many spheres.
The honorable member also talked about the British railways. The British railways, before the war, were privately owned, and they paid. Since they have been nationalized, they have suffered colossal losses. It is exactly the same with the coal-mining industry in Great Britain. I say to honorable members opposite that the Australian way of life of which they boast is a private enterprise system. They want to socialize it. All right! Is it a theory or can we prove it in practice? It is a theory. Where has socialism as defined in their platform been proved successful? Is there one place in this world where the way of life of a people is socialized and where it has proved successful? Is there one such place ? No ! It is a complete and absolute theory. Yet Opposition members keep on talking about socialism as if it were best for the people. What absolute nonsense! They boast about being Australian and the Australian way of life, yet they are doing their best to destroy it and bring serfdom to this country.
I should like to refer again to the humbug that has been spoken about stevedoring. Speaker after speaker on the Opposition side has said that the system under which private companies will conduct stevedoring operations for the Commonwealth line will obviously lead to trouble. When Labour was in office for five years after the war, ii adopted an identical procedure to that proposed in this bill so I say that, like the rest of the criticism of this agreement, this criticism is a lot of humbug.
– I am glad that I have once again the privilege of following the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) in this debate. It seems to have been one of the pleasures that have been kept specially for me this session. I should like to begin my ten minutes’ contribution to the debate by replying at once to his assertion that socialism has never paid and that socialism has never been a success. On the contrary, I say to the committee that the very bill that we are discussing gives us a clear example of socialism at work, saving the people thousands of pounds, making huge profits, and acting as a barrier against the exorbitant freights that would otherwise have been charged by the private shipping companies if it were not for the competition provided by the socialized shipping company. Let me remind the honorable member for Hume, and let me tell the committee that during the last four years of operation of the socialized shipping company, the profit of the Australian Shipping Board amounted to £3,040,000. The exact operational profits for the last four years were as follows: -
Can any one say that that proves the argument that socialism is not a success? Socialism has not only been proved a success in the shipping industry of Australia by virtue of the profit it has made. The greatest success that socialism can claim is that, by active competition with the private shipping companies, it has been able to prevent the private shipping companies from taking more from the consumers than they already take. If a Labour government were in power I would hope that it would do two things in regard to these profits. It would tell the Australian Shipping Board that it was not necessary to make exorbitant profits such as those which I have outlined at the expense of the consuming public of Australia; and it would look also at the activities of the stevedoring companies which work in conjunction with the Australian Shipping Board. lt is a noteworthy fact, which any one on the wharfs knows, that the stevedoring companies in Australia deliberately sabotage the Australian Shipping Board’s activities. They always do what they can to try to make the ships of the Australian Shipping Board take the worst kind of cargo and be burdened with the greatest cost in handling it. I do not rely on mere hearsay in making this statement. I invite the Minister for Air (Mr. Townley), who is in charge of this bill, to examine this charge which I am making against the Macquarie Stevedoring Company Proprietary Limited, in Sydney. On Monday, the 11th June of this year, a ship known as Tyalla, owned by the Australian .Shipping Board, which is a socialized board, was tied up at No. S wharf at Pyrmont. Tyalla was loading a Royal Australian Air Force cargo of equipment, for Darwin. This is the fact that I want honorable members to listen to. The Macquarie Stevedoring Company Proprietary Limited compelled the Australian shipping line to bear an exorbitant and unfair cost in handling the cargo of this vessel. The shift came on from 6 o’clock to 11 o’clock. The men sat around for nearly two hours, doing absolutely nothing because the stevedoring company had not taken the necessary steps to arrange for the cargo to be there for loading. Finally, at ten minutes to 7 oclock, nearly two hours after they started, the men, who were anxious to work, willing to work, and waiting to work, received 5 tons of cement to handle. Five tons of cement, mark you ! They had received no other cargo. The men were issued with overalls in accordance with the award. They then received dirt money in accordance with the award, which provides that if at least 20 tons of cargo is handled dirt money shall be paid. Only five tons of cargo was handled. The Macquarie Stevedoring Company Proprietary Limited normally expects the handling of 20 tons before dirt money is paid but these men were paid dirt money, not only for the five tons that they handled on the Monday, but also for cargo handled on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, in spite of the fact that they did not handle a single bag of cement after the Monday. The Macquarie Stevedoring Company Proprietary Limited said, “ Well, what does it matter. We are working an a 10 per cent, cost-plus basis. The Commonwealth Shipping Board has to pay “.
