22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. ASTON presented a petition from certain citizens of Australia praying that immediate consideration be given to the matter of increasing the rates of age, invalid, and widows’ pensions to at least 50 per cent of the basic wage.
Mr. HAYLEN presented a petition from 5,013 citizens of Australia praying that pension rates be increased to 50 per cent of the basic wage.
Petitions received and read.
Petitions praying that pension rates be increased to 50 per cent of the basic wage were presented as follows: -
By Mr. RUSSELL from 2,820 citizens of Australia.
By Mr. BRUCE from 2,800 citizens of Australia.
By Mr. CHANEY from certain citizens of Australia.
By Mr. LINDSAY from certain citizens of Australia.
By Mr. CAIRNS from 569 citizens of Australia.
By Mr. MINOGUE from 5,520 citizens of Australia.
By Mr. BURY from certain citizens of Australia.
By Mr. PETERS from 2,073 citizens of Australia.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether terms, or heads of agreement, in relation to the internal trunk-lines of the Australian air-routes system have been agreed upon between Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Ansett Transport Industries Limited, to which matter the right honorable gentleman referred yesterday. Will he take steps to ensure that such heads of agreement are brought to the attention of the Parliament before they are finally approved?
– To the best of my information, the agreement between the two companies has not yet been signed.
When it has been signed, 1 will consider the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Can the Minister advise the House whether, since the amendment of the National Service Act to provide for the ballot system, more youths are failing to register than formerly, and whether there has been any increase in voluntary enlistments resulting from applications from those who have not been immediately called up under the ballot selection and whose training has been deferred?
– Only one registration has been completed since the scheme came into operation, namely, the June registration, and there is another one in progress. The registrations for the June ballot were somewhat higher than earlier registrations, due partly, I think, to the fact that more people were liable to register; but also there was some indication of a greater readiness to register. It is rather early to say what the position is under the current registration, but indications are that at this stage of the registrations more have given their names in. That might seem to be contradictory of a statement, which appeared in this morning’s Melbourne press, by an officer of my department, in which he expresses some concern at the lag in registrations, but it is usual for us at this stage to give some sort of a reminder to those who have not already registered.
There has been quite a significant increase in the number of youths who, having been notified that they were deferred as a result of the ballot have volunteered their services. I think the number of those who have so volunteered is 537, of whom more than 300 have already been accepted and a decision is awaited in relation to a further 75. Some who did volunteer were not acceptable for various reasons, but the figures are considerably higher in proportion than was the case under the former scheme.
– I ask a question of the
Prime Minister:Is the right honorable gentleman aware of the high parliamentary traditions established in the House of Commons with regard to premature disclosures of budget proposals? Does the right honorable gentleman believe that such traditions should prevail in Australia? Is he aware of the extremely accurate forecasts in several daily newspapers some weeks ago of certain of the current budget proposals, particularly in relation to company taxation and depreciation allowances, involving taxation reductions of nearly £40,000,000? Does the right honorable gentleman regard these disclosures as evidence of impropriety, both on the part of members of the Government and of the press? Has he made, or does he propose to make, any inquiries as to the source of leakage of budget secrets?
– I am very well aware of the tradition to which the honorable member refers. I think it is an admirable tradition and it is a very great pity that it is not scrupulously observed in this House. I share in the condemnation of any disclosure, any betrayal, particularly of budget secrets, which has an effect on the business community and may give rise to speculation of all kinds. The responsibility, of course - as the honorable member rightly points out - falls in two places. There is the responsibility of the person who does this, and there is the responsibility of those who encourage such disclosures and benefit from their publication.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister relating to the legal costs incurred during the Royal Commission on Espionage. Has the Government at any time accepted any responsibility for the legal costs incurred by Mr. Dalziel during the hearing?
– The answer to that question is that we have not. The Government did receive an application from the solicitors for Mr. Dalziel for the recoupment of, in round figures, £600 for legal expenses incurred by him. We rejected the application, and for the best reasons in the world. I am rather surprised to find that those reasons seem to have escaped some memories.
Mr. Dalziel, together with a Mr. Grundeman, was represented by counsel, by leave, before the royal commission. As the royal commission pointed out, there was no actual evidence against Mr. Dalziel.
He might have, as was pointed out, followed the example in one other case, of simply denying that he had any responsibility for some rather innocuous passages in the celebrated document J; but through his counsel he chose to take an entirely different, course, for which, of course, he must accept responsibility, since it is inconceivable that counsel would go beyond the instructions, from a client. This gentleman, through counsel, proceeded to make a series of allegations of fraud and conspiracy against a number of persons. The examination of those allegations took a long time and added considerably to the expense of the royal commission. The royal commission, in a report of which I remind the House, dealt with these allegations. It made them thesubject of a special interim report. It found, in short, that they were groundlessand never should have been made, and that they were unsupported by any credibleevidence. The commissioners rejected the charges of fraud and of conspiracy. They had some pretty sharp words to say about the way in which these charges were pursued in the face of a complete absenceof evidence to support them. I have yet tolearn that when a witness before a royal commission chooses, through counsel, te make himself a prosecutor and to make allegations of fraud and conspiracy against responsible persons in this country, and fails ignominiously to support those allegations, the Government should compliment him by paying the costs incurred by bishaving made the allegations.
– The trouble is that you werea party to the fraud.
– The Leader of the Opposition still says that I was a party to> fraud!
– Certainly you were.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order! I must ask theHouse to come to order.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has given any consideration to the future employment of the pilots and other officers of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited after the purchase of that organization by Ansett Transport Industries Limited. T ask this. question because of the Government’s undoubted interest in the case, brought about by the fact that A.N.A. is now reputedly £400,000 behind in its payments to the Government of money borrowed under the Civil Aviation Agreement Act, and because the officers concerned were led to believe by the Government’s support of A.N.A. that they enjoyed security in their positions.
– It would be, I think, quite wrong for me to discuss the negotiations that are going on between two private organizations in regard to this matter. I can assure the honorable member, however, that the point that he has raised has not been overlooked by either party. In conversations that I had with representatives of the probable purchaser, particularly with Mr. Ansett, and also with others having some association with A.N.A., I pointed out that it was of great importance that this force of skilled persons should not be dissipated. I was assured that that was the last intention that existed in the mind of either the seller or the buyer.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. I do not know whether you heard the Leader of the Opposition, a few moments ago, accuse the Prime Minister, who was replying to a question about the Royal Commission on Espionage, of having been a party to a fraud. I ask whether that remark should be withdrawn.
– Order! The honorable member is out of order. The point of order should have been taken at the time the remark was made.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether it is within the authority of the Department of Labour and National Service to secure protection for those workers in the various trade Unions associated with the building industry against a strike, with obvious political motives, being imposed on them by the building trades group of unions in Sydney, especially as this is occurring at a time when any interruption in the building industry must adversely affect every worker engaged in that industry, particularly those engaged in the timber and saw-milling sections of it. f ask for this action to be taken because this stoppage is being imposed on the industry in callous disregard of the needs of the home builder.
– I take it that the honorable member is referring to a stoppage which occurred in Sydney. I am advised that this matter falls directly within the jurisdiction of the New South Wales Industrial Commission, the president of which, in commenting on the stoppage and describing it as an unwarranted and illegal one, has moved forward an inquiry he was making into an application for the de-registration of a building trades union. I gather that that hearing is proceeding to-day, and 1 feel that, in the circumstances, it would not be proper to comment further on a matter that is so directly in the hands of the president of the commission.
– I ask the Minister for Defence Production whether any definite decision has been made about the production of aircraft in Australia. If such a decision has been made, or is to be made in the near future, will the Minister give a guarantee that aircraft establishments in South Australia, in particular at Finsbury, in my electorate, will be given a fair proportion of any new work, since defence production work in connexion with aircraft has already been done at these plants, which employ many skilled men?
– The Government has already announced that the aircraft industry in Australia will be maintained and appropriately supported. I cannot speak as to Finsbury, which the honorable gentleman mentioned, but 1 shall go into that question, and if there is any information I can give the honorable gentleman thereafter, I :ba certainly give it to him.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. In view of the importance attached by the Government to the establishment of a regular brigade group, can he say what progress is being made in the formation of the group? In particular, can the Minister say whether the Government’s expectations as to the availability of Regular Army personnel are being realised? Can he give the House any information on the proposed location and equipment of the brigade?
– The honorable member properly described this matter as being of great importance to Australia and its defence. Since the Government announced the formation of this brigade group the press and members of the public have been speculating as to whether or not the formation of the brigade group would be possible. I am very pleased to announce to-day that the organization of the group is now complete. lt has, of course, received top priority in the Army, and its formation has been a big job which has affected every army unit in Australia. Up to a week ago 94 per cent., or 3,850, of the personnel of the brigade group had been actually posted; and the balance will be posted before the end of this month. While I am on my feet 1 should like to pay a great compliment to the Chief of the General Staff, the AdjutantGeneral and the general staff officers, as well as to the commands and the officers associated with this tremendous job. The job indeed was done excellently. I should also like to pay a compliment to the men, because the formation of the group has meant a good deal of interference with the family lives of Army men. The co-operation and assistance that has been given by the members of the Army in spite of all the difficulties has been magnificent, and I should like them to know that the Government appreciates what they have done. The brigade group will be under the command of Brigadier Anderson, who was, until recently, brigadier in charge of administration at Eastern Command, and will be assembled at Ingleburn. Further details of this important matter will be given by me to the honorable gentleman, and I shall also make a press statement in connexion with it.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service say whether it is a fact that Australian workers have been dumped on the unemployment market while this Government allows stainless steel to be imported into Australia? Will the Minister inform me whether it is correct, as is stated in the annual report of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, that production of stainless steel at the Newcastle plant of the Commonwealth Steel Company Limited has been reduced to 50 per cent, of capacity because of the heavy inflow of imported stainless steel? If the report is correct, will the Minister say who is responsible for issuing licences to import steel and also indicate the identity of those to whom the licences were issued? ls it the intention of the Government to continue to import steel while Australians are out of work and receiving the unemployment benefit, and does the Government consider such a policy economically sound and in the best interests of Australia?
– I do not know what the honorable gentleman has in mind when he speaks of workers being “ dumped “. Previously, I have given the House figures of the overall employment situation in Australia, and unless he contends that, as a point of policy, we should permit no imports of any kind so long as there is a fraction of 1 per cent, of our people unemployed, what he says does not make sense.
The issuing of import licences is outside my province, but I shall see that his remarks are conveyed to my colleague, the Minister for Trade.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Air. It has been suggested that Wirraway aircraft may be modified for agricultural purposes, such as the spreading of manure and crop spraying. Can the Minister say whether such modification could be undertaken economically, and secondly, whether the Government has a number of these Wirraway aircraft which could be made available if applied for?
– I am aware of the proposal, to which the honorable member has referred, to convert, for agricultural purposes, a number of the Wirraway aircraft that will become redundant for use in the Royal Australian Air Force. I believe that the proposition has great merit and is definitely practical. It is not directly my own administrative responsibility, because the conversion of the aircraft is proposed to be undertaken by an independent aircraft manufacturing company, and indeed the disposal of the aircraft would be the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Supply. I can, however, say that the Royal Australian Air Force will have more than 100 Wirraway aircraft becoming redundant during the next couple of years. Yesterday, in answer to a question, I said that the Advanced Flying Training School, which at present uses Wirraway aircraft, would be re-equipped with Vampire jet trainers in the course of next year. I am sure that it would be a point of pride with the Air Force to see that the aircraft which it no longer needs were handed over in the best possible condition for a purpose which we all regard as of great national importance.
– Now that the Australian Wool Testing Authority Bill has been passed by this Parliament, will the Minister for Primary Industry cause investigations to be made with a view to recommending to the appropriate authority that a wool testing centre be established at a suitable place in Western Australia, in view of the fact that the volume of wool production in Western Australia fully justifies the provision of such a facility in that important State?
– It was intended, when the bill was brought before the House and passed into law, that the commission which would run the wool testing houses should have an independent mind as to where the wool testing houses were to be established. I have no inclination to try to dictate to the commission just where it should put the testing centres. Nonetheless, as soon as officials and the chairman of the commission have been appointed, I shall make certain that the suggestion of the honorable gentleman is brought to their attention so that they can collect the facts and, in their wisdom, make up their own minds as to whether they think that one centre, at least, should be established in Western Australia.
– 1 wish to ask you a question, Mr. Speaker, relating to the many petitions presented in recent days praying for an increase in the rate of age and invalid pensions. Is there any way in which you can ascertain the total number of signatures that have been appended to the petitions so far presented? If there is, will you have the number of signatures announced to the House?
– I shall consider dishonorable member’s question, and supply him with the figures if it is practicable to do so.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service, in his capacity as Leader of the House, a question referring to persistent reports that members are seeking to have raised what is erroneously called their “ pension “. Knowing, as chairman of the Members’ Amenities Committee, that the traditional channel has not been used to approach the Minister, I ask him whether any approach has been made to him on the subject of superannuation payments.
– Certainly no approach has been made to me, nor am I aware of any such request having been received by any of my colleagues in the Government. When I announced that the Government had decided to increase the daily allowance for members while living in Canberra, I indicated that the Government felt that this should be the last adjustment of the kind in the life of this Parliament. As far as I am aware, that remains the attitude of the Government. No request of the nature indicated by the honorable member has reached us from any source.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that a by-election was held in South Australia last Saturday? Is it a fact that it resulted in a sweeping victory for the Australian Labour party? ls the Minister aware that, although it was a question of national importance, no’ results were given over the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s news service? Will the Minister ensure that the Australian Broadcasting Commission gives results of all elections in its news sessions, whether they are favorable to the Government or otherwise?
– The attitude of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to the information which it broadcasts through its stations is not actuated in any way by political considerations. As a matter of fact, the impartiality of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in dealing with such matters is often indicated to me by the fact that members on my own side of the House complain that certain prominent gentlemen in the Labour party get far too much attention. I am rather inclined to agree with that, myself, if I may say so, with respect. As far as the South Australian by-election is concerned, I did see, recently, that the Labour party won a seat there, but that was rather clouded over in my mind by the sweeping victory gained by the Australian Country-Liberal party Government in Queensland.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service consider sponsoring a group comprised of representatives of management and representatives of workers to make an overseas tour, there to investigate secondary industry efficiency, so that the representatives of the workers might thereby witness the spectacular benefits to be gained by greater productivity whilst representatives of management might better appreciate methods of efficiency in industry and the manner of implementing them?
– The proposal that the Government should sponsor visits overseas by groups of representatives of management and of workers to study methods of higher productivity and greater efficiency and matters of that sort, is not a novel one. It has been under consideration by us for some considerable time and has also been discussed within the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council. While the secretary of my department was overseas recently, he had discussions in the United States and the United Kingdom, which may be fruitful of results after we have a chance to study his report. It does not always follow that procedures of this kind which have met the circumstances of other countries - and I am familiar with what has occurred in the United Kingdom in this respect - are entirely applicable to our own circumstances. As the honorable member will be aware, the advisory council is acutely conscious of the need for promoting greater production in Australia and the suggestion that he has made will receive our further study.
– Will the Treasurer give the names of the private banking corporations which have been granted licences by the Government to engage in savings bank business?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is “ Yes “.
– Can the Minister for Immigration say why some English immigrants who are debarred from assisted passages under the Government’s immigration scheme, because of their failure to pass a medical test, are accepted as full-fare-paying passengers?
– If a person comes to Australia under an assisted passage we naturally require that he shall be at a certain standard of physical fitness. To ensure this, such persons undergo a rigorous medical examination before they are granted an assisted passage to Australia under our immigration policy. Any person who chooses to pay his own fare to Australia is, of course, outside the control of the Department of Immigration. If a United Kingdom national, holding a British passport, decides to come to Australia or go to any other Commonwealth country, he is perfectly entitled to do so.
– In view of the fact that a few minutes ago we heard the Minister for the Army laboriously detail how the Army took four months to mobilize 4,000 men, and pay tribute to those responsible for that work, will the Minister for Defence allay the fears of people like myself who wonder how long it would take to mobilize forces strong enough to defend this country?
– I think the position mentioned by the honorable member has been explained. I could not hope to allay the fears in the mind of the honorable gentleman.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry, by saying that whereas wages and salaries have increased in the past eight years by nearly 200 per cent. - from about £1,100,000,000 to £2,800,000,000 - farm incomes on the other hand have increased by only 60 per cent., or, if wool is excluded, by a much lesser amount. What positive steps can be taken to correct this disparity, to equip farmers to meet costs imposed by this situation, and to permit them to continue to carry out the vital role of providing Australia’s overseas exchange?
– I did not know of the figures that have been presented to the House by the honorable gentleman, but I was aware, of course, that the amount of money paid in wages and salaries had increased substantially. I should think that that would be normal and would be expected, because the country is becoming increasingly industrialized. Therefore, not only the percentage paid in wages and salaries, but also the gross payment would tend to increase. I think what the honorable gentleman wished to draw attention to was that the increase in farm incomes this year was about £50,000,000. This Government is always watching to see what it can do to further the interests of primary producers, and seldom a week goes by without their problems in one form or another being looked at. If it is thought that either longterm or emergency measures should be taken, this Government has always shown itself ready to take them.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that the removal last year of liver extract drugs from the list of pharmaceutical benefits is said to have adversely affected the health of many people, particularly pensioners and others in necessitous circumstances? Is it a fact that large sections of the medical and pharmaceutical professions are at variance with the Minister’s expert committee, which recommended exclusion of these drugs from the list on the ground that suitable substitutes were available? In view of the great controversy about this matter, will the Minister seek further advice, either from a good crosssection of medical opinion or by way of a referendum of practising members of the medical profession?
-I am aware that these allegations have been made; I am aware also of their baseless character. The fact is that the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, which is a highly expert body indeed, considered that extracts of liver should be removed from the list of pharmaceutical benefits and that vitamin B12, which is the active principal of the extracts, should be retained. I point out to the honorable gentleman that not only is vitamin B12 the active principal, but indeed it does not exercise any of the unfortunate side effects occasionally experienced with liver extracts. I point out to him also that the virtue of these drugs is found only in certain cases of anaemia; they have no particular merits for old age or, indeed, for any particular age.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question concerning the statement on civil aviation which he made in this House yesterday. As this statement covered a wide variety of subjects and as many members wish to express their views on some aspects of civil aviation, will the right honorable gentleman have the relevant papers tabled so that the subject may be debated?
– My colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation, who is in another place, made a similar statement but added to it some particulars which I thought would unduly extend the statement I was making here. I think I am right in saying that he is proposing that the whole matter - the statement made by me plus the supplementary matter put forward by him - should be printed and circulated. If in these circumstances any honorable member wants to promote a debate, no doubt the forms of the House will permit it.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I refer to the appointment some months ago of a committee of six Ministers to report on Australia’s transport problems, including in their consideration the reports that were tabled in this House by two committees, one a Government committee and the other an Opposition committee, in which recommendations were made regarding the standardization of certain railway lines. Will the right honorable gentleman advise whether the Ministers’ report is yet to hand and, if not, when it is likely to be available?
– I am not aware of any proposal that a committee of Ministers should report to Parliament; Cabinet committees usually report to Cabinet. We have given a good deal of thought to the problem referred to by the honorable member and, in the course of the budget presented last night, we have indicated a positive decision in relation to the important problem of the link between Wodonga and Melbourne.
Incident in Members’ Bar.
– Yesterday, the honor able member for East Sydney asked me a question concerning an alleged incident or brawl in the parliamentary refreshmentrooms on 22nd May. 1 know of no brawl, but it is a fact that a circular glass table top and a drinking glass were found broken. Inquiries were made, but it was not possible to find the actual person responsible for the damage, because the damage occurred after the staff had left. The cost of repairing the damage was £50s. 2d., and it has been met from departmental funds. As regards that part of the honorable member’s question which alleges that a senior Minister adopted a certain attitude towards press representatives within the building because of the incident referred to, if the honorable gentleman will supply the name of the Minister, the names of the press representatives concerned, the time and other details of this matter, I will, if the allegations concern the recognized privileges of press representatives within the House, inquire into them.
– I ask for leave to make a statement.
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney seeks leave to make a statement. Is leave granted?
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– The honorable member is asking for leave to make a statement.
– As I understand it, a member may ask for leave to make a personal explanation if he claims he has been misrepresented.
– Order! I think the honorable member is in order in asking for leave to make a statement.
– by leaveI rise to fill in the gaps which you, Mr. Speaker, have asked me to fill in. I was not present when this incident occurred, but I have heard reports about the brawl which took place on the morning of 22nd May. I amable to tell you also, Mr. Speaker, that I was advised by a man associated with the press that certain requests had been made to the press - the term used was “demands”. The pressmen were warned that if there was any disclosure in the press or any publicity given to this incident, their privileges and rights would be withdrawn. The Minister whose name was mentioned to me by this member of the press was the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt).
– I rise to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the right honorable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Quite obviously, Mr. Speaker, because I can tell the House that, if in point of fact any pressman - and I put it no more strongly than that - made any such statement to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) it was a complete fabrication. I invite the honorable member for East Sydney to name the pressman, and I will brand him to his face as a liar in this place and consider further what action this Parliament should take in relation to the pressman concerned and the honorable member for East Sydney for what I regard as a breach of privilege of the Parliament.
Mr. DAVIDSON (Dawson- Postmaster-
General and Minister for the Navy). - by leave - I desire to announce to the House that the Government has decided to proceed with the second phase of the extension of television services in Australia. This decision is in accordance with the plan for the establishment of television, announced by the Government in 1 954, that the extension of this new medium would be in gradual stages, the extent and the timing of each stage to be determined by the knowledge gained in previous stages and to be related to the economic circumstances of the nation. In this second phase national stations will be established in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, and Hobart. In addition, applications for commercial licences in these capital cities will be considered by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, in accordance with those provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act which deal with the granting of commercial licences. The considerable progress which has been made since television stations commenced in Sydney and Melbourne about ten months ago influenced the Government to proceed to this second phase of television - its extension to the remaining State capital cities. Further stages will be considered as circumstances permit in accordance with the same general plan.
Before making its decision, the Government specially examined the financial considerations involved. It seems evident that the revenue which will be received from the annual viewer’s licence-fee of £5, and the excise duty of £7 on cathode ray tubes, will ensure that the costs of the service are borne by those who use it, and will therefore impose no financial burden on the public in general.
The necessary plans for the new national stations will be prepared by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and the Australian Broadcasting Commission in consultation with the Broadcasting Control Board. Tenders will then be invited for the equipment required. Although a good deal of preliminary work will be necessary, it should be practicable for the additional stations to commence during the financial year 1959-60.
The development of the commercial service will depend upon the capacity of suitable applicants for licences to establish and operate stations in accordance with the technical and programme standards laid down by the Broadcasting Control Board. The board will hold public inquiries into applications from the four capital cities concerned, and will submit recommendations to the Minister. The final determination of the grant of licences will be made by the Government.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Audit Act - Finance - Treasurer’s Statement of receipts and expenditure for year 1956-57, accompanied by the Report of the AuditorGeneral.
Ordered to be printed.
– I lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
Sulphuric acid produced from sinter gas.
Ordered to be printed.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund sums for the purpose of financial assistance to the States.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. Harold Holt do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize the payment to the States in 1957-58 of a special financial assistance grant of approximately £23,800,000. The grant is to supplement the amount payable under the formula embodied in the States Grants (Tax Reimbursement) Act 1946-1948. In each of the last eight years, the Commonwealth has supplemented the amounts payable to the States under the tax reimbursement formula. Last year, the formula grant amounted to £154,645,000. In addition, the States received a special financial assistance grant of £19,405,000, which included a special allocation of £1,050,000 to Victoria. The total of the tax reimbursement and special financial assistance grants for 1956-57 was, therefore, £174,050,000. The precise amount payable in 1957-58 under the tax reimbursement formula will not be known until the Commonwealth Statistician completes his calculations later in the year. It is estimated, however, that the formula grant will amount this year to about £166,200,000. Therefore, unless the Commonwealth makes a supplementary payment again this year, the States will receive about £7,850,000 less than the total tax reimbursement grant which they received last year.
This matter was discussed at a meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers in Canberra last May. At that meeting, the Commonwealth offered to make a supplementary grant sufficient to bring the total amount available for distribution among the States in 1957-58 to £190,000,000. This is almost £16,000,000 more than the total of last year’s grants. As the amount payable under the formula is estimated at £166,200,000, this offer involves the payment of a supplementary grant of about £23,800,000. This grant is to be distributed among the States in the same way as the tax reimbursement formula grant, which for the first time will be distributed entirely on an adjusted population basis. I direct attention specifically to that.
