22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. BIRD presented a petition from 3,436 citizens of Australia praying that the Government will make provision, by means of a referendum, for the alteration of certain sections of the Constitution which relate to the aboriginal people of Australia.
Petition received and read.
– I wish to ask the acting Minister for Trade a question. Is it a fact that an important delegation, including representatives of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and Mount Isa Mines Limited, is to visit the Far East, including’ the mainland of China, with a view to obtaining or extending markets for lead and zinc from Australia? Does the enterprise; or the delegation, have the support of the Government? I assume that it has; that is why I ask the honorable gentleman this- question. It: has been suggested that the delegation will not leave Australia until late next month. Could the Minister interest himself in the matter and try to. expedite the departure of the delegation because of the obvious urgency of its mission?
– I welcome the right honorable gentleman’s question, because the Government has associated itself with this matter. I said in the House yesterday and the day before in reply to questions, that the Government was doing everything in its power to cushion the effect of the recent decision by the United States of America. A report appeared in the Sydney press this morning to the effect that this delegation was on the way to the Far East.
– Not on its way, but to start next month.
– We have been aware of this trade promotion effort by private industry, and the Department of Trade has assisted and co-operated with the industry to the extent that, although this enterprise was privately initiated, the department is handling the trade promotion side of it. Officers of the department will precede the industrialists, and the department will handle the publicity and contact arrangements for the mission in that part of the world. It should not be forgotten that our trade with Communist China and the Far East has increased dramatically in the last few years. Last year our trade with the mainland of China was worth about £10,000,000^ and there is a tendency for that trade to increase. That the people in the metal industry have reacted to the bad news from America in the way that they have is quite typical of them. The American import cuts have not disturbed the industry to any disastrous extent. It has not panicked’. It is. a strong, virile and wellmanaged, industry and, as one would expect, when the American market closed, those connected with the industry looked around immediately for other markets. They will, no doubt, make up the loss in due course.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary. Industry. I understand there is a possibility that the World Poultry Science Congress will be held in Australia.. As. such a congress would be of tremendous value to the Australian poultry-farming, industry,, will the Minister use his good offices, and’ influence to ensure that every encouragement and inducement will be extended by this Government so that the congress may take place in. Australia?
– I have been, as I have said before, most pleasantly surprised at the great amount of interest that has been shown- by the poultry industry and the agricultural societies in the possibility of holding this scientific congress in Australia in 1962. The Government has issued an invitation to the congress to come here* and I have no reason to believe that the invitation will not be accepted. I understand that a decision will be made on Saturday next, and I am very hopeful that it will be a favorable one.
– I ask the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs whether it is a fact that as late as last Tuesday the Australian delegation to the United Nations General Assembly again voted against procedural resolutions designed to pave the way for China’s admission to the United Nations. Does the Minister consider this action to be conducive to the easing of the serious international tension at present prevailing in the East? How does he reconcile this Government’s intention to seek new markets in red China, particularly for lead and zinc, with the stern rebuke given so recently in the United Nations General Assembly?
– I am not conversant with the recent happenings in the United Nations General Assembly mentioned by the honorable member, but there are two things I should like to say with regard to this matter. One is that trading with a country does not involve political recognition. The second is that I should have thought this to be a most inappropriate time for China to ask for admission to the United Nations Organization, when she is blatantly flouting its charter.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question with regard to the report of the Constitution Review Committee. In view of the celerity with which the items on the notice-paper seem to be disappearing and the possibility that a very early ending of the sitting will mean that the report cannot be presented to the House, will the Prime Minister see that exmembers of the Parliament, as they will be then, receive a full copy of the report so that they can discuss it with the electors?
– I have seen what purports to be a draft copy of the projected report. I think it still awaits completion, signatures and a few formalities. It may be, too, that some dissenting views are to be put on record. However, I imagine that the report is now within a few days of being ready. I will undertake to see that, as soon as it is received, every honorable member, whether the House is sitting or not, will be supplied with a copy of it so that he may consider it.
– Is the
Minister acting for the Minister for Trade aware that imported Japanese indus trial chain is competing unfairly with the Australian product, and will seriously impede the whole progress of the Australian chain industry? In view of the importance of this industry to Australia’s defence potential, and in view of the additional importance of the industry to national development, will the Minister bring this matter to the notice of the appropriate authority as a matter of urgency with a view to protecting this somewhat young but all-important Australian manufacturing industry?
– No, I was not aware of the circumstances reported by the honorable member, but I will be very pleased to give this matter my attention as soon as it is possible to do so and bring the honorable member’s comments to the notice of the authority.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Griffith asked me a question about the Commonwealth Statistician’s investigation of a certain population problem, and I said that I would find out about it. The position is that the inquiry is not yet concluded; investigations are proceeding. The matter will fall for discussion at a conference of statisticians, which it is proposed should be held from 10th to 14th November. After the conference, no doubt we will have finality on that and other points.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister in his capacity as acting Treasurer. I refer to the income tax deductions for educational expenses which are at present available to the parents or guardians of children. Will the right honorable gentleman consider extending this benefit to others - for example, to grandparents - who are making a contribution towards the education of children?
– As the honorable member knows, if grandparents are wholly responsible for children, they, of course, qualify for this deduction under the existing law. But if the proposal is that a deduction should be allowed in cases where parents still remain responsible for the children and maintain them, but a grandparent makes some contribution to the cost of the children’s education, that would be a material departure from the existing law, and would have to be looked at in the general budgetary context. However, I will certainly undertake to see that it is looked at.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question. In view of the loss of about 18,000,000 dollars of American currency because of the reduction by America of its purchases of Australian metals, including both lead and zinc, will he consider the cancellation of the arrangements to buy American aircraft because of the shortage of dollars and of the trade policy adopted by America?
– I will not.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air. From recent reports of air clashes between the Nationalist Chinese and the Communist Chinese air forces, it would appear that the Sabre jet aircraft of the Nationalist Chinese have shown performances superior to those of the Russian-made MIG aircraft of the Communist Chinese. Is there any important difference between the performance of the Nationalist Chinese Sabre jet aircraft and the Australian Sabres?
– I am not precisely informed in this matter, for the very good reason that statistics of the performance of Russian aircraft are not ordinarily published by the Russians. Any difference between the Sabres used by the Nationalist Chinese and the Sabres of the Royal Australian Air Force would, I think, be in our favour, because, as the House well knows, we have fitted the American Sabre airframe with the British Rolls-Royce Avon engine, thereby giving the aircraft a higher performance.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. In view of the gravity of the situation brought about by the restriction of purchases of lead and zinc from Australia by the United States of America, and in view of the fact that the Minister for Trade has been in the middle of negotiations on the matter, would it be possible for him to be recalled to Australia before the Parliament rises in order that we may get the full story from him personally, and perhaps debate the issue in this Parliament?
– With great respect to the honorable member, I would have thought that, in relation to a problem of this kind, my colleague would be much more usefully- employed on the spot than in travelling back to Australia in time to arrive when the Parliament has risen.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. As wheat yields were light last year, and as costs throughout the year were high, will the Minister give special consideration to the urgent need for the first advance on the coming wheat crop to be at the highest possible level? Is the Minister aware that an early satisfactory announcement in this regard would be greatly appreciated by wheatgrowers?
– The honorable gentleman has been very consistent in his efforts to get me to answer these two questions; so I shall answer him briefly and, I hope, satisfactorily, by saying, “ Yes. Yes “.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Supply a question in his capacity as acting Minister for Trade. What constitutes a strategic material in his mind and in the minds of the heads of the Department of Trade?
– If I were to take up the time of the House by telling the honorable gentleman what I consider to be a strategic material and what, in the minds of the senior officers of the Department of Trade, is a strategic material, I should be on my feet for a long time. If the honorable member will put his question on the notice-paper, I will see whether he can be given an answer that he can understand.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I refer to reports that the Australian Government proposes to facilitate trade deals, especially in lead and zinc, with red China, which, I notice, is now politely referred to as “ mainland China “. -Does the Prime Minister envisage any danger in the involvement of the economies of the free world with those of Communist countries, which make no secret of the fact that they engage in trade for political and not for economic reasons, in order to exact in due season a political price for their economic favours, or in order to plunge the free economies into chaos? May it be said that the economic necessity of countries like Australia provides an opportunity for countries like China-
– Order! I think the honorable gentleman is now endeavouring to enter into a debate. I suggest that he ask his question.
– I ask: Has this point of view, if it is shared by the Australian Government, been put to the Government of the United States of America?
– I cannot answer by the book as to what has been put to the United States, but the view implicit in the honorable member’s question is one that has been fairly widely ventilated, both in Australia and in America, and I am sure that it is not absent from the mind of the American Government. Certainly it induces in the Australian Government a careful, not to say cautious, approach to matters of this kind.
– I ask a question of the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs. I desire to know whether the Commonwealth Government is still cooperating with the United States and other nations in a policy of not trading in strategic materials with Communist countries. If so, and having regard to the fact that the Government is now encouraging a delegation from the iron and steel industry to go to Communist China seeking trade, can it be assumed that lead and zinc have been removed from the list of strategic materials?
– As far as strategic materials are concerned, the Government is observing its general policy in relation to trade with Communist China. I am not sure whether lead and zinc are still on the list of strategic materials.
– I ask the Minister acting for the Minister for Trade a question without notice. Is there any difference in principle between the establishment of import quotas by America and Australia? What attention did Australia pay to the objections raised. by Lancashire and other British traders when Australia imposed similar quotas on other articles? Does the Minister know why a British trade delegation, which recently wished to visit Peking to discuss adverse balance of trade payments, was refused vises by red China? Does the Government not consider that it would be wiser to stockpile lead and zinc for the next two or three months, in view of the present international situation, rather than take other action and make statements which may be misinterpreted abroad?
– The honorable member’s question raises a number of matters of policy. I should like to point out that the particular ship on which the trade delegation is booked will touch at many places in the Far East, and it is only coincidental that it is going to the mainland of China. The ship is going to Manila, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and certain Japanese ports. It is also calling, I understand, at two ports in Communist China. So we should not let this matter get out of perspective.
– I note that after question time yesterday the Minister for Primary Industry tabled the first of the reports which, in accordance with statute or custom, he tables in respect of each financial year. The reports were those of the Australian Wool Bureau and the Flax Commission.
Since Australia’s economy depends so largely on income from exports, and since this Parliament has the constitutional responsibility for trade with other countries, I ask the Minister when he expects to table, as he is required to do by statute, the no” less important annual reports of the Australian Meat Board, the Australian Dairy Produce Board, the Australian Egg Board, the Australian Wine Board, the Commonwealth Dried Fruits Control Board, the Australian Apple and Pear Board, the Australian Wool Testing Authority, and the Wool Research Committee. I also ask the Minister when the Division of Agricultural Economics will publish its reports on the pig-meat situation and the egg situation, which are the only ones of its valuable reports on individual primary industries that it has not yet produced this year.
– I have done my best to see that the reports required to be tabled in accordance with the laws of this country are tabled in the House as quickly as possible, and I have frequently asked the boards to do their best to let me have those reports before the Budget is presented. I regret to say to the honorable member that I cannot compel them to do it; I can only ask them. Nonetheless, I shall push them again to see if I can get these reports for the House in the early part of next week. As to the second part of the question, which relates to the Division of Agricultural Economics, I shall obtain that information from the director to-day and let the honorable gentleman know.
– My question, which is directed to the acting Minister for Trade, is supplementary to the1 one asked of the Prime Minister a- few minutes ago by the honorable member for Bradfield. Is it not a fact that the United States, for reasons which it believes to be conducive to the maintenance of full employment in its own economy, has reduced our access to its markets for our lead and zinc? If this can happen with a friendly country, does it not suggest that we would be unwise to countenance any pattern of exports which would make our industries dependent upon an unfriendly country such as Communist China, which would be actuated by malice and which, once it got our economy involved with its own, would have us virtually at its mercy?
– I agree with the honorable member in part. It would be very unwise for this country to get into the position where its overseas trade depended on one unfriendly country, which could cut off that trade with one stroke. But at present, with our exports at their present volume, and the amount going to red China so small, I do not think that the fear that he has in his mind has any great justification.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Social
Services, arises out of an answer that he. gave to me yesterday. I then asked him whether the words “ deemed to be entirely dependent on their pensions “, appearing in the Minister’s second-reading speech on the supplementary allowance legislation, meant “ entirely dependent on the pension “ or whether a pensioner would be able to have some other income and still draw the supplementary allowance. The Minister told me that only the Director-General of Social Services could answer that question. If that is the extraordinary situation, will the Minister get in touch with the DirectorGeneral of Social Services and obtain that information immediately for the Parliament?
– I regret very much that the powers of comprehension of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro are so limited. I answered his question yesterday in plain and specific terms, when I said that the discretionary powers with regard to income are vested in the Director-General of Social Services. That is entirely different from what he now suggests I said. One of the qualifications for eligibility for the special supplementary assistance is that the pensioner must be deemed to be entirely dependent on his pension. Discretionary powers are vested in the Director-General, who alone can reach a determination as- to whether a pensioner is entirely dependent on his pension.
– I direct to the Minister for Primary Industry a question which is supplementary to those asked by the honorable member for Mitchell and others concerning the conference of poultry scientists from a number of countries throughout the world. If it is finally decided to have that conference in Australia, will the Minister take every possible step to ensure that its meetings are not confined to the capital cities, and that either the whole conference or major subconferences are held in the great poultryproducing districts which are not immediately around the capital cities? I suggest that Tamworth, which is, I understand, the largest poultry-producing district in New South Wales outside the metropolitan area, and which is associated with the University of New England in researches conducted by the Faculty of Rural Industries, might be considered as a proper venue for the conference, or at least a major sub-conference.
– The honorable member was good enough to take me up to his electorate and show me that there were major poultry-producing organizations existing there. At the same time, I had the. very good fortune to open the local radio station for him. Already considerable detailed negotiations have taken place on this problem, and I think the major venue will be the premises of the Royal Agricultural Society, Sydney. That is, of course, if, as I expect, the conference is held in Australia. I will make inquiries from the people who have been in contact with me to ascertain whether it would be practicable for a section of the conference to go to Tamworth. I will certainly see that it is one of the places recommended.
– My question, directed to the Prime Minister in his capacity as acting Treasurer, relates to a small problem in taxation deductions. May T say, by way of preface, that I have encountered several cases recently in which taxpayers have been called on to pay very considerable sums for the aerial transport of sick wives or other members of their families to metropolitan hospitals. Their claims for a taxation deduction of these costs as medical expenses have been rejected. Can the right honorable gentleman have this position examined, in view of the few cases that would be involved, to see whether such expenses, when certified as necessary by the medical practitioner, could be allowable as a taxation deduction on the ground of medical expenses?
– I will be glad to get whatever information I can on that point.
– I ask the acting Minister for Trade whether it is a fact that an order was placed in Australia recently by red China for 26,000 tons of steel. If so, does the Minister consider steel to be a nonstrategic material?
– Steel comes within the same category as lead and zinc. There is no prohibition on the export of lead, zinc or steel to Communist countries. Each request for the export of these commoditiesis examined and decided on its merits.
– I ask. the acting Minister for Trade whether any bankers’ representatives are members of the new trade delegation to go abroad. Why did Commonwealth Bank representatives, rush off to Peking after the manager of the bank of red China in Singapore had wined and dined the banking representatives, on the last trade delegation? Is it a fact that the same manager of the same red bank told the bankers’ representatives on that delegation that he would not discuss their visit to Peking, which he advocated, with the leader of the trade delegation because that leader happened to be a politician, namely, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade?
– The circumstances to which the honorable member has referred relate to a privately sponsored group of people in connexion with banking. It was not a Commonwealth responsibility. Therefore, I regret that I am not in a position to give the honorable member the information he has asked for.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether it is a fact that the Commonwealth Electoral Act makes it an offence to use television in the forthcoming federal election campaign. I refer particularly to section 164b, which makes it an offence, with a penalty of £100, to exhibit any poster larger than 60 square inches, and there is no exception which would apply to television.
– As I recall it, Mr. Speaker, the relevant section of the act provides that no person shall exhibit, or cause to be exhibited, an electoral poster of an area greater than 60 square inches. Since the television screen is constantly on public exhibition I should think that the reproduction thereon of an electoral poster of an area greater than 60 square inches would constitute an offence; but the mere exhibition on a television screen of the face of a politician, or aspiring politician, would not. in my view, constitute exhibition of a poster.
– Has the Minister for the Interior considered the suggestion that Commonwealth departmental offices be decentralized whenever possible, or is it the policy of the Government to continue to build such offices in congested city areas?
– The question asked by the honorable gentleman does not, I think, admit of a simple answer. It is necessary to consider the kind of services provided by particular departmental offices. There are certain departmental offices which can be decentralized in that they can be built in the suburbs. For instance, the Melbourne office of one of my two departments - the Department of Works - has been built in a suburban area and is operating most successfully there. On the other hand, there are many offices, such as those administered by my colleague, the Minister for Social Services, to which there is constant public traffic, and clearly those would require to be in accessible positions. There are other points to be considered, because it has been found - and I think evidence submitted to the Public Works Committee clearly indicates this - that in the case of the proposed Commonwealth offices to be built in Sydney the employment and availability of staff is intimately associated with the location of the office and with access to public transport. I am afraid that the question is very involved, but I shall be pleased to discuss it with the honorable gentleman.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister arising from a question that I addressed to him on Tuesday concerning the action of the United States Government in reducing American imports of lead and zinc. In the course of his reply to that question the right honorable gentleman said that a statement would be made by him, or his colleague, the acting Minister for Trade. Because of the very great importance of these trade matters to all the people of Australia, and especially to this Parliament, will the right honorable gentleman make the statement referred to, and afford honorable members an .opportunity of debating it, prior to the dissolution of the House? I think it is important, Mr. Speaker, that the Prime Minister should afford honorable members an opportunity to consider these matters, because of the operation of the Organization for European Economic Co-operation, the existence of the European free trade area, and the decision of the United Kingdom Government to relax controls on dollar imports by the United Kingdom.
– A good deal has been said about this matter in the last two or three days, and I had heard a rumour - I know that one should not always rely on rumours - that we might be having some discussion on the matter next week.
– That is correct.
– Is that correct? Well, if it is correct, I will take the opportunity of participating in that debate.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Services concerning the matter raised by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. Will the Minister circulate to honorable members a copy of the instructions issued to officers of the Department of Social Services concerning the replies they are to give to applicants for supplementary rent allowances whose applications are rejected? Is it correct that instructions have been issued that no specific reasons are to be given for such rejections except that the applicants concerned are not eligible for the allowance? Will the Minister table the whole of the private instructions given to the officers of the Department of Social Services in respect of this matter?
– Let me say, Mr. Speaker, that the Social Services Act is interpreted by the officers of the Department of Social Services in the most generous way, and usually in the interests of applicants for social service benefits. There are no detailed instructions, ministerially, as far as I am concerned. The act is interpreted by the officers of the department to give the greatest advantage to the applicants for social service benefits. Nor do I propose to interfere with that splendid arrangement.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration what stage has been reached in the raising of overseas loans for cooperative housing projects for Dutch immigrants. Will such projects increase Dutch migration? What is the general position of the intake of migrants from all sources this year in relation to the overall programme?
– The Dutch Government, 1 am glad to say, as the honorable member probably realizes, has concluded negotiations with the Economic Development Fund for a loan from the United States for the provision of, I think, 3,000,000 dollars for the housing of Dutch immigrants in this country. Negotiations are still in progress with the Australian banks as to supplementary action on their part for financial accommodation here. It is premature to say what the result of those negotiations will be, but I am hopeful that the banks will do their part in assisting in this very worthwhile movement. The moneys, according to my information, will be disbursed chiefly in Melbourne by a Dutch co-operative housing society, and I am very hopeful that, before long, the whole scheme will be in operation. As to the second part of the honorable member’s question, it would take rather a detailed answer to give him the full particulars, and I shall communicate with him about that later.
I should like to take this opportunity to say that the Government applauds the initiative of the Dutch and Americans in bringing about this loan of 3,000,000 dollars for the purpose of housing Dutch immigrants in this country. I only hope that the people of other nations with whom we have considerable immigration programmes, such as our British kinsfolk, the Germans and the Italians, will be similarly moved to make approaches to the United States in the hope that accommodation of the same nature will be forthcoming. If it is, I need hardly say that it will be of tremendous consequence, in a supplemental way, in the solution of our own short-term housing difficulties. At the same time, it will increase remarkably, in future, Australia’s capacity to absorb immigrants.
– Will the Minister for Social Services inform the house whether the Director-General of Social Services has discretionary power to refuse an application for a supplementary pension if the income additional to the pension is ls. a week?
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh ought to know, as I am sure all other honorable members know, that the Director-General of Social Services has power to refuse a pension in any circumstance.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry in a position to inform this House whether any offers have yet been received by the Government for the purchase of any of the flax mills which are at present being operated by the Flax Commission?
– To the best of my recollection, no offer has been received for any of the flax mills as a unit. Some weeks ago, I was asked whether some of the scutching and retting equipment might be taken out of one mill and put in another, the suggestion being that an offer might then be received on a lease or purchase basis. I am not sure what was the final result of those suggestions. I shall find out and let the honorable gentleman know.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Audit Act - Finance - Supplementary Report by the Auditor-General upon other accounts for the year 1957-58.
Ordered to be printed.
.- As chairman, I present the following report of the Public Accounts Committee: -
Forty-first Report - Expenditure from Advance to the Treasurer for the year 1957-58. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Honorable members will notice that I have not mentioned the evidence that was submitted to the committee. The committee has not been in a position to prepare the evidence for presentation, but it will be available as soon as the necessary action has been taken. I point out that this is the forty-first report of the committee, and it will be the last report that will be submitted to the Parliament before its dissolution.
It is not altogether a coincidence that this report deals with the subject-matter that we dealt with in our first report in 1953. We have to deal with the Estimates and with the statements of accounts which have been presented to the Parliament by the Treasurer and the Auditor-General. When we find that departments are having recourse to all the various methods open to them in order to obtain additional funds, it suggests that the original estimate was somewhat at fault. It puts the committee on inquiry to discover whether there is any substance in the fact that these Estimates have not been prepared as carefully as they might have been. As I said, it puts the committee on inquiry, and we deal with this sort of thing.
I do not want honorable members to think, because we speak adversely in respect of some estimates of some of the departments, that all departments are in the same position. That is not so. The standard of estimating is very high, taking the Public Service in general. It is only the particular cases that we have dealt with in our report which are indicative of the sorts of things that can happen. Indeed, there has been a great improvement since the committee first started its work back in 1952-53.
I want to remind the House that the committee is not concerned with the theory or principle of public finance but only with the machinery of finance. We have, devoted, therefore, a great deal of time to reviewing the machinery of estimating and budgeting for the purpose of facilitating the opportunities of the Parliament to exercise that control over public funds which it is the function of the Parliament to discharge on behalf of the people. In that process of reviewing the machinery, we have been much indebted to the Treasury for its co-operation and the help it has given; and we are indebted .also to the departments, which have responded to our requisitions with cordiality. We are grateful to them for that.
In order to give the House an idea of just what has happened in this procedural field, I point out that the Budget has been brought down this year earlier than ever before in the history of the Commonwealth, and the report on the Estimates that the committee has been examining has been brought down, too, earlier than ever before. In past years, these matters came before the House months after they were due to be presented. For example, our first report was made seven months after the beginning of the financial year, at a time when honorable members had lost interest in the expenditure dealt with in that report. So, we can claim a great deal of success in facilitating the work of the Parliament. We can claim a great deal in having brought these matters before the House at a time when the House was able to take an interest in what was being done.
As I have said, in submitting this report, we cannot submit at this juncture the relevant evidence, but I would urge honorable members to read the evidence - particularly evidence given at this sort of inquiry - because it does show clearly the practice and methods followed by the various departments in formulating and presenting their estimates. With due deference, I would say to honorable members that they could help our work and they could enhance the influence of our work if they would treat the Estimates as Estimates to be discussed and not as the subject of a second-reading Budget speech. I suggest that there is room for a great deal of help for our work in the Parliament. I commend honorable members to read the evidence we have taken on this occasion as an indication of what might be done.