– That company is a signatory to this agreement.
– Yes, the name of the Macquarie Stevedoring Company Proprietary Limited appears on the last page of the schedule as a signatory to the agreement. I wish to refer now to another example of how this company has run up the costs to be borne by the Commonwealth shipping line. The instance to which I shall refer concerns the same vessel, and occurred on the Thursday night of the week in which the incident that I have already mentioned occurred. The waterside workers engaged in working that vessel were told to break up bundles of cypress pine, and to lay the pine over the cargo already loaded so that. 30-ton lifts of cargo which were to be shipped at Newcastle could be loaded on top of the pine. The members of the Waterside Workers Federation protested that this valuable cargo of pine would be badly damaged if such loads were placed on it. Captain Parker, of the Macquarie Stevedoring Company Proprietary Limited, told the men not to worry. His actual words were, “ Don’t worry, the Commonwealth has plenty of money”.
I have quoted two actual cases of what has been going on, I have named the captain in charge of the stevedoring, I have named the vessel concerned, and I have named the stevedoring company handling the work. I invite the Government to inquire into the matter, and if it finds that the statements that I have made are not proved to be absolutely true, then it will have a glorious opportunity of holding me up to ridicule. But the Government will not be able to do that, because the details that I have given are facts.
– I rise to order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I direct your attention to Standing Order 86 as it applies to tedious repetition. I was in the chamber during the course of the debate earlier in the day, when the honorable member for Hindmarsh’s mentor and advisor, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), read exactly the same statement to the committee. I submit that the remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh constitute tedious repetition.
– And he is reading from the same piece of paper as that from which the honorable member for East Sydney read.
– I have not heard made in the committee, on any previous occasion to-day, the statements that the honorable member for Hindmarsh is now making.
– The attempt by the Government is obviously to stop me from talking on this matter, and because honorable members opposite know that I have only two more minutes to go they are trying to prevent me from telling the people about the kind of thing that goes on in the shipping industry, the kind of thing for which waterside workers on the one hand, and the socialized shipping line on the other hand, are being blamed.
Now let me talk to those people who have so much to say about socialism, and how socialized undertakings lose money at the beginning of their operations. Of course socialized industries lose money while they are being established! Every undertaking loses money at the beginning of its operations. It is only natural that a new undertaking loses money before it gets on its feet. But the Government, which complains about the people’s undertakings losing money, and says that such undertakings must never be allowed to show a loss, are quite happy to allow the people to be taxed in order to subsidize Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. For years before Trans-Australia Airlines was established Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited received thousands and thousands of pounds of the taxpayers’ money, in order to cover its losses. That was quite all right in the eyes of the anti-Labour parties. It is apparently a good thing for the people to carry private enterprise, but a terrible thing if an undertaking belonging to the people themselves has to be supported for a time by the people’s taxes. The only difference - and it is a big difference - between socialized undertakings and private enterprise, is that every man, woman and child in the community automatically has a share in a socialized undertaking, and every child born in this country becomes, at the time of its birth, automatically a shareholder in the undertaking.
.- The Labour party is opposing this bill because its members are socialists, and wish to destroy private enterprise. We on this side of the chamber believe in private enterprise. We believe in competition. The Labour party, on the other hand, is pledged to the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and it will not be satisfied until we have in Australia a completely socialized shipping monopoly. During World War I. the then Labour government purchased a shipping line. In its first year of operation that shipping line lost £1,600,000. In its second year of operation it lost £1,300,000. The capital of the line was then written down from £14,000,000 to £4,000,000, a writing-off of the taxpayers’ money amounting to £10,000,000. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr.
Clyde Cameron) said the difference between our philosophy and the Labour philosophy was that the people of Australia shared in the profits of a socialized industry. I remind him that they also pay the losses incurred by a socialized industry, whereas, if a private undertaking fails, its shareholders, who have put their money into the enterprise, are the ones to lose, and not the people of Australia generally.