With the concurrence of honorable members, I shall have incorporated in “ Hansard “ a table which gives a comparison between the estimated payments to the States in 1957-58, as authorized by this and the tax reimbursement legislation, and the total payments made last financial year. The table is as follows: -
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend section forty-six of the National Service Act 1951-1953, as amended by the National Service Act 1957, 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.
No new aspect of policy is raised in this amending bill. Its purpose is to put beyond doubt the intention which the Government had sought to express in its national service legislation last year, in relation to the conditions under which the period of national service training of an apprentice is to count as part of his apprenticeship period. It now appears that the provision inserted at that time has effects which were certainly not intended. The purpose of this bill is simply to correct the position.
It may be useful if I quickly sketch the background. Prior to the 1957 National Service Act, unless the Minister otherwise directed, the time which an apprentice spent on national service training did not count towards the period of apprenticeship. Where, however, a national service trainee had been employed in the service at his trade, such time was allowed towards the apprenticeship period; in all other cases the time had to be made up.
As a result of this arrangement, apprentices suffered some disadvantage when they could not be employed by the services at their trade. The matter was discussed at a conference between State officials concerned with apprenticeship and my department. As a result of these talks, I decided the rule should be that time spent on national service training would count towards the apprenticeship period, if, at the normal time of completion of apprenticeship, the apprenticeship authorities were satisfied that the young man could demonstrate his competence as a tradesman. At the time the National Service Bill of 1957 was introduced, two States were working on this basis; in the other States the changeover had not been made.
With the move from universal to selective call-up and the shorter period of initial training for future national service, the Government felt that the emphasis in the existing legislation should be altered. It has decided that, unless the Minister otherwise directs, the period of national service training will be treated as part of the contract period for the purpose of determining when the period of apprenticeship expires.
At a recent meeting of the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council, it was drawn to my attention that various interpretations were being placed on the meaning of the present provision made by section 19 of the 1957 act. I was asked to amend the act in order to make clear the original intention. There were later more detailed discussions between representatives of the employers’ organizations and the Australian Council of Trades Unions. The provisions made in the bill now before the House are the outcome. The purpose of the present amendment is, therefore, to make clear the original intention, and, at the same time, to deal more precisely with the transition from the former basis to that which we had intended.
The effect of the bill now before the House is, therefore, shortly this: For the purpose of determining the date on which a contract of apprenticeship is completed, all time spent on national service by a person who was an apprentice on 12th June, or is thereafter, will be regarded as part of his apprenticeship period. The 12th June date is, of course, the date from which the 1957 provisions operated. These provisions will replace those and operate back to 12th June.
With the transition arrangements, the bill aims to avoid any anomalies. Thus, those apprentices who would have completed their apprenticeship before 12th June, but for the fact that under the original law their apprenticeship period was extended by time spent on national service, will be regarded as tradesmen on 12th June. In the case of those who would not have completed their apprenticeship by 12th June even if a national service training period had not come into the picture, their apprenticeship will be completed at the normal time.
I commend the bill to the House.
.- The Opposition raises no objection to this bill. We are glad, as a matter of fact, that the bill has been introduced, because it overcomes a difficult position which had arisen as a consequence of the passing of the National Service Act 1957. The trade union movement had for a long time expressed its dissatisfaction with the prevailing practice that an apprentice who was called up for national service and spent three months in camp had to make up that three months at the end of his apprenticeship contract. He had to make up his lessons at the technical college or whatever institution he was attending and generally, by other means, overcame the lag that had taken place in his training. That was regarded as most unfair, particularly as those who were fortunate enough, whilst undergoing national service, to be doing the class of work to which they were apprenticed did not have to spend the extra three months at their trade.
For a long time the trade union movement stressed that the National Service Act should be amended so that time spent in training should be regarded as portion of the contract of apprenticeship. The Opposition was of opinion that the 1957 act did cure that position, but when it came into operation the provisions of section 19 caused a good deal of confusion. I think honorable members will appreciate that all apprenticeship matters are generally dealt with by the Apprenticeship Commissioner of the State concerned. Disputes as to whether an apprentice should receive credit for time spent on national service training during a particular year of his apprenticeship were frequent. A good deal of confusion arose in regard to the matter, and eventually it was found necessary to have the position completely investigated with a view to establishing a common rule satisfactory to all concerned. The States of Tasmania and Victoria had fallen in with the policy that was adopted by the Minister before the 1957 legislation was passed.
This bill makes it clear that a person who, after 12th June, has been working as an apprentice to make up the three months that he spent in national service training, and who, but for that training, would have completed his apprenticeship before 12th June, shall be considered as having become a fully qualified tradesman on 12th June. He will receive tradesman’s rates of pay as from that date. Those who would have completed their apprenticeship at some time after 12th June will not be required to work any extra period as an apprentice to make up for time spent in national service training. The bill has been brought down at an opportune time, and the Opposition raises no objection to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I should like to ask the Minister a question. I ask him to consider the position of a boy who would have completed his apprenticeship on 12th June, but who, because of the legislation in force at that time, was compelled to continue working as an apprentice to make up for the period that he spent undergoing national service training. Under the provisions of the bill now before us, his apprenticeship will be considered as having been completed on 12th June. Will that boy now be paid retrospectively to 12th June the difference between the rate of pay that he actually received and a tradesman’s rate?
– This amendment sets out to clarify the position as it was indicated in the earlier legislation. It is not intended to confer greater rights than existed then, nor is it intended to take away any rights that were deemed to exist at that time. Exactly how it will work out in terms of back pay, I am not prepared to say offhand, but I shall have inquiries made.
– By reason of this amendment, the boy will be considered as having become a tradesman on 12th June, but in the period between then and now he has been paid less than the tradesman’s rate.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order! The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith may not rise to his feet and speak while the Minister is speaking.
– Any entitlement that he would have had, according to our intention as expressed in the earlier legisla tion, will still remain. Nothing is being taken away from the position as expressed in the earlier amending bill. Various interpretations have been placed on that legislation, and this amendment has been brought down in order to clarify the position. I shall look into the matter, and when I have read the honorable member’s question as it will appear in “ Hansard “ I shall let him have an answer by letter.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 28th August (vide page 65), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Quite a number of honorable members spoke on this measure when it was before the House last week. They spoke mostly from the point of view of future exports of Australian wine. An examination of statistics of the wine industry, however, indicates how much it is dependent on the home market. The quantity of wine exported represents only about one-seventh or less of the total production. I support, to some extent, the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) when I say that the wine industry, besides accepting this government assistance, should endeavour to put its own’ house in order, particularly with regard to the marketing of its product in Australia. It has been pointed out that the standards adopted in naming or classifying Australian wines are not satisfactory. We have been told that the flavour of a particular brand may change from one week to the next. This does not induce the Australian consumer to continue to buy such wines.
Tn a recent survey of the industry, reported in the monthly summary of the National Bank of Australasia Limited dated 15th March, 1957, it was pointed out that consumption of wine in Australia has declined during recent years as greater quantities of beer have become available. To a certain extent beer and wine are competitive one with the other, but I believe the wine industry could learn a great deal from the brewing interests with regard to the retailing of its product. I do not uphold the pricing policies followed by breweries. Certain breweries have recently attempted to dictate to licensed clubs in certain parts of Victoria the prices that they should charge for bottled beer. Some of those clubs have decided, as a result, to purchase their bottled beer from other sources, because they refuse to be dictated to by the brewery interests. It must be admitted, however, that the brewery interests do attempt to fix definite margins between the wholesale and retail prices of their product. This is not the case with regard to wine. One may purchase a single bottle of wine in a shop for as little as 5s. a bottle, but if that wine is ordered on the table at an hotel one may pay for it no less than lis., or as much as 14s. or 17s. This kind of marginal rake-off must be detrimental to the sale of the product in Australia. Again, the large distributor’s profit does not go to the grape-grower. It goes to the middleman in the industry, and I would ‘ suggest that the wine interests ought to do a little more to set their own house in order, to establish, even if it is done co-operatively among themselves, margins between the retail price and the final price at which the wine may be sold on the table in the various hotels and restaurants. It seems to me that, unless this sort of thing is done, inevitably the trend pointed to by the National Bank in its summary will continue. That is to say, there will be an increase in the consumption of beer relative to the consumption of wine. So, it is up to the wine industry itself to do something about its economic destiny. I feel that it could be done reasonably simply, and that some attempt should be made to do it. Both sides of the House are in agreement on the measure, but the debate has given us an opportunity to air some of the industry’s problems.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 28th August (vide page 43), on motion by Mr. Townley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition does not intend to oppose this bill by vote, but it does intend to criticize it. It also intends to draw some comparisons between the treatment the Government has always been prepared, during its eight years of office, to accord to senior public servants and the treatment it accords other people who are equally dependent, in a different way, on the Government for their well-being.
The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley), in introducing the bill, said that it is designed to provide increased salaries to the holders of certain statutory offices, as specified in the First Schedule. Those officers are the Auditor-General, the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, the Commissioners of the Public Service Board, the Public Service Arbitrator, the Commissioner and Second Commissioner of Taxation.
The Government bases its justification for its action on the fact that in 1954 the Public Service Board granted increases of salary to all officers except those in the First Division. Those increases ranged from £230 for the lowest-paid officers to £900 for senior officers of the Second Division. The Public Service Board apparently had no justification for determining the salaries of officers of the First Division, or no right to do so. That all happened on 23rd December, 1954. Presumably, it was intended as a Christmas box.
In January, 1955, the Government introduced legislation to increase the salaries of permanent heads to accord with the Decern-^ ber, 1954, increases to public servants who were not First Division officers. The salaries of second-level permanent heads were increased to £4,500 under the legislation of January, 1955, and those of firstlevel departmental heads to £5,500. Following this there was an appeal from the decision of the Public Service Board to the Full Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and the Full Arbitration Court altered the December, 1954, determination, lt fixed new rates which meant an increase of £450 per annum for Second Division officers. This meant that senior officers of the Second Division who got £900 increase under the Public Service Board determination eventually received a total increase of £1,350 as a result of the Full Arbitration Court’s determination.
Now, the Government says that at that stage it took the deliberate decision not to increase First Division salaries pro rata with the increases awarded to other than First Division officers. It now says that it has altered that view because it believes that the margins between the salaries of the officers of the Second Division and those of the officers of the First Division should be maintained. In order to do that the Government proposes to give the officers named in this measure increases of £500 per annum.
To illustrate the difference between the way senior officers in the Public Service are treated and the way junior officers are treated I might add that, although the salary increase of senior officers went from £900 to £1,350, there were only two increases of the basic wage approved in 1956-57. One was an increase of £26 a year, and the other was an increase of £24 a year, a total of £50 increase for adult male public servants.
I ask the House to contrast the increases granted by way of basic wage adjustments with the amount of salary increases involved in this particular and special measure which we are being asked to help to make law.
The proposed increase of £500 under this legislation is said to be necessary to restore the December, 1954, relativities. The permanent heads covered by this legislation received increases under the 1955 legislation, and now they are to have additional rises. In 1955, judges received rises under a complementary bill, and other officers besides those mentioned in the bill now before the House also were generously treated. With the permission of the House, I shall incorporate in “ Hansard “ figures supplied to me by the Prime Minister’s Department showing the salaries of permanent heads of Commonwealth departments prior to 1st July, 1947, the salary increases granted by the Chifley Government on 1st July, 1947, subsequent salary increases granted by this Government on 1st January, 1955, and the increases to be granted, when this bill becomes law, from 1st July, 1957. The figures are as follows: -
I thank the House for its courtesy in granting leave to have the figures incorporated.
– Why not give us one or two examples?
– I shall, but before I do, let me remind the House that when the 1951 legislation was before the Parliament, the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) criticized the Government for paying large salary increases and thereby jeopardizing the ability of the States to keep officers of high standing in the State services, because they were being tempted to transfer to the Commonwealth by the higher salaries offered by the Commonwealth Public Service.
– Did the honorable member say that I did that in 1951?
– Yes, I think it was in 1951. The honorable gentleman may have criticized the Government in 1955, too.
– And I am coming in again.
– On 1st July, 1947, the secretary of the Department of Air received £1,400 a year. He is now to receive £5,000 a year. The secretary of the Department of the Army is to go from £1,500 a year, prior to 1st July, 1947, to £5,000 a year, and the secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department from £2,100 to £6,000 a year.
I think those examples will suffice. At the end of the war, members of the Parliament were being paid an allowance of £1,000 a year, and from 1st July, 1947, they were paid £1,500 a year. They had their allowance increased to £1,750 a year as a result of the Nicholas Committee report, and to-day they are being paid £2,350 as a result of the Richardson report. There is not a permanent head in the Public Service to-day who is not receiving much more by way of remuneration than is every member of the Parliament, with the exception of the Prime Minister and senior Ministers. As a matter of fact, junior and senior Ministers are receiving much less than are the permanent heads. That was not the position in 1947, and I submit that it should not be the position to-day. If permanent heads are to be remunerated as generously as they are being treated, then Ministers are entitled to much better remuneration than they receive. I say that in spite of the tendency of certain sections of the press to sneer at the amount which is paid by way of remuneration or allowance to Ministers and members of the Parliament generally.
A senior Minister to-day receives in all, including an expense allowance, the sum of £5,600 a year. A junior Minister receives £5,100, and the Prime Minister of Australia, the man who carries the full responsibility of government, receives a total of £9,850, of which there is an expenses allowance of £3,500.
– He would spend twice that amount.
– Of course, he has to spend much more than that. So the Prime Minister to-day is receiving no more than is the highest paid of the Public Service heads, and only £1,000 a year more than any other Public Service departmental head. That, too, I submit, is quite wrong.
Having dealt with the historical side of the matter and made comparisons in respect of the extraordinarily generous treatment that has been accorded to departmental heads over the past eight years, I should like to refer to the niggardliness of the Government in other respects. The whole basis of the case put forward by this Government is that it has to maintain marginal differences; that there must be an increase of £500 to certain important public servants to preserve the 1954 relativity, and that that has come about because the Arbitration Court raised the salaries of certain officers of the Public Service over and above what the Public Service Board was prepared to grant.
If we are to concern ourselves with preserving marginal differences, then I think the Government should apply the principle in other ways as well. Quite a lot of workers in this country believe that they are not receiving proper marginal rates of pay, and the Government always opposes every application made in the Arbitration Court, or to other arbitral authorities, the granting of which would permit the workers to receive what they regard as proper marginal increases. It also opposes anything that is designed to protect the existing marginal differences between the skilled worker and the unskilled worker.
We on this side of the House argue that, if the principle is valid, it should be applied generally, and that the workers of Australia should benefit as well as those who happen to be senior officers of the Public Service. I am not criticizing in the least the efficiency, the loyalty, the capacity and the spirit of dedication to their positions of most of the Public Service heads. I know that many of them could go to outside employment, but that they do not wish to transfer, even at salaries much more attractive than the rather high figures which they are now receiving. I know of two men who left the Public Service after the war, Mr. A. V. Smith, who was secretary of the Department of Supply, and Mr. Dan McVey, now Sir Daniel McVey, who was Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs. They were much missed in the Public Service, but they have rendered valuable service to Australia in other capacities. They chose to go, and they were entitled to go. There have been others.
– Don Hibberd, for instance.
– The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley) reminds me that Mr. Hibberd, a Treasury official, also left, and I know that other officers of the Treasury left the Service because they found better remuneration outside.
We think that the Government has been over-generous to the very distinguished officers covered by this legislation, whilst not being equally generous to workers who have been denied the cost of living adjustments, and for whom the Government does nothing before the Arbitration Court to secure a restoration of cost of living adjustments.
This bill is based on the fact that the Arbitration Court gave salary increases to certain other officers of the Public Service. The Government argues that, consequently, senior officers above them must also get increases. The Arbitration Court gave the public servants increases because of increases in the cost of living. Many members of trade unions that are registered with the Arbitration Court believe that the cost of living adjustments should be restored. The Opposition’s point is that the workers are still denied cost of living adjustments, but the highest ranking public servants are adequately protected in this regard. Age pensioners are dependent on money appropriated by the Parliament for their continued well being, yet they are to receive an increase of only 7s. 6d. a week, and they are to receive it at some time in the future. The officers affected by this legislation are to receive their increases as from 1st July of this year. The Opposition does not like backdated legislation, although members of Parliament did benefit from it on one occasion. We think that legislation should be passed by Parliament before increases of this nature are granted, and that the increases should be made payable as from some date after the legislation has received the royal assent.
The Opposition does not wish to debate the legislation at any length, but we are concerned at the fact that the Government has seen fit to say that the Auditor-General, who is receiving at the present time £4,500 a year, shall receive £5,000 a year; that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner shall have his salary increased by £500 from £4,500 to £5,000; that the Chairman of the Public Service Board shall have his salary increased from £5,500 to £6,000; that a member of the Public Service Board shall have his salary increased from £4,500 to £5,000; that the Public Service Arbitrator shall get an increase from £4,500 to £5,000; that the Commissioner of Taxation’s salary shall rise from £5,500 per annum to £6,000 per annum; and that the Second Commissioner shall have his salary increased from £4,500 to £5,000.
If the Government is prepared to grant these increases 1 suggest that it might look again at the provision in the budget with respect to the pensioners, aged, widowed, and invalid, and pensioners under repatriation legislation. If we do not make better provision for these unfortunate people it will be said, again and again, that this Government is a rich man’s Government, that it is more concerned with protecting the interests of those who are never at a loss to provide the bare necessaries of life, and that it is indifferent to the conditions of the great mass of the people. It would be wrong for any government to create that impression but, as I indicated in citing the figures that have been incorporated in “ Hansard “, that impression is current and will remain. Again, 1 say that we will not oppose the legislation, but we do not look kindly on bills of this sort. We think that no particular reason has been advanced, other than that relating to the marginal difference, to justify the expenditure of £500 per annum more on each of these officers, none of whom was receiving much less, if any less, than one of the junior members in this Government.
.- I rise to speak on this bill because the increases that were made recently in the salaries of public servants raised a furore in the press. I listened with interest to what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said in putting the Opposition’s point of view regarding these increases. It is quite easy to say, “ Look! We are increasing these people’s salaries by £500, or £10 a week “. It sounds a tremendous amount. But how many people realize that those who come into the higher income tax group pay heavy income tax? One increase proposed in the bill is from £5,500 to £6,000. The recipient of that increase is paying lis. in the £1 in income tax, so that a nominal increase of £10 a week in his salary will provide him with an actual increase of only about £4 a week. Of the increase of £500, an amount of £275 will go in taxation. In order to give a man in the higher income tax group a real increase of salary, it is necessary to make the increase a substantial figure.
It is quite easy for the Opposition to say that many skilled workers are not getting a fair return for their work. They are not carrying responsibility. That is the great difference. A person who carries the responsibility of administering an important department should be paid for bearing that responsibility. When they are not adequately paid, the heads of departments are attracted away from the Public Service by private enterprise. The turnover of the Commonwealth Government is about £1,200,000,000 a year, which is about the same as the amount invested in the Ford motor company in the United States of America. It is less than the amount invested in General Motors, in the United States, yet the president of that company receives about 500,000 dollars, or £300,000 a year. There is the comparison. Australia is becoming a big country. It is no longer a small country. People such as the Auditor-General, the Commissioner for Railways, the Chairman of the Public Service Board, and the Commissioner of Taxation, who fill very important and responsible positions, are entitled to fair reward for their work.
An increase of £500 a year sounds very big, but when £275 of that amount has to be paid in taxation it becomes much less. These men are receiving no other reward than their salaries, from which, in addition to supporting themselves, they have to make their savings. 1 do not think it is fair to compare a man who occupies the position of head of a public department, and who does important national work, with the pensioner or the skilled worker. I have a very warm regard in my heart for a skilled worker, but he has no responsibility when the time comes to knock off. Those of us who are in Parliament or who are heads of departments, are never free from the toil and worry of our jobs. I do not think that the increases in these salaries are out of proportion to the task that the men perform.
– I appreciate the contention of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) that half of the salary increase of £500 to be paid to heads of departments will go in taxation. But, just because a man happens to be the head of a department, should this Parliament give him a rise of £500 a year whether he deserves it or not? I want to criticize one of the high officers with whom we are dealing, namely the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. The bill provides that these increases in salary shall be retrospective to 1st July. The date, 1st July, rings a bell very loudly in my memory in connexion with the Commonwealth railways. On that date, I went to get into the train at Port Pirie Junction in order to go to Alice Springs. When I saw the condition of the railway carriages for want of oil, paint, or whatever they put on them, I said to those around me, “ When I see carriages in this condition, I am amazed that we have a Commonwealth Railways Commissioner who gets patted on the back as he does from time to time. If a private person were to allow the rollingstock in his business to get into such a condition in order to show a big profit at the end of the year, I think the shareholders would want to know what he was doing. But that was only the commencement of my experiences on that trip. At Copley we had to change from the standard-gauge railway carriages to the narrow gauge. When I was speaking just now of the condition of the railway carriages I was referring to those of the Commonwealth standard-gauge rolling-stock, not the narrow-gauge ones that might be going out of use. My wife was with me and we were told that we would be travelling in No. 3 sleeping car. We got our luggage out of the first train and went across to that car on the other train. I was lucky. I happened to have a torch with me because the carriage was in darkness. I asked my wife to wait while I pressed a switch in the car, but no lights came on. Honorable members can imagine what it was like, at 10 o’clock at night in winter, getting out of one train and transferring to a sleeping car on another train which was in total darkness, and trying to find our way in, as best we could, with the aid of a torch.
When we got into the car my wife wanted to take a tablet. When I looked for some drinking water in the car there was none. I went to the conductor’s end of the car, but was unable to get any. I turned on a tap, but there was no water in it. It seemed to me that something was wrong, so I went along through the train, until I contacted a railway attendant. I said to him, “ Look, we have to travel in No. 3 car but there are no lights in it”. He replied, “There won’t be any lights until about 1 o’clock when the engine comes on “. I said, “ What about water? There is no water in the car “. He said, “ There won’t be any water either, until the engine comes on”. There were three first-class sleeping cars and one second-class sleeping car with passengers in them and it was necessary to use a torch to light the way to the sleeping berths. It was very difficult for those who had no torch. Honorable members know how difficult it is at night, under normal conditions, to get into a two-berth sleeping compartment, dispose of luggage, change into night attire and get into the berth provided, let alone having to do it in the darkness.
I do not know who was responsible for that state of affairs, and I do not expect the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner to have to attend to these matters personally. I happened to be speaking to another passenger on the train about this experience. He was a man in public life and he said, “ This is a common occurrence “. I omitted to mention that when I looked for drinking water in the carriage I found a ring on the carriage wall provided to hold the water bottle. I found there a cork hanging on a chain, but there was neither water bottle nor water. In further conversation with my fellow passenger he told me that recently a high official of one of the State railway departments was travelling on that line and found conditions just the same. He said, “ I did not let on that I was in a high position in the railways department in another State, because I did not want to be identified with these conditions “. We stopped in Alice Springs for a day and there I met a gentleman and his wife from New South Wales who had travelled in the same car. He said to me, “ I have just been to the airways office. I want to book a passage back by air. Although we have return tickets on the railway we do not want to face that journey again.”
When complaints of that kind are made by passengers, the question naturally arises whether we are justified in saying to the man who is running the railways, “ You are entitled to an increase of £500 a year “, or whether we should say to him, “ You are the head of the department, and if you expect to get a rise in salary, or think you are entitled to it, you should show that you carry out your job in the most efficient manner “. From time to time members on the Government side of the House have compared the profits being made by the Commonwealth railways with the losses sustained by State railways. Let me say to them that if any State railways commissioner was in a position similar to that of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, having in service brand new engines and rollingstock which will not require repairs for some time, and also, perhaps, an open cheque with which to buy whatever is needed, he could very well say that he had something to be proud of.
Recently, the new line to Marree was opened, but I was not present. I am merely a member of the Federal Parliament, but I received no invitation to attend, although I heard that many persons were invited for no reason at all. It is just about time the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner realized that he is not entitled to all the credit because he can make a profit from running the Commonwealth railways. He has not to face the problems of State railways commissioners. They have to try to meet the expenses involved in running obsolete rolling-stock on railways that were built 50, 60 or nearly 100 years ago. Some of these have never been paid for. Sinking fund charges may have reduced the indebtedness to a degree, but heavy commitments of interest and sinking fund charges have still to be paid. We boast that we built the Commonwealth railways without going into debt and do not have to meet interest payments on worn-out rollingstock as the State railways have to do; but for that very reason the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner ought to be able to show a substantial profit.