.- I should like to make some observations on the speech of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland), who is chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. That committee submits reports to this Parliament periodically; the chairman makes some observations, and the motion is then carried that the paper be printed. That prevents any honorable member from having any effective say on the contents of the document or on the observations of the chairman of the committee. I think we should have some better procedure whereby this document is presented for the consideration of the House. Members of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts, of course, are saturated with the subject. They know all that is to be known about the subject on which they report, but until the chairman of the committee rises and presents the report, members of the Parliament do not even know that a report is forthcoming. It is impossible at this stage to canvass the views of the chairman or to make any criticism of anything contained in the document.
Very often, these documents - and this one particularly - are critical of the Government in some respects. There ought to be a reply from the Government to the strictures which the committee passes upon its operations. An opportunity ought to be given to honorable members on this occasion to be able to say whether they agree with the chairman of the committee - who may be speaking not only for himself but possibly for everybody - when he said that members of the Parliament in committee should address themselves to the particular item under discussion rather than make second-reading speeches. There could be several views about this matter. If the committee desires that Estimates should be discussed as Estimates and second-reading speeches should not be made, perhaps some change in the procedure should be adopted. But I think it is quite unsatisfactory to expect the House to give serious consideration to anything the committee presents to it when all that happens is that the report, which is roneoed, is put on the table; the chairman makes a few remarks and the motion that the paper be printed is carried. It has to be carried so that the paper can be printed. There the subject ends.
If that is all we are going to get out of the committee, there might be a reason for abolishing the committee. I was never happy about seeing it appointed, and I think the new Treasurer might regret his action as Prime Minister in establishing this committee. I know it was the pertinacity and the keen desire of the honorable member for Warringah as former Professor in Public Administration at the Sydney University to have this committee re-established after the lapse of very many years that resulted in the government parties agreeing to his suggestion; but I am not so sure, after seeing the committee in operation for several years, that it has been a success, or that there has been very great justification for maintaining it in existence. I believe that something better must be done about these reports if they are to be worthwhile to the Parliament. Up to date, they have merely provided the newspapers with opportunities to criticize the Government, while members of the Parliament have had no opportunity to criticize either the Government or the committee on the reports that have been presented.
– I would not have risen at this stage had the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) not made the observations that he has. One reason, Mr. Speaker, why this report is presented to-day is so that members will have before them all the relevant information when they come to a matter that appears on the notice.paper. concerning the expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer. This discussion must take place before the conclusion of the current sessional period, and members will find the information contained in this report of great value.
I say also, Sir. that I entirely disagree with the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne as to the committee’s reports not being worth while. I have been on the committee from the time it was reappointed in 1952, and I know that its work has been of great value to Australia’s finances. It has also been most valuable in providing information for any members of the Parliament who care to peruse the committee’s reports. However, those reports are frequently treated in the same manner as many other reports that come before us. The reports of the Public Accounts Committee come before the Parliament, as do other reports, but it is only on rare occasions that the House debates them. At times an honorable member may mention in a speech something that has appeared in a report, but, by and large, the committee has found that although tremendous expenditure is incurred in the preparation and printing of documents and papers for this House, probably 90 per cent, of what is put before honorable members is rarely looked at by them.
This does not mean, however, that all these reports should not be made available to the Parliament. Consider the reports of the Auditor-General. A number of honorable members, of course, do refer to observations made by the Auditor-General in his reports, and they try to improve matters concerning which that officer has offered criticism. But the great value of the Auditor-General’s reports is not to be found in comments made in this House by honorable members. The fact is that when the Auditor-General reports adversely on a particular aspect of the work of a certain department, the departmental officers know that the matter can become the subject of criticism in debates in this Parliament, and because of this very fact they make every effort to improve matters within the department.
So it is in connexion with the reports of the Public Accounts Committee. The committee made a report on the Department of Civil Aviation, and we know that at that time a certain Minister took particular exception to what was said in the report. Other reports have been made by the committee, as a result of which certain unsatisfactory administrative features have been ventilated in the Parliament. If it had not been for the committee’s investigations and comments these matters would never have been mentioned in the House.
I feel, therefore, that a misconception exists with regard to the committee’s work, as appears from the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. That misconception applies particularly to the report now before us, which deals with expenditure from the Treasurer’s Advance. When we are discussing other expenditure we have the Estimates and various appropriations put before us, but money from the Treasurer’s Advance can be used for all sorts of things that have not been put before the Parliament and approved by it. The purpose of this report is to put before honorable members those matters that the committee believes should be considered by them. Although we have not reported on every individual item of expenditure by the different departments, we have reported on those matters which we believed should be brought to the notice of honorable members. We have taken great pains to prepare this report and present it to the Parliament as quickly as possible, so that honorable members will have the advantage of the information contained in it when they are considering expenditure from the Treasurer’s Advance. We did not want the report merely to be printed and then left by the wayside.
.- I wish to say a few words in support of the criticism offered by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). I do not deny that a body such as the Public Accounts Committee can do a great deal of good work, and I do not deny that this particular committee has been responsible for giving honorable members some very valuable information with regard to the activities of certain departments and certain avenues of Commonwealth expenditure. But it appears to me that something is lacking in the committee. It comprises a majority of Government members, and, as a result, it is inclined to soft-pedal in connexion with matters that involve criticism of the Government.
Let me give the House an illustration. There could have been no more important matter, in my opinion, requiring the attention of the committee than the scandalous affair that is now referred to as the St. Mary’s project. That was an undertaking estimated to cost £23,000,000, but which, when the final accounting is completed, will be found to have cost something approaching £30,000,000, even when we take into account the fact that about £2,000,000 worth of the work was postponed by the Government so as to try to keep the public ignorant of the extent to which the estimate had been exceeded. The Auditor-General made some most caustic comments on a number of occasions regarding the conduct of this undertaking, and the’ people of Australia were eager to ascertain why the estimate for the job had been exceeded by so many millions of pounds. Yet this committee did not do its job and investigate the charges and allegations made with regard to the St. Mary’s project, although it had a statutory duty to do so.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member will be out of order in continuing to refer to St. Mary’s. The subject-matter before the Chair is the printing of the report.
– That is correct, and that is why I am criticizing it, because the report says nothing about this most important matter. I am criticizing the committee’s report because the committee has not undertaken what I regard as probably the most serious and important investigation that it could have made. Therefore, I say that the committee - and I refer to the majority of its members, the Government supporters, because they are the ones who finally make the decisions - did not carry out its work as it is charged to do under the statute by which it was appointed. It did not investigate this matter, which had been brought to public notice by the report of the Auditor-General.
-Order! I have already directed the honorable member’s attention to the subject-matter before the Chair, the printing of the report. I will, ask him to confine his remarks to that matter. He is now dealing with- a subject that is not before the Chair.
– Well, I have no objection to the printing of the report. I daresay that it will fill in an idle moment or two for honorable members, who may wish to read the report when they have nothing else to do. But I do hope that when the committee is re-constituted, after the Labour party comes to power, it will more actively approach its investigations into these various matters, and that at some time in the future we will have a report from the committee, although a little delayed, dealing with the scandal of the St. Mary’s project.
.- It is obvious from the discussion that has taken place, and particularly from the contributions of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), that a complete misunderstanding exists with regard to the responsibilities of this committee, the report of which is now under discussion. Certainly, the honorable members who have spoken appear to be suffering from a lack of information. It is the responsibility of this Parliament to criticize or to accept the decisions of the Government, and the Parliament in its wisdom agreed to the decision of the Government to appoint the Public Accounts Committee. The responsibility of the committee is to examine the way in which the decisions of the Parliament have been carried out. Obviously, the committee cannot criticize the Government; that is definitely excluded by the act and by the system under which the committee operates. However, it is the committee’s responsibility to police the operation of the government instrumentalities to ensure that the decisions of the Government, which are ultimately the decisions of the Parliament, are carried out.
No matter what investigation of the operations of government departments is made, at no time is the committee called upon to consider, nor does it consider, whether the decisions of the Government are right or wrong. It inquires, first, into whether the methods adopted by the administration to give effect to the decisions of the Government are the proper methods, the best methods and the most satisfactory methods. It reports to the Parliament on the result of its inquiries. Whatever action the Parliament may take is a matter for the Parliament. The history of the Parliament shows that hitherto honorable members have not taken the opportunity to discuss matters of finance, which are of vital interest, when it has been available. There has been little discussion on the Estimates, when they have been before the Parliament,, pertinent to the contents of the Estimates. As the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland), who is the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, has said, the debate on the Estimates is usually made the occasion for the repetition of secondsreading speeches instead of for discussions on matters of vital interest.
The honorable member for Melbourne said that he could not see where the committee had achieved anything. In order to inform the Parliament of the result of its work, the committee provided a publication detailing the results of its activities and its achievements. This epitome contained an outline of the committee’s recommendations, the actions taken by the Treasury, which, provides liaison between the committee and the departments, and the actions taken by the departments to give effect to the committee’s recommendations. I strongly suggest to honorable members that they read that document. They will then find that the work of the committee has been remarkably effective, and that the consequent improvement in methods, management and operation of the Public Service and the introduction of systems has achieved a considerable saving in public finance and provided a high degree of efficiency in the administration of the Public Service.
If an honorable member wishes to criticize a decision of the Government in relation to any proposed expenditure or project, it is his responsibility to do so in this place and not to rely upon a committee, which has no power, to do so. Apparently, the honorable member for East Sydney has read the various reports of the committee only in idle moments, instead of applying himself to his responsibility as a member of the Parliament.
– That is a monstrous suggestion.
– He admitted it himself, and the honorable member for Melbourne apparently does not read them. These reports have repeatedly contained references to the fact that the committee is not concerned with the decisions of the Government, but is concerned with the way in which these decisions are carried out.
– You examine the stable after the horse has gone.
– I agree, but I am sure that all the heads of the departments will agree that we have stopped many other horses from escaping from the stable. I am concerned at the doubts that have been raised about the effectiveness of the committee’s operations. I am also concerned at the suggestion that the committee could well be put out of existence. If this is a forewarning by members of the Labour party that if they reach the treasury bench they do not propose to allow the operations of the Public Service under them to be examined, I suggested that that warning will reach the ears of those who will resist the committee being put out of commission. The committee has been fearless in examining the matters that have come before it. I repeat that the task of the committee is not to examine the decisions of the Govern- ment but to reveal instances where public funds voted by the Parliament have not been used correctly, effectively and efficiently.
I repeat that if honorable members care to read the reports of the committee they will find that it has been effective, not through the press publicity that has been given to its work, but through its recommendations. Honorable members should be aware that on every recommendation of the committee there is a report from the Treasury to the committee as to the action that has been taken. If the committee is not satisfied that that action is satisfactory, then the Treasury is asked why the recommendation cannot be implemented. If any aspect of the work of Parliament is effective, efficient and worth while, it is the operations of this committee.
.- I do not think that the defence of the Public Accounts Committee and the statement of its virtues and worthwhile functions should be left to its members. I, as a private member, rally to the defence of this committee as a committee that has functioned well and has given considerable value to the Parliament. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), in his eagerness to criticize the Government and a committee that was appointed by this Government, has somewhat overplayed his hand. We there see the division in the Opposition ranks. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition critic/zed the report, but the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) quite reasonably rallied to the support of the committee. I notice that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) remains silent. He was a very valued member of the committee for some time, but for reasons best known to himself he retired from it. However, if we were to ask him what he felt about the committee, I am sure that he would unhesitatingly reply that it is a very worthy and worthwhile committee.
The existence of this committee establishes the worth of the present Government. From time to time, the committee’s reports have revealed matters of discussion that could have been of some embarrassment to the Government, and it says much for the Government that it has still encouraged the committee to function.
– That sort of thing would not suit the Australian Labour party.
– No, and that is the point. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, apparently, has made his observations on false premises, because he hopes, naturally enough, that some day - if it ever comes, it will be only in the distant future - he may unite the divided forces of the Australian Labour party and lead them onto the government benches after he has been called upon to form a government. Obviously, he does not want open inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee to bring the light of day to bear on any government that he may lead. He does not want the administration of any government that he may lead to be open to public scrutiny.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) complains about the complement of the committee. I think it is fair enough, having regard to numbers on both sides of the Parliament. Of a committee of ten members, four come from the ranks of Opposition members both here and in another place. I think that is right.
– The honorable member for Warringah confirms that. What more do Opposition members want? They have four members out of ten, or 40 per cent. The vice-chairman of the committee is the honorable member for Port Adelaide, who has already spoken in its defence. So I think the argument advanced by the honorable member for East Sydney falls to the ground.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition questions the value of the committee’s reports. I should say that the value of the reports rests entirely in the capacity of the private individual to read what he can out of them and to make some value of them. If trie Deputy Leader of the Opposition has not that capacity, let him talk to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who has, and he will see where the value of these reports lies. I think that they are of considerable value. I should say that the report on the Postmaster-General’s Department is one of the most worth while that the committee has made for a considerable time. Any one who is not satisfied with the administration of that department will find a great deal of substance in that report.
I am indebted to the members of the Public Accounts Committee for the manner in which they have discharged their duties, quite frequently at personal loss to themselves. This is a joint parliamentary committee that has functioned well in the past, and, despite the remarks made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I think that the greater the support that this Parliament can give to the committee, the greater will be the value of the committee’s work and of its services to the community. I wish to place it on record that I am indebted to the committee for the reports that it has made from time to time, and I hope that it will continue to function, even without the support of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
.- Mr. Speaker, I want to address myself very briefly to this matter. Like my colleague, the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson), I would not have entered into the debate had it not been for the remarks made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell).
– The honorable member has divided his party again! It has so many fragments that it cannot be put together. It is worse than a jig-saw puzzle.
– Every member of the Parliament is entitled to express his opinion. Tn this instance, I believe that the matter raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was completely without foundation so far as his remarks were directed to the report that has just been presented. After all, nobody, apart from the members of the committee, has had an opportunity to consider the report that is now before us.
I have been a member of the Public Accounts Committee since 1955. Although there is on it a majority of Government supporters, at no time has any of the matters considered bv the committee been decided by a vote. Any determination has always been a unanimous decision of the committee. I believe that this indicates at once that the committee is able to discuss these matters, and. indeed, always has discussed them, on a purely non-party and non-political basis.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) raised the Question of an investigation bv the committee of the St. Mary’s ammunition filling factory project.
The committee realized at once that it did not have the power to investigate that project thoroughly. It was a matter for this Parliament to give a direction either one way or the other with respect to an inquiry into that project.
As a member of the Opposition, I do not hesitate to pay a tribute to the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland). I do not think that any one in this Parliament has worked harder than he has done. The honorable member has devoted most of his time to the affairs of the committee, and the Parliament is indebted to him for the comprehensive reports presented by the committee, which are due almost entirely to the time and consideration that he devotes to them.
Mr. Speaker, perhaps it may be said that I, like the honorable member for Port Adelaide, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope), and other Opposition members of the committee, have a particular interest in the committee. I should like to say that I have always been able to decide for myself my approach to any matter before the committee. This committee has rendered very valuable service to the Parliament and the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) mentioned, only a moment ago, inquiries that have been conducted from time to time by the Public Accounts Committee. Although it investigates matters after the events have occurred, I think it can be said, in fairness to the committee, that there has been a decided improvement in the estimating of the various departments, and that, in that respect, the committee has certainly rendered a great service to the Commonwealth.
I conclude by saying that I disagree with the remarks that have been made in criticism of the Public Accounts Committee, Mr. Speaker. I repeat my tribute to the work of the chairman of the committee, who, in my opinion, has rendered a very valuable service indeed to both the Parliament and the Commonwealth.
– Mr. Speaker, I entirely endorse the remarks made by those honorable members who have commended the work of the Public Accounts Committee. I do not want to cover the ground that has already been traversed, but I should like to mention the reasons why the committee did not inquire into the St. Mary’s ammunition filling factory project. Those reasons are quite obvious. A firm by the name of W. D. Scott and Company Proprietary Limited was employed-
– Order! I ask the honorable member not to canvass that line of argument. Any discussion of matters beyond the scope of the motion before the House would be out of order.
– The matter was mentioned earlier. I should like to add my tribute to those that have already been paid to the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland), who is chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, for the work that he has done. I know that he does a great deal of work in his leisure time at the weekends in preparing the reports of the committee which are put before the Parliament for its earnest consideration. The committee is purely and simply a non-party body. I should like to say one thing in particular. It does present its reports regularly. That is in sharp contrast with the course taken by another committee - the Constitution Review Committee - which, I believe, intends to present its report at a time coinciding with the coronation of Prince Charles!
– Order! The honorable member is again out of order in referring to the Constitution Review Committee.
– Mr. Speaker, the value of the work of the Public Accounts Committee is that it enables the Parliament to know that the public accounts are at all times liable to scrutiny. The work of the committee has been of great worth in enabling the Parliament to have before it the excellent reports that have been presented. But of even greater value is the fact that the committee’s work has made it clear to all the departments that their accounts are liable to examination by the committee at any time. Where there is secrecy, Sir, there is no justice, but where matters are subject to public scrutiny, and where they may be brought to public notice, there is justice. It is quite obvious from the attitudes of the deputy leader of the Labour party, and of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who are, after ail, very prominent members of the Labour party, that if Labour came to power it would abolish this committee. If that were done it would mean that the accounts of the departments of the Commonwealth would not be brought under the scrutiny of Parliament. They would not be brought under the notice of the people of Australia. The abolition of the committee would be a retrograde step. But, fortunately, we see another splinter group within the Labour party, because some of its rank-and-file members have violently criticized the deputy leader of the Labour party and the honorable member for East Sydney. It is evident to-day that the Labour party has not a mind of its own. It does not know where it is going.It has no consistent policy. From day to day, we find one group of the Labour party coming out with one policy, and another group coming out with a policy diametrically opposed to that of the other group. This proves quite conclusively that Labour can never govern this country-
– Order ! The honorable member is getting a little wide of the subject-matter of the debate.
– I should like to ask the House to remember where my deputy leader started in this matter. Mr. Speaker, I think this is a question that should be finally directed to you. It is a question whether the Standing Orders provide an opportunity for reports, such as the one now being discussed, to be debated. In my viewand this debate is a good example - it would be bad for the Standing Orders to do that. It is well known that the practice in the House of Commons is simply to table reports such as this one, and opportunities do arise for honorable members to raise matters which they feel require further discussion. I think that the debate this morning has been valuable for two reasons. It demonstrates the healthy differences of opinion that exist within the Labour party. It also shows the tolerance that exists in the Labour party.
– And the charity.
– At one time I was a member of this committee. The committee was very valuable in the past and, as far as I know, it still is valuable. But I think, Sir, that when you next call together your committee on standing orders, if you ever do, it might consider whether, in respect of reports such as the one now before the House, the mere motion that the paper be printed, without any debate ensuing, is the most suitable way to present the reports.
– In view of some of the argument that has occurred, I think I should say, on behalf of the Government, that it regards the committee as a very valuable and important committee. The Government is greatly indebted to it for the work that it does.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to authorize the raising and expending of a certain sum of money for defence purposes.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Menzies and Mr. Townley do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Menzies, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
As was explained in the recent Budget speech, the Government is budgeting this financial year for an overall cash deficiency of £110,000,000. That is to say, total receipts of the Commonwealth from revenue, public borrowings and other usual sources are expected to fall short of total expenditure commitments by £110,000,000. The intention is to finance this deficit by borrowing from the central bank by the issue of treasury-bills.
In this bill the authority of Parliament is sought to make the borrowing of £110,000,000 required to meet the estimated deficit, and to expend the proceeds of the borrowing. The manner in which the proceeds of the borrowing will be applied was explained in the Budget speech and in Statements 2 and 4 attached to the speech; they will be used to finance expenditure on defence services to the extent of £78,000,000 and to finance redemption of maturing securities to the extent of £32,000,000. The maturing securities, redemptions of which are to be financed from the proceeds of the borrowing, are Commonwealth securities that were issued for war purposes. The borrowing, therefore, is wholly for defence purposes of the Commonwealth.
Total expenditure on defence services in 1958-59 is estimated at £190,000,000. Details of this estimated expenditure are set out in Part 1 of the second schedule to the Appropriation Bill 1958-59, which has yet, of course, to be finally passed. Of the total estimated expenditure of £190,000,000, an amount estimated at £78,000,000 is to be charged to Loan Fund, where it will be financed from the funds raised under the authority of this act. A similar procedure of charging part of defence expenditure to Loan Fund was followed in some of the war and early post-war years, when total estimated receipts were inadequate to meet total estimated expenditure.
It is estimated that, in addition to utilizing the current receipts of the National Debt Sinking Fund, it will be necessary to call on the balances in the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve and the Sinking Fund to the extent of £32,000,000 to finance redemptions of Commonwealth securities issued for war purposes. The borrowing will enable this to be done by providing cash for the realization of some of the investments of these funds. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Statistics (Arrangements with States) Act 1956.
Bill presented; and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In May of this year, the Public ServiceAct and the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act were amended by removing the provisions which had applied hitherto and which limited the grant of furlough to permanent and temporary Commonwealth public servants to a maximum period of twelve months. The purpose of this bill is to amend the Statistics (Arrangements with States) Act 1956 in a similar manner. By repealing sub-section (2.) of section 14 of this act, former State public servants who have transferred to the Commonwealth Public Service following the integration of Commonwealth and State statistical services will become eligible for the same furlough entitlement as that afforded to other Commonwealth employees earlier this year.
The amendments to the Commonwealth Public Service Act and the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act also provided that the change in furlough entitlement should be made retrospective to 30th April, 1958, the date on which Cabinet decided to introduce the legislation. It is appropriate that the same date of effect should apply in the case of those officers covered by the Statistics (Arrangements with States) Act 1956, and the bill provides accordingly.
I commend this bill to honorable members. I imagine, Sir, that the bill is not in any sense contentious.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Menzies) read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to alter the present provisions in the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act for carrying on the work of that court during the absence of the judge. The present need for the amendment arises from the fact that the judge of the court, on medical advice, is taking a few months’ leave of absence.
As the act reads at present - sub-section (2.) of section 8 - it authorizes the Governor-General, in the event of any absence of the judge, to appoint as an acting judge any of the judges of the following courts, namely, the Federal Court of Bankruptcy, the Commonwealth Industrial Court, or the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, to hold office of course only during the absence of the regular judge.
The rigidity of the provisions of the Constitution in regard to courts exercising judicial powers has been demonstrated in many cases and, as the authorities now stand, it may perhaps be doubtful whether a valid provision can be made for the temporary appointment of an acting judge of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court to hold office only during the absence of the regular judge, even if the person so appointed already holds an appointment for life as the judge of another court created by this Parliament.
It would not be fair to any other judge who was prepared to undertake the duties of the judge of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court during the absence of the regular judge to leave the statutory position in such a state that there could be any doubt whatsoever as to the validity of the acting appointment.
It is proposed, therefore, to amend the act by providing that the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory shall consist of one regular judge and one or more additional judges, the additional judges to be persons who already hold commissions as judges of other courts created by the Parliament. Instead of being given temporary acting appointments to the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court, the additional judges will be given commissions for life as judges of that court also. No additional remuneration, of course, will be paid.
The bill provides that the jurisdiction of the court is to be exercised by one judge only, as at present. It is contemplated, of course, that the regular judge will normally exercise the jurisdiction of the court. In effect, the bill leaves it to the good sense of the judges themselves, when additional judges are appointed, to make the necessary arrangements as to the judge who is to exercise the jurisdiction of the court from time to time.
The rest of the bill contains merely machinery provisions into which I do not think it is necessary to go. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Dr. Donald Cameron) read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Repatriation Act to give effect to the increases in certain rates of war pension which were announced recently in connexion with the presentation of the Budget, and to make some other necessary and desirable amendments of the act.
This bill, by amending the second schedule to the act, provides for an increase of 10s. a week in the special rate pension. The new rate will be £11 10s. a week. The special rate pension, more commonly known as the T.P.I, rate, is the pension paid to a member who, due to war service, is totally and permanently incapacitated for life to such an extent as to be precluded from earning other than a negligible percentage of a living wage or who has been blinded as a result of war service. This increase of ten shillings will of course also apply to those members in receipt of a pension at the class “ C “ rate for tuberculosis or for total temporary incapacity, and to the special rate of medical sustenance payable while a member is undergoing hospital treatment for an accepted disability. Following this increase the class B rate for tuberculosis is also being increased from £7 17s. 6d. to £8 2s. 6d. a week or £16 5s. per fortnight.