Notwithstanding that during World War I. the capital of the socialized shipping undertaking was written down from £14,000,000 to £4,000,000, that socialized industry still showed a loss of £2,000,000 in the following year. Now let us look at more recent times, and the operations of the socialized Australian Shipping Board. Between 1947 and 1950, mainly under a Labour Government, the board lost £7,400,000. Those are apparently the kind of profits that the honorable member for Hindmarsh says the people of Australia are sharing in. The truth is that the people of Australia, the taxpayers of Australia, have had to work hard to earn the money to meet the losses amounting to £7,400,000 incurred by the socialized Australian Shipping Board between 1947 and 1950.
The purpose of this agreement is to maintain free competition between the private shipping interests and the Government’s coastal ships.
– Where is the competition? Tell us where it is.
– There is plenty of competition, and this agreement protects competition and provides for competition. The position is that the Labour party is pleged to the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and no private undertaking is prepared to spend a large amount of capital in providing new ships while such a threat hangs over its head. It is perfectly obvious that if Labour regained office, and this legislation were not in operation, the first step that would be taken by the socialist government would be to destroy the Australian private shipping interests, probably confiscating their property, in effect, by buying them out at a completely false valuation. The pur pose of this bill is to provide fair and free competition, to provide the conditions under which the private shipping companies can bring their fleets up to date and put new ships into service, knowing that they are protected for twenty years under this agreement. Therefore I feel that this bill should be wholeheartedly supported by every good Australian. Australia’s wealth has been built up by private enterprise. Private enterprise has made this country great, and the initiative and enterprise of the people will continue to make it great. Provided- we encourage private enterprise to take reasonable business risks to keep its fleets and undertakings up to date, I have tremendous confidence in the future prosperity and welfare of Australia. Events in the last week have shown quite clearly that the socialists have gained complete control of the Australian Labour party.
– I rise to a point of order. What have the internal affairs of the Australian Labour party to do with this bill?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.They have just as much to do with it as have most of the speeches that have been made to-night.
– There still seems to be one member of the Labour party who is afraid of its policy. I understand that the federal president of the party has stated that it is about time that Labour members went out and told the people quite clearly that they represented a socialist party.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– Well, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) seemed to be afraid of that fact. The fact that the federal conference of the Labour party has reaffirmed its policy of the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange, makes it all the more necessary to introduce a bill like this so that private enterprise may know that it has a measure of protection against a policy that is concerned more with following the Communist line of socialism than the British line of free enterprise.
.- By introducing this measure, the Government seeks approval of an agreement that it has entered into with Australian private shipping interests. I oppose the agreement because I believe, first, that it fails to deal with monopoly control of our overseas trade; secondly, because it fails to protect Australia’s shipbuilding industry; and, thirdly, because it places the Commonwealth at a serious disadvantage in comparison with the favoured treatment that is accorded to private interests. Members of the Australian country party have tried to make the point that there is something in the bill that deals with overseas trade. Quite a number of them went so far as to suggest that it would be a good thing if the Commonwealth engaged in overseas trade; but unfortunately for their argument, the agreement makes no provision for the proposed Australian Coastal Shipping Commission to engage in overseas trade. It deals exclusively with interstate shipping.
It is a matter for regret that the Government has not faced up to its responsibility in relation to monopoly control of our overseas trade. I think that we should be very hard pushed indeed to find another country that is in the same position as Australia in regard to overseas trade. Our overseas shipping rates have been completely tied up by outside interests, which have dictated the rates that shall apply, not only to cargoes that they carry, but also to cargoes carried by other overseas shippers. With the exception of approximately nine ships of comparatively small tonnage, we are completely at the mercy of this overseas combine. I challenge the members of the Australian Country party, who should be vitally interested in this matter, to point out to the committee just how this bill deals with that problem. Not only are wc dependent upon these overseas interests to transport our goods to overseas markets, but we are also at their mercy in the fixation of freight charges. It is definite that, in many instances, because overseas shipping interests have increased freight rates, Australia has been out-, priced on overseas markets.
