22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) look the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I preface a question to the Treasurer by reminding him that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement of 1956 provides that 20 per cent, of the sum made available to the States for housing is to be paid into home builders’ accounts and made available through building societies to clients desirous of having homes built. Will the Treasurer inform the House of the method of allocation of this portion of the State housing loan money to the building societies? I ask this -question because a number of societies have not received any part of these loans, and are wondering why.
– If the honorable gentleman will place that question on the notice-paper, or allow me to treat it as a question on notice, I shall see what information I can get for him on the subject.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs. In view of the announcement that the Australian Government’s views were considered by the United Kingdom Government prior to the decision to resume the use of the Suez Canal, can the Minister tell the House whether the question of no discrimination against shipping using the canal was raised, particularly as it affects Israel? Has the Australian Government’s decision on the question of no discrimination in the use of the canal changed in any way since the announcement regarding the use of the canal by British shipping was made by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr. Macmillan?
– We have, of course, been in constant communication with London, Washington and other capitals on this subject. The view of the Australian Government remains as it was - that Israel has the same right as any other country for its shipping to pass through the canal. On the other hand, the attitude of Egypt on this matter, as expressed in that country’s unilateral proposal for a de facto regime for the canal, is obviously carefully worded so as to enable Egypt, if she wishes to do so, to exclude Israel from the use of the canal. On this matter I refer to Egyptian propaganda by radio. The last report I had of it was about a week ago. Whether or not one can believe it reflects Egyptian Government policy I do not know. However, Egyptian radio propaganda is still to the effect that any Israeli ship that seeks to pass through the Suez Canal will be destroyed. If Egypt adopts her hitherto completely hostile attitude towards Israel in respect of the free use of the Suez Canal, and in respect of other matters also, she will be in defiance of the 1888 Convention and of the Security Council resolution of 1951, as well as of the six principles that were unanimously agreed upon by the Security Council a month or more ago. Therefore, I believe that the situation is clear and that the majority of countries would be against Egypt seeking to discriminate against Israeli shipping using the canal I do not think I can say more than that. There has certainly been constant consultation by telegram between ourselves, Great Britain and the United States of America. I should not like - and I do not think that the honorable member would like me - to deal with a hypothetical situation, or the action that might be taken if Egypt persisted in denying the use of the canal to Israel. The matter is now clearly on the plate of the United Nations, and I believe that any further action by Egypt to deny the canal to Israel must attract the immediate attention of the Security Council.
– I wish to direct a supplementary question to the right honorable gentleman. I am not interested in putting a hypothetical question; I ask him whether action can be further delayed if it is to be of any value. After all, three or four months have elapsed since it was reported that Australia and France were to have this matter brought before the United Nations. No action has yet been taken. I ask the Minister whether this Government proposes, or has proposed - with the support of other governments or not - taking positive action to bring before the tribunal, which could decide the matter directly, or before the United Nations, the question of the right of Israeli vessels to use the canal on equal terms with vessels of other countries, and proceed up the Gulf of Aqaba to their own port. I put it to the right honorable gentleman that action which could lead to violent reaction may be taken when, instead, the constitutional procedures available through the United Nations or the international court should be availed of now.
– I know of no specific reference in recent times to the Security Council or the United Nations General Assembly of this subject of Israeli shipping using the canal. I have heard, unofficially, suggestions, hints and rumours that the matter might be taken to the international court but, from the messages that have been passing in the last fortnight, my instinct is that that proposal is not receiving any widespread support. In any event, the processes of the international court are not notably rapid. Speaking as one who is not a lawyer, I believe that relatively quick action may be called for, and I would not regard reference to the court as a solution, because events would catch up with its decision very quickly.
Our conscience - so far as conscience comes into these things - is clear. No less than six weeks ago, and several times since, we have strongly advocated to our friends that this matter should be firmly put on the plate of the Security Council once more. I refer to the general subjects that have been currently at issue over the last month or six weeks. These, as we all know, include prominently this question of Egyptian shipping. We have had no official information that Israel proposes sending a test ship through the canal, but the press has reported this - apparently authentically - and I suppose that one must accept it as being definitely in prospect, in the immediate future. I can say no more than that. I think we have done our utmost in this matter and I do not see what else we can do.
– I should like to ask the Minister for the Army whether there is any truth in the report that the Military Board is examining a scheme for national servicemen to serve overseas with the Regular Army.
– I welcome this question from the honorable member because a report concerning this matter appeared in the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ to-day under the heading of “ National service trainees may go abroad “. It said that the Military Board was examining a scheme for national servicemen to serve overseas with the Regular Army. I want to make it perfectly clear that at no time did I indicate that the Military Board was examining any such scheme to send national servicemen overseas. Yesterday, the honorable member for Maribyrnong did put forward a valuable proposal in this House that those young men who might miss out under the ballot scheme under the National Service Bill and who wished to do a six months’ course of training should be provided with the opportunity to do it. I pointed out that that could be done if they enlisted in the Regular Army and, of course, any person who enlists in the Regular Army does enlist for overseas service. Never at any time did I say that national servicemen would go overseas or that the Government was considering that they might go overseas. The scheme suggested by thi; honorable member for Maribyrnong would mean that those men who enlisted in t’.ie Regular Army would not be national servicemen at all. They would be Regular Army men under a special scheme of training. If they went in to the Regular Army for six months’ training, they would not be in any condition to enable them to be sent overseas. I am glad of the opportunity to clear up that matter and to state that no such consideration has been given by the Military Board to overseas service by national service trainees.
– Has the Minister acting for the Minister for Health heard of a suggestion by the Minister for Health in Singapore that a team of medical observers should study the influenza epidemic in Singapore? As there is a likelihood that the epidemic may reach Australia, would the Minister give consideration to this suggestion with a view to developing a virus to combat the infection?
– The Government did consider sending some doctors to Singapore to study the outbreak of influenza there. But on the advice of Sir Macfarlane Burnet and the Acting Director of Health, Dr. Downes, it was decided that it would not be worthwhile doing so. The reason was that the chief of the Virus Laboratory in Singapore, Professor Hayles, had sent us details of the disease. He has also isolated the virus which is being sent by air to Australia, where we have men such as Dr. Bazeley, who are as good as anybody in the world on these matters. The epidemic in Singapore has affected about 10 per cent, of the people, and it is of a fairly mild type. There had been no deaths up to this morning when we had our latest report. The influenza is of type A. There are two types of influenza.
– Latest reports are that there have been several deaths.
– I do not know whether the honorable member gets his information from newspapers or from official sources. We are getting reports from official sources, and our latest advice is that there have been no deaths, which is surprising and an indication of the mildness of the disease in this epidemic, because normally there are occasional deaths from influenza. It must not be forgotten that there is quite a good deal of influenza in Australia at the present time. I would think that at least 10 per cent, of the people of this country are affected and, as far as my own family is concerned, the figure is 100 per cent.
– I desire to ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether the British Medical Association and an ex-servicemen’s association have brought to the knowledge of the Government the report by an eminent surgical specialist on the subject of the sequelae of amputation both in the Army and in civil life. If so, does this report constitute, in the view of eminent members of the surgical profession, the complete and most up-to-date survey in existence on this subject? Have the various improvements suggested in the organization of Australian artificial limb factories for the manufacture and fitting of artificial limbs for both exservicemen and civilians been considered by the various Commonwealth departments? When is it anticipated that the Government will take action along the lines set out in that report?
– A very important matter has been raised by the right honorable member for Cowper. I had it looked into, as I anticipated that it would be raised here. I understand that some eminent members of the medical profession have expressed the view that the report to which he refers is probably the most complete and up-to-date survey in existence on the subject. The matter has received the consideration of *he Repatriation Department in the direction the right honorable member has indicated, and effect has been given already to a number of the recommendations made in the report. The remainder are receiving the active consideration of the Government in detail, with a view to implementation wherever practicable and possible.
– Last week, the Deputy Prime Minister, in reply to a question, advised me that the Prime Minister’s statement during his tour of Japan, advocating a fully re-armed Japan, had been, not an expression of his own opinion, but an expression of Government policy. Yesterday, in reply to a question directed to him by the honorable member for Yarra, the Deputy Prime Minister stated that the report had been distorted and that the Prime Minister had never made such a declaration. I ask the Deputy Prime Minister: On which occasion was he speaking the truth?
– If the honorable member for East Sydney were ever found with the truth, he could be arrested for having in his possession something known to be stolen. The fact is that I based my answer on what I considered to be a truthful interpretation by the honorable member for East Sydney of a statement made by the Prime Minister. I have since had the matter investigated, and I find that the Prime Minister made no such statement about the rearmament of Japan. He stated, in unequivocal language, that the matter was one entirely for the Japanese Government itself.
– My question to the Minister for Air concerns the future of the Royal Australian Air Force base at Rathmines, New South Wales. At the present time, and for some years, this base has been used as a centre for a number of training courses, including national service training. The last intake of national service trainees is there now. Will it be possible to transfer other forms of training activity to Rathmines so that this well-developed, well-maintained and well-situated base can continue to serve the Air Force?
– The Royal Australian Air Force base at Rathmines was originally the centre for the activities of flying boats and sea-planes. Since the Air Force gave up the use of flying boats, the Rathmines centre has been used for training purposes - for an administrative officers’ training school, for a number of special courses, and for national service training. Now that national service training is being given up in the Air Force, that part of the Rathmines base which was used for that purpose will become available for other purposes, and the future of the base is now being considered by the Air Force. I am sure that the Air Force would be loath to leave Rathmines, and I hope that satisfactory arrangements can be made for the use of the base as a training centre for the Air Force. I know that the honorable member for Robertson has taken a great interest in the welfare of Rathmines, which is situated in his electorate. I will be glad to let him know as soon as any firm plans have been made.
– I ask a question without notice of the Minister for Territories. Did the honorable gentleman last week emphasize the difficulties which he had found in dealing with the conditions of aborigines, first because the Commonwealth Parliament was prevented by the Constitution from legislating with respect to the people of the aboriginal race in the States, and, secondly, because Commonwealth governments could, therefore, at best, persuade and pay the States to pursue a common policy? I now ask the Minister whether he can explain why he himself, during his record term as Minister, has never attended a Premiers Conference and why, during that period, the conditions of aborigines have never been discussed at such conferences.
– Very regretfully I have to inform the honorable member that every part of his question is based on an untruth. I never made the statement that he has ascribed to me. I have attended Premiers Conferences at which this question of native welfare has been discussed and, although not privileged to speak at the conferences, I have been present to give my comments to the Prime Minister, who was representing the Commonwealth Government. This question of native welfare has, to my knowledge, been discussed at, I think, three Premiers Conferences during the term of the present Government.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that Australia sells mainly choicest butter on the home market and exports first-grade butter overseas, mainly to the United Kingdom? If this is so, and having in mind the present and future unsatisfactory position prevailing on the United Kingdom market, would it be possible to market a proportion of this first-grade butter on the Australian market in competition with margarine at a price which would be equally as profitable as the present net result of sales of this same butter overseas?
– Problems associated with the marketing of butter overseas are the responsibility of the Dairy Produce Board. I will have great pleasure in drawing the attention of the board to the question asked by the honorable member and I shall see whether it is prepared to take some action in the matter. As soon as I receive a reply from the board I shall let the honorable member know.
– Is the Minister for Trade aware that overseas shipping interests and combines operating to Australia are gathering together in London now with the intention of planning another raid on Australian producers and exporters in the form of a further increase of 5 per cent, in shipping freights? Will the Minister regard this conference as significant for Australia, and is the Government ready to fight any such move?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is simple: No, I am not aware of such a move.
– I direct a question without notice to the Minister for Social Services. He will perhaps recall that when, on Sunday last, he laid the foundation stone of the Roman Catholic Home for Old People at Dubbo, New South Wales, an important part of my electorate, the State member for Dubbo appeared to be in some confusion as to what action a State government might take to assist in the splendid purpose of providing homes for our elderly citizens. I ask the Minister whether he is in a position to tell the House what steps a State government can take to help the churches, charitable organizations, and other approved organizations in meeting this urgent social need. Assuming that there are no restrictions, are these steps being taken by any State government or governments in association with this Government in its administration of the Aged Persons Homes Act?
– I was privileged to be in the company of the honorable member for Lawson last Sunday on the historic occasion to which he has referred, and’ I witnessed the confusion of the State member for Dubbo during that ceremony. The answer to the honorable member’s question is that the steps which States may take in making grants towards the cost of constructing homes for the aged are quite simple. It is competent for any State to make a grant towards the cost of constructing these homes anywhere. Indeed, four States make a practice of making grants from time to time towards the cost of these homes. Two States do not. The first exception is Tasmania, and that is understandable, since the concentration of population in that State is not so great. The other exception is New South Wales, our most densely populated State. The New South Wales Government has never made a grant towards the cost of constructing these homes nor has it shown any indication of giving the matter favorable consideration.
– I ask the Minister acting for the Minister for Health whether any provision is made to help age pensioners meet hospital expenses. I mention the case of a person who was in hospital in a country district. The charge was £2 2s. 6d. a day, and 12s. a day - the Government’s contribu tion - was deducted from the account. The balance had to be paid by the pensioner. 1 ask the Minister whether the view held by age pensioners that the Commonwealth makes provision for their hospitalization without expense to them is correct.
– Under the provisions of the pensioner medical services, pensioners are provided with free medicine and with a payment towards their hospitalization. The cost to the Commonwealth is in the vicinity of £5,000,000 altogether. Part of that scheme is for pensioners to receive a payment of 12s. a day when they go into the public ward of a hospital, but, if they go to a private hospital or a semi-private hospital, the charge is a matter for each authority to determine. The Commonwealth’s payment is 8s. a day, but the charge is something for the hospital authority to determine.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs. In view of the likelihood of continued turbulence in the Middle East during the years ahead, will the right honorable gentleman arrange for a stronger diplomatic representation of Australia in that area? Now that our legation in Cairo is closed and is, I presume, unlikely to be re-opened, will the Government consider establishing a larger mission in a country more centrally situated than Egypt?
– We are not, of course, entirely unrepresented in the Middle East. We have a legation at Tel Aviv, in Israel. Since the withdrawal of our legation from Cairo, I have - I think understandably - given consideration to the future of our diplomatic representation in the Middle East. I have given a good deal of thought to the subject and I have the advantage of knowing the area very well, but I have not yet discussed the matter with the Government as a whole. It is not impossible - I put it no higher than that - that we might seek representation at some centrally situated place, which would give us access to a knowledge of affairs in the Arab world, as distinct from Egypt, more generally than did the post that existed before in Cairo. I would not even suggest that a decision has been made. I have given the matter some thought, and I shall continue to consider it, in the light, of course, of the march of events during, say, the next six months.
– Can the Minister for Social Services inform the House when child endowment was last increased, and what the increase was? What was the federal basic wage at the time, and what is it to-day? Is the Minister aware of the extreme hardship being experienced by many parents in their endeavours to rear, feed and clothe their families on the average wage? Does the honorable gentleman agree that happy, contented families are a major consideration in the preservation of the Australian way of life? Will he give the House an assurance that the difficulties of the parents of young families will be given sympathetic and favorable consideration, and that child endowment payments will be increased in the immediate future?
– I am indebted to the honorable member for his question, because it affords me the opportunity to say that, to the best of my recollection, child endowment was introduced by the first Menzies Government, in 1941.
– The Child Endowment Bill of 1941 was introduced by the present Minister for Labour and National Service.
– Child endowment was introduced first by the Lang Government, in New South Wales.
– It was introduced in the federal sphere in 1941 by the first Menzies Government. The legislation itself was introduced on 27th March of that year by the present Minister for Labour and National Service, who, at that time, also held the same portfolio. Child endowment payments were increased by the Curtin Government, in 1945, and by the Chifley Government, in 1948. The benefit was extended by the Menzies Government, in 1950, to include, for the first time, the first child of every family. Again to the best of my recollection, the federal basic wage was £6 15s. a week in 1950. If I am informed correctly, it is £12 16s. a week at the present time. However, the federal basic wage has nothing whatever to do with social services. There was a time when it had something to do with them, but the socialist government destroyed the association.
I am fully aware of all the difficulties associated with the raising of families in these days of infinite leisure and spurious affluence. I would remind the honorable member for Lang that I am aware of these difficulties for two reasons, having brought up a family myself, and having myself been brought up. For his information, I shall point out that 1 am one of a family of nine children. It has never been easy to bring up a family, and I do not imagine that anything that we are likely to do would make it easier. In the preparation of the budget, the question of child endowment will receive the consideration that all aspects of social services merit.
– I address a question to the Minister for Trade. Has the Minister seen a recent press announcement that two Australian-made diesel locomotives have arrived in New Zealand? If that is the case, can he advise the House of the reaction of the New Zealand railways to this first order of Australian locomotives?
– I am aware that two diesel locomotives, manufactured in Sydney, have recently been delivered to the New Zealand Government. I understand that they are part of a total order of ten diesel locomotives which was placed by the New Zealand Government Railways following the trade discussions between the New Zealand Prime Minister and the Australian Prime Minister and myself in Canberra about a year ago. These discussions were followed by negotiations with the manufacturing company concerned, as a result of which the order was placed. Two officers of the Department of Trade who were in New Zealand last week were told that the New Zealand authorities were immensely satisfied with the Australian-produced locomotives. I have every reason to believe that this is a transaction that will not end with the ten locomotives for which firm orders have been placed, and that other orders for Australian rolling-stock also will be received from New Zealand. I am confident, too, that additional orders eventually will be forthcoming in the Far East. This is a most interesting development for Australian engineering.
– Has the attention of the Minister for External Affairs been drawn to a statement made in Djakarta by the President of the Soviet Union to the effect that it was justifiable that Dutch New Guinea should be returned to Indonesia? Does the Minister consider that Dutch New Guinea, in the hands of the Indonesians, would constitute a grave risk for Australia? Will the Minister represent Australia at the General Assembly of the United Nations, at which this question will be one of the major subjects to be discussed? Is the Netherlands Defence Minister now touring Dutch New Guinea, and is it proposed that he should be invited to Australia for toplevel discussions on New Guinea defences, including those of Dutch New Guinea? Finally, does the Minister propose to make a further statement to the Parliament on foreign policy, particularly with regard to the status of Dutch New Guinea, before the Parliament goes into recess?
– The honorable member asked whether my attention was drawn to this matter. It was not drawn to it, but I saw the article in question, and I was not surprised. The remark of the Soviet leader was entirely consistent with the attitude that the Russians have taken before on such matters which is, of course, to make as much trouble as possible in the course of any given visit. This remark was made for that purpose. As to the attitude of Australia towards the question of west New Guinea, I have expressed on behalf of the Government times without number, at the United Nations, in this House and elsewhere, our attitude on this subject. I think it is well known, and it has not changed in any way at all.
The honorable gentleman stated that this matter is to come before the United Nations again. There, he has the advantage of me. I do not know that it is to come up again. It has come up during the last three years, and has been dealt with - adequately, I think - by the United Nations. I hope that remission of the problem to the United Nations can be regarded as a closed page, and that it will not come up again.
Concerning the honorable member’s question about the visit to West New Guinea of the Dutch Minister for Defence, yes, indeed I do know of that. I hope very much that such a distinguished member of the Dutch Government will find time to visit Australia while he is in this part of the world. The discussion of defence problems would be, of course, another matter, and would be the perquisite of my friend and colleague, the Minister for Defence. However, if the Dutch Minister for Defence is to come here I hope that we shall be able not only to show him courtesy but also to discuss with him matters of mutual interest.
– My question is addressed to the Deputy Prime Minister. Since the story of land settlement, during last year or any other period, was conspicuous by its absence from the economic White Paper recently presented to the Parliament, although the document purported to cover the whole of the Australian economy, will the right honorable gentleman issue an addendum telling the story of land settlement throughout Australia, with particular reference to the reduction of the number of farms and farm workers during a period when the population of Australia increased by 2,000,000 people? Will he include suggestions concerning methods of increasing land settlement, if the Government has any such suggestions?
– The paper that was presented was considered to be a very concise, yet complete, survey for the purpose for which it was prepared, and I do not think that it could be improved upon in any respect.
– I ask the Minister for Trade whether he will consider relaxing restrictions on the importation of light aircraft for use in rural industries. A number of companies engaged in aerial servicing of agriculture have been unable to secure aircraft, or the types of aircraft most suitable for their purposes, such as spraying and fertilizing. Further, in the more remote areas there are many property owners who wish to buy aircraft to facilitate the management of large holdings.
– The improved balance of payments situation, and the consequent relaxation of import licensing controls, has enabled a study to be made of this very requirement, to which the honorable member for Gwydir has directed my attention on frequent occasions. I am able to say that
Lt is new possible for the Department of Trade to be more receptive to applications for licences for the importation of light aircraft. I believe it will be possible to provide all the aircraft of the type necessary for the purposes of agriculture contractors who engage in spraying, dusting, seed-sowing and the spreading of fertilizer by air. In addition, it will be possible to be more liberal in- the allocation of licences for the importation of light aircraft for various other purposes, including outback ambulance use and for the last purpose that the honorable member mentioned - facilitation of station management in outback areas. Preference will be given to applications for licences for the importation of aircraft for that kind of use.
– My question to the Minister for Social Services is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Lang, in reply to which the Minister said that he saw no relationship between the basic wage and child endowment. I ask the Minister: In view of the announced policy of the Government at three elections that the real value of social services would be maintained, does he see any connexion between child endowment and the cost of living? If so, in view of the fact that the cost of living has risen by about 66 per cent, since child endowment was increased by the Government, does not the Minister think that it is time that child endowment was increased so as to maintain something like its real value?
– The question of social service benefits and allowances, so far as this Parliament is concerned, is one that can be described and expressed in the term “’ supplementary income “, and supplementary income only. That is typical of social services all over the free world. Whether or not that system is changed will largely be determined by this Parliament from time to time. The remainder of the honorable gentleman’s question deals, of course, entirely with matters of policy, and matters of policy should not be included in questions addressed to Ministers.
– Last Thursday, when answering a question in the House concerning the desalination of sea water, and of sub-artesian water at the Maralinga testing ground, the Minister for Supply mentioned that the department was doing work on the pulverization of brown coal for use in turbine engines. Can the Minister give the House more details of this development, which seems to be of national importance?
– The honorable member has always shown a very great interest, in this House, in developmental matters, and I should like to congratulate him on his quickness in picking up what was a purely incidental matter that. I mentioned in answer to a question. 1 agree with him that the process he mentioned is of importance. Experimentation on it arises in this way: In the course of experiments, I think for other purposes, the aeronautical research laboratories, and some of the bright officers therein, conceived the notion that something might be done in the creation of fuels for turbine gas engines, which are growing in importance in Australia as prime movers. Owing to the expensiveness of oil fuel and gas fuel, and because such fuel is sometimes unavailable, those officers thought something ought to be worked out based on the pulverization of brown coal deposits, chiefly in Victoria, where this experiment took place. They pursued this investigation and met formidable problems, particularly the deterioration of turbine blades as the result of the impact of solid matter on them during the turbine process. They have been working on this difficulty and seem to have overcome it. Owing to the co-operation of my distinguished colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, who is ministerial head of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial (Research Organization, and of the Minister for National Development, who has provided money from funds held by his own department to enable us to purchase a suitable engine, those officers are pursuing (his line of research which, at the moment, promises to have very interesting prospects for Australia.
I have received a letter from the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt) proposing that a definite matter of urgent public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The -urgent necessity of the Australian Government initiating action on an international basis for the. purpose of suspending immediately, with a view to termination, all nuclear bomb tests wheresoever and by whomsoever carried out.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
.- In submitting this proposal the Australian Labour party has no desire to gain either party partisan advantage or political kudos because, despite the sneering scepticism from members of the Government, this is a matter far too important, far too urgent, to be demeaned by being placed on that plane. The reasons on which the Australian Labour party bases its case are essentially human reasons - reasons which mean very much to the men and women who comprise this nation. We hope, at this juncture, to present a case which will lift this matter from the purely partisan national plane onto (he international moral plane, and place it above politics to that extent. We move on account of its urgent effect on men and women and on the children of to-day and those of to-morrow. In other words, we desire that this mad race of man in perfecting the means of his own destruction should cease before it is too late.
I refer at this stage to the warning issued by Professor Albert Einstein, and signed by him two days before his death in September, 1955. It read-
It is feared that if many hydrogen bombs are used there will be universal death, sudden only for aminority, but, for the majority, a slow torture of disease and disintegration.
Such statements have struck a resounding chord in the minds of the people of this nation, and people who do not know who the Prime Minister of this country is could tell you the difference between an atomic bomb and a hydrogen bomb, and what the effect ofthe use of either will be if uncontrolled. The recent warnings by eminent world scientists in regard to fall-out - and the continuing fall-out up to 1970 - of strontium 90 as a result of bomb tests already made, further stress the urgency as far as the megaton or hydrogen bomb is concerned. It is not a question of whether we can afford to cease having these tests.
It is a question of whether we can afford to continue with them, particularly hydrogen bomb tests.
The people ofthis nation, in a recent gallup poll, overwhelmingly decided in favour of the cessation of these tests, subject to international control of nuclear weapons. The whole of Christendom - the Presbyterian churches, the Church of England, the Church of Christ,the Methodist Church and His Holiness the Pope, the head of the Roman Catholic Church - has made similar pronouncements to those we are now making. The Hindu and Moslem worlds have made equally affirmative announcements. Our own political parties, especially the Australian Labour party, have reiterated the same thing. At the March conference in Brisbane the Labour party repeated its earlier statement about the prohibition of such tests as a whole, in the interests of humanity. I am very pleased to detect a change in the Minister’s attitude to the danger inherent in these tests. On 7th May last, the Minister said -
I pass now to the fourth matter, and that is the question of agreement to discontinue these atomic tests - using the word “ atomic “ in its widest sense. I agree with members on both sides of the House that it is eminently a desirable thingto do.
– I have always said that.
– Not always, and I will deal with that later on. But even if there is some doubt on that matter, there has certainly been no such utterance from the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). If the Minister is in a minority in the Government on this issue, he is to be complimented.
– I thought you were going to make this a non-party discussion.
– Order ! The Minister will have an opportunity to speak later.
– I have said that, on this side of the House, this is not a party political matter, but apparently the Minister objects to my complimenting him upon adopting a certain view. The United Kingdom Labour party, through Mr. Brown, took a similar step in the recent defence debate in the House of Commons, on 16th April. It called upon Her Majesty’s Government to take an immediate initiative in putting forward effective proposals for the abolition of hydrogen-bomb tests through international agreement, meanwhile postponing the United Kingdom tests for a limited period so that the response of the other governments to this proposal might first be considered. That is the attitude of the majority of the British people - that the Christmas Island hydrogenbomb tests should be deferred as evidence of good faith, pending the setting up of international controls. The whole of the British Labour party considers this matter of such great importance to Mr. Everyman - the man in the street - that it even advocates postponing further British tests as a first step towards international control.
The recent and important statements which have been made on this subject by eminent nuclear scientists further emphasize the absolute urgency of the Australian Government taking a lead in banning further hydrogen bomb or atomic tests. I should like, first, to refer to a letter from Dr. A. H. Sturtevant, of the California Institute of Technology, which was published in the “ Washington Post and Times Herald “, challenging the conclusion, drawn from a report of the National Academy of Sciences, that a ten-fold increase in fall-out from nuclear bomb tests would not be serious. Honorable members may recall that, in 1956, the National Academy of Science brought down a report on the subject and that, allegedly upon an interpretation of that report, President Eisenhower decided that hydrogen bomb tests could continue without detriment to the human race. That information was no doubt available also to the Soviet, which, according to the Minister’s oft-repeated claim, has itself carried out fifteen such tests. That makes it even more imperative that action should now be taken by the three nuclear powers to end the tests. If they will not do so, it is up to small nations such as Australia and India to set an example.