I have no personal quarrel with the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. I do not think I have ever met the gentleman;
I have had no reason to do so, but when the Government proposes to increase his salary by £500 I am inclined to query whether that is justified in view of my experience on that railway journey and the comments of fellow passengers. I have no complaints to make about the staff on that train. They were both efficient and courteous, and they did their best with the facilities that were available to them. I hope that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner will read the report of my speech and that in future passengers travelling on the Commonwealth Railways will be able to enjoy decent conditions. I happened to be speaking to a lady passenger on that trip when my wife and I were at the dining-table. She said, “ I have come from South Africa. I am interested in the Australian aborigines and life in the Australian outback. I want to see just what life is like for people in the outback of this country “. I could not help wondering what were her impressions of the Australian outback when she had to make her journey under such conditions. Having to find her way to her sleeping berth in the dark would not be likely to give her a good opinion of the way Australian railways are run.
I have a high regard for the Commonwealth Commissioner for Taxation, and for other high-ranking officers in the Commonwealth Public Service with whom I have come in contact. I appreciate the point made by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) that if an increase in salary is given to these highly paid officers it must be substantial, because of the rate of income tax they have to meet. It is literally a case of the Government giving something with its right hand and taking a large portion of it back with its left. The Government is not consistent in making salary increases. I recall the consideration that has been given to members of this House. Years ago members who were appointed to a committee were given £2 10s. a day allowance. That allowance has not been increased although, as is the case with the salaries of the senior officers that are to be increased by this legislation, a substantial proportion of it is taken back by the Government in tax. Unless we are expected to do our work because we have a keen interest in it and believe it is helpful to the community, then we should receive more adequate payment. If the Government believes that increases should be granted to senior officers, then it should be consistent and grant increases to every one. 1 had not intended to speak on this matter, but when the claim was made that the salaries of these officers had to be increased to bring them into line with other salary increases, 1 felt it was time for me to mention these matters. I appreciate that if we want to keep efficient heads of departments we must pay them salaries in keeping with those paid to senior officers in big industrial concerns, but at the same time I do not think that these increases should be given blindly. For a long time we were fighting in the industrial field for marginal increases, but it was years before we could get anything. Ultimately, the Government said that whilst it was prepared to support a claim in the Arbitration Court for an increase of the margins of really skilled men, it would not support any claim for marginal increases for those who were not skilled. We all know what happened there. If the Government wants to be consistent, it should not grant increases to one group and refuse them for another.
As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said, we as a par.y do not oppose this measure. However, when I saw that the Commissioner for Railways was receiving a substantial increase, I felt the time was opportune for me to relate to Ihe House my experiences with the Commonwealth railways and say what I felt should be the concern of the Commissioner for Railways.
– I should like to enunciate two principles to be applied to any remarks I make on this bill. The first is that I believe the labourer is worthy of his hire. The second is that anything I have to say does not reflect in any way on any individual. I agree 100 per cent, with what the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) has said about the Commonwealth railway to Alice Springs. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) and the Government should look at this matter and, if the Commissioner for Railways cannot advance plans to overcome the problems, then the fault is his. A member of my family had exactly the same experience as that related by the honorable member for Port Adelaide. In fact, the “ Ghan “ should be rechristened “ The Gone “ because it is so far out of date. Everything the honorable member said about it is true. If all he said were doubled, it would still be true.
– And then call it the “ comical “ railways.
– That is perhaps the fault of the Commonwealth railways, but I do not know whether the Commissioner has applied for sufficient funds to improve the conditions. I read recently that diesel electric engines are now used on the “ Ghan “, but the track is such that it will not take the engines. The track is such that passengers cannot sleep and the pace of the train is slower than that of the jeep used by the maintenance gangers who drive alongside, wave to the passengers as they pass the train, sit down and have lunch, and then wave to them again as they pass the second time.
An increasing number of Australians go to Alice Springs instead of to the “ Gold Coast “, as it is called, and other places for the winter. Central Australia is proving to be most attractive to thousands of Australians, and I do not think that I am exaggerating. People like to travel by train, but, as the honorable member for Port Adelaide said, having travelled once on the “ Ghan “ they will never travel on it again but will take their return fare out by air. That seems to me to be a very great pity from many points of view.
Those comments arise because the salary of the Commonwealth Commissioner for Railways is being increased from £4,500 to £5,000. The move to increase the salaries of first division public servants to this height originated, I suppose, in the margins case. Following that, the Public Service Arbitrator gave decisions with regard to public servants. His decisions were taken to the Arbitration Court, which decided on a certain level of salaries for those in the second division, and the Government naturally wants officers in the first division to receive similar treatment. The salaries mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) show that the amount of the increase is only slightly less than the three and a half times that the basic wage has increased. Therefore, from the point of view of margins and the basic wage, it is somewhat comparable.
What I object to - I have said it before, I say it again and I will go on saying it - is the completely unsympathetic and critical attitude adopted by the Federal Government towards the States in regard to their finances. I have attended Premiers’ conferences as the Deputy Premier and Minister for Transport of Victoria, and time and time again under various governments - not always Liberal-Country party - I have heard the State Premiers castigated for not taking sufficient care of their finances. When they ask for more money they are given a certain amount, calculated according to a formula - lately they have been given a bit extra - and still told they had better go back and balance their budgets. When I was a State Minister - others in this House who have been State Ministers will have had similar experiences - I saw the salaries of the State civil servants thrown into a certain amount of dislocation and a great amount of disparity when compared with salaries paid to officers holding similar positions in the Federal Public Service. Neither the Public Service Board nor successive governments have paid any heed to the relative positions of the heads of Federal departments and the heads of State departments. A glaring example of heedlessness occurred when the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority was established. The salaries that the Commonwealth offered when it was seeking staff for that authority almost wrecked the Kiewa scheme, in Victoria. If State officers are offered higher salaries by the Commonwealth for the same work as they are doing in the service of a State, they will naturally go where the pay is higher, and no one will blame them for doing so. But it is not fair for the Commonwealth Government to criticize the State governments for the manner in which they discharge their administrative duties, and at the same time do all it can to wreck the economies of the States by refusing to keep the scale of Commonwealth salaries on a basis comparable with that of salaries in the State services.
A glaring example of what happens is to be seen in the proposal to increase the salary of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner from £4,500 to £5,000. What has that officer to administer? He has responsibility for the trans-continental line, which is traversed by a train that is known as “ The Camel “ because it runs from one edge of the desert to the other. He is responsible, also, for a line from Port Augusta to Alice Springs, which is partly broad gauge, and partly narrow gauge, the narrow-gauge section being traversed by a train known as “ The Ghan “, about which I need say no more, in view of the illuminating account given by the honorable member for Port Adelaide of his recent journey on it. The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner also administers a small, narrow-gauge railway’ between Darwin and Birdum, in the Northern Territory, and a toy railway between Queanbeyan and Canberra, which it would be more economic and efficient to discard in favour of off-loading passengers and goods at Queanbeyan for transport to Canberra by road. That is the sum total of the railways administered by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. I do not say that he does not do his job well, although I did not approve of his decision to buy from Germany the crack train for the transcontinental line. It would have been much better had lt been supplied by a works in one of the States. However, that is merely incidental.
I do not criticize the individual who occupies the position, but I cannot understand why the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, who administers such limited railway services, should have his salary increased to a figure £500 a year more than the Victorian Government can alford to pay the deputy chairman of the Victorian Railways Commissioners. The Commonwealth is responsible for the allocation of the funds that the States have at their disposal. I am sure that no member of this House would question the fact that the deputy chairman of the Victorian Railways Commissioners has a much bigger, more arduous, and more difficult job than that of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. No one can argue that one of these officers does a better job than the other does, because the Victorian railways, last financial year, made a profit on the basis of receipts compared with operating expenses, as did the Commonwealth railways. The Victorian railways system lost money overall only because it had to pay interest and sinking fund charges on the whole of its capital, a lot of which has long since been dead and should have been written off. I endeavoured to have it written off when I was Minister for Transport in Victoria, but, unfortunately, some one else decided that it should remain on the books. The Commonwealth railways, on the other hand, obtain loan moneys free of interest, and do not have to meet sinking fund charges. Perhaps it is jealousy on my part, as a former State Minister for Transport, to feel badly about that. The point is that the accounts of the Commonwealth railways present a picture very different from that presented by the accounts of State railways.
I have chosen to refer to railways because the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner is one of the officers whose salary is to be increased by this bill. I think that the reference to that officer should be omitted from the First Schedule to the bill. If any honorable member will support me, I shall test the matter in committee. If any one suggests that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner should receive more than the deputy chairman of the Victorian Railways Commissioners receives, I shall argue with him as long as he likes. The whole thing is unfair, and it is indicative of what is happening throughout the Commonwealth Public Service as compared with the State public services. The Commonwealth has all the money, and it decides what the States shall receive. Having done that, it tells the States that they ought to administer their finances in a way that will balance their budgets, although it proposes immediately to introduce a measure such as this, and to aggravate these anomalies and create even greater discontent in the State services - discontent which results in the best State officers transferring to the Commonwealth Public Service. Who can blame them for making the change?
I ask the Government, through the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley), who is now at the table, to give consideration to these matters in its proposed review of the Public Service, which I hope will be more comprehensive and more effective than that of 1950, which did not seem to go very far. I suggest that the Government ask the Public Service Board to take cognizance of the fact that its salary determinations are having a very disturbing effect on the State public services. I do not wish it to be thought, however, that I consider that the Commissioner of Taxation, for instance, should not be paid the salary proposed in this bill. The Commonwealth taxation authorities collect all the taxes, and there are no comparable positions in the State services. The Auditor-General, also, is entitled to the proposed increase, because he has a very much bigger job than do comparable State officers. As I have pointed out, there is no justice in, and no reason for, the proposal to increase the salary of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. I think that it is entirely wrong to increase his salary, and I ask the Minister for Immigration to eliminate from the First Schedule the reference to him. As I have said, it is a glaring example of an anomaly. I do not think that the job is worth £5,000 a year. As I have said, I do not criticize the individual who holds the position. I am merely dealing with principles. We shall have plenty of opportunity to discuss the Commonwealth railways later if we wish to do so. I strongly object to the proposal to increase the salary of this officer.
It is unfortunate, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, that more of us in this House have not had experience in State administration. Those who have had such experience realize much better than it is generally realized in this House that this sort of activity on the part of the Commonwealth has a gravely disturbing effect on State services. It is most unfair to State public servants, and it places difficulties in the path of State Premiers, who are ticked off by the Commonwealth Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) at Premiers conferences. I hope that the Government will take notice of these matters. I am becoming rather tired of raising them only to find that nothing is done. If the Government will not do anything on this occasion, I shall move for the amendment of the First Schedule to eliminate the reference to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner in order to direct attention to the glaring anomalies that result from the Commonwealth’s policy on salaries.
.- The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) at least is to be congratulated for bringing to the notice of this House the question of the efficient operation of railways on a sound financial basis. It is perfectly true that members of the Government parties have repeatedly criticized government railway undertakings, and stigmatized them as being socialistic. These critics then argue that government railways operate at a loss, but nothing could be farther from the truth, as the honorable member for Chisholm has clearly pointed out. Every government railways system in Australia is operating successfully, if one has regard to revenue compared with operating costs. All are paying their way. However, the accumulation of dead capital under the old methods of borrowing adopted by governments in the past presents a problem.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill. I have already allowed considerable latitude, and the honorable member is quite at liberty to discuss the responsibilities and the functions of the various departments administered by the officers affected by this measure, although he may not discuss detailed administration.
– I am merely referring to the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Chisholm. I do not propose to develop the matter any further, except to say that his statement that governmentowned railways pay their way, and function efficiently and successfully, is correct.
I wish to direct attention to another matter related to this proposal. If one listens to the argument of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) one wonders why the Government is worrying about adjusting these salaries or why the recipients bother accepting the increases, because according to the honorable member for Hume they do not get anything out of them in any case. I cannot accept that as a valid argument. The honorable member for Hume said that they do not depend solely upon their salaries, no matter how high they may be in terms of money, because all these gentlemen obviously would have considerable investments. The returns from their investments, according to the honorable member, would increase their incomes, so that their rate of tax would be much higher than lis. in the £1 and their net gain from these increases proposed by the Government would be very small indeed.
I ask the Government why it makes public announcements of the increase in salaries to a particular section of the Public Service without first of all consulting this Parliament. It seems to me a rather remarkable state of affairs that the Parliament can sit here for months on end without one word being mentioned of the Government’s intentions, but when we adjourn, so contemptuous is this Government of the Parliament that it then makes its announcements of what it intends to do and subsequently brings measures before the Parliament seeking ratification of something that has already been done. I think that is a wrong practice.
Who determines the salaries these men are to get? I understand that there .was some committee of the Cabinet which considered these matters. Would the Cabinet be regarded as an appropriate or proper tribunal to determine such matters? Who were the particular Ministers? What skill have they to determine such matters? Even the salaries of members of Parliament are determined by an independent tribunal, which is supposed to consider all the relevant facts, and then make its determinations; but not so in this case. This is a small sub-committee of the Cabinet which makes the decisions and which, in fact, does not advance to this Parliament any of the reasons for the increases involved.
It is said that the labourer is worthy of his hire, and I do not wish to make comparisons with what other sections of the community get from this Government, but it is obvious that the Government always has a bias in favour of those on the very high incomes, whether they are associated with the Public Service or whether they are other individuals outside the Parliament. While we are considering whether the salaries of certain high officials are commensurate with the work they perform, I direct attention to the Taxation Boards of Review. They are covered in this legislation, because the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley) said in his second-reading speech -
The additional provision under section 182 of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act is designed to cover ‘increased salaries and travelling allowances for the chairmen and members of taxation boards of review. The individual salary increase will be £750 and the new level of remuneration will be £4,500 per annum for the chairman and £4,000 for the members. There are three chairmen and six members of those boards.
Where do these three boards function? There is one in Queensland, one in New South Wales and one in Victoria. The one in Queensland, as all honorable members know, was created, not because there was any urgent necessity to have a board of review in Queensland, but because the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) had to reward his previous private secretary.
A position was created for him. He was made chairman of the Queensland board. I have a series of questions on the noticepaper, which I consider should be answered before the consideration of this legislation is concluded. There are fifteen questions in all, but I shall merely quote four of them as being very pertinent to the present argument. I have asked -
Upon what number of days did each board sit in each of the last five years?
How many cases were listed for hearing by each of the boards during each of the last five years?
How many of these cases were (a) subsequently withdrawn, (b) not proceeded with or (c) adjourned indefinitely in respect of each board in each of these years?
What duties are performed by board members during the periods between sittings?
If the House is expected to discuss the remuneration these men should get, those questions should be answered. It is a wellknown fact that these boards sit very infrequently. They do not deal with a great number of cases and some of the cases that are submitted to them are subsequently withdrawn. If it happens to be a matter of law it is referred to the High Court for interpretation. So, if one examines the actual time occupied and work done by these board members it cannot be argued that they are fully employed.
What duties do they perform independently of their duties as members of the board? I am given to understand that the number of days upon which they sit is relatively few. The Queensland board goes to the southern States and assists in the work being performed by the boards in Sydney and Melbourne. But these boards themselves are not fully occupied and it appears to me that this kind of expenditure should be examined before there is any thought of increased remuneration. I would like the Minister to tell me what the duties of these board members are between the sittings of the boards, and I press for an answer to those questions.
Frequently there is criticism in the press and elsewhere of the Commonwealth Public Service, the extent to which it has grown, and the cost to the Australian taxpayer. But the unfortunate fact is that the people who are doing the actual work of carrying on the Commonwealth administration in our Public Service are not being adequately rewarded. The unfortunate postman who slogs his way along his beat does not get sufficient remuneration for the service he renders to the community, nor does he get any reasonable allowance for the cost of footwear, which wears rapidly as a result of the conditions under which he works. So, I could go through the lower ranks of the Public Service and show that its members have to fight for what they get through their industrial organizations. In this fight they have the assistance of the political Labour party. But the officers for whom this bill provides have friends at court, such as the Treasurer, who arranged for his former secretary to be appointed to the Queensland Taxation Board of Review - a board for which there is no justification and the continuation of which is an unnecessary expense on the Australian community. The two boards functioning in Melbourne and Sydney could adequately cover any work that is performed by the Queensland board, and I think it is time the Commonwealth Government embarked on an examination of the machinery of government in this country. I am not in favour of wholesale dismissals of staff, because the people who are usually affected by such economy stunts are really the ones who are doing the work, and accordingly the efficient administration of Commonwealth departments suffers. I do not refer to that at all; but it is well known that when a new position is created in the Commonwealth Public Service, perhaps because some Minister wants to reward a loyal supporter or member of his staff, that is not the end of it. Immediately a great structure begins to rise because it is desired to create an impression of the importance of the work that is being undertaken. Therefore, I join with other honorable members in their criticism of this measure. The Government should not wait until the parliamentary sessional period has finished before making such important pronouncements as this one, and then expect us automatically to ratify them, depending on its predominant numbers in the Parliament. Such an attitude is contemptuous of the Parliament. These important announcements should be made while the Parliament is in session. Before the Government makes a public pronouncement we should be given an opportunity to discuss and pass judgment on it.
.- This bill provides for increases in the salaries of several highly placed public servants. It provides for an increase in the salaries of the Commissioner of Taxation and the Chairman of the Public Service Board from £5,500 to £6,000, and of the Second Commissioner of Taxation, the members of the Public Service Board, the Auditor-General, the Public Service Arbitrator and the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner from £4,500 to £5,000. The only general criticism I would make of the bill is that we always seem to take piecemeal the adjustments of the incomes of those persons who depend on this Parliament for their incomes. We have a special bill for the salaries of members of Parliament, and another special one for their retiring allowances. We have a special bill for the salaries of public servants, and another one for their superannuation. We have a special one for the judges and another for the statutory officers mentioned in the bill before us. Then, of course, when we consider the greatest number of people in the community who depend entirely on this Parliament for their incomes - the pensioners - we deal with them separately again. Another very large and deserving section of the community, the members of which depend principally on this Parliament for their income - the war pensioners - is again dealt with differently. Surely it would be reasonable to assess, at regular intervals and on regular principles, the income needs of all people in Australia and its territories who rely on this Parliament for their incomes, and to remove these assessments, as far as possible, from individual temporary political exigencies. There could be no objection if all these matters were dealt with together, at the one time. There will always be objections, and valid objections, if they are dealt with piecemeal and spasmodically.
I rise specifically to comment on the alteration in the salary of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. In the contributions that have been made to this debate, this officer is the only one who has been singled out for particular attention, and I believe that a somewhat one-sided picture has been presented. I promptly apologize to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for not being able to give so diverting an account of the gentleman as did the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson), or so polished an excoriation of him as was given by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes).
My contribution, I regret to say, will be drab, but it may have the virtue of being factual.
– I think mine was factual.
– It was factual as far as it went; I will concede that. It is true that the Commonwealth railways have certain advantages that are not enjoyed by the other railway systems in Australia. They are the only railways which are completely modern in their equipment. They at present operate nothing but diesel locomotives, and nothing but bogie freight wagons. The State railways and the few private railways in the country, which, of course, are the worst-run railways in Australia - I refer to such systems as the Midland Railway Company of Western Australia, South Maitland Railways Proprietary Limited and the Silverton Tramway - ail have more archaic vehicles, in some cases even the passenger carriages not being bogie vehicles. But let us concede that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner and his staff have the immense advantage of having uptodate vehicles and locomotives. Let us then look at the disadvantages which the Commissioner suffers. He operates a system which, as I have said before, runs from nowhere to nowhere. His whole business has to come hundreds of miles from the coast, at Adelaide or at Perth, before he can get any of it, whether it be passengers or freight.
– Port Pirie is on the coast.
– The head-quarters are at Port Augusta.
– Very true, but I have yet to learn that in this day and age passenger vessels go to Port Pirie or Port Augusta, or that goods to be transported by the trans-Australia railway are unloaded at those two places.
Some inaccurate statements have been made as to the circumstances under which the Commonwealth railways operate. It has been said that they are free of interest burdens, and that all their capital equipment was provided from revenue. That is two-thirds correct.
Order! I do not know whether the honorable member was in the chamber when I ruled that the departments could not be surveyed in detail in this manner. If the honorable member deals with the functions and responsibilities of the Commissioner he will be in order, but not if he roams too far away from that subject.
– I certainly was not seeking to trespass on your indulgence any further than earlier speakers, who did in fact mention this very matter of interest payments. I submit that the circumstances in which the Commissioner has to operate, where he gets his capital from, how he repays it or whether he has to do so, are certainly subjects that have previously been mentioned in the debate on this bill and are relevant to it. lt will take very little time to give the figures, and since they have not previously been cited, let me round off that section of the argument. At 30th June. 1956, the capital of the Commonwealth railways consisted of £11,617,019 from loans, which were subject to interest and National Debt Sinking Fund charges and £21,958,672 from funds provided from revenue. The report for the financial year 1955-56 indicates that in that year the interest payments payable by the Commissioner amounted to £406,672, and amounts of loan redemptions to £19,000. Therefore, some of the problems that face other railway commissioners also confront the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner.
Let me put to the House the real difficulties under which this Commissioner operates, and, since the comparison has been made with the State commissioners, let me point out some of the difficulties that apply in the case of the Commonwealth Commissioner, but not in the case of any of the State commissioners. He has to provide accommodation, provisions and education for the families of the hundreds of people employed on the trans- Australian railway. As far as the State commissioners are concerned, those things are provided by the general community in which they conduct their enterprises. Secondly, the Commonwealth Commissioner has to deal, for practically all of his business, with the State commissioners, because, except in a few cases with which I shall deal presently, all his business has to come over the South Australian railways, and. in some cases, the New South Wales and Victorian railways, to or from Port Pirie, and over the Western Australian railways to or from Kalgoorlie. It requires statesmanship and diplomacy of no mean order, as every honorable member in this House realizes, to deal with State governments and State officials. For every penny that he makes, he has to haggle with the State commissioners on the question of what percentage of the fare or freight rate he will get for his system. There are the most prolonged hagglings on matters such as whether the freight rate is to be adjusted according to the number of wagons that have to be used on the Western Australian railways to carry what one wagon will carry on the Commonwealth railways, or whether the whole fare or freight from Perth to Adelaide will be charged - because one knows quite well that the State commissioners insist on a higher rate of fare or freight being charged for passengers or goods carried between points between Perth and Adelaide than they allow to be charged for passengers or freight that go the whole distance between Perth to Adelaide. The Commonwealth Commissioner is constantly faced with the policy that the State commissioners, under the direction of their governments, have pursued for a century, the policy of bringing goods and passengers to the State capitals, to centralize administration, politically and commercially, in those capitals.
Let us pay tribute to this Commissioner for the skill with which he has carried out his task, because he is the only commissioner in Australia who has been able to keep his costs per ton or per mile at a constant figure for the last twenty years. In every other case, the costs have increased several times over. Let us pay tribute to him also for being the only commissioner who has been able to attract increased business. In every State, the same tonnage is being carried by the railways as was being carried before the war, if, indeed, it is not a lesser tonnage. From memory, I believe that the Commonwealth railways are carrying ten times the tonnage that they carried before the war. Let us pay tribute to him also for the fact that he alone among the railway commissioners in Australia has had the vision to press for dieselization and air-conditioning, and at a time when the only air-conditioned train in Australia was the Spirit of Progress, and when no railway at all had a diesel locomotive, he was pressing for complete airconditioning of passenger vehicles and complete dieselization. This was at a time. let me admit, when in my own State of New South Wales we were still ordering and putting into service steam locomotives of the Garrett type.
– The Victorian Government was first in the field with diesel-electric locomotives, and then the Commonwealth Government followed.
– I thank the honorable gentleman for the correction, because I know that among the Ministers for Transport in the States in the late 1940’s, he did have a thoroughly forward-looking policy. It is a great pity he did not get from the States the co-operation he sought on the standardization of gauges and equipment.
– Hear, hear!
– I am pleased to hear my colleague, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who was the Commonwealth Minister for Transport at that time, interject “ Hear, hear! “ Let us be fair to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. It was he who urged on the Chifley Government and on the present Government that railway equipment should be thoroughly modernized. One honorable member seems to think that the credit belongs to somebody else but, speaking from memory, I think the present Commissioner was appointed in 1948, and was in office at the time when the orders for diesel locomotives were placed in either America or in Sydney, and when the orders for rolling-stock were placed in Germany. In 1948, he sought authority for the expenditure of the dollars involved in this capital outlay, but the authority was not actually granted until the 1949-50 budget was presented. I think the honorable member for East Sydney can take some credit for having done what he could to see that that authority was given for expenditure to produce the first thoroughly modernized rail system in Australia.