The fifth schedule to the act is also being amended to increase by 10s. a week the amounts of the allowances payable under the first six items of the schedule to double amputees.
The amendment to the third schedule of the Repatriation Act will increase the rates of pension now payable to the children of members whose death has been due to war service. The pension payable to the first child of such a member is being increased by 5s. a week to £1 lis. 6d. a week, whilst that payable to the second or any other child is being increased by 4s. a week to £1 2s. 6d. a week. The rate for a double orphan is being increased by 15s. a week to £3 3s. a week.
The amendment to paragraph (aa) of the item “ child of the member “ will enable a higher rate of pension to be prescribed for the additional classes of children included in the amendment. This amendment will be more fully explained during the committee stage.
Although the provisions for them are not made in the act, and therefore do not appear in the bill before the House, I would like to mention at this stage several increases provided in the Budget which affect dependants of members. A war widow is to receive an increase of 7s. 6d. a week in the rate of her domestic allowance, increasing that allowance from £2 to £2 7s. 6d. a week. Domestic allowance is payable to a war widow who has a child under the age of sixteen years, or undergoing education, or training, or who is over the age of 50 years, or is permanently unemployable. More than 90 per cent, of all war widows are in receipt of domestic allowance, and, together with their war widow’s pension of £4 17s. 6d. a week, they will now receive a total of £7 5s. a week. Children receiving benefits under the soldiers’ children education scheme who are undergoing professional education are to receive increases in the rates of their education allowance.
For a student living at home the allowance will be increased by 10s. a week, making the amount payable £4 5s. a week, or £221 a year. The student living away from home will receive an increase of £1 a week, and his rate of allowance will now be £6 10s. a week, or £338 a year. These increases are to apply from 1st January next year. Tn addition to receiving allowances at these rates, these students have their fees, books, and equipment provided for them under the scheme, and are reimbursed the cost of their travelling. There is one further concession which is to be provided for children under this scheme, which will apply not only to professional students, but also to all children eligible to receive an allowance under the scheme. In future, amounts earned by a child by casual employment during university or school vacation will not be taken into account when determining the rate of education allowance to be paid.
There has been some misunderstanding regarding the extent to which T.P.I, pensioners, who are married, will benefit from the increase of 10s. a week in the T.P.I, rate, and some disappointment has been expressed because the Budget did not include an increase in the general rate war pension for incapacity, and in the pensions of wives and children of incapacitated members. The problems which faced the Government were clearly defined in the Treasurer’s Budget speech. In these circumstances it was appropriate that the increases in war pensions should go to the most deserving classes; to the exservicemen who had suffered total and permanent incapacity as a result of their war service, and to the widows and children of the exservicemen who had lost their lives on or as a result of their war service.
Let me explain first the position of the T.P.I, pensioner who is married. The increase of 10s. a week in the T.P.I, rate which this bill provides applies to the war pension of all T.P.I, pensioners, whether married or single and irrespective of their means. The fact is that a married T.P.I, pensioner and his wife will now receive combined war pensions amounting to £13 5s. 6d. a week and, subject to the means test, they may receive between them additional service, age or invalid pension up to £2 9s. 6d. a week, giving them a combined income from both kinds of pension of £15 15s. a week, an amount well in excess of the basic wage. The Government makes no apology for the fact that that total for combined pensions for a husband and wife remains at £15 15s. a week.
In 1948, the government of the day imposed a ceiling limit on the amount of service, age or invalid pension which a war pensioner could receive in addition to his war pension. This ceiling limit was io addition to the means test limit of income plus pension and had the immediate effect as far as a married T.P.I, pensioner and his wife were concerned of making them ineligible for a service, age or invalid pension. Otherwise they could, subject to the means test, have received up to 15s. a week between them from such a pension. When this Government removed those ceiling limits in 1955, the only restriction on a war pensioner receiving a means test pension was the means test itself, which took his war pension into account as income. Immediately a large number of married T.P.I, pensioners and their wives became eligible for a service, age or invalid pension.
At that time the Government made its policy quite clear. It was, that a married T.P.I. pensioner and his wife would be able to receive between them, subject to means test, service, age or invalid pension up to an amount equal to the difference between the total of their war pensions, and the means test limit of income plus pension. That remains the policy of the Government to-day. It follows then that on an occasion, as happens this year when the T.P.I, pension rises and the means test limit of income remains unaltered, that the amount of the means test pension will be decreased by the amount of the increase in the war pension. It follows just as inevitably that if in future the war pension is not increased, but the limit of income plus pension rises, either because there is an increase in the rate of the means test pension, or in the amount which a pensioner is allowed as income before that rate of pension is affected, then the service, age or invalid pension which a married T.P.I, pensioner and his wife are receiving will automatically increase. Surely, there is no injustice in this, and a government which provides pensions up to £15 15s. a week for a married couple cannot be regarded as ungenerous in this respect. It must be remembered that T.P.I, members receive other benefits, including medical treatment through the Repatriation Department for disabilities not due to war service and including concessions from State governments and other bodies.
So far, I have dealt only with the case of husband and wife. In the case of a family unit, war pension is payable to the father, the mother and each child under sixteen years, and if the father receives a service pension he receives an additional amount, and additional amounts are also payable in respect of the mother and children. Furthermore, education allowance is paid for each child from the age of twelve years, and this allowance increases substantially after the age of sixteen, when pension is no longer payable. Child endowment is also payable.
Let me illustrate this by the following example of what might well be regarded as a typical family of a T.P.I, pensioner - father, mother and two children aged fourteen years and twelve years, where there is no other income and no reduction due to property ownership -
In addition a T.P.I, member who is severely incapacitated may also qualify for an attendant’s allowance of £2 15s. or £4 10s. a week.
A war-blinded member who receives the same rate of pension as a T.P.I, member also receives an attendant’s allowance of £2 15s. a week. Recreation transport allowance of £5, or £10, a month is also paid to certain seriously incapacitated members. It is therefore possible for a total payment from Commonwealth sources of £27 19s. a week to be made in the case of a seriously disabled member with a wife and two children.
I turn now to the position of the general rate war pensioner. He, too, benefited considerably from the removal of the ceiling limits, as the following examples illustrate.
– Are there any T.P.I, pensioners from World War II. receiving these amounts? You are getting the old T.P.I, pensioners mixed up with those from World War II.
– They are not mixed up at all. They are all covered here. If through age, or incapacity not due to war service, a general rate war pensioner is unable to go about his ordinary occupation his war pension may be supplemented by a means test pension, i.e., a service, age or invalid pension. The extent to which this may assist him is illustrated by the following examples: -
Two examples of family income will be sufficient to illustrate how well the family unit is taken care of. Again I use the example of father, mother and two children aged fourteen and twelve years, and the examples I quote are one of a member receiving the full general rate or 100 per cent, pension and one of a member receiving war pension at 75 per cent, of the general rate. The examples are -
I should emphasize that all of these amounts are paid free of income tax.
I come now to the concessions which the bill provides for service pensioners. This bill introduces a new provision for the benefit of service pensioners by way of supplementary assistance at the rate of 10s. a week to be paid to single service pensioners, and to married service pensioners, where one only is in receipt of a pension or allowance, who pay rent for their accommodation and who are deemed to be entirely dependent upon their service pensions. Where a service pensioner is paying for board and lodging the same principle will apply, and the payment will be accepted as having a rent component. This provision is in line with a similar one being introduced into the Social Services Act.
In conclusion, I would like to refer briefly to the remaining provisions of the bill amending various sections of the Repatriation Act. There are a number of consequential amendments made necessary because of the introduction of section 98a providing for the grant of supplementary assistance and some other amendments of a minor nature.
Section 46 of the act provides that when a member is actually receiving a pension under the second schedule - for example the T.P.I., war-blinded and class B or C tuberculosis rates of pension - or under the first eight items of the fifth schedule, which provides for double amputees, and he dies from a cause not due to his war service, his dependants receive pension and other benefits as though his death were due to war service. However, this section does not specifically cover the case of a posthumous grant of such a pension, that is, where a claim for pension or an increase in the rate of pension has been lodged but not determined at the date of death. The amendment which the bill makes to section 46 extends the benefits of that section to the dependants of a member in such a case and removes an anomaly.
Section 95 is being amended to bring the section into line with the similar provisions of the Social Services Act, which provides for the adjustment of pension between the member and the benevolent home to take effect from the first pension pay day after the member’s admission to the home. Section 120b of the act is being extended to include adjustments where, because of a retrospective grant of pension, excess payments have been made under the Tuberculosis Act. That section already enables such an adjustment to be made in relation to pensions paid under the Social Services Act.
Any further details regarding these amendments which may be sought I will be pleased to explain during the committee stage.
The increased rates of war pension which this bill provides will be payable on the first pension pay day after the amending act receives the Royal assent and the increased rate of domestic allowance will apply from the same day. The increased benefits for service pensioners will apply from the first pension pay day after the amending Social Services Act, the provisions of which they follow, comes into force.
Mr. Speaker, this bill makes still further provision for ex-servicemen and their dependants, and I commend it to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Haylen) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Townley) read a first time.
Mr. TOWNLEY (Denison - Minister for Supply [12.30]. - by leave - I move - That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill, which has been received from the Senate, provides for increases in the rates of certain pensions which are being paid under the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act. That act first came into operation in 1940, and in the intervening period has been amended on eight occasions. Except for the year 1956, it has been amended each year since 1952, and the main purpose of each of the amendments was to authorize increases in certain pensions which had been approved by the Government and provided for in the respective Budgets.
The pensionsto be increased in accordance with the Government’s decision this year are those payable in respect of children of deceased Australian mariners. The pension paid in respect of the first child, if the mother is alive, is being increased by 10s. a fortnight from £2 13s. to £3 3s. a fortnight. For each other child the increase will be 8s. a fortnight, which will increase the pension from £1 17s. to £2 5s. a fortnight. In the case where the mother also is dead, the pension paid in respect of each child is being raised by £1 10s. a fortnight or from £4 16s. to £6 6s. a fortnight.
In accordance with section 22a of the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act, an Australian mariner who is totally and permanently incapacitated as a result of a war injury receives a pension at the rate for special pensions specified in the Second Schedule to the Repatriation Act. The latter act is being amended to provide inter alia, for an increase in the rate for special pensions from £22 to £23 a fortnight. As this increase will apply automatically to a totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner under the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act, it is not necessary to provide for it in the bill now before you.
Imight mention also that provision was made in the Budget for an increase in the rate of the domestic allowance which is paid under the regulations to a widow who is a pensioner under the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act. is over 50 years of age or is permanently unemployable, or has the care and custody of a child which is under the age of sixteen years or is still undergoing education or training. The allowance is being increased from £4 to £4 15s. a fortnight. It is not necessary, however, to provide for this increase in the bill, as it will be authorized by a regulation amendment.
The bill includes provision for the amending act to come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal assent and for the increased pensions to become payable on the first pension pay day thereafter.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Haylen) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Townley) read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill asks Parliament to approve an agreement relating to the sharing between the States of the waters of the Murray and its tributaries and of waters diverted to the Murray by the works of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. The parties to the agreement are the four governments of the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
The development of the river Murray and the use of its waters is provided for in the River Murray Waters Agreement. The agreement was made in 1914, and has been amended on four occasions. It is administered by the River Murray Commission and provides for the construction of works on the river at the joint cost of the four governments, and lays down the procedure by which the River Murray Commission determines the amounts of water which each of the three States is entitled to draw.
When the River Murray Waters Agreement was made it was not contemplated that large amounts of water would be diverted to the Murray from other rivers; nor was it contemplated that waters would be diverted into other catchments away from the Murray. Similarly, it was assumed that only the States, partners to the agreement, would divert or use Murray waters.
The Snowy Mountains scheme involves the diversion by the Snowy Mountains Authority, a Commonwealth instrumentality, of large amounts of water from the catchment of the Snowy River to the Murray and Murrumbidgee River systems. It also involves the diversion of water from the
Tooma, a tributary of the Upper Murray; to the Tumut River, which is a tributary of the Murrumbidgee.
The Snowy River rises in New South Wales and flows to the sea through Victoria. The Snowy Mountains Agreement contains, inter alia, the terms upon which New South Wales and Victoria agreed to share the Snowy River water when it reached the river Murray. That agreement was recently approved by this Parliament.
When the Snowy Mountains Agreement became available to South Australia that State did not object to the way in which it was proposed to share the additional waters in normal years, but claimed that in terms of the River Murray Waters Agreement it was entitled in a year of drought to a share of the added flow in the river Murray due to the diversion of the waters of the Snowy, lt was not disputed that South Australia was entitled in drought years to a share of the added flow due to better regulation of the Snowy scheme of the head waters of the Murray and Murrumbidgee.
Under the River Murray Waters Agreement, South Australia, in normal times, receives a specified quantity of water, but in a year of drought, when the River Murray Commission declares a period of restriction, the water available for distribution by the commission is shared in a stated proportion. The South Australian claim was that in such a period of restriction all the water available for sharing in the Murray, regardless of its source, should be divided in the proportions provided for in the River Murray Waters Agreement.
South Australia also objected to the proDosed diversion of the Tooma River by the Snowy Mountains Authority on the ground that the diversion was being made by the Snowy Mountains Authority and not by New South Wales or Victoria, as provided for in the River Murray Waters Agreement South Australia did not press this point once agreement was reached on the major question of the method in which the Murray waters were to be shared in drought years. It readily agreed to the arrangements necessary to meet the technical point involved.
The claim of South Australia to share in drought time in the diverted waters of the Snowy was clearly a matter of concern only to the States of New South Wales and Victoria. It was not a matter upon which the Commonwealth could be expected or indeed had any right to adjudicate. All it could do was to bring the parties together and assist in any way it could in their deliberations.
When the South Australian claim to share in drought time in the diverted waters of the Snowy was considered by New South Wales and Victoria, they expressed themselves as prepared to agree, provided that the River Murray Waters Agreement was amended in three ways. The first amendment proposed was that, in a period of restriction, those States should be permitted to use water from the river Murray in excess of the quantity to which they are otherwise entitled and to replace that excess from any tributary of the Murray below Albury in such a way that the rights of the other States are not prejudiced.
The significance of this requirement is that New South Wales and Victoria may take water out of the main stream of the Murray, where they need it, and replace it from tributaries. New South Wales, for instance, will be able to replace water taken out of the ‘Murray by water from the Menindee storage on the Darling, an arrangement “which New South Wales regards as important. Also, Victoria, if it so desires, may replace water taken out of the Murray by water released from the Eildon Dam at the mouth of the Goulburn.
Secondly, New South Wales required the right to cancel the debit for the Tooma diversion by replacement in the Murray from a convenient source. Half the water diverted from the Tooma counts as part of New South Wales’ share of Murray water and half as part df Victoria’s share. Either State may now replace this water in the Murray ‘from any convenient source.
Thirdly, New South Wales and Victoria required as a condition to their meeting the South Australian claim that the River Murray Waters Agreement should be amended to make it mandatory upon the River Murray Commission to declare a period of restriction when the water stored in the Hume reservoir and Lake Victoria falls to 1,000,000 acre feet, unless the commission unanimously agrees that it is not necessary to do so.
The significance of the third requirement is that, in normal times, South Australia receives a fixed quantity of water whereas in times of drought the three States share the available water in stated proportions. In such circumstances, New South Wales and Victoria feared that South Australia might delay in agreeing with them in declaring a period of restriction, which would mean that during the period of delay South Australia could be entitled to a far greater quantity of water than was considered equitable by the other two States.
The agreement which is ratified by the bill before the House resolves the issues to which I have referred in the following manner: Firstly, it -brings the Tooma diversion within the ambit of the River Murray Waters Agreement and thus removes any grounds for concern that the diversion of this river by the Snowy Mountains Authority may be in breach of that agreement. It does this in normal times by clause 5, which adds an additional subclause (2.) (a) to clause 45 of the River Murray Waters Agreement, having the effect that the Tooma diversion will be treated as though it were a diversion by the States of New South Wales and Victoria. It does this for periods of restriction by the addition of sub-clause (3.) Cb) to clause 45 which provides that no State shall receive less water by reason of the Tooma diversion than it would have received had that diversion not been made.
Secondly, sub-clause (2.) (b) of clause 45 allows New South Wales and Victoria to cancel the debit for the Tooma diversion, in whole or in part, by replacement in the Murray from any convenient source.
Thirdly, clause 5 of the new agreement which amends -clause .51 of the River Murray Waters Agreement ensures that South Australia receives its appropriate share of the -diverted waters during restriction periods. This is effected through the.provision of sub-clauses (4.) and (5.) of clause 51.. Sub-clause (4.) has the effect that the “ available water “ which is divided in the proportions I have mentioned, is based on the amount of “ Murray water “. Sub-clause (5.) defines “ Murray water “ as including any water coming into the river Murray and its tributaries by reason of the permanent works of the Snowy Mountains Authority.
After the Snowy waters are diverted, subclause (5.) excludes from sharing the amount of water diverted from the Tooma. Hence the final effect is that South Australia, in common with other States, will in times of drought share the net increase in the waters of the Murray which is due to the Snowy Mountains scheme.
– And lose the Tooma.
– No. Read it carefully.
Fourthly, clause 51 of the River Murray Waters Agreement has been redrafted to make it clear that in a period, of restriction New South Wales and Victoria may use from any portion of the river Murray water in excess of the quantity to which they are entitled; but if they dp. so a quantity equal to that excess shall be replaced by them from a tributary or tributaries below Albury. It thus removes any doubt that New South Wales and Victoria may provide South Australia’s share of waters from any convenient source.
Fifthly, clause 51 of the River Murray Waters Agreement is amended by sub-clause (2.), which states that the commission shall declare a period of restriction when the quantity of wafer held in reserve in the upper Murray storage and the Lake Victoria storage falls to 1,000,000 acre feet, unless the commission resolves that it is not necessary.
In order to ensure that the provisions of the amended River Murray Waters Agreement with regard to the sharing of water will prevail over those of the Snowy Mountains Agreement, clause 9 adds a new clause 60 (a) which states that the provisions as to the sharing of water contained in the new agreement shall apply to the exclusion of provisions contained in the Snowy Mountains Agreement.
In addition to the main objectives that I have mentioned, the amending agreement provides a complete redraft of clause 51 of the River Murray Waters Agreement which has been rewritten in the interests of clarity and practical application of the agreement.
This new agreement has been duly completed by the four governments concerned. It provides a formula which those governments accept as being a better method of sharing the waters of the river Murray than the present method. South Australia gets more water in drought years, but the other two States may indirectly contribute to South Australia’s share by replacing water used by them from the Murray, by water supplied from tributaries. The only interest of the Commonwealth is to secure agreement so that the Snowy Mountains legislation will be validated. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr, Clyde Cameron) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.47 to 2.30 p.m.
Debate resumed from 24th September (vide, page 16Q3), on motion by Mr. Menzies.-
That the bill be -now read a second time.
.- The purpose of this bill is to provide special grants to the three claimant States - South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania ^-7-and it is proposed to make available to those three States in this financial year a total amount of £26,750,000. First, I should like to pay a tribute to the members of the Commonwealth Grants Commission who, year after year, investigate thoroughly the financial position of the three claimant States. They direct themselves, first to a complete and full examination of the budget proposals of the States and then to a general survey of the needs of the States. Special attention is paid to areas which are brought to the attention of the commission by officers pf State departments. This year, it is proposed to allot to the claimant States the following amounts: -
These are not the full amounts that were sought by the States in their submissions to the grants commission both in Melbourne and in their own States. For example, South Australia made out a case to support its claim for £6,200,000 to ensure that its services would compare favorably with those of the non-claimant States - New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. Western Australia asked for £11,300,000 and Tasmania sought £5,500,000. Although the commission made certain recommendations, in every case the allocation was considerably below the amount requested by the States.
I understand that the commission bases its decisions, in the first instance, on the amount of money that is expended by the claimant States on social services, which include education, health and other public utilities. It also takes into account control of expenditure in those States which would be closely related to the services I have mentioned. As the Commonwealth Government is the sole taxing authority, it is practically impossible for the claimant States to raise all the money they require in their States from taxes. They are confined to land tax, lotteries, estate duties and some other minor avenues. Obviously, their taxing powers are limited. I think it can be said with justification and truth that neither South Australia, Western Australia nor Tasmania could reasonably be expected to impose more taxes. On the other hand, if their social service payments, in particular, are above the level that the commission considers reasonable, that has an effect on the amount that ultimately will be made available to those States by the commission.
As the Commonwealth Government is the sole taxing authority, the amount of money that is returned to the States each year is decided on a tax reimbursement formula. As there has been a steady growth in each of the claimant States in recent years, that has been taken into account, to a certain extent, in the formula. The formula allows for an increase in population each year to the extent of 2± per cent, of the reimbursement formula in most of the States, but the school population has been increasing, not at the rate of 2± per cent., but at the rate of 5 per cent. I shall produce figures before I conclude to show the increase in the school population that has taken place in recent years in Tasmania and other States.
T wish to point out at this stage that this is the third year in succession that the Government of Tasmania has had to budget for a deficit. This year, the deficit will amount to approximately £1,200,000. In the course of his budget speech, the Premier of Tasmania indicated that there was no alternative but to reduce expenditure on State instrumentalities such as health, education and public administration generally. Several factors have contributed to the need for a special grant for Tasmania. The first is the high interest charges and the loss of revenue each year on the Transport Department because of difficulties peculiar to Tasmania with its small population. It has been proved to be practically impossible for the Tasmanian Government Railways to show a profit, yet the State could not be expected to function without its railways. The service is essential, in the first instance, for primary producers, and also to transport people from one part of the State to another, but each year high interest charges are accumulating on the losses of the Transport Department. Here again - and this is applicable to most States - there has been a loss of revenue because the fields in which additional finance can be raised have been restricted. It is not possible to increase land taxes or estate duties, for example. They are at the maximum level.
Tasmania has had to depend, as have some other States, to a large extent upon lotteries to finance education and other public services, such as hospitals. I have never believed that any State should be forced to depend on lotteries for revenue for these purposes. However, this has become the practice in recent years’, and States have recognized the necessity to raise money by means of lotteries for hospitals and health services generally. Only a few years ago the main Tasmanian lottery was transferred to Victoria, and Tasmania’s revenue from lotteries has substantially decreased as a result. As I have said, no State should have to depend upon lotteries for revenue for these purposes, and I believe the Commonwealth Grants Commission and the Government should take that into consideration.
I noticed only recently, when considering a report submitted by the New South Wales Minister for Health, that lotteries in that State provide the bulk of the finance for hospitals. This is a matter that should be considered immediately by the Commonwealth Government. It should also be considered by the Grants Commission when it is assessing the financial responsibilities and obligations of Tasmania. It was a matter of grave concern that the Premier of Tasmania was forced to indicate, when introducing his budget, that there would be substantial reductions in public services, particularly in the fields of health and education, in the 1958-59 financial year. This has become necessary purely and simply because sufficient finance has not been available in recent years to enable the State to continue the education and health programmes that it had previously been following.
I wish now to direct my attention particularly to the matter of education. Until 1930 technical and high school education in Tasmania was not free. Some of the students attending secondary schools were charged for their education. When a Labour government came to power, one of the first actions it took, as a matter of policy, was to abolish the fees that had been charged by a non-Labour government. No doubt the fees that had been charged increased the amounts of money available to the previous government for education purposes. Since that time, the Tasmanian Government had depended primarily on Consolidated Revenue, and, secondly, on money made available annually through the Grants Commission, to extend education services in that State.
As I mentioned a few minutes ago, the school population in Tasmania has increased substantially in recent years. This is due in part to the immigration programme of the Australian Government. I refer now to the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which pays particular attention to the State’s population, to show honorable members how the population has increased in recent years. In 1956, there were 319,648 persons in Tasmania. By June, 1957, the population had increased to 327,805, and the proportion of school population to total population was 16.39 per cent. That is a higher proportion than in any other State. Obviously additional burdens have been thrust upon the State in recent years because of this. Although the States are compensated to a certain extent under the tax reimbursement formula, that formula has no regard to the fact that school population is increasing much more rapidly than the general population in all the States.