I can find no record of any such initiative being taken in the last twelve or eighteen months by Dr. Walker, our representative at the United Nations. I have mentioned that other statements on the subject have been made by eminent scientists. We can, if the Minister likes, begin with the eighteen Nobel prize winners, who made their statement in July, 1955. One can mention, next, the statement signed by the late Albert Einstein and eight other scientists and men of world renown. One can refer, also, to the 1956 report of the National Academy of Science. The report stressed the necessity for the utmost care being taken, and upon that recommendation President Eisenhower is said to have made a decision that the tests should continue. Dr. Sturtevant’s remarks were quoted in the “ Christian Science Monitor “ of 26th October, 1956. This noted geneticist challenges the conclusion drawn from the report of the National Academy of Science that a ten-fold increase in fall-out from nuclear bomb tests would not be serious. This interpretation was attributed to a staff member of the National Academy of Science who worked on the report. Dr. Sturtevant asserted -
The report of the committee reaches no such conclusion … I, for one, would have been unwilling to sign a report that could reasonably have been so interpreted.
He was referring to the interpretation upon which President Eisenhower is alleged to have based his decision to continue hydrogen bomb testing. The “ Christian Science Monitor “ commented -
In the meantime, more recent information disclosed by Atomic Energy Commissioner Willard F. Libby on radio-strontium, or radio-active fallout hazards, indicates the urgency of an immediate revision of the N.A.S. report, Dr. Sturtevant believes . . .
Although Dr. Sturtevant does not say that the radioactivity generated by past tests constitutes a present danger, the radiation hazards committee of the Federation of American Scientists has put it almost that strongly in suggesting the possibility that “ in certain areas of the country “ such fall-out has “ already passed the danger point “.
In the “ New York Times “ of 25th October last the following appears: -
SCIENTISTS DISPUTE PRESIDENT ON BOMB.
Nineteen University of Rochester scientists, including the chief medical researcher for the Atomic Energy Commission, took issue to-day with President Eisenhower’s assertion that H-bomb tests could be continued without peril to the human race.
In the face of those statements and the knowledge that by January of this year the stratosphere was saturated to the extent of 15 per cent., by strontium from hydrogen bombs which had already been exploded, how can we - whatever party we belong to - approach this subject with anything but the gravest alarm and a sincere desire to place it above party politics and on an international, moral level?
The only reference made by Dr. Walker on the subject is found in the discussion on the report of the Disarmament Commission earlier this year. When speaking on the Soviet Union’s draft proposals he said that he believed that in view of the present condition of the world, some tests must be continued for a time if the security of the Free World were to be safeguarded. At the same time, the top nuclear scientists of the world were saying that what we were doing could, without a war, lead to the cessation and destruction of human life. To every woman who has children, and to every woman who hopes to have them, this is a very live and real issue.
The Labour party believes that, in view of the stage which the disarmament negotiations have reached, now is the time, above all others, for a summit conference between the leaders of the Soviet, America and Britain, the three atomic powers, before a fourth or fifth power comes into the picture. Now is the psychological time for such a summit approach. Agreement should be reached while this matter is before the disarmament sub-committee. The right atmosphere should be created so that a favorable recommendation can be made. When a favorable recommendation has been made, the Australian Government, through its representatives, should immediately take steps, for the first time in history’ to my knowledge, to call a special conference of the United Nations Assembly to cement an agreement on this matter. Now is the psychological time to prevent further tests, pending the setting up of international control. There should be a summit conference of the three powers that possess atomic weapons and they should immediately put their recommendation to the sub-committee, which I believe would favour it. If the recommendation is favorably received it could then be put before a specially convened meeting of the United Nations.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt) has obviously spoken with sincerity on this matter. He disappointed me a little because, having commenced with the announcement that we should make this a non-party matter and having appealed to us to conduct the debate in a lofty tone, he then proceeded to attack me and to suggest that I had been changing my ground on this matter, which is not true.
– It was just a phrase.
– All right, it was just a phrase. The honorable member for Darebin then suggested that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had never had any real appreciation of this problem, which also is not true. With 90 per cent, of what the honorable gentleman said we on this side of the House are in agreement. I have stated on several occasions that it is our wish, especially in relation to the big yield megaton bombs, that there should be speedy agreement between the nations on the control and subsequent cessation of tests. The big problem is how to bring it about. I shall speak on that subject later.
First, let us examine the proposal which is supported by members of the Labour party who have risen with such spurious solidarity and see what it really means. I say “ spurious solidarity “ because the Opposition is not solid on anything else and I have grave reason to doubt whether it is solid on this matter. The proposal submitted as a matter of urgency reads -
The urgent necessity of the Australian Government initiating action on an international basis for the purpose of suspending immediately, with a view to termination, all nuclear bomb tests wheresoever and by whomsoever carried out.
I take it that this would mean the suspension of Great Britain’s Christmas Island tests.
– Hear, hear!
– The cat is out of the bag! Immediate suspension of the Christmas Island tests! Apparently, it would also mean the immediate suspension of our own small tests in Australia, which we are carrying out on behalf of the British Government and which, in the view of our own scientists, are harmless to this country. Obviously, the proposal is directed at Great Britain, the senior partner in the British Commonwealth, insofar as it relates to the suspension of the Christmas Island tests. It could only be justified on the ground of proven serious danger to the human race, arising out of this immediate series of tests. The Government is just as sensitive of the welfare of the Australian people and of the people of the world as are honorable members opposite.
– We- do not concede that.
– The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) will not concede it. He takes the Communist line, so I overlook him entirely. I do not say that of all members of the Opposition. On every occasion on which a subject of: this kind arises the honorable member for Yarra seems to be the mouthpiece1 of the only persons who have ever offered, any threat to this country.
– I rise to order. That is an unfair misrepresentation. The Minister has twice made a remark of that nature. It is most offensive and I ask that it be withdrawn.
Order! The Minister is in order. He may proceed’.
– I rise to order. Is it not correct that, under the Standing Orders, when a member rises and objects to a statement on the ground that it is personally offensive to him, the Chair should ask that the remark be withdrawn?
Order! I listened very carefully to the remarks of the Minister. He did not make any particular accusation against the honorable member for Yarra. He is quite in order.
– I have no desire to be offensive, but I have a right to give my impression of the facts in this House.
Mr. Cairns interjecting,
Order! The honorable member for Yarra will keep quiet or he will find himself outside the chamber.
– Our best advice from eminent experts in Great Britain and in this country is that there will be no immedate danger from these tests if they are properly conducted. I make the point, however, that there is a difference between immediate danger and ultimate danger from high yield megaton tests which may be carried out in future. In these circumstances, I say that the proposal, directed as it really is against Great Britain, represents a very grave and serious blow at that country and her attempt to improve her defences by developing the deterrent weapon which is the only factor which is keeping the peace in the world to-day. I hope that
P do not interpret the minds- of all’ honorablemembers on the Opposition side of the House-
Mr. Haylen interjecting,
– It is the old story. They do not like the truth. They reserve the right to scream abuse at everybody else, but if we retaliate with a few facts we are subjected, to this chronic interjecting which is designed’, to prevent a member from having his say in silence. This Government will not be a party to action designed to prevent Great Britain from conducting the forthcoming tests at Christmas Island. We believe that it is essential in her own interests and indeed in ours, now that she is on the threshold of a successful atomic H-bomb test, that she should be permitted to prove to the world that she can make the hydrogen bomb.
– Will the Minister guarantee that there will be no ill effects from it?
– 1 do not guarantee such things because I am not a scientist, but very eminent British, scientists and men of high responsibility have asserted that they are confident that there will be no ill effects to the population from these tests, either at present or in the future. Opposition members may quote other authorities, but our own eminent Australian scientists, as well as British scientists, have said that there will be no ill effects, and by their advice we must be guided.
On the wider question of international agreement on the- limitation and abolition of thermo-nuclear tests, we are in agreement with the honorable member for Darebin. We think that these tests should be regulated and then abolished, but they must be abolished in a way which, will give protection to this country and its allies. Unless we can achieve some sort of control and supervision, what guarantee have we that tests will not continue, in which case our last state would be worse than our first?
The suggestion has been made, by implication, that so far we have not been trying to bring about the cessation of these tests or to bring about agreement in relation to them. Some weeks ago, I mentioned this matter in this House, and I should like to mention it again. Away back in 1953 and 1954, Great Britain, America and France, with Australia playing its supporting- part, made strenuous efforts to get agreement for the cessation of nuclear and thermo-nuclear tests. In 1954, at the General Assembly, India put forward its proposal for a “ standstill “, and it is significant that on that occasion Russia’s voice was not heard. In 1955, when the question of disarmament came before a sub-committee of the United Nations, Russia put forward a set of proposals for the cessation of tests, coupled with a proposal for the limitation df conventional arms. That would have suited Russia very well, because she has an enormous preponderance of conventional arms. Russia also proposed the liquidation of foreign -bases. She has no foreign bases, so that proposal was directed only at Great Britain and the United States of America. Russia wanted a simple promise by all parties not to use the bomb, with no machinery for inspection, control or supervision. It is not surprising that that proposal got precisely nowhere before the disarmament sub-committee.
This was followed by President Eisenhower’s “ open skies “ declaration, which again was not replied to or responded to by Russia. In December, 1955, Sir Anthony Eden offered to engage in any discussions with Russia and the other powers - his words were “ at any place and at any time “ - on the regulation and cessation of nuclear tests. There was no reply by Russia. Between March and May, 1956, Anglo-French proposals were discussed by the disarmament sub-committee. They were coupled with comprehensive disarmament proposals, but they did involve the abolition of tests. Those proposals lapsed. More recently, Sir Anthony Eden indicated that he was prepared to separate disarmament from the question of the cessation of tests and to engage in discussions, but again Russia, has not responded.
– Was not he repudiated by his own Government?
– That remark is not worthy of the Leader of the Opposition. Sir Anthony Eden fell ill and ceased to be Prime Minister. He was not repudiated by his own Government. I commend this point of view to honorable members: If we are going to discuss this matter divorced entirely from the problem of disarmament, let us watch carefully lest we find ourselves in a position in which tests and nuclear development have ceased, but Russia is left in charge of the field because she has a vast preponderance of conventional arms.
– We must call Russia’s bluff.
– Somebody wants to call Russia’s bluff. I think that the time is ripe for another conference. In fact, one is going on at this very moment. The disarmament subcommittee is discussing British, American and French proposals that have been put forward. As I said the other night, I believe that the climate for agreement on this matter is improving. We would welcome agreement. As a country, we would play our part. We do not believe that it is good for us, as a small nation, to try to initiate things which it is outside our power to initiate, but we will use our weight and our influence. As 1 said the other night, we hope that it will lead to agreement, and certainly all of us will do our best to bring it about.
.- The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) has repeated, once again, the assurance he has given to the House that we have absolutely nothing to fear from the nuclear tests that are being conducted in and around Australia. Yet, in spite of the Minister’s assurances, we find that eminent scientists in other parts of the world, including Great Britain itself, take an entirely different view. I wish to quote, from the “ Age “ of 1st March of this year, the remarks of Professor Haddow, the director of the Chester Beatty Research Institute at the London Royal Cancer Hospital. He had this to say -
The British assured the Australians during tests in Australia that there would be no risks (of radiation affecting humans).
That is the assurance that the Minister is again giving to the House in respect of the tests to be conducted at Christmas Island. The report continued -
Professor Haddow, speaking of nuclear test explosions at a meeting of the Parliamentary Association for World Government, accused America, Britain and Russia of underestimating the hazards of radiation from nuclear weapons.
It is all very well for English scientists to come over here, 12,000 miles from Great Britain, to conduct their tests close to Australia’s shores and to expose the Australian people to the ill-effects of those tests.
English scientists like Professor Titterton have the cheek to come out to this country, accept our hospitality and tell us that there will be no ill effects from nuclear radiation as a result of the tests conducted in Australia for the benefit of the Conservative Government of Great Britain. That is something that should not be tolerated by the Australian Government. While Titterton and other English scientists are telling us that we have nothing to fear-
– Australian scientists agree with them.
– No Australian scientist of any note has said there is nothing to fear. The greatest scientists in the world to-day are contradicting the views of the English scientists, who, to suit their purposes, are persuading us that there is nothing to fear from carrying on these dangerous tests in Australia. If Australia has nothing to fear from these tests carried out for the British Government, why is it that the British Government is now complaining about the abnormal fall-out that has occurred in parts of England during the past two or three weeks? Sheep in Wales have been found to contain 100 times more than the normal proportion of strontium, as a result of the fall-out from nuclear tests that have been conducted by Russia. If the people of Great Britain are suffering the ill effects of nuclear tests conducted by Russia - which is further away from England than is the site of the nuclear tests to be conducted by the British Government from Australia - it is only reasonable to assume that the scientists of the world who disagree with the point of view of the English scientists are nearer to the truth than they are. As Australians, we are entitled to look to the Australian Government to protect us from the kind of thing which we know is going on around us at this very minute. We are entitled to see that steps are taken to protect us and our children from the dangers that scientists all over the world now tell us are associated with nuclear tests.
Earl Attlee, whom no one could claim is a Communist or likely to peddle the Communist line, has been outspoken on this matter. This brings me to the comment of the Minister about the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns). Every time this Government gets into a sticky spot, it tries to talk its way out by bringing out the old humbug about communism. Communism seems to be the Government’s perfect explanation of everything that it cannot get out of by using logic and reason. It uses a smear campaign, by accusing its critics of being Communists. The members of the Labour party in Great Britain probably have a better right to speak about nuclear tests than many other people. Their opinion, expressed in the House of Commons - an opinion which Earl Attlee supports - was that the British tests at Christmas Island ought to be postponed for a limited period to see whether the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America would make some favorable response.
– Is the honorable member in favour of that?
– Yes, of course, I am in favour of it. The British Labour party is perfectly correct when it suggests that we ought to do everything possible to bring some sanity to this mad world.
– Unilateral abandonment.
– It is all very well for the Minister to talk about unilateral abandonment, but unless some country gives a lead, there will never be agreement. Somebody has got to start, and it might as well be Australia as some other country, because if somebody does not make a start soon there will be nobody left to start anything. Everybody and everything on the surface of the earth will be completely obliterated. Something has to be done. This may be only a feeble approach, but is the right approach under the present circumstances. Anything is right that will prevent the kind of war that would be fought if ever war broke out on a world-wide scale. We are told by eminent scientists that there is already enough dust in the upper atmosphere to ensure that 50,000 people will be born either sterile, idiots, with cancer of the bones or suffering from leukaemia. That is as a result of the tests that have already been held. Every additional test that takes place will increase the amount of strontium 90 in the atmosphere, and will increase the radio-activity of the world as we now know it. Even a slight increase in strontium 90 fall-out or radio-activity is dangerous to the human race. The position steadily worsens, therefore, with every experiment that is conducted. It is rapidly worsening, and indeed in the event of world-wide nuclear warfare it would so rapidly worsen that it would affect every country, neutral or belligerent.
Mr. Duncan Sandys, the British Minister for Defence, said that there was absolutely no defence at all against nuclear warfare. He said that the only defence was to seek peace. We have to seek peace because we have reached a stage to-day where we have
Only two alternatives. One is peaceful co-existence with the rest of the world - the Communist part of the world - and the other is no existence at all. I am all in favour of peaceful co-existence, because I would rather have peaceful co-existence than the alternative, which is non-existence for us and for the people of all other countries. There was a time when anybody who talked of peaceful co-existence was accused of being a Communist. Strange as it may seem, the first person who uttered the slogan of peaceful co-existence was the leader of the Soviet Republic. Now we have Mr. Duncan Sandys saying that peaceful co-existence is the only alternative. The Minister came near to the point when speaking in this House a fortnight ago. He said that any test carried out could, and probably would, to some extent, be dangerous.
– I did not say that.
– Well, the Minister should have said it. If he knows anything about the subject that is what he should have said. The fact that the Minister did not say it only confirms my view that he knows nothing about the matter.
There is no doubt that the hydrogen bomb is an evil thing. It is an offence against God and man, spreading its destruction and death - indeed worse than death because unborn generations will suffer sterility, idiocy, and other afflictions. Not only does the strontium fall-out increase the incidence of bone cancer and leukemia, but the effects of radiation will create sterility and other genetic abnormalities. Someone has to give the lead, and it is no use harping about unilateral action. Of course there has to be unilateral action for a time, and it is worth trying. It is worth trying to see if we can get some positive result from it. I believe, therefore, that there should be some attempt to arrange a summit conference between the leaders of the great nuclear powers. In the meantime there should be a postponement, for a limited period, of the tests to be carried out at Christmas Island. I think we should go to the other nuclear powers and say that we are prepared to stop if they are prepared to stop. In the meantime we should press strongly upon the British Government the need to postpone the detonation of this horrible bomb at Christmas Island.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) concluded by saying that we should say to the other powers that are testing nuclear weapons, “ We will stop if you will stop “. That was a complete contradiction of his earlier assertion that some one had to stop first. This shows again the confused thinking of the Opposition on this question. Earlier in his remarks the honorable member said, “ We expect the Government to defend us “. That is what is actually happening at the present stage. The honorable member spoke about peaceful co-existence and said that these tests would kill future generations. One of the arguments and contentions of this Government is that communism at the moment threatens to kill present generations. Indeed, if we look at what communism is doing throughout the world, we find that in many countries it is already killing the present generation.
This motion of urgency from the Opposition implies that no steps are being taken towards the banning of nuclear tests at the present stage. But, as has been mentioned by other speakers, a disarmament conference, in which the five nations are gathered together, is endeavouring to find a solution to this particular problem. However, while those nations are at present gathered together endeavouring to find a solution to this problem, our strength is the strength in the power that we have. Members of this House will recall that only recently I said that one of the greatest lessons of history surely was that we must lead from strength and not from weakness. Honorable members opposite have said that the British Labour party objects to the test at Christmas Island. The British Labour party is divided on this issue, and Mr. Brown, who has been mentioned as the “ shadow “ defence minister for a future Labour government, or socialist government as they would call it, has supported these tests at Christmas Island. So we find that there is a great deal of confusion of thought in the urgency matter raised by members of the Opposition.
There are conflicting ideas and conflicting thoughts from scientists in connexion with the suggested dangers of these tests. Very careful tests made by United States scientists at the Nevada testing grounds show that no risks have developed from explosions that have taken place in the area. I feel that the Opposition frequently defeats itself in this argument. It has been said that the Opposition desires to keep this debate on a very high plane. No one will deny that for the sake of civilization, for the sake of the progress and development of the world, there should be. a stop to this mad race.
– Where will you start?
– I will answer the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) later. I feel that there is no advantage in merely initiating debates such as this. The honorable member for Darebin mentioned the attitude of the Christian churches, and frequently I have heard from members of the Opposition the accusation that, although I am a minister of the Presbyterian Church, I frequently speak on defence matters in a way that is not Christian. Sir, I would suggest that we go back to the remarks made by President Benes of Czechoslovakia at the time of the conference between Hitler, Chamberlain, Mussolini and Daladier, when Czechoslovakia was carved up. President Benes said that it was a sacrifice the Chechoslovakian nation was prepared to make for the sake of the world. It might be compared to the sacrifice, made by Christ upon the cross and if it brought peace to the world, the Czechoslovak nation would feel that it had made a lasting and vital contribution.
– That was after Munich.
– Yes. We know that that action did not bring about peace. If we cease these tests, have we any guarantee that the Russians will cease theirs? Russia is closer to civilized areas than we are. Tests carried out behind the iron curtain are closer to civilized countries than those carried out by Western nations. If the remarks made by honorable members opposite are true, Russia is creating a. greater danger to Pakistan and other .populated areas than we of the West are in conducting our tests. I have pointed out, on a number of occasions, that the reality of this question exists in whether we are prepared to give away completely any possibility of defending ourselves and to allow the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to take the lead and be able to dictate to us whatever they want, whenever they want to do so. I have pointed out before that, when the Western democracies have stood firm, Russia has backed down. Surely, if there is one lesson to be learned from history, it is that the danger of war is lessened if we are strong and that the danger of war is increased if we are weak. If we cease nuclear tests and thus weaken ourselves in nuclear power of defence, we immediately hand to the Russians, and to our enemies, the opportunity to come through if and when they like.
If we consider the present situation, we find that Russia is constantly interfering in international affairs to the detriment of the Western nations. The latest evidence of that is the visit of the President of the U.S.S.R., Marshal Voroshilov, to Indonesia. There, he stated categorically that west New Guinea was part of Indonesia and should be handed over to it We know that there is no reality or truth in that statement. Once again, Russia is supporting people close to our shores in something which would be detrimental to us. In this situation, what we must face is not whether we are prepared to work in peaceful coexistence with Russia and place ourselves in a position where our defence is negligible, but whether we are prepared to place ourselves in a position in which we can go into conference with Russia to work for peace, leading from strength and not from weakness.
.- I am shocked at the speech that I have just heard from the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock). Every church announcement on the issue that we have raised in the Parliament to-day disagrees with and contradicts the argument put forward by him. The honorable member has said that the strength we have is in the power we have. What a tragic statement to make in this Parliament! The power he refers to is nuclear power, which destroys people who have no part of any kind in war. Women and children, the aged and infirm in the cities of this land would be destroyed in a flash, but they have no part in war. That is the power the honorable member referred to, and it is a diabolical power.
– I wonder whether he has included such statements in his sermons?
– Yes, I wonder! In a statement to the press on 26th April last, the Pope, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, urged the leaders of all nations and faiths to abandon nuclear weapons and turn nuclear energy to the service of man instead of pursuing - and I cite his exact words - “ a terrifying and costly race towards death “. That is where the speech of the honorable member for Lyne would lead us!
The Tasmanian Synod of the Church of England, meeting in April at Campbelltown, in Tasmania, made such a definite statement about nuclear power and nuclear war that it was published on the front page of the Hobart “ Mercury “ with banner headlines. The Synod urged the banning of nuclear tests and nuclear weapons, and the international control of all atomic energy production. The federal council of the Church of Christ in Melbourne made a similar pronouncement earlier this year. In March, at the Tasmanian and Victorian conferences in Melbourne, the Methodist Church made a similar pronouncement. The Presbyterian Church, in November of last year, at one of its important assemblies, urged the international control of atomic energy and the banning of hydrogen and atomic bombs. The Congregational Church of Australia has made a similar statement. Yet We have cynical people in this Parliament and throughout Australia who still believe in the power of the atom rather than the power of God. What good do people do by going to church on Sunday, when the next day they still believe in the nuclear armament race which, if not stopped, will eventually destroy innocent people? How far do we take our Christianity when we act in that way?
Every church in this country and the head of the Roman Catholic Church have made statements supporting what we have said in the Parliament, and that is where I take my stand. I am not interested in what honorable members opposite have said or in much of what the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) will say soon. However, the honorable member for Mackellar has probably given more constructive thought on the atomic bomb than any other honorable member opposite, and I would be prepared to listen to him on an objective view of the atomic bomb. He has made some very constructive suggestions on the way we should act to achieve the banning of nuclear warfare. I am not so naive as to suggest that America or the United Kingdom should cease the production of nuclear weapons and that Russia should be allowed to build them. We believe in a multi-lateral banning of nuclear weapons on an international plane through the United Nations.
I have given the views of the churches on this matter. Millions of people in Australia believe in Christianity and are represented by the churches I have mentioned. None of them would be regarded as Communists merely because they advocate the banning of this hideous, diabolical instrument of man, which makes the savages of the past appear to be gentlemen by comparison with us. I stress the church angle on this matter. I was a Methodist minister for eight years and should know what I am talking about.
Dr. Albert Schweitzer, a Nobel Prize winner and a famous Christian statesman and missionary in Africa, appealed in midApril of this year for an end to nuclear tests. No one would call him’ a Communist! He was supported by Professor Hahn of Germany, who is also a Nobel Prize winner and one of the eighteen leading West German scientists who have declared that they will not work on atomic weapons. If all the scientists in the world, including Russia, adopted that attitude, we would, have no need to worry about a nuclear war. These men are giving up their professions and saying that they will not work again on atomic weapons. Professor Hahn was joined by Professors Otto Haxel Heinz Maier-Leibnitz and Wolfgang Riezler
We are convinced that we are on the side of humanity and everything that is decent and right when we bring before the Parliament a subject such as this. A gallup poll on this issue was taken in December of last year. The results show that the Australian people are behind us on this matter. The question asked referred to the banning of atomic tests and the handing over of nuclear power to international control. Sixty-six per cent, of the Australian people said “ Yes “. Of Liberal-Australian Country party voters, 60 per cent, said “ Yes “. So you, the advocates of nuclear tests, are in a minority in this Parliament!
Order! I ask the honorable member to address the Chair.
– Seventy-two per cent, of Labour voters favoured the banning of atomic weapons tests. So, from all the evidence that we have gathered, it is obvious that those who will not do something to have these weapons banned are in the minority. Who is going to start making peace, anyway? That is the question. Some one has to start somewhere, some time. When will the nations of the world begin to trust one another. When the United States of America suggests a plan to stop the stockpiling of nuclear weapons, Russia suspects a trap and rejects it. When Russia proposes a plan for “ open skies “ over vast areas, the United States says, “It is no good; we cannot trust the Reds”. When the United Kingdom proposes multilateral disarmament, the United States is luke-warm and Russia is suspicious. So we go on with this attitude of international lunacy, week after week, and month after month, with the lives of every one at stake while the nations of the world refuse to agree to make a start on the banning of nuclear weapons. This means that no scheme to save humanity is considered to be any good unless an individual nation’s own plan is accepted. The attitude is, “ My way to peace, or no peace; my way to disarmament, or no disarmament “. At what stage will one nation begin to trust the other? When will the nations of the world meet on common ground, and find a common denominator of agreement on this issue between East and West, between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the rest of the world? Each of the three Powers finds fault with each other’s proposals, therefore, no start is made to save civilization. Why not take the areas of agreement as a starting point? Why not find even a small piece of trust to start with?
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– 1 am glad that this matter has been brought before the House for discussion, although I regret some of the terms in which the notice has been couched, because I think that the question of the control of atomic weapons is the most important matter that confronts this House or, indeed, any parliament. Since I have been a member of this House, I have continuously believed this to be the most important of all matters. I do not in any way disbelieve, or detract from, the statements that have been made about the evils of atomic weapons when they are used in war. I do not think that there is any exaggeration in what has been said about the devastating effects that these weapons might have on all humanity, and I believe that it is our paramount duty to do what is necessary to reduce the risk of ultimate disaster. However, I rather regret the exaggerated statements that have been made by several Opposition members about the harm that has been done, or may possibly be done, by tests of atomic weapons.
If honorable members examine the two basic documents on this matter - “The Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation “, published in the United States of America by the National Academy of Sciences, and “ The Hazards to Man of Nuclear and Allied Radiations “, published in the United Kingdom as a parliamentary White Paper, both of them having been published in June of last year - they will see the kind of exaggeration of which Opposition members have been guilty in their discussion of this issue. The honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt) misquoted material on numerous occasions. He did not seem to understand the things that he was dealing with, because his physical facts, as he quoted them, were simply, in some, though not in all, respects, a farrago of nonsense. Some, though not all, of the statements made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) were in the same category, particularly his distortion of the real sense of the comments of Professor Haddow, a man whom I know personally, and with whom I took the opportunity to discuss these matters at great length when I was in England several years ago.
There has been a campaign of exaggeration on the part of Opposition members. I do not say that it was a deliberate campaign, but I do say that Opposition members, not knowing what they were doing, have been used as the instruments of a campaign of deliberate exaggeration in this matter. I do not suggest that there has been any exaggeration about the ultimate effects of atomic warfare, but I do say that the effects of the testing of nuclear weapons, which have been blown up into such a big issue, are, unfortunately, not of comparative consequence. I would say that this exaggeration is part of a Communist plan, because, quite undeniably, it originated in the Kremlin. It is part of a Communist plan to prevent the effective world control of nuclear weapons. I want to take the minds of honorable members back, briefly, to what happened earlier. The Russians, in order to prevent the nations of the world from getting together and banning atomic weapons, effectively raised a phony cry, “ Ban the atomic bomb “, while, at the same time, they did everything they could to prevent any ban from becoming effective. So to-day, when some effective measures which could help towards the real objectives which. I think, in some instances, Opposition members sincerely seek to achieve, are open to us, the Russians endeavour to confuse us by leading us off onto these side tracks in order to take our minds off the main issue. I believe that they have used Opposition members, and that those members do not always know how the Russians are using them.