It was also the present Commissioner, I think who initiated the pick-a-back system in the Australian railways for carrying on big rail wagons motor vehicles from one terminal to another. It is actually cheaper for road hauliers to travel from Adelaide to Perth by driving to Port Pirie, having their vehicles loaded on a wagon and taken by rail to Kalgoorlie, and then getting the drivers to drive the vehicle from there to Perth paying the driver’s fare on the train. It is, in fact, cheaper to do that than either to send the goods the whole distance by rail or by truck. This is a technique which is used in America, but only the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner carries it out here.
Let me end my speech by referring to the last of the tasks this Commissioner has to undertake. This Parliament has passed statutes pursuant to its powers under the Constitution in order to enable the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner to carry on the Commonwealth function of standardization. The future of this great field of transport depends on the standardization of gauges and the standardization of rolling-stock, and this is the man who has to try to do it. Until now he has been asked to make bricks without straw. He has carried the torch to ensure that our railways which, over long distances, provide the most economical transport for bulk freights, as is the case anywhere in the world, are kept up to date. He has done his best to see that the railways are modernized and in a position to make their great contribution towards lowering transport costs, which are the most unpardonable and excessive costs with which the Australian economy is burdened. I think it is grossly unfair to single out one officer for discrimination in this debate. It has been amusing, in a way. I enjoyed listening to the honorable members who preceded me on this subject, but it is invidious to single out for criticism one man who has done a good job for this Parliament and this country.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
– I wish to know whether the Minister intends to deal with some of the comments made in regard to this bill. I wish also to point out that I did not say that the labourer was not worthy of his hire. What I said was that a labourer in the federal vineyard is not worthy of a higher pay for doing a lesser job than is done by a labourer in a similar vineyard in the State sphere.
– Order! Clearly that would not come under clause 1.
– I thought that the Minister might take the opportunity to reply to the various questions asked and the various comments made during the second-reading debate. One thing I want to know is whether the Government intends to ask the Public Service Board to consider a point that is brought up by this bill, which is the fact that it upsets the whole of the salaries range in respect of State administrative officers by not taking the inevitable results of its actions into account when it makes its decisions. 1 have raised this matter on two previous occasions and have never had a reply. I should like a reply on this occasion.
– I have made notes of the relevant comments made in this debate, and they will be conveyed to the correct quarter. The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), has made a serious charge which involves enormous implications and complications. It brings to the fore the question of CommonwealthState relationships. However, whilst it is completely relevant to the subjectmatter of the bill, I doubt whether this is the proper time or place to determine the matter he has raised. As I said before, I made a note of all the points that I considered to be important, including that made by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes). I give him an assurance that it will not be overlooked. The honorable member stated that he had mentioned this principle on repeated occasions previously, and that nothing had been done about it. AH I can do is to assure him that what he has said in the course of the debate while I have been present this afternoon will be conveyed to the Government, including the Prime Minister.
– In view of the Minister’s assurance, I do not wish to continue to discuss the matter, or to take any further action. I know the Minister very well; he has given an assurance, and I am sure that it will be carried out.
– Does the Minister suggest that his remarks cover all the points that have been made during the debate?
– Yes, all the relevant ones.
.- Does the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley) regard it as irrelevant that an allegation has been made, based on information furnished to me, that there is no necessity to maintain three taxation boards of review, and that they are not fully employed? If the reply to my questions on notice had preceded this debate, 1 am certain that the travelling costs and other costs of maintaining the Queensland board, which frequently has been “ assisting “ - which is the term used - the southern boards, would have astounded even the Minister himself. I suggest that it is most relevant, when we are dealing with the question of increasing salaries, to decide whether the positions to which the salaries apply should be retained or whether there should not be some review by the Government of the taxation boards of review themselves.
I have asked, by means of questions on the notice-paper, about the functions of these members between sittings, and the amounts that they collect in the way of travelling allowance. I think that if the Minister examined the matter he would find that the members of these boards of review, who have certain rights in regard to sick leave and so on, always see to it that they are absent for close to the maximum period for which they may receive payment. I believe that this is a rather important matter, and I hope that the Minister will include it in the matters to be considered.
– The point made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has been noted by me, but I am bound to say that the impression I have gained from people who come in contact with the taxation boards of review is that the boards have so much work to do that they cannot deal with all the cases that arise. The constant complaint of those concerned is that their affairs are held up because they cannot get replies from the taxation boards of review and that they cannot have matters before the boards expedited. As I say, I have noted the point raised by the honorable member, and it will be considered.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 (Commencement).
– Why are we legislating retrospectively for these salary increases? We do not do so with other payments that are included in the budget. I know that we did it in connexion with our own parliamentary travelling allowances, but I thought that that was a very bad principle and I think that the vast majority of honorable members will admit that it is a bad principle to date these increases back. I can only say that I am very sorry to see that it is again being given effect in this bill. As I say, it is not adopted in relation to any of the altered payments covered by the budget, such as increases of war pensions, and I think it is wrong that it should be done in this instance. I hope that it will not be taken as a precedent. I do not expect that the Government will alter the practice, but it ought to do so. I believe that these increases should come into operation on the day on which the bill is passed by the Parliament.
– The first reason for the retrospectivity is that 1st July is the beginning of a new financial year, and there are obvious administrative advantages in having the increases operate from that date. The second point is that, at the time that this matter was discussed, Parliament was not in session, and this is the first opportunity to bring it before the Parliament. It was thought that, as these increases were designed to restore the relativity between the salaries of permanent heads of Commonwealth departments and the heads of statutory bodies, it would be fair to do so as from 1st July, particularly as the relativity has been a little out of order since 1955.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
Schedules - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 28th August (vide page 43), on motion by Mr. Townley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- According to the words of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley) in his second-reading speech, the main purpose of this bill is to change the method of determining the remuneration and allowances of the commissioners of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. At the present time, the salaries of the commissioners are determined by the Parliament, but this bill proposes that the remuneration, as the payment will be called, shall be determined by the GovernorGeneral in Council which, of course, means the Executive, or the Government. The Minister, in justifying this proposal, points out that it is a common procedure for the remuneration of members of similar bodies to be fixed by the Executive and that it is a cumbersome and out-of-date method for the Parliament to have to consider such questions.
I believe that this bill takes yet another matter - and, I think, an important one, as I propose to show - out of the hands of the Parliament and places it in the hands of the Executive, the Government, or perhaps a section of the Government. That has been justified as a trend in legislation, and I think it is true to say that it is a trend in the legislation of this Government. It has been justified on the ground that it is a cumbersome and out-of-date method for the Parliament to consider questions of this kind, but I believe that there is an increasing number of matters which the Government regards as cumbersome and outofdate for the Parliament to consider.
It is true that the Commonwealth Grants Commision Act which, I think, was passed in May, 1933, provided that the GovernorGeneral, or the Executive, had power to appoint members of the commission, and it therefore might appear logical that, as the Executive had power to appoint, it also should have power to fix the remuneration of those whom it appointed; but it has taken 24 years for this amendment to be made, and I wish to ask why it has taken so long. Before doing so, however, I want to refer to another point which seems to be embodied in this bill, and perhaps it is the only other point of a definite nature in it. Clause 4 of this bill substitutes for the term “ salary “ the term “ remuneration “. I am not quite clear about the difference between “ salary “ and “ remuneration “. I still remain unclear on that point after I have searched through this dictionary, which is of considerable size. It says that to remunerate is “to repay, reward, recompense … To pay, reward, compensate “. Then it goes on to say of remuneration, “ That which remunerates, repays, or compensates, payment, wages, salary”. So presumably, “ remuneration “ means “ salary “. When I turn to the meaning of “ salary “ I find that the word would appear to have originated in the payment of a salt allowance to soldiers, and that the phrase “ worth your salt “ appears to derive from that fact. But there is no clearly separated meanings for the two words. Presumably, somewhere in the departmental jargon, there is a difference between “ remuneration “ and “ salary “. I should be interested to know from the Minister what that difference is.
The point of greater substance that I think is involved in this bill concerns the transfer of the whole power from this Parliament to the executive in relation to the Commonwealth Grants Commission. I am not sure that I am in agreement with the provision in the original act that members of the commission should be appointed by the executive. I think that the Commonwealth Grants Commission is a body of sufficient importance for its members to be appointed by this Parliament, and also for the salary or remuneration of its members to be fixed by this Parliament.
As I have said, it has taken us 24 years to get around to making this amendment affecting the remuneration of the members of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Perhaps this is an indication of the declining importance of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. If the importance of the commission is declining, I suggest that we should seek the reason. The determination of the salary of members of the Commonwealth Grants Commission should not be transferred from Parliament to the executive, because the Commonwealth Grants Commission is an extremely important body. Perhaps its declining importance is shown by the fact that in this year’s accounts, £247,000,000 has been made available to the States by methods other than through the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Only £19,500,000 has been made available through the commission itself. That is to say, less than 8 per cent, of the funds made available by the Commonwealth to the States is made available through the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Is this a measure of the declining importance of the Commonwealth Grants Commission? If so we are, I suggest, making a mistake.
There are several points that I should like to stress about the Commonwealth Grants Commission. First of all, there has been an increasing tendency for the Commonwealth to acquire control over the raising and spending of the revenue of this country. The allocation of that money to the States is mainly,- as I have suggested, an allocation which is outside the scope of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. But, over the past 25 years, the Commonwealth Grants Commission has developed a set of principles and an experience which is extremely valuable in the determination of how this money can be allocated between the States. I think that Parliament should make greater use of the experience of this commission. The tendency to pass complete control of the Commonwealth Grants Commission to the executive is not consistent with an attempt by Parliament to make use of the experience of the commission in a more extensive fashion.
I suggest that it is insufficient to consider this matter in terms of the return of taxation powers to the States. The deadlock which has recently been reached in court judgments in this matter shows that nothing more is to be gained from further efforts of that sort. The real problem with which we have to wrestle is the question of how much of the revenue raised by the Commonwealth shall be allocated for State and Commonwealth purposes. Recently, Professor Prest, a member of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, discussed this problem at length in a Joseph Fisher memorial lecture in commerce at the University of Adelaide entitled “ The Economics of Federal-State Finance “. I suggest that this lecture might be taken into account when the relative importance of the Commonwealth Grants Commission is being determined.
Several points concerning the principles and experience of the Commonwealth Grants Commission are set out in the third report of the commission on pages 31 to 39, and these might also be taken into account. The report sums up the position by stating that the making of special grants over which the commission has no control is only an extension of the normal system. Therefore, I suggest that this trend, which the Minister attempted to justify when introducing this legislation, is one about which we should have second thoughts. The method of determining the salaries of the members of a body of such importance as this should not be regarded as too cumbersome a matter to be dealt with by the Parliament.
The bill contains very little of detail, but I suggest that the Minister might very well consider the points that I have mentioned. At this stage, it is obviously far too late for any re-consideration of the essential principles involved in the bill but, that being the case, it adds weight to the numerous other cases of a very similar nature in which matters have been brought to this Parliament involving a decision which could not be revoked or easily changed. I think that this, in itself, is an unfortunate tendency, as the Opposition has mentioned in discussing legislation previously before the House. I should like to stress the importance of these points, and ask that the Minister and the Government consider them.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Snedden) adjourned.
– toy leave - Since the AuditorGeneral’s report was tabled to-day, I have had the opportunity to read those sections of it which relate to the St. Mary’s project, concerning which the Auditor-General has made some critical observations. The Government and I welcome criticisms on public projects from the Auditor-General, but these criticisms can only be properly assessed and understood against the background of the project which is under examination. In May, 1955, the Government decided that a permanent filling factory capable of filling a comprehensive range of ammunition and guided missiles of the latest type of high, but non-atomic, explosives should be constructed without delay. The target date for completion was fixed for December, 1957. This decision was taken because, in the event of war, Australia would not have been able to supply the services’ need for basic ammunition, and the position had t’o be corrected as soon as practicable. Hence the early deadline date. Hence the nature of the contract. Stephenson and Turner, a leading Australian architectural firm, was selected, not only to design the factory, but also to control the enterprise on behalf of the Commonwealth.
– At what page of his report does the Auditor-General say this?
– At page 76. For the latter purpose Stephenson and Turner agreed to set up a control authority within their own organization. This was done. In short, the architects stand, in relation to the contractor and to my department, as would normally the Department of Works.
An inter-departmental committee was set up generally and regularly to consult with the architect and contractor on project matters. It has consulted regularly with the architect and contractor. Additionally, various technical officers, chemical engineers, and cost accountants of my department have given technical advice on the operational requirements of the factory, and regularly test checked the administrative practices of the contractor and architect.
From available general basic information the architects prepared a preliminary design which provided for the incorporation of filling plant designed in both Germany and the United Kingdom. Detailed design work was to proceed a step ahead of construction. Because detailed design drawings and specifications had yet to be produced, a fixed price contract was not practicable. On the basis of this preliminary design data - this sketch plan stage - the architects estimated that the ultimate cost of the project would be £23,200,000. It was, and could only be, an estimate of cost.
This enterprise is one of very great magnitude. It presents complex problems of design and construction not ordinarily encountered in industrial construction. Spread over an area of some 6 square miles it comprises some 500 buildings of various sizes - the largest is 148,000 square feet - and considerable civil engineering. Filling plant was required to be manufactured in Germany and the United Kingdom and deliveries timed to enable installation in buildings meanwhile constructed in Australia. Other plant and equipment concurrently was to be designed and fabricated in Australian factories. Indeed. materials and plant to the value of some £11,000,000 were involved. All of this was to be ready in December, 1957, on a site which in late 1955 was but heavily timbered virgin bush. It was a challenging concept - the more so, having regard to the normal construction performances of the period. Messrs. Utah Australia and Concrete Constructions Proprietary Limited, a blend of leading American and Australian experience, operating as a joint venture, were the successful tenderers as prime contractors.
The contractors moved on to the site in September, 1955, and immediately commenced the job of clearing the factory area. When the face of the area had been disturbed, and before drainage and sewerage activity could be completed, New South Wales was subject to the torrential rains and floods of 1955-56; 63 inches of rain were recorded on the site. Existing installations and equipment were damaged. But, worse still, the large-scale construction above ground could not proceed effectively until March or April, 1956, because of the saturated condition of the site. At the time, the contractor was of the opinion that the cost of these unprecedented flood waters, beyond all flood records available for examination, might be millions of pounds. The additional cost to the project has, in fact, since been assessed by the architects at approximately £900,000. Yet, withal, substantially the job will be finished and the factory will be opened before Christmas of this year. This will have been a remarkable construction performance. The final cost will be higher than the original preliminary estimate of £23,200,000. I announced this in a public statement on 15th June of this year, and explained the inevitability of it.
Now, let me turn to the AuditorGeneral’s comments. I am gratified to notice that no criticisms are directed toward the Government or my department. The Auditor-General has referred to instances of inadequate supervision, particularly by the contractor, instances of excessive costs, and the architects’ alleged lack of efficiency in organization and control. In making these criticisms, the Auditor-General has fairly drawn attention to the inherent difficulties in the project. I, for my part, have already drawn attention to the unique construction achievement.
Equally, it is important to note well the important matters to which his criticisms do not apply. Although some £11,000,000 has been spent on material and plant purchases, there is no suggestion that proper and adequately supervised tender procedure has not been followed. There is no suggestion that funds have been improperly expended, nor that all expenditure has not been properly accounted for. There are no charges of faulty storekeeping, no suggestion of inadequate auditing or of pay-roll or timekeeping deficiencies.
He has mentioned weaknesses - which indeed were in the first place noted by the control section of the architects’ organization in the course of its daily task - but there are also great achievements which have excelled the normally accepted standards of construction in Australia. To give only one example: The use of modern techniques has enabled the construction of a factory building of 37,042 square feet, designed to house an automatic shell-filling line, in thirteen months, a rate of progress unexcelled anywhere in Australia. To criticize weaknesses and at the same time omit reference to the great complexity and noteworthy achievement would, therefore, present the St. Mary’s story in false perspective. The Auditor-General avoids this by his clear acknowledgment in the third paragraph of clause 120.
The Auditor-General’s comments imply some inefficiency on the part of the contractor. The latter, naturally enough, you may say, disputes such allegations. In this the contractor would be supported by the parent Utah American organization. No less than eleven top Utah executives from San Francisco have critically inspected this project since its inception. Within the last few weeks the senior vice-president, the chief construction engineer, and the chief estimater from the company’s headquarters in America have investigated the project, and I believe did so in a most thorough and objective manner. They subsequently advised me that the project was in first-class shape and compared favorably with other large projects under construction by the Utah Company in countries throughout the world.
The architects are the professional advisers to the Government in respect of this project. They have an international reputation and experience. Moreover, they are the authority with the necessary detailed knowledge of the project who are technically qualified to express an opinion as to the efficiency of construction operations. The architects are emphatic, and have repeatedly stated, that the Commonwealth is getting a very good job at a reasonable price.
The Auditor-General states that the administrative procedures developed by the architect and contractor were well founded, but were not invariably followed by the architect and contractor. This is true. These instances were usually brought under notice by my department’s cost investigators as well as by the architect’s control authority. There has been progressive improvement. The Auditor-General refers to supervision, and, as I read it, particularly to cases of lack of supervision on the part of the contractor. He refers to the question of over-manning, and claims that considerable saving could have been effected if the most economical methods - presumably building methods - had at all times been adopted and supervisory arrangements had at all times been adequate. The quoted instances of under-production and overmanning are taken from documents from the control authority of Stephenson and Turner, particularly one of 20th May of this year to the contractor. Stephenson and Turner do not regard these reported instances of under-production in particular sections as an indication of general inefficiency by the contractor.
This job spreads over 3,500 acres and 500 buildings and it would be unreal to imagine that in the deployment of 4,000 workers over this area the control authority would not from time to time report on sections where production was below the standards set. But, the contractor vigorously denies that his overall supervision is inadequate; if it were so, productivity generally would be such that the ultimate building target could not be met. But it will be met. The control authority, in its report of last month, has referred to the satisfactory progress in all areas, particularly in relation to the contract finishing date.
The question of overmanning of a project is a matter of technical judgment. The contractor has consistently claimed that his work force has been maintained at economic levels. There have been occasions where the control agency has disagreed with him in respect of particular areas. The department has exercised constant pressure on the architects, control agency and contractor to ensure that an economic work force is employed. As the position now stands, my department advises me that control authority and architects are satisfied that the project is properly manned.
I am unaware as to how the calculation of possible “ savings “ could be made by the Auditor-General, based on the technical reports of the control agency, which, in many cases, have been disputed on technical grounds by the contractor. The Auditor-General has stated that job specifications have been at variance with architectural drawings. This is normal practice, particularly when design proceeds concurrently with construction. In many cases, the alterations occurred after consultation between the architect and the contractor. Reference has been made to the architect’s failure fully to meet his obligations.
There are no complaints about Stephenson and Turner’s contribution on the job as architects, in the strict sense. Indeed, the contractor’s opinion is that to design the total number of concrete structures as has been done on this project, without structural failure, would be considered an admirable feat by any United States agency, be it the Bureau of Reclamation, the Corps of Engineers, or the United States Atomic Energy Commission. Nor, J think, has the architect failed in the field supervision of the contractor’s performance. The best evidence of this is that the AuditorGeneral has been able so freely to quote from reports of the control authority, which is part of the architects’ own organization.
There is ground for criticism, I think, in that expenditure forecasts have proved to be inaccurate. Neither the architect nor the contractor has been able adequately to warn the Government that estimates would be exceeded. This itself, however, does not mean that the job is costing more than it should. The architects say it is not. The architects were also slow to establish an effective control organization, and there were early weaknesses in administrative practices, as a result of which the department itself was compelled to take a more active part in protecting Commonwealth interests than was originally thought would be necessary. However, the architects and their control authority are now covering the whole administrative field satisfactorily. It must always be remembered that, in great construction projects, time is money. That is one important reason for seeking to have this job completed by December, 1957.
– Fifty per cent of it will not be used before 1960.
– Of course, we will not be using more than 50 per cent of this factory in peace-time. It was never intended that we would or could use more than 50 per cent of it in peace-time.
In these circumstances, and with the type of organization which we have set up at St. Mary’s, and which is much favoured abroad, especially in America, there are always dangers of weaknesses appearing in control and supervision of the kind criticized by the Auditor-General in the St. Mary’s case. We were vigilant to avoid them and to correct them if any appeared; some did appear, but, in my view, they were a small price to pay for the great advantage of quick construction with its consequent saving of large sums of public money. As I said at the outset, the St. Mary’s project is one of great scope and complexity, and to have mastered the difficulties and completed such a project on time will, 1 think, in due course, be hailed as a remarkable achievement. I lay on the table the following paper: -
St. Mary’s Ammunition Filling Factory - Ministerial Statement, and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Haylen) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.56 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed (vide page 299).
.- The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley) said in his second-reading speech, that the Government was presented with two alternatives - to continue the present provision for increasing the remuneration of members of the Commonwealth Grants Com mission by amendment of the principal act, or to follow the modern trend in legislation for these matters to be determined by the Governor-General. Quite clearly, the Government has elected to follow what is described as the modern trend in legislation. I think that that decision is regrettable. One of the reasons given for the change is that it is a cumbersome and out-of-date method for the Parliament to have to consider these questions. I suggest that it is not a cumbersome method for the Parliament to consider these things. On the contrary, it is very proper that it should consider them, especially in view of the nature of the work done by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. On the recommendations of the commission, approximately £19,500,000 will be distributed this financial year between the three so-called mendicant States.
Another reason for the change given by the Minister was that the members of the commission are appointed by the GovernorGeneral, and not by the Parliament. Section 8 of the principal act, although rather a curious section, firmly vests control over the members of the commission in the Parliament. Admittedly, sub-section (1.) gives the Governor-General power to suspend any member from office for misbehaviour or incapacity. But sub-section (2.) then makes it incumbent on the responsible Minister to cause to be laid on the table in both Houses of the Parliament, within seven sitting days, a statement of the reasons for the suspension. Subsection (3.) provides that if, within 60 days of the reasons being tabled, both Houses resolve that a commissioner should not be removed, he may not be removed. Therefore, ultimate control definitely remains with the Parliament. For this reason, I submit that the fixing of the salaries of the members, also, should remain within the purview of the Parliament. It is true that, in recent times, the Government has abandoned legislative action in favour of action by regulation in certain fields. It is suggested that, in any event, there is ample opportunity for the Parliament to debate the matter, because the Estimates quite clearly reveal how much is to be paid to the incumbent of an office. I point out, however, that when the Estimates are being considered, a mass of appropriations must be dealt with, and all too frequently, matters of great importance are likely to escape the detailed attention of honorable members.
The present remuneration of the chairman and the members of the Grants Commission is totally inadequate for the job that they are called upon to do. In 1951, the principal act was amended to provide that the chairman should receive £600 a year and the other members £400 a year. In addition, the chairman receives £6 6s., and each member £5 5s., for each day of sitting to take evidence under oath as required by the act. I understand, Mr. Speaker, that the members of the commission spend approximately twenty weeks of the year on their statutory duties. For this, they have received since 1951 the remuneration that I have mentioned. I suggest that that remuneration has been totally inadequate. Therefore, I was glad to hear the Minister’s assurance that it would be increased in conformity with the increases approved for the holders of other statutory offices.
The present members of the Grants Commission are three very outstanding men. The chairman is Sir Alexander Fitzgerald, a very noted and famous accountant who is Professor of Accountancy, and Dean of the Faculty of Commerce, at the University of Melbourne. I understand that he is also a director of many public companies, and a member of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria. The other two members of the commission are Professor Wilfred Prest, Professor of Economics at the University of Melbourne, and Mr. Alex. Reid, a former Under-Treasurer of Western Australia, and, I understand, chairman of the Western Australian State Electricity Commission. I have no doubt that these three outstanding men are making very great personal sacrifices in order to continue their service on the commission. Their remuneration should be substantially increased, and I hope that, when this bill is passed, as undoubtedly it will be, action will be taken immediately by regulation to fix their emoluments at a much higher level. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, we all are aware of the frequency with which the men sought for important jobs are compelled to decline to accept because the remuneration fixed is too low. Unless a person who is devoted to the job, and is prepared to sacrifice a great deal of personal and financial benefit, can be found, it may not be possible to fill the position, and it will certainly be very difficult to obtain the best talent. I hope that these considerations will be borne in mind when the remuneration of the members of the Grants Commission is fixed in the future.