Some years ago, we in Tasmania directed our attention to the whole question of education. The educational system has entirely changed. The type of education and the standard of the schools have changed. As I have said, even as late as 1930 fees were charged for students attending secondary schools. It was decided that the question of education should receive immediate and urgent consideration, and we took action to extend our educational facilities and to make more money available each year for that purpose. I believe it can be said with some truth that to-day we have a finer system of education than has any other State. We were instrumental in introducing the area schools system and the consolidated schools, and we have certainly improved secondary school facilities. But the introduction of area and consolidated schools meant an immediate and substantial increase in the drain on Consolidated Revenue. Naturally, when we disbanded the small country schools that were a feature of Tasmanian education, and are still a feature of education in other States, and consolidated those schools, additional financial burdens were thrust upon the State for the provision of transport for the children who lived some distance from the new schools. But we took that step because we believed that a better standard of education could be provided in schools that had more than one teacher to look after the needs of three or four different grades.
T have said previously in this House, and I repeat, that we spend more on education in Tasmania than any other State does. We make no apologies for doing so, because we subscribe to the view that a good standard of education is desirable and is of great importance to the Commonwealth generally. In Tasmania the annual expenditure per capita on education is 50.5d. The next highest per capita expenditure is to be found in Western Australia, where the figure is 35.9d. The point I wish to make is that the Commonwealth Grants Commission takes all these factors into consideration when assessing the amount that will be made available to each State for social services. We make no apology for the fact that we spend more on social services in Tasmania than any other State does. We do so because we believe that there are many worthy aspects of social services for which the Commonwealth does not accept responsibility. I believe that every honorable member of this House has had experience of cases in which social service benefits should be granted, but cannot be made available because of the limitations of our legislation. Such cases must be considered by the State social service departments. As I have said, Tasmania spends more on social services than any other State. In this respect, we are again penalized by the Commonwealth Grants Commission for spending that money on social services and education. I suggest that the commission should not take these factors into consideration; it should assess the amount to be made available each year to the claimant States on the basis of their needs compared with the needs of the nonclaimant States.
Let me refer for a moment to the development of hydro-electric power supplies. 1 do not suppose that any State has made greater progress in this direction than has Tasmania. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) referred to this matter last night. 1 understand that, to date, Tasmania has expended almost half as much money in this direction as the Commonwealth has been prepared to provide for the Snowy Mountains scheme. All of that money in Tasmania has had to be provided from two sources - Consolidated Revenue or loan funds. The work has been undertaken without any request being made to the Commonwealth for assistance. We believed that we had the resources and that they should be developed to the fullest extent. I understand that to date the Commonwealth has spent no less than £110,000,000 on the Snowy Mountains scheme. This money is being made available for the benefit of two States or, at most, three States. If the Commonwealth could make available £110,000,000 for this purpose, it should have been in a position to assist Tasmania materially in its hydroelectric schemes.
The honorable member for Wilmot referred last night to the latest scheme that will be undertaken by Tasmania. It will involve the State in the expenditure of no less than £24,000,000, all of which must be found from Consolidated Revenue or from loan funds. I remember that, only last year, a motion was submitted to the Prime Minister and the federal Treasurer by members of the Tasmanian Parliament. I emphasize that the motion did not originate with the Labour Government; it originated with the Opposition. It was that the Commonwealth Government should be asked for a special loan to assist in the development of hydro-electric schemes. As far as I know, the Commonwealth merely dismissed the representations of the State Government as being of little or no consequence.
In dealing with the grants that have been made for this financial year, I stress - I do not say this in any disparaging way - that Western Australia has had the amount of its grants substantially increased. In addition, Western Australia has been assisted in other directions by the Commonwealth Government. Only last year we debated in this Parliament legislation granting money to that State for its water scheme. Nobody will deny that Western Australia has a special case to present to the Parliament. Recently, the Commonwealth Government announced that it would make a special amount available to Western Australia for the development of the northwestern portion of the State. I do not deny that that development is necessary, but I believe also that the Commonwealth Government should examine on the same basis the representations made by Tasmania for a special loan. I believe that the Commonwealth has an obligation to assist Tasmania, particularly with its hydro-electric schemes.
I intimated earlier that Tasmania has spent a substantial amount of money on the development of power supplies. The Commonwealth has benefited largely from that development. Power has been made available by the State Government for the Bell Bay enterprise. Only a few days ago, when I asked the Prime Minister a question about extending the aluminium industry in Tasmania, he suggested that, as Tasmania had provided only £1,500,000 towards the initial cost of construction, it would be completely illogical to suggest that the Commonwealth should provide additional finance. It is perfectly true that the Commonwealth made available the major share of the finance necessary for that venture, but nevertheless we should not forget that, apart from the £1,500,000 made available by the Tasmanian Government towards the initial cost of construction, the Tasmanian Government also provided the facilities without which this aluminium industry would not be able to function. For example, the State Government made avail-* able from Consolidated Revenue no less than £8,000,000 for hydro-electric development so that the Bell Bay enterprise would be able to function. It also made available the north-eastern regional water scheme to provide water for Bell Bay and for the employees of the industry who reside at Georgetown. It made available the finance necessary to construct a first-class road to connect Launceston with Bell Bay and Georgetown. All that money would greatly exceed the total amount made available by the Commonwealth Government for the purpose of constructing the Bell Bay aluminium works.
I do not want to deal at any great length with that matter because I hope to be able to return to it at some time before the Parliament adjourns. I believe it is a most important matter. The Commonwealth Government has a responsibility, and this is one of the ways in which it could assist Tasmania in a very difficult period. I have referred to education, and to public health. I have intimated that the Tasmanian Government’s activities in these fields will have to be substantially reduced during the current financial year because of the shortage of finance. I believe that a case has been made out for increased assistance to Tasmania, if not by way of a direct grant, then certainly by means of a special loan. As the Government of Tasmania has had to present a deficit budget on no fewer than three occasions, it is essential that more assistance be given. I do not under-estimate the consideration that has been given to this matter by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, but I believe that many of the factors that are taken into consideration by the commission in arriving at its decision should not be considered in any circumstances. I believe that if a State wants to improve the educational facilities and health services provided for its people it certainly should not be penalized by the commission.
I should like to refer now to the crisis that will undoubtedly develop in Tasmania as a consequence of the recent action of the United States Government in imposing restrictions on imports of lead and zinc. For many years Tasmania has been one of the greatest producers of zinc.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker, this matter of Commonwealth grants to the claimant States is of national importance.
– Do not hold that against them.
– I can only hope that the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) and a few other members from Victoria will join in a national approach to an important matter that deeply concerns the whole of Australia; for Australia’s future depends on a united, strong and vigorous nation, and not on petty minds and petty people who consider national problems from the stand-point only of their own electorates, and leave the rest of Australia to get along as best it can. This is a matter which should engage the close attention of all honorable members, Mr. Speaker. I want to approach it, not from the stand-point of a New South Welshman or of the representative in this place of the Macquarie electorate, but as an Australian, looking to Australia unlimited and the future development of this great island continent.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) has dealt extensively with the needs of Tasmania, to which he belongs. He has spoken of the development of Tasmania and the accomplishments of the Tasmanian Government, and he’ has addressed himself particularly to the financial needs of that sovereign State. The honorable member has told us of the great progress and development that have occurred there over a considerable period. The reason for this development is perhaps to be found in the fact that, for some 23 years, Tasmania has had Labour governments. Over that period, progressive Labour governments have really faced the problems of developing that island State in order to enable it to play its part in the development of Australia as a whole.
– What about Queensland?
– I shall say something about Queensland. In this connexion, the honorable member should note that Queensland is not a claimant State. It is a principal State, and it does not seek any special assistance from the Commonwealth. The wise leadership that that State has had over many years has promoted development and the decentralization of industry there i.n accordance with the highest traditions to be found anywhere in the Commonwealth. that brings me to the matter about which I wish to speak. What is the purpose of the grants made to the claimant States? It seems to me, Mr. Speaker, that these grants are made in order to promote development of undeveloped areas, the provision of services and facilities, and the extension of the amenities of civilized mankind to the undeveloped areas of Australia. If we look at the matter from that stand-point, I think it will be agreed that, despite the excellent report that the Commonwealth Grants Commission has presented, further study and consideration of the subject is long overdue; for I do not consider it is enough that States, as States, should receive handouts from the National Government. That is not the way to lead this nation to its destiny and to promote its development.
We must look at the picture of Australia as a whole, and see the complete pattern. We should look, in particular, at the area north of the 26th parallel of latitude. The part of that area that lies in the north-west of Western Australia comes within the scope of the consideration of this bill. That part of Western Australia is a vast area of some 500,000 square miles, but has a population of only 6,000 people. Surely, that fact should awaken the national spirit of every honorable member and arouse the consciences of most people outside the Parliament. It is a fact that must concern every person who realizes the situation in which Australia, in the Asian area of the world, is placed to-day. No person with an awareness of that situation, and the great problems that beset Australia, can be satisfied that enough is being done to develop the north. It is true that the Commonwealth has decided to provide certain funds for expenditure in the north-west of Western Australia. On that, I commend it. The provision of such finance is desirable and necessary, but I believe that the amount to be provided is totally inadequate. The Northern Territory does not come within the scope of this measure, because it is not *a State. The Territory, with an area of about 500,000 square miles, has only about 18,000 people. We owe much to the pioneers of the sugar industry who developed the sugar belt in Queensland, and to the progressive governments that fostered the sugar industry. If we exclude that area from the total area of the continent north of the 26th parallel, we have an area of about 1,300,000 square miles with a population of only about 24,000 people.
If the making of grants to promote development is to have any real meaning or serve any worth-while purpose, we should not have regard only for the artificial boundaries between the States. Though these boundaries are artificial, they are real, permanent and enduring, particularly with respect to Tasmania, which is separated by water from the rest of Australia. With respect to South Australia and Western Australia, development should be approached from the stand-point of Australia as a whole, without regard to State boundaries. If some future Commonwealth government approaches the development of Australia in the true national spirit, disregards what the States have to say in these matters, and adopts a truly national approach to the problem, it will come much nearer to meeting the needs of the people, and, for my part, as an Australian, it will cheer me immensely. The problem cannot be adequately dealt with while State boundaries are permitted to have such an overriding influence. The Constitution Review Committee and other bodies, as well as many of the people of Australia, have been much concerned with State boundaries, but, first and foremost, we ought to consider what is an economic area of government, in order that we may assess more realistically the financial needs of a State and the wealth of its resources, and gain an appreciation of what is needed to promote development. That is of great importance.
The aid that we give to Asian countries under the Colombo plan must be paid for by the people of Australia in taxes, and that payment ultimately comes out of the resources of this country. It ought to be generally understood that, likewise, the aid given to the claimant States of Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia must be paid for by the Australian taxpayers as a whole, and that it comes out of the national resources. It should not be thought that aid is given to a State in order to enable it to excel in some special field or other to the detriment, of another State. . It should be realized that we must all march together side by side to our national destiny, which depends on the development of this country.
The honorable member for Bass has ably outlined Tasmania’s problems. He has told us of the needs of Tasmania. He has extolled the virtues of that State and told us of the great development that is in hand there and of the social services and educational facilities that are provided. The cases of Western Australia and Tasmania are entirely different, Mr. Speaker. With respect to South Australia, I do not propose to go through the extensive report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission in detail, but I should like to mention a point that has been made - a point that ought to be considered by the House. The report states -
Recent announcements indicate further substantial investment in industrial development in South Australia, particularly in or near the metropolitan area and at Whyalla.
I think that South Australia is reaching such a stage of economic maturity that it might well be regarded as a principal State, and as such accept full responsibility in economic and other matters affecting it. In view of the tremendous growth of secondary industries in South Australia, the time is not far distant when that State could consider that it has the capacity and the resources to go ahead as a principal State, and also to assist in the development of Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) reminds me, and this should not be overlooked by honorable members, that all that South Australia needs is a change of government. If it had a change of government it would have a change of heart. I am sure that you, Mr. Speaker, appreciate the problems confronting South Australia, and that you know that, with a change of government, South Australia could say to the Commonwealth that it had made substantial progress and was prepared to play its part as a full partner in the Commonwealth and help the Northern Territory and the north-west of Western Australia to develop fully. 1 am raising important matters that should be considered by the House. What are we going to do with the north-west of Western Australia? Our efforts in the past have not been good enough. In the northwest of Western Australia a fine area of land is underdeveloped and underpopulated. It does not lack resources, but it lacks means of transportation, water conservation, irrigation, and harbour installations. It lacks all the facilities essential to its development. In view of the present difficulties confronting this nation, both externally and internally, in the immediate future there will have to be a greater reliance on the internal capacity of Australia to meet the challenge of our undeveloped areas.
How are we to find work for the people who will lose their jobs as a result of the refusal of the United States to buy our lead and zinc? What are we to do with the people who will be unemployed as a result of the recession that could easily arise out of this situation? Unless we look to the future and plan a programme of development for this country, the population of our cities will increase still further and greater difficulties will beset us.
The situation in Western Australia is a challenge to every honorable member. It is a challenge to every person in Australia. In Western Australia there is a great area of underdeveloped land. Something like 6,000 people occupy 500,000 square miles of land north of the 26th parallel, close to the lands of Asia. There is still great mineral wealth in the area, available to be used for the benefit of the people of Australia if only capital can be made available to trigger off the necessary development.
I speak to this bill this afternoon not for the purpose of entering into a controversy as to the needs of one geographical area compared with those of another. I am not greatly moved by such considerations, but I am concerned about the need to develop the north-west of the continent, the need to develop the Gulf country, and the need to see that our bauxite resources are protected and developed for the well-being of the people of Australia. If what has taken place in recent times is to continue, our overseas markets will be diminished, if not entirely lost.
Finance should be provided to develop the Northern Territory, an area that is wealthy almost beyond the dreams of avarice and certainly wealthy beyond the estimation of most honorable members and most people in Australia. The Northern Territory is crying out for special assistance. I have been through that area. I have seen the people of Hatches Creek. I saw the wolfram mines close down. I knew those mines when they were booming. I know the story of how Chinese worked the mines during the Second World War. I know Tennant Creek. I know the difficulties faced by mines, such as the Peko, that have had to fight for existence. If we are to develop this country something should be done about developing northern Queensland. A better rail system in northern Queensland would tap the rich cattle country of the Barkly Tableland. There could be a railway from somewhere near Dajarra right through to the tableland, but it would cost money to build. That is why I say that the money that is being provided in this bill should be regarded as an investment in “ Australia Unlimited “, for the purpose of developing this great country of ours.
We know that beef is fetching very favorable prices overseas at present. But what about our other exports? The price of metals has collapsed. The price of wool in July this year was down 30 per cent, compared with July last year. In August this year the price was down 40 per cent, compared with August last year. If we are to face up to our responsibilities we must develop the north of Australia, and one of the things we can do is to develop the beef industry. We must provide railways, roads and wharfs in order to develop this country. I am sure that we all have faith in Australia. That being so, here is our opportunity to act. Now is the time to stand by the beliefs that we will express in our electorates during the next eight weeks and not to retreat, no matter what happens. It is all very well to stand on a street corner and proclaim our faith in the future of this great country, but unless we take positive steps now to meet the challenge that is inherent in the current situation, we shall have failed this Parliament and the people.
I believe that what is proposed in this bill, as far as can be gauged from the report before us, reasonably meets the situa tion. The bill does not offer a solution for all the problems. It is only a beginning of what is needed if Australia is to be the place in which we want our children and our children’s children to live.
.- One could not quarrel with quite a number of the sentiments expressed by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), but I should like to join issue with him on some of the points that he made. It always intrigues me when a member of the Labour party refers to decentralization, because the core of Labour’s platform and policy is centralization in government. I invite any honorable gentleman opposite to deny that it is the planned intention of the Labour party to abolish the federal system, to snuff out the life of State governments, and to concentrate all legislative power in the Commonwealth here in Canberra. So I say to the honorable member for Macquarie that his plea this afternoon for decentralization is a rather quaint plea, which is quite inconsistent with the policy of his party.
It is a rather interesting fact that since the federation was formed, some 28 bills relating to referendums have been introduced into this Parliament, and to the Labour party belongs the doubtless honour of having sponsored the great majority of those bills. Admittedly, only four of the referendums have been carried, but I remind the House and the people of Australia that the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), as the Australian Attorney/General, led a vicious onslaught against the Australian Constitution. He endeavoured to persuade the States to surrender all their powers to the Commonwealth. He asked them to surrender for a period of five years the principal legislative powers that they commanded. When that proposal fell through, he tried the direct approach in 1944. He presented to the Australian people for their support a catalogue of claims for the granting to the Commonwealth Parliament of all the principal legislative powers resident within the States. So I ask my friend, the honorable member for Macquarie, in no spirit of malevolence, how he can justify his plea this afternoon for decentralization, when sitting in front of him - indeed, all round him - are those who represent the very ethos and core of die policy of the Australian Labour party - complete centralization .of legislative power? It is absurd to imagine that we could develop a situation in which all legislative power was centralized, without a concomitant effect upon all industry,, all phases of commerce, and every form of activity throughout Australia.
The honorable gentleman referred to the splendid work of the Queensland Government. I assume that he was referring to the late Queensland Government; I hardly imagine that he would refer favorably to the present Queensland Government. He mentioned, in answer to an interjection, that Queensland was not a claimant State but a principal State. That is perfectly true, but it is equally true that, due to gross mismanagement by Labour governments in Queensland for more than a generation, Queensland is on the very verge of applying to become a claimant State. In Queensland the development that has occurred under various Labour governments has been nothing short of scandalous. Numerous ‘industries have been frightened away from Queensland ‘ because of the Government’s vicious attitude towards the encouragement of industry, and because of a rapacious system of price control. Industrialists coming to Queensland got no encouragement at all to bring their industries there. They found red tape on every possible side, and to-day Queensland unfortunately has not within her boundaries the industries which she should properly have.
But a dramatic change has occurred in the last twelve months. Under a Country party-Liberal government, many new industries are coming to Queensland. The State is on the move, and it is of no use for any honorable gentlemen opposite to try to deny that for many years industry was frightened away from Queensland. I can give the honorable member for Macquarie a graphic illustration of the pathetic capabilities of a Labour government. It took ten years to construct the Burdekin Bridge. By way of contrast, we may as well -remind ourselves that it took fifteen years to build the Great Wall of China. Ten years under a Labour government to build the Burdekin Bridge, and fifteen years to build the Great wall of China!
Let me refer briefly to roads in Queensland. From 1951 to 1954, Queensland Labour governments built 164 miles of bitumen road, and 7 miles of concrete road. Am I to adjudge that to be a splendid example of development and the will to get things done? Am I to gaze upon these facts as being an illustration of a dynamic quality residing in government? I put it to honorable gentlemen opposite, and particularly to the honorable member for Macquarie, that it is so much plain humbug to say that Queensland was a prosperous, pulsating and developing State under Labour.
Then there is the issue of railways. In a period of twenty years, Queensland Labour governments built only 16 miles of railways, but, on the other hand, they closed 92 miles of railways. There again is an illustration of the go-slow tactics of Queensland Labour governments. Then we have a subject that is very close to us all - education. The 1954 report on education by the Commonwealth Grants Commission contains these figures. In that year, New South Wales spent £6 12s. a head on education; Victoria, £5 ls. 8d.; South Australia, £5 7s. 4d.; Western Australia, £5 12s. 7d.; Tasmania, £6 7s. 6d.; and Queensland, £4 9s. 7d. There, again is an illustration of the pathetic approach of Queensland Labour governments. Need I remind the House, and particularly the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) of the utter failure of soldier settlement in Queensland? Very few ex-servicemen were given the opportunity to settle on the land in Queensland.
– That is not right.
– I assure my friend that it is right. He need not shake his head so wisely and knowingly. I assure him that I was one of the victims. I tried for some years to get into a ballot in order to obtain a block of land. I was one ‘ of tens of thousands of ex-servicemen in Queensland who were denied that opportunity. Queensland refused to become an agent State. It insisted on ‘remaining a principal State. The synthetic approach of Labour governments to land settlement over the years is well known to any person who has had anything at all to do with it. The claim was made by various Labour Ministers that Queensland would not become an agent State for the’ simple reason that it it did so much of its sovereign powers would be surrendered. At the time I found that rather an .odd statement to make. It was an extremely stupid one when contrasted with the fundamental aim of the Labour party to destroy the federal system. In Queensland for many years a vicious level of death duties was imposed. There were glaring examples where relief could have been offered to many people without violently interfering with the revenue coming from that source, but it was left to the Queensland Country party-Liberal Government to correct the many anomalies.
I say to the House that there is a new spirit abroad in Queensland to-day. There is a spirit of determination to get things done. No longer is there the attitude which is signified in the contemptible phrase, “She’s near enough”, or “It will do”. Queensland to-day is a State on the march, and I believe that under the Country party-Liberal Government it will show the rest of the Australian States exactly what it is capable of doing. Above all, there is resident in Queensland to-day a spirit of honesty in government. People who have looked at the legislative performance of successive Queensland Labour governments have had every reason to doubt the existence in those governments and in the various government departments of integrity and a fundamental sense of honesty. To-day the Country-Liberal party Government in Queensland is determined to get things done. What has happened in Queensland in a little over twelve months has been nothing short of spectacular.
I finish on this point, and I ask the House to pay some heed to it: Queensland is very much on the verge of becoming a claimant State. The reason for that is that for nearly a generation succeeding Labour governments have been intent on pursuing party politics and have given only a passing thought to the welfare and development of the State. I say to the honorable member for Macquarie and to every honorable member opposite that what has happened in Queensland is an example of what can happen when a government is dominated by a centralization concept, determined that everything shall be run from one particular spot. The example of Queensland provides a solemn warning to the people of Australia that if ever they elect to this Federal
Parliament a party determined on smashing the Australian Constitution and destroying the federal system, Australia’s problem of development will become so much more difficult.
.- I am glad of the opportunity to say a few words on this important measure, which proposes to make grants to the three claimant States, because it is felt that before very long there will be another claimant State, that is, the State of Queensland. For the first time in 25 years, it is now ruled by a Country-Liberal party government. That Government has not been democratically elected, because it does not represent the majority of the people. It has been quite legally elected, as the Government of South Australia has been elected; but that government also does not represent the majority of South Australians. Nevertheless it has been quite legally elected. The Queensland Government has immediately thrown in the towel because it is not prepared to shoulder the responsibility of government, and it will soon become a claimant State, asking this Parliament and the Commonwealth to grant money so that the development of Queensland may be continued.
The record of government under Labour over the years in the State of Queensland is a very proud one. The policy of decentralization which has been carried out is an example to the other States of the Commonwealth. The idea did not originate with the Australian Labour party, but has been inherent in the system of government which has prevailed for a long time in that State, based mainly on the system on which the State railways were constructed1.
As honorable members know, Queensland is the second largest State in area in the Commonwealth. It has not a large population. At the moment it is a little below 1,500,000, spread over an area of 670,000 square miles. Because the population has been decentralized, the cost of government and of development is very considerable. Up to the present time, Queensland has received the same treatment as have the States of New South Wales and Victoria. The area of Victoria is over 87,000 square miles, but it has a very considerable population, just in. excess of 2,500,000. Queensland is endeavouring, on the same basis of Commonwealth financial assistance as is extended Victoria, to develop an area of 670,000 square miles. From time to time, promises have been made by Liberal party politicians, and what is more disgraceful, by Australian Country party politicians, in an effort to woo the voters of Queensland, that funds would be made available for State development. I know that the latest of these promises was made by the right honorable member for McPherson (Sir Arthur Fadden), the Commonwealth Treasurer, who is at present absent on what appears to be an abortive conference at Geneva.
– Why does not the honorable member tell the story properly?
– I will tell the story if the honorable member for Mallee will allow me.
– Order! I ask the honorable member for Mallee to remain silent.
– Seeing that the story I am about to tell concerns water, I will make it as clear as possible. The right honorable member for McPherson gave an undertaking, when he was speaking in the township of Boonah, that if his party was successful the Government it supported would see that one of the projects which Queenslanders have been desiring to see undertaken for some years would be proceeded with, namely, a dam on the Burdekin River.