We do not want to exaggerate the effects of atomic weapons tests. Exaggeration is being used deliberately in an effort to turn our minds away from the really effective things that we could do to obtain international atomic control. The Opposition should now be supporting the full “ open skies “ proposal which the United States of America advanced several years ago, and which Russia refused to accept then, although it has now made some small move towards accepting it. The present Russian proposals are “ loaded “, but, as I said in this House only a couple of weeks ago, they form the basis on which we should be pressing negotiations. This campaign for the cessation of tests of atomic weapons is being blown up to extraordinary proportions in order to turn our minds away from the things that we should be doing. It is part of a Russian plan to turn us away from the taking of effective measures for world disarmament and world control of atomic weapons. Those tactics have been used in the past, and Opposition members, whether or not they like it, or know it, were used as instruments of the Russian plan. I say also - and I have said this in the House before - that the worst disservice that the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) has done to Australia and the world was to sponsor irresolution-
– I rise to order. I should like to know what authority the honorable member for Moreton has to bring into this House a recording machine in order to record a speech - if it is a recording machine; it looks suspiciously like one from where I sit.
Order! If the honorable member for Moreton has brought a recording machine into the House he is strictly out of order.
– By way of a personal explanation, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, may I say that it is not a recording machine but a geiger counter.
– The worst disservice that the right honorable member for Barton has done has been his co-operation with the Communists - I think his unknowing co-operation, because it seems to me that he has not always understood the purposes for which they were using him.
– I rise to order. What authority has the honorable member for Moreton to bring into the chamber a geiger counter, or any other mechanical contrivance that endangers the health of honorable members?
Order! There is no point of order involved.
– Doubtless, these points of order are being taken so that I will not be able to say what should be said about the past conduct of the right honorable member for Barton. As I have said, I do not believe that he has always known what he was doing, but as one of the chief architects of irresolution in the United Nations on this issue, he is very largely responsible for the atomic impasse in which we find ourselves to-day. His attitude has been in accordance with the general Russian plan. Once again the Opposition - I think in many cases unknowingly - is following the Russian plan, because instead of concentrating on the things which are effective and the things which could be done; instead of getting behind the full “ open skies “ plan, because no agreement to ban tests is of any use at all without inspection; and instead of supporting the things that it should support, it has endeavoured to confuse the public mind and also to confuse men of goodwill. There is a great number of men of goodwill in this argument, but honorable members opposite have attempted to confuse them by bringing forward this aspect which is obviously out of all proportion to the facts.
Mr. R. W. Holt interjecting,
Order! The honorable member for Darebin will remain quiet.
– I believe that this House has a duty to turn its mind to the things that are really effective for atomic control. That is the first duty of the House, and I think, therefore, that this debate is not without some good points, because it has enabled these matters to be discussed. What we have to do now is, first, to achieve a system of universal inspection which will make other measures possible. It is of no use simply to say, “ Stop the tests! “ What does that bring?
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKEROrder! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I desire to thank and congratulate the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt) who has brought this proposal forward. He has been consistent in his attitude to this problem and, indeed, so has the party that I represent. The terms of the proposal represent the decision, not of a few people, but of the Labour movement of Australia, originally reached more than two years ago and consistently supported ever since. There has been a gradual change of public opinion concerning not only these tests but also the use of nuclear weapons in war. With regard to the tests, of course, the evidence that has been forthcoming has increased enormously during the last two years. It is perfectly useless for the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) to try to underrate the danger of the tests. Some of the authorities on the subject have been summarized this afternoon in the course of the speeches that have been made. For instance, the honorable member for Darebin dealt with the opinions of scientists, headed by Einstein, perhaps the greatest living scientist at the time his opinion was given, and he also referred to Nobel prize winners, German scientists, and the great Schweitzer. An enormous body of evidence is pouring in from scientific quarters all over the world concerning the detrimental and deleterious effects of the nuclear experiments that have been completed already.
I referred recently - and I have since been waiting for an answer from the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) - to a statement of Professor Powell, a distinguished English professor, in which he estimated that, as a result of the nuclear tests that have been conducted already by the three great nuclear powers, many thousands of people are likely to perish.
– He did not say that. I have his article here.
– He did say that. I have not referred to an article at all. When I spoke about this matter recently, I referred to newspaper comments, and I read them for the benefit of the Minister. I do not know what he is referring to now, but I am speaking of what Professor Powell has said.
– I am referring to the article in “ Nature “, to which the right honorable gentleman referred recently.
– I am speaking of a different matter altogether. Apparently, the Minister does not know the difference between the statement of Professor Powell and that of Sir John Cockcroft in reply to a person who bad said there was no danger. I am referring to a statement of Professor Powell concerning experiments conducted in Wales. Of course, Professor Powell may be wrong. All the scientists may be wrong, or they may be exaggerating, but cannot ordinary people, without scientific knowledge, base their argument upon the possibility - and we need say no more - of these men being correct? What remedy will there be for the tens of thousands of people already condemned to death as the result of nuclear experiments if the scientists turn out to be right?
In the early stages of the development of the science of nuclear physics it was never dreamt that the atom could be split with such devastating consequences. The atom bomb has been used in war, but for the moment I am not speaking of that. On that point, the honorable member for Mackellar is right, and it is about the only point on which he is right. I suppose that everybody knows that the full-scale use of nuclear bombs in time of war would cause danger to the fabric of the earth and to its population. But the experiments themselves are now of serious moment. We on this side of the House have referred to the authorities on the subject, one after the other, for what purpose? Not for the purpose of stopping the tests in a preferential way, as the Minister for Supply has argued. He said that we were trying to stop the British from conducting these experiments.
– And that is what you are doing!
– That is completely false.
– That is what the honorable member for Hindmarsh said this afternoon.
– Let me read the proposal that is before the House. It refers to -
The urgent necessity of the Australian Government initiating action-
– The Minister can read, I take it. He should not be dumb all the time.
Order! The Minister for Supply will remain quiet.
– It continues- on an international basis for the purpose of suspending immediately, with a view to termination, all nuclear bomb tests, wheresoever and by whomsoever carried out.
– Quite right!
– I suppose that the Minister therefore agrees with that objective, does he?
– I have no objection to it at all.
– The proposal includes the Christmas Island test, which will be the next big test. It also includes the Russian tests that have been going on, and the American tests so far as they come within the description. We put the proposal in that form deliberately. As a matter of fact, some one came to me with a draft, proposal and I said, “ Well, you had better make it perfectly clear. The Minister for Supply may misrepresent this, or he and the Minister for External Affairs may not understand it “. Is it not plain when it says “ wheresoever and by whomsoever carried out”? Of course, the next test, and the closest to us, will be that at Christmas Island. The Japanese people want that test stopped, and so do the majority of the Australian people, not because it is a British test, but because they want all such tests stopped. Cannot Australia initiate, action?’ Surely it can! Instead of acting, the Australian Government just follows the British line, never displaying an independent mind; wondering what the United States wants; finding out what the British want. Surely the Government’s duty is to the people of Australia who, in a public opinion poll, have said that these tests should be stopped. We do not say for certain that all the scientific views that we quote are necessarily correct; but they may be correct, and you have got to take care by stopping the tests, otherwise you are condemning, by inaction, the people of this country, especially the children of the nextgeneration, to the results of a continuance of the tests - namely, leukaemia and cancer of the limbs. That has been said over and over again.
What right has the Minister to quote the Tittertons and the Martins who say that everything is safe? They have never even given any attention to this aspect of theproblem, so far as I know. They have pronounced in connexion with strontium-90. These official people always come out and say that surely what the Government is doing is right. They may be wrong. I do not say that they are necessarily wrong, but 1 say that they are possibly wrong, and we must guard against that possibility. That is the way we apply the rules of negligence in civil law - in respect of not what is certain, but what may happen - and, in this case, what may happen to suffering humanity.
One other point: In my opinion the use of weapons for experimental purposes in the open seas which do not belong to the nation conducting the tests, and on lands which are not within the sovereignty of that nation, is, in itself, an illegal exercise of sovereignty which is contrary, I believe, to the duties that these nations must observe with respect to the territories of each other.
– So you want to stop the British test?
– I want to stop them all.
– Yes, now if I can, and the British Labour party has so held.
– And you agree with the British?
– You think that I want to stop only the British. Surely you are not so despicable as to suggest that. I believe that you do not mean it. You said the other night, for the first time, that you were not dogmatic about the opinions of the scientists in Australia. But when we say that we want to stop them all, you say that we want to stop the British only. I say, yes, of course I want to stop them all. You want to keep the British test going, whatever the consequences.
– That is the Government’s point of view - whatever the consequences! After all, the experiment is being conducted with danger, possibly to Australia and to Japan. I want to stop this, I want to stop the Russians, and I want to stop the Americans too. I want to raise a case in the cause of humanity everywhere, and I am disgusted that the Minister has retreated from what he said, for the first time, the other night in debate. We were surprised to hear him say it, and somebody said that after all the Minister would like to come to an international agreement. I again refer this to the Minister for External Affairs who, after all, has an international responsibility. The proposal is that these tests be stopped everywhere; that they be stopped by international action; that they be stopped immediately and that this cessation be made applicable everywhere. Of course, if that were done, it would be unthinkable that such weapons would be used in time of war. Disarmament would really begin.
That is the view of this party and of the British Labour party, the New Zealand Labour party and of every man and woman of goodwill in every country in the world. We are proud to hold it.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) reminds me of an old United Kingdom Prime Minister who said, at some point of time of great national crisis in his country, “ The time is ripe for something to be done. The question is, what is it? “ The right honorable gentleman has, I think, one supreme object in mind, and that is to make political capital out of a great international situation. If the right honorable gentleman does not mean that he advocates a unilateral cessation of nuclear weapons tests, then I do not know what he does mean. His supporter, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), said quite distinctly that he was for the unilateral stopping of these tests.
I do not want to exacerbate the tension of this debate, but I should like to take the right honorable gentleman, and members of the Opposition in particular, through the simple series of arguments on which, presumably, this debate is based. The first point is that the Communist nations of the world, particularly the Soviet Union, are appreciably stronger than the democracies in what are rather dreadfully called “ conventional “ arms and weapons. The Western Nations on the other hand, are assumed to be - and I believe are - appreciably ahead of the Communist nations in what are broadly called “ nuclear weapons “. That simple but dreadful situation leads, I think, not only in the interests of the democracies but in the interests of the world and the interests of peace, to a broad approach to disarmament and the limitation of armaments, because you cannot limit nuclear weapons with advantage to the world - I am not talking about these tests at this moment - unless at the same time you have something like a proportional limitation of conventional weapons. That has been the approach of the democracies for a long time.
The third “ leg “ of the argument is that you cannot have any agreed limitation of nuclear weapons unless you have rigid watertight control and inspection, internationally carried out. Quite simply our side - the democracies - do not believe the word of Moscow; so that, unless and until you get this rigid international control, either through the American President’s “ open skies “ proposal or many other arrangements that anybody can evolve, and which have been evolved and put up in the sub-committee of the Disarmament Commission, it would be the height of folly for us to agree to a limitation of nuclear weapons that would merely expose us to the might and wrath of international communism without the means of protecting ourselves. So that unilateral disarmament, starting first by giving the Russians the advantage by our saying that we would make a high moral gesture, and all the rest, would be national suicide for the democracies.
Now, I am not attempting to say that intense efforts have not been made and are not still being made at this moment, by the great democracies - Great Britain, the United States, France, Canada - with the Soviet Union in the sub-committee of the Disarmament Commission. The democracies have been trying, year after year, with every sort of proposition, to get Soviet Russia to agree to some kind of general limitation of both nuclear and conventional weapons. All these efforts have failed. The Russians will not have a bar of any control and inspection within their own territory. Quite simply that! While that attitude of mind is maintained, I ask the Leader of the Opposition what he has as a practical proposal to put forward other than this suicidal policy of unilateral disarmament. I do not want to put words into his mouth but I think it is not unfair to say that what the right honorable gentleman and his friends are proposing is unilateral disarmament.
How do nuclear tests fit into this picture? If you are going to have nuclear defence - and we have nuclear defence, and we are not going to give it up unless the other side gives it up, too - you must have nuclear tests. Quite simply, a nuclear weapon is only a weapon. It is a vast weapon, heaven knows, but it is only a weapon like a tank, an aircraft or a gun, and you do not have a weapon of any sort, including a nuclear weapon, unless you have adequate tests to see that the thing works. On the democratic side we are entirely against unilateral disarmament in nuclear weapons or anything else.
Now I come to the risk caused to human life and health by nuclear tests. The two highest scientific bodies in the world, in Great Britain and the United States, have gone on record, through the medium of a number of scientists whose names are household words in both Great Britain and America, as saying - and I give their view briefly and simply - that the effects on human health of all the nuclear explosions up to now are not worth considering. Then, again, individual scientists say the reverse. I should like to see any subject under the sun, in the scientific, legal or any other field, on which you can get unanimity of opinion. After all, the Leader of the Opposition has made an extremely good living for a number of years by reason of differences of opinion in the legal world. Some scientists say the reverse of what other scientists say, but I think that we have to take the opinions of the most authoritative bodies that can be found, and examine them with a microscope. It is better to heed their views rather than the views of individual scientists, regardless of how highly placed and reputable they are. So it seems to me that the proposition comes down to this-
– You are accepting the opinions that suit you.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKEROrder! The honorable member for Parkes will refrain from interjecting.
– It comes down to this simple situation: Either nuclear tests are to be continued - and I hope to Heaven that they will be controlled and placed under some restraint as quickly as possible - with, according to the best scientific opinion in the world, microscopic risk to human health, or there is to be a unilateral abandonment of nuclear tests, with all the accompanying advantages that that will give to Soviet Russia. We know what the end result must be if we allow Soviet Russia to add superiority in nuclear weapons to its existing superiority in conventional weapons. The days of international democracy will be numbered. That is the simple question that we have to decide.
In that situation, which I do not think I have described unfairly to either side, the right honorable gentleman works himself into a fury and says that nothing is being done. He overlooks the fact that at this very moment the sub-committee ^ of the Disarmament Commission is discussing, day and night in London, the proposals of the democracies on the one hand, and the halfhearted trick proposals of Soviet Russia on the other. We are told that we should take the initiative. Have not the democracies taken the initiative for many years now? So I finish where I began, with the assertion that the right honorable gentleman and his friends are attempting, I believe unsuccessfully, to make political capital out of an international situation of great seriousness. The right honorable gentleman does nothing but come into this House and try to play on the fears of people whose knowledge of these matters is not as great as his own.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) proposed -
That the business of the day be called on.
– Order! The motion before the House is that the business of the day be called on.
– It must have been whispered, because it was not heard on this side of the House.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER.The “ Ayes “ have it.
Opposition members. - No!
– The House will divide.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker - Mr. W. R. Lawrence.)
Majority . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That, in lieu of the rate imposed by the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act 1947-1956, the rate of the charge in respect of the employment of waterside workers on or after the twenty-first day of May, One thousand nine hundred and fiftyseven, be Two shillings for every man-hour of employment.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Harold Holt and Sir Arthur Fadden do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is short, and its purpose is plain. It increases the stevedoring industry charge from1s. 7d. to 2s. a man-hour. As honorable members will be aware from earlier legislation relating to the charge, it finances the operations of what is now the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. The operations of the authority go very much further than its own administrative activities. It attends to the payment of attendance money, -and it makes, in effect on behalf of all employers in the stevedoring industry, payments on account of sick leave and statutory holidays. That is not the complete range of its activities, but those are some of them.
The charge is a levy on man-hours worked, and is additional to the hourly working rate of pay awarded by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to waterside workers. It is paid by the employers in the industry, and is received by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority to form a fund covering a number of purposes, including those I have mentioned. The charge was increased in October last, principally to meet the 50 per cent, increase in the attendance money rate and the payments on account of sick leave and statutory holidays, which had just previously been awarded by Mr. Justice Ashburner, of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, as it then was. There were also additional costs flowing, for example, from the extension of the press and radio system of allocating labour.
The rate of charge which had operated prior to October had been found insufficient to sustain the authority’s working funds, and these had, for some time, been running down at a rapid rate. The action taken in October was considered necessary to arrest this trend and restore the funds to a safe level for future operations. It should be made clear that the authority’s revenue varies according to the number of man-hours actually worked. The effect on the authority’s finances of a decrease in man-hours worked operates adversely in two directions because, first, its revenue decreases, and, secondly, unemployment increases with a consequential increase in the number of attendance money payments.
It had become evident in January, that the October increase was not likely to produce the desired improvement in the authority’s finances, and pending a determination of whether the financial position would be held or would deteriorate, arrangements were made with the authority’s bank, the Commonwealth Trading Bank, for temporary accommodation, while .trends in the industry could be further studied. This review has been made, and has disclosed a further deterioration in the authority’s finances. The rate of ls. 7d. was fixed in October on the best estimate that could be made at that time of the manhours likely to be worked in 1956-57. It was then thought that 36,500,000 hours would be so worked. It now appears that the figure will be nearer 34,000,000, which is 2,500,000 man-hours below the estimate, and I think it is important to carry in mind that it is 4,500,000 below the hours actually worked in 1955-56. So it will be seen that we estimated, knowing that there was a reduced level of imports, that the figure would be some 2,000,000 hours less than it had been in the previous year. In the result, it is working out at about 4,500,000 hours below the 1955-56 figure.
The principal reasons can be briefly stated. First, the volume of imports has been lower than anticipated, and the easing of import restrictions has not so far resulted in increased cargoes. Goods to a value of £823,000,000 were imported in 1955-56. The figure for this year is likely to be of the order of £700,000,000, which is £120,000,000 less than the figure for the previous year, and the Government has planned on a permitted level of imports to a value of £775,000,000 in 1957-58. This increase in imports is expected to influence the volume of tonnage handled throughout ports from June onwards. The Suez crisis has also had some influence on the rate at which imports have arrived.
Secondly, as I mentioned in the House recently, there has been a progressive decline in the tonnage of general cargoes handled by our interstate shipping. I do not need to go into the reasons for that at this stage. Bulk cargoes have not lost ground in the same way, but it is general cargo that requires the larger labour force. In 1956, the tonnage of general cargo carried interstate declined by more than 20 per cent, in comparison with that of the previous year.
A third factor which has affected the authority’s finances, and which is rather an unusual one, I imagine, is the unusually dry weather in many ports. This has meant, overall, a significant reduction in the time lost due to rain, and, although there has been no great effect from this on the total manhours worked, there have been more men on attendance money.
Fourthly - and this is a happier note - there has been a welcome improvement in stevedoring performance. The increase in sling loads and the smaller gangs which have resulted from Mr. Justice Ashburner’s award are bearing fruit. Palletization of cargoes and mechanization of handling arrangements, including extension of bulk loading facilities are also making a contribution.
All these factors have meant a smaller number of hours worked and while, in regard to the latter category mentioned, they have been a reflection of improved efficiency, they have contributed to increased attendance money payments and reduced revenue for the authority. The fewer man-hours worked have had two effects on the authority’s finances. Its income in 1956-57 is expected to be £200,000 less than was estimated. On the other hand, its expenditure on attendance money is expected to be approximately £600,000 more. So that, overall, on these two items, the authority will find itself, at the close of this year, about £800,000 worse off than was expected.
Looking to the future, some increase in the volume of stevedoring work can be expected in 1957-58. This will require a smaller labour force to handle the same tonnage than would have been the case, say, twelve months ago. Assuming this improvement continues in the longer term, stevedoring operations may require a smaller work force than the current level. This is receiving the close attention of the authority, and port quotas are being reduced as the occasion demands. Recruitment has been suspended, and the labour forces are being reduced by wastage. However, more immediately, the levy has to be adjusted because the current trend in the authority’s finances cannot be allowed to continue.
The Government has no intention of increasing the levy more than is needed. It may transpire that what we are providing here is not adequate but, on the estimates that we have been able to make, it should be adequate. However, it is abundantly clear that the new levy must be adequate to enable the authority to meetits current commitments, including increases flowing from the recent basic wage rise; to pay off the overdraft it has incurred; and thereafter to build up some modest reserves against the inevitable and constantly recurring fluctuations in the volume of business in this industry. An increase of 5d., it is believed, should enable that.
Honorable members are aware of the efforts which the Government is making to reduce costs, including transport costs, which represent such a relatively high proportion of our total. I am hopeful that this increase of 5d. will not have to remain for very long, and that in roughly a year’s time, when the authority’s overdraft should have been discharged, it will be possible to reduce the levy. The improved waterfront performance should enable shipowners to absorb all or most of the increased charge.
I have had some discussions with my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), and through him have made some inquiries of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. It would appear that the operations of that body have been in recent times sufficiently satisfactory and have been influenced, to some degree, by an improved waterfront performance. This should enable it to absorb the recent 10s. increase in the basic wage and also the 5d. addition to the stevedoring charge. In all probability it may not be necessary to increase the freight charges of the commission. I hope that the same experience will result from the survey which the interstate shipowners will be making of their operations. I know that they have commented publicly on the improved performance. I think it was Mr. Parker, of Huddart Parker Limited, who made some reference to it. It is, perhaps, not unconnected with the good performance of coastal shipping in northern Queensland that there has been a reduction of £1 a ton in freight for cargoes transported southwards from the northern ports.
Given reasonable prospects of a continued improvement in waterfront performance I should hope to see not merely an absorption by shipowners of this charge, but also, as the charge becomes reduced - as I most certainly hope it will be in the near future - corresponding steps taken by them in the direction of a reduction in their shipping freights. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Ward) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Townley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the High Commissioner Act 1909- 1952, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is designed to amend the existing act in its relation to the appointment of officers in the High Commissioner Service; to provide for matters previously not covered in the act - the engagement of temporary officers; furlough for permanent officers; and the appointment of an Acting High Commissioner - and to provide that the remuneration and allowances of the High Commissioner shall be determined by the Governor-General. I propose to deal with each of these items in the order in which they appear in the bill.
The act at present provides that the High Commissioner shall be paid a salary of £3,500 per annum and expenses not exceeding £2,000 per annum of an official residence. It has been apparent for some time that the salary of the High Commissioner should be raised. No overseas post is of greater importance to Australia than the London post, whether in terms of diplomatic relations or trade or migration, or many other matters. The position of the High Commissioner in London is therefore of the highest order of responsibility. All honorable members are perfectly well aware of this, and therefore a salary which recognizes his responsibility is called for. Under present-day conditions, the existing figure of £3,500 is an inadequate salary for the post. The salary which the Government now has in mind is £5,000. Nothing less should be considered. For one thing, the Deputy High Commissioner, who is a First Division officer of the Commonwealth Public Service, receives a salary of £4,500 per annum. The latter’s salary was raised to this figure when the salaries of permanent heads of the Commonwealth Public Service were raised in 1955. It is anomalous that the High Commissioner should receive a salary less than that of the Deputy High Commissioner. No change is contemplated in the £2,000 per annum allowance for the upkeep of an official residence.
Honorable members will appreciate that there is a question whether to continue the present provision for making salary increases by amendment to the act. This matter has been carefully looked at and it has been decided that the act should be amended so that salary and allowances shall be determined by the Governor-General. There are various reasons for this. Firstly, it is an everyday procedure for salaries for offices of this sort to be fixed or amended by the Executive. Secondly, as the salary and allowances of the High Commissioner are considered at the time of the Appropriation Bill it is unnecessary, from Parliament’s own point of view, to have to consider a bill to amend an act because a change in salary has become necessary. Thirdly, the heads of diplomatic missions - for example the High Commissioner for Australia in other countries - already have their salaries fixed by the Executive and it is consistent for the salary of the High Commissioners in the United Kingdom to be determined by the Executive. His salary was fixed by Act of Parliament in days when Australia had only one High Commissioner, and that situation has persisted down the years. Fourthly, the trend of legislation is to provide that remuneration shall be determined by the Governor-General. A perusal of the statute-book will establish this beyond doubt - the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority, the Atomic Energy Commission, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Australian National Airlines Commission - to mention a few.
The amendments proposed by clause 4 of the bill provide for the appointment of permanent officers and the engagement of temporary employees and allow regulations to be made for this purpose and for the fixing of terms and conditions of employment. Section 9 of the present act contains a provision for the High Commissioner to make appointments in accordance with instructions from the Minister. It is preferable that the various formalities connected with the appointment of officers should be provided by regulations rather than by special instructions from the Minister. This conforms with the practice followed in the Commonwealth Public Service. The existing section will therefore be repealed and replaced by a new section 9 containing subsections (1.) and (2.). The control at present exercised by the Minister will still be exercised by him, but by means of regulations which are at present under consideration.
Clause 4 also inserts a new provision in the new section 9 for the preservation of the rights of Commonwealth officers who transfer to the High Commissioner Service. It is normal practice for an officer of the Public Service who is employed under another Commonwealth act to have his Public Service rights preserved. Provision is also made in clause 4 for a new subsection relating to furlough for permanent officers in the High Commissioner Service. Furlough privileges for permanent officers under the High Commissioner Act have been provided in the High Commissioner Regulations based on Commonwealth Public Service conditions of furlough. When the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act was introduced in 1944 officers of the Commonwealth Public Service were excepted from its provisions. A similar exception was not made in the case of officers under the High Commissioner Act. The High Commissioner Regulations providing for furlough are consequently no longer operative and have had no force since the enactment of the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act in 1944. If furlough privileges under the High Commissioner Regulations were still valid they would be somewhat better than those under the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act. It is due to the officers that these privileges should be preserved. This will be achieved by providing in the High Commissioner Act power to make regulations relating to furlough, notwithstanding the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act.
Clause 5 inserts new section 9b in the act providing for the appointment of an Acting High Commissioner. The present act makes no such provision, and therefore a person acting as High Commissioner cannot under the act and regulations exercise powers which have been conferred upon the High Commissioner. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Ward) adjourned.
– I lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
– by leave - I wish to make a brief statement concerning the Tariff Board report on flax fibre which has just been tabled by my colleague, the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne). This report contains references to interest on Commonwealth advances to the Flax Production Commission, which, in their context, might give the impression that the commission’s costs of production is increased by the interest charge. Such an impression would be incorrect, and I should like, therefore, to inform honorable members of the correct position.
Under financial arrangements approved by me, the flax commission is not charged any interest, as we normally understand it; on Commonwealth advances. The commission is required to pay interest only out of realized profits, and then at a rate determined by the Treasurer following a recommendation by the commission. The effect of these arrangements is that a determination of the flax commission’s liability for interest is for all practical purposes the same as a declaration of a dividend by a public company. The commission is, of: course, expected to endeavour to earn a. profit sufficient to enable it- to make a payment in the nature of a dividend. Because the flax commission has not yet reached the stage of profitable operation, I have: approved that no interest at all should be: payable for the period from the commission’s inception on 1st November, 1954, to: the close of the financial year ended 30th. June, 1956.
Honorable members will appreciate that if any interest becomes payable in future by the flax commission, it would be payable as an allocation of profits and would not, as the references in the Tariff Board’ report might imply, be an element in cost of production.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Flax Fibre Bounty Act 1954.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Osborne and Mr. McMahon do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Osborne, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to extend the operation of the flax fibre bounty for one year. At the present time production of flax fibre is undertaken by the Flax Commission operating mills in the six country districts in Victoria and at Mount Gambier, in South Australia, and by the Blackwood Go-operative Company Limited, at Boyup Brook, in Western Australia. Products manufactured from flax include canvas goods, cordage, fire hose, twine and ropes and linen thread.
It is gratifying to hear from the Tariff Board that the flax fibre produced locally is eminently suitable for Australian requirements and that spinners ‘regard both the quality and grading as satisfactory. Australian production supplies practically the whole of the local demand, which is increasing. The board also found indications that the growing of flax had become accepted by farmers in their rotation of crops and that much of the reluctance to undertake this form of agriculture in most districts had disappeared.