The commission does most important work. Unfortunately, it is too frequently thought that it is concerned only with the three States that are lumped together under the derogatory description of mendicant States. However, I point out to the House that the authority for the granting of financial assistance to the States in this fashion is section 96 of the Australian Constitution, which has application to a field much wider than that of the three so-called mendicant States. It provides -
During a period of ten years after the establishment of the Commonwealth and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides, the Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit.
Paragraphs (a), (b), and (c) of sub-section (1.) of section 9 of the principal act provide that any State may apply for assistance, that the Grants Commission may inquire into any matters relating to grants made by the Parliament under section 96 of the Constitution, and that it may be called upon, by direction from the GovernorGeneral, to inquire into any matters relating to the making of a grant of financial assistance. The commission has been concerned with only three States up to the present time apparently because, as a matter of practice, only three States have applied for assistance. That may not always be the position. It is not very difficult to imagine a situation in which Victoria, for example, might apply for a special grant to compensate it for the loss that it suffers through the method of distributing petrol tax moneys. If that happened, under the terms of the principal act, the Grants Commission would have to investigate all matters relating to the application. It is most important that a commission that may be called upon to do these things should be constituted of the very best men available. I fear that, unless the remuneration of the members is very greatly increased, we cannot hope always to have on the commission members of the same high calibre as the present ones.
There is also the possibility that Victoria, or some other State which is not in the group regarded as mendicant States, will apply to the commission for a special grant to compensate it for the abnormally high intake of immigrants into that State as compared with the other States. It may be, also, that New South Wales, for example, which, as the House knows, joined with Victoria in the challenge to the uniform taxation legislation of the Commonwealth in the High Court of Australia, will ask the Grants Commission to inquire into the financial loss that it suffers under uniform taxation. Therefore, the possibilities of members of the commission being called upon to perform work are so great that it should be within the province of this House, by legislative act, first to appoint members of the commission, and secondly, to decide the remuneration they are to receive.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 3rd September (vide page 264), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the following paper be printed: -
Agreement on Commerce between the Commonwealth of Australia and Japan, signed on 6th July, 1957.
Upon which Dr. Evatt had moved by way of amendment -
That the following words be added to the motion: - “and this House expresses its disapproval of the Agreement on Commerce between the Commonwealth of Australia and Japan “.
.- The agreement before the House is a technical one upon which it is possible to take a number of views about its likely effect on Australian industry- 1 say at the outset that I do not regard myself as competent to analyse the effects of this agreement on Australian industry. There are some textual points about the agreement which appear to me to be difficult to understand, and I wonder at the meaning of the translation. For instance, on page 7 there appears this statement -
In this connexion, the Australian delegation emphasized that since wool accounted for such a high proportion of Australia’s total exports to Japan, Australia attached considerable importance to continued duty-free entry for wool into Japan.
The plain meaning of that surely is that there is no duty at the present time on wool entering Japan. However, on page 8 of theagreement appears this statement -
The Japanese delegation stated that in view of the great importance attached to the question by the Australian Government, the Japanese Government would take no action to vary the present level of duty on wool imports from Australia for a period of three years after the date of signing of the agreement.
One statement appears to imply that there is no duty, and the other statement appears to imply that there is a duty. I would say, from what I can see of the agreement, that one of the vital provisions from Australia’s point of view is the belief, as contained in Paragraph 4 of Part A of the agreed minutes, that Australian soft wheat could be expected to secure a substantial share of the Japanese market, and by and largeresume the position that it had in the Japanese market before the war.
The action which the Government is taking in this agreement is quite at variance with what has been the Government’s trade policy over the last few years, and, in fact, at variance with what has been its policy towards Japan. There has been a. great deal of talk in this debate about high standard of living countries and low standard of living countries. Japan is unquestionably the country which enjoys the highest standard of living in Asia. The productivity of the 90,000,000 people in Japan in secondary industry is greater than that of India, Pakistan, and China put together. In other words, 90,000,000 people in Japan produce more in secondary industries than 1,000,000,000 people elsewhere in Asia. So, the Japanese industrial structure inevitably, under those circumstances, produces the highest standard of living in Asia.
I think one tends to become confused if one attributes a low wage structure in a country entirely to some kind of capitalist plot. The system of the economy does not matter. A Communist United States of America would be richer immeasurably than a Communist Italy, because it has much greater resources. A socialist United States would be much richer than a socialist Italy and a capitalist United States much richer than a capitalist Italy. There is a good deal of confusion in always representing the standard of living in a country as being due to some kind of plot by a clique.
Japan, through having become industrialized earliest in Asia, has a standard of living higher than the rest of Asia - but lower than Australia. But Japan, with 90,000,000 people on an arable area not much bigger than twice the size of Tasmania, is faced with the problem of maintaining her population. The most responsible elements in Japan have always sought to solve their population problem by trade and Australia has an interest in supporting the most responsible elements in Japan.
From 1920 to 1929, in the period of world insanity about tariffs in which Australia played a leading part, Japan suffered a very great deal of discrimination against her commodities. The Japanese Liberal Prime Minister and his cabinet were all murdered in 1931, and the militarists took over and pressed for a greater East Asia co-prosperity sphere. The Japanese Liberals were utterly discredited in 1931 because, in the face of discrimination, they could not solve the problems of feeding Japan by exchanging manufactured goods for their necessary imports of food, and so they faced a declining standard of living. The basic aim of the militarists with their greater East Asia co-prosperity sphere was to seize a large compulsory market when they were denied a natural one. All those people in the United States and elsewhere who pursued before 1929 what in many cases was an utterly irresponsible tariff policy played a part in producing those circumstances in Japan which led Japan to an intensified aggressive path from 1931 onwards.
The basis of peace is not in attending meetings presided over by doves painted very badly by Picasso. It is in pursuing policies which reduce tensions, and if you deny a country the right to live you make an act of war upon it as plainly as if you declare war, because sooner or later you will produce within that country political trends whereby it will try to solve its problems by force.
The Government in its relationship with Japan has not always been clear-sighted. I think, frankly, that the policy of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) in inventing some claim about not being able to fish off continental shelves - a claim which I think is extremely doubtful in international law - was helping to prevent Japan solving her food problems in a responsible constructive manner which would not clash with any legitimate interest of any other power. I thought it was a well established principle of international law that the 3- mile limit was a country’s limit of responsibility and power over its own waters. If one had a general discrimination, with all the powers of the world inventing undefined limits on the bottom of the ocean to exclude people from fishing, Japan would be hit harder than any other power. Japan depends, to a greater extent than any other world power, on what is taken out of the sea to provide food for her people.
I submit, also, that the Government has been unwise in the kind of propaganda that it has directed at times against the policy of the United States of America of making gifts of its great agricultural surpluses to countries in need. An extremely shortsighted view has been taken of this policy again and again by Government spokesmen, who say that if, for instance, Pakistan is given wheat, Australia is thus deprived of a wheat market. Surely mere observation over the last ten years has shown that while these great gifts have been made we have had a better world trade position than at any previous time in history. Some of the countries that are desperately in need of these gifts, and have not had to give their exports in exchange for them, have been free to use those exports to buy something else. Therefore, by and large, the general level of world trade has been maintained.
I believe that we should not consider our trade policy in a self-centred fashion, but we should ask whether it is of assistance to other countries as well as to our own, and whether it is helping to reduce tensions. I am not interested in winning elections on tariffs if the policies adopted result in my children being killed fifteen years hence. If a discriminatory policy helps to heighten world tension, then everything that we imagine we achieve by that policy can be annihilated very quickly in the course of a modern war. Recently we had complaints from our neighbour, New Zealand, regarding our trade policy. We have an overwhelmingly favorable balance of trade with New Zealand, because of our exports, not of primary products, but of manufactured goods. When there was a potato famine here last year, the floods in New South Wales having wiped out our own potato crop, New Zealand made representations to sell 20,000 tons of potatoes in this country. Those potatoes could have retailed in Sydney at 3d. a lb. We had no excuse whatever for rejecting that offer. There was a protectionist interest operating on this occasion, for a change, in favour of a primary industry. New Zealand, with which country we have a seven-to-one favorable trade balance, was denied that potato market, and the potatoes were dug in in New Zealand. It was a crime against this country and a crime against New Zealand.
– The honorable member’s facts are not right.
– They are right. My informant is quite as well informed on the subject as the Minister is. The subject to which we should direct most of our attention, however, is that of our trade relationship with Japan. The London “ Times “, discussing our trade philosophy over the last few years, characterized Australia as the most intensely self-centred nation in trade in the British Commonwealth. I believe that this opinion is based on the way in which, without consulting anybody’s interests, contracts with Britain a few years ago were brutally cancelled. It is based also on a consideration of the kind of action taken regarding fishing rights and also with regard to the New Zealand potatoes. We have been vehement in our complaints about Great Britain and her trading methods, but as one travels abroad one finds that Australia is regarded almost everywhere as an intensely self-centred nation in her trading policy. Whether this agreement is right or wrong in its details, at least it does show a new approach by the Government to the subject of trade.
Over the last five years there has been a very striking unbalance in our trade relationship with Japan. I do not suggest that this is unique in our trade relationships with other nations. We have a similar unbalance in our favour in our trade with France. In five years we have purchased from Japan £65,000,000 worth of goods, and Japan has purchased from us £413,000,000 worth. This reveals a trade ratio in our favour of six and a half to one. The position with regard to France is not so serious, because that country does not depend on her manufactured exports for her actual livelihood, in the sense of using the proceeds to import foods, as Japan does. Somehow or other, it has come about that the Australian Government has had to face the possibility of a cancellation of Japanese orders. If we study our trade with Japan over the last five years we see that the figures are subject to violent fluctuations. During one year our sales to Japan amounted to £85,000,000, the next year £55,000,000 and the next year £139,000,000. These violent fluctuations were very largely due to wool purchases. 1 understand that at one stage the Japanese Government was seriously considering imposing a tariff on Australian wool. In any case, the variations in these purchases have had a lot to do with the fluctuations in the price of Australian wool over the last four years. It is important, I think, to realize that intense Japanese competition in the wool market does not put into the hands of the Australian primary producer only the income derived from Japan’s own purchases. It also puts into his hands an income derived from increased prices paid by Japan’s competitors. Japanese competition, therefore, has both direct and indirect effects.
I find it very difficult to assess what this treaty will do to our secondary industries. I come back to the simple fact that a time when Australian secondary industries crashed almost completely, in 1931, was a time when a catastrophic fall in the value of our exports of primary products destroyed the incomes in the hands of primary producers. Frankly, I am not able to differentiate between the effect on secondary industry of, say, Australian farmers being able to buy Holden cars and such things, and the direct effect of increased competition with Australian manufacturing interests when we allow, in the interests of our primary production exports, the nation that buys our primary products mostfavourednation treatment with regard to what it sends back to us. I remember meeting Mr. Aneurin Bevan at a committee meeting in the House of Commons when he put forward the view that Australia had built up industry and was buying less and less from Great Britain. The simple fact, as I pointed out to him, was that in that particular year Australia had bought £697,000,000 worth of goods from Britain, notwithstanding the heavy development of Australian secondary industry. For some reason or other, increased purchasing power in those developing industries seems to carry over into other industries.
Maybe, the makers of Holden cars bought more British shirts, but, anyway, the sum total of Australian purchases from Britain always rose, and his theoretical analysis that if you build up industries in Australia you lead to fewer Australian purchases from Britain has simply been falsified by the facts. That is why I say that it is quite possible to discuss these things theoretically, riveting your attention on a couple of things and saying they are going to have a definite effect, when experience shows that they do not.
This is a difficult treaty to explain. It is not difficult to understand the pressures that the Government was under. What effect it will have on Australian secondary industry only time will tell, but I do not believe that our problem of employment in this country is really going to be solved by hot-housing industries behind tariff walls. I believe that if we have a bold conception of the development of our country we can employ all sorts of people in great projects and need have no unemployment at all. It is not just a question of solving unemployment by tariffs, but of solving unemployment by the imaginative development of our country.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– I think the House will agree with the thesis of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). It was that whatever contribution we can make to the reduction of international tension or of the tensions of war will be a contribution to peace and something that will be welcomed by all men of Christian thought. I am certain that my colleague the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and all members of the Gover-i ment would agree with this idea. But so far as the details of his argument are concerned, and so far as the argument concerned primary industries, I want to say first, quite strongly and immediately, that his statements on the subject of Japanese fishing are not correct. His statement that there might be a reduction of the take of food in Australian waters makes it perfectly obvious that he does not understand the nature of the legislation or what it intends to do. I do not want to go into this matter, because it is now before a court, but it so happens that the legislation relates to sedentary fishing. It deals with motherofpearl and things on the bottom of the sea, and not with edible fish.
I do not want to say anything more than that the honorable member for Fremantle obviously does not comprehend the nature of the legislation and what its purpose is. Then, there is his rather peculiar idea about the sale of New Zealand potatoes to this country. As one who has, over the course of the last eighteen months, watched the movement and tried to help whenever it was thought to be of benefit to both countries, I beg to state that there has been no restriction other than that of quarantine against the importation of potatoes here. Quite frankly, in the course of the last few months, when New Zealand was in some difficulties, we permitted the export of some considerable quantities to New Zealand. There is, I think, a very sensible agreement between Australia and New Zealand as to the way in which trade should move and, personally, I think that that agreement is mutually beneficial.
Most, if not all, of what I want to say to-night about this Japanese Trade Agreement has already been said by my colleague, the Minister for Trade. Therefore, it lacks both the charm of novelty and the novelty of being original. But I have, for long, taken a deep interest in everything that the Minister for Trade has said about trading matters, particularly insofar as they concern the primary industries. So, I thought that this was a subject on which I would like to speak. As well, I want to do so because I want to high-light those parts of the Minister’s speech which concern the Department of Primary Industry. I should like to put what I want to say against this broad background and in this context: When the Minister spoke on trading agreements he did so against a background of the continuance of balanceofpayments difficulties. Secondly, there was the difficulty associated with the rising costs of imports to Australia, particularly insofar as that might affect the cost of production in Australian secondary industry. It is against that background that we have to look at this broad problem of the Japanese Trade Agreement. Whatever the reason for the difficulties I have mentioned, and whatever they may be, and speaking from the trading angle, the Minister had to face two problems. I paraphrase his own statement in saying that so far as balance-of-payments difficulties were concerned, he was faced with the necessity of protecting - and I want to use these words on several occasions - Australia’s traditional markets for its primary products. Secondly, he had the other immense problem of attempting, particularly insofar as the trade agreement with the United Kingdom was concerned, to reduce the cost of imports, especially of raw materials and equipment, so that Australia’s secondary industry could reduce its costs of production and, therefore, the final prices paid by the consumer.
A year or eighteen months ago the Minister commenced what was, I think, one of the most, if not the most, difficult and complicated tasks attempted since we have been in office. The first stage in a complicated series of negotiations was to negotiate the United Kingdom-Australia trade agreement. That agreement had two main purposes. One was to give, by means of tariffs and customs, or reduction of the favorable benefits enjoyed by the United Kingdom, negotiating room so that he could negotiate trade agreements with others among our great trading partners. Here to-night we see the result of steps that he took some time ago. Negotiating means and negotiating technique were obtained through the United KingdomAustralia trade agreement, and it has been carried to fulfilment in the agreement now before us. As I have said - and this does bear repeating - the second objective in the course of those negotiations was to reduce the cost of raw materials and of machinery for the purposes of Australian secondary industry. I will not detain the House too long with talk of the importance of costs of production at this juncture; but they are extraordinarily important in a country like Australia, which is one of the great trading countries and therefore has to sell on competitive markets, which makes it necessary for it to keep its costs of production as low as possible, and which has an arbitration or industrial system which increases wages in accordance with the increased cost of living as disclosed by the C series index. There was an enormous task that had to be performed. In looking at our trade relations we had to consider the effect they might have on the Australian economy as a whole. In April, 1957, when the United
Kingdom-Australia trade agreement was tabled in this House, the Minister said -
Hence, in developing this constructive approach to the problem of increasing exports, the Government has planned- and these are the words I believe to be important - a systematic and comprehensive review of Australia’s trade relationships with other countries.
The task, which was an enormously difficult and complicated one, was commenced at the time, or some time before, this agreement was made, and is now continuing. One thing that I think should be made public, and which deserves repeating, is that actually prior to negotiating this agreement the Minister called together the Chambers of Manufactures and the Associated Chambers of Commerce, the National Farmers Union and other organizations and explained to them what the intention was, in these words -
The substance of discussion was this, that what the Commonwealth was contemplating was an arrangement based upon mutual mostfavourednation treatment by each country of the other’s goods.
That is what has been done in the treaty before us to-night. It is the very basis of the agreement. Therefore, the facts were known to the world; the basis on which the negotiations were to be carried out was known to the world at least a year or more ago. There was no secrecy. In fact, the agreement was based upon one idea and one idea only, that of self-preservation and protection of Australia’s primary industries, having in mind the principle that it is best to get in early and have a wide margin for negotiation, rather than to come in at the end of the queue, when there would be limited negotiating capacity. I want to emphasize again the fact that it must be accepted that the intentions of the Government were known. Those intentions were based on enlightened self-interest and on the fact that protection had to be given to Australian export industries, which are mainly the primary industries.
As I have said, this task was commenced about eighteen months ago. It was many years since there had been a major effort to re-organize our trading relations. The last one, I think, was the Ottawa Agreement of 1932, 25 years ago. I personally think that the Ottawa Agreement is what might be called a prehistoric document, or what my good friend, the honorable member for
St. George (Mr. Graham), in his more benevolent moments, might say was CroMagnon, or something of that kind, because I know his ability to use words of that description; in any event, it is a document of some antiquity. During that period of 25 years, major changes have been occurring in the Australian economy, the first being that our economy has become much more diversified. Instead of being mainly a primary producing country we are now rather a secondary industry country as well. The number of people in employment in secondary industries is more than 1,000,000 and is increasing at the rate of 60,000 per annum. The population of this country has increased from 6,500,000 to 10,000,000. Therefore, we see one reason why it was necessary for a change to be made.
The Australian economy, in terms both of its structure and the trend of development, has undergone substantial changes, while the market for Australian goods also has changed enormously. Twenty-five years ago, our main market was the United Kingdon. I shall not quote the figures showing the change in United Kingdom trade, because they were given to the House recently by my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), but it is significant that the percentage of our goods sold to the United Kingdom decreased from 41 per cent, in 1952-53 to 28 per cent, in 1956-57. During that period, or in an even shorter period, our trade with Japan has increased. Last year, Japan purchased £140,000,000 worth of our goods, or 1 4 per cent, of our exports of a total value of £995,000,000. Japan is a valued customer. We value the fact that she purchases our goods, and the contribution she has made to our development.
Lastly, I mention one other fact that already has been referred to by the Minister for Trade, but which, I think, should be repeated. It is that as this country develops, so too does our demand for imports. It has been said that roughly 20 per cent, of everything we need in terms of national income must be imported. As we grow, of necessity we must sell more internationally so that our secondary industries may obtain the things they need. I think that the Minister for Trade said that something like 75 per cent, of our total imports were needed either directly or indirectly for secondary industries or manufacturing.
What emerges from the agreement is this: It is the manufacturing industries that must benefit by expansion of our economy; it is the manufacturing industries that benefit most from an increase of exports, because they are the main beneficiaries from the imports which depend on exports being made. I think that this is of enormous importance and is something that should be known to all manufacturers, lt is one of the facts on which we should base our appreciation of this treaty.
I think, sir, the facts spotlight various conclusions. The first is that the time had come to place our trading relations on a satisfactory and contractual basis. The need was to enter into contracts with our friends, in the first place to prevent discrimination, and secondly, to provide a basis below which our exports would not fall. We found, in Japan, certain assured markets, and I, personally, think that the facts I have put before the House are a clear illustration of the need for action.
For those who are interested in these matters, particularly in our exports of primary commodities, I point out two things: The first is the difficulties we have had in selling our primary industries against the non-commercial sales by other countries, particularly surplus disposals by the United States; and the second is the fact that if there were discrimination, the primary industries could be discriminated against. Now, we have an agreement which, in effect, virtually prevents discrimination against us and gives us certain guarantees for the export of our primary commodities.
What has been achieved? Under the agreement with Japan - and I speak now mainly of the primary industries - our exports to Japan will be treated at least as favorably as those of other countries. This applies so far as tariffs, licensing and the allocation of exchange are concerned. But the two big items I want to mention are these: First, our greatest primary industry, the wool industry. Our wool has been accorded duty free entry into Japan. Secondly, of the total amount of exchange that is made available by Japan for the purchase of wool, 90 per cent, is made available on a free market, and as we can sell more cheaply than any one else, that 90 per cent, becomes available for the purchase of Australian wool. I mention but one other fact, which is that the agreement gives wool at least the same opportunities as synthetic fibres. It gives our wool protection in Japan, in that, not being subject to customs duty on entry, our wool will be enabled to keep its position relative to synthetic fibres; and at the same time, it gives the Japanese consumer an opportunity to purchase on the cheapest terms.
The second point I want to make is in relation to wheat. I think that this agreement will be of enormous benefit to Australia in the future. What the agreement does is to give us re-entry for the sale of our f.a.q. or soft wheats on Japanese markets. Shortly after the agreement was negotiated, it was arranged between the Minister for Trade and myself that a wheat delegation should visit Japan, and the members of the delegation have come back with most glowing accounts of the prospects for the sale of our soft wheat. That is largely due to the fact that Japan consumes a high percentage of her flour in the production of noodles, which requires a soft wheat, a wheat of probably 8 per cent, to 10 per cent, protein quality. There are other benefits in relation to sugar, dried vine fruits and other primary commodities. On behalf of the primary producers of Australia, I want to say how much they welcome this agreement, because it places a floor below which they cannot fall. They think it provides one more basis for confidence in their future.
Of course, sir, some concessions had to be made, and those concessions were to give to the Japanese the various privileges and advantages which have been mentioned by the Minister. As time is short, I do not intend to go over the concessions that have been made, but I do want to mention this single fact: It has been said that Australian secondary industries might be unduly prejudiced. I think that those who read this agreement carefully will see that there are two major safeguards in it which will protect Australian secondary industries, should they have to face serious problems. If I were able to use words as can my colleague, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), who spoke yesterday of the sensitive minds and hands that fashioned this agreement, I should be better able to convince honorable members that the department will be quick to find out what is happening, and should action be needed it will be taken quickly. Most of those who have looked at this agreement have come to the conclusion that not only is it valuable to the country, but also that it will give our primary industries protection that they would not otherwise have. It will aid the consumer by ensuring that the price of imported raw materials and equipment is reduced.
– Order, the Minister’s time has expired.
.- The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), when he made his statement on the Japanese Trade Agreement, failed to give to the House any reason at all why we should support the Government’s proposals. I think that the Minister failed signally to provide information of a kind that this House is entitled to receive when dealing with a matter of this kind. The platitudinous contribution of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) has done nothing whatever to clarify the situation. The reason given by the Minister for Trade in justification of the agreement was that it was necessary because of this fact, and this fact alone - that Japan had an adverse trade balance with Australia. Consequently, this balance had to be adjusted. I do not propose to criticize the Japanese in this matter, because they are not in the dock. Members of the Government are the people who stand in the dock because, without their consent, this pact would not have been possible.
The Government has brought about a trade pact with Japan, which could have catastrophic effects upon our economy. As I have said, the only reason that the Minister and the Government have given for this pact is that Japan has an adverse trade balance with Australia. What is going to be the answer of the Government to other countries throughout the world that find themselves in a position similar to that of Japan in their trading relations with Australia? Japan is not the only country that has an unfavorable trade balance with Australia. When we look at some of the trading transactions that are carried on throughout the world, we find that, for the five years from 1953 to 1957, New Zealand had an adverse trade balance of £127,000,000 with Australia. However, the Government, apparently, is unmoved by the protests that have been made from time to time by the New Zealand Government. On no occasion has the Australian Government attempted to bring about a trading pact with New Zealand in the terms of the one that has been signed with Japan.