The Burdekin River has an enormous catchment, and during the wet season a vast quantity of water flows from the region to the sea. It irrigates a very fertile sugarproducing area in which there are great possibilities of developing other crops provided water is made available at the appropriate time. An investigation was made into the economics of the Burdekin dam project before construction began, and it was hoped that the Federal Government would assist materially by making money available. The cost of building this dam will be very considerable. As I have said, a representative of the Australian Country party gave an undertaking in the township of Boonah that if he became a member of the Government, to quote his breezy words -
We will build the Burdekin dam.
He was reported very favorably in the Queensland press along those lines. Of course, the Queensland electorate naturally expected the word of this gentleman would be honoured. They regarded him as being >a gentleman on that occasion. Of the eighteen representatives from Queensland sent to this Parliament at that election, fifteen were supporters of the new Commonwealth Government, being members of either the Liberal party or of the Australian Country party. But since that time no effort has been made by the Treasurer to honour his word. Rather, he has repudiated it and gives, as his justification for that repudiation, the excuse that the inforto him by the then Premier of Queensland,mation on the Burdekin dam project given the late Mr. Hanlon, was not in accordance with fact. That is quite an easy way to dodge the issue. He is not even prepared to make a token gesture by recommitting the scheme for further investigation to see what can be done.
That is an illustration of how this Commonwealth Government has refused to assist Queensland. The State government, from its own resources, which are quite meagre, in view of the size and population of the State, has itself constructed a very worthwhile irrigation scheme in the electorate of the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce). I refer to the vast Tinaroo dam, which- cost many millions of pounds. It was financed entirely from State resources, and will be largely responsible for settling many hundreds of families in the fertile areas of Mareeba and surrounding districts, where high-grade tobacco is produced, as well as other primary products for which markets will be readily available.
This shows what can be done by a government that has the drive to do something even though it may be short of funds. This work was carried out by successive Labour governments in Queensland to develop the northern part of that State. From time to time, it has been said by people of various political shades in the Commonwealth that northern Queensland must be developed because it is the area closest to that part of the world from which, should a war occur, we may expect attack. As we know, during the war years when Japan was bearing down on Australia, the target was northern Queensland. We must have population in that area if it is to be a bastion for the defence of the Commonwealth.
But this Commonwealth Government is adopting a “ Brisbane-line “ attitude. As far as it is concerned, Australia ends at the Tweed River. It is doing nothing at all either by grants or other assistance for national works to develop the State of Queensland. As the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) pointed out, a highly productive sugar industry is operating within a narrow strip along the coast of northern Queensland. It is the principal primary industry in northern Queensland. I gather from newspaper reports to-day, however, that that industry is being threatened by Japan, which is one of our principal buyers. A conference is being held in Geneva at the present time at which the right honorable the Treasurer is the Australian delegate.
Japan is adopting quite a threatening attitude in her efforts to have the price of sugar to the importing countries considerably reduced. If this attempt succeeds it will be another blow at Australia’s export industries. We must take serious notice of the attitude of Japan in this matter, because last year Japan purchased from us sugar to the value of £5,600,000, compared with the previous year’s purchases worth £1,827,000 - an enormous increase! I hope that the outcome of - the conference in Geneva will not be disastrous for Australia’s sugar producers, but preliminary reports suggest that we can expect the outcome to be most unsatisfactory. I hope that the Treasurer will keep the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) well informed on the progress of this matter, and not leave us to discover one day that another great industry - the sugar industry - is being attacked by a decision of a foreign government, just as we have seen the lead and zinc industry attacked by the action of the United States.
I heard the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) deride the former Labour government of Queensland in relation to war service land settlement, his criticism being based principally on the fact that he had not been successful in his attempt to become a settler under the scheme. I think that the taxpayers of Australia have cause to be grateful that the Queensland government of the day did not settle the honorable member for Moreton on the land when it was found that he would have been a most unsuitable settler, because settling him on the land would merely have added to the losses incurred already under the scheme. We want men of the right type to go on the land and become producers, men who will make a success of things under that scheme. We know that the honorable member for Moreton was regarded as likely to be a failure in that regard, so it is a good thing that he was denied the opportunity to waste his efforts on this form of primary production. He has been sent into this place, and to judge from his behaviour here, and the lack of seriousness with which he is taken by members of the Government parties, apparently he is as great a failure here as he would have been on the land. He is one of the few left of the formerly large number of members on the Government side who shared the belief that we must not trade with Asian countries that do not belong to the democratic group. The vast majority of members on the Government side have now come round to the belief that we have to sell our products to people who are prepared to buy them.
I turn to the subject of north-western Queensland, where we have seen great development in recent years, and where we hope to see still greater development. A body blow has been struck against one of the principal mining products of northwestern Queensland, by a friendly nation, the United States of America. America is our principal market for pig lead. Trade returns show a gradual decline in America’s purchases of lead from Australia, and this is reflected in the output of Broken Hill mines, which for some considerable time have been working with one reduced shift every fortnight. That has not happened at Mount Isa, as yet.
In 1957, we exported to the United States of America pig lead to the value of £12,600,000, but this year the export value has dropped to £6,649,000. These figures were supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician. Now we find that not only has the U.S.A. imposed a tariff on lead, but she has also instituted quantity restrictions on lead imports. Australia’s exports of lead to the United States have been cut by the United States Government by 20 per cent.
It is idle to say that the Commonwealth Government did not know what was going to happen about lead and zinc exports to the United States. On 27th August I asked the acting Minister for Trade whether he was aware of the situation that had developed with the passing by the United States Congress of the Mineral Subsidy Bill providing for the imposition of tariffs on imported metals. Some time ago, the Minister for Trade, who is now overseas, made his first speech as leader of the Australian Country party at Bundaberg, in which he praised the president of the United States of America for postponing the adoption of the tariff proposal submitted by the United States House of Representatives Tariff Committee. He led the people of Australia, and of Queensland in particular, to believe that a great service had been done thereby to the lead producers of Australia. But the American President is faced with a hostile Congress, the majority party in which is not of his own political persuasion, and he could only postpone the passage of the bill pending an inquiry. So, from at least the middle of August, this Government must have been aware of the deterioration of Australia’s position in the lead market in the United States.
Early in September, the United States Congress passed the Mineral Subsidy Bill, which imposed a tariff on all imported minerals. As the United States is our principal customer for lead and zinc, obviously the effect of the passing of that measure must have been quite apparent to the Government in advance.
– What do you want us to do - declare war on America?
– Of course not! I am merely pointing out that the Government must have, or should have, known what was going to happen to the lead market.
– You are denying the Americans the right to manage their own affairs.
– It is good to know where the members of the Australian Country party stand in this. They are wholeheartedly in accord with the blow of the assassin; they have no horror of the blackjack that has hit Australia’s lead producers. Miners employed at Mount Isa and Broken Hill will suffer from this latest attack by the United States Government. It has been reported that the Minister for Trade is exceedingly angry about it, but he is not prepared to go to Washington to see whether something can be done.
– Of course it is nonsense! The honorable member should not be allowed to say these things.
– The Minister says “ Nonsense “, and he is echoed by the honorable member for Gippsland. If it is nonsense, it is like the answer given by the Minister to a question concerning the powers of the Director-General of Social Services. I can only base my opinions on what I read in the press. The Melbourne “ Herald “, a most reliable journal, said that the Minister for Trade was intending to go to Washington about this matter, but the press to-day says that the Minister will not go to Washington. So apparently the Minister, as leader of the Australian Country party, reflects the opinions of the members of the little group in the corner, who wholeheartedly agree with what has been done, and are quite enthusiastic about this blow to Australia’s mining industry, and are prepared to let the matter drift along.
Members of the Labour party want to see some action, some attempt made to regain this important lead market. It is a bad thing that the United States has done to this country which, through thick and thin, and in the face of much criticism, has been an ally of the United States ever since World War II. At times, Australia has deviated from the path of the Mother Country, merely to support the United States Government. On this occasion, the United States Government has shown its contempt for the people of Australia by making this attack on this most important industry.
In northern Queensland lead is produced at Mount Isa, and I have no doubt that, from time to time, honorable members will hear the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) extolling the virtues of this industry. I merely make passing reference to it. It has been proved that there is ample scope for development at Mount Isa. It is one of the big new mining fields of the world. It is one of the great discoveries of this age, but it needs money to develop it. One of the first requirements of a mining field is a market for its product. Now, a savage attack has been made on this important industry.
From time to time, the Queensland Government will, no doubt, make statements concerning what will be done to develop the State of Queensland. Nothing has been done for Queensland by the Commonwealth Government, but I do not want to attack only the Commonwealth Government. I think that somebody else should share the blame, and it must be borne, to some extent, by the State Government. Recently, the Deputy Premier of Queensland, Mr. Morris, and a large number of members of the Liberal party were sent on a grand tour overseas at the citizens’ expense. The necessary money was paid out of the tax reimbursements granted by this Parliament. The purpose of the tour, to quote the words of the Deputy Premier, was “to sell Queensland to the investors overseas “.
After hearing this statement, one might envisage a flock of investors and manufacturers following Mr. Morris back into Queensland in order to invest large sums of money, establish factories, provide work, and produce manufactured goods. But the trip was completely abortive. Not one industry has been brought back to Queensland. On their return from this trip the Deputy Premier and those who went with him talked about the virtues of the Gold Coast and the value of the tourist industry. Of course, the virtues of the Gold Coast were known far and wide throughout Australia and in other parts of the world before these people made this tour. Tt was not necessary for. Mr. Morris to go overseas and spend the taxpayers’ money merely to come back to Queensland and tell us of the advantages of the tourist industry to Queensland.
I hope that, when the Queensland Government applies to the Commonwealth for financial assistance, the social services which have been built up in that State over many years by successive Labour governments will not be attacked. Queensland, under a Labour government, was the only State with free hospitalization. Queensland has the best hospital system in the Commonwealth. Any citizen can go into a public hospital in Queensland, whether run by the State or by a religious institution, and receive free hospital treatment.
– Who destroyed it?
– It has not been destroyed, but it is in danger of being destroyed by the present Government of Queensland. I have been reliably informed that the number of beds in public hospitals in Queensland is not being increased. Instead, more provision is being made in intermediate wards in general hospitals so that people will be forced, ultimately, to enter the intermediate wards and pay for treatment in them. The number of beds in public hospitals is not being increased commensurately with the increase in Queensland’s population.
As I have said, in social services, Queensland leads the Commonwealth. I hope that that lead will be maintained and that the important social services which the people of Queensland have come to regard as their right will not be diminished. I fear that if Queensland does become a claimant State attempts will be made to reduce the standard of social services in that State to the level of social services in the other States of the Commonwealth. Consequently, I hold great fear for the future of the free hospital system in Queensland. Queenslanders would be horrified if they lost this.
Other features of Queensland’s development are not being fairly treated by this Government, but I can touch on them, at another opportunity. I would say that the Commonwealth Government, in the eyes of Queenslanders, stands condemned for its refusal to assist in the development of Queensland. The Commonwealth Government has assisted every State in the Commonwealth except Queensland. The vast Snowy Mountains scheme is being developed for the benefit of New South Wales and Victoria. Big grants have been made to South Australia for the construction of the railway to the Leigh Creek coalfields and for the widening of narrow gauge railways to the broad gauge of 5 ft. 3 in. Vast sums have been granted to Western Australia for north-western development, for water conservation, and as a subsidy on gold. Millions of pounds have been spent in Tasmania on the development of the Bell Bay aluminium project. But not one item of national development can be cited in the State of Queensland in which the Commonwealth Government is interested. The people of Queensland must continue to express their horror at this attitude. They must not be complacent; they must assert their rights and insist that this Government pay some attention to the needs of their State. I hope that they will do that at the first opportunity that presents itself.
.- I would not have risen in this debate if it had not been for the compliment that was paid by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) to the State of South Australia. I think that all compliments such as that, particularly from such a quarter, should be duly acknowledged. But before I continue on that point, I would like to reply to the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts), who, in concluding his speech, asked why the Commonwealth had not done certain things in Queensland although so much had been done in South Australia and Western Australia. He neglected to mention the point that was made by my friend, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) that Queensland, up till recently, had had a Labour government for 30 years or more. If the Commonwealth Government did not promote the ventures to which the honorable member for Griffith referred it was the fault of the Labour government in Queensland and not of the Commonwealth Government.
The honorable member specifically mentioned the broadening of the railway gauges in South Australia. That work has been undertaken under a grant from the Commonwealth which was negotiated originally by the Chifley Government when the present honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was the Minister for Transport. I freely acknowledge that fact. Such treatment would have been available equally to Queensland if the Labour government of Queensland at that time had had the foresight to put forward its claim. It had the opportunity to come into the first and second rail standardization agreements that were negotiated. Tt did not come into them and. eventually, an agreement was negotiated between South Australia and the Commonwealth alone.
The honorable member for Macquarie paid South Australia a compliment by suggesting that that State had developed to a point where it was no longer necessary for it to rely on grants made through the Com monwealth Grants Commission. He also indirectly paid a compliment, therefore, to the Playford Liberal Government which has now been in office in South Australia for more than twenty years, because when that Government was first elected to office, the development that is to be seen today certainly did not exist. The Premier of South Australia, Sir Thomas Playford, tells a story himself about one of the earliest meetings of the Australian Loan Council that he attended. Mr. Curtin, who was then the Prime Minister, assisted South Australia to obtain some grant or other. When Sir Thomas Playford thanked Mr. Curtin, the Prime Minister of that day replied, “ Oh, well, Mr. Playford, we will always have to help South Australia. She will always be a mendicant State. We realize that, and you can always rely on us to help you out “. That was the situation and those were the words used by Mr. Curtin early in the life of the Playford Government.
That situation has changed now, and I believe the credit is due to the government which has been in office in South Australia for more than twenty years, because the disadvantages under which that State suffers, and which originally made her a claimant State, have not changed. We still have a paucity of resources within the State, an absence of rivers and an inadequate supply of water in general. Only a small area of the State has an assured rainfall. Minerals and natural forests are lacking. Those things have not changed in the past twenty years, and the disadvantages still exist, as is shown by the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. No miracle, such as a higher rainfall, has occurred in South Australia. The development has been due to the wise, stable and far-seeing administration of the Playford Government. It is a classic example of what can be done when the odds are against you and when you have poor materials to work with although, in that connexion, 1 exclude the human material of South Australia, which is among the best in the Commonwealth. The Government of South Australia is not based on class legislation, as it is in all the States where Labour governments are in office. I sometimes wonder what a government like the Playford Government could have done in the past 30 years, given the abundant and wondeful resources of Queensland; but it did not have them, and it has achieved remarkable results with the less abundant resources of South Australia.
The point I wish to make is that, although the honorable member for Macquarie was correct in pointing to the development of South Australia and in indirectly paying a compliment to the State Liberal Government, I do not agree with him that a point has been reached when South Australia can do without these grants. The honorable member’s statement shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the reasons why the grants are made. The grants are made because of disadvantages arising out of federation. As I understand it, the Commonwealth Grants Commission has developed the principle that, after a careful examination of both the claimant and non-claimant States, grants are made to assist the claimant States to bring their services up to a level comparable with the standard in the nonclaimant States. Presumably, if the commission is prepared to recommend a grant for South Australia this year, despite the wonderful development that has taken place in both primary and secondary industry, the increase of population and other developments, it is still not possible, because of the disabilities arising from federation, for that State to achieve a standard of services comparable with those provided in the non-claimant States without such extra assistance. If that had been possible, presumably the commission would not have recommended a grant. Indeed, the fact that the grant this year is to be reduced considerably, compared with the grant for the previous year, indicates that the commission has worked on that principle.
South Australia has more people this year for whom to provide services equivalent to those provided in the non-claimant States. If South Australia reaches a point where it is able, within its own resources, to provide a comparable standard of services, it will cease to be given grants as a result of investigations by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. That point has not been reached.
The honorable member for Macquarie said that what was required in South Australia was a Labour government, because he believed if a Labour government achieved office there, it would voluntarily dispense with the grants made available to it on the recommendation of the Common wealth Grants Commission. I believe that members of the Australian Labour party from South Australia in this House should indicate whether that is their view. Do they share the view of the honorable member for Macquarie that, if a Labour government were elected in South Australia, it would forego that State’s claim to a grant under this legislation? That is what the honorable member for Macquarie said it would do. He said that it would give it away in recognition of the stage of development that had been reached in the State, and that this money would then be available to develop the north. It would be just as well if the Labour members from South Australia indicated in this House their views on that matter.
– Would they give away £5,000,000?
– That is what the honorable member for Macquarie said they would do. In making this point that it is necessary for South Australia to continue its dependence on these grants I do not in any way dissociate myself from or disagree with the views expressed by the honorable member for Macquarie about the necessity to develop the north. I believe that this is necessary. At present, however, we are discussing a bill designed to assist States with a paucity of natural resources. Never let it be forgotten that this assistance received by South Australia and the other claimant States was one of the results of their joining the Federation. I think it is wrong to suggest that we should pick on this particular source of finance for the development of the north.
I conclude by thanking the honorable member for Macquarie for the compliment that he has paid to my State and, indirectly, to the Government that has been in office there for twenty years, by even suggesting that we have reached the stage at which we can dispense with grants made through the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
– It would certainly be refreshing to the Premier of South Australia to know that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) had got up in this Parliament - or anywhere else for that matter - and said something good about him. We all recall vividly the honorable member’s denunciation of the Premier of South Australia in connexion with the River Murray Agreement and the Snowy Mountains Agreement, when he described the Premier’s opposition to this Government’s attempt to pilfer from South Australia its share of the diverted water as paltry and uninformed. We can recall his statements in the public press in South Australia about the Premier’s lack of knowedge of the subject of education. He seemed to agree with many other persons who criticized the Premier of South Australia on his pontifications on the question of homework for high school children. The honorable member for Barker, as we know, got into quite a deal of hot water in his own State. I think many persons inside his own party feel that there is much logic in the criticism that they are now hearing within the party regarding the activities of the Adelaide Club in selecting people to represent country areas whose interest in and knowledge of those areas is as limited as is the interest and knowledge of the majority of members of the Adelaide Club.
I think we can take with a grain of salt everything that the honorable member for Barker has said, and perhaps put it down to the fact that he is now trying once again to curry favour with the Premier of South Australia, whom he formerly thought he could treat with contempt and disdain, but who, now that he knows more of the ramifications of the Liberal party, he recognizes as a man whom he must respect and with whom he must get on side.
To the extent that the honorable member was able to make a case out of very bad material, I congratulate him on his effort this afternoon, but I would like to put the other side of the story.
– .Order! Before the honorable gentleman gets to the other side, will he say how he relates his remarks to the subjectmatter of the bill?
– Yes. I refer to the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission for 1958.
– Just touch on it now and again.
– I refer particularly to page 23 of that report, where, in paragraph 34, the following appears: -
In recent years. South Australia made considerable progress particularly in industrial develop ment, although there have also been significant gains in primary industries and great improvements in agricultural practice.
It is on that paragraph that I wish to say something before I move on to the next point. I should like to tell the House how South Australia has made this progress in industrial development. I disagree, however, with the statement of the commission that significant gains have been made in primary industries. The fact is that there have been no such significant gains in primary industries, and whoever pulled the legs of the members of the commission and persuaded them to believe that there have been significant gains in primary industries is to be congratulated on his sublety of argument and the way he was able to put it over these men, who are, or should be, experts in assessing the facts. In South Australia, as the population figures so clearly show, the number of persons engaged in agricultural pursuits and primary industries is steadily becoming smaller and smaller. The proportion of people engaged in primary industries, to the total population, is, I repeat, becoming smaller and smaller. Do those facts support the silly contention of the commission that there have been significant gains in primary industries? Of course, they do not. The land of South Australia is steadily passing into fewer and fewer hands, and in the process it is becoming less productive than would be the case if it were in the hands of a larger number of individuals.
I wish, however, to deal at the moment with the question of industrial expansion. The reason why South Australia has achieved levels of industrial expansion beyond those of some other States is that in South Australia the Liberal Government has taken legislative action to ensure that the working conditions and remuneration of persons engaged in industry are less favorable than those granted in other States. Consequently, greedy employers who, in other circumstances, might go to New South Wales or Victoria, where there are natural facilities of advantage to manufacturing concerns, establish their industries in South Australia. They do not do this because the Premier is some kind of a magician, or a man who has been able to induce industrialists to come to his State simply by means of the logical arguments that he can advance, but because he has been able to show that workers in South Australia are always very much worse off than those in other States.
Let me give a few examples. In every other State a worker, after twenty years’ service with an employer, is entitled to three months’ long service leave, the service being calculated on a retrospective basis back to the year 1934. The South Australian Liberal Government was able to continue the advantage which the employers in that State had enjoyed over those in other States by passing an act of Parliament which provides, in effect, that no matter how long you have worked for an employer, even if it is as long as 40 years, all you will get in the matter of long service leave is retrospectivity for seven years. That provision is written into the statutes of South Australia. So bad was the law which the Playford Government passed in respect of long service leave that the employers themselves could see the injustice of it.
– What has this to do with the States Grants Bill?
– I am explaining that the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission speaks of great industrial expansion, and I am showing honorable members that this industrial expansion has been made possible at the expense of the wages and working conditions of employees. If the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) will listen to what T am . saying, instead of reading his book and occasionally interjecting, he will realize that the point I am making is that in South Australia an employer is obliged to give retrospectivity in respect of long service “leave for seven years only. In all the other States they are compelled to go back for twenty years. The injustice of this was so apparent that the employers repudiated it. The Liberal Government had done its job so well that the employers were too ashamed to accept the benefits of it. They entered into a private agreement with the Australian Council of Trade Unions, granting to the workers of South Australia the conditions enjoyed by workers in all other States - that is, three months’ long service leave after twenty years’ service with retrospectivity to 1934.
T refer now to the cost of living adjustments. The House will know that the industrial court in Queensland has always continued to recognize quarterly cost of living adjustments, so that when the cost of living rises each quarter, the Queensland industrial court, as is proper, increases the basic wage to compensate for the rise in the cost of living. In New South Wales, the Labour Government provided by act of Parliament that every person working under a New South Wales award would receive quarterly cost of living adjustments in order to compensate fully for any increase in the cost of living. Indeed, that should be so; a worker should be compensated for an increase in the cost of living. In Victoria, the Labour government did the same thing. Until the Labour government was defeated as a result of the coalition of the D.L.P. with the L.C.L., introducing the Bolte Government, workers received cost of living adjustments. However, as with the Liberal Government in South Australia, the Liberal Government in Victoria decided to discontinue the quarterly cost of living adjustments. It saw nothing wrong with the workers being compelled to meet the rising cost of living out of the pegged wage. It thought that it would be entirely wrong for the prices of the goods which the bosses had to sell to be pegged, but saw nothing wrong with pegging the price of the thing that the worker had to sell, his labour power.
That is another reason why employers have seen advantages in going to South Australia instead of to other States. They can see that South Australia is the State which faithfully looks after the interests of the employers to the detriment of the employees, by pegging wages. No matter what the increased cost of living may be, the workers in South Australia do not receive any increase of the basic wage, although these increases are given to workers covered by State awards in New South Wales, Western Australia, Queensland and, to a lesser extent, Tasmania. Workers in South Australia must wait until there is a re-adjustment, usually once each year, by the federal Arbitration Court.
– Conditions in South Australia are so bad that workers go there in large numbers!
– Workers go there in large numbers because this Government has been so bad that many workers are out of employment and they are glad to get a job anywhere. The fact is that we have a bad Commonwealth Government which ensures that there is a pool of unemployed in the other States and a bad Liberal Government in South Australia which ensures that the workers there receive poor rates of pay and have bad working conditions. There we have the perfect synthesis of the two things - a bad federal government creating unemployment in the other States, and thus forcing workers to go to South Australia and accept the rotten conditions tolerated by the bad State Government.
I turn now to workers’ compensation to show the extent to which the Liberal Government of South Australia has used its legislative powers to give to employers interested in the establishment of secondary industries, special advantages in South Australia which they would not enjoy in the other States. In South Australia, if a worker with a wife and five, six or even 26 children - the number does not matter - is killed, the only compensation paid to the widow is an amount less than £3,000. She is paid off by the employer through the insurance company and told, “There is your £2,800; as far as we are concerned, you can go away and rear your family of little babies and educate them as best you can. We could not care less.”