We have had the appalling spectacle in this country of what claims to be the Government admitting that, when it comes to a question of dealing with the overseas shipping interests, it is impotent. It says that the question of overseas freight charges should be dealt with by the overseas’ shipping interests. What was the attitude of this Government when these interests decided recently to raise freight rates by 7£ per cent.? What did it do to protect the interests of this country ? When the Government realized what the proposed imposition would mean to our exports, what did it do to enable those goods to be sold competitively on the overseas markets? Never in the history of the Commonwealth has there been such a lamenable abdication by a responsible government as occurred a few months ago when this Government, first, flatly refused to take action against the overseas shipping interests, and, secondly, acknowledged its inability and failure to intervene.
I submit that the provisions of the agreement do not adequately protect the future of the very important shipbuilding industry. Members of the Australian Country party in particular have stated that this industry is adequately safeguarded by the agreement, but I submit that, if what is contained in the agreement represents all that will be done in the next twenty years, the industry must languish and die. I do not propose to become involved in an argument about whether the maximum tonnage that may be operated by the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission will be 325,000 tons gross or less, but even if we accept the most favorable position, the commission will be permitted to build a maximum gross tonnage of 10,000 tons a year. What a bleak prospect that is for the Australian shipbuilding industry!
– How many tons?
– Ten thousand tons a year for the next twenty years - a total of 200,000 tons gross. But I submit that that is a very liberal estimate. If we accept the predictions or the assumptions of members of the Australian Country party for the purposes of argument, the
Australian shipbuilding industry has before it for the next twenty years the prospect of building only 10,000 tons of shipping a year. At the moment, there are seven major shipbuilding yards in this country, but they are not working at full capacity. Evidence tendered to the Tariff Board shows conclusively that their output could be almost doubled. Moreover, quite a number of other industries depend upon the shipbuilding industry for their existence. As a consequence, there is scope for expansion and there is a demand waiting to be fulfilled. But I regret to say that, notwithstanding arguments to the contrary that might be advanced, there is absolutely no hope for the shipbuilding industry in the future, if it is to be kept pegged to the figure suggested in this bill. Many honorable members have tried to establish that the Labour party in the past has done nothing in respect of shipbuilding. That is not correct. The Navigation Act laid down some years ago that coastal trading should be reserved for Australian ships. Almost every country has taken that step and has legislated along similar lines. But it remained for a Labour government” to provide for the first time that a subsidy would be paid to the shipbuilding industry in this country. It was as a result of legislation that was brought into this House by the Chifley Government that a subsidy of 25 per cent, was given to the shipbuilding industry. That subsidy has been increased now to 33$ per cent., but this Government can claim no credit for that. The increase was granted as a result of a recent investigation by the Tariff Board into this matter. The Labour party laid the foundation for the shipbuilding industry in this country.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I want to deal very briefly with one or two things that have been said. Mention has been made by various members tonight, including the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), of the limit of 325,000 gross registered tons. Clause 7 (1.) of the agreement reads -
Except as otherwise provided in this agreement, the Commission will not operate in the coastal and territorial shipping services vessels, including vessels under charter, which iu the aggregate exceed 325,000 gross registered tons.
The honorable member for Wilmot was quite right, except that he did not read the first part of the clause, which says, “Except as otherwise provided in this agreement “. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) referred to the agreement. I shall make this quite clear, because the honorable member for Wilmot is shaking his head. Clause 10 of the agreement reads -
If at any time, in the opinion of the Minister, it becomes necessary to acquire further tonnage in the coastal and territorial shipping services . . . the Minister shall give notice to the Companies accordingly, specifying the amount of further tonnage which he considers to be necessary and the time within which he considers that the tonnage should be acquired.
No limit is provided in that clause. The Minister will look into these matters and say when more tonnage is necessary. In those circumstances, there is definitely no limit on what the tonnage will be, although the figure of 325,000 gross registered tons has been mentioned.
There is one other point that I wish to deal with in the time at my disposal. It has been said that the commission will not engage in stevedoring operations but will appoint certain companies to do its stevedoring. However, clause 8 (5.) (6) of the agreement provides -
If the Commission docs not so arrange, the Minister may authorize the Commission to undertake stevedoring operations or to undertake the booking or handling of cargo carried in its vessels at the place at which or in the shipping trade in which the Commission is unable to ensure that the services are performed at a rate not greater than that determined by the independent authority.