If the fact that, from 1953 to 1957, Japan had an adverse trade balance of £270,000,000 with Australia is reason enough for that country to demand a readjustment of its trading relations with this country, what will be the answer of the Government when the representatives of France demand a similar pact? France, for that period, had an adverse trade balance of £255,000,000 with Australia. For the years from 1953 to 1957, the Italian adverse trade balance with this country amounted to £150,000,000. Belgium had an adverse trade balance with Australia of £112,000,000, for the same period. West Germany had an adverse trade balance with Australia of £23.000,000 for the period. Czechoslovakia’s adverse trade balance for the period stands at £14,000,000. Most of the countries with which we trade have adverse balances with us. In some cases, the disparity is almost as high as in the case of Japan.
What is the Government’s, attitude going to be to those countries which are placed similarly to Japan? The Government has no answer to that question. The only reason why honorable members have been asked to support this pact with Japan is that Japan has an adverse trade balance. We are entitled to ask the Government, in view of the pact that is being signed, how will it affect Australia. In this respect, let me quote the Minister for Trade himself. Replying to an interjection in which he was asked what would be the value of goods that would come into Australia, the Minister said -
I could not anticipate that. I have just answered that very question. One can only form some opinion by looking backwards at the trends of trade, and I have been quoting figures relating to that aspect.
There we have a delightful situation in which the Minister himself has acknowledged that he does not know the effects or implications of this pact for Australia. In an attempt to justify his attitude in this matter, he tried to point out that safeguards have been taken by the Government to prevent any upsetting of our economy as a result of the pact. He resorted to citing the position of Canada. In reply to an interjection he stated -
But the negotiations from the outset were conducted on the understanding, first, that there would be restraint at the Japanese end, as has been practised by the Japanese in their trade with Canada over a period of three years, . . .
The Minister mentioned the Canadian experience as an example of what would happen in the case of Australia. He could not have cited a worse example in support of his contention as to what would happen when this pact becomes effective. Let me cite some Canadian figures. In the first nine months of 1954, £57,000,000 worth of clothing made from woven fabrics entered Canada from Japan. In the first nine months of 1956, clothing was imported from Japan at five times the rate at which it was imported during 1955, and at about six times the rate at which it was imported in 1954. As a result of their experience with a trade pact with Japan similar to the one mentioned in the bill, now, at the end of three years, the Canadians have called a halt.
This country is faced with the importation from Japan of goods to the possible value of £100,000,000. It is ridiculous for the Minister to argue that the importation of such a large quantity of goods into Australia will not have some effect on our economy. The Minister and members of the Government have criticized the textile manufacturers and textile workers of this country for expressing apprehension and concern about the future when the impact of this agreement is felt. The assurances of the Minister have done nothing whatever to relieve their doubts and anxieties. The Minister has pointed out that Japan has a case for a complete re-orientation of its trading relations with Australia because of its unfavorable trade balance. If that is so, it is interesting to ask this Government why it has not done something to bring about an adjustment with countries with which Australia has a debit trade balance. From 1953 to 1957, we had a debit trading balance with the United Kingdom of £531,000,000 and with the United States of £341,000,000. With Canada it was £56,000,000 and with India £15,000,000. From 1953 to 1957, we conducted our overseas trading with some countries, particularly the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, at substantial losses to ourselves. I shall cite figures which have been supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician and give some idea of our adverse trade balances with other countries. From 1953-54, we had a debit trade balance with the United Kingdom of £180,000,000, and with the United States a debit balance of £62,000,000. In 1954-55, the debit balance with the United Kingdom was £175,000,000 and that with the United States £101,000,000. In 1955-56, the figures were £174,000,000 in respect of the United Kingdom and £89,000,000 in respect of the United States. In 1956-5/ the debit balance with the United Kingdom stood at £74,000,000 and that with the United States at £88,000,000. The Minister has failed ignominiously in his attempt to reassure the House of the possible effect of the trade pact upon Australia.
In view of the fact that there has been a growth of unemployment in countries such as Canada and the United States which have had similar pacts of this nature, the Minister is trying to argue that our experience will be completely different from theirs, notwithstanding the fact that we are about to sign a similar trade pact. I do not know what ground the Minister had for trying to reassure the House on this score, particularly concerning unemployment, because he himself admits that he does not know what the value will be of the goods that will come into this country from Japan during the three years of the agreement. He tried to assure the House that because there is a clause in the pact which permits consultation between the two countries, all the necessary safeguards are provided.
But the Minister has not answered the objection that when this particular clause is invoked it cannot operate immediately lt calls for consultation between the two parties, and a period of from two to four months can elapse before decisions are reached. In that time, irreparable harm could be done to our industries by shipments of all kinds of goods to this country from Japan and a condition of unemployment in Australia would result. I say quite definitely that the objections and the fears that have been expressed, particularly by the manufacturers and the trade unions, in their opposition to this pact, are well sustained.
– In rising to support this trade agreement with Japan, which is for a period of three years, I want, first of all, to congratulate the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) on the way that he has brought it about, because I believe that it will benefit not only the primary producers - a fact which has been emphasized time and again by honorable members opposite - but also the nation as a whole. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, said that this trade pact had been spoken about for months and months before he went to Japan to complete it. I remember reading in the press that the Minister had consulted with the chambers of manufactures, the chambers of commerce and other organizations with respect to its implications. They were fully informed of what it would contain and the Minister gave them assurances that their interests as manufacturers would be protected. I feel that there are ample safeguards in the agreement to protect both primary and secondary industries.
Emphasis has been placed upon the export of wool to Japan. Wool is our major primary export, and Japan is our second best customer for it. It is the duty of any trader to look after his customers and ensure that the rate of purchases is maintained. Naturally, Japan will try to get an advantage if she can; but it is our duty to obtain all possible advantage for the Australian economy, too. It is rather remarkable that every time the economy of this country is mentioned, wool comes into the discussion. I shudder to think what would happen to Australia if we did not have wool for export. When I have spoken on this matter before in this House, I have heard it said that all the interests of the Australian Country party are concentrated in looking after the wool barons, and probably the beef barons. But when Australia’s overseas trade balance is in debit or the economy of the country is in jeopardy we always look to the wool industry to pull us out of the trouble. It is time that the wool industry was given more credit for the great job it has done in past years towards maintaining our overseas trade balance in credit.
– The wool producers were well paid for that, were they not?
– Yes; but the nation benefited as well, and the employees shared in that benefit because of the lift given to the economy of the country. It has been said that if this trade agreement is implemented under present conditions Australia will have a flood of imports from Japan and as a result many Australian workers will lose their employment. The Minister pointed out very plainly in his second-reading speech the quantities of goods imported from Japan during the last five years and also during the last three years. The statistics prove that, without any discrimination against Japan, the imports of wool tops and woollen yarn into this country over the last three years were nil. Over the last five years the imports of blankets represented about 3 per cent, of our total imports; during last year their value was about £342. It is interesting to examine the figures of the Australian textile industry and to note the details of our imports from all countries. Last year, the total value of imports of clothing and accessories only was £5,900,000 representing .07 of the total of all goods imported into Australia. Very little of that clothing came from Japan. I believe our secondary industries are efficient enough to maintain an output equal to imports from Japan. The Japanese businessmen will not be foolish enough to dump shoddy goods on this market. They are shrewd and they will want to keep this market.
The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) mentioned that the standard of living in Japan was one of the highest to be found among Asian nations. The Labour party claims that it is looking after the interests of the worker, and it also likes to look after the interests of workers in other countries. The Opposition does not want this country to buy any goods produced in Japan, though Japan is our second best customer.
– Does the honorable member believe in child labour?
– The honorable member for Herbert comes from Queensland, and he is a great advocate of the import of goods from red China, where the workers receive a very low wage. Honorable members on this side of the House have spoken about the protection that can be given to secondary industries, and I shall not repeat what they have said. Not only the primary producers but the whole of this country will benefit from this agreement. It will lead to more friendly relations with our near neighbour in the north, Japan. We must remember that if we did not trade with Japan, it would look in some other direction for trade. The direction would be towards its nearest neighbour, Communist China. For the sake of our foreign policy alone, we should be prepared to forget past differences and do something to try to keep Japan out of the Communist bloc, which is so near to it.
.- Every honorable member opposite who has spoken in this debate has averred that adequate safeguards are contained in this agreement, but Opposition members dispute that that is so. I agree with the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) that the wool industry is vital to this country, but we believe that other industries also need to be protected. In the last 25 years a great manufacturing industry has grown up, and that industry also is entitled to protection. Honorable members on this side of the House have contended time and time again that the party that sits in the corner is merely a sectional party and has always exercised a disproportionate influence on the affairs of this country.
Having made those comments, I shall now confine my remarks to the trade agreement with Japan. My reasons for speaking are not unimportant. First, I support the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in his opposition to the agreement presented by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). We believe that the safeguards in the agreement are inadequate to protect Australian industries, which, as I said a moment ago, are not unimportant. Nobody on this side of the House is opposed to Japan expanding her trade; indeed, we concede that Japan must expand her trade with other countries. After all, Japan has a population of more than 90,000,000, but only a small area of land. We do not dispute the fact that Japan is entitled to a fair and reasonable trade with this and other countries, but we maintain that our industries are entitled to protection from the flood of imports that must arrive from Japan in the very near future.
No attempt has been made by the Minister for Trade to provide the protection that was afforded by the United Kingdom Board of Trade to manufacturers in that country. The Leader of the Opposition pointed out that the Board of Trade consistently opposed the import of goods in excess of a certain quota. Despite what has been said by honorable members opposite, the
Minister has given no assurance that there will not be an unrestricted flow of goods into this country. He acknowledges that imports from Japan may amount to £10,000,000 each year or £100,000,000; he is not prepared to give any definite figure. The only guarantee that Australian manufacturers have that they will not be subjected to severe competition from Japanese goods is from the Japanese themselves, who have said that they will apply restraint in these matters. Sufficient has been said in this debate to show that, if Canada can be taken as an example, no reliance can be placed on the assurance that restraint will be used in the export of Japanese goods to this country.
I hope that honorable members pardon me if I am parochial, but I must be parochial to deal with the Tasmanian position. Over the past 25 years, industrial expansion in Tasmania has progressed at a remarkable rate, and possibly no industry has flourished there to a greater extent than the textile industries. To-day Launceston, has five major textile industries, and I believe they are entitled to the protection of this Government.
– What sort of textiles?
– They cover woollen goods, yarn and, I believe, every aspect of textiles. For the benefit of the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Timson), let me point out that only a few days ago one of the Tasmanian papers reported that a textile mill in Hobart, Silk and Textiles Proprietary Limited, had during the previous month reduced the number of its employees by approximately 100. The manager of the mill stated, quite emphatically, that the reduction of staff was due entirely to the lack of orders, which, in his opinion, were being withheld pending the importation of goods from Japan. That is the position in Tasmania. The number of employees in one mill alone has already been reduced by 110.
As I said only a moment ago, there are five major textile mills in Launceston. The largest employs 1,800 persons, and the smallest 91, and all five have a total employment of 2,469 - a not insignificant figure in a city with a total population of approximately 70,000, of which the work force would total no more than about 30,000. Therefore, approximately one-fifteenth of the work force of the city is employed in the textile industry. I can assure the Minister for Trade that the five textile mills in Launceston are very much concerned about the Japanese trade agreement. However, it is not only textile manufacturers in Tasmania that have expressed opposition to it, and opposition generally is not confined to those who depend on the textile industry for their living. Chambers of commerce and chambers of manufactures, which, after all, are not ardent supporters of the party to which I belong, have been most critical of all aspects of this agreement.
– The textile mills in Launceston are busier now than they have ever been.
– Let me emphasize, for the benefit of the honorable member, who apparently regards the textile industry as of little importance in this country, that in Tasmania, as in all the other States, if the textile industry is crippled, other industries also will be crippled, and the growing unemployment will be greatly aggravated. Only a few days ago, honorable members were told that more than 64,000 persons are now unemployed in Australia. It is obvious that if this agreement is ratified, as it will be despite the opposition of Labour members in this House, unemployment will certainly exceed the present level within a few months.
As in 1952, the textile industry, like the timber industry and the building trade, is most vulnerable. I remind the House that, when this Government opened the gates to an unrestricted flow of imports in 1952, the textile industry was the first to be affected. Most of the unemployment in 1952 resulted from dismissals of workers in the textile industry. Japan depends upon its textile industry for most of its exports. There is no reason why Australia should be singled out for especially favorable treatment, and therefore we can expect an unrestricted flow of imports of Japanese textiles as a result of this agreement. I predict that, if that happens, the position will soon be exactly the same as it was in 1952, and unemployment will increase substantially.
– The Minister for Supply said in 1952 that textiles did not matter.
– He still has the same attitude. It is perfectly obvious, as the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) pointed out last Thursday evening, that the Australian textile industry is not in a position to compete with Japanese textiles, if for no other reason than that Japan has a low standard of living and that there is a great disparity between wage costs there and in Australia. The Leader of the Opposition, also, pointed out last Thursday evening that the average male wage in Japan is approximately ls. 8d. an hour, and that the female rate is only about lid. an hour. In Australia, the rates are 7s. lOd. an hour and 5s. 8d. an hour approximately. In addition, the proportion of female workers in the textile industry in Japan is twice as high as in Australia. In other words, twice as high a proportion of the textile labour force receives the lower female rate in Japan.
Those who have had the opportunity to study the textile industry, and other industries, in Japan are of the opinion that industrial output in that country has greatly increased. Obviously, the articles that will be imported into Australia will be manufactured much more cheaply than they can be manufactured in Australia, and will sell at very much lower prices than would be paid for Australian-made goods. We know that, in the past, Japan has been prepared to export goods for sale in other countries at prices much lower than the prevailing cost of production in Japan. An important point which has been overlooked by the Minister for Trade, and which should have been carefully considered when the agreement was under discussion in Japan, is that Japanese trading practices have always differed greatly from those of Western countries. The Japanese endeavour has always been to arrange, to consolidate, to negotiate, and to concentrate its efforts on reducing open commercial conflict with Western nations, and in doing so it has been able to marshal its trade forces much more effectively than have other nations. Since World War II., Japan has built up industries to a degree that compares more than favorably with the industrial development of other countries with much higher living standards. The Canadian fact-finding committee that toured textile factories in Japan reported that, internally, the Japanese were well-organized and were able to produce at relatively low costs. It reported, also, that almost all of the machinery used had been manufactured in Japan at a cost of only 50 per cent, to 65 per cent, of the cost of similar machinery manufactured in the United States of America.
Obviously, the quality of the goods produced in Japan has improved remarkably since pre-war days. Yet, despite the facts, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, the Minister for Trade has asked us to accept an agreement that will grant to Japan mostfavourednation treatment. We shall have an unrestricted flow of Japanese imports, which will be treated on the same basis, with respect to duties and tariffs, as goods from Western countries which certainly have much higher living standards. The Minister knows, of course, from a recent report of the Tariff Board, that the existing tariff rates are totally inadequate. It is obvious that, even if imports from Japan are detrimental to Australian industries, our own industries can expect no protection under this agreement, and that they can be afforded little protection by our tariff system. It is most unlikely that the Minister will be prepared to authorize the Tariff Board to act. If the Tariff Board’s inquiry into the woollen and worsted industry can be accepted as an example, it is most unlikely that the agreement will provide any relief for Australian industries. The matter was referred to the board on 3rd September, 1954. The board presented its findings in 1956, and, despite continued representations in his House by myself, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), and others, the Minister did not make the report available to Parliament until 22nd May, 1957, and even then he suggested that none of the recommendations made by the board would be accepted by the Government.
I suggest that Japan buys our wool merely because it suits her to do so. The world’s production of wool is only equal to the demand and if Japan does not buy our wool some one else will. The Minister for Trade is reported as having said, during his recent visit to Tokyo, that he found in Japanese industrial circles a desire to make the treaty work in a way that would avoid serious damage to Australian industry. I believe a similar statement was made when a Canadian Minister visited Japan. But let us look at the result. In 1954, when the Canadian tariff was lowered to permit
Japanese exports to that country, the exports from Japan totalled only 14,000,000 dollars. By the end of 1956 that figure had risen to 65,000,000 dollars and it is estimated that at the end of 1957 the total imports will reach 100,000,000 dollars. 1 suggest that that is the position that will arise in Australia. As I indicated earlier in my speech, if imports to Australia of low-cost Japanese goods reach a volume comparable with imports into Canada, it can only mean disaster for the Australian textile industry and others.
There are other Australian industries that are entitled to Government protection. One is the toy industry, which has grown up in this country. We have no large toy factories, but in every State people are engaged in a small way manufacturing toys. However, the textile industry is likely to feel the effects of imports from Japan much more than the toy industry.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, in effecting this trade agreement with Japan the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) has once again demonstrated his ability to negotiate favorable terms for the disposal of primary produce surplus to our own needs, and after all, that is a vital factor in the Australian economy. The right honorable gentleman has not had to give away more than was absolutely necessary in order to obtain the benefits of this agreement. Japan has resumed a friendly attitude, and is in a favorable frame of mind to trade her surplus products for her domestic food needs. I do not know whether we can educate the Japanese to eat butter. We did sell them 52 tons last year, but that was probably only for the hotel trade. They will no doubt have to improve their living standards and make much wider use of refrigeration before we can hope to sell them such an expensive product as butter.
I am encouraged by the fact that in this agreement there is specific reference to skim milk. Producers in my electorate sell quite a lot of casein to Japan and are hoping for a wider market for skim milk. It is unfortunate that our competitors in New Zealand have been prepared to cut the price of this product and we hope they will not do too much of that, but it shows that Japanese trade is worth going after. We do not grow any wheat in the electorate of McMillan, but we do supply a small quantity of wool, much of it of a type that is being bought by Japan.
– Get out of your own backyard.
– Naturally I have an interest in anything that is likely to help my own electorate. Dairying is the main industry in McMillan and we are endeavouring to build up the return from it to provide a reasonable standard of living for those engaged in the industry. I note that some exception is being taken by the United Kingdom to the fact that we are referring to Japan as our second largest customer. It is rightly pointed out that the United Kingdom is our biggest customer. It takes from us a great variety of goods. It takes half of our food exports, but even this is only one-tenth of its total requirements and we have to spend a lot of money on advertising to hold our place in the United Kingdom market. For too long it has been an unprofitable market for many of our products and the whole future of our export industries depends on finding new markets.
One thing we should get into our heads in this country is that the leaders of industry must get out and sell. That is what is being done in this agreement. The United Kingdom, of course, is our biggest customer for wool, but some of the manufacturers in the United Kingdom are in competition with our own factories. Japan’s purchases of wool are used in the main to clothe its own people. With wheat, we have been for some years at the mercy of the English merchants. They chose not to come into the International Wheat Agreement and that has had a detrimental effect on Australian sales. It is appropriate that under those circumstances we should make strenuous efforts to ensure that the growing demand for wheat throughout South-East Asia is met by Australia, and especially that we should go after that portion of the demand which comes from Japan.
– What does this agreement do about that?
– Quite a lot.
– They do not guarantee to take a bushel of wheat from us.
– Wheat is one of their staple lines and they need it. Barleygrowers of Australia, faced with a surplus, are happy to know that they are assured of their market for at least another three years. I am not sure whether the Japanese want our barley for food or whether it is to be used for malting. It does not matter much to us, unless of course they start to undercut the price of beer. Our brewery workers would not like that, but some others might not mind so much.
This agreement provides greater opportunities for our primary industries and, I venture to predict, for what 1 would call our manufacturing primary industries. Numerous primary products are processed in some way for sale. This is a field in which Australia should be able to compete with the rest of the world. Our farmers are doing a magnificent job in producing at a very low cost - much lower than in most other countries - those raw materials which are needed for the manufacture of food, but when manufacturers begin processing that food, the costs soar and the product becomes too dear to sell on world markets.
– That is the fault of this Government.
– No, the difficulty is that while the primary industries have for a long time provided the major part of our income, and will continue to do so, their costs are based on a 56-hour, sevenday week. Farm labour is hard to get. The amenities offered in the cities make it difficult to persuade people to work on the farms. Although we need to increase production, we have to compete with the cities in the matter of wages and leisure time.
– They are not paid enough.
– We cannot pay them enough, because we have to pay for tools, machinery and many other articles, the costs of which are based on a 40-hour week. When transport costs are added, the prices are so high that it is difficult for us to pay for them. These industries that are based on a 40-hour week are the ones that will have to stand up to competition from the whole of the outside world if we ever do remove import restrictions. If importers are allowed to bring to Australia the goods that the Australian people wish to buy from overseas, those industries in which labour and transport make up a large proportion of costs will really have to pull up their socks. Both management and labour will have to devote themselves seriously to the task of trying to preserve their present conditions, which amount to a state of luxury that is not enjoyed by their counterparts in any other part of the world. A small portion of this section of our community is screaming now about the safeguards incorporated in the trade agreement. These persons are screaming before they are hurt, and mostly before they have studied the facts. If the agreement had been negotiated at a time when import licensing was not in force, there is no doubt that industries such as those engaged in the manufacture of toys, rayon or plastic goods, or artificial flowers would find it very difficult to adjust themselves to the new conditions. But as Ions as we have a limitation on the quantities of goods that importers may purchase abroad, Australian manufacturers are assured of a large portion of those markets. After all, there are not enough imported goods coming into the country seriously to threaten Australian manufacturers.
During the post-war years we have developed secondary industries that have not had the incentive of keen competition to keep prices down. Our work force has been so sure of full employment, and conditions have been so good, that the workers have been quick to seize the opportunity to do less and less work while asking for more and more wages. Management has found it easy to work on a cost-plus basis. We have an easy-going buying public that will accept this situation, and prices have risen to a level which has put some of our goods out of world markets. If we are to justify our great natural advantages and the benefits that we enjoy, we will have to re-organize our industries so that we can compete. There is a great natural market in countries to the north of Australia, in which teeming millions of people are trying to improve their living standards, and to obtain the amenities that we take for granted. If we cannot organize our manufacturing methods to compete with Japanese products in our own country, how will we ever manage to break into that Asian market?
I do not blame union organizers for complaining about this agreement. That is their job. They have been educated to look for bogeys round every corner. But I cannot understand the attitude of the small section of management that seems to have panicked completely. If those persons will stop to examine the facts, they must realize that the safeguards in this agreement are practicable and sound. Honorable members have all received a spate of letters from interested parties, such as chambers of manufactures, textile manufacturers and textile unions, in which fears are expressed that the market is about to be flooded with Japanese goods at one-half the price of goods now being offered for sale. They have published these views in the daily newspapers and broadcast them over the air. It is no wonder that their customers have decided that now is the time to hold up orders and wait for this coming golden opportunity. The public, too, is feeling that it should wait and see whether it will get some relief from the high prices that have prevailed for such a long time. Unfortunately, this coming era of bargains exists only in imagination. There was a time when I was selling goods in competition with goods imported from Japan. I remember that in the 1920’s Japan supplied many lines that looked all right on the counter but fell to pieces after a little use. Those goods were sold at prices that were completely absurd. To-day, however, Japan realizes that she cannot hold markets by indulging in that kind of practice. Japan’s post-war development has been phenomenal, but its main characteristic has been an insistence on quality in manufactured goods. Japan now is pricing its goods at what the market will stand. We had evidence of this a few years ago when such items as cement and iron were scarce in Australia, and we had to buy from Japan at prices that were about double our own local prices. Apart from this, the restrictions imposed by import licensing will prevent a flood of Japanese goods, no matter what their prices. The volume of imports of a particular line can be made so small that it will do no damage to Australian industries engaged in the manufacture of those goods.
There is one point, however, that I would like to put to the Minister. I asked him a question the other day regarding the matter of branding. We know that in the past the Japanese have been prone to flout our branding laws, which state that the brands on goods shall be visible, prominent and permanent. I suggest that this is one matter that should be closely watched, and that no infringement should be allowed. 1 return now to the matter of safeguards. The Minister, who, I suggest, is the only person in this House who really knows what this treaty will in fact mean, has assured us that he will have certain emergency powers and that Japan well understands that any threat to a particular Australian industry will be resisted. Under our licensing system, any importer who intends to bring to Australia Japanese goods must first apply to the Department of Trade, stating what goods he wishes to import, the quantity and where they will come from. The department has a full and complete record of these transactions, and would know well in advance what the trade tendencies are. It would be able either to issue licences to fit into the required pattern or to adopt the restrictive measures that might be required to save a particular industry which, perhaps, is sensitive to competition from all suppliers overseas, not only Japanese suppliers. Despite the fact that the Government has said that its policy is to remove import licensing as soon as possible, I see no more hope of removing it than I do of abandoning the subsidy on butter.