Under the Flax Fibre Bounty Act 1954, a bounty was payable on flax line -fibre produced during the two years ended 31st October, 1955 and 1956 from flax plants grown in Australia. Bounty paid on flax fibre sold during the year ended 31st October, 1955, totalled £49,022 and for the year ended 31st October, 1956, £61,661. There were still some 82 tons of fibre on hand on 31st October, 1956, which will attract bounty of £4, 1 1 8 as sales are effected. The bounty rate commenced at the basic figure of £35 a ton of flax fibre, fell to £30 in December, 1954, and then fluctuated somewhat until November, 1955, when it stood at £70. The current rate, as determined, is £125, but bounty has been restricted to £50 a ton on sales since 1st April, 1956, in order to keep the total payment for the year within the annual limitation of £70,000.
A comprehensive review of the necessity for .the further .maintenance of the industry, including the operations of the Flax Commission and the form of assistance, is now being undertaken by the Government. The bounty aspect has received the attention of the Tariff Board, and in its report of 8th February, 1957, tabled in the House to-day the board has recommended a three-year extension of bounty. Consideration will be given to the recommendation in conjunct tion with the wider issues involved when the’ current review is completed. Meanwhile,it seemed only fair to all concerned for” the bounty to apply over the current year, that is the year ending 31st October, 1957,- since trading transactions have been entered into in the reasonable expectation that bounty would be payable.
The bill provides for a rate of bounty of £50 a ton of flax fibre for the first half of the year till 30th April. This will meet the needs of the industry under the circumstances then prevailing. Provision is made for the rate to vary in the second half of the year according to fluctuations in the price at which flax fibre of an equivalent quality to our standard grade could be imported into Australia. This follows the recommendation of the Tariff Board. Whilst the basis of calculation has been changed, the ultimate rate will bc the same as that prescribed under the present act, except that a maximum rate of £75 a ton will apply.
Apart from the extension of the period of the operation of the bounty, this bill also provides for amendments of the principal act, for administrative reasons, to shift the emphasis on the payment of bounty from “production” to “sales”. Honorable members will know that the existing act provides for the payment of bounty on fibre produced in a particular year. The fibre must, however, be sold for use in Australia and the rate of bounty varies according to the date of sale. This necessitates identifying the fibre sold with that produced in a particular year as the fibre is not always sold immediately after processing. Complications also arise in the application of the annual limitation on the amount of bounty payable inasmuch as the bounty entitlement of each applicant cannot be ascertained under the present legislation until the whole of the production has been sold and this may be a long time after the close of the year. The amendments apply to flax fibre produced after 31st October, 1956, but bounty will only be payable on sales made during the bounty year. This will mean that stocks of fibre on hand and unsold at the 31st October, 1957, will not attract bounty unless the act is further extended.
Finally, the bill provides for an extension of the annual limitation on the payment of bounty for the current year from £70,000 to £1 12,500 as recommended by the Tariff Board. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to establish a Wool Research Trust Fund, and for purposes connected therewith.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide funds for scientific and economic research in the wool industry. It gives effect to an agreement already reached between the Government and Australian wool-grower organizations on this matter. In introducing this bill, the Government is mindful of the vital role the wool industry has played and must continue to play in the development and expansion of our economy. Our export income from wool this year will be about £500,000,000, more than 50 per cent of all export earnings. Wool is also Australia’s outstanding dollar earner, contributing over one-half of Australian dollar earnings from all merchandise exports. In the last five years, wool has accounted for 8 per cent, of the gross national production - easily the biggest single item.
The history of our balance of payments problem in recent years has largely been the history of wool. As wool prices fell from 80d. in 1 953-54 to 70d. and then to 60d. so our balance of payments problem increased with consequent severe tightening of import restrictions. This year with wool prices again back to 80d. we have been able to afford substantial relaxation of import restrictions. Behind these price movements there has been an impressive increase in the volume of wool produced and exported. Without this expanded volume our troubles might have been worse and our success of this year not so striking. As far as can be seen into the future, wool will maintain this dominant role in our balance of payments situation and through it our prospects for expansion and development. Wool is truly the mainspring of our economy. The value of research, both scientific and economic, in this great industry must be obvious. Its contribution can be seen in the marked production increases of recent years and it is true to say that, insofar as the quality of the clip has been improved, research has also influenced wool values. One of the most remarkable features of the development of our highly efficient wool industry is the extent of the achievement of the wool-growers themselves. It is to them that most of the credit for the development of the merino as a breed, which is renowned throughout the world, is due. Any money spent on research to aid an industry whose initiative has been such a major factor in carrying Australia’s economic development to its present level is. in my view, money well spent.
The bill we are now considering results from a joint approach by the Government and the wool industry to the problem of ensuring adequate funds for wool research. The funds previously available would have been soon exhausted by even the modest scale of the present research programme. It was therefore decided to discuss with wool industry organizations what should be done to obtain the necessary funds. The facts were put before the industry representatives and the implications explained. It was pointed out that since 1945, when the present wool research programme was introduced, the funds provided for the programme had proved totally inadequate. These funds consisted of the Government’s contribution of 2s. a bale of shorn wool produced in Australia paid into the Wool Research Trust Account established under the Wool Use Promotion Act 1945 and the interest from the investment of moneys in the Wool Industry Fund. The latter fund was set up in 1946 with a capital of approximately £7,000,000 from moneys accumulated by the war-time Central Wool Committee from its activities in nonparticipating wool, wool tops and sheepskins under the war-time acquisition scheme. However, by 1953 the funds thus available were not sufficient to meet the increased costs of the wool research programme and the deficits were covered by drawing on capital from the Wool Industry Fund. This fund has been reduced from a peak of £7,800,000 in June, 1952, to £6,700,000 in June, 1956, and an estimated £6,100,000 in June, 1957. On the basis of planned expenditure, the whole Wool Industry Fund would disappear within seven years. The rapid expansion in expenditure on wool research stemmed from both the extension of the wool research programme and the rise in costs which has occurred since 1945.
The purpose of this legislation is to ensure a continuing flow of funds sufficient to “ finance a level of research commensurate with the importance of this industry. Continuity is essential since many projects are of a long-term nature. Quite large sums have already been spent on laboratories, buildings, field stations and the like and, if full value is to be realized from this investment, operational funds must be available. There is also the very serious problem of continuity of employment for the highly qualified research staff. Above all, if wool is to maintain a worth-while share of the textile fibre market in the face of competition from artificial fibres, it is imperative that the research programme be expanded. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which is responsible for the greatest part of the wool research programme, has made it clear that, unless additional funds are made available, the present programme will have to be heavily cut. The loss to the wool industry and to our economy which this would involve will be appreciated if we recall the benefits which the work of the C.S.I.R.O., often in association with universities and other bodies, has already brought. The introduction of myxomatosis is perhaps the most spectacular single scientific advance with which the C.S.I.R.O. has been associated. There are few people who are not aware of what this has meant to Australia in terms of added rural production and export income.
Large tracts of hitherto little-used land have been brought to high levels of production by the application of trace elements in which they were deficient. Millions of acres have been sown down to improved pastures over the last ten years. There has been a steady improvement in our knowledge and in the control of sheep diseases. More recently, publicity has been given to the work on the control of water evaporation in semi-arid areas, which could be of vital importance to wool-growers. In the field of wool textile research, the development of scourable branding fluids has enabled wool textile manufacturers to effect considerable savings which have been reflected in higher prices paid for tar-free wool. New techniques and processes have been developed in the fields of wool scouring, carbonizing and fellmongering. Promising results have been obtained in work on moth-proofing, shrink-proofing and permanent pleating of wool fabrics.
The contributions made by scientific research to the prosperity of the wool industry are widely appreciated. But the role of economic research is no less essential. Not all the results of scientific research have immediate economic application. On the production side, there is a continuous need for improving farm management methods and for adapting them to the changing technological environment. There is a continuous need for up-to-date information and economic analysis of the implications of the research findings, for example, the economics of pasture improvement, the relative profitability of fat lamb raising as against merino wool-growing on such pastures, the economics of drought feeding, to name but a few. At the same time, on the consumption side, the need is ever present for accurate study of the changing trends of consumers’ expenditures, the effect on such expenditures of changes in income and changes in tastes as they affect the demand for wool. Especially is it of vital importance to keep in close touch with the latest developments in synthetic fibres and the economic implications for the wool industry of the ever-sharpening competition between wool and the man-made products. Investigations carried out by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics in recent years have done much to improve our understanding of the nature of the competition between wool and synthetic fibres and to assist us to shape production and research methods in such a way as to meet that threat. Even with these developments over the whole range of wool research, it is imperative that efforts continue to increase the quantity and quality of our wool clip.
I invite the attention cf the House to the specific provisions of the bill and the alterations, which will be required in the existing legislation -
New arrangements for wool research and extension already outlined will necessitate the repeal of the Wool Industry Fund Act 1946, and provision’ is made for this in the bill. In addition, the existing Wool Tax Acts Nos. 1 and 2 of 1952 will have to be repealed and replaced by new acts permitting the collection of the industry levy for wool research in addition to the present wool promotion levy. Consequential amendments will need to be made to the Wool Tax Assessment Act 1936-1953, and the Wool Use Promotion Act 1953 also will require some amendments in this connexion. Separate bills will be introduced covering these amendments.
In the course of negotiations, the Australian Woolgrowers Council expressed the desire that the rate of the levy be reviewed at the end of June, 1960. This is a reasonable request, and the Government proposes to undertake this review in due course, and to take into account any recommendations then made by the wool-growers’ organizations. The Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation wishes to see the resources of the Wool Industry Fund maintained at the level of at least £5,000,000 in the event of the wool industry finding itself in difficult times with growers desiring to suspend their contributions temporarily. However, it will be the function of the Wool Research Committee, which will have a majority of wool-growers, to recommend how money should be expended, and it will be in their hands to determine whether the capital of the new fund is drawn upon or run down.
In conclusion, I emphasize that in the battle of the fibres, scientific research geared to strengthening the position of wool is a major weapon. Synthetic fibre interests are spending an estimated £20,000,000 a year on research, and development of their fibres. Wool interests - and this means Australia - must match this type of programme. I consider that the provision of the additional finance for wool research by the Government and the industry is a small premium to pay for what may be justly called an insurance of national prosperity and future economic development. In the broad direction of the wool research programme, the new Wool Research Committee will undertake a task of vital importance and great responsibility. I am confident that it will discharge this task in the best interests of the wool-growers and the community. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
WOOL TAX BILLS (Nos. 1 and 2) 1957.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move -
Part I. - Tax on Wool produced in Australia and received by a Wool-broker or Dealer.
That a tax be imposed on all wool -
produced in Australia; and
on or after the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-seven, received by a wool-broker or dealer.
– (1.) That the tax in respect of any wool on which tax is imposed by the Act passed to give effect to this Part of this Resolution consist of -
an amount of tax at such of the rates from time to time prescribed by regulations for the purposes of the provision of that Act which gives effect to this clause as is applicable to that wool; and
an amount of tax at such of the rates from time to time prescribed by regulations for the purposes of the provision of that Act which gives effect to this clause as is applicable to that wool. (2.) That the rates of tax referred to in clause
of the last preceding sub-paragraph be rates not less than the rates specified as minimum rates in the First Schedule to this Resolution and not greater than the rates so specified as maximum rates. (3.) That the rates of tax referred to in clause
of sub-paragraph (1.) of this paragraph be rates not greater than the rates specified in the Second Schedule to this Resolution.
– (1.) That the Governor-General be empowered to make regulations, not inconsistent with the Act passed to give effect to this Part of this Resolution, for prescribing rates of tax in accordance with the last preceding paragraph. (2.) That, before making regulations prescribing rates of tax referred to in clause (a) of subparagraph (1.) of the last preceding paragraph, the Governor-General be required to take into consideration any recommendations with respect to those rates made to the Minister by the Bureau after consultation between the members of the Bureau appointed to the Bureau on the nomination of an organization and that organization. (3.) That, before making regulations prescribing rates of tax referred to in clause (b) of subparagraph (1.); of the last preceding paragraph, the Governor-General be required to take into consideration any recommendations with respect to those rates made to the Minister by the organizations known respectively as the Australian Woolgrowers’ Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers’ Federation.
Part II. - Tax on certain Wool produced in, and exported from, Australia.
That a tax be imposed on all wool -
produced in Australia; and
on or after the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-seven, exported from Australia, being wool other than wool which has been received by a wool-broker or dealer.
– (1.) That the tax in respect of any wool on which tax is imposed by the Act passed to give effect to this Part of this Resolution consist of -
an amount of tax at such of the rates from time to time prescribed by regulations for the purposes of the provision of that Act which gives effect to this clause as is applicable to that wool; and
an amount of tax at such of the rates from time to time prescribed by regulations for the purposes of the provision of that Act which gives effect to this clause as is applicable to that wool. (2.) That the rates of tax referred to in clause
of the last preceding sub-paragraph be rates not less than the rates specified as minimum rates in the First Schedule to this Resolution and not greater than the rates so specified as maximum rates. (3.) That the rates of tax referred to in clause
of sub-paragraph (1.) of this paragraph be rates not greater than the rales specified in the Second Schedule to this Resolution.
– (1.) That the Governor-General be empowered to make regulations, not inconsistent with the Act passed to give effect to this Part of this Resolution, for prescribing rates of tax in accordance with the last preceding paragraph. (2.) That, before making regulations prescribing rates of tax referred to in clause (a) of subparagraph (1.) of the last preceding paragraph, the Governor-General be required to take into consideration any recommendations with respect to those rates made to the Minister by the Bureau after consultation between the members of the Bureau appointed to the Bureau on the nomination of an organization and that organization. (3.) That, before making regulations prescribing rates of tax referred to in clause (b) of subparagraph (1.) of the last preceding paragraph, the Governor-General be required to take into consideration any recommendations with respect to those rates made to the Minister by the organizations known respectively as the Australian Woolgrowers’ Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers’ Federation.
Part III. - Interpretation.
That, in this Resolution -
” the Minister “ mean the Minister administering the Acts passed to give effect to this Resolution;
” the Bureau “ mean the Australian Wool Bureau established by the Wool Use Promotion Act 1953; and
other expressions have the same meaning as in the Wool Tax Assessment Act 1936-1953 as proposed to be amended by the Wool Tax Assessment Bill 1957.
Minimum and Maximum Rates of Tax referred to in Paragraphs 2 (2.) and 5 (2.).
Maximum Rates of Tax referred to in Paragraphs 2(3.) and 5(3.).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. McMahon and Mr. McEwen do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. McMahon, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Wool Tax Bill (No. 1) 1957 and the Wool Tax Bill (No. 2) 1957 will replace the Wool Tax Act (No. 1) of 1952 and the Wool Tax Act (No. 2) of 1952. The purpose of the Wool Tax Bills (Nos. 1 and 2) of 1957 is to provide for a maximum contribution of 2s. a bale,1s a fadge or butt and 4d. a bag to be collected from wool-growers on all shorn wool produced in Australia for the financing of wool research and extension. In addition, the bills will continue the provision for the collection of a contribution from wool-growers for the financing of wool use promotion within the minimum and maximum levels as provided under the Wool Tax Acts (Nos. 1 and 2) of 1952. The rate of contribution at present paid by woolgrowers for this purpose is fixed at 4s. a bale, 2s. a fadge or butt, and 8d. a bag.
Under the present arrangement, the wool tax is paid at a common rate either by brokers and dealers who have received wool, or by persons who export wool which has not previously been received by a broker or dealer. These arrangements will remain unchanged, except that the rate of tax will be increased. Provision is made for the repeal of the existing Wool Tax Acts (Nos. 1 and 2) 1952 under the Wool Tax Assessment Bill 1957, which I propose to introduce separately.
Under the Wool Tax Bills (Nos. 1 and 2) of 1957, provision is made for the contributions paid by wool-growers for wool research and for wool promotion to be collected as one tax. However, the component parts for wool research and for wool promotion respectively will be separately prescribed. That part of the tax imposed for wool research will be prescribed upon the recommendation of the Australian Wool Growers Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation. The part imposed for wool promotion will be prescribed upon the recommendation of the Australian Wool Bureau, as previously.
It is proposed that the Wool Tax Bills (Nos. 1 and 2) 1957 will come into operation as from 1st July, 1957, in order to coincide with the beginning of the new financial year. As explained in my secondreading speech on the Wool Research Bill 1957, the Wool Tax Bills (Nos. 1 and 2) 1957 are necessary to give effect to the new arrangements in respect of the financing and administration of wool research which had been agreed upon between the Government and the wool-grower organizations. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. McMahon, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
My comments concerning the purpose of this bill were included in the speech that I have just delivered on the Wool Tax Bill (No. 1) 1957, and I have no further remarks to make.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Wool Tax Assessment Act 1936-1953, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to introduce certain amendments to the Wool Tax Assessment Act 1936-1953. These amendments are consequential upon the Wool Tax Bills (Nos. 1 and 2) 1957, and involve minor alterations required to provide for the operation of the new tax acts. In addition, the bill provides for the repeal of the
Wool Tax Acts (Nos. 1 and 2) of 1952, as from 1st July, 1957. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Wool Use Promotion Act 1953, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to introduce certain amendments to the Wool Use Promotion Act 1953, principally because of the new agreement reached with wool-grower organizations in respect of the financing and administration of wool research and extension. Effect is given to this agreement in the Wool Research Bill 1957, now before the House. In addition, however, the amendments also give effect to the Government’s decision to abolish the positions of Commonwealth Wool Adviser and Deputy Commonwealth Wool Adviser.
The office of Commonwealth Wool Adviser was first established under the Wool Use Promotion Act 1945. The principal purpose of creating this office was to see that the various phases of economic and technical wool research and publicity were closely integrated, and to ensure full application of the results of research to the industry. The office of Deputy Commonwealth Wool Adviser was first established by ministerial direction in 1952. This position was created to assist the Wool Adviser in carrying out his functions. Both positions were continued under the Wool Use Promotion Act 1953. However, owing to the various changes, particularly in recent years, which have occurred in the functions of the Wool Adviser and Deputy Wool Adviser, brought about largely by changes in the functions of the respective bodies charged with the responsibility of wool publicity and research, it is now apparent that the two positions are no longer required.
As a result of these changes, the position to-day is that the office of Wool Adviser is confined largely to representing the Government on the Australian Wool Bureau, while that of the Deputy Wool Adviser is the chairmanship of the existing Wool Research Committee. In this capacity, the Deputy Wool Adviser is responsible for the co-ordination and oversight of the wool research programme.
Provision is made in the Wool Research Bill 1957 for the constitution of an advisory body whose function will be to recommend the expenditure of moneys on wool research and to ensure the coordination and application of the results of such research. The establishment of this body will thus take care of the functions of the office of Deputy Wool Adviser and, accordingly, the position will no longer be required. Further, as the duties of the Wool Adviser are, in effect, confined to representing the Government on the Australian Wool Bureau, there is no necessity for maintaining the position. The Government will, however, continue to be represented on the bureau, and provision is made for this in the amending legislation.
The proposed changes which I have outlined will necessitate the deletion of all sections as well as references relating to the Commonwealth Wool Adviser and Deputy Commonwealth Wool Adviser from the Wool Use Promotion Act 1953.
As a result of the new arrangements for the financing and administration of wool research which are the subject of the Wool Research Bill 1957, some further amendments will be necessary. Since woolgrowers have not hitherto contributed to wool research in Australia, the existing legislation provides for all moneys collected from wool-growers under the Wool Tax Acts to be paid into the Wool Use Promotion Fund. The moneys in this fund are, in turn, used by the Australian Wool Bureau mainly for the promotion of wool by publicity and other means. As woolgrowers will in the future be contributing to wool research as well as wool promotion, and as both contributions will be jointly collected under the new Wool Tax Acts (Nos. 1 and 2) of 1957, it is necessary to amend the appropriate section of the Wool Use Promotion Act 1953 in order to specify the amount which is to be paid into the Wool Use Promotion Fund. In addition, it is proposed to delete that section of the present act which relates to the Wool Research Trust Account in order that this account may be amalgamated with the new Wool Research Trust Fund, as envisaged by the Wool Research Bill 1957. As a result of the deletion of this section some minor consequential amendments will also be required. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.53 to 8 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to make provision for the payment of bounties on the production of butter and cheese, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Shortly after the Government came into office in December, 1949, it put into effect the first phase of a promise made when in Opposition, that, subject to the approval of the dairy industry and the State governments, it would ensure stabilization in the dairy industry for a period of at least ten years. The arrangement which existed under the Chifley Government was extended and greater benefits to the dairy farmer generally were agreed to.
In 1952 a five-year stabilization scheme for this industry was introduced. As history has shown, it has given a considerable degree of security and prosperity. Over the period of seven and a half years since this Government took office the dairy industry subsidy has totalled £112,000,000. A considerable portion of this has benefited the taxpayer in the form of a consumer subsidy.
The present stabilization scheme, and the Dairying Industry Act of 1952 which gave legal effect to the scheme, are due to terminate on 30th June next. The time has come to introduce to Parliament the necessary legislation to implement a new stabilization scheme for the five-year period commencing 1st July this year. That is the purpose of this bill.
The House knows the important place that the dairying industry occupies in the Australian economy. I have before me some very interesting figures which show how firmly established the industry really is. For example, total investment in the industry is estimated at between £600,000,000 and £750,000,000. Exports of milk products are valued each year at about £40,000,000. The average value, including the Commonwealth subsidy, of the production of whole milk for all purposes in each of the last three years was £157,000,000 and the value of the 5,000,000 dairy cattle in this country would be no less than £125,000,000.
Commercial dairy farms number 66,000, employing just over 110,000 persons. A further 10,000 people are employed in factories manufacturing butter and other milk products, and 150,000 milking machine stands valued at about £7,500,000 are installed in dairy farms. In addition, many thousands of Australians living in cities and towns in dairying areas are indirectly dependent for their livelihood on the wellbeing of the industry. It is no wonder, therefore, that this Government is anxious to maintain stability in the dairying community.
The new scheme has been thoroughly discussed with the dairy industry leaders, and the State governments have agreed to continue the arrangement, which has been operating for the past five years, whereby the Commonwealth determines the exfactory prices for butter and cheese consumed in Australia. In this, as in the case of wheat stabilization, or any other similar plan which might be devised, the cooperation of the State governments is essential.
The 1952 stabilization scheme is now drawing to a successful close, and I can state without hesitation that during its operation the dairy industry has had a period of considerable prosperity. During the first four years dairy-farmers’ incomes from butter sales showed an increase of 17 per cent, on a Commonwealth basis - from £71,000,000 in 1952-53 to £83,000,000 in 1955-56. Factory butter production increased from 163,500 tons to 205,800 tons in 1955-56 - a lift of 26 per cent. - and production this season, which has been retarded by adverse weather conditions, will still be in the vicinity of 190,000 tons. Efficiency in the industry itself has shown a marked improvement, particularly on the farms.
It is only natural, then, that any scheme devised for the next five years should not depart materially from the present scheme, which has proved so successful. Therefore, the proposed scheme is very similar to, and continues all the best features of, the present arrangement. These principles include, first, a Commonwealth price guarantee for butter and cheese for five years from 1st July, 1957; secondly, the guarantee to cover all butter and cheese consumed in Australia, plus 20 per cent, of that amount; and thirdly, the method of determining the level of returns to dairy-farmers for butter and cheese consumed locally, plus 20 per cent, of that quantity.
There is an important reason why the Commonwealth should not be committed to guarantee a return based upon costs on a tonnage unlimited. It would be contrary to sound principles of public finance to commit the Treasury to guarantee, without limit, that one industry be assured a profitable return on an unlimited volume of production, regardless of the circumstances of all other industries.
It will be noted that the government guarantee does not necessarily assure that all butter and cheese exported will be covered by the guarantee. This year, for example, if butter production amounts to 190,000 tons and local sales to 120,000 tons the guaranteed quantity would be 144,000 tons, or about 75 per cent, of total production.
In the case of wheat, we have always stated a limit to the Commonwealth’s guarantee and we continue to state a limit now for butter and cheese as we did in the 1952 scheme.
The subsidy for 1957-58 will be the same as that for 1956-57, namely £13,500,000. This subsidy, when passed on to the farmer by the factory, is at least 6d. per lb. commercialbutter basis on total production, and represents 14 per cent, to 15 per cent, of the dairy-farmers’ actual pay cheque.
I come now to the new features of this scheme. They are as follows: -
On the recommendation of the Australian Dairy Produce Board and dairy industry representatives, the Government has included a clause in the bill which will enable the board to use the Dairy Industry Stabilization Fund for purposes such as research and sales promotion, which are approved by the Minister. The board will still be able to use the fund for the purpose originally intended, .namely for increasing returns on exports not covered by the guarantee. At the suggestion of the dairy industry leaders, the Government has agreed that any subsidy made available under the new scheme would be on the basis of a fixed amount in any dairying year. This will be determined by the Government before the commencement of each year.
This important decision means that deferred bounty payments can be made almost immediately after the season’s close - probably in September or October - when actual production of butter and cheese for the season is known. Under the previous arrangement the precise subsidy commitment was not known until six or eight months later. I have also informed the industry that there will be no hard and fast rule that the subsidy must be reduced each year. When dealing with this question the Government will take into consideration all the circumstances.
Thirdly, the industry also requested that in the costing formula of the new scheme a standard of production be fixed for the period of the scheme instead of an annually adjusted figure equal to the average production for the previous five years. The industry argued that under the old arrangement the full benefits of increased efficiency from increased production went to the consumer, and that the proposed method would enable a sharing of the benefits between the producer and the consumer. The Government is sympathetic to this request but considers that the recommending of such a standard should be left to the independent costing authority. The Dairy Industry Investigation Committee has been requested therefore to submit a recommendation on this matter to the Government.
I think it is important to distinguish the essentials of a stabilization scheme such as the duration, guaranteed price and level of returns, from other matters which can be discussed annually. With the present financial help from the Government, the return from, and the production of butter in 1955- 56, constituted an all-time record. The unit return to the average dairy farmer of 46.6d. per lb. for commercial butter in 1954-55 was also an all-time record. Estimated income from 1956-57 production, which is only about 4J per cent, below the 1954-55 income, cannot be regarded as a compelling reason for a major reversal in subsidy policy. Some areas are facing difficulties mainly because of adverse weather and the Government is very sympathetic to dairy farmers in these areas. However, it will be appreciated that unseasonable conditions in isolated areas and reduced incomes cannot be overcome under stabilization alone because the basic fundamentals of a stabilization scheme are equalization of factories’ returns and uniform bounty rates. Due to a drop in export butter prices during the past twelve months and adverse seasonal conditions in some dairying areas, combined with a necessarily conservative approach by the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Committee to the determination of interim equalization payments to factories, an impression might be created that equalization is not working as efficiently as it should, and that returns are not being passed on quickly enough to producers.
The Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Committee, which determines the uniform equalization values to factories, plays a major part in stabilizing the industry. The level of payments to factories is decided entirely by this body. The important fact is that the producers must be paid for the milk and cream they supply to the factories months before the butter and cheese are sold. This can, of course, create misunderstandings, as payments are made in advance of sales and by instalments which are influenced by overseas prices at the time the butter is sold. The committee determines the initial interim’ equalization values to operate from 1st July each year. These interim values are conservative because factories obviously must not pay out to the farmers more than they will eventually get back from sales. It has great responsibilities and by unsound decisions could present embarrassing problems to the factories and to farmers themselves and could greatly harm the whole industry.
The need for conservatism in fixing the interim values has intensified over the past two years since the termination of the United Kingdom bulk purchase contract in 1955. While the contract existed, the Equalization Committee was safe in authorizing interim payments based upon the export contract value. Consequently, the interim payment was very close to the final equalization value, and only small deferred payments were necessary.