In the more enlightened State of New South Wales, provision is made for very much higher payments. In New South Wales, a worker who is incapacitated for life is entitled to workers’ compensation for life. But in South Australia, if a worker is permanently incapacitated, all that the South Australian Government does is to pay him for six months at a weekly rate. He is then given a lump sum to wipe off the employer’s indebtedness to him for the rest of his life. The employer can wipe his hands clean by saying, “ It is bad luck that you have been maimed for life, but here is a paltry couple of thousand pounds; we hope this will provide you with a handsome living for life “. This Commonwealth Government, bad as it is, recognizes that a person who is permanenty incapacitated is entitled to compensation for life. But that is not so in South Australia. This is just another instance of the way in which the South Australian Government uses its legislative powers to depress the conditions of workers there. By providing inadequate workers’ compensation, poor wages and so on, it has been able to give to secondary industries in South Australia special advantages that they could not get in the other States.
Now I want to contrast the attitude of the South Australian Government to secondary industries in the provision of railway services with its attitude to the ordinary worker. It is of no use for the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), who is at the table, to keep looking to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for some help.
– You are not talking much about the bill before the House.
– You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, know what the Standing Orders are and would have corrected me if I had been wrong. As a matter of fact, if you, Sir, did not know more about the Standing Orders than the Minister knows about the Army, you would not be in the chair.
The matter is important. The South Australian Government, which asks the Commonwealth Grants Commission for extra money, is spending enormous sums in providing railway lines for secondary industries and is then imposing heavy taxes on the taxpayers of South Australia so that it can pay for them, or is asking the Commonwealth Grants Commission for an extra handout to meet the cost. But when it is confronted by the need for a reduction in the fares of the workers going to and from work, far from reducing fares it increases them, in exactly the same way as the Victorian Bolte Government increased fares immediately after the last State election there. The South Australian Government apparently does not think that there is anything wrong with the State building a spur line from Port Augusta to Whyalla in order to meet the requirements of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. It can pour hundreds of thousands of pounds down the drain to provide that line for the B.H.P.
– Do you not want that line?
– Of course I want it, but the State government thinks nothing of taxing the taxpayers of South Australia so that it can give the benefit of the line to the B.H.P. I should like to see the South Australian Government act on the Dickenson report and say, “ Very well, as the B.H.P. has repudiated its undertaking to establish a steel works in South Australia, we will establish a steel works of our own at Whyalla and use the South Australian ore deposits in a publicly owned and controlled industry.”
– Nationalization of industry!
– Call it what you like.
– Is that one of the industries you would nationalize?
– Call it nationalization if you like. Call it what you like, but it is one of the industries that I would place under public control for the reason that the iron ore deposits in South Australia were not put there by the Creator merely for the benefit of the shareholders of the B.H.P. ; they were put there - and I am glad that you agree with me - for the benefit of the people, not only of South Australia, but indeed of Australia. If anyone is to get the benefit of those deposits, it should be the people of Australia.
– Order! The honorable member must get on to the State grants now.
– The Commonwealth Grants Commission mentions the cost of providing water and reference to that is contained in this recommendation. It mentions the excessive cost of country water supply undertakings. I shall explain to the House why the cost of country water supply undertakings is excessive in South Australia. When the B.H.P. asked for a special water supply to be provided from the river Murray at Mannum across to Whyalla, the South Australian Government decided to tax the taxpayers of South Australia and to put on the whole of the water reticulation system of South Australia the enormous cost of providing a 300-mile pipe line from Mannum to Whyalla. As soon as the water reached Whyalla, the Government allowed the B.H.P. to have exclusive control over the distribution of it at a rate that was hopelessly out of accord with the real cost of bringing the water from Mannum to Whyalla. For the Commonwealth Grants Commission to refer here to the exorbitant cost of the country water supply without directing attention to the fact that one reason for the great cost is the Libera] government’s special consideration for the B.H.P. is, to my mind, a gross dereliction of duty by the commission. It may have been impressed by the fact that the South Australian Government was able to say that among the new industries that are to be developed in that State there will be a new steel industry, and that South Australia has a shipbuilding industry. But the commission was not told by the representatives of the South Australian Government that, in order to induce the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited to establish the shipbuilding yard at Whyalla it had given that company control over the leases of iron ore deposits in South Australia for another 50 years.
I want to deal now, if you will allow me to do so, Sir, with the subject of decentralization, because the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission mentions the fact that there has been a great deal of centralization of industries in the metropolitan area in South Australia. It seems to have been surprised at this unusual development of industries near the metropolitan area, with very little industrial development elsewhere, and it mentioned that this was one of the reasons why railway revenues were down. Railway revenues are not likely to be as great in these circumstances because the people in the metropolitan area use the transport services provided by the Tramways Trust, and municipal or private bus services. The Commonwealth Grants Commission should have paid some attention to the reasons why this centralization of industry has occurred in South Australia, and it should have told the South Australian Government that it was not prepared to continue handing out money to South Australia while the government of the State allowed centralization of industry to continue at the present rate, because it has perfect opportunities to decentralize industry throughout the State. The commission should have told the South Australian Government that it was expected to establish new industries at the port of Wallaroo - a magnificent port with all the necessary facilities already available for industry. It is a deep sea port that is accessible throughout the year, and, indeed, it is a better port, than Adelaide has. The commission should have told the South Australian Government that it was about time it established more industries at Port Lincoln and in the Barker area.
– The present member would be thrown out then.
– We know very well that the “ rajah “ would not be here very long if industries were established there. The Liberals are frightened, and that is why they are not establishing industries in the country areas. As you know, Sir, if industries were established in the country, the balance of the population would be changed and people would be taken out into the country areas, and, instead of 26 country seats being held by Liberals, as is the case under the present system of gerrymandering in South Australia, those country seats would be held by Labour men, and the effectiveness of the gerrymandering in South Australia would be destroyed.
What does the South Australian Government do when it comes to decentralization? It spends vast sums of money on the establishment of the satellite town of Elizabeth instead of on establishing new industries at country centres such as Port Lincoln, Wallaroo and Mount Gambier, to name but a few excellent places for the decentralization of industry. Instead of establishing industries in those places, the South Australian Government preferred to spend money on establishing this town of Elizabeth no more than 9 or 10 miles from the Adelaide General Post Office, thus exacerbating the position and making the centralization of industry and population even worse than it was before.
I want to talk about housing now. This is a matter that was referred to by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in its report. The honorable member for Barker referred to the situation in Queensland. All I want to say is that, if he makes a comparison between Queensland and South Australia on the issue of housing, he will find that South Australia is badly lacking. I visited Queensland when the Labour Government was in office, but I have not been there since the crowd at present in office took over. The government housing authority in Queensland is called a housing commission, as is the case in some other States, although we in South Australia call the South Australian body a housing trust.
When I was in Queensland, I found that whenever a new housing commission settlement was established good footpaths and roads, and deep drainage - and, indeed, every facility that is needed for a good residential area - were provided. But what is done in South Australia? Housing trust settlements are established in newly developed areas, and absolutely no provision is made for footpaths and roads, or, in many instances, for deep drainage. As a result, years after some of these settlements have been established, one visits them only at his peril, because it is impossible, especially in winter time, to drive a car on what are regarded as roads there. I can cite one place in my own electorate, at Kidman Park, where, some nine years after the housing trust settlement was established, it is still not possible for the postman to deliver letters to the houses, because, in winter time, his bicycle would become bogged if he tried to ride along what pass for footpaths and roads in order to deliver letters. In Grange-road and Frogmoreroad, one can see as many as sixteen or twenty letter-boxes affixed to the one post, because the postman cannot go nearer to the homes within the settlement than the boundaries represented by Frogmore-road and Grange-road. Yet, in spite of these things, a Liberal member in this House has the cheek to say that South Australia has a government that is wonderful by comparison with the governments of Queensland and New South Wales, where all these requirements are attended to in housing commission settlements!
– The South Australian Government has built many more homes.
– I am glad that the honorable member has made that interjection. The fact is that, per 1,000 of the population, fewer homes are being built in South Australia than in any other State.
– That is not true.
– That is true. The honorable member should refer to the official statistics. I am pleased to say that the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) supports me in this. He is an authority on housing and has spent a great deal of his time studying the subject. If the honorable member for Barker consults the official statistics, he will see that what T have said is perfectly true.
I want to refer now, if I may, to another aspect of government finance in South Australia that I think ought to have been considered by the Commonwealth Grants Com.misison. I think it is a terrible thing that the commission, year after year, should neglect to rebuke the South Australian Government for its failure to do something for the age pensioners by giving them fare concessions. The commission ought to tell the South Australian Government, not only that it would allow a claim against it in respect of such concessions, but also that it is the South Australian Government’s duty to give pensioners these concessions, and that, if it does not do so in any financial year, a penalty will be imposed upon it in the next. South Australia is one of the few States in which age pensioners do not get fare concessions. The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) poses in this place as the great champion of the pensioners, but have we ever heard him criticize the South Australian Government for its persistent refusal to give to the pensioners fare concessions of the kind that they receive in the States administered by Labour governments. In New South Wales, the State from which the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) comes, the Labour government, long years ago. gave the pensioners this special benefit by way of concession fares. But has the honorable member for Sturt ever risen in this chamber and criticized the Liberal Premier of South Australia for not giving pensioners similar concessions? Of course he has not.
– Look at him hanging his head.
– Of course, and how could he avoid hanging his head in these circumstances! What has the South Australian Government ever done to provide blankets for the pensioners, as is done in New South Wales? The Adelaide “ News “ recently conducted a public appeal to obtain funds with which to buy blankets for the poor old pensioners - blankets that should have been provided by the State Government. My friend, the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin), who has always taken a keen interest in the pensioners, has handed me a clipping from the Adelaide “Advertiser” of 24th September, which states-
– Order! The honorable member has had a lot of latitude. He is now getting well away from the subject of States grants.
– I am referring particularly to States grants which provide for public welfare. It seems to me that the South Australian Government can always be relied upon to reduce those items of public expenditure that would help the little man and to stick rigidly to proposals for increased expenditure that will help the big employing sections of the community. During the last five or six weeks, the South Australian Government, as was mentioned by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, reduced public expenditure by cutting by a considerable amount expenditure on the Children’s Welfare and Public Relief Department. Although the cost of living is still rising in South Australia, the Government there has decided, for some reason best known to itself, to review the whole question of supplementary payments made to widows and destitute people.
I have knowledge of an age pensioner who has thirteen children, all but one of whom are under sixteen years of age. His wife is expecting another child in two months’ time. He has been in receipt of certain payments from the welfare authorities. His wife is only 42 or 43 years of age, but she cannot work. She has a large family to care for and her husband is well over 70 - I think he is 76. This man was receiving a supplementary pension, which gave him a total income, including child endowment, or about £16 or £17 a week. But for some reason or other the welfare authorities in South Australia reduced the amount paid to him. Senator Toohey and I have been interested in these matters for a long time, and we have had at least twenty cases brought to our notice in the last two or three weeks in which the South Australian Government has sought to do the kind of thing I have just spoken about. It is shocking that a State government that pays so much attention to the requirements of big undertakings, such as Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and General Motors-Holden’s Limited, should allow 3,000 pensioners to be waiting for houses. That is the official figure, because the chairman of the Housing Trust in South
Australia has announced that 3,000 applications for emergency dwellings are now outstanding, and in the main those applications are from age pensioners.
I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for your leniency, especially in view of the fact that I have just referred to the matter that you stopped me from quoting a little while ago.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This afternoon, honorable members have heard two most extraordinary speeches from the Opposition. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) referred to paragraph 34 of the Commonwealth Grants Commission’s report, which reads -
In recent years, South Australia has made considerable progress particularly in industrial development, although there have also been significant gains in primary industries and great improvements in agricultural practice.
The honorable member for Macquarie said that because South Australia had made such tremendous progress under the Playford Government, it should be deprived of the £5,000,000 which the Commonwealth Grants Commission has recommended should be paid to South Australia this year.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), who followed the honorable member for Macquarie in this debate, challenged the statement of his colleague. He suggested that it was quite wrong to say that South Australia had made significant gains in primary industries. In his usual way, he painted a very dismal picture of conditions in South Australia. As usual, he has no confidence in his own State. He suggested that workers in South Australia were worse off than workers in other parts of the Commonwealth. If that be so, why is it that workers are coming from every State in the Commonwealth to South Australia? Why is it that South Australia has the lowest rate of unemployment in the Commonwealth? During the last few years, not only has South Australia provided secure and stable employment for its own workers, but it has also absorbed a considerable number of people who have come from the Labour States of Western Australia and New South Wales.
If honorable members will look at the table on page 16 of the report they will find that the rate of population increase in South Australia is greater than in any other State. In other words, South Australia is absorbing more people into industry than any other State. It will also be seen that the net gain from immigration is greater in South Australia than in any other State. Those being the facts, how can the honorable member for Hindmarsh say that workers in South Australia are worse off than workers in any other State? Obviously, workers go to South Australia because conditions are better there, and because employment is more secure and the cost of living is lower. It is correct that the basic wage in South Australia is lower than in other States. That is because the cost of living is lower in South Australia. But the real wage of the worker is substantially greater in South Australia than it is elsewhere.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh, in his pessimistic speech, said that South Australia was not making significant gains in primary industries. He challenged the finding of the Commonwealth Grants Commission that significant gains have been made in South Australia in primary industries. Is he blind to the great development that is going on in the south-east of South Australia, in the Coonalpyn Downs, and through the Adelaide hills, where thousands of acres, which formerly could not carry live-stock, now carry two and three sheep to the acre? Does he shut his eyes to the great advances that have been made as a. result of the use of clovers and trace elements, turning wasteland into highly productive land? The honorable member says that South Australia is not making great strides in primary industries because the number of people employed is no greater now than it was some years ago. That is because the farmers are ever so much more efficient to-day than formerly. They are now able to produce more. Because of the great improvement of their pastures and of water conservation they have been able to build up a profitable rural economy. They can now carry far more stock per acre than was formerly the case.
South Australia has made tremendous progress in primary industries, and that is one reason why the grant to South Australia is becoming lower each year. In spite of South Australia’s natural deficiencies - lack of coal, lack of high mountains and lack of rivers, other than the river Murray - it has progressed faster than any other State. As South Australia’s income per capita increases its dependence on the Commonwealth decreases. But it is ludicrous for the honorable member for Macquarie to say that because South Australia is fast ceasing to be a dependent State and will eventually stand on its own feet, it should be deprived of this grant. It is just foolish for the honorable member for Hindmarsh to decry South Australia, to run down our farmers, and to suggest that they are not efficient or doing as much as the commission has said they have done in making significant gains in primary industry.
The honorable member referred to decentralization. He repeated the completely erroneous statement that his colleagues in the State have been making for some time, namely, that South Australia is not decentralizing industry. On the contrary, more decentralization is proceeding in South Australia than in any other State. One of the great reasons for the terrific progress in South Australia has been its decentralization programme. Let us look at Whyalla, which is a city established in a desert. A few years ago at Whyalla there was nothing but saltbush and bluebush. There was not a house or a road, and there was hardly any stock; it was desert country. Today we have there one of the most thriving and prosperous centres in Australia, with the resources of Iron Knob providing the wherewithal for the greatest of all secondary industries in Australia, the steel industry.
Let us look at Leigh Creek. As I said, South Australia is deficient in high quality coal, but instead of crying about it our Premier decided to develop the natural resources, although they are undoubtedly inferior. So we have established at Leigh Creek a thriving town which is producing coal for electric power. From the most inferior of all materials South Australia provides the cheapest electrical power in Australia. That is because we have decentralized industry, and because our people have had the courage to go into the country and build thriving cities and towns in what was previously desert waste.
Let us look at the south-eastern town of Millicent. There to-day we have a prosperous cellulose industry, established in waste country, and using land which formerly carried only bush. That country has now been transformed by beautiful pine forests, which produce the cellulose and fibre for one of the biggest industries in Australia.
From our pyrites, we produce superphosphate. The manufacture of sulphuric acid has made South Australia completely independent of imported sulphur. There has been great development in South Australia in the primary industry field, yet the honorable member for Hindmarsh comes along and tells us, first, that we have made no progress in primary production, and secondly, that we have done nothing about decentralization! The honorable member shows that he does not know his own State or understand the optimism of the people there. Ninety per cent, of the people in Australia are proud of- their own States, and of their development, and they do not like to hear one of their representatives running down his own State as the honorable member has done.
The honorable member then came to the question of housing. He omitted to say that South Australia is building, for the money expended, the best houses anywhere in Australia. It is building a tremendous number of houses, and more per head of population than is any other State. They are permanent houses, not wooden structures that will be eaten out by white ants. Our houses are all of cement, stone, or brick. I do not think the people of South Australia, including the electors of Hindmarsh, will welcome the speech of the honorable member, who has run down his own State.
Every member who reads the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission must realize that the reason why South Australia is receiving a smaller grant this year than it received before, while Labour States are receiving bigger grants, lies in the progress that South Australia has made. The Playford Government has given a tremendous lead in this decentralization and development, but it does not claim the whole credit. The men and women, the trade unionists, and the farmers have, in the right atmosphere, put their shoulders to the wheel and created towns and cities out of deserts. They have turned waste lands into thriving grazing and farming properties. We are going on with this development, in spite of the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
.- I rise to reply to an attack made by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) on the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), the former leader of the Australian Country party. Many attacks are made in this House, and we can generally put up with them, but I believe that the one made this afternoon was contemptible. We need to know a little about the history of the matter. I think it was early this year when the honorable member for Griffith last made an identical attack on the right honorable member for McPherson. However, the Treasurer came into this House and gave a complete denial and a complete answer and the honorable member for Griffith went out of the chamber completely whipped. He was shown up for what he was in making this untrue statement.
The contemptible part about it is that, as every one knows, the right honorable member for McPherson left this House about a fortnight ago to go overseas on a mission and, as he is to retire, he will not be in this House again. Since the last attack was made by the honorable member for Griffith and the reply was given by the right honorable member for McPherson, there has been plenty of time for the honorable member for Griffith, in the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House, or at any other time, to find fault with the answer given by the right honorable member. But he did not do that at all. He waited until he knew that the right honorable gentleman was out of this country and would not return to the House. If anybody can describe that as anything but contemptible, I should not like to hear the word; it would certainly not be parliamentary.
The earlier attack made by the honorable member for Griffith and the complete answer by the Treasurer appeared in the same issue of “ Hansard “. That was fair enough, and after all we cannot object to that. If an attack is made, and one can reply, one does reply, and there is the reply closely following upon the attack. But in the “ Hansard “ of the current sitting, the people will have no chance of reading a reply by the Treasurer. The honorable member for Griffith therefore thinks that he has done a wonderful job in getting in an attack against a man who cannot reply.
It was said that the Treasurer had, at a place called Boonah, in Queensland, made a statement regarding the Burdekin dam and had repudiated his obligations. The late Mr. Hanlon was Premier of Queensland at the time the Treasurer first replied to the allegation. The right honorable gentleman made quite a long speech in which he made a full explanation and a very definite denial of what he was reported to have said. I cannot get the whole of the text, but I have part of it. The right honorable gentleman said -
Mr. Hanlon led Parliament and everybody else, including myself, to believe that he had a firm undertaking from Mr. Chifley that his government would finance the Burdekin Scheme on a 50-50 basis.
Knowing how notoriously difficult it was to get money from the ex-Treasurer, T concluded that the Burdekin Scheme had been thoroughly investigated, and was agreed upon as being financially sound, and economically possible and that, if Mr. Chifley was accordingly satisfied to proceed, we would do likewise in the event of a change of government. That was the basis of my announcement at Boonah.
Everybody knows that when a government goes out of office and another government comes in, generally the promises of the former government are honoured. But Sir Arthur went on to say -
Now, however, as soon as i am able to get access to the relevant documents, i find that there is no record of any firm undertaking by Mr. Chifley on finance in any direction or to any extent whatsoever.
That was, in respect of this Burdekin project. That is the answer. In fairness to the Treasurer, I must say that I have only read a small extract from what he said. He gave a complete denial of this accusation and I think that the best thing that the honorable member for Griffith can do is to get up in this House and apologize to the Treasurer, who is not here to reply to the accusation. Having heard both statements, I would not be a man if I did not get up in this House and support my former leader when such an attack is made upon him in his absence on a second occasion. He made his reply after the first attack, but he will not be able to come into this House and reply to this second attack.
I know that members of the Opposition and Government supporters do not believe in attacks of this sort being made and not many of them would countenance them at all. I know that the honorable member for Griffith is under high strain. The federal election is coming and the nearer it gets the fiercer he becomes. But on this occasion I implore him to do the right thing by an absent man who will not be in this chamber again. I ask him to get up and say that Sir Arthur made that explanation at that time and that it was not a repudiation of his promise. I ask him to be a man and do the right thing.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) agreed to -
Thai it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the payment of a bounty on the production of copper.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Osborne and Mr. Harold Holt do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Osborne, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the bill is to authorize the payment of bounty at a maximum rate of £45 a ton on refined copper produced in Australia and sold for use in Australia during the period from 19th May, 1958, to 30th June, I960.
Following a Tariff Board report of 15th October, 1954, the copper industry was examined by an inter-departmental committee. A further reference was made to the Tariff Board in March, 1 957, as to whether assistance should be given to the production of copper in Australia and, if so, what assistance was required to ensure continuity of operation by the major producers. In a report tabled last sessional period, the board recommended a sliding-scale duty, varying inversely with changes in world copper prices, designed to stabilize the Australian price at a minimum of £330 a ton of refined copper. The Australian price was then £330 a ton. while the world price was £220 a ton.
The Government has accepted the board’s view that assistance to the copper industry is justified. In doing so, the Government had in mind the economic and social consequences likely to flow from the closing of any of the major mines. The Government has also accepted the board’s view that a return of £330 a ton of copper sold locally was required to keep the major producers in active operation for the time being.
The Government did not, however, accept the view that the tariff was the most appropriate or the only effective method of assisting the major producers. Indeed, the Government was concerned about the implications for the Australian economy of a difference of £110 a ton between the Australian and world prices of such a basic raw material as copper. Accordingly, it decided to assist the industry partly through the tariff and partly by bounty. By these means the gap between the Australian price and the overseas price has been narrowed, leading to a considerable saving to the economy generally. At the same time, the mines on which several isolated communities depend will be assured of reasonable returns. The lowering of the Australian price should also increase the local demand for copper.
Provision has been made in the tariff for the admission, free of duty, of blocks, in gots and pigs of copper when the determined price of Conner based on the weekly average of the London Metal Exchange quotations is equal to or more than £A.275 a ton. However, when the determined price of copper is less than £275 a ton. duty becomes payable at. the rate of £1 a ton for each £1 bv which the determined price falls below £275 a ton.
Under the bill, the tariff protection will be supplemented by a bounty to the mines in need of assistance of £45 a ton on sales of refined copper on the domestic market. If the overseas price for copper rises above £A.215 the Australian price will rise and the bounty will fall to the same extent. The bounty will be paid to the mines producing the copper. Provision will be made in the regulations to enable smelters to apply for bounty on behalf of small producers. This will mean that small producers will be paid the bounty at the same time as they receive the final proceeds from the sale of their ore. For this purpose small producers will be regarded as mines producing up to 50 tons of refined copper in any one year. Bounty has been made payable on the refined copper content of the ore at the date of sale, for the reason that the eligibility of the copper for bounty can be more easily and definitely demonstrated at those points. Provision has been made for the retrospective payment of bounty on sales made as from 19th May, 1958, which is the first convenient date after the bounty proposal was announced in the House and the new duties on copper were imposed. This is also the date on which the price of copper in the Australian market was reduced from its previous level of £330 a ton.
The customary profit limitation of 10 per cent, per annum on the capital used will be applied to the major producers. However, it has become apparent that the nature of their operations and the meagre records kept by small producers do not lend themselves to an equitable capital and profit calculation. For those reasons they have been excluded from the profit limitation provisions.