The present agreement does not affect the quotas that will be granted to admit particular lines of goods to this country. If the Department of Trade discovers a tendency on the part of importers to overbuy, it can crack down on them, and the Government can also bring pressure to bear on the Japanese Government. If the Japanese Government cannot then give assurances that it will restrain its own exporters, the Australian Government will be able to take whatever action is necessary to protect Australian manufacturers. I believe that this agreement will establish stability in our trading relationships with one of the world’s great trading nations. Just as our agreement with the United Kingdom was a very great step forward in our dealings with that country, I hope that we will go on to establish better relations as a result of agreements with our other very valued customers. The amendment that has been moved would not have been moved By anybody who really had the interests of Australia at heart.
.- I am pleased to join with my colleagues in contending that this agreement should not, in the interests of the Australian people, be ratified. The exultation of the honorable member for Macmillan (Mr. Buchanan) is hardly capable of convincing the Australian people that the agreement will not have fearful consequences. I think he has been completely uninspired in his presentation of his defence of the Government’s action in concluding this agreement. I do not think that any one in Australia has yet come to appreciate the reasons that prompted the Government to reach an agreement of this kind. We all recall that a short time ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) went to Japan and, after a number of conferences with commercial interests and with the Emperor of Japan, laid the foundations of this agreement. Most of us also recall that he returned to bring the now notorious Asian flu to Australia. That is probably the one positive effect which the agreement has had up to date. Shortly afterwards, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) followed in the steps of the Prime Minister, and stabilized the terms of the agreement. Since that time there has been an enormous amount of speculation as to the real reasons behind the making of the agreement.
Some people in this country have contended that there are some very dubious motives prompting the Government in this matter. It has been contended, for example, that American investors have turned their eyes to Japanese industry with the idea of capitalizing on the poor living standards and low wages and working conditions in that country, in an insidious attempt to capture the world’s markets through the medium of Japan. Some people suspect that the Australian Government has received a flat order from the United States on this matter. They say that, as we have seen this Government bowing to the wishes of the cartels, the monopolies and big business interests in the past in respect of wage adjustments, it is reasonable to believe that, in this matter also, the Government is being servile to the dictates of capital - this time American capital. History shows that there could well be grounds for speculation along those lines. Similarly, it is suspected that some efforts may be made by the Government in the direction of undermining living standards in Australia.
It is clear that there are sections of the Australian community which do not readily concede the high living standards which many of our people enjoy. We should appreciate the enormous disparity between Australian standards and Japanese standards. If we compare some of the conditions that Australian workers have won for themselves with those under which Japanese workers toil, we can easily see why American investors might be attracted into the Japanese field. Japan is a country with enormous accomplishments in the field of secondary industry. There is no doubt that the American know-how that has been available to it and the modern production techniques that it has learned, accompanied by the great influx of American capital since the end of the war, have enabled Japan to make rapid progress towards a position from which she can proceed to capture the world’s markets. Australian workers enjoy, for instance, long service leave, a 40-hour week, annual leave and sick leave, workers’ compensation, smoko periods, tea breaks and many other benefits which are taken for granted in this country, but which do not exist in Japan. Those benefits were gained because of the tenacious characteristics of the Australian workers who fought for them through the great trade union movement. Some of those great benefits were gained only a relatively few years ago.
The contrast with Japan is strong. The average working week in Japan is about 48± hours, and the hours worked range up to 60 hours. Japanese factories are devoid of amenities. In fact, the Japanese factory is usually associated with the home. The home is the factory; the factory is the home. Japanese workers sleep on the job, as the honorable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr. Curtin) has pointed out. Instead of a basic wage of about £13 3s. a week, which is the minimum an Australian adult male worker may receive, the Japanese worker earns about 16,000 yen, which is about £5 a week in Australian money. So, there are good reasons why the Australian people should be concerned about the effect of this agreement; and it is no wonder that they are trying desperately to discover the reasons which prompted the Government to enter into it.
The Japanese trade agreement was the subject of a joint communique issued on 6th July by the Australian and Japanese governments. It was pointed out that the agreement would commence to operate as from that date on a provisional basis. That means that the agreement has already been in operation in some degree for two months. We have already been able to discern in that period some of its effects. One of its principal adverse effects is the noticeable downward trend in employment in Australia. Nobody can deny that unemployment has increased in the period during which the agreement has operated on a provisional basis. There is no question that unemployment existed in some considerable degree prior to the signing of the agreement; but there is also no question that unemployment has been intensified at an alarming rate since the agreement was made. There has been a marked reaction to this agreement throughout Australian industry, and that reaction will develop into a tirade of indignation, of hurricane-like velocity, which will ultimately sweep this Government from its privileged place.
Never before have we seen such tremendous concern on the part of the Australian industries - the supporters of this Government - as they have shown about this trade agreement. Never before in my short experience in this House and, I am told, in the longer experience of many other honorable members, has there been such disinterest and such a lethargic attitude on the part of members of the Government towards a government policy as has been the case in this instance. Every honorable member is acutely conscious of the alarming trend towards mass unemployment in Australia. Although employment has not as yet been directly affected by Japanese imports, it has been affected by loss of confidence on the part of leaders of industry, the cancellation of orders and the abandonment of projects for expansion. Will any honorable member deny that there will be a strong public reaction to this agreement? Such a reaction will be a logical development when the number of jobs available has diminished and the number of persons seeking jobs has risen to a post-war record level. As the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) pointed out to-night, the number of unemployed will shortly reach 65,000 and will increase at a record-breaking rate to something like 1 00.000 in a matter of a few short weeks as a consequence of this agreement. Some people think that this agreement appears to be unduly sentimental. There is no question that a great deal of buyer resistance to Japanese goods has already developed in this country, due to the facts that I have outlined. Some people are sentimental in matters of this kind; others are concerned only about the industry in which they are employed, and still others just could not care less. We may see, on the part of an employee of a shirt manufacturer, some lack of interest in the opportunity to buy a Japanese-made shirt for 13s. 2d. when Australian-made shirts of similar quality sell in this country for £2 2s. or £2 3s., but it is likely that the same person would not refrain from purchasing a pair of shoes which had been made in Japan, or some other commodity with which his own livelihood was not directly related.
We must not lose sight of the fact that in Japan wages are far lower than they are in Australia. I am told that the average male employee in Japan receives 20.6 pence an hour, compared with 94 pence an hour in Australia. The average female worker in Japan receives 11.6 pence an hour, whereas in Australia the average female worker receives 68.3 pence. Of course, the real test of this matter does not lie only in the rate per hour earned by workers in Australia and Japan; it also has to do with the incidence of female employment. In Japan, only 20 per cent, of the employees in the textile industry are males, while in Australia 52.5 per cent, are males. There is in Japan nothing like equal pay for the sexes. In every respect, working standards are incompatible with those in Australia.
What are the advantages for Australia in this agreement? The Minister for Trade, in his statement to the House, has endeavoured to convey the impression, as might be expected, that Australia has much to gain. Unfortunately for the people of this country, analysis of the situation will show that that view can hardly be substantiated. On the contrary, there are bound to be many adverse results. Obviously, we should examine the range of our exports to Japan and consider the likelihood of increasing them in terms of real money values. If an increase were imminent as a consequence of the agreement, some advantage would have been gained, but what is the position? Reference has been made to wool, and it is true that Japan has purchased 700,000 or 800,000 bales of our wool annually over the last few years, but it is equally true that Japan prefers Australian wool only because it is the best wool and probably is available at the best prices. No particular protection has been provided in respect of this commodity, and there is no clear indication that exports of wool from Australia to Japan will increase as a direct consequence of this agreement.
It also is true that Japan has imported 75,000,000 bushels of Australian wheat. Our high protein wheat, as all Australians know, is not difficult to sell, but in respect of the lower grade wheat, there is every likelihood that we shall have to continue to compete, with the same enthusiasm and possibly with only the same degree of success as we have enjoyed in the past. We must not overlook the possibility of a flood of low-priced Japanese goods on to the Australian market, and we should satisfy ourselves that we are equipped with adequate protective machinery. It is obvious that Australian industries are not impressed by the Minister’s assurances that adequate protective machinery is available. Despite these assurances, industry has been very vocal in its opposition. I invite the attention of the House to the agreed minutes incorporated as part of the agreement, lt seems that Australia quite readily conceded that our tariff machinery could hardly be effective in the circumstances. Part B reads as follows: -
The Australian delegation pointed out that Australia had already bound against increase the rates of duty on a relatively large number of items to other countries which were of export interest to Japan and consequently by extending most-favoured-nation treatment to Japanese goods in the Australian Tariff, Australia did in fact assure a stability of tariff treatment of Japanese goods that was of considerable importance. On the other hand, the principal items of export interest to Australia in the Japanese market were not subject in the Japanese Tariff to binding against increased duties and consequently there was not a comparable assurance of stable tariff treatment being accorded to Australia by Japan. Moreover, the fact that many of the duties in the Australian Tariff of export interest to Japan were already bound against increase meant that they could only be raised after considerable negotiation and compensatory payment in terms of the tariff to other countries.
In this matter, it is clear that the Minister has attempted to adopt a Jekyll and Hyde approach. He has decided that the best way to appease both the Japanese and the Australian manufacturers is to speak with two voices. When negotiating with the
Japanese, he points out that in obtaining most-favoured-nation treatment they are achieving something of great importance. He makes a considerable issue of that, and indicates that it is very difficult to reduce the effectiveness of such duty protection; but when the Australian manufacturers start to express their great concern he points out that there is no need for alarm because it is possible for him to invoke the protective measures.
I have no doubt that every honorable member has been inundated by telegrams, letters and deputations of protest from a great variety of industries. I received a protest only the other day from a small industry which I think is typical of many industries that will be adversely affected by this agreement. It came from the Picture Frame Manufacturers Association. The president of the organization resides in my electorate, and naturally he came to me. He pointed out that some 600 members of his association engaged in the picture frame industry in New South Wales were greatly concerned at the possible effects of the agreement, and he asked me to communicate with the Minister and request protection for the industry. He informed me that 75 per cent, of the trade was directed towards production for the chain stores.
I wrote to the Minister because I thought that he would agree to afford some protection, but unfortunately his attitude was not co-operative. No doubt he will adopt a similar attitude if other industries accept the invitation that has been extended to them and come to him to have their problems dealt with. He has failed to take account of the fact that tariff reviews are three years and even four years in arrears, and that the department cannot cope even with the normal state of affairs. That being so, it is clear that the Minister will have no prospect at all of coping with the adverse effects of this agreement. He pointed out for the information of the Picture Frame Manufacturers Association that three considerations are involved, and referred first, to the limit set by the availability of import licences. We know that, in fact, there is no limit. Licences to import from the United Kingdom, the United States or any other country from which imports are at present being made, can be transferred and directed towards the Japanese market.
So it is no protection. The issue of licences for the importation of £100,000 worth of goods of a category from the United Kingdom can result in £300,000 worth of goods in that category being imported from Japan.
The Minister for Trade then went on to refer io a second matter. That was the undertaking of the Japanese Government to exercise restraint on exports and to ensure that there will not be a sudden damaging flow of imports to Australia. The Australian people can hardly be satisfied with that, because whenever the Japanese have negotiated similar agreements with other countries, they have availed themselves to the fullest extent of the opportunity with which they have been provided and the local market has suffered. Then he said that the customary protective powers of the Government are neither restricted nor reduced by the trade agreement with Japan, but I have already indicated that the minutes of the agreement show that the Government is not prepared to invoke its protective powers. So the Minister was speaking with two voices on this issue. The representations by the picture frame manufacturers association, which has indicated that this industry is about to be annihilated by Japanese industry, were received with a complete lack of concern and interest. I believe that that is typical of the attitude that the Minister will be bound to take in the notfardistant future. The 6th July, 1957, was an unfortunate day for Australia, because thousands of Australian workers are bound to suffer as a consequence of this agreement.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I feel that the Opposition advantages neither the country nor itself by the exaggerated nature of its attack on this treaty. Its attitude to the treaty accords strangely with its fawning eagerness for trade with red China, where there is not only cheap labour, but also slave labour. But do not let us go into the question of motives.
However, I do feel a certain degree of disquiet in relation to the present situation. It arises not so much from the text of the treaty itself as from the circumstances under which the treaty has been framed. They are circumstances which have nothing to do with this Government. They lie entirely outside its control, but they are circumstances which I think the House should regard with seriousness, not in the partisan manner which the Opposition has seen fit to adopt.
I do not want to go into the constitutional difficulties which the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) raised last night in regard to the treaty-making powers. Rather shall I refer to the economic and political circumstances which render a treaty of this kind necessary, but which, at the same time, make it necessary for us to show a certain degree of vigilance in regard to the implementation of its principles. Dealing first with the treaty itself, I feel that the safeguards are mechanically adequate to bring about the effects which the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) outlined to the House. I feel that power, technically and in a mechanical sense, to protect Australian industry from any unwanted flood of imports or to protect British industry from dislocation of the normal pattern of our trade does, in fact, reside in the Government’s hands in terms of this treaty. But it does seem to me, also, that the very factors which have made this treaty necessary may make it difficult to apply these mechanical safeguards.
This is not a criticism of the Government. It is an attempt to examine dispassionately the international and economic situation in which we are placed. Much, of course, will depend on the administrative arrangements. The Minister has said that he will see that no industry is driven to the wall and that no drastic and untoward consequences will flow from this treaty. When one looks at the treaty, one sees that the mechanical power to do that does reside in the Minister’s hands in terms of the treaty.
I do not agree with members of the Opposition that there are no advantages in this treaty. The market for Australian wool is immensely important to the standard of living of every Australian. The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) said that nothing had been promised in respect of f.a.q. soft wheat. It may be that nothing binding has been promised, but if the honorable member will read the minutes attached to the treaty and which, in the terms of the correspondence exchanged between the Minister for Trade and the Japanese authorities, form a part of the treaty, he will see that there is an expectation of Japanese purchases of soft wheat to the value of £200,000 a year. I take that simply as an example. I believe that many other comparable advantages will flow to Australia. But, we have to face the fact that Japan, because of its population pressure and because of the position in which it is placed with regard to Asia, must look for ways of expanding its exports and using its position as a buyer - it is a most important buyer - to extend its exports to those markets from which it buys.
The existence of this treaty is evidence of such pressures. The very pressures which generated the treaty will not be relaxed by the treaty. In fact, very much the opposite will be the case. As we involve our economy progressively with those of nations with whom we increase our international trade, we become more amenable, not less amenable, to pressures from them which might be directed against sections of our economy. This treaty relieves the pressure on wool this year, but it will not relieve a new pressure similarly brought to bear on wool in two or three years time.
I am not speaking only of our trade with Japan when I say that over the last fifteen or twenty years Australia has become, not less dependent, but a little more dependent on its international trade. That is the conclusion to be drawn from the statistics and various papers of the national income which have been presented to this House. When one sees that, one has reason for some disquiet. I know that there are advantages in a high degree of international trade, particularly for a country such as Australia, where the per capita resources in land and raw materials are great. It is only a normal extension of the old specialization argument. Under these circumstances, other things being equal, a high degree of international trade does make possible a higher standard of living. But I do not think the argument runs all on one side. There are things which have to be put on the other side of the scale, and they are not just practical expedients. The theory of this matter does not seem to have been sufficiently appreciated or sufficiently stated.
There is a theoretical case against unrestricted free trade. If one were testing an aeroplane and it continually crashed, or had a series of crashes, one would not say, “ The theory of aerodynamics, as I have it, is perfect, but this is just bad luck “. The point is that unrestricted free trade does not work, for theoretical reasons of quite considerable moment which are perhaps not very easy to state to the House in a few minutes. I believe that one has to steer a middle course, going neither to unrestricted free trade nor to the excesses of protection.
There are grave difficulties in regard to the present situation. Obviously, and in the merest interests of prudence and of our own people, we cannot have a depression in Japan because that would involve us in risks of war and of conflicts which, I am sure, no honorable member would want to assume or undergo. So, for reasons which are not economic but arise purely from selfinterest, we are, to some extent, committed to helping Japan in this matter. But there is a great disparity, and it is no use trying to ignore it, between the standard of living and wages in Japan and those in Australia. It is too great a disparity, accompanied as it is by a high degree of industrial skill in Japan, to be taken up by the mere mechanisms of free trade, particularly since the normal mechanisms which include exchange adjustments and the raising of Japanese wages are apt to be spragged to some extent by other extraneous circumstances.
In addition, the tides of international economic fluctuations may become too violent unless we can compartmentalize them and control them to some extent within each individual economy. This is a purely theoretical proposition, but it is one which has a great practical application. In other words, if we are to have full employment and expanding living standards, then it is probable that we shall have to keep a good bit of control in our own hands here in Australia. Although we must take advantage of our great natural resources, particularly wool, wheat and minerals, by engaging in a high degree of international trade, I feel that it is not a policy which we can embrace unreservedly. In this, moderation on both sides is to be called for. In my view, we do not want a situation in which Australia becomes increasingly vulnerable to the next pressure by reason of giving way to this pressure. 1 am not trying to criticize this particular agreement. 1 believe that in this case mechanical safeguards do exist. I believe that the circumstances to which 1 am drawing attention are in no way the creation or the fault of this Government. They are just the facts of international life which this country and this House has to face and try to do the best for the Australian people as a whole. It is a little hard to realize that in these circumstances there seems to be an acceptance of the system of import controls as a quasipermanent feature of our economy. That is something which I do not like, and I think most honorable members will join me in disliking it. But it is no use just crying and saying, “ What can you do about it? “ There are some practical things which we can do and which we should be doing and, in fact, I believe the Government is doing. In these circumstances there is a call for further Australian development and quicker Australian expansion.
I believe that the budget which was brought down last night will help very considerably towards those objectives. I refer not only to the fiscal measures which will help many of the manufacturers and which will offset some of the other factors to which the Opposition has drawn attention, but also to the increased housing activity, for example, which the budget will make possible. I refer also to the standardization of railways and new works which will become available under the budget proposals. Beyond those, I feel that this treaty is not so much a cause as a signal point.
There is a case to be made out for a greater relaxation of credit in order to speed up development to the advantage of all Australians. Surely, that is the objective of the Government; and I believe that if the Opposition would get out of its mood of captious criticism it might join in such an objective.
The second thing is this - and here again I recall, not with any sense of criticism but rather the opposite, some of the things which have been said by the Opposition - there is a case to be made out for greater productivity, which goes hand in hand with higher living standards. This House must give a lead by sweeping away the unnecessary restrictions on production which do not advantage either the worker or the employer. There are many such restrictions on both sides. We must get rid of these bottlenecks. Honorable members opposite may say, “ We will not break down hardwon conditions “. We are talking not about breaking down hard-won conditions but about building up conditions; and if it is a case of getting rid of restrictions which do not add to the standard of living in the world but which decrease productivity, then we shall improve the whole Australian economy. Under this Government it is still, substantially, a full employment economy; and it will remain that way. The old unemployment complex which some honorable members opposite are hoping to live on again, belongs to the past. We have a full employment economy. That being so, the raising of our living standards must depend on an all-round increase in productivity, and I believe that this is not a call but a signal to all honorable members to achieve that objective in a co-operative spirit for the benefit of all Australians.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Bryant) adjourned.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
During an adjournment debate last week, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) made certain serious allegations against my department concerning the treatment alleged to have been meted out to a young lady who had been in receipt of an invalid pension, and he is most anxious that I should reply. Let me say that I have no great liking for the task. It is not possible for me to remember the details of every case, since there are more than 90,000 invalid pensioners, but, as is my custom, I have had the relevant claim papers examined and the House will, perhaps, be interested to know the facts of the case.
First, let me explain that, subject to a means test, invalid pensions are provided by the Commonwealth for persons aged sixteen years or over who are permanently incapacitated for work. A person is deemed to be permanently incapacitated for work if the degree of incapacity is not less than 85 per cent. The degree of incapacity is not determined by me or by my department but on the medical evidence, entirely and exclusively. The documents show that, in the case mentioned by the honorable member for East Sydney, an invalid pension at the maximum rate was granted on 27th November, 1952. The examining doctor certified the claimant as permanently incapacitated for work as a result of chronic asthma, but recommended a medical review in two years. The review examination was conducted on 14th March, 1955 and the pension payment was continued, but again the examining doctor requested a review in two years. During April, 1957, arrangements were made for a further medical examination. The report, which was received on 17th April, stated that the claimant was not incapacitated to the required degree of 85 per cent. She was, therefore, not eligible to continue to receive an invalid pension. The claimant was notified of the position on 30th May, 1957, and, in accordance with the usual humane practice in cases of this nature, she was advised that payment of the invalid pension would terminate after the payment of the instalment due on 15th August, 1957.
It will be noted that the claimant was given some two and a half months’ notice of the intention to terminate her pension. The purpose of this humane practice is to give the pensioner an opportunity for readjustment to employment and, if possible, an opportunity to find suitable employment before payment actually ceases. At the same time, it was suggested to the claimant that if she had not obtained work by 22nd August, 1957, she should lodge an application for unemployment benefit, and, to assist her, a departmental social worker was asked to visit the claimant and instructed to extend to her whatever help and advice the social worker considered likely to be of value in the circumstances. Information was received subsequently that the claimant commenced employment on 3rd July, 1957, some 44 days before her invalid pension was due to expire. It will be seen that the decision to terminate the invalid pension was based solely on the medical evidence and that the medical evidence has nothing to do with me or with any of the officers of my department.
This afternoon, to my pleasurable surprise, I received a letter from the very distinguished medical man mentioned by the honorable member for East Sydney in the course of his speech. I refer to Dr. Maurice
Joseph, M.B., B.S., B.Sc. (Sydney), M.R.C.P. (London), F.R.A.C.P. It is my manifest duty to read this letter to the House, since it is the complete answer to all the allegations made by the honorable member for East Sydney. Dr. Joseph writes -
My attention has been drawn to a report in the Sydney Sun of 29th August of a statement made in Parliament by Mr. e. Ward concerning the withdrawal of an invalid pension from a patient stated to be under my care. I feel you should be acquainted with the full facts, which are as follows: -
The patient is . . . attending my out-patients, clinic at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. She has never been a private patient and is officially a patient of the hospital, and so I resent the public use of my name in connexion with her.
She has suffered from childhood from severe asthma which has caused emphysema. This incapacitated her for work and, so far as I know, she has been in receipt of an invalid pension since she became of age.
Actually, since 1952 -
However, as the result of cortisone treatment which she has had at the Government expense continuously for over a year, she improved to such an extent that I considered that she should try to become self-supporting and informed the almoner accordingly.
Dr. Joseph continues ;
Last week I was informed by competent observers that she was unable to cope with fulltime employment and that her asthma had worsened, requiring more frequent visits to the hospital. I therefore issued a certificate recommending reinstitution of the pension, but since this was given only last Monday I would not think that your department has had time yet to act on this recommendation.
You have my permission to use this information as you think fit.
The letter is signed “ Maurice R. Joseph “.
I could conceive of no more adequate reply to the honorable member for East Sydney, nor could I imagine a finer tribute to the officers of my department, and I am most grateful to a very distinguished and most valiant man. At the same time, I must express my compassion for the poor girl who has been made the innocent victim of the senseless and cruel allegations of the honorable member for East Sydney.
.- The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) keeps reminding us of his humanitarian approach to these problems. All I say is, God help any Australian who has to depend on this Minister to give him any relief when he needs it. The Minister mentioned the report of the doctor. What does the doctor say which refutes anything that 1 said? All the doctor says is that he resents the use of his name, because this patient was treated only as an out-patient of a public hospital and was not a private patient of his. But he admits that she suffers from chronic asthma and has done so since childhood. He says also that he recommended to the department the restoration of her pension. In what way does that answer the allegation I made against the department and the Minister? What this Minister has failed to tell the House is whether the department will act on the doctor’s recommendation and restore the pension to her. When he said - and this is a deliberate lie - that this invalid pension-
-Order! The honorable member for East Sydney will resume his seat. I ask the honorable member to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, having had the pleasure of saying it. The fact is that this Minister made a statement-
– Mr. Speaker, when you asked the honorable member to withdraw the remark, he said, “ I withdraw having said it “.
– I did not. I said, “ having had the pleasure of saying it “.