The position has now changed dramatically. The committee is faced with determining initial payments on estimates of production and sales and overseas prices. The result is that the pre-war pattern has returned and farmers can now expect conservative initial interim payments at the commencement of the season, and substantial deferred payments when the season’s production has all been sold.
For example, in the 1954-55 season, which was the last year of the United Kingdom contract, the initial interim payment to cream producers was 46.3d. per lb. commercial butter basis, and the deferred and final payment amounted to only a little over id. per lb. In respect of the 1955-56 season, the initial payment of 41. 5d. per lb. was built up by two payments during the season to 44. 6d., and it has been estimated that the final rate for the season will be about 45. 5d., or a margin of 4d. per lb. over the initial rate. In view of the many problems associated with the question of payments to factories I must say that the Equalization Committee has performed a difficult task in a very efficient manner.
There are many problems in connexion with production and marketing, both on the home and the export markets, which I am glad to say the industry is examining. Since the termination of the United Kingdom bulk purchase contract for butter and cheese in 1955, the advent of free trading conditions has brought many problems. Increased production and consequently greater exports have put the industry on its mettle to obtain the best returns possible for the Australian dairy-farmer. The Government is assisting wherever possible to expand sales of our dairy products. The highly successful publicity campaign in the United Kingdom, conducted by the Government in collaboration with the various marketing boards and other exporters to this market, is continuing. Our trade commissioners overseas are not wasting any opportunities. It is notable that the Australian Dairy Produce Board has sent a delegation to London to make an on the spot examination of our marketing system. The permanent head of the department is also overseas and he will participate in this investigation.
I have taken steps to convene a meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council which will be held as soon as possible after the return of the permanent head. It is proposed that this meeting will give particular attention to the present position of the dairying industry. The Agricultural Council, including as it does the Ministers for Agriculture of the six States of the Commonwealth, is concerned with production as well as marketing issues affecting our primary industries. The States have constitutional responsibility for production. Important as is stabilization to the welfare of the dairying industry, it is also necessary that production be soundly based and that the most be made of scientific and technical advances, not only on the farm but also in the factory processing the farmers’ products. All these matters have direct or indirect bearing on the stabilization scheme which, when all is said and done, has the object of ensuring a reasonable return to the producer for his product. I believe the new scheme holds out a considerable measure of stability to this great industry, and I commend the bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 8th May (vide page 1147), on motion by Mr. Hasluck -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- When the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) was introducing this proposed amendment of the Papua and New Guinea Act he implied that it was an unimportant matter and one which this House ought not take long to determine. But the more I examine what the Minister proposed to do, the more suspicious I become about the whole procedure. As a matter of fact, the Minister has not given us a great deal of information. In effect, he has said that recently some doubt was created as to the qualifications of the members of the Legislative Council which functions in the Territory. He said that the Government desired the Parliament not only to remove this doubt as to what the council may do in thefuture in respect to the qualifications of its members, but also to validate past acts of the Legislative Council.
Certain information should be given to members of the Opposition before they can pass proper judgment on this legislation. In the first instance, we would like to know how this doubt arose. What were the particular circumstances that were brought to the notice of the Government and which obliged the council, in the first place, to seek legal opinion? Why has not the legal opinion been produced so that members of this House can be fully informed on the matter? The last Labour government established the Legislative Council of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea to meet the then existing circumstances and I should have imagined that after the expiry of almost ten years any amending bill would contain some provision for altering the structure of the Legislative Council. Quite a deal has happened since the Legislative Council was established by the preceding Labour government, which then restored civil administration in the Territory. That was approximately ten years ago, and in the meantime there has been a large increase in the European population and the development of the Territory. I should have imagined that this would be an appropriate time for the Government to extend the field of representation for the local residents in the Territory- itself . The Legislative Council cannot be regarded as being a completely satisfactory instrument of government for all time. It was merely introduced by Labour because of the difficult circumstances which existed when we restored civil administration in the Territory.
The Minister has spoken about a doubt as to the qualifications of the members of the Legislative Council, but that does not apply to every member of the council. The Minister would try to imply that because of some situation which has arisen, the details of which he has not advised us, some doubt has arisen- as to the qualification of the members of the Legislative Council in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Let me tell honorable members - or remind them, because they probably know - the constitution of the Legislative Council as provided for by the Labour government. We proposed a council, of 29 members, seventeen of whom would be the Administrator and sixteen public service officers of the Territory. They would be members appointed without any reference at- all to the wishes of the people in the Territory and would automatically constitute the majority of the Legislative Council. I should hope that the Minister was not implying in his speech that the qualifications of this particular section of the Legislative Council might be in question. The Minister contends that there is some doubt as to the interpretation of the disqualification which we placed in the act against anybody who had any contractual arrangements with the government of the Territory or was doing business of any kind with it. According to some opinion which has now been provided to the Government - for which we have only the Minister’s word, because we have not any advice before us - some doubt now exists whether this does not extend to a person who leases some land or rents a property to the Administration or engages in a transaction of that description. But surely that would not apply to the sixteen members directly nominated and appointed by the Government! In my opinion it is obvious that they would not be engaged, or should not be engaged, in any transaction of that type.
There are also three non-official members and these, no doubt, are the ones to whom the Minister is particularly referring as possessing such qualifications as are provided by ordinance and are elected, as provided by ordinance, by the electors of the Territory. At the moment, they are the only three out of the 29 who are elected by any section of the community in the Territory itself. There are three non-official representatives of Christian missions in the Territory. I do not know whether the Minister is suggesting that these would be disqualified by this doubt which has now arisen. There are also three non-official native members and three other non-official representatives- who obviously are nominated by the Minister and appointed by the Government.
When the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was in the Territory recently, several requests were made to him which he rejected. I want to make it clear that the people residing in the Territory are not satisfied with the present Legislative Council. They may have been satisfied with it initially, when we appointed it and civil administration was restored in the Territory. As a Labour government, we provided for native representation, which had never before existed in the history of the Territory. No one would suggest, however, that a Legislative Council appointed ten years ago - even with the best purpose in mind - would be satisfactory for the requirements of the Territory to-day in view of the great development and increase in population that have taken place in the intervening decade.
The Prime Minister, when he recently visited the Territory, received a number of requests, from these- people, and to give an idea, of how they were received, I shall read from a newspaper circulating in the Territory; called “ The South Pacific Post “. I refer to a report under the heading, “ Menzies said ‘No, no, no’ to major issues “. It appears that he rejected every request that the people of the- Territory put to him.
I want to say to the Minister that that is my first criticism of the measure. I believe that this would have been an appropriate time, when the Government is preparing to amend the act, to increase the representation of the people in the Territory, lt would have been an appropriate time to reconstitute the Legislative Council to allow a bigger proportion of the- representatives to be elected by the various communities in the Territory itself. But that is not provided for. 1 ask the Minister to let us have, some details.
The Legislative Council appeared to be working fairly satisfactorily - if I can use that expression - up to this point, as. far as we are aware, and we should like the Minister to tell members of the Opposition - no doubt he had advised Government members - what issue it was that created this difficulty and upon which the Governmentsought legal, advice. Further than that, how can the Minister ask an. intelligent’ Opposition to agree to a provision to validate all the past acts of the Legislative Council when we are completely unaware of what all the decisions were or the purpose of them? At least we should have some information. 1 do not suggest that the Minister should go through every minor decision, in detail, that has been made by this Legislative Council, but at least we ought to be advised of the important and basic matters which that body decided during this period when there was some doubt as to the qualification of the members.
I do not accept the Minister’s contention that unless we accept the amendment which the Government now proposes, we will so seriously limit the field of choice in the Territory as to make it difficult to get adequate representation from the various sections of the community.. When all is said and done, even the Minister admits that members of the council ought to be disqualified if they have any direct interest in any matter that comes before the council for consideration. But in order that they shall be completely protected with respect to any of these decisions, the bill provides also that in the future, the people who should decide whether a member of the Legislative Council has the qualification to vote on any particular issue are the members of the council themselves.
In those circumstances it would be an easy matter to have a very close community representation in the Legislative Council who, by agreement, could get a working arrangement whereby the wishes of the various sections of people interested in contracts or providing services or goods to the Government could each, in turn, get what they required, through the Legislative Council, and if any doubt ever arose as to whether a person was qualified to vote on these issues, the council itself would decide that matter. I think that that is a very bad principle to introduce into the legislation, and 1 am hoping that the Minister will be able to give us further information, if he believes it is available, to try to satisfy us that this change should be made;
Included in the bill is a cunning provision of the sort usually inserted by an antiLabour government. Included in the amending bill is not only a provision to get over this difficulty which the Government now says arises, but also a provision which was obviously, by an oversight, left out of the last amending measure when it was before the Parliament - a provision which had been included in the previous act. We have no objection to that. It is a principle that the Labour government applied in its legislation and which, in my opinion, has obviously been left out by an oversight. The Opposition offers no objection to that, but the Minister ties it up with this other objectionable provision in regard to the Legislative Council itself.
– Does the honorable member think that there is anything shady in this?
– I will reserve my judgment in respect of that particular aspect of the matter until I hear from the Minister. I want the Minister to tell us how this doubt arose. Who brought it to notice? What was the legal advice which the Government obtained? Was it given only by the Government’s legal officers or did the Government also seek outside legal opinion? If so, what are the details of the legal advice tendered to the Government? Unless we are satisfied on this point the Opposition will not be prepared to vote for this particular part of the bill to which I have directed attention. Surely there is no member of this Parliament who does not hope that some day the stage will be reached when New Guinea can have its independence. Is it always to be attached to the Commonwealth of Australia and have all its major decisions made by a nominated government majority of the Legislative Council? Or are we to see increasing responsibility placed in the hands of the people who have to live in the Territory and develop it? Amongst those to whom I refer are not only the European section of the community but the natives themselves. If, as the Minister says, the field of people who can be elected to the Legislative Council is limited, why does he not extend the representation of the missions? The missions to-day have three representatives out of 29. In my opinion - and I had some experience of the administration in the Territory - the missions have co-operated in every possible way in any worthy objective which any government has had in mind for the welfare of the Territory. The missions have played a great part in the Territory in respect of education, health, and the development of services. If the Government is having diffi culty in getting people who have no direct contracts of one kind or another with the Government for the provision of services or goods, and does not feel disposed to expand the field of elected representatives, it might consider my proposition that the missions be given increased representation, and further, that the natives likewise be given increased representation. Surely in the last ten years - the Government has been telling us about the improved educational facilities for the native population - the number of natives qualified to sit in the Legislative Council has increased considerably. I suggest to the Minister that he postpone further consideration of this legislation in order to examine the matters I have raised on behalf of the Opposition, and also to furnish the additional information which we are seeking so that we will be better equipped to pass our judgment on the measure.
– in reply - The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) undoubtedly has a lively mind and undoubtedly a very active imagination, but I was rather grieved to find to-night something of the signs of decline in as much as his memory appears to be failing. The honorable member referred to the Legislative Council as something which had been established and appointed by the previous government. Of course, as my predecessor in office as Minister for External Territories, the honorable member should be well aware that what happened was that during the term of the previous government an act was passed by this Parliament providing for the establishment of a Legislative Council for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea; but no such council was established. It was only after the change of government took place - a period of about two years after the change of government took place - that the present Government, considering the situation in Papua and New Guinea, did what the previous government had failed to do. It took action under the act passed by this Parliament to actually inaugurate the Legislative Council and to bring into being a Legislative Council, which, until this Government took that action, was merely something written down on paper. This Government established that Legislative Council in accordance with the provisions of the act which had been introduced, and presumably had received the blessing of our predecessors in office.
Then the honorable member for East Sydney professed to find something rather deep and doubtful about the reasons for introducing this particular bill. The history is quite simple. Some time ago in the Northern Territory - not in Papua and New Guinea but in the Northern Territory - a certain situation arose which led to some questioning about the qualifications of the members of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. It was disclosed that some of the elected members of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory did participate in agreements with the Commonwealth or with the Administration of the Territory, and on a strict interpretation of the Northern Territory Administration Act they were disqualified from office. That circumstance was explained to this Parliament in a previous session and, having heard that explanation, this Parliament passed a bill in respect of the Northern Territory which was precisely the same as the bill which is now brought before this Parliament in respect of Papua and New Guinea. After the situation in the Northern Territory had been placed beyond all possible doubt, the legal advisers of the Government - the officers of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department - quite properly, having found a defect in the legislation affecting one territory, looked at the legislation affecting other territories, and, examining the legislation affecting the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, they came to the conclusion that the same doubts which existed in respect of the Northern Territory also existed in respect of the Legislative Council for Papua and New Guinea, and quite properly the Attorney-General’s Department advised my department to that effect. The matter was brought before the Government, and it was decided that the Parliament should be asked to do in respect of the Legislative Council for Papua and New Guinea precisely the same thing which this Parliament had previously decided to do, without any opposition from the other side of the House, in respect of the Northern Territory. There is nothing more sinister, nothing more deep or mysterious, than that, about the situation.
The position, as I tried to explain on moving the second reading of this bill, is that in a territory governed as these territories are governed, a great number of the activities of the community are conducted by the Government or by the territorial administration. It is almost impossible for any one who occupies a house, or has a lease or enters into any sort of daily relationships which are usually done in association with private enterprise on the mainland of Australia, to escape some sort of a contractual relationship with the Government. It is not only the elected members who may possibly be disqualified; there is also a high degree of probability that most of the nominated members would also be disqualified simply by the fact that in occupying a house owned by the Government or being leaseholders of land in a lease granted by the Government they have entered into an agreement which, in the strict terms of the act of this Parliament, would disqualify them. Because that makes it quite unworkable in a community such as the Territory, we have asked the Parliament to amend the Papua and New Guinea Act in the same way as we asked it to amend the Northern Territory Administration Act.
In the course of his speech the honorable member for East Sydney also asked why is it necessary not only to remove this disqualification or this possible disqualification of members, but also to validate the past acts of the council.
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– Well, the implication of the honorable member’s remarks was that in being asked to validate past acts the Opposition was being asked to do too much. First of all, in order that the acts under which the Territory is being administered should have the force of law and that force of law should be beyond doubt, it is clearly necessary that those acts should be validated. Furthermore, no injustice is being done to this Parliament - and this is another respect in which the honorable member’s memory is failing - because every one of those ordinances, immediately after they were passed and assented to, was tabled in this. Parliament and it was open to members of this Parliament at any time during the past five, six or more years since the Legislative Council has been making those ordinances, to challenge any one of them. By its tacit acceptance of the tabling of those ordinances this Parliament has already agreed that every one of those ordinances is a proper ordinance to make and one which should have effect in the Territory. That is one point on which the honorable member’s memory is clearly failing. He has forgotten that day by day in the sittings of this Parliament, these ordinances are actually presented to us and it is open to us to challenge them at any time.
The honorable member for East Sydney also challenged the proposal in this bill that the council should have the power to decide whether or not a member was financially interested in a particular measure and, therefore, should be disqualified from taking part in a vote on that measure before the council. The only comment I could make on his remarks in that respect is that the honorable member seems to be actuated and prompted continually by a belief that every one except himself is a rogue. The only way in which the Government can proceed and the only way in which normal human relationships can be carried on is the :trust that we have in each other that normally most people in the community behave in a decent and responsible manner. If the honorable member is unable to accept the idea that most people in this community, including people in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, do behave in a normal and decent manner, then he should withdraw from this society, shut himself in a hermitage and groan and grizzle to himself in his solitude and his own spiritual misery.
The final point to which I wish to refer, Mr. Speaker, concerns the remarks which the honorable member for East Sydney made about the reconstruction of this Legislative Council and the general question of whether we should look towards the future independence of Papua and New Guinea or an increased measure of self-government for it. On the first of those points, I want to say this: We inaugurated this Legislative Council according to provisions which were introduced to the Parliament by the previous government. Since then, two elections have been held - the original election constituting the first Legislative Council and a subsequent election. The third election is likely to take place in a month or two at the expiration of the second Legislative Council. At any time, as Minister for
Territories, I would have been ready tt> consider alterations in the constitution of the council and I am sure that the Government would have been ready to consider them. But those alterations could only take place, surely, in the light of experience. One of the suggestions that have been made by the honorable member is that the number of elected members should be increased. There are at present three elected members. They are elected almost entirely from a. roll that is composed of Europeans, with a. certain number of the Asian community also on the roll. In the two elections which we have held, our experience is that theamount of political interest and activity in the Territory is very small.
There are three electorates, and in some electorates the votes cast are only numbered in the hundreds, and until we get a demonstration of greater political activity in the electorate itself, it is difficult to justify an increase in the number of elected members. Furthermore, as honorable members will know, we are dealing with a mixed population. The community in the Territory is composed of Europeans, a small number -of Asians, .a smaller number of mixed-blood people and a very large number of the indigenous people. Of the indigenous people, at the present stage, only a very small minority has advanced in education or in political interest to a stage where they could participate in political affairs. Most of those who can participate in political affairs participate in the management of their local village affairs or the affairs of a group of villages.
Sir, if we were to try to change the structure of this council, we could not change it until we did so in a manner which would give greater representation to that overwhelmingly large indigenous population which constitutes the vast majority of the community. At the present stage, it is not possible to form a comprehensive electorate by which the natives could choose their representative. At the present time, three native members are nominated, three representatives of the missions are nominated, and three representatives of other sections of the community are nominated. By that method of nomination, pending the growth of political activity in the community, we try to broaden the representation beyond that provided by the nomination of officials.
I want to repeat that the Government’s view is quite clear, and I am sure it must be the view of all members of this House, that Papua and New Guinea must grow towards self-government, towards a greater measure of participation in its own affairs by all members of the Territory community. But we cannot envisage that growth as being the management of the affairs of the Territory by one section only of the Territory community; it must be the management of the Territory’s affairs by the whole of the Territory community. It is part of the solemn responsibility which rests upon this Parliament to see that at no time does the management of the Territory’s affairs fall into the hands of one section at the expense of any other section of the community. That is one of the things which we guard and which we must continue to guard.
I think I have answered most of the points raised by the honorable member for East Sydney. I repeat that there is nothing sinister or mysterious about the way in which this bill arose. It arose out of an actual situation in the Northern Territory and by the proper and legitimate activity of the officers of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department of examining, in the light of the Northern Territory experience, the situation in Papua and New Guinea and consequentially giving advice to the Government that the doubts which had existed in the Northern Territory and which had been removed by this Parliament also existed in Papua and New Guinea and, therefore, should also be removed by this Parliament in the way in which this bill proposes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Disqualification for membership of, or voting in, the council).
.- This clause is one to which the Opposition raises objection. Despite all the fine words of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), it shows that the Government has had some reservation in regard to the attitude of the Minister in suggesting that nothing improper could happen, that every act of the council ought to be supported and that it would not be possible for anybody who might act improperly to be elected or nominated to the council. The clause shows that the Government is not so sure. Proposed new subsection (3.) provides -
A member of the Legislative Council who is a party to, or has a direct or indirect interest in, a contract made by or on behalf of the Commonwealth under which goods or services are to be supplied to the Commonwealth or the Administration shall not take part in a discussion of a matter, or vote on a question, in the council where the matter or question relates directly or indirectly to that contract.
Proposed new sub-section (4.) reads -
All questions concerning the application of the last preceding sub-section shall be decided by the Legislative Council, and a contravention of that sub-section does not affect the validity of anything done by the Council.
Under this peculiar provision, although it may appear that the Government provides, in the first instance, that a representative on the Legislative Council cannot exercise a vote in respect of any matter concerning a contract that he has for the provision of goods or services to the Commonwealth, on the other hand, if the Legislative Council decides that he was qualified to vote on the issue, any decision made by the council as a result of the participation of such a representative in the voting shall not be invalidated. That is a most extraordinary provision. The point is that, if it is discovered beyond doubt that a person has wrongly recorded a vote in the deliberations of the council, although his vote may have decided the issue before the council, and although it is subsequently proved to the satisfaction of any reasonable person that that was the case, any decision of the council so arrived at shall, nevertheless, be valid. I would probably have agreed with the Minister for Territories - and so would other Opposition members, doubtless - if it was provided that, where there was a substantial majority in the voting which could not possibly have been affected by the vote of a member interested in a contract to supply goods or services to the Commonwealth, the decision of the council should not be invalidated. There might be some justification for that. But what will happen where the vote or votes of such persons could have affected the council’s decision? The Government says, in effect, “ Regardless of the fact that, according to the act, they were not qualified to vote, the decision of the council shall not be declared invalid “.
This is an extraordinary provision, and we should like further enlightenment upon it from the Minister. I think that the Minister is burking the issue when he says that the Government believes that, eventually, there must be self-government of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, or that that ought to be our objective. That is the way in which tories always talk, but they never do anything about attaining that alleged objective. The difference between Labour and anti-Labour administrations in this respect is that Labour really believes in giving self-government to these territories. If we had remained in office, we should have seen that progress was made towards giving them self-government. Experience throughout the world shows that the tories always talk about the objective of giving self-government to territories, but selfgovernment is given to them only by Labour governments.
.- In my view, the comments made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) were thoroughly justified. I think, also, that the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has a duty to state the Government’s intentions with respect to this clause more clearly. It seems to me to be an extraordinary state of affairs that proposed new sub-section (3.) of section 37 of the principal act apparently is intended to protect the public and preserve public morality by guarding against malpractices in the administration of the Territory, and that proposed new sub-section (4.) leaves the gate wide open to all the malpractices that proposed new sub-section (3.) is apparently intended to prevent. I think that, if the principles of the New South Wales Local Government Act, and of local government acts generally, were observed, and no room were left for excuses or for any means of escape in a manner such as this, we all should have reason to feel very much happier. At the moment, I am not at all satisfied that the public interest will be protected.
Perhaps the Minister can say that, because of the limited number of people available for service on the Legislative Council in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, it is necessary to allow elasticity, and to permit members of the Legislative Council to trade with the Government and obtain benefit from that trade without necessarily causing decisions of the Council upon which they have voted to be invalidated. But there should be no begging of the question. Perhaps the Minister has an adequate answer to both the honorable member for East Sydney and myself. I should be delighted to hear him state, in clear-cut terms, just what he proposes, and how the public interest will be protected, and I hope that he can satisfy me. But, as the clause is drafted, I am far from satisfied, because proposed new sub-section (4.) appears to leave the gate wide open for malpractices. This is an extraordinary state of affairs, and, in the light of the great opportunities offering in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea for trade, business and commerce, one can imagine what might happen. I ask the Minister to re-examine the matter, and to see whether he can place on the proposed new sub-sections of section 37 of the principal act another construction that ought to be placed on them in the interests of the proper administration of the Territory.
– The provision to which honorable members of the Opposition appear to take objection is, of course, a provision which is customary in constitutions relating to most parliaments in the British world. It applies to the Parliament of which we are members. I direct the attention of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) to section 47 of the Australian Constitution, which provides -
Until the Parliament otherwise provides, any question respecting the qualification of a senator or of a member of the House of Representatives and I omit some words - shall be . determined by the House in which the question arises.
In fact, we are giving to the Legislative Council for Papua and New Guinea exactly the same power to control the propriety of its own transactions as this Parliament enjoys. I should have thought that that was one of the steps forward towards selfgovernment and the recognition of the rights of the community in the Territory to which the honorable member for East Sydney refers as being desirable. Therefore, I think that honorable members of the Opposition might readily accept the point that the provision that we are making for the Legislative Council to determine these matters itself is a customary provision. It is one which we have found to be fit and proper in the transactions of our own Parliament, and one which, surely, we would think to be fit and proper in the transactions of a legislature which we have created.
The second objection of the honorable members concerned the proposed new subsection (4.) of section 37 of the principal act, which reads -
AH questions concerning the application of the last preceding sub-section shall be decided by the Legislative Council, and a contravention of that sub-section does not affect the validity of anything done by the Council.
Both honorable members have suggested that the phrase “ a contravention of that sub-section does not affect the validity of anything done by the Council “ is open to objection. I admit that it would be open to objection if we worked on the assumption that all, or the great majority, of the 29 members of the Legislative Council were going to enter into some sort of a conspiracy to defeat the public interest. I do not think, as I suggested before, that we can base any intelligent legislation on the assumption that people who are either appointed or elected to high office will act as conspirators and will join together for the sole purpose of defeating the public interest.
The reason why the draftsman found it necessary to include the phrase “ a contravention of that sub-section does not affect the validity of anything done by the Council “ is that an act which, either wittingly or unwittingly, rendered a member liable to disqualification may not have been discovered at the time when it was done. Let us assume that this Legislative Council is dealing with a matter, such as something affecting roads, and that one of the members of the council does have a contractual relationship with the Commonwealth, or with the Administration, which could disqualify him from voting on that measure; and either because he does not detect it himself, or because his fellow members on the council do not detect it, he is not challenged and he makes a vote, and that, immediately afterwards, the council passes to the consideration of a host of other measures, or other ordinances. Then it is found that that member was liable to dis qualification because he voted on that ordinance concerning roads. Is it reasonable that they should say that all the other acts of the council, done subsequent to that point of time, should also be invalidated? Of course, in the meaning of the bill and the ordinary provisions, we seem to be ready to accept that those other acts of the council would have been done quite properly, that no member would have been liable to disqualification, and that they should stand. So that is the reason why that single contravention, by voting on a single measure, should not be taken as invalidating every provision which might be passed subsequently.
.- I rise to support the attitude of my colleagues who have spoken on this matter, and I am not convinced by the explanation that has been given by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). In his defence of this clause, he has tried to point to a similarity between members of this Parliament and members of the Legislative Council for Papua and New Guinea. He cited the Constitution in support of his opinion, but it did not lend weight to his argument. It cannot be said that the position of the members of this House is the same as that of the members of the Legislative Council for Papua and New Guinea. For instance, when do members of this Parliament ever have occasion to examine contracts or tenders? I know of no such occasion. On the other hand, I am aware that Ministers have been forced to resign from the Cabinet because of their business associations. The Minister created an entirely misleading impression by attempting to make out that the members of the Legislative Council are in the same position as are members of this Parliament.
I assume that it will be one of the functions of the Legislative Council to reach decisions on tenders. The Minister has said that when that is being done, all that will be necessary will be for interested parties on the council to withdraw from the meeting, after which the council will proceed to determine the issue. In the course of his remarks, he launched a tirade against the Opposition for citicizing the Government for placing the council in an unreasonable position. We on this side of the chamber have not suggested that, in any circumstances or at any time, the Legislative Council would conspire to defeat the public interest. Nevertheless, we think that the council should be so composed that its deliberations cannot possibly give rise to such a charge. Surely the field of selection is not so limited as the Minister has made out! Is the field so narrow that it is necessary to have on the council members who are interested in Government contracts? I submit that the council should be above criticism and that it should be able to deliberate in such a manner that the position to which I have referred could not arise. The Minister, by his attitude, is making it possible for the council to run into trouble that could have been avoided had he been adamant and insisted that people who might cause an invidious position to arise should not be eligible for election.
. -I find myself rather at a loss to understand the logic of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor). He admitted that there was, as the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) indicated, in our Constitution and the rules governing both Houses of the Parliament, control over members in that they are forbidden to take part in debates, or to vote, on measures in which they have a pecuniary interest. At the end of his argument, however, he said that surely the number of people in Papua and New Guinea from whom legislative councillors might be drawn was not so small that it would be impossible to obtain a Council which would not include persons who might, at some time, have contractual relations with the Administration. Quite frankly, I cannot follow the reasoning which demands that, in the Parliament of a nation of 10,000,000 people, it is necessary to have such control, whereas in a limited electorate of perhaps 10,000 people, it is not needed. From that point of view alone, the honorable gentleman’s argument cannot be sustained. If, in a population of 10,000,000, it is necessary to have rules governing the conduct of members of Parliament, surely the same kind of rules also are necessary with a population of 10,000. Of course, with a population of only 10,000 it would be much more difficult to find the right kind of people to serve on the Council, and the right kind of people would be likely to be the most enterprising people. It would be infinitely more difficult to attract the right kind of people if the Government completely excluded all persons who might possibly have contractual relations with the Government or the Administration.