Consideration has also been given to the share of the local market likely to be enjoyed by the producers subject to bounty. It is not so long ago since we had to import some copper to meet our full requirements. To-day the spectacular advance in copper production has reversed the situation, and an increasingly large proportion of the product has to find an outlet on the export market.
It has been customary for members of the Copper Producers Association to meet together and to arrange amicably a fair share of the local market. The Government hopes that this will long continue. Nevertheless, it will be a condition precedent to the payment of bounty, that bounty may be withheld from any producer who places on the domestic market a greater tonnage of copper than is considered reasonable having regard to the sales made in a previous representative period, and other relevant circumstances.
The reason for this provision is that the copper bounty is designed not so much to encourage expansion of local production which, as I have said, is already large enough to meet all our requirements and still leave a sizeable surplus available for export, but to maintain the major mines in operation during a period of depressed world prices. Briefly stated, bounty may be withheld from producers who expand sales of copper on the more profitable domestic market at the expense of other producers.
As I mentioned earlier, the rate of bounty will vary inversely with, and by the same amount as, any rise above £A.275 in the cost of copper overseas. In applying this limitation the Minister will have recourse to the London Metal Exchange prices for electrolytic copper wire bars circulated by Reuters Economic Service, in much the same manner as for tariff determinations.
The Australian demand for copper is expected to rise from 38,000 tons for the year ended 30th June, 1957, to 50,000 tons per annum during the period of bounty. However, it is expected that expenditure under the bill, after the application of the provision for profit limitation, will not rise above £1,500,000 for either of the two bounty years. The bounty will continue to operate on sales of refined copper to 30th June, 1960. The Government contemplates that the Tariff Board will again examine the question of assistance to the industry before the period for payment of bounty expires.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed (vide page 1644).
.- This bill, introduced by the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) this morning, ls designed to give effect to the small increases of pensions to be paid to some sections of ex-servicemen, and to make certain general amendments to the Repatriation Act. But because these are the dying hours of the Parliament, to use the classical phrase, and because it is an appropriate time to refer, to alterations to this legislation, I should like to make some general comment along with an analysis of the bill.
One of the things that has struck me about this Parliament, which has been a weary sort of Parliament, is that despite the pious protestations of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his policy speech as far back as 1949, the condition of returned servicemen in this country has not been improved. We shall set out, in a series of speeches from this side of the House, to prove my point. There have been a lot of smarmy, oleaginous protestations from the other side of the House, which have not worked out to the benefit of the exserviceman. In fact, the ex-serviceman has been taken for a ride, because he believed that there was, resident in the members on the Government benches of this Parliament, a desire to do something for him. Let me support that statement by quoting the words that the Prime Minister used in his 1949 policy speech. He said -
Repatriation remains a great and proud responsibility.
Cannot you see the Prime Minister making that statement, and cannot you hear the empty winds blowing around his head? He did not mean a word of it! Then he said, referring to the parties now in office, which were at that time in Opposition -
The Opposition parties contain a majority of members who are ex-servicemen.
The implication there was that these honorable members would have the will to do something for the ex-serviceman, that the ex-serviceman could rely on them. He said -
We will sympathetically review financial allowances, particularly those related to disability or war widowhood in the light of all the circumstances
He also said -
We shall see to it that there is speed, financial and human justice and understanding in our administration of soldier problems.
I should say that the content of the Government side which did, and does, include many ex-servicemen, has not resulted in a good, solid parliament of opinion on improving the lot of ex-servicemen generally. From this side of the House we have brought re solutions forward designed to improve the condition of ex-servicemen. On many occasions, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), myself and other members of the Opposition’s repatriation committee have attempted to get the Government to do something extra for exservicemen, always to be met by a solid wall of opposition, because these fights for the rights of ex-servicemen have always been settled on solid party lines. So that means that all the protestations of the Prime Minister, all the oily conversation and declarations have been as nothing when you come to analyse the position.
We can prove what we mean in this regard merely by looking at the present situation in which an additional 10s. in pension is to be made available to one section of service pensioners - the totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners. The Government - and the Repatriation Department in particular - has for a long time used a system of propaganda to the effect that this is the best of all possible worlds, and that these benefits are being applied generally. Nothing is further from the fact. As a matter of fact, so far as this increase of 10s. is concerned, it is only a question of Tweedledum and Tweedledee. The recipient of a service pension who is a married man in receipt of a T.P.I, pension merely gets an adjustment of his pension, and receives no increase of income. We have thumped at the Minister over this in connexion with previous legislation. The honorable member for Bass, in particular, has done that. We have pointed it out at this table from time to time but the Government has protested that such is not the case. We believe that it is, and that a ceiling is imposed on ex-servicemen’s pensions. I do not think it was ever intended that a ceiling should be imposed either on the social service segment or the repatriation segment of the pension. But it has been imposed by the Repatriation Department and it is not lifted when new payments are made. So only a section of the totally and permanently incapacitated recipients get this payment.
This has been discussed in another place where a senator on the Labour side drew attention to it and could get no answer. The Opposition believes that an attempt is being made to deceive and that some cheese-paring and catch-penny idea is in the mind of the Government concerning pensions.
The Minister, with a great deal of display, read what might be called a list of possibles. It is like the quizzes on the air; it is a list of what you can get if you are lucky. The totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner can get so much if he has the requisite number of children of the requisite age, if he is married, and if he is living in the circumstances described. The illustration given by the Minister cites the case of a totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner who receives a war pension of £11 10s. and a service pension of £1 14s. 9d. a week. His wife receives a war pension of £1 15s. 6d., a service pension of £1 4s. 9d., and child endowment of 15s. a week. One child, being fourteen years of age, gets a war pension of 1 3s. 9d., a service pension of lis. 6d., and an education allowance of £1 5s. Another child, twelve years of age, gets a war pension of 13s. 9d., a service pension of 2s. 6d., and an education allowance of 16s. 6d. That all sounds very good, but since most of the totally and permanently incapacitated men - I would say 80 per cent, of them - are of World War I., it is highly improbable that more than a very small percentage of them have children of the age of fourteen years or twelve years. Therefore, this is a fictitious and completely unfair argument, based on circumstances that are unlikely to exist.
– Why do you say that they are of World War I.?
– Statistics show that an overwhelming percentage of totally and permanently incapacitated men are from World War I. Do you not agree?
– I think it is true.
– There are a lot from World War II.
– But the overwhelming percentage of them are from World War I. So the position of the T.P.I, pensioner has not been presented fairly in the Minister’s speech. The Government has attempted to gild the lilly by stating a position that does not exist. Surely, with everybody so interested in repatriation matters, it is hardly helpful for the department to prepare these phoney statistics showing what it is possible for a pensioner to get in certain unlikely circumstances. There has been and, until this is adjusted, there will continue to be, concern on both sides of the House. I am sure that honorable members on the Government side feel as we do. I believe that they have never been convinced that a satisfactory explanation has been given of the ceiling on pensions. It has long been obvious that the man who served his country to a point above the line of duty and who, as the result, became totally and permanently incapacitated, should get at least the basic wage. But he has never received that amount. In this generous country, the Government has not been generous enough to pay him as much as the basic wage. In certain cases, the service pension or “ burned-out “ pension is added to the ordinary T.P.I, pension, but the Government, of its own decision - not the decision of the people or the Parliament - has imposed a ceiling on the amount that the T.P.I, man can receive. From that point, we on this side of the House continue to argue that there is unfairness in all these payments because they do not apply generally.
On the last occasion on which repatriation legislation was introduced, the honorable member for Bass, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) and Labour members in another place pointed out that the proposed benefit was not an overall benefit but a whimsical thing that rested here and there, depending on specified circumstances, some of which were highly unlikely. That was because the ceiling was not lifted. That is the point we still make. The conditions surrounding the payment of the T.P.I, pension will have to be sorted out and the matter brought to a conclusion very soon. There are about 10,000 T.P.I, pensioners. The payment of their pensions does not cost a great amount of money and it would not cost very much more to treat them all alike. That is the point that we make here in relation to repatriation which, like Mesopotamia, has become a sort of blessed word. We do not seem able to get a solution to this problem because it is wrapped up in so much red tape and bureaucracy. There are so many regulations and decisions by entitlement boards and things of that son, that it has become almost impossible for us to discuss the matter with any degree of clarity.
Another matter that is completely wretched concerns the wife of the T.P.I, pensioner. The wives of these men have been told that if they apply within ten days - or some equally fantastic short period - for hospitalization benefits they can get them. Why should any bureaucrat dare to impose a time limit on such applications? Surely it is fair enough to say to the wife of a T.P.I. man, “You are entitled to treatment just as your husband is because of his service to the country “. But some mean little bureaucrat says, “ We are putting a time limit on you, and you will not get the benefits if we can stop you “. The regulation-ridden mind is at its worst in the Repatriation Department. So, a most worthy section of the community, along with the war widows, is bamboozled by this treatment. The wife of a T.P.I, man is not sure whether or not she is eligible for hospital treatment. If she does not conform to the ukase of the Repatriation Department that she must, within a certain number of days, declare herself to be the wife of a T.P.I, pensioner she will not receive the concession that is her due. That is wrong. The rights of these women should be clarified forthwith.
This is a piddling little piece of bureaucracy that should never have extended into the consideration of ex-servicemen’s concessions and allowances and health treatment for their wives. The position to-day is neither one thing nor the other. Some wives have been accepted because they have applied within the prescribed time. Honorable members will know that because of representations that have come to them. On the other hand, others have not been accepted because of the time factor. I would like this position to be adjusted, either by regulation, or by whatever means the restriction was imposed originally. The time limit should be eliminated. It is a very bad thing and it helps in no way the general cause of repatriation in which we are all interested.
I see, also, that provision is made in the bill for an increase of 10s. a week in the allowances of certain classes of double amputees, in allowances for the children of men whose death has been the result of war service, and in the allowances for war widows. There is also an increase in the allowances payable under the education scheme for the children of ex-servicemen. Those are all good and worthy causes. This side of the House approves of them entirely and wishes to make no comment except to say that these things have been well done and that we congratulate the Government upon them. But when we consider the amount of money that is being allocated for these purposes we see that it is too little and too late. The increases proposed in the bill are good in themselves. But there are nearly 140,000 pensioners in this country. The T.P.I, pensioners are receiving an increase; but what about the 100 per cent, pensioner? What has he done? Is he not subject to the same increases in the cost of living? Why do we have this pinch-penny and piece-meal approach to repatriation? Surely the concept of social services of the average Australian includes the payment of repatriation benefits to men who have served in theatres of war.
When the mind of the public is attuned to a 10s. increase in the pension, they think in their own minds that that applies to all pensions - service pensions as well as social service pensions. Nobody on this side of the House or outside it would have niggled at the fact that additional money was required, despite the fact that the Government is budgeting for a deficit because of its own mismanagement. We would not have objected to an all-embracing pension change which included an increase of 10s. to all sections of the community which surely must include the 100 per cent, pensioner as well!
The totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners are to be in receipt of this amount only sectionally. Some will get it and some will not, and the 100 per cent, pensioners will get nothing at all. Then we come to the womenfolk who have not got medical benefits as yet. As you go down the list of the alterations envisaged in this bill, it is not always a matter of money with repatriation; it is a matter of sympathetic understanding of what must be done in the changed circumstances.
Everybody knows, in relation to repatriation, that we have a number of ill and ageing men from the First World War. Their problems are vastly different from what they were ten or fifteen years ago at least, or twenty years ago for certain. Hospitalization is one of them. They desire to have treatment at a military or repatriation hospital. The Americans have been able to cut red tape to this extent that any man who has been in a theatre of war or in an army, with very little reservation as to service or point of duty, can go to a repatriation hospital. In this country where social services are at a high level, everybody can get treatment for illness whether they have money or not. Surely, it is well within the ambit of this Parliament and of governmental activity to be able to provide hospitalization in repatriation hospitals for servicemen of World War I. They like that because of the comradeship of the association and because it is a right that they feel has been denied to them for many years. They would like to have that right given them before it is too late. That is the point in regard to so many of the simple things concerning repatriation. We are all guilty in that we have not done anything about this matter.
– In other words, in your opinion the department is too narrow in its interpretation of the act?
– Splendidly expressed! I could not have done better myself and I thank the honorable member for the pause. Even Shakespeare had to rest now and again in passing from one ambit to another. Coming to the other point which the honorable member has expressed so clearly, I can leave that and direct attention to another anomaly in repatriation which has been created by all governments and sustained by this Government. It is the awful question of the old digger who is trying to get a pension and the large numbers of old diggers who are in that position. You have the old fellow who is a sufferer from tuberculosis with automatic acceptance if he has been in a theatre of war. His repatriation map shows whether there has been gas or circumstances which would lead to a presupposition that the man could have been infected in some way so that ultimately he became a tuberculosis case.
If you face enormous wars, you must face enormous recompense when the wars are over. There should be in Australia an automatic acceptance of cancer in an ex- serviceman as having been caused “by war service because it cannot be proved otherwise. All the bending backwards of the medical historians, medical examiners and referees cannot prove that an ex-serviceman did not contract cancer on active service because nobody knows whence it came. Therefore, in the circumstances, although it would involve great expense, if we accept the condition of the tuberculosis sufferer, to be logical we should do so in the case of cancer. There is not an honorable member on either side of the House who has not listened to a poignant story and sat helpless and grieving before a young exserviceman of World War II. stricken with cancer and unable to get help from the Repatriation Department because the disease is not considered to be due to war service. Not only is the man stricken and soon to die but the whole circumstances of his family are sharply worsened for the rest of the woman’s life unless she marries again, and to the detriment of the younger members of the family. An enormous cash consideration is involved but it is not so enormous that we could not handle it. In any reframing of repatriation benefits, which should be done, we would do something about the cancer patient.
Let me return now to my original theme about the trickle of sick and ageing men who go to the Repatriation Department in an attempt to get a pension. In most cases, the applications are rejected. An analysis in the last debate on this matter of applications before the Repatriation Department and later by a tribunal showed that rejections totalled between 60 per cent, and 80 per cent. That is an enormous proportion of rejections. One of the reasons for that high proportion is that the digger who had a pretty good health history and would not report sick because he thought it was not done and you battled through, produced his A42 health papers which were virginal inasmuch as he had no record of illness. He had been a good soldier. When he felt sick, he did not report. He may not have been wounded. There may have been occasions when his service record would have led to the supposition that he was pensionable, say at 55. There is nothing there to show it. The man who had paraded every day whenever he felt a bit off colour and went for a number nine or a Mist. Tussi or just to have a quick look at the doctor would have an A42 form laded with cryptograms - sick here, sick there, hospitalized there, and so on. He is a certainty to get a pension and in more cases than enough he is not as worthy as the poor old bloke who had nothing on his A42 papers at all except the bare record that he was wounded once and went to hospital.
What do we do to meet these cases? What should we do in all sincerity? We ought to advance the age for eligibility for a burnt-out pension to 55 years. There would not be so many of them. It would be a gesture to those who need something. Nothing can be achieved with these eternal and infernal tribunals or the department itself. If you want to plunge a man of 56, 57, or up to 60 into despair, get an ailing or sick ex-serviceman of World War I. He is clutching at straws. He thinks he might get a pension. He gets embroiled in a paper war, and frequent visits to his member of Parliament, to the Repatriation Department, to tribunals and to legal aid departments; and the sum total of this weary round-about - this la ronde on which he rides - in an endeavour to get a pension is a final rejection by the department. In most cases, between 60 per cent, and 80 per cent, of the applicants are rejected because the onus of proof is not discharged.
I have always believed that the bureaucrat - for want of a better term - and the officers concerned in the Repatriation Department, still decide who gets a pension and who does not. This section has never been properly interpreted, and it never will be until we have a judicial mind examining the medical evidence at the conclusion of all inquiries so that when the inquiry is over and the evidence is sifted, the appropriate authority is able to say on the evidence, “ This man should have had a pension “. There are miscarriages of justice in connexion with appeals because the legal mind is not applied to the question of evidence and the admissability of evidence and because, in so many cases, so many old “ diggers “ have been refused a pension because of that and because of the rigidity of the bureaucratic mind. The question that we have to face in the future is a reduction of the age at which an exserviceman can get a burnt-out pension.
Now, I wish to sum up. The 10s. which is to be given to the totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner is sectional. It should never have been that way. It is a further rebuke to those on the benches on the Government side, heavily laden with returned soldiers of all ranks, who have not been able to overcome their own bureaucratic masters and give us a decent sympathetic repatriation act and a sympathetically run repatriation department. What do honorable members think of a provision of 10s. for one section of the T.P.I, pensioners and nothing for the 100 per cent, pensioners? What sort of hotch-potch and catch-penny idea is that? Either you give it, or you do not.
The second charge I make is that there has been a grievous miscarriage of justice, and an act of actual cruelty, in the failure to provide adequately for the ageing wife of a T.P.I, pensioner who needs medical treatment. At present she is subject to a time limit, and this must be remedied.
I believe that the onus of proof provisions are still the greatest bugbear in our repatriation legislation. Our machinery for assessing whether a man who, 40 years ago, was in a theatre of war, should now get a pension, is most unwieldy. We will have to scrap this old and cumbersome machinery and devise something nearer to the heart’s desire. We must consider the matter of the incidence of cancer. We have to live in our own generation and take cognizance of the diseases of our generation. We must do something for those men who served in World War II. and who later fell victim to cancer - men whose deaths have caused great tragedy and hardship in the lives of many young people. These young men avoided the tragedy of being killed in action only to fall victim a few years later to the disease of cancer. Many young families then lost their breadwinners in even more grim and sickening circumstances than if they had been killed in action.
Some of these new concessions are overdue, but they have now been provided, and we on this side of the House give nothing but approval and express our approbation in this regard.
My final point is that the Repatriation Department and the repatriation system need a damn good shake-up. The system must be taken in hand by the Australian community, through its representatives on both sides of this House, and made to work, because we are now facing problems arising from the second world war which will increase in intensity and in numbers, although we have not yet fully discharged our responsibilities, as a wealthy nation, to those who served in World War I.
The most grievous acts of neglect on the part of the Government concern sectional pensions and the failure to provide sufficient money for recipients to cope with increases in the cost of living. The Government has also failed to provide hospitalization for some deserving cases. “Burned-out” pensions should be granted a good deal sooner, and there should be generally a more sympathetic consideration of pensions as pensions. I hope that any future Treasurer, whoever he may be, will make sure that if there is an increase of 5s., 10s. or £1 in the pension, the increase will cover all the necessitous cases. What more necessitous cases are there than the 100 per cent, pensioners, or even those receiving a proportion of the 100 per cent, pension, even down to those receiving 5s., 6s. or 7s. a week? The Department of Social Services and the Repatriation Department should team up and work together under a common policy of understanding concerning pensioners. They should watch all the ripples and repercussions that follow when money is paid to one section, to the detriment of another section equally worthy.
.- The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has endeavoured, in the dying hours of this Parliament, to put over an election speech with respect to repatriation. Of course there is nothing wrong with the honorable member’s doing so. He accused the Government of endeavouring to put over a shrewd one on the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, and after searching through his papers for some considerable time he discovered the table that was, I take it, included in the speech of the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron). He referred to the fact that a T.P.I, ex-serviceman with a wife and two children can possibly receive £21 3s. a week. He followed that immediately by asking how many T.P.I, pensioners - he said that most of them would be ex-servicemen of the first world war - would have children under fourteen years and twelve years of age. He then charged the Government with putting over a kind of stunt on the T.P.I, ex-servicemen.
The honorable member said not one word about the fact that it is possible for a married T.P.I, pensioner, with no children, to get £15 15s. a week from this Government. Instead of telling us that, he started off with a tirade against the Government. I want to say to the honorable member for Parkes, through you, Sir, that the majority of returned servicemen will not pay much attention to his remarks, because they need only look up the record of the Labour government in previous years to see the miserable treatment that they received at its hands. When Labour was in office we endeavoured to persuade the government to remove the ceiling on pensions, but nothing was done about it and ex-servicemen were unable to receive the remuneration to which they were entitled. It was left to this Government tq adjust that matter.
The honorable member has further criticized the Government by charging that nothing has been done in respect to the general rate pension. It is well known in ex-servicemen’s circles that this Government, ever since it came to office, has made adjustments to repatriation benefits where the need was greatest.. In this case it was considered that the T.P.I, pensioners probably deserved more than the general rate pensions during this Budget period. All other recipients of repatriation benefits have gained something from this Budget.
It ill-becomes the honorable member for Parkes to try to use this legislation as a vehicle for an election campaign speech in this Parliament. Returned servicemen know only too well that many things have been done for them by this Government since it has been in office. The honorable gentleman and his colleagues know only too well that when we came into this Parliament as a government the ex-servicemen’s organizations put before us 21 claims. Every one of them has been met to a greater or lesser degree, and in most cases to a greater degree.
– What about the ten-point plan of 1957?
– The honorable member can enumerate the matters that have not been attended to, if he wishes to sidetrack me in this way, but I can mention several things that the Labour government - it cannot escape these charges - did during its term of office, and which will never be forgotten by ex-servicemen. It will never be forgotten, for instance, that war widows were not considered by the Labour government to be safe risks in the provision of war service homes, lt will never be forgotten by ex-servicemen that the Labour party - it has never mended its ways in this regard - imposed a means test on the war pension. It was left to this Government to do something about that. Ex-servicemen also know that although the Labour Government talked about dealing with those unfortunates who were paralysed from the hips down, and giving them motor cars and so on, the only action taken was on paper or by word of mouth; nothing concrete was done.
I could go on to enumerate many injustices meted out to ex-servicemen by Labour when it was in office, and which it was left to this Government to redress. I feel cer- tain that if a poll were taken of ex-service- ; men it would be found that they are far “i more inclined to support the Government !’ that has been in office since 1949 than to risk their future at the hands of the Labour party.
I am not going to speak at great length on this matter, Mr. Speaker, because I believe the honorable member for Parkes did not raise any point that could excite honorable members on this side of the House to argue. The honorable member, leading the debate for the Opposition, concentrated on the T.P.I, pensioners, and I think I have exploded his arguments in that regard. I support this legislation and hope that it will have a quick passage through the House. I am certain that the exservicemen who will receive these benefits will appreciate the actions of the Government in assisting them now, as it has done every year since it has been in office. It has always given sympathetic consideration to those ex-servicemen in need of pensions and repatriation benefits.
.- In speaking to this Repatriation Bill, I want to say first that we acknowledge that some increases have been granted to those pensioners who are provided for under the second schedule to the act. Increases have been granted to war widows. The domestic allowance has been increased, and certain other increases have been provided, as referred to by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). I shall refer to pensioners who are classified under the second schedule of the act, which includes not only the totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen but also the blinded ex-servicemen and those who suffer from tuberculosis. The honorable member for Parkes made it perfectly clear that, although the Government has indicated that it is prepared to increase and will, under the legislation which we are now debating, increase the rate provided for that section by 10s. a week, only a very small number of T.P.I, ex-servicemen will in fact receive the increase.
This was made perfectly clear when similar legislation was introduced last year. Because the Government was not prepared to raise the ceiling limit from £15 15s., which applied in that year and which now applies, the 25s. a week increase granted under that legislation would not apply at all to T.P.I, ex-servicemen. In fact, it would apply to a very few of them only, because those who received pension benefits under the second schedule of the act were in receipt of a service pension. The only people who benefited from the 1957 legislation were the single pensioners and those who had private incomes or were in receipt of superannuation benefits. On that occasion, no information was given to the House as to how the 25s. a week would apply, but it was perfectly obvious that unless the Government was prepared to raise the ceiling limit, only a very small section of those people would benefit from the increase which the Government had granted.
It is pleasing to note that, in the secondreading speeches of both the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) and Senator O’sullivan, who introduced the bill in another place, reference has been made on this occasion to the ceiling limit. The Minister has said that he makes no apology for the fact that the ceiling limit has not been raised. I believe that in fairness the Government should make some apology for not having raised the ceiling limit. Fiftythree per cent, of the T.P.I, ex-servicemen are in receipt of a service pension. That means, in effect, that no less than 53 per cent, of these people who are completely dependent on their pension will not receive the 10s. increase. The honorable member for Parkes referred to the number of persons who are receiving the pension under the second schedule to the act. After all, there are not very many left who are receiving a pension because they are permanently incapacitated. The vast majority of them served in the 1914-18 war. This Government should have raised the ceiling limit on this occasion, as it should have done last year, if it wanted to provide a real benefit for this section of pensioners.