– I withdraw it. The Minister said that this lady commenced work on 3rd July, 1957. Why did not the Minister say where she had started work? I will tell the House. She started work with the Civilian Maimed and Limbless Association. The association has established, as a co-operative undertaking, a workshop in which it has installed many devices that are essential for invalids and limbless people who are trying to earn a living and maintain themselves by their own labour. Yet the Minister for Social Services claims that he has encouraged this organization! He talks about the assistance that he has given it, and says that unfortunate people who are unable to obtain employment in industry, and who can work only in this special workshop, may earn up to £3 10s. a week, which is the maximum limit of permissible income, without affecting their pension. That is what this unfortunate woman did. On the advice of the doctor who, through the almoner at the hospital, advised her to try to get employment to maintain herself, she went to the Civilian Maimed and Limbless Association, which took her into its workshop. The Government accepted as sufficient reason to cancel her pension a report by a government doctor - which is contradicted by the doctor who has been treating the woman at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, whose authority the Minister quotes - that the woman had commenced work on 3rd July.
Let us consider what the Minister said he has done for this unfortunate woman. He said that the Department of Social Services gave her two and a half months’ notice of the cancellation of her pension. What a generous gesture to a permanent invalid who has, on the admission of the Minister and the doctor, suffered from chronic asthma since childhood! What did the Minister expect the unfortunate woman to do in that two and a half months? Not an employer in the country would give her work. Dr. Maurice Joseph said, when he was asked for a certificate, that he had been advised by competent observers that the woman was incapable of full-time employment. Who were the competent observers? Why did not the Minister tell us that they were the people who supervised the woman’s work in the workshop conducted by the Civilian Maimed and Limbless Association? They were the competent observers whose word was accepted by the doctor as sufficient reason for him to recommend immediately that the pension be restored. But that was not good enough for this allegedly humane Minister in charge of social services. What is to be done now by the organization that has established this special workshop by co-operative effort, and installed in it many devices to assist limbless and invalid people to earn a livelihood? It may as well close its workshop, because the Minister will take advantage of the fact that some of the people working in it are able to earn up to £3 10s. a week, and will cancel their pensions.
The Minister said, “ After the two and a half months had expired, we provided a welfare officer to have a discussion with the unfortunate invalid and to furnish advice “. How far will advice take her? I suppose that she can get any amount of advice from many quarters if she wants it. All that she wants is the means to maintain herself, and she is being denied it. The doctor and the Civilian Maimed and Limbless Association say that this woman is not capable of working and earning a livelihood, that she tires easily, has to rest frequently, and must attend a hospital two or three times a week for treatment as an out-patient. How does the Minister expect her to get employment anywhere? The Government has not attempted to find employment for her. I shall tell the House the best that the Minister could do for this unfortunate woman. He has declared that if she could not get work by 22nd August, even with the assistance of the welfare worker and of the Civilian Maimed and Limbless Association, she could apply for unemployment benefit, which would immediately reduce her income by 30s. a week. That is the sort of humanitarian treatment that this unfortunate woman has received from the Minister.
The Minister has quoted the authority of Dr. Joseph, who recommended the restoration of the woman’s pension. Why does he not tell us whether the Government intends to accept Dr. Joseph’s recommendation? The Minister mentioned the many initials that Dr. Joseph is entitled to use after his name to demonstrate his medical qualifications. Are not those qualifications superior to those of the unnamed doctor who recommended . that the woman’s pension be cancelled? If the Minister accepts the authority of Dr. Joseph in one respect, why does he not accept it in another. In the interests of justice for an unfortunate woman who cannot speak for herself in this Parliament, I demand to know from the Minister whether he intends to accept the advice of Dr. Joseph, whom he has quoted as an authority, and to restore this unfortunate woman’s pension.
.- Not being acquainted with the facts of the case that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has put before the House, I shall discuss a totally different matter in which I think that the Government and the departments concerned have acted wrongly. It concerns the maize industry, which has been given an unnecessary setback by the Department of Primary Industry and the Department of Trade.
Although there is a considerable carryover of maize which cannot be sold because there is no demand for it on the market, the Department of Trade has issued a licence for the import of 4,800 tons from South Africa, where the market is oversupplied. It is being imported at a low price with which it is impossible for the Australian industry to compete.
Conversation being audible,
-Order! I ask the honorable member for East Sydney to maintain silence.
– I was only having a friendly conversation with the Minister for Social Services.
-Order! The honorable member is out of order.
– In fairness to the Department of Trade, I should like to say that, before the licence for the import of maize was issued, that department, in June last, asked the Department of Primary Industry for advice whether such imports should be allowed. The Department of Primary Industry, in turn, asked the Queensland and New South Wales Agriculture Departments for their views, and both the State departments recommended that the imports be allowed. When 1 raised the matter with the Department of Primary Industry, I was told, “ That was away back in June “. I said, “ Do you not know enough about the maize industry to know that the harvest begins in June, and that you should wait to see how much will be harvested? “ I also asked what was the total of production for the current year, and the departmental officer with whom I was dealing admitted that it was approximately 2,500,000 bushels, or only about 250,000 bushels less than in the previous year.
What will happen? I have obtained regular reports from the Australian Agricultural Council for the last two years in an effort to follow the trend of the maize market in order to help the growers to obtain export markets for the surplus that accumulates owing to the insufficient demand for maize in Australia, and the Atherton Maize Board has exported 1,000 tons of maize to New Zealand this year. The Department of Primary Industry, which is supposed to protect primary industries, has condoned the issuing of an import licence by the Department of Trade to the detriment of the Queensland maizegrowers. Ministers should be more responsible in their administration in protecting major industries which are trying to sell on drastically affected markets, and should take a closer personal interest in these matters. Obviously, the officers of the departments concerned are doing what they think is right.
I do not wish to make a personal attack on any one over this matter. However, let us examine the attitude of the Queensland Agriculture and Stock Department, which took the view that it would be all right to import maize because otherwise prices might rise too high. That is a terribly miserable outlook on the part of the Queensland department, which, in June and July, was administered by a Labour Government. Any one who knows anything about the maize industry knows that it costs more to produce maize than to produce wheat, and that the Australian producers of maize always have to sell at lower prices than are obtained for wheat. Although the present harvest is only about half the size of a normal harvest, owing to drought, the growers will still get lower prices than are received by wheat-growers, and their losses will be heavy. The Queensland maize-growers need the best market that they can get. Yet the Queensland Agriculture and Stock Department advised the Department of Primary Industry to keep prices down! In June the Department of Primary Industry said to the Department of Trade that it was all right to allow imports. Admittedly, it was a dry time then, but the Department of Primary Industry confirmed that advice to the Department of Trade in July, after the rains had fallen.
I want a more responsible approach to industries such as this, because I am concerned for those producers of maize who are now waiting to sell the result of their year’s work and cannot find any market for it. There is a very indifferent demand for maize at any time, but as a consequence of the issuing of import licences Kellogg (Australia) Proprietary Limited and Clifford Love and Company Limited, who usually buy all their supplies from Australia, will import their requirements from South Africa. Although Kellogg’s and Clifford Love expect the Australian public to use their products, they are not prepared to buy Australian maize. So, there was a wrong approach by the Department of Primary Industry in making the recommendation to the Department of Trade that the licences be given, and there is a wrong approach by Australian manufacturers, who, whilst expecting the farmers to produce maize at a satisfactory price - and they are doing it - are not prepared to buy it. The farmers can supply maize at a price equivalent to or lower than that of maize imported from South Africa. Since the manufacturers have told the Department of Primary Industry and the Department of Trade something which is not true - that local supplies are lacking - they will probably go to the Customs Department and say that as Australian maize is not available imports should be allowed at a concession rate. I challenge the Government on this. I say that there will be a mighty big fight if the Government allows that maize in at concession rates. I am very concerned about this problem. There is no demand for the maize that is being produced all through the South Burnett district. That is the farmers’ living for a year and in any case it is only a half crop. I raise this matter in the House to make public something which has been done in secret. Somebody has allowed these licences to be issued without any intimation to me or any other representative of the maize industry and I want to bring the responsibility home to those concerned. These licences should never have been issued and I want to be assured that this will never happen again. The licences having been issued and the contracts having been made in South Africa, I do not expect the Minister to break them, but it is essential that this industry should survive. After all, when we adopt an import licensing system because of the shortage of overseas credits, where is the sense in issuing import licences for South African maize just because it is cheaper there than normally, and so causing the Australian industry to suffer as a consequence?
I bring those points before the House because this industry has been badly let down by the issue of these licences to those who normally buy their requirements in Queensland. I asked the senior officer of the Department of Agriculture, in Kingaroy, on Monday last, what the position was in the district. He said, “ I was not consulted by my office in Brisbane as to what tonnages were available “. I said, “ What is the position to-day? “ He said, “ There is more than half the crop still on hand and it is of good quality. I cannot give you the tonnage “. I said, “ Would 5,000 or 6,000 tons be a fair estimate? “ He said, “ Yes, you would not be exaggerating in any way “.
Fortunately, although the licence application was for 8,000 tons of maize, the Department of Trade did reduce it to threefifths of that quantity, namely 4,800 tons. Otherwise, we would not have been able to sell a grain. As it is now, it is a very sick market and a very sick price, a price much below the cost of production, and the industry is suffering as a consequence.
– I am glad the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) has raised this question in the House, because it is one that had given me a great deal of concern. I should like to assure the honorable member that, when these problems are being dealt with, the first thing that is taken into consideration by the department is the welfare of the producers of this country.
– That is exactly what you would think, and that is what you thought about the interests of the primary producers when you held office.
I have given the honorable member for Fisher an assurance, and I shall resume my reply to him. It is normal practice when an application is made for a licence to import any primary product, to ask the Department of Agriculture in the State concerned to let us know whether the licence should, in fact, be issued. The department’s advice to us is usually based upon whether or not it thinks that there is likely to be a shortage of the commodity. So far as my understanding goes, the Department of Agriculture in Queensland was certain that there would be a shortage. Nevertheless, I have an enormous amount of sympathy with the case put by the honorable member. The matter is now under consideration in order to decide whether there is any flaw in the arrangements and, if there is, whether that flaw can be eliminated. I am having the matter closely considered, and I give the honorable member my personal assurance that as soon as I can come to satisfactory arrangements, both within my own department and with the Department of Agriculture of Queensland, I will let him know.
.- There is a matter that I should like to bring to the notice of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). While 1 am on the subject of the Department of Social Services, let me express my sincere wish that the recommendation made by the doctor referred to by the Minister in his reply to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) will be observed and that the person so ably represented in this debate by the honorable member for East Sydney will have her pension restored.
I want to refer to the position of Mr. R. T. Lock, of 118 Howlett-street, Currajong, Townsville. Mr. Lock is a tuberculosis sufferer. He was in the Townsville General Hospital, and was in receipt of a tuberculosis allowance. He left the hospital, and some time later was notified by the Department of Health that he was required to re-enter the hospital and to submit himself to further X-rays. He failed to do this - 1 admit at once that this man did not re-enter the hospital, nor did he go for further X-rays - and as a result his tuberculosis allowance was suspended on 27th September and was not restored until 22nd November. Mr. Aikens, M.L.A., took the matter up with the Department of Social Services and the Director-General of Health, but his representations to have the pension restored in respect of that period were rejected. Later he contacted me.
I put it to the Minister for Social Services and to the House that the medical evidence established that this man was a sufferer from tuberculosis and as a result he received a tuberculosis allowance. It is true - I do not deny it for one moment - that he did not observe the orders of the department about re-entering hospital and presenting himself for X-rays. But after he complied the evidence was as before: he was still a sufferer from tuberculosis, and his pension was restored. I want to remind the Minister that if a person is suffering from tuberculosis he is not necessarily required to be in hospital all the time, and it is not very nice to go back to a hospital, after having been a patient there, and be ordered to re-enter the hospital. I was very closely and personally associated at one time with a person who suffered from tuberculosis, and I was a party to the removal of that patient from a hospital because of certain psychological results that the hospital treatment was having.
The man to whom I have been referring to-night suffered from tuberculosis before his pension was suspended and, on the evidence obtained by the Director-General of Health, he still had tuberculosis after his pension was restored. For that reason, 1 suggest that he should be entitled to have his pension paid for the two months during which it was not paid. I remember another case that occurred before the present Minister for Health was admitted to the Cabinet. It concerned a man named Goldfinch who lived in Townsville. The Director-General of Health stated that this man’s health was in such a state that he would have to report to the rehabilitation centre in Brisbane. Because this gentleman wanted to be with his wife and children, and to secure the home comforts that any person in such circumstances would want, he would not go to Brisbane, and his pension was cancelled. While I was arguing that his pension should be restored, and while the Department of Social Services continued to refuse to restore his pension, the man died of tuberculosis, and so we had no more argument as to whether his pension should be restored or whether he should go to the rehabilitation centre in Brisbane.
I put it to the Minister, finally, that since, on the evidence of his own department, the man I have mentioned suffered from tuberculosis before his pension was suspended, and was still suffering from that disease after it was restored, it is not too much to ask the Minister and the department to pay that man his pension for the two months during which he was deprived of it. I ask the Minister to put himself in the position of a married man whose only income is his pension, who has no future, and who can look forward only to a life of misery and eventual death from the dreaded disease of tuberculosis. The only income that this man had was the pension that was granted to him. How could he be expected to earn a living during the two months when this department so callously refused to pay him his pension? I ask the Minister to give this matter the consideration it deserves and to arrange for this person to be paid the amount that he would have received had he not been deprived of his pension for the period of two months.
– The subject that I wish to discuss is one of some importance. Some months ago a certain pastoral company in the Darling Downs area decided to interest itself in the establishment of the soya bean-growing industry in that district. It applied for an import licence for 16 bushels of soya bean seed from the United States of America on the ground that no suitable seed, and in fact practically no seed of any kind, was available in Australia. The application for an import licence was approved on the 18th July, subject, of course, to quarantine conditions which are controlled by the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron). The application was for two separate lots of 8 bushels each, being two different types of soya bean seed. The company was advised, of course, that when the import licence had been approved it must apply to the Commonwealth Department of Health for quarantine approval. It did apply in the normal way through the State Department of Agriculture representative in Queensland, and its application was refused, although it was told that it could bring in a very small quantity, providing the seed could be grown under quarantine control upon some State-controlled property.
The company, of course, would not accept this direction. It required at least 8 bushels, and preferably the 16 bushels, of the two types of seed for a particular test. It was prepared to grow the seed as an experimental crop on its own property under the supervision of quarantine officers appointed by the State Department of Agriculture on behalf of the Commonwealth, or indeed under the supervision of officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which has operated in that district previously.
I may say that the Minister for Health has been, as usual, most helpful in this matter. He has investigated the position and, on the advice of his departmental officers, has found it necessary to indicate that he can approve of only a very small quantity of seed, under the conditions already laid down by his departmental officers. However, I do suggest to the Minister that this is an important industry which could mean quite a lot to the general economy of Australia in the future, and which at this stage requires every encouragement.
I would like to tell honorable members something about the possibilities of this industry and how it can assist the Australian economy, particularly in Queensland. The soya bean is a summer-growing legume, and it would help to a great extent in the diversification of crops in Queensland, and so help to preserve the very valuable soil areas of the Darling Downs. The soya bean industry was established in Eastern countries several hundred years ago, and in the recent decade it has extended to the United States of America and to Europe. In fact, the tremendous development of this primary industry in the United States indicates that there are some very definite prospects of success for it in Australia, where we have similar conditions and soil structure. Experiments were conducted in New South Wales over a number of years, until in 1946-47 it was decided by the Commonwealth to sponsor large-scale production. A total area of 2,000 acres was planted in New South Wales with seed which was imported at that time and was passed by the Commonwealth department concerned. However, owing to certain problems that arose, the production programme fell away, and now only very small areas in New South Wales and Queensland are producing soya beans. In a report produced by a specialist agronomist it is stated that Queensland has the greatest promise of success in the growing of this product.
On the matter of seed, I think I can refer to a report submitted by Mr. W. D. Kerle of the New South Wales Department of Agriculture,’ in which he refers to the diseases to which the seed is subject, and which constitute the problems being considered by the Department of Health in relation to quarantine conditions. Mr. Kerle says -
In the diseases where the casual agent is seedborne effective control measures can be applied.
I shall leave it at that, because Mr. Kerle is a recognized Australian authority, and I am sure that the Commonwealth Department of Health will recognize that fact when it considers his statement.
Two varieties of soya bean are growing satisfactorily in the United States, the Lee and Jackson varieties, which, despite a number of reports submitted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the State departments in the past, we feel sure can adapt themselves to the conditions prevailing in Queensland at present. They have been introduced in the United States and information about that is subsequent to reports submitted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the State departments of agriculture. There are a great variety of uses of this product, and I wish to speak about a few of them. The plant itself can be used for fodder, and the grain has a manifold number of uses ranging from the production of edible oils to plastics. It can be used as a food for human consumption and, indeed, that is the main use for the small quantity now produced in Australia. In view of the importance of this industry in the United States I should like to stress to this House that it can become an important primaryproducing industry in Australia. So, I again ask the Minister for Health to review this particular case and see whether it -s possible to allow at least eight bushels of this seed to be brought in by the company concerned under conditions laid down by the Department of Health. If necessary, the seed can be treated by quarantine authorities on its receival in Brisbane. I feel that if he reviews this particular case, and can agree to the company’s request, he will be helping to start an industry which will be of great importance to the overall economy of Australia.
.- The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) represents a very important agricultural constituency which has demonstrated its confidence in him, I understand, by returning him unopposed on more than one occasion. We are all well aware of the deep interest he takes in agricultural indutry. However, the Department of Health has a very important responsibility. Whilst we recognise the desirability of developing new industries in Australia, including new primary industries, it would be of no use to do so unless, at the same time, we could be certain that we were not allowing the introduction of diseases which might be of danger not only to the new industries but, perhaps, to other well-established industries also. The department, therefore, pursues a very cautious policy. The fact is that soya beans are subject to a great many diseases, some of which have not so far appeared in Australia; and we are very anxious to keep them out. So, we lay down two conditions. The first is that only small quantities of seed shall be introduced at a time, so small that they can be easily treated; and the second is that any imported seed must be grown in quarantine areas. It is not, I think, satisfactory to grow it in areas on the property of an interested party. It is only satisfactory if it is grown under what we regard as adequate supervision.
What we have offered to do in this particular instance is to allow the importation of a small quantity of seed which can be adequately treated, and to facilitate its treatment and its growth in a quarantine area where it can be subject to the best quarantine inspection, such area to be designated by the Queensland Government. I do not think there would be any use in my offering to review those conditions, because I feel that this is not merely a matter of departmental regulation, but one in which I myself would consider I had a very considerable responsibility to discharge; and, unless I received evidence completely contrary to that which I receive from highly expert officers of the Department of Health I would not think it advisable to vary the conditions.
– in reply - T must confess to a degree of distaste when honorable members, no matter how laudable their purposes may be, raise individual cases concerning the provision of social services in the House, and mention the names of the people concerned. The Department of Social Services is a department that has a great degree of intimate contact with men, women and children, which requires considerable respect for confidences to be observed. I dislike intensely references being made to cases in a public way in this place.
The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) introduced a case to-night. What his purpose was I have no idea, nor did he state it, because so far as I am concerned as the Minister responsible for the administration of the Department of Social Services, and so far as the honorable member for Herbert is concerned, the case that he raised was closed yesterday - and he knew when he raised it that it was closed yesterday. I had occasion to write to him yesterday. I shall quote to the House the terms of my letter to him and, while doing so, I shall try to avoid giving the name of the person concerned in this case. The letter read - 1 refer again to your representations on behalf of . . . whose tuberculosis allowance was suspended for a period in the latter part of last year.
I ask the House to listen closely to this, because it is typical of the spurious complaints we get from honorable members opposite.
– What rubbish!
– Order ! If the honorable member for East Sydney continues to interject I shall have to take action. I warn him that he must keep silent.
– The letter continues -
The tuberculosis allowance scheme is administered overall by the Director-General of Health, under the direction of the Minister for Health. The Department of Social Services arranges for the investigation and payment of claims in accordance with determinations and directions made by the Director-General of Health. . .’s claim to payment for the period 27th September to 21st November, 1956, has been considered by the Director-General of Health, who points out that a tuberculosis allowance is a purely temporary and discretionary payment. It is designed to prevent the spread of infection by enabling sufferers to refrain from working and undergo treatment under conditions satisfactory to their full and early recovery.
Nothing whatever to do with me or the Department of Social Services, but entirely a determination of the Director-General of Health! And the honorable member for Herbert is aware of that fact. The letter continues -
The Director-General went on to say that if a sufferer wishes to receive a tuberculosis allowance he must be prepared to co-operate fully in the treatment prescribed in his own best interests and thus safeguard public Health.
Again, nothing whatever to do with the Department of Social Services! The letter goes on -
I understand . . . ignored requests by the Director of Tuberculosis for Queensland over several months to attend for X-ray examination, and was not prepared to enter hospital when this was considered desirable. In the circumstances there was no alternative but to refuse to authorize further payment. The allowance was subsequently restored from 22nd November, 1956, the day on which . . . entered hospital.
In view of the ruling given in this instance, I regret payment of a tuberculosis allowance to . . between 27th September and 22nd November cannot be authorized.
The honorable member for Herbert knew all that yesterday. That is final and irrevocable in the public interest so far as I am concerned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.20 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:-
– On 28th August the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) asked the following question: -
I ask the Prime Minister whether he agrees that there is a substantial case for a naval base on the Western Australian coast. Did he discuss this matter with the British Minister for Defence recently and, if so, would he be good enough to let the House know the result of that discussion?
Although the advantages of additional naval facilities are fully appreciated, the establishment of a naval base in the area is not of sufficient priority in the naval programme to be undertaken at present. The question of the establishment of such a base was not discussed with the British Minister for Defence either by the Minister for Defence or defence authorities. I have, however, conveyed to Mr. Duncan Sandys a letter on this matter received from the Premier of Western Australia.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1 and 2. No approach has been made to me by the New South Wales branch of the Country party in this regard.
– On 9 th May the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) addressed the following question to me: -
My question is directed to the Deputy Prime Minister. Is the right honorable gentleman in a position to assure the House that additional finance is to be made available from the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks for home building? If the answer is in the affirmative, I should like to know from what date that additional money will flow into the channels of home finance, and furthermore whether this is a policy stemming from himself as Treasurer of the Commonwealth.
I now furnish the following reply: -
The matter has been discussed with the Commonwealth Bank, which advises that the amount of finance made available through the banking system for home building has increased in recent months. The Commonwealth Savings Bank, despite the fact that its funds available for lending have been affected by the establishment of new savings banks, has maintained a high rate of lending, and other savings banks also have been approving finance for housing purposes at a steady rate. In the case of the new private savings banks, it is understood that approvals for housing loans are much in excess of the amounts actually drawn. Approvals for new housing by trading banks are also believed to have increased. In May, the central bank informed the trading banks that, while it would not be appropriate to make any general relaxation of credit, it was no longer necessary for total advances of the banking system to fall further, apart from normal seasonal variations. The bank’s statement also mentioned that it considered there was scope within the general credit policy for some moderate increase in the volume of loans for housing. However, neither the Government nor the central bank is empowered to direct the private banks to invest a greater proportion of their funds in a particular form of investment.
Government Printing Office, Canberra.
.- On 27th August, the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) asked -
Has any decision been made to build a new Government Printing Office at Canberra to replace the existing building which, with increased staff, is lacking in amenities? If such a proposal has been adopted, can the right honorable gentleman say when the new building will be commenced? If no such decision has been made, will he have investigations made of the amenities at present available to employees at the Government Printing Office and have them brought to a proper and adequate standard?
The Government Printer has already discussed with the Father of the Printing Office Chapel the provision of amenities in the existing building and its relation to the permanent location of the Government Printing Office. Consideration is being given to the erection of a new building for the Government Printing Office in Canberra in place of extensions to the existing structure, which is not located on the permanent site.
b asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
z asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The following information is given in reply to the honorable member’s questions: -
m asked the Minister for Territories the following questions, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– -The Minister for Civil Aviation has furnished the following replies: -
Government Properties at St. Mary’s.
d asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 to 5. It is assumed that the honorable member refers to buildings on the St. Mary’s industrial estate erected and occupied for defence purposes during the war. The Government has not yet disposed of any of these properties. There are over 300 buildings on the estate spread over an area of more than 600 acres and having a total floor space of more than 1,000,000 square feet. The Government has decided to dispose of the whole of the estate and buildings giving first opportunity of purchase to existing tenants at Commonwealth valuation. Before sale can take place it will be necessary to complete a plan of sub-division of the area for approval of the Penrith Municipal Council and this will involve construction, improvement and repairs of roads, drains, &c, to meet the council’s requirements for the dedication of the roads as public roads. Survey is now proceeding, but it will be some time yet before sales can be effected.
d asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 September 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1957/19570904_reps_22_hor16/>.