I have seen something of local government in my own State, and I know that in large country towns - they might be called small cities - it is extremely difficult to get the right type of people to serve as aldermen and councillors, because there is a restriction that is so severe that it is impossible for many of the tradesmen and other citizens to take part in municipal deliberations. For the reasons I have given, I think that the objection of honorable members opposite falls to the ground.
I personally congratulate the Minister for having seen fit to extend, by means of this provision, the powers of the Legislative Council, and for his wisdom in including a -provision which, as he has pointed out, is common to other legislative bodies. I think, rather than attempt to put up Aunt -Sallies and knock them down again, it would be far better for the House to say, in this case, that we would gladly welcome the handing over of responsibility in the terms which honorable members on all sides of the House have constantly argued when they have said that these people, and the controllers of the people of backward and undeveloped areas, should have an increasing degree of self-government.
I have one thing further to say. I am not positive about this, but I think it would be borne out by experience that any contract would largely be dealt with, in the first place, by a contract or tender board which would possibly refer these matters to the Legislative Council. I think that that is the normal procedure. It is the procedure followed in the Commonwealth and every State, and it would, I am quite sure, be followed in the case of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Consequently, what would happen would be the issuance of an enabling ordinance, or its equivalent, to permit certain work to be carried out. Where a man might, in a moment of forgetfulness, or perhaps a moment of weakness, commit himself to a vote, here is the normal provision for dealing with such a case. I support the clause.
– The Legislative Council does not deal with any tenders.
.- What the members of the Government have overlooked is that this prohibition has been in the act since it was passed, yet no member of the Government has ever previously queried it. But now the Minister states that there is some doubt as to whether the provision does not extend to the point where, if a person leased land from or to the Government, or occupied a government dwelling, he would be disqualified from sitting on the Legislative Council. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) wanted to go further. He asked why we should prohibit or disqualify a person who has contractual dealings with the Government in respect of the supply of goods or services. Under this amendment, anybody could have a direct contract with the Government and sit on the Legislative Council. The Minister told us in his second-reading speech that the situation which he now envisages could not arise. This is What he had to say -
In a community such as exists in the Territory to-day-
– Order! Reference may not be made in committee to second-reading speeches.
– I am reading from a note that I have of what the Minister said in his second-reading speech -
In a community such as exists in .the Territory to-day, it is highly unlikely that the interest which a member may have in any matter which comes before the council would escape the knowledge -of other members of the council, particularly as the members of the council include a number of officers engaged in the business of the Government.
So, it is obvious that originally the Minister believed that the very thing that the amendment is to prevent happening could not happen. Now, in this amendment, he says, in effect, that if what he said before could not happen does happen, it will not nullify the relevant decisions of the council. The Minister tried to imply that unless this provision was inserted, a number of .previous decisions of the council, other than the one in connexion with which a person who should have been disqualified from voting had voted, could be invalidated. This bill does not say anything of the sort. It says that the validity of anything done by the council, including a decision in which a person who should not have participated had voted, would hold despite the fact that that disqualified person had improperly participated in making the decision.
Therefore, it is obvious that what the Minister now puts forward is quite different from what he originally argued. In my opinion, that is a most disturbing thing. The Minister said it is not much different, if at all, from what we do in the Commonwealth Parliament, and he asked who would suggest that members of the Legislative Council would conspire to do something against the public good. That argument might have been valid if the Legislative Council in the Territory were a completely elected body, like the Commonwealth Parliament, because members of this Parliament are responsible to the electorate for their actions; but in the case of the Legislative Council of the Territory it does not mean that a majority of the council have to conspire, because sixteen members of the council are directly nominated by the Government. If the Administrator be included, the number of Government-nominated members is seventeen out of 29 members. That means that the Government has, in fact, a majority of seventeen to twelve on the council, even if the other members all oppose any governmentsponsored proposal. If the Minister wanted to exercise his authority - and I am not suggesting that he has any valid authority in the matter - there are sixteen Government-nominated members of the Legislative Council, and everybody knows that public servants - and that is what these men are - will not, as a rule, go contrary to the wishes of the Minister. So, the Minister himself can determine what decisions are made on any matters, if he cares to exercise his authority. Therefore, I think, having regard to the present development of the Territory, it is wrong to continue to have a legislative council which is, in effect, a body that is completely controlled and dominated by the Government.
It is perfectly true that the Labour government provided, in its legislation, the legislative authority for appointing the council, but in those days there were very few Europeans in the Territory and, as the Minister has pointed out, there was not a sufficient number of natives who had reached a stage of development where they could undertake the responsibilities of office. I think it was only a quibble on the Minister’s part to say that I was wrong to suggest that the Labour government established the council. We did establish the legislative authority for the appointment of the council. Ten years ago it was imperative that we should make use of the system of nomination, and in the conditions then operating in the Territory our selection was largely restricted to members of the Public Service. But that situation has completely changed and, I repeat, it is wrong for the Government to continue to use that system now, because it produces a body which, to all intents and purposes, is an instrument of the Government.
As my colleagues have said, the Opposition is not satisfied with the Minister’s explanation of what is now proposed - It is very cunningly worded by the Parliamentary draftsman, no doubt on the instructions of the Minister and the Department, so I am not blaming the draftsman. What is proposed appears to continue the original prohibition in the act against men who have a direct contract with the Government for the supply of goods or services from participating in a vote in which they are directly interested; but then this effect is destroyed completely by the provision, in another sub-section that improper participation in a council vote by a council member does not affect the validity of anything done by the council, including what was done as the result of the vote in which that person participated improperly.
Here is a strange thing indeed! The honorable member for New England said that a member of the council who should properly be disqualified could participate in a vote on a matter with which he was directly interested, either as a result of forgetfulness or by deliberate intention. So the honorable member for New England agrees that it could be done deliberately. Such an act, done deliberately, is a completely dishonest act. No provision is made in the bill to disqualify the person concerned thereafter. He could be guilty of improper participation in a vote of the council but, according to the Minister, he can still occupy his position on the council, because he is not disqualified unless the council itself moves to disqualify him.
– Does this ratify shady transactions that occurred in the past?
– No, not this particular clause. That is a later provision. I hope the Minister will re-examine the amendment and give us a more satisfactory explanation of the reason for it. Otherwise, the Opposition will vote against it.
– The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has not been convincing in his statement to the committee, and I think that there is only one course for the committee to adopt, that is, to reject this clause. I want to tell the Minister that I should like him, even now, to tell us what are the new and changed circumstances that make this alteration necessary. The Minister has not told us that, nor has he replied to the suggestions that malpractice could be condoned under this amendment.
As I have said before, this clause opens the gate to those adventurers who can find, in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, their way into the Legislative Council and there seek, unashamedly, to advance their own cause and their own personal interests. I think that that is a state of affairs that this Parliament has a right to prevent. We have a right to protect the people. We have a duty to stand for the public interest. May I say, with respect to the members of the Legislative Council, that we uphold them as good people? But unfortunately good people sometimes err and despite the great trouble to which the various States go in preparing local government legislation, requiring, for instance, that aldermen and councillors shall leave the chamber if they are personally interested in a contract or matter that is being discussed, malpractice does occur from time to time. There have been examples of it in New South Wales in recent years. Councils have been thrown out of office and the New South Wales Minister for Local Government has had to appoint an administrator in their stead. That illustrates that, even with the most rigid safeguards, some councillors will not do the right thing by the ratepayers and the community generally.
If that can happen in a State, what a wonderful invitation is being extended to the adventurer - the get-rich-quick Wallingford - to operate in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea! Such a person, appearing in that area might, because of his position in society, very soon become a member of the Legislative Council. He might be a contractor, or be engaged in some other class of business on behalf of the people of the Territory. He could advance his fortunes to the misfortune of the community generally. The highest ethics should obtain in the Legislative Council, and the Minister has not adequately answered the charges that have been made from this side of the chamber. We do not seek to condemn members of the Legislative Council, but we insist that the public welfare should be safeguarded. Other speakers have pointed out that there is no comparison between the Parliament of the Commonwealth, which is elected on adult suffrage and the Legislative Council for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, members of which are either elected or appointed by the Minister. The Minister’s position is untenable and the sound practice which has been adopted in the past should continue to obtain. If the Minister re-reads the clause before us he will see that paragraph 3 does not express in a clear-cut manner what is necessary for the sound and honest administration of the area.
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 4 (Determination of questions respecting qualifications or vacancies).
.- We object strongly to this clause, which provides that the qualification of a member may be determined by the council itself, without reference to the Supreme Court. The council may refer the matter to the Supreme Court on its own resolution. But I should imagine that if any question arises regarding the qualifications of a member of the council it ought, without qualification, to be determined by some independent authority. It cannot be argued that the council itself is an independent authority. I should imagine that other considerations could enter into the decisions of the council apart altogether from the merits of the case under consideration. The Supreme Court would be an independent authority. Evidently the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) and the Government recognize that some avenue ought to be open to the Supreme Court to determine this matter, but in my opinion the Supreme Court should determine qualifications without any decision or resolution of the council at all.
What is the Supreme Court of a territory for, but to decide such matters? Surely, when the qualifications of some member are in question the matter should not be determined solely by the council. It should go to the Supreme Court which is the proper body to consider such matters. I cannot understand why the Minister has inserted this provision. It would be most unlikely that the council would not say, in any circumstances, “We are competent to decide this matter “. It would then decide it on the basis of numbers in the council rather than on the merits of the matter. Therefore, I submit on behalf of the Opposition, thai the qualifications of a member to sit on the council, if ever challenged, ought to be determined by the Supreme Court and not by the council itself.
– The only comment I want to make on what the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has said is that the provision in this bill is a customary provision, similar to that which would apply to this Parliament. It is identical with the provision which this Parliament has already decided shall apply to the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory. It does not, in any way, represent a departure from the established and recognized practice in regard to legislative bodies of this kind.
.- It gives me great pleasure to follow the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) this evening because, at question time this afternoon, he answered a question of mine inaccurately. However, he will have an opportunity to give an accurate answer to the same question which I have now put on the notice-paper and which, I hope, he will bestir himself to answer before the House rises for the winter recess. The Minister has also just given an inaccurate reply to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who has objected, on behalf of the Opposition, to proposed new section 38a, which is to be inserted by clause 4 of the bill. The Minister has said that the provision proposed to be inserted is similar to that which governs the proceedings of this Parliament. It is not similar to the provision which governs the proceedings of this Parliament in a very material respect because this provision leaves to the Legislative Council the option of determining itself questions respecting the qualification of its members or of referring them to an impartial body, the Supreme Court of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
It is true that, under the Constitution, such matters, when they arose in this place or in another place, were left to the determination of the House until the Par liament otherwise provided. But the Parliament made other provision as far back as 1918. If the Minister will refer to section 203 of the1 Commonwealth Electoral Act he will see that this Parliament has no option of determining a matter itself or of referring it to the court of disputed returns - in our case, the High Court of Australia. If any determination has to be made it must be made by the High Court or the Supreme Court of a State to which such matters can be referred, not by this Parliament, but by the High Court. Section 47 of the Constitution reads -
Until the Parliament otherwise provides, any question respecting the qualification of a senator or of a member of the House of Representatives . . shall be determined by the House in which the question arises.
As I have said, other provision was made under that section of the Constitution, and the provision which now obtains appears in Division 2 of Part XVIII. of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. Section 203 of that act is in these terms -
Any question respecting the qualification of a senator or of a member of the House of Representatives . . . may be referred by resolution to the Court of Disputed Returns-
– It says “ may be “.
– Precisely. I thought I made it clear that if there is to be any determination of these matters we believe it should be made by the Supreme Court of the Territory just as the High Court or, if it so thinks, a supreme court of a State can make such a determination in any question of qualification concerning one of our members. The Opposition is not saying that whenever such a question arises in the Legislative Council it has to go to the Supreme Court of the Territory. We do not say that if any such question arises in this Parliament it has to go to the High Court. But we say that if such questions are decided by anybody they should be decided by the court.
The Minister for Territories is quite in error in comparing the procedure which he asked to have instituted in the Territory with the procedure which applies in this Parliament. For 40 years, whenever such questions have had to be determined, they have been referred for determination to the High Court and if the High Court has thought fit, they have then been referred to the Supreme
Court of a State. But neither this House nor the other place can determine such questions concerning its members. We say that the same conditions should apply to the Legislative Council of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. It is quite wrong that a man’s qualifications should be decided by his colleagues or his opponents. They should not be decided by nominated members or elected members. They should be determined by the members of an impartial body, in this case the Supreme Court of the Territory whose members hold office during good conduct. As I was saying, section 203 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act provides that such questions - may be referred by resolution to the Court of Disputed Returns by the House in which the question arises and the Court of Disputed Returns shall thereupon have jurisdiction to hear and determine the question.
The clause at present under discussion provides that a question respecting the qualifications of a member of the Legislative
– Yes, read on.
– It is not relevant to our objection. There is no need to introduce extraneous matter.
– Read the whole clause.
– Never mind about him.
– I am always willing to oblige in these matters, but I should have thought that the Minister could read the whole clause himself. The portion to which the honorable member for East Sydney referred and to which the Minister inaccurately referred, is in these terms -
A question respecting the qualification of a member of the Legislative Council . . . may be determined by the Council or may be referred by resolution of the Council to the Supreme Court, which shall thereupon hear and determine the question.
If the words “ may be determined by the Council “ were omitted, the provision would be similar to the procedure which has applied since 1918 in both Houses of this Parliament. We want the words “ may be determined by the Council” omitted for the reason which the Minister gave, that is that the procedure in the Legislative Council should be similar to the procedure which is followed in this Parliament.
– Does the honorable member deny that this Parliament has the option to decide that matter itself or to refer the matter to the court?
– Yes, I do deny that. Under the Commonwealth Electoral Act any question of qualification which arises-
– Who passed that act?
– It was first passed in 1918, and I think that a government of the honorable member’s political persuasion was then in power.
– Does not this Parliament decide the matter?
– Indeed ! I am not disputing that. Under the Constitution, this Parliament can repeal this section. But what I am pointing out is that the Minister has given a reason for this new section in the Territory act which does not apply to this Parliament. If he believes that the same procedure should apply to the Legislative Council of the Territory as applies to both Houses of this Parliament, he should have the same section in each measure. It is completely within the option of this Parliament to have what section it wants in the Territory act and what section it wants in the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
– I suggest that, under section 203 as it exists, this Parliament already has the option either to decide the matter itself or refer it to the court.
– Well, with respect, I say that it has not. The Minister will notice that all the phrases which I have read from clause 4 of the bill occur in section 203 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act except the words “ may be determined by the Council “. Those are the words in the bill under consideration, but they are not contained in the Commonwealth Electoral Act. We say that they are obnoxious and anomalous and for that reason we ask that they be omitted. It is true, as the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) said, that this Parliament can alter the Commonwealth Electoral Act, but it has never seen fit to alter it in this regard in 40 years. We merely say that if we have followed that procedure for so long, why should not the Territory follow that procedure also?
– I suggest that the Territory council procedure is the same as the procedure of this Parliament.
– It is plain that the Minister is stubborn and will not see reason. However, on this occasion, seeing that I have the right of reply, I have the last opportunity to put the facts. There are six or seven words in the present bill which are not in the Commonwealth act. If the Minister will agree to their omission, we shall be happy to acquiesce in the passage of clause 4.
– I always listen with very great interest to the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) and, because of his great legal knowledge, one always feels, as a layman, very loath to cross swords with him. Perhaps I may be imagining things, but it seemed to me that at the critical moment when the honorable member began to read a section of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, he suddenly faltered as though a blinding flash had come to him and he realized that perhaps he had “ put his foot in it “ as it were. It is quite true that the honorable member pursued that argument with great courage and considerable persistence, but the point that he did not make clear - and as one of the uninitiated laymen of the committee I should like to have some clarity upon it - was that in the case of a disputed return the matter may be referred, by resolution, to the Court of Disputed Returns. What would happen if Parliament decided, after hearing all available evidence, not to refer the matter to that court? That was a point which the honorable member for Werriwa seemed to fail to bring before the committee. It seemed to me that he suddenly realized that those fateful words “ may be referred “ were the Achilles heel of his argument and he saw that the Parliament - which in the Territory would be the Legislative Council - would decide whether it was a matter that was worthy of being referred to the Court of Disputed Returns.
The opposition to this particular measure surprises me because it is obviously trying to clear up certain possible weaknesses in the present position and to extend the powers of the Legislative Council step by step. If Australia is to command the respect of other countries in its treatment of Papua and the incorporated trust Terri tory of New Guinea, it must show that, step by step, it is widening the powers of local self-government in that area. Perhaps I may be lacking somewhat in my knowledge of the particular point under dispute. I simply followed the arguments raised by the honorable member for Werriwa and from them I deduced, as the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has, I believe, correctly said, that there is really no difference between the procedure which is followed, and will be followed by the Legislative Council of Papua and New Guinea and that which is followed in this Parliament.
– I object to the bill for the reasons stated already by my colleagues. I am certain that there is nothing dishonest about the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) - in fact, he might be a little bit too honest. It is possible that if a man is too honest he is liable to be blind to the dishonesty of those who surround him. It seems to me that this honorable gentleman on the opposite side of the table has been so blinded, because if one examines the constitution of the Legislative Council in New Guinea, one finds that, of the 29 members, only three are elected. In addition to the seventeen who are nominated directly by the Government, three are described, in paragraph (f) of section 36 of the principal act as “ three other non-official members “. The Minister cannot deny that there is nothing to prevent a government from appointing a representative of Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited as one of those three; a second one could be a representative of Carpenter’s Shipping and Trading Company, and the third could be a representative of Burns Philp and Company Limited.
– And they could all be honorable.
– That is so, and they could all be dishonorable also. The Minister would not know because, being so honorable himself he would be blind to the dishonorable actions of those who surround him. That is the trouble. The Minister is so naive in regard to the activities of these snide business people, that they could put it all over him and he would not know it was happening.
– Would the honorable member set a snide to catch a snide?
– Surely the honorable member is not suggesting that the Minister is snide. He is so naive that he would not know when he was surrounded by crooks. The seventeen members appointed by the Government to the Legislative Council could be a team of crooks who would uphold the decisions of their colleagues on the Council by acting under this new proposal to decide whether or not these other crooks were suitable people to hold positions on it. Is it likely that if such a situation should arise they would be silly enough to let a supreme court judge have any say in the matter? Under this proposal they have the say. They are the ones who determine whether a Supreme Court judge has any say in the matter. It is obvious, therefore, that if ever we have the kind of corruption in New Guinea that we have had in some departments, and the kind that other governments have had-
– And which occurred in New Guinea under the previous government!
– I do not know about that, but if it has happened before, that presents a stronger case than ever for seeing that it does not happen again in New Guinea. I am sure the Minister did not think this idea out himself. Or did he? He obviously did not. He just gives a silly smile, which clearly indicates that he did not think it out himself. The draftsmen would not do it because they are fairly capable men. Left to their own resources, they would not do a silly thing like this. I have no doubt that this clause has been drafted by the draftsmen on instructions from the Minister, who himself is acting on instructions from somebody else. Who instructed the Minister to instruct the draftsmen to draw up such a silly clause as this?
– You are indulging in fairy tales.
– The Minister has not yet given any reasonable or acceptable answer to the House to satisfy the Opposition that there is any justification whatever for allowing the Legislative Council or the advisory body to determine whether or not there is something shady going on within the council. The Minister says that this Parliament has power to deter mine such questions. That is not so. When in South Australia, Senator Vardon was declared elected and eventually his- place was taken over by Senator O’Loghlin, the Senate had no power to declare whether Senator Vardon or Senator O’Loghlin should represent South Australia. It had to be determined by the High Court, and as it turned out Mr. Justice Barton decided in a way that was contrary to the action which the Parliament itself had taken.
All I ask the Minister to do on this occasion is to sink his pride for once and adopt the policy of trying to be right rather than consistent. I know that it would take a great deal of courage for him to get up and publicly admit that he does not know anything about the clause the House is debating. It would take a great deal of courage for him to admit that he is the mere plaything of some interested party up in New Guinea, or the tool of the parliamentary draftsmen. It is obvious that if the Minister is not one he is the other. The Parliament would think more of the Minister-
Order! The honorable member will deal with the bill, not with the Minister.
– It is almost impossible to deal with the bill without having something to say about the Minister who drafted the bill.
– 1 say it is.
– If you say that, your ruling is final, and I have no alternative but to rest on my oars and leave it to the good sense of the Minister to stand up and publicly admit that he is wrong, and that he is nothing more or less than a plaything of one of the parties I have mentioned.
– I would not have risen in this committee to speak again on this clause if it had not been for the direct challenge which the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) delivered in the course of the rest of his pleasantries. I found the honorable member’s speech rather entertaining, particularly that part which advanced the proposition that if a person is too honest he cannot detect dishonesty. It seems to me to be a proposition quite on all fours with the idea that if a person has a bath every day he cannot smell a person who does not.
– Well, that is one on me.
– Yes. The statement I made at the outset in reply to criticism of this clause was that this clause was identical with a clause of which this Parliament had already approved in respect of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory and that this clause was similar to the provisions which apply in this chamber itself. Now, the only serious challenge to that proposition was made by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam). The honorable and learned member for Werriwa is, of course, a person eminent in the legal profession and one who aspires to even greater eminence in it. I would not cross swords with him, nor do I think it is appropriate in a debate for matters of legal interpretation to become the issue, but I would seriously suggest to the honorable member for Werriwa that he might look more closely at the clause in question and consider the following three points: - First of all, the clause that we are considering specifically excludes any question relating to disputed returns. It does not apply to questions relating to disputed returns. It applies only to the qualification of members. In respect of this Parliament I would suggest as a second point for the honorable member’s consideration that the practice of this Parliament is governed both by the Constitution - trusting to my memory I think it is section 47 - and by the Electoral Act, which the honorable member quoted, in section 203. I would suggest for the honorable member’s consideration that if there is no specific reference in the Electoral Act to the Constitution, that does not mean that the Constitution is to be ignored or that it has no effect. In other words, section 47 of the Constitution which does give to this Parliament the power to determine itself any question relating to the qualifications of members, still applies to this Parliament irrespective of anything which may be written into the Electoral Act, and the reason why the Electoral Act does not specifically mention that power of this chamber to determine matters relating to qualifications is because it was unnecessary to do so and that the Constitution, section 47, did prevail.
The third point I would ask the honorable member to consider is the actual meaning of section 203, which uses the word, “ may “ and not “ shall “. I would suggest for his consideration that when that word “ may “ is used there is no obligation on this Parliament to refer the matter of the member’s qualification to a court. It is at the option of this Parliament to decide either that it settles the matter of the member’s qualification itself or, if it so chooses, that it refers it to a court. If the intention of the Electoral Act, in complete opposition to the Constitution, had been to oblige this Parliament to refer matters to a court, then surely that section quoted by the honorable member - that section over which he stumbled, may I say - would have said “shall” and not “may”. So I say that it is a matter for the option of this cham-ber whether it determines a matter relating to a member’s qualification itself or whether it refers it to a court.
Just to indicate what seems to me to be the absurdity of the honorable member’s contention that these things must be referred to a court, I would remind members that one of the grounds on which a member may be disqualified is prolonged absence without leave. If a member of this chamber was absent for a prolonged period without leave would we refer that matter to the court to decide whether he is still qualified to sit? Surely that would be something that a court would not need to determine. Surely that would be something that this House itself could determine. So while I have the greatest reverence for all persons who are learned in any profession, and while I recognize that the honorable member for Werriwa has reached some eminence in the profession of which he is a member, I feel that on this occasion, as a humble layman, I am unconvinced by his reasoning and I am extremely doubtful about his capacity in the law.
.- Surely the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) is not serious when he compares the Legislative Council of Papua and New Guinea with this Parliament. What are the two characteristics of a sovereign Parliament such as this? The first is that it is wholly responsible to the people over whom it rules, and the second is that it has extensive sovereign powers. The Legislative Council of the Territories is composed of 29 people. One is the Administrator, sixteen are officers of the Administration, nine are nominated by the Governor-General - I presume by the Administration - and three are elected. Therefore, of 29 people, only three are directly responsible to the 4,000 or 8,000 Europeans and the hundreds of thousands of other people for whom they make laws.
The difference between the Legislative Council of the Territory and this Parliament is not just one of degree; it is one of kind. The argument that the authority of this Parliament should be similar to the authority of the Legislative Council in the Territories has no relevance whatever. In fact, almost the totality of the powers of decision in this body will lie with the Administrator, through his officers and his nominees. Even if we exclude the nominated members and add them to the elected members, giving a total of twelve, there are seventeen other people who hold high authority, and if they come down on one side in a debate or decision, then that is what the decision will be. That rules out any possibility, on occasions unlikely to occur, but occasions which may occur, of arriving at the same sort of decision as is arrived at in this Parliament.
The matter which I wish to raise, and which I thought had perhaps more relevance to this question, was an appropriate or relevant section of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. This is a field in which the Government has taken great pains to see that the power and initiative lie with the courts. In the Territories, a similar situation arises. The initiative in this sort of matter should not necessarily lie with the body itself, but with the court. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act deals with trade unions and with people who are responsible, though not in the political sense. The Government makes a great play of its attitude to unionism in these matters. Section 72 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act provides -
Decisions in these matters are made by a vote, and the initiative lies with the court. I suggest that is a relevant matter. The Legislative Council is not a responsible body or a sovereign body; in effect, it is a creature of the Minister and the Government. Despite that, it exercises great authority in the community, but its decisions are unlikely to be democratic in the strict sense. Therefore, if there are any points in dispute, the decision and the initiative should rest with the court.
.- I rise to make a further contribution at the request of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). He asked me to consider three matters upon the interpretation of clause 4 of this bill, of section 203 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act and of section 47 of the Constitution.
His first point was that section 203 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act does not deal with questions of disputed returns. That is true enough; it does not. Previous sections of the act deal with them and require them to be dealt with by the High Court. At the moment I do not see the relevance of the argument, because what we object to is that a question respecting the qualification of a member of the Legislative Council of Papua and New Guinea can be determined in either of two ways. It can be determined either by the council itself - that is, by the official and nonofficial members of the council - or by the Supreme Court of the Territory.
The Minister made a comparison when he spoke on this clause and, since he made it, I feel bound to correct it. The comparison is made with section 203 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. There, a question of the qualification of a member of this House or of another place may be decided in one way only - by the High Court, which is the Court of Disputed Returns, or, if the High Court so decides, by the Supreme Court of a State. There is no option in either House of this Parliament to determine how such matters shall be decided. The Legislative Council of the Territory can decide it in either of two ways; we can decide it in one way only, if it is to be decided at all. We say that it is proper to decide it in that one, impartial way which has sufficed for this Parliament since 1918 and which nobody seems inclined to alter, so far as either House of this Parliament is concerned.
The Minister asked me to consider a second point. It is the extraordinary one that in section 47 of the Constitution there is no reference to the Commonwealth Electoral Act. This is a consideration which surprises me, because the Constitution, in the very nature of things, makes reference to no act of this Parliament. This Parliament did not come into existence, and accordingly no acts could be passed by this Parliament, until after the Constitution came into existence. I am therefore not surprised that the Constitution does not refer to the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
– I suggest that the honorable member is getting a little bit away from the clause before the committee. An interpretation of the Constitution is not included in this clause.
– The suggestion I am asked to consider is surprising. It was asked by the Minister and you, sir, permitted him to ask it.
Only insofar as it was related to the bill.
– I have given what I consider to be the answer to the suggestion. The third matter which the Minister asked me to consider in dealing with clause 4 is that it is still open to this Parliament under the Constitution, irrespective of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, to determine any questions respecting the qualification of its members itself. The Minister pointed out that section 47 of the Constitution provides that any question respecting the qualification of a senator or of a member of this chamber shall be determined by the House in which the question arises. He said that, since the Commonwealth Electoral Act merely says by section 203 that such questions may be determined by the Court of Disputed Returns, it is still open for this Parliament to deal with such a question if it wishes. I am not prepared to be as dogmatic on this matter as the Minister is, but I think the answer to his question is that section 47 of the Constitution provides that, until the Parliament otherwise provides, such matters shall be determined by the House in which they arise. Other provisions were made in 1918, and since then there has never been a decision on these matters by the House in which they arose.