I shall quote from the report of the Repatriation Commission which gives the number of ex-servicemen who are receiving a pension under the second schedule to the act. From the 1914 war, only 11,951 are receiving a benefit. From the 1939 war, there are 5,311. There are some female members from the 1939 war, as well as from the Korea and Malaya operations. The total number of recipients under the act is 17,456. Obviously, an increase of 10s. a week to all of those members would not involve the Government in very much expenditure.
I regret that the Treasurer was prepared to announce in the Budget that there would be a general increase of 10s. a week for the special rate pensioner when in fact 53 per cent, of those who are receiving that pension rate will not be eligible to receive the increase. We owe a great debt to these people. Because of their war services, they are no longer able to engage in normal activities. After all, many of them suffer permanent injuries and they cannot be provided with medical relief to enable them to play a normal part in community life. The Government should have recognized their disabilities and have raised the ceiling limit to enable all T.P.I, ex-servicemen to receive the increase of 10s. a week.
I shall now give some figures because the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) has indicated that in his opinion tremendous strides have been made in the benefits given to these pensioners. In 1948, when the basic wage was only £5 16s., the T.P.I, rate was £5 6s. a week. The pension rate was only 10s. a week less than the then prevailing basic wage. In 1958, the unpegged basic wage is £13 15s. a week. The pension rate to-day is £1 15s. a week less than the basic wage. It could therefore be said that the Government has not applied itself as it should have applied itself to the benefits that the T.P.I, pensioners deserve. I do not deny that additional allowances have been provided for all classes of pensioners, but the fact remains that the ruling rate in each case, whether it is for the T.P.I, ex-serviceman, the 100 per cent, pensioner or the war widow, has lost value.
I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later hour.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Townley) read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill seeks the approval by Parliament of an agreement which has been negotiated between the governments of the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales and Victoria for the construction of a standard 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge rail line between Albury and Melbourne and for the other works associated with this important undertaking. This agreement is the most significant and practical step yet taken by any government to put into effect any of the many proposals which have been made from time to time for the unification of the Australian railway system.
Standardization proposals in themselves are not new. As long ago as 1921, a royal commission strongly recommended the standardization of the Australian railway system at a cost which was then estimated at £57,000,000. Tn March, 1945, Sir Harold Clapp presented a most comprehensive report on the same subject, and, more recently, the Government Members Committee on Rail Standardization also made a full report on the matter. In addition, a committee of Opposition members examined the question in some detail. I do not propose to traverse the various reports or the recommendations which were made in them, except to say that they have all in varying degrees emphasized the fundamental weakness of our railway system arising from the numerous breaks of gauge, and have recommended that action be taken to correct the position.
The early negotiations for the agreement now before the House were commenced last year with the States of New South Wales and Victoria and culminated in the agreement which is now before this House. Practically all of the standardization work will be undertaken in Victoria. However, as the New South Wales railways will also derive great benefits from the line, the Government of that State will contribute the same amount towards the cost of the project as the Victorian Government.
This undertaking is of major importance, and its total cost is currently estimated at £10,726,000. The Commonwealth will provide the initial finance for the whole of the work, but the agreement provides for each of the States subsequently to pay threetwentieths of the cost. The States’ portion will be amortized over a period of 50 years with interest payable on the amount outstanding at the end of each financial year. The rate of interest will correspond with that of the last Commonwealth long-term loan raised in Australia in the relevant year of expenditure. The estimated costs of the various sections of the work are set out in the second schedule to the agreement, and provision is made in clause 14 for the estimates to be varied should costs rise ot fall over the period during which the work takes place. The States are required to submit an annual budget of proposed expenditure for each financial year, and provision is made for audit by the State Auditors-General, who aTe required to report each year to the Commonwealth Auditor-General.
The route which will be followed by the new line is set out in the first schedule to (he agreement. It follows as far as practicable the existing 5 ft. 3 in. system. The second schedule outlines in some detail the work to be done and the standards to be adopted. These standards are in accordance with the most up-to-date railway practice and will be such as to provide a line capable of handling heavy traffiic at high speeds. Honorable members will be interested to note that provision is made, among other things, for automatic power signalling with centralized traffic control. This not only will contribute to safe working but also will further facilitate the provision of fast services between Sydney and Melbourne. The agreement also provides for additions and alterations to freighthandling facilities, the construction and conversion of locomotives and rolling-stock, and other work necessary for the efficient operation of the system. Each of the States will prepare detailed plans, specifications and estimates of cost for all work carried out and these will be made available to the Commonwealth and to the other State.
On the basis of a preliminary survey undertaken in. 1956, it was estimated that the standardization work could be completed within four years from the date of which it was commenced. The Commonwealth and the State Governments aim to have the work completed as soon as possible, and it will be noted that clause 10 provides that the work should be executed expeditiously and in the most economical manner. This clause provides, also, that in suitable cases public tenders shall be called for the carrying out of the work.
Because the Government was convinced that there was an urgent need for the standardization of the line between Melbourne and Albury, the Commonwealth made funds available to Victoria on a £1- for-£l basis in 1956 for a preliminary survey. To the same end, the Government has also assisted Victoria to commence the work prior to the final acceptance of the agreement. In 1957-58, £470,000 was provided by the Commonwealth for preliminary work, and, in the current year, an amount of £1,700,000 will be provided. As a result, work has been proceeding on the new line and it is hoped that it may be possible for it to be in operation in a somewhat shorter time than the four years originally estimated.
The parties to the agreement are confident that the new line will provide a substantial reduction in railway operating costs between Sydney and Melbourne. The elmination of trans-shipment and the heavy costs associated with it, the more effective use of locomotives and rolling-stock, and the improved track facilities permitting higher speeds and modern techniques of construction, all should combine to confer operating economies on the line. The increased volume of traffic which it is expected to handle should increase the revenue of the Victorian and New South Wales railways, and the introduction of centralized traffic control, to which I referred earlier, will give maximum safety and speed in the handling of trains. One of the most compelling reasons for the building of the new line was the need to overcome the difficulties so long asociated with the trans-shipment point at Albury. The completion of the work envisaged by the agreement will remove the congestion and delay which have for so long impeded the free flow of railway traffic between the two largest cities in Australia. lt is difficult at this stage to estimate the total savings to the railways as a result of the improvement in efficiency and reductions in operating costs but it is conservatively considered that it will be not less than £1,700,000 annually. Furthermore, it is a reasonable expectation that the improved efficiency of the railways, the quicker delivery of freight and the elimination of the Albury trans-shipment point will result in substantial additional traffic for the railways. This, again, is difficult to estimate, but the volume may be as high as an additional 500,000 tons per annum.
During its period of office, the Government has paid particular heed to the importance of transport to our national economy. It has actively encouraged the efficient development of our civil aviation industry; it has established the Australian National Shipping Line as the largest operator on the Australian coast; and it has developed and expanded the profitable operation of the Commonwealth Railways system. In addition it has made increasingly large sums available to the States for road construction and maintenance under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act. The magnitude of the Commonwealth’s financial commitment for the Standardization of the railway line between Melbourne and Albury is a further demonstration of the willingness of this Government to give practical support to the development of an efficient transport system within this country. The measure, I am sure, is one which will receive unanimous support from both sides of this chamber, and I commend it to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Townley) read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of the Civil Aviation (Damage by Aircraft) Bill is to approve ratification of the Rome Convention; to give effect to the convention within Australian territory and to extend its main principles to aircraft engaged in international flights over Australian territory which are not otherwise subject to the provisions of the convention. The text of the convention is set out in a schedule to the bill.
The convention was adopted by a diplomatic conference which met in Rome in October, 1952, to deal with the problem of damage caused on the surface by aircraft engaged in international air navigation. Australia is one of the 26 signatory States, having signed the convention on the 19th October, 1953. The convention, which is expressed to come into force as soon as five signatory States have deposited their instruments of ratification, came into force during 1957. Canada, Egypt, Pakistan, Ceylon, Luxembourg, Spain and Ecuador are parties, while it is’ believed that other States, including the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Holland, are likely to ratify the convention in the near future.
The purpose of the convention, as set out in its preamble is, first, to ensure adequate compensation for persons who suffer damage caused on the surface by foreign aircraft while limiting in a reasonable manner the liability of operators, and, secondly, to unify to the greatest extent possible the rules applying in the various countries of the world to the liability incurred for such damage.
The convention is based on a system of strict or absolute liability, the only exceptions being contributory negligence on the part of the persons suffering the damage, or where the damage results from armed conflict or civil disturbance or where the operator has been deprived of the aircraft by act of public authority. It covers damage resulting directly from actual contact, fire or explosion, including damage caused by a person or thing falling from an aircraft.
The convention attaches liability to the operator of the aircraft, who is defined as the person who was making use of the aircraft at the time the damage was caused, provided that if control of the navigation of the aircraft is retained by a person from whom an aircraft is chartered that person shall be considered the operator.
The system of strict liability is coupled with a limitation of liability. The limits in respect of an accident increases with the weight of the aircraft, but the rate of increase becomes progressively lower as the weight increases. In addition to the overall limit, there is a sub-limit of approximately £A 15,000, of 500,000 gold francs, in respect of the death or personal injury of any one person. One-half of the over-all limit is set aside to meet claims for loss of life or injury, but to the extent that it is not absorbed it is available for property claims.
By way of example, the over-all limits applying to foreign aircraft likely to be operating in Australia are: -
These limits greatly exceed the amount of surface damage so far experienced in any civil accident, not only in Australia, but also elsewhere, so that any reduction of the compensation payable to persons suffering damage, due to the limitation provisions, would only arise in the most exceptional catastrophe. In addition, the operator is not only strictly liable whether negligent or not. but he is deprived of any limit if it is proved that the damage was caused by a deliberate act of the operator or his servants done with intent to cause damage.
The convention contains a very detailed chapter on insurance, but it does not establish a mandatory system. First, each State must decide whether it desires to impose an obligation to insure, in respect of surface damage, upon foreign aircraft entering its territory. But if it does so decide, then it is obliged to accept the insurance as satisfactory if certain specified conditions are fulfilled.
The most important of these conditions are, first, that the insurer is authorized to effect the insurance under the law of the State where the aircraft is registered or the insurer has his principal place of business; and, secondly, that the financial responsibility of the insurer has been verified by either of those States.
Another matter of great importance in relation to insurance is the provision of the appropriate currency to meet claims. Many attempts have been made in the past to devise some machinery which would guarantee that the claims of victims would in all cases be met in their national currency.
The new convention has, on this point, adopted a realistic approach. It was recognized that national treasuries could hardly be expected, in relation to this particular matter of damage caused by aircraft, to give an unconditional assurance, in the convention, that the necessary currency would be made available. On the other hand, it is well known that, in practice, commercial self-interest, founded on the desire to obtain or retain insurance business, secures that, in fact, claims are always met. It has, therefore, been thought sufficient to provide that if any claim is not satisfied by payment in the currency of the State where the claim is made, the insurer in question may be regarded as not financially responsible.
The provisions which I have outlined are those which are of the greatest general interest; they are supplemented by a number of detailed and carefully worked out rules concerning the form of security permitted, certificates to be carried, defences available to the insurer and the circumstances in which there may be a direct right of recourse against the insurer.
Actions under the convention may only be brought in “ a single forum “, namely, the courts of the place where the damage occurred. The severity of this rule is mitigated, from the point of view of the operator-defendant, by an elaborate system of safeguards against procedural abuses and in particular an obligation is cast upon contracting States to ensure that he is notified of the proceedings and has a fair and adequate opportunity to defend his interest. A further obligation is cast upon the State where the action is brought - i.e., the victim’s state - to ensure that all actions are consolidated before a single court, thus relieving the operator of a multiplicity of proceedings in different countries and ensuring that the limits are applied. These safeguards have been imposed in the interest of the operator but the victim is given as a quid pro quo an automatic right once he has obtained a final judgment to have the judgment enforced in the first instance in the State where the operator has his residence, and if assets in that State are insufficient, in any other State in which the operator may have assets. These provisions are, of course, of great benefit to victims.
I turn now to a brief examination of the provisions of the bill. Part I. of the bill deals with preliminary matters such as date of commencement and definitions. Part II. gives the convention the force of law and contains a number of additional provisions necessary to supplement and give proper effect to the provisions of the convention itself. For example, under the convention the general rule is that an action may only be brought in the courts of the contracting State where the damage occurred and the State where the action is brought is obliged to take all possible measures to consolidate actions arising out of the same incident for disposal in a single proceeding before the same court. The provisions of Part II. relating to jurisdiction and consolidation of actions are designed to give effect to this obligation. The convention also leaves it open to each State to apply its own rules as to who may bring such actions, what are the various claimants’ respective rights and precisely what elements of damage are recoverable. The bill, therefore, contains supplementary provisions for this purpose.
The usual regulation-making power is included to authorize regulations necessary for carrying out and giving effect to the convention. There are a number of specific procedural and evidentiary matters which could not be conveniently provided for in the bill or the need for which will only be determined in the light of experience. The regulation-making power expressly includes matters of this nature. For example.
Chapter III. of the convention, as we have seen, leaves it to each State to decide whether it will require foreign operators to insure against liability under the convention. If a State so decides, its insurance requirements must comply with the principles laid down in the convention. In the event of Australia requiring such insurance a number of detailed rules will be necessary in relation to such matters as the carriage in aircraft of documents relating to insurance, the exercise of discretionary powers provided for in the convention, for example, to decide whether the insurance effected is satisfactory or whether certificates will be required from appropriate authorities as to the financial stability of an insurer, and the form of documents required in connexion with insurance. These requirements can be prescribed by regulation.
Part III. of the bill extends certain of the basic principles of the convention to two further classes of aircraft engaged in international air commerce, namely -
State in flight over Australian territory.
Australian aircraft engaged in international flight are governed by the convention on all stages of their international flight over the territory of contracting States, except when flying within Australia. It is obviously reasonable and desirable that Australian aircraft engaged in international flights, particularly Qantas aircraft, should be subject to the same rules of liability and the same insurance requirements during the whole course of their international operations.
The bill does not apply to damage caused by aircraft engaged in purely domestic air transport but the desirability of further extending its provisions to all damage caused by aircraft is receiving careful consideration.
Adoption of the convention will be of advantage to Australia’s international operator, since eventually it will establish uniform rules of liability in many countries over which Qantas operates, thus facilitating insurance arrangements and ensuring a limit of liability in the event of an unprecedented catastrophe. It will also be of substantial advantage to Australian victims of damage caused by aircraft, since they will be able to recover from foreign operators without proving negligence and without the necessity of suing in foreign courts up to relatively very high limits. For these reasons I recommend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Social Services Bill 1958.
Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill 1958.
Re-establishment and Employment Bill (No. 2) 1958.
Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Bill 1958.
Debate resumed (vide page 1681).
.- Prior to the suspension of the sitting, I was discussing that section of the bill which referred to the entitlement of T.P.I. ex-servicemen under the amending legislation. I had pointed out for the benefit of honorable members that only a very small proportion of those persons will receive the 10s. increase that was promised under this legislation. The reasons for that I explained. The first is the ceiling limit of £15 15s. which has been applied by this Government. Unless that ceiling limit is adjusted, it will not be possible for more than a small percentage of T.P.I. ex-servicemen to receive an increase of 10s. a week. It might be said by the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron), who sits at the table, that all T.P.I. ex-servicemen will receive an increase of 10s. a week, but the great majority of T.P.I. ex-servicemen are in receipt of a service pension, and that service pension, or the age pension received by an ex-serviceman’s wife who is aged over 60 years, will be reduced accordingly. The anomaly is obvious and, as I indicated before the suspension, I believe the Government ought to remove it, in fairness to T.P.I. ex-servicemen.
The ceiling limit was adjusted in 1955, not for the benefit of the T.P.I. exservicemen, but because of the adjustments made under the amending legislation of that year to enable age, invalid and other classes of pensioners to receive a pension of £4 7s. 6d. a week, as well as an additional income of £7 a week from other sources. This meant, in effect, that the ceiling limit would be £15 15s. I repeat that the ceiling limit was not raised in 1955 for the benefit of T.P.I, ex-servicemen. It was raised because this Government wanted to adjust the rate for age and other classes of pensioners.
Let me deal with the actual rate payable to married T.P.I.ex-servicemen to substantiate what I have said in respect of the amount that will be made available under this legislation for this particular class of pensioner. I refer to the case of a married couple when the wife is 60 years of age or older. The member, under this legislation, will receive £11 10s. pension and the wife £1 15s. 6d. If the member as a T.P.I. ex-serviceman has no other income, he is entitled to a service pension payment of £2 9s. 6d. a week, which entitles the couple to receive a total of £15 15s. But if the 10s. a week is payable to the married T.P.I. ex-serviceman, the service pension is reduced from £2 19s. 6d. to £2 9s. 6d. If a pension, part-pension or social service pension is being paid to the member or to his wife, in each case there will be a reduction of 5s. a week. So, there is no increase so far as the T.P.I. ex-serviceman is concerned except in the cases I have mentioned - the single T.P.I. ex-serviceman and those who have income from other sources, such as superannuation.
I now refer to the position of war widows. I acknowledge at once that under this amending legislation some increase has been accorded to them, but it applies to the special payment made to certain sections of war widows. I refer to the domestic allowance. The Minister indicated, in his second-reading speech, that 90 per cent of war widows were entitled to receive the domestic allowance. That means, in effect, that 10 per cent of the war widows in this country are not receiving the domestic allowance but only the base rate of the war widow’s pension.
In 1948, the widows pension rate was 53 per cent of the basic wage. To-day, it is only 42 per cent of it, and in my opinion this Government cannot claim to have dealt generously with the war widows by allowing their rate of pension to decline to the extent that it now has in comparison with the basic wage. I believe that war widows, particularly those 10 per cent, who are not eligible to receive the domestic allowance, should receive far greater consideration from this Government. The domestic allowance is payable only in cases where a war widow has a child under the age of sixteen years, or one over sixteen who is undergoing education or training, or if she herself is over the age of 50 years or is permanently unemployable. There must be 10 per cent, of the war widows in this country who are receiving no more than £4 17s. 6d. a week from this Government. It appears that the best it can do for them, having appropriated their husbands for military service and who, in their turn made the supreme sacrifice in the interests of our country, is to pay them no more than £4 17s. 6d. a week. I believe that the Government should have made the 7s. 6d a week increase general and should not have confined it merely to the domestic allowance with the resultant effect that 10 per cent, of the war widows receive no increase at all.
But this payment bears out the general attitude of the Government as it is demonstrated by this amending legislation. The Government has promised increases. I remember in 1957 there was considerable applause from the Opposition when the Government announced that there would be a 25s. a week increase for, the T.P.I, exservicemen. But there was no applause this year because Government members know, only too well, that that increase, will reach only a certain few. The Government cannot claim to have acted fairly in respect of either T.P.I, ex-servicemen or war widows.
Let me turn to the 100 per cent, pension rate. Last year, it was increased by 7s. 6d. a week, but under this legislation there will be no increase. Honorable members know that the great bulk of war pensioners in this country are on the 100 per cent, pension rate - the base rate of pension as it is commonly called. This afternoon I indicated to the House the number of persons actually in receipt of the T.P.I, pension. It is very small in comparison with the number receiving the pension for 100 per cent, incapacity. But, as I have already said, there will be no increase at all under this legislation; that pension rate will remain at £5 2s. 6d. a week.
It is a pity that the Minister, in dealing with these examples in his second-reading speech, referred to the case of the unmarried pensioner who is in receipt of the 100 per cent, base pension rate. But here is a typical example. An unmarried exserviceman receives the 100 per cent, war pension of £5 2s. 6d. a week if he is considered to be permanently unemployable. We know that a great many ex-servicemen receiving the 100 per cent, rate are, in point of fact, permanently unemployable. Their disability has not been accepted by the Repatriation Department as being due to their war service. They have a disability which is accepted, but the fact that their health is impaired is not entirely due to war service. In such a case the 100 per cent, pensioner receives a service pension of £2 15s. a week, which makes a total of war service pension of £7 17s. 6d. a week. In other words, this ex-serviceman who is totally incapacitated and who is not able to take his proper place in the society of this country, receives no more from this Government, after giving his services in the interests of the country, than £7 17s. 6d. a week.
That is considerably less than the basic wage. Even a junior employee in any one of the government departments of this country receives considerable more than £7 17s. 6d. a week. Once again, I say that the Government cannot claim to have been generous in this respect. I have shown that that is so in each of the cases I have referred to - the T.P.I, ex-servicemen, the war widow and the 100 per cent, pensioner. There has been a general deterioration in the pension rate.
It is perfectly true, as I acknowledge, at once, that additional allowances have been provided in this legislation. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) referred, earlier this afternoon, to the amendments providing for these benefits. We appreciate the fact that the Government is giving some consideration to certain classes of service pensioners. But I regret that the Minister, during his second-reading speech, when assessing the amount available to the various classes of war pensioners, should once again take into consideration the value of child endowment. I suggest that no one should consider child endowment when determining the rate of war pensions. Surely, nobody takes into account the fact that I receive child endowment when they assess my total income. It is not done in any other branch of the Public Service. Nor is it reckoned by any employer in the Commonwealth. This is a benefit which was provided by the Commonwealth Government for all parents, yet the Minister set out a table in which the value of child endowment has been added to the general rate of pension to increase the total amount paid. Surely we should not take into account the money that a war widow receives in child endowment. Neither should we take child endowment into account in respect of other war pensioners. Child endowment is all too small to-day but, small as it is, the Minister has taken income from child endowment into consideration in respect of every class of pension affected by this legislation.
Although a very small increase of 7s. 6d. was granted to pensioners in 1957-58 no increases are granted under this legislation. Surely, in view of the fact that the benefit payable to the wife of an ex-serviceman has not been increased for several years, but has remained at the paltry figure that I mentioned to the House earlier, we should at least do something about that matter. While the Government has been prepared to increase some pensions, do not let us forget that the amount involved is very small in relation to total expenditure by the Government in this financial year. I believe that the Government could have given more consideration to the deserving class of pensioners dealt with by this legislation.
Now I turn to the entitlements appeal tribunals, and this brings me, of course, to that contentious legal provision, section 47 of the Repatriation Act - the onus of proof provision. I do not hesitate to say that, in my opinion, the tribunals are giving a great service to ex-servicemen generally. I believe that they treat ex-servicemen with every courtesy, and all honorable members who appear before these tribunals know that the ex-serviceman is given every opportunity to present his case fairly and properly. However, the fact remains that in many instances the members of the tribunals are not able to apply the onus of proof provision as it should be applied. As a matter of fact, the Minister himself gave a ruling on this matter when addressing a conference of the Returned Service men’s League two or three years ago. He said - lt is not for the claimant to prove his claim, but throughout the whole proceedings the onus remains on the person or authority to prove that he is not entitled.
That statement, I believe, expresses the intention of section 47.
I agree with the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) that we shall never be able to solve this problem of the application of section 47 until such time as we are prepared to appoint a judicial authority to make an independent review of the way in which the provision has been applied. I am sure that most honorable members will agree with me when I say that it is extremely difficult for any person or authority to prove that a man’s condition is due to war service, just as it is extremely difficult to prove that cancer is due to war service. By the same token, however, it is quite impossible to prove that a condition is not due to a person’s war service, taking into consideration the length and type of service involved. That is the position that applies to-day. I believe that the onus of proof provision is not being correctly interpreted. The most cursory examination of the records that show how many applications have been accepted and how many refused, is sufficient to indicate that the tribunals are not able to assess accurately whether or not a disability is, in fact, due to war service.-
Let me conclude by saying that we believe that the onus of proof problem ought to be the subject of immediate consideration by the Government, just as we believe that some classes of pensioners are not receiving the justice to which they are entitled. We believe that pension matters generally should receive the attention of the Government, and for that reason we intend to take appropriate action when we have an opportunity to present our views to the people in the forthcoming election campaign.
.- I want to dispel a completely false impression which the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) might have conveyed to some people in his remarks in connexion with the ceiling