The agreement provides also that the commission may undertake stevedoring operations when the stevedoring of its 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 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. Surely that is plain enough ! If there is inefficiency, the commission can carry on the stevedoring. But to-night, speaker after speaker on the Opposition side has said that the commission cannot engage in stevedoring. That is quite wrong; other parts of the agreement provide for it. In certain circumstances, the commission can engage in stevedoring. One reason is if the companies that have been employed by the commission are acting in a way adverse to the interests of the commission - and that means in the interests of the whole community of Australia. Surely that is fair enough; such a provision should be in the agreement and it is in the agreement.
I said that I would be brief, but I want to say something in reply to the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin). He is a great supporter of socialism. All members of the Labour party seem to be in favour of socialism, but they keep quiet about it at election time. They do not come out and say, We are socialists “. I listened at the last election to many broadcasts and some street meetings, but I did not hear any Labour man say that he was in favour of socialism. The honorable member for Bonython said that many people could not exist in the district that I represent if it were not for the socialists’ efforts in providing water, railways and that sort of thing. Those facilities are only to assist private enterprise, and any socialist undertaking is made possible only by the finance that is made available from private enterprise. It is the receipts from the taxation that a Labour government levies on private enterprise that make it possible for the Labour government to make the socialist efforts that it has made so far. If Labour had full rein and brought about complete socialism, there would not be any private enterprise to tax. That is why I say that the primary producer has to watch these matters very closely.
I listened to the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds), and I am glad that he is here now. He mentioned the effect on the primary producer in the final analysis. I am concerned about the words “ the final analysis “. In the final analysis, if Labour’s complete socialism is achieved, there will not be any private enterprise to tax. If socialist efforts were complete, we would go down into degradation and decay, just as any nation will that practises socialism. Private enterprise in this country has built up what we consider to be one of the finest nations in the world. People who go overseas have no desire to remain permanently in the countries that they have visited. Even the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, came back from an overseas visit and said, “ This is the finest country in the world “. I agree with him most warmly. In a very short time this country has been built into a great nation. Why should we experiment with some socialist characteristics that have failed wherever they have been tried? It is time that Labour came to its senses and realized that we must depend in the future, as we have in the past, on private enterprise to steer this country to greater heights of prosperity.
.- This is a remarkable piece of legislation. As a matter of fact, this Government has become notorious for remarkable pieces of legislation. Actually, this bill is nothing out of the ordinary and is in line with what we have been experiencing during the whole of this session. When the measure is analysed in its entirety, we see that its purpose is undoubtedly to manacle the very efficient industry that was mobilized by the Australian Shipping Board over the past ten or fifteen years. Government members have laid great stress on the fact that this hill, in effect, will preserve the competitive spirit in the shipping industry. How on earth anybody can make such an assertion if the bill is understood is beyond my comprehension. The Government members are the arch apostles of private enterprise. They say competition is the life blood of the country. As a matter of fact, this bill is designed to promote the very antithesis of competition. It takes away the competitive element which was encouraged in the industry previously, and it introduces the rationalization that has been spoken of by the protagonists of the bill. One cannot believe in competition and in rationalization at the same time. The two terms are not synonymous. The intention of this bill is undoubtedly to subjugate, in the interests of the private shipping companies, the splendidly conducted and effective public shipping enterprises. That is the whole purpose of the bill. Say what they may, Government supporters are unable to conceal the very purpose of the bill. I noticed that even the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) nodded when I made that statement.
– I rise to order. I did not move my head. I do not want people like the honorable member for Batman to insinuate that I am doing something that I really am not doing. The statement is quite untrue, and I will not have it.
– Owing to the noise being made by honorable members, I was unable to hear the point of order raised by the honorable member for Mallee. Will the honorable member repeat it?
– The honorable member for Batman, having made an outrageous statement, said that I had nodded my head and implied that I agreed with it. I did nothing of the kind, and I will not stand for such remarks.
– I am sorry if I misunderstood a facial expression of the honorable member for Mallee. However, Government supporters have failed dismally in their attempts to cloak the real purpose of the bill. There is not the slightest doubt that the bill has as its purpose the expansion of the activities of inefficient private shipping companies, whose equipment is so obsolete that it is notorious throughout the entire shipping world. The shipping fleets of the private companies are obsolete in every sense, and it is natural that they have been unable to compete with the up-to-date shipping fleet owned by the people of Australia. Of course, true to its dictum that in all circumstances private interests must be preserved, this Government has now brought in a bill to preserve the inefficient private shipping interests at the expense of the splendidly conducted public shipping undertaking.