It seems, if I may say so with respect, pretty plain now that Parliament has made this provision, under the Constitution it is no longer open to Parliament to consider these matters. It is true that the Parliament could make other provisions. It could repeal or amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act. If the Minister were to say that, in his view, the Commonwealth Electoral Act should be amended to add the words “ may be determined by the House of the Parliament in which it arises “, then I would see that his logic was consistent. It is open to us to do it and, if he decides to recommend that, we will consider it on its merits. But he is asking- us to approve this new clause in the Papua and New Guinea Bill in a way similar to - he does not say identical with - the Commonwealth Electoral Act. The similarity ceases with the very relevant consideration that the Minister is now seeking to have two methods for the Territory. There has never been more than one for each House of this Parliament.
Let the Minister be consistent and advocate that the Commonwealth Electoral Act be amended to provide that the question of qualification may be determined either by the House of the Parliament in which it arises, or by the Court of Disputed Returns. That is one logical step that he could take. It would be consistent with what he now advocates for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Alternatively - and this is what we ask him to have the courage to do - let him omit from proposed new section 38a of the principal act the provision for this new and invidious alternative method of letting the Legislative Council determine the matter itself. If the Minister were to do that, once again, he would be consistent. He would be following the practice which has been followed in both Houses of this Parliament for nearly 40 years. Let him not be stubborn about it and say that one thing is appropriate for this Parliament and another is appropriate for the Legislative Council of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. If there is any matter of principle involved, the same method should apply to both.
One thing should apply to both, or both things should apply to both. The simple thing for the Minister to do is to omit the few words to which we object, which, as one of the alternative methods, permit the question to be determined by the Legislative Council itself. We say that the provision is invidious, because it will allow the question of the qualification of members of the Council to be determined by their colleagues, who may be hostile to them, or who may be in their pockets, and because it is wrong that such a question, upon which turns the whole honesty and propriety of administration, should be determined by people who may be in a position similar to that of the person whose qualification is being determined.
If there is to be propriety in these matters, and if administration is not only to be clean, but also to have the appearance of cleanliness, the proper thing is to ensure that, in the Legislative Council of the Territory, as for nearly 40 years in both Houses of this Parliament, such matters shall be determined, if at all, by a court, the members of which, although, admittedly, appointed by governments, hold office for life whether their decisions please or displease governments. If it is appropriate for the High Court of Australia to be the only body which can determine such matters, or, if the High Court thinks fit, for the Supreme Courts of the States to determine such matters, where they arise in either House of this Parliament, surely it is appropriate to carry the similarity through to its logical conclusion and ensure that, in the Territory, the outside interests or other qualifications of elected and official councillors alike shall be determined by a similar dispassionate and impartial body.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman. - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 5 to 7 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 8th May (vide page 1148), on motion by Mr. Townley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The bill before the House seeks to amend the Public Service Act 1922-1955. The amendments that are proposed have arisen from discussions of the Joint Council of Public Service
Organizations, which is composed of representatives of the Commonwealth Public Service Board and the various Public Service unions. I have had an opportunity to read the report of these discussions, which covered a very wide field, and it is apparent that not all the suggestions made by the council - particularly those from the Public Service unions - have been incorporated in the amendments that are to be made.
I wish to discuss the Public Service Act generally, with particular reference to the point of view of the Public Service unions. Of course, the bill before the House seeks to make some amendments which will be very acceptable to those unions, but on the other hand, the Opposition is not entirely pleased with some of the other amendments and, in fact, intends to move an amendment to clause 11 at the committee stage. The Commonwealth Public Service Board has had great responsibilities imposed on it by the Public Service Act, but I believe that the board, in certain respects, has not responded as it should have done. Section 17 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act requires that- (1.) In addition to such duties as are elsewhere in this Act imposed on it, the Board shall have the following duties: -
Various other responsibilities are imposed by the act, but in respect of the matter to which I have just referred, I contend that the board has not seen to it that an adequate organization has been established. In this respect, I propose to refer to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, because the Public Service Board is responsible for matters which affect the public servants who are members of that department. I want to refer particularly to the conditions at the Mail Branch of the General Post Office in Sydney. Members of the Opposition brought this matter to the notice of the Parliament some time ago, and on that occasion they maintained that the board should improve the organization within the General Post Office in Sydney. At the present time, accommodation in the mail branch is inadequate to meet the needs, not only of the staff, but also of the public. Accommodation which was intended originally for approximately 1,000 em ployees is now used by 3,000. The available space is therefore wholly inadequate, and the conditions under which the officers have to work are unhealthy. The New South Wales Factories and Shops Act provides that each employee should have available to him a certain number of cubic feet of space. The conditions at the Sydney mail branch are such that only about onethird of the prescribed space is available for each employee. This matter is the responsibility of the Public Service Board. It should investigate the conditions there, instead of leaving the responsibility entirely with the Postmaster-General’s Department.
Because of the crowded conditions, it is not possible for mail matter to be dealt with promptly, with the result that serious delays are occurring day after day. Because of insufficient space and shortage of trained staff, many bags of overseas mail matter cannot be handled and have to be stored. Even first-class mail matter has been delayed for more than 24 hours, while second-class mail matter is often delayed for periods of two or three weeks. The position at the mail branch should be attended to, not only because the accommodation is inadequate for the volume of mail matter that is handled, but also because it is having a deleterious effect on the health of the employees. Recently, a doctor said to me - without any solicitation on my part - “What is wrong with the employees of the General Post Office? “ I replied, “ I do not know. What do you say is wrong with them? “ He answered, “They are a very unhealthy lot of men. I have some of them as patients, and it seems to me that they are simply fading off the earth “. The Postal Workers Union has complained about these conditions, and I think it is time, since the department itself has not improved them, for the Public Service Board to have a look at the matter.
I come now to another matter that is also covered by the bill. I refer to the proposal to amend the act in order to provide for the transfer and promotion of officers to extra-territorial duties. The Minister said in his second-reading speech that there is a doubt whether the act adequately covers officers who may be transferred outside Commonwealth territory. It covers Commonwealth employees in Papua and New Guinea, and in various Commonwealth territories, but there is a doubt whether it covers fully the public servants who are promoted or transferred to ambassadorial positions overseas, or sent overseas on immigration work or to take up trade commissionerships. The bill proposes to amend the act to remove any doubt that such employees will have the benefit of its provisions. The Opposition supports that proposal.
There is possibly some doubt remaining, however, as to whether the Superannuation Act and the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act cover such officers in the same way as the Public Service Act, as amended by the present measure, will cover them. I suggest that the Minister should examine that aspect in order to make sure that there is no doubt that such officers as I have mentioned will be covered by these acts also.
The next matter to which I wish to refer is the provision relating to the employment of temporary employees. At present the positions of temporary employees in the Postmaster-General’s Department and other Commonwealth departments are subject to review, and have to be reviewed, every three months. The bill proposes to amend the act to extend that period to twelve months. I have examined the last annual report of the Public Service Board and I find that there are 153,600 public servants in the Commonwealth Public Service proper. Of that number, 44 per cent. - the huge total of 68,000 public servants - are temporary employees. I believe that that position should be rectified. A man who has been employed in a temporary capacity for twelve months and has given satisfaction and shown that he warrants the award of permanency of employment, should be made a permanent employee.
The number of Commonwealth public servants employed on a temporary basis is far too high. I know that it is necessary to have some temporary employees in big public departments, but there are far too many of them. We would get far better and more contented service from these employees if they had security; and the way to give them such a feeling of security is to give them permanency. In some sections of the Postmaster-General’s Department, men have been employed on a temporary basis for twenty years. That is a ridiculous position. A servant who has been employed in a department for as long as that, and whose position is reviewed every twelve months, would not tend to be a very contented servant and might not give to his work the best of which he is capable. The Opposition believes that that matter should be examined.
Now I turn to the right of appeal against dismissals - a matter that has for a long time been contentious. The unions concerned think that a temporary employee who is dismissed, should have the right to appeal against his dismissal. They believe that the department should not have the right to terminate his services arbitrarily, without his having an opportunity to appeal.
The other matter to which I wish to refer concerns clause 8 which seeks to amend section 29 of the act. It provides as follows: -
The Minister should explain that outstanding amendment. It is the general practice that when a position in the Public Service - and the salary appertaining thereto - is reclassified, in fairness to all the officers in the service the position becomes vacant so that all officers have an opportunity to apply for promotion to it. The same principle applies when a position is down-graded. It is declared vacant, and possibly the officer who has held it does not care to continue to occupy it at a lower salary. I should like the Minister to explain to what special position this amendment is to apply.
The next point concerns the monetary penalties that may be imposed on an officer on commission of an offence. The bill proposes to amend the act so as to increase the penalty for a minor offence from 5s. to 10s. A maximum penalty is provided for a minor offence. For more serious offences the penalty is to be increased from £5 to £20. The Minister said in his secondreading speech that this action will lessen the gap between the monetary penalty that may be imposed and the more drastic penalty of reduction in salary or status, or dismissal.
I foreshadow that the Opposition will move an amendment to this clause. We believe that a right of appeal against penalties should be provided, irrespective of the value of the penalty. As the act now stands, a penalized employee has a right of appeal when the penalty is £2 or over, but not if the penalty is below £2. The Opposition’s amendment will seek to make the right of appeal general.
I turn to the provision for the entry of returned servicemen to the Commonwealth service. This provision has been widened so that ex-servicemen who have passed the required number of subjects in a public examination but who are not entitled to the award of a State education certificate, may be appointed to the service. The Opposition does not object to that provision. We believe that the educational bars to the entry of ex-servicemen to the Public Service should be eased. The act does not stipulate exactly what the required standard is. I think the standard is to be lower, and I consider that should be explained.
I come to the promotion of officers within the service. Secret files and dossiers on its officers are kept by the Government. When a provisional promotion is made these records are examined, and the officer seeking promotion may be rejected on the ground that something detrimental, which he may know nothing about, is contained in his file. The unions, and the officers, feel that they should know about anything that is detrimental to their officers. I have worked in the Federal Public Service myself and I know that such a policy is dangerous. The officer in charge of a department may be of the type who will get a “ set “ on another officer. He could insert in the records something detrimental to that officer’s chances of promotion. The unions, and the officers concerned, feel that they should know about the entry so that any fault may be rectified. At present such secret reports may be used against officers appealing against provisional promotion. Only the chairman of the appeals committee would have knowledge of what was in the record, but he is supposed to be independent, and his mind should not be made up by anything that he has seen there, especially when the officer himself has no knowledge of it. For these reasons, we believe that the present system should be reviewed.
The composition of the appeals committee is not altogether satisfactory, and the officers of the department are not happy about it. The annual report reveals that very few appeals against provisional promotion are successful. For the year ended 30th June, 1956, there were 12,709 appeals in all. Of 10,160 lodged on the ground of efficiency combined with seniority, only 429 were upheld. Of 2,549. lodged on the ground of superior efficiency, only 113 were upheld. The joint council feels, in short, that the composition of the appeals committee should be looked at.
The unions also consider that the present method of attachment of salary where there has been a judgment against an officer is unnecessarily harsh. The judgment is placed before the paying officer, and the person who has been the subject of the judgment must submit to his wages being garnisheed
– Would that not happen to some one in private employment?
– Is the honorable member suggesting that the public servant is at a disadvantage compared with the private employee who is subject to a garnishee order?
– No, but we believe that too great a deduction can be made from an officer’s salary. We believe that the act is out of date. Section 64 (3.) states -
If ihe officer fails to prove to the satisfaction of the Paying Officer, within the time specified by the Paying Officer, that the judgment has been satisfied, the Paying Officer may from time to time deduct from any moneys due to the officer such sums as are in his opinion necessary to enable the judgment to be satisfied, or may direct the deduction therefrom of such sums, and shall pay, or direct the payment of, those sums to the judgment creditor:
Provided that in no case shall a deduction be made which will reduce the amount to be received by the officer to less than Two pounds per week, or to less than one-third of the amount which would, but for the provisions of this section, be payable to the officer.
That is a very severe provision. Under it, an officer who is receiving £15 a week may be deprived of £10 of it, and be left only £5 with which to sustain his family. This matter was discussed at the joint council meeting. One recommendation was that no attachment should reduce an officer’s salary below the basic wage, which is, after all, supposed to be the least on which a family can live. It was also suggested that an officer should have left at least 75 per cent, of the basic wage; but I think the final decision was that the deduction should be left to the discretion of the paying officer. If he has not that discretion he might be obliged to reduce the income of a debtor to £5 a week. The act was framed a long time ago and should be modified in favour of the officer whose salary is attached.
The unions are also concerned about section 66 of the principal act, which gives a department the right to dismiss automatically any officer who participates in a stopwork meeting or strike. That is too great a power to place in the hands of a department. The section provides that any officer - . . . directly fomenting, or taking part in any strike which interferes with or prevents the carrying on of any part of the Public Services or utilities of the Commonwealth shall be deemed to have committed an illegal action against the peace and good order of the Commonwealth, and any such officer or officers adjudged by the law after investigation and hearing, to be guilty of such action, shall therefore be summarily dismissed by the board from the service, without regard to the procedure prescribed in this act for dealing with defences under the act.
We believe that that provision is too severe. It applies with greater severity than the provision governing outside industry. It was used recently in New South Wales in connexion with men who had a genuine grievance. The Labour party believes in using strike action only when there is a genuine grievance which cannot be rectified by other means. The strike is then the only way to attract the attention of the responsible authorities. We believe that public servants, like the employees of outside bodies, should have the right to use that weapon as a last resort. Consequently we say that this provision is too severe.
The unions have been petitioning the Public Service Board and the departments to modify this provision. Recently, the provision was used in Sydney against officers of the Mail Branch of the Postal
Department who had been provoked into taking strike action. They held a stopwork meeting and, because of that, the responsible officer dismissed temporary officers and suspended permanent officers on the spot. In order to rectify that position, the whole of the officers of the Mail Branch walked off the job as a protest against the sackings and suspensions. We believe that conditions in the Public Service should be the same as conditions in outside industry. The unions concerned have asked the Government to look at this matter when it is reviewing the position. The occurrence in Sydney which I mentioned indicated that there is something radically wrong with the Mail Branch in Sydney because this is the first time in the history of the Commonwealth Public Service that the men have taken strike action. It emphasizes the need for the Public Service Board to see that conditions in the Mail Branch in Sydney are improved.
Those are my final conclusions about the bill. I thought that this would be an opportune time to raise the matters that are not pleasing to the Public Service unions. I hope, that the various matters upon which I have commented will be given due attention by the Government. When the bill goes into the committee stage I propose to submit a suitable amendment. I shall provide the Government with a copy of this proposed amendment if it so desires.
.- The bill before us seeks to adjust quite a number of matters which are important to officers of the Public Service. The provisions of this bill are relatively unimportant having regard to ramifications of the Public Service and of the great number of provisions in the principal act that need to be reconsidered. It is quite true, however, that the bill will remove an injustice. At present, officers who lose time are obliged to suffer the severe penalty of discharge or are charged with a serious offence whereas, under this bill, the Public Service Board may introduce a regulation providing the lesser penalty of a deduction from their pay for the time that they lose.
The bill also seeks to facilitate the employment of temporary staff. The honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) has said that this is a desirable amendment. I believe it is desirable, too, but I believe that the position in relation to the employment of temporary staff needs to be completely cleared up in the legislation so that it may be clearly understood. Originally, the provision for the employment of temporary staff was intended not to provide temporary employment for persons, but to permit the Public Service Commissioner, and later the Public Service Board, to fill a position which was of a temporary nature. That is vastly different from providing mere temporary employment. There has been a considerable amount of misunderstanding about the matter. Too many positions, staffed by temporary officers, continue to be permanent temporary positions. Too frequently, they are occupied by employees who have never been appointed to the Public Service and who, therefore, remain temporary employees. This bill could easily have rectified that position.
Provision to enable ex-service personnel to obtain appointment to the Public Service and to be transferred from temporary positions to permanent appointments has been extended in this bill by providing that the Public Service Board may accept examination qualifications which have hitherto not been acceptable to it. These are qualifications gained at examinations which the board itself may prescribe, rendering it unnecessary for the person concerned to pass an examination set by the States. That is a very desirable amendment which has been sought for a long time.
The honorable member for Banks mentioned a number of amendments which are required in the principal act. They may be very desirable, but officers of the Public Service, from the junior clerk up to very senior officers, can point out anomalies which exist under the present Public Service Act and which require to be adjusted. The act definitely needs a complete overhaul. It is to be hoped that that will be done soon. If we continue to make piecemeal amendments of this tremendously important act we will have a hotch-potch public service, which will be incapable of fulfilling its responsibilities as we expect it to do and as it is capable of doing.
During this sitting of the Parliament, we have witnessed the unusual event of a report from the Public Service Board being presented to this House accompanied by a statement by a Minister. Unfortunately, the statement was in the nature of an apology on behalf of the officers of the Public
Service. I do not think that an apology is necessary. I will not say that the Public Service is as efficient as it should be, nor will I say that the Public Service is inefficient. But I do say that the Public Service, as it is at present constituted and as it operates at present, is not satisfactory.
– Why has not the honorable member told the Government that before?
– I might reply to the interjector in the usual way - by saying that I am not referring to the Public Service as it has existed only in the time of this Parliament. I want to keep party politics out of this. Every honorable member has an individual responsibility to his electors in this matter and to the taxpayers of this country. I ask honorable members to treat this bill in that spirit. I am not charging the Public Service with inefficiency, but I say that there is something wrong. I could not put my finger on it, but the Minister, in his apology or statement, said that he did not find that the criticisms which had been made from time to time, were established in fact. I do not know what experience the Minister has had or how long has been his association with the Public Service or how closely he has gone into its workings, but I wish to quote the views of some one who can claim to be an authority by virtue of the fact that he has had 46 years in the Public Service. He started as a junior copy-clerk in what was known as the Commonwealth Public Defence Department and recently completed his service as the senior officer of the Department of Defence Production. I refer to Mr. H. P. Breen. In the Melbourne “Herald” of 8th May, 1957, Mr. Breen is reported as saying -
An independent committee should be set up to review the Public Service every ten years.
He suggested an “ outside competent body “ to do the job - preferably a committee of three. I shall not read the whole of the report but will give the pertinent points. Mr. Breen said -
Even if it is perfect to meet present conditions, the Public Service set up should be subject to constant review because it is a rapidly changing world.
Mr. Breen said further ;
The Public Service was founded here 50-odd years ago. Basically, the Public Service Act and the provisions for organization, control and administration are still the same. Australia is not the same country it was 50 years ago, and the demands of its changing structure on the Government and thus on the Public Service and public servants are not the same.
The report continued -
Mr. Breen said this was not an opinion he had reserved for delivery on retirement. He had expressed it many times and knew it was not popular. “ Unfortunately, the need for commissions of inquiry into the Public Service, as expressed in newspaper campaigns in the past, has usually followed a tirade aimed at Public Service ‘ inefficiency ‘ “, said Mr. Breen. “ There is a natural defensive reaction to this. i do not think the Public Service has anything to hide or to fear from any inquiry. A thorough review would be to the benefit of Australia, to the Public Service, and to the public servants.
Later, the report stated - “ A patchwork organization had arisen from political juggling”, he said.
I am very pleased to find such an authority confirming remarks which I have made in this place on previous occasions concerning the Public Service. Like Mr. Breen, I am not charging the Public Service with inefficiency but I say that, regardless of capacity or capability, no employee is able to produce the best results unless he is permitted to work with the best tools under the best system and the best conditions. I am not satisfied, and I am perfectly sure that the public of this country is not satisfied, that those who are engaged in the Public Service work under the best system or the best conditions that enable them to provide the best service of which they are capable. That is why I say again that I believe an overhaul of the whole Public Service is vitally necessary.
– How long does the honorable member think that would take?
– It would not take very long. Obviously, the honorable member is quite content to see the taxation burden which he assisted the Labour government of this country to impose, steadily increase in order to maintain a public service which, because of the system under which it operates, cannot provide maximum efficiency. The Public Service requires examination, and that should begin right at the top. I have said on previous occasions that the Public Service Board and its methods of operation should be examined and the principles discovered on which the whole of the Public Service works. It is from the top that efficiency or inefficiency grows or is reduced. It may be that an inquiry such as Mr. Breen suggests should be made by an impartial outside body or by one on which both sides of this House are represented. If such an inquiry be instituted, it may find evidence that the system under which the Public Service is working is satisfactory and offers little room for major improvement. If that were so it should satisfy this Parliament and the Government. It would satisfy, also, the people of this country who are critical - undeservedly critical - of the Public Service. That criticism is due, in part, to the methods by which the Public Service operates, and also to the limitations placed upon it.
One matter which should be examined is the remarkable growth of our Public Service. Although I have not the figures with me just now, I have had figures comparing the number of public servants and the nature of their duties with the number of persons in other occupations. The growth of the Public Service has been phenomenal. One feature that might be examined is the system prevailing in the Service under which a position, once it is created, seems to beget other positions.
– There is no doubt about that.
– Yes; I have referred to this previously. I used to think that in this country no animal propagated its species more rapidly than did the rabbit; but the method by which positions are created and staff increased in the Public Service, provides strong competition with the rate of increase among rabbits.
– It beats the rabbits.
– That is so. It seems that if a chair and table are placed in a department it is not long before a multitude of chairs and tables collect around them. I am not blaming the Public Service for that; I blame the system under which it operates. It seems that whatever department or branch is set up there must be a director or a head and he must have so many sub-heads and they must have their under-heads and so it goes down the scale to the office boy and even he seems to have some one to lick the stamps for him. That is surely a subject into which an inquiry should be made. Unquestionably, many positions in the Public Service are created as the result of a temporary need. Extra work is imposed on a department and temporary positions are created to cope with it. The Public Service bristles with instances of this kind. Unfortunately, these positions remain a permanent part of the Public Service.
– Whose fault is that?
– I will associate myself with the honorable member and say that it is partly his fault and mine. We have not met our responsibilities by taking sufficient interest in an organization which was created by our predecessors in government and whose responsibilities we accepted when we were elected to the Parliament. I acknowledge that it is partly my responsibility and I want to meet it. Many departmental activities are of a temporary nature. Very frequently they become permanent, and that for two reasons. Either nobody takes an interest in what is happening in connexion with them and makes no attempt to reassess the position, or nobody bothers to establish them in a permanent capacity if the necessity arises. There is no investigation in order to re-assess their needs, and the tragedy of it all is that very often we find Government departments engaging in activities which the taxpayers and even honorable members of this House claim to be extravagant and wasteful of public funds. Business interests in particular are culprits in this direction. And the moment an alteration is attempted to rectify what they suggest is an unsatisfactory state of affairs, if that alteration interferes in any way with the perks they are getting from the establishment of that department either in their town or in close proximity to their own business interests, they resist it.
– Is the honorable member suggesting bribery?
– I am not suggesting bribery in any way at all; I am suggesting to the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt) that if he had in his electorate a government office which was redundant, it would be his responsibility, as one concerned with the finances of his country, to advocate that something be done to save that needless expenditure. But I venture the opinion that if he found that these employees - they may number several hundred - were beneficial to his business, he would not be very active in suggesting their removal. Often we find that business interests, which complain that public servants in a certain establishment are an unnecessary extravagance, run to their member and howl immediately any suggestion is made that the Government should remedy the extravagance. They are not concerned with the Public Service; they are concerned only with the fact that they receive some benefit from the proximity of these public servants to their own interests.
There is a terrific amount of hypocrisy associated with these things; and that hypocrisy could be eliminated if we had a complete investigation of the Public Service. Two things are necessary, and I plead with the Government, which has done worth-while things, to do them. One is to make a complete overhaul of the Public Service Act with a view to amending it and bringing it right up to date in accordance with the requirements of the Public Service and to permit our officers to give of their best, as I believe they want to do. The other is to conduct an inquiry into the whole of the operations of the Public Service. The amendment to the act would be consequent upon the inquiry, and that inquiry should start right at the head, at that part of the service which so far has been immune from any kind of criticism, We cannot actually get clown to anything in the way of criticism of that section, because the operations of the heads of the service are known only to themselves. In any case, I doubt whether anybody in the Public Service would be prepared to come forward and say that his boss was not doing what he should be doing.
I support the bill. I believe there are things in it which are necessary; but, in view of the points I have made, I believe there are things far more necessary than those contained in it.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Ward) adjourned.
Tea - Naturalization - Security Service - Postal Depot at Bradfield - Queensland Labour Party.
Motion (by Mr. Townley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– In spite of the lateness of the hour, I want to draw the attention of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and of honorable members to something that has been termed a storm in a teacup. The storm itself is not of very great importance, but the winds which have caused it, and the teacup itself, are. If not the teacup, then the price of what goes into it is of importance to every householder in Australia, and a very important item in the cost of living.
I know the Minister has a difficult task in administering import licensing controls, and I consider that in this particular case, namely, what is known as the case of the Formosan Tea, he has acted wisely and in the best interests of the buyer; but this particular case is only a straw in the winds which are blowing. If I erred in saying that the Minister acted against the advice of the department I am sorry, but actually I want honorable members to judge whether the inference I made was correct or otherwise; because I propose to quote a conversation which took place between Mr. A, an importer, and Mr. B, who represented himself as the tea representative of a firm which I will call “ X Company Limited “. This took place in the office of Mr. A -
Mr. B said that he came to see me about my application for import licence of Formosan tea and claimed that he knows all about Formosan tea which is only rubbish.
Mr. A. ; Have you seen or tried a sample of our tea because we have good reports from various organizations who had done so?
Mr. B. ; Don’t give me that, I know all about tea. I have tried Formosan tea before. The quality is very bad.
Mr. A. ; Have you tried Formosan tea recently?
Mr. B. ; I tried some in 1938.
Mr. A. ; 1938 is a long time ago. A lot could have happened since then. This tea must be good. Formosa is exporting big quantities to various countries now.
Mr. B. ; I know all about this tea. It is no good anyway. Your import licence for . . . has to be issued in the name of X Company Limited. You can import the tea yourself. Although you can import the tea, the licence has to come through us.
Mr. A. ; On whose authority are you acting?
Mr. B. ; Our Sydney people rang me up a little while ago saying the Department of Trade in Sydney prefers to issue the said licence to people like X Company Limited instead of to an outsider like yourself. I have been asked to come and see you about this.
Mr. A. ; If the Department of Trade wanted me to do that, won’t they get in touch with me personally first?
Mr. B. ; The handling of tea in Australia has been very carefully studied. The existing tea concerns have been handling the importation of tea for scores of years. Why should you be given an import licence? You are not entitled to one.
Mr. A. ; If I were you, I wouldn’t say things so fast. Do you know what I have been doing? I have exported several hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of Australian goods within twelve months personally. Why aren’t I entitled to the import licence? I think I am more entitled to same than a lot of firms who only imported into Australia and hardly exported anything. I am more beneficial to the country than they are.
Mr. B. ; How about it? Will you agree to your import licence going through X Company Limited? I have to give your answer to Sydney by 3 o’clock.
Mr. A. ; I cannot give you any answer at such a short notice. You are in business yourself. It is hardly fair to expect me to do this. Do you mind if I ring Canberra first and find out what is happening?
Mr. A then lifted the telephone off the cradle.
Mr. B. ; No, don’t. You needn’t ring Canberra. I will just tell Sydney your answer is “ No “, that’s all.
Mr. B then got up from his chair to leave Mr. A’s office.
– Is Mr. B an official or a private individual?
– I have said that Mr. B represented himself as the tea expert of a firm which I have called X Company Limited.
Two things arise out of this. First, is Formosan tea rubbish? All I can say is that I have the opinions of importing firms in three different States. The representative of one of these importing firms has said -
I must admit that the taste and flavour of tea brewed from your sample was in my opinion equal to the average blend offered by Australian tea-packers of the popular brands.