The bill has many most extraordinary features. It has features that have never been included in a bill before. When one understands the purpose of the bill, of course, the reasons for these extraordinary features become transparently clear. Let us take as an example the provision that the booking of cargo for Commonwealth ships is to be done in the offices of the private shipping companies. Why has this most peculiar innovation been included in the bill ? There is absolutely no parallel or precedent for it in any other legislation of this or a like nature. Because the Government realizes that it must conserve the interests of the private shipping monopoly, it intends to give it an open sesame to the activities of the Commonwealth shipping line, because the private shipping companies will book the business to be conducted by the Commonwealth ships. Let us consider the provision for the limitation of tonnage of Commonwealth ships. I do not want .to be accused again of misrepresenting the honorable member for Mallee, but he stated that the figure chosen as a limitation of the tonnage of Commonwealth ships was really only a figure, and that it could be altered. The honorable member for Mallee certainly nodded his head when I made that remark.
– I agree with that.
– It is very easy for the shipping companies to obtain approval to increase their tonnage, but it is not so easy for the commission to do so.
– Because the clause read by the honorable member for Mallee refers only to the companies. Clause 11 of the agreement provides -
It does not mention the commission. It can be seen, therefore, that the provision is designed to assist the companies, but the commission must follow much more involved procedure if it wants to increase its tonnage. The scales are loaded against the commission and in favour of the private shipping companies. Of course, that is not to be wondered at, because the whole purpose of the bill is to give preference to the private shipping companies.
Great stress has been laid on the fact that the stevedoring activities are to be carried on by the private concerns, and that they were so carried on during the regime of the Chifley Government. That is correct, but during the term of office of the Chifley Government prices control was in operation, and the stevedoring companies were not allowed to charge exorbitant fees. To-day, however, the cost-plus system is in operation. I think the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) mentioned that the fee is now calculated on the basis of cost, plus 10 per cent. While the practice of carrying out stevedoring operations by private companies may have been justifiable when prices control was in operation, it certainly cannot be justified under a system that allows the private stevedoring companies to charge what they like. If the commission wishes to engage in stevedoring operations, it must follow involved and lengthy procedure in order to obtain permission to do so. It cannot apply to the Minister to-day, and have permission granted to-morrow. It will take perhaps six or twelve months to obtain the necessary permission. In other words, the whole bill has been framed in such a way that the publicly owned shipping service will get a very raw deal.
Honorable members on the Government side, in an endeavour to bolster a particularly weak case, have sneeredat socialist enterprise, and have said that there has never been a successful socialist enterprise. I might inform them that there are a couple in Victoria. What is wrong with the State Electricity Commission of Victoria? That is a socialist enterprise. As a matter of fact, it came into being because the privately owned concerns in Victoria could not do the job. The legislation that resulted in the establishment of that organization was brought in by a Liberal party government, because even that government realized that private enterprise could not do the job of supplying electrical current to the people of Victoria. As a matter of fact, Mr. Playford, the Premier of South Australia, underwent a similar mental process about seven or eight years ago, when he brought under State control the private electricity undertaking of South Australia. It was found not only that private enterprise could not provide electrical current in Victoria, but also that private enterprise made such an unholy mess of the gas industry that a Liberal government in Victoria again had to alter the position to provide for dual public and private control of the industry, and now, after the passage of time, the Victorian government has the great majority of shares in the Gas and Fuel Corporation of Victoria. I have given examples of two very successful socialist enterprises that came into existence because private enterprise could not do the jobs.
I should like to answer a couple of extraordinary statements made by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson). He was hurled into the ramparts to bolster the pathetic case made by Government supporters.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) 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 bill be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
– I ask the House for leave to move the third reading forthwith.
– Is leave granted ?
Leave not granted.
Motion (by Mr. Townley) put -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the remaining stages being passed without delay.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . ….. 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Town ley) put -
That the bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
House adjourned at 11.52 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice: -
– I am advised as follows by the Minister for Repatriation : -
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Navy has furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
t asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Vertical Take-off Aircraft.
z asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Works, upon notice: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
son asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 June 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19560619_reps_22_hor11/>.