That is the opinion of one of our big retailers.’ These are big retailers in their respective States. Another importer states -
We like the tea and think it has a terrific potential.
Yet another importer states -
After testing your tea, which for flavour, aroma and satisfaction we believe ranks with many teas on the market, we feel certain that a big demand can be expected.
I am not particularly interested in Formosan tea; I am interested in what is happening in the tea trade and in reducing the cost of living. The second matter I would ask the Minister to look into is how far that conversation is correct and how Mr. B knew the name of the firm that had applied for the import licence. That is very important. I should like the Minister to inquire why that information was disclosed to Mr. B. But what is more important is that the interlocking action of the restrictive licences and the hang-over from Commonwealth tea control has foisted on the public higher prices in the last two years than should have been charged. In 1954-55, the last year of Commonwealth tea control, the value of tea bought was more than 50 per cent, above one year’s consumption. In 1952-53 purchases totalled £11,662,000. In 1953-54 the figure was £13,646,000. In 1954-55 it was £21,664,000, of which £18,000,000 worth came from Ceylon - no wonder the previous High Commissioner for India objected to what tea control had done in that year. In 1955-56 the figure was back to £11,186,000. The average tea consumption, I think, works out at about £12,000,000 worth, and I ask the Minister to look into what are apparently, if my information is correct, tough-guy tactics on the part of somebody in the tea trade. I do not blame the tea trade as a whole, but under this interlocking system, apparently somebody can take action of that nature.
Finally, I ask the Minister why there should be any tea import licensing at all. There is no shortage of tea in the community. It is like petrol - everybody has enough. If there is no import licensing, anybody who wants to import tea can do so and the public can select its own brands at whatever price it wishes to pay. Probably the same thing applies to coffee.
I recommend to the Ministry as strongly as I can that it should abolish import licensing on tea. This would reduce the amount of money that is being spent on tea, because I think a considerable quantity of cheaper tea would be available. At present import licensing is just to maintain our overseas balances. If we are now spending a maximum of £12,000,000 or £13,000,000 a year on tea and the public would be quite satisfied with cheaper brands, costing, say, half as much, we would have to spend only £6,000,000 or £6,500,000. There is no rhyme or reason in the continuance of import licensing for tea. If import licensing were removed the overseas payments would fall and the public would gain the benefit of cheaper tea.
.- I desire to raise a matter of urgency and importance. It is in relation to the refusal to grant naturalization on political grounds. I have notified the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley) of my intention to raise this matter. I say that a police state is in fact being created among some applicants for naturalization in this country and that injustices are being imposed upon many hundreds of people. I have evidence of two cases which are very definite and show clearly what is going on.
The first case concerns a person who has been resident in Australia for eight years and who, for over two and a half years, has faced obstruction and refusal in his attempts to become naturalized. Many representations have been made on his behalf. I have interviewed the Minister and I know that this man has been refused naturalization on security grounds as a result of a security report. I know that for a fact and I can inform the Minister why I know that if he so desires. I wrote a letter on 18th April, in which this matter was set out in detail, but so far I have had no answer. This is only one case in many hundreds.
I asked the person concerned to give me details of any kind of political activity or anything else that the security service could have against him. In reply to that request he wrote to me and I would like to quote his frank statement of his activities. His letter reads -
In what follows I have included activities which normally I would not classify as political, but which I suspect did not meet the Immigration Department’s approval.
My interest in politics originated in Greece where, because of historical reasons, interest in politics is as common as interest in sport is in Australia. As a young boy I participated in the resistance against the Nazi occupation of Greece. When I came to Australia I considered it my duty to take an interest in the political life of Australia. As a student at the Royal Melbourne Technical College I was one of the many that maintained that a tertiary education institution should encourage political activities by the creation of political clubs, debating societies, etc. With a group of interested persons I tried to organize a Labour club, but these early attempts failed due to lack of support from the college authorities.
That is one thing which undoubtedly is held against him. It has been reported by one of these many informers who go around informing the security service of activities of this sort.
Government supporters. - Rubbish!
– It is not rubbish. It is fact. There is plenty of evidence if you want it. The letter continues -
At the same time I became a member of the Democritus League, an organization of Greek workers, and as such participated in its political, cultural, and social functions. I represented the Democritus League at last year’s Australian Peace Assembly in Sydney.
Undoubtedly that would find its way into the records of the security service -
At one time I acted as the secretary of the Melbourne branch of the League for Democracy in Greece. This organization, which obtained its support from many eminent Australians, was trying to enlighten the Australian public on the Greek Government’s undemocratic way of dealing with political opposition at the time and to relieve the political prisoners and their families in Greece by sending parcels of clothing.
As the secretary of the League of Democracy in Greece I had the honour of meeting quite a number of distinguished Australians in the activities of this association.
– Who were they?
– I will give names in the right place. I am not going to state them here. This letter continues -
Recently I have become assistant secretary of the Melbourne Branch of the Committee for the Self Determination of Cyprus.
That is a frank and complete statement of the activities of this person, for which he has been refused naturalization.
The second case has the same kind of background - eight years in Australia and refusal of naturalization for two and a half years. Again I have had an interview with the Minister and I know this refusal is on security grounds. I will tell the Minister the reason for that if he wishes to know. I have received from this person also a frank statement of his activities. He says that he is an Australian citizen and a staunch supporter of Labour - that in itself is sufficient reason for one of these security reports. His letter asks me to intervene on his behalf in connexion with the rejection of his application for naturalization. He states that he came to Australia from Greece eight years ago and that during the first five years in this country he completed a fellowship diploma in applied chemistry in the Royal Melbourne Technical College. He gives the following details of his political activities: -
During the elections in December 1955 1 went to Shepparton with a group of A.L.P. members for two days leafletting and pasting up for the A.L.P. campaign. I also marched with union officials and wharfies to Parliament House in 1955 in a protest against the Bolte Government’s policy on housing, rents, cost of living adjustments, price control, &c.
During the 1956 waterside workers’ strike, I went to Bendigo with a group of wharfies and officials of the Waterside Workers Federation, where we met members of the Australian Labour party Bendigo branch, and explained to them the issues of our strike. During this strike many wharfies helped to form local committees. . . . I also hold letters from the Security Police of the Sudan giving good references of character, and from the Greek community there.
They were received before he came to Australia. He continues - 1 am forwarding them to you. For the last two years I have been a regular blood donor. I have never gambled or been drunk in this country and have had no police offences. I support my wife and little daughter and we are buying our home. It is important to me to become an Australian citizen as my wife and baby are, and I have every intention of living out my life in Australia.
– How long has he been in Australia?
– Eight years. The letter continues -
I served four years with the Allies during the last war, with the Royal Hellenic Air Force.
This man has been refused naturalization on the strength of a security report which is based upon political grounds. Most of the information on these two cases, which I have given here in detail, is already in the hands of the Minister. That part of the information which is not in his hands can be placed in his hands. These cases are typical of many hundreds of cases, where political considerations of this sort are used as grounds to refuse good potential Australians the right to become Australian citizens. I suggest that when these security reports are considered by the Department of Immigration, it never inquires into the background. It merely accepts the reports from the authorities concerned and leaves the matter at that
I say that a great injustice is being done, and that these reports are very often made up by men who have cloak and dagger mentalities, whose minds are as narrow as they could possibly be, who have no understanding of politics, who would not know the difference between a Communist and a Christadelphian, who have not the faintest concept of political theory, who are employed because of those characteristics, and who gravitate to that kind of job because they are natural informers and pimps. People of that sort supply information to the authorities concerned, and upon that kind of information decisions are made on men with records such as those I have mentioned, who strongly desire to be Australian citizens.
I suggest that because of these cases, and the hundreds of other cases where political considerations of this sort are being used to discriminate between one citizen and another, an appeal tribunal should be established so that these matters could be brought into the open, where the evidence against these people could be examined, and where some of the pimps and informers upon whose statements the action is based could be examined. In no other way can we have a healthy community. Those people who talk, as honorable members opposite do so often, about the defence of freedom and liberty in this country, are the people who should be supporting moves for an open appeal tribunal, and such a tribunal will come in this country if this kind of police state activity in the matter of naturalization continues. As long as I am present in this House, I shall continue to advocate the appointment of such a tribunal. If there is any fault in a person upon whom these reports are made, it should be possible to examine that fault publicly and properly upon appeal.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I regret having the necessity of referring again to the proposed method of using certain Commonwealth land at Bradfield. It may be recalled that two or three weeks ago I had occasion to refer to the proposal of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) to erect a dump, or what is technically called a primary works depot, in that locality. The circumstances are that shortly before the war this area was being developed as a first-class residential district, and that development has since continued. The Royal Australian Air Force acquired the area during the war for the purposes of a reception and embarkation depot. The local people did not object to that, of course, in war-time.
Subsequently, another emergency arose, namely, the housing emergency at the end of the war, and again the people did not object strenuously to the use for housing purposes of the huts erected by the Royal Australian Air Force on that land. But it was always understood that this Commonwealth land would ultimately be used for its proper purpose, namely, residential purposes, and indeed the plan was that the War Service Homes Division should have it for development for residences for ex-servicemen. Now, as I said, the PostmasterGeneral has decided not to proceed with this idea of establishing the dump or works depot in that area, and I am glad to be able to express to the PostmasterGeneral my appreciation of the very proper decision that he made, after an inspection of the area had been made by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall).
But that proposal having come to an end, the Department of the Interior is proposing to establish a television studio in the area. Having seen details of the actual proposal, the design of the building that it is suggested should be erected, its area and so forth, I say that quite plainly this would be the beginning of the use of this land as a factory area.
– For whom is it to be erected?
– For the Department of the Interior.
– What will it cost?
– I do not know what it will cost. Although it is stated in a letter from the chief property officer of the Department of the Interior to the Kuringgai Municipal Council that the long-range plan for the use of this area is that it should be taken over by the War Service Homes Division for the construction of homes for ex-servicemen, it is quite plain that there is no binding undertaking in that regard. It is quite plain that that ultimate idea could be scrapped by a subsequent Minister or by another government, so the local people are concerned, and rightly concerned, at the establishment of a type of superior factory as a precedent.
So, on behalf of the local residents, who have my emphatic support, I say that I believe that it would be quite an indecent thing for the Government to proceed in this way. As a matter of good faith, the land should be retained for the purpose for which it was originally intended. It should be used for residences and, being Commonwealth land, it should be used for homes for ex-servicemen. The Minister for the Interior has inspected the area, and I think he is fully aware of the situation and cannot but be convinced that the proper use of this type of land is for residential purposes. I know that in war-time certain things are done on a temporary basis, and afterwards it is often impossible to unscramble the eggs, but that is no reason why, when the Government can keep faith with the people, as it can in this case, faith should not be kept.
I do not believe that governments should be entitled to do things that private people could not do. It would be impossible, having regard to the zoning arrangements of the Cumberland County Council, for any private citizen to establish a factory or industrial undertaking in that area. Why then should it be possible for a government to do precisely that? A legal maxim prevails that the King can do no wrong. Legally it is quite possible for the Government to do as it proposes to do, but in the interests of decency and fair dealing with the people, the Government should be bound by the moral, and indeed legal, obligations that bind the ordinary private citizens. So I ask that the Minister for the Interior should reconsider this proposal, and establish a studio for the film division associated with the Department at a more suitable place, for example, at Pagewood or French’s Forest, where already there are certain film studios in a properly zoned industrial area. I know that the Minister, with whom I have had discussions on this matter, is unavoidably absent from the House at the moment, but I ask the Minister in charge of the House to convey my observations to him.
– I, too, regret speaking on the adjournment at this late hour. I do so reluctantly. However, having regard to some of the assertions that were made during an adjournment debate last week, I feel that I would be failing in my duty as a Queensland member of the Labour party if I did not make some observations.
– Which party?
– Yes, which party?
– When the Leader of House and the Minister for Air have sufficient decency to let me proceed, I shall do so. Last week, certain honorable members from Queensland made speeches on the adjournment in connexion with the dispute now current in the Labour party in that State. I have no hesitation in admitting, of course, that that dispute occurred. The Queensland members of the Labour party decided that it was not the business of this Parliament to discuss that dispute, because it was completely irrelevant to the business of, and had nothing to do with, the National Parliament. Because of that decision, those of us on this side of the House representing Queensland electorates took no part in the debate. It is a pity - and this is not a reflection on the Chair in any way - that this National Parliament is permitted to be a place where dirty linen can be washed by any political party. For the reason I have stated, Labour party members from Queensland kept out of the debate.
I want to make some reference, not to the speech of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), who appears in this House as the sole anti-Communist, but to the speech of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce). The honorable member, for Capricornia made some most extraordinary statements last week about the president of the Labour party in Queensland, Mr. Bukowski. I am’ a member of the Queensland central executive. I would expect that at least Government members on the front bench would have some decency, because to me this matter is vitally important. It is just as important to me to-day as a similar situation was to many of those members - not all of them, not the hillbilly boys who have just come into it - when they were faced with it in 1941. To me, it is a matter of vital importance. It is a reflection on the intelligence of honorable members when statements such as those made by the honorable member for Capricornia last week are made by men elected to this Parliament. For example, the honorable member accused Mr. Bukowski of being a member of the Mackay branch of the Comm’unist party in 1942. Let me tell honorable members that Mr. Bukowski was not in Mackay in 1 942. He was in Bundaberg, in the central district, in 1942 and had not been in Mackay for a considerable period. Whether a person can live in Bundaberg and be a member of the Communist party in Mackay, only the honorable member for Capricornia can say.
The accusation was made by the honorable member for Capricornia against the President of the Australian Labour party in Queensland that he was a member of the Mackay branch of the Communist party in 1942. I point out that Mr. Bukowski’s son was fighting and was killed in action at Kokoda while the honorable member for Capricornia was a conscientious objector. Mr. Bukowski and his son, who was killed fighting for this country, have nothing to fear in comparison with the honorable member for Capricornia, who sits back now and sneers, smears and sniggles.
As to the dispute in Queensland, let me say this: If I did not observe the Standing Orders, I would find myself outside; and, if I did it often enough, I would find myself permanently outside. If the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes) had not said the things he did, would he be sitting in the back benches or would he be sitting on the front bench to-night? Who put him on the back bench? He is only one example of what can be done when any one bucks the machine. What happened in Queensland was that somebody decided that he would not observe the rules of the Labour party, and he got what he deserved. Any man who is not prepared to be loyal and observe the rules of his party, no matter what party it is, deserves to be put out of it.
That is exactly what happened in Queensland. Mr. Bukowski did not put Gair out; he is only one member of the Queensland central executive. I am another member of the Queensland central executive. Because Gair refused to accept, obey and conform to the rules of the Australian Labour party, he found himself out - and it was not Bukowski solely who put him out.
I put it in all sincerity to members of this House that when matters of this kind are introduced and discussed here, the least we should be able to expect is that people will be honest, decent and truthful in their approach. But the honorable member for Capricornia comes here and, without any compunction, brands anybody he does not like as a Communist. I wish to tell the House that in 1942 Bukowski was a member of the Mineral Resources Committee. This was at the time when his only son was prepared to give his life for his country. In case the honorable member for Capricornia is confused about names, I point out that I am speaking about Bukowski, not Buluski. Mr. Bukowski was fighting Communists, and not with lip-service. He did not come into a sanctuary in order to attack the character of a man and not be game enough to say the same thing in the open where this man could defend himself. He was out on the job with other members of the trade union movement fighting Communists, not with his lips but with his fists. He took the physical risks that union officials took in their fight against communism at that time.
I know that I get a little “ het up “ about this matter, Mr. Speaker, but I find it nauseating when honorable members come into this House time and time again, assail the characters of men and accuse them of being Communists because they disagree with them politically.
How many times have we heard this great member for Capricornia, who has been offered a portfolio in a NicklinMorris government - God help Queensland if the honorable member is to be a Minister in the next Cabinet-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker, it is odd that the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) should select the year 1942 when branding me as a conscientious objector.
– Then what year was it?
– I happen to have in my possession a certificate from the Department of the Army which is dated 1942, and which classed me as being medically unfit.
– What a pity.
– Mentally or medically?
– Neither at that time nor at any other time would the Army take a man who had had his back broken twice. That happened to be the year in which I was put in a body cast with a broken spine. Immediately I came out of the cast, I entered the only service that would take me in my then medical condition - the Australian Red Cross Society.
– It might have been coincidental, but that was the year the honorable member mentioned when he accused Bukowski of being a Communist.
– That does not give the honorable member the privilege to accuse another man.
– Order! The honorable member for Capricornia will resume his seat for a moment. We shall have order; otherwise some honorable members will find themselves in another place.
Mr. Curtin interjecting,
– Order! The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith will cease interjecting.
– Having dealt with that point, I hope to the satisfaction of the honorable member for Herbert-
– Now withdraw the accusation.
– I am quite willing to show the certificate to the honorable member as soon as I can get it from wherever it is located at the moment, if he still doubts my word on that particular point; but I do not think he does. The point that I was making when I spoke last Wednesday night was that Gair knew when he laid down beside the tiger Bukowski, if I may use that word, that Bukowski was a Communist.
– That is not true.
– That is not true.
– Let the honorable member refer to “ Hansard “. I quote the following passage from a copy of the same paper that the honorable member for Herbert has in his hand or at least near him; because I saw him flourish it a few minutes ago - to declare that the Q.C.E. President (Mr. R. J. J. Bukowski) is not a Communist, as Premier Gair and his whoopers are yelping . . .
Now Mr. Gair comes along and says that Mr. Bukowski is a Communist. When did he wake up to that?
– That does not make him a Communist.
– Order! The honorable member for Herbert will cease interjecting.
– I know, but the point I am making is, precisely, that this Mr. Bukowski who helped Gair into office in 1955 has now turned on Gair and pulled him down. I have warned honorable members opposite that, if they take lip service from the Communists or Communistcontrolled unions, if they take money from them, sooner or later they will be torn down and utterly destroyed.
– Are you suggesting that the Australian Workers Union is Communist?
– Order! The honorable member for Herbert will cease interjecting.
– I repeat the warning that was given. The present position in Queensland, where there is virtually no government, has been brought about by the destructive attempts of the Queensland Central Executive of the Labour party, led by Mr. Bukowski.
– The honorable member for Herbert said that Mr. Gair had been destroyed or had to be put out of office because he failed in his duty as a Labour leader. How does the honorable member for Herbert reconcile that with his attitude when, according to the reports that are available, at a meeting of the Queensland Central Executive, he voted against the expulsion of Gair from the Labour party. How does he reconcile his attitude now with his attitude then?
– That is only a subterfuge.
Mr. Ward interjecting,
– Order! I warn the honorable member for Herbert and the honorable member for East Sydney that, if they interject again, it will be necessary to take action.
– There has been no denial of the fact that the honorable member for Herbert was one of 30 persons who voted against the expulsion of Gair. He kept his voice quiet until Bukowski cracked the whip and sent him a copy of this paper.
– You are a liar!
– Order! The honorable member for Herbert will withdraw that remark and apologize to the Chair.
– I withdraw the remark, but I wish he would stick to the truth. It is not true.
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw, resume his seat and cease interjecting.
– So we now hear from the honorable member for Herbert.
– Let the honorable member tell me that outside.
– Order! I name the honorable member for Herbert.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) put -
That the honorable member for Herbert be suspended from the service of the House.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The honorable member for Herbert thereupon withdrew from the chamber.
– I wish to refer to a matter that was raised by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes). I refrained from replying to him immediately, because I understood that another honorable member wished to discuss the same matter.
– Speak up! We cannot hear the Minister.
– The honorable member is not doing me any harm. All I want to do is explain briefly the facts that bear on import licensing as it relates to tea. The House will remember that tea was under strict control during World War II., and, indeed, after the war, for a different reason, until 1955. It was controlled by a Commonwealth Tea Controller during the war, and imported tea was handled by a limited number of those importers who had been in the trade before the war. After the war, when the Government wished to continue the payment of a subsidy on tea, which, as honorable members will recall, totalled, on occasion, £7,000,000 a year, the same kind of control was deemed to be necessary, and the same panel of traditional importers continued to handle it until 1955. Whether or not that is arguable, it at least explains why, until two years ago, the handling of imported tea was confined to a limited group of people. Since 1955, tea has not been controlled.
I can speak of licensing only with respect to the last twelve months. The intensity of import licensing in the last year is well known. All importers have been severely restricted. In those circumstances, the Government has felt that, although it was severely restricting the importing opportunities of business houses, it could not issue licences to newcomers in a trade which could be permitted within the set money ceiling only by further restricting the licensing and trading opportunities of those who were already in business, and who, of course, were already being very severely restricted. In the last twelve months, no new licences have been issued. There may be a few exceptions in relation to some commodities, owing to unusual circumstances, but, broadly speaking, no new licences have been issued to enable newcomers to enter into business.
That brings us to 1st April last. On that date, as the House knows, the general levels of import licensing were relaxed. A few days ago, the honorable member for Chisholm came to me in support of an application that had been made, or was about to be made, for the importation of some Formosan tea. To the best of my knowledge, that was the first application made by an intending newcomer in the tea importing business since the relaxation of import licensing restrictions, and it had the special aspect that it was a proposal to import tea from Formosa. As the honorable member knows, I indicated that I would interest myself in all that was implied in the application and I did so forthwith. I asked Mr. Crawford, the Secretary of the Department of Trade, and Mr. Rattigan, the senior officer who is in charge of licensing, to advise me on the policy implications. That is a normal thing for me to do, and I certainly offer no apology for having done it. Without direction by me, although I support what it did, since the application was supported and sponsored on the ground that there was to be a trial of Formosan tea, the department, at some level, made inquiries - very properly, in my opinion - as to whether Formosan tea was in fact being imported and was known in this country. It could not ascertain that from a better source than from people in the tea business. The answer to the inquiries was, quite simply, that Formosan tea was not being imported. Formosa is a country with which we have friendly relations. We hope to develop an extended trade relationship with it, and, on that ground, the department recommended to me, without any prompting, that a licence should be granted, in the terms of the request, for, I think, from memory, £3,000 worth of Formosan tea. The licence was granted in that normal way, and that is the end of the story.
It. is a matter for great regret that the honorable member for Chisholm should have announced publicly to the press, without consulting me, that I had acted contrary to the advice of the department. That allegation is not correct, and that is all there is to it. It is regrettable, but there it is. Having said that, I regard that as the end of the matter. It is as simple as that. The tea will be imported. If it proves to be desired by the Australian community, more licences will be granted in due course.
The fact of the matter is that we are licensing tea under the administrative control, which means that we allow into the country as much tea as is consumed here. But it is a different thing from having no control on the importation of this commodity, because it may be imported for two purposes - for consumption and for stockpiling. Where the Government licenses imports, for practical purposes without restriction, it retains the system of licensing so that our limited overseas exchange will not be frozen in the form of an accumulation of vast stocks which could have been built up only by using funds to the detriment of the importers of other commodities. Up to the present time, licences have been restricted, for the reasons that I have given, to the people who have been in the tea business for years. That is a policy which will not be continued. This is the first application since the relaxations of 1st April with respect to which we have found it possible to depart from that policy. The department is now in the process of trying to correct many of the anomalies that have arisen within the structure of import licensing. This is rather a long, difficult, and complex process, and the department’s efforts are being directed, in the first place, to correcting anomalies as between existing traders. As soon as we can get round to it - and we are on the point of doing so now - we shall extend the examination of this problem of the correction of anomalies to the issuing of licences to newcomers into the business. I hope that that may be done soon.
– Does the Minister really think that there is any necessity for import licences for tea at the present time?
– Only for the reason that I have mentioned: In our present circumstances it is necessary to license for the single purpose of avoiding excessive stockpiling in this country.
– That is bureaucracy.
– Of course it is, but it is bureaucracy within the limits of a money ceiling for imports; some controls are necessary. If the system provides for no control on a certain group of traders, and they are able to stockpile commodities, inevitably, tighter controls must be imposed on other groups of traders. The only purpose of our controls is to maintain equity in the treatment of Australian trading interests.
– But it is done by control, and that is bureaucracy.
– That is true. It has not been suggested to me that we should not work within an import ceiling, and if we work within such a ceiling, bureaucracy can observe no higher principle than the principle of endeavouring to deal equitably with all people who are in similar circumstances. That is the only motive behind these controls.
– Order! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . ..21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the House do now adjourn.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 29
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The question “whether sales tax may or may not be removed from cakes and pastry is a matter of policy for the consideration of the Government, upon which I am unable at present to make any statement, other than to say that the matter will be considered, together with very many other requests for taxation concessions, in preparing the next budget.
son asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1 to 3. I am unable to provide this information because radio-active isotopes do not appear as a separate item in the Customs Tariff and are not recorded separately in statistical returns of imports arriving in Australia.
Importation of Deep-frozen Fish.
n. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Canberra Office-cleaning Contracts.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
l. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What amounts have been paid out of Commonwealth overseas funds in each of the last ten years on account of (a) overseas remittances to relatives of Australian citizens, (b) travel expenditure, (c) interest on overseas borrowings, (d) shipping freights, and (e) any other charges?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The appended statement gives the information requested by the honorable member in his questions: -
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
I am aware of a claim of this nature, and following representations from State Ministers concerned, from saw-millers and from timber merchants, including importers, I convened a series of meetings in Melbourne recently in an endeavour to determine the facts of the situation. 2 to 5. It was clear from the discussions that the problems now confronting the timber industry have arisen largely as a result of local production exceeding demand, rather than from an increased or indeed an excessively high rate of imports. Some timber mills have been forced to close, but it is conceded that a proportion of these mills were “marginal” and unable to exist in an atmosphere of keen competition. Since my department assumed the responsibility for import licensing early in 1956, a number of representations calling for more severe restrictions on imports of timber have been directed to it. Embodied in these approaches was evidence that the native timber industry was capable of supplying a large proportion of Australia’s timber requirements. By the end of June, 1956, Australia was confronted with a deteriorating balance of payments situation. Because genuine exchange savings could be effected, import allocations for a very wide range of items, including timber, were reduced. The reduction insofar as timber was concerned was approximately 15 per cent. I must emphasize that the reductions were not imposed in order to protect the timber industry. Import licensing is not a protection device and has been introduced solely as a means of conserving our overseas exchange reserves. At the recent Melbourne discussions I pointed out to representatives of the timber industry that were they to seek protection against the competition of imports, they should do so through the medium of the Customs Tariff. It was agreed that the matter should be referred to the Tariff Board. I have already done this, and probably would have done so earlier had I been requested to do so.
t asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– My colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport has referred this question to me. The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The organizations known to the Government are -
The companies comprising these associations are -
The current freight rates for wheat and wool are -
Wheat is carried principally in tramps as distinct from Conference Line vessels, and the freight rate for this commodity moves according to the current charter rates for ships on the Baltic Exchange. These rates are of such a fluctuating nature that it is not possible to quote the rate operating for any particular year.
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The following answers have been provided by the Commonwealth Department of Health:-
All imported plants are subject to plant quarantine, the provisions varying with the type of plant, the country of origin and the estimated risk of introducing diseases and pests. Orchids are treated as nursery stock and may be imported by approved importers whose premises are registered for this purpose and under such conditions as are determined from time to time by the Director of Quarantine.
In accordance with normal procedure these conditions have been varied during the past five years. When orchids were first made subject to nursery stock regulations they were all fumigated upon arrival irrespective of country or place of origin. Evidence was presented by the United Kingdom Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, by orchid-growers in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and United States of America, that automatic fumigation was unnecessary for orchids originating in special orchid houses maintained free of insect pests and certificated to that effect by the appropriate Government authoriy. When this evidence was confirmed by inspectors in Australia, exemption from fumigation was granted to orchids so certified. AH orchids are still subject to inspection upon arrival, such treatment as is found necessary and are maintained in postentry quarantine until inspectors are satisfied that they are free from pests and diseases.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has now furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 May 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1957/19570515_reps_22_hor15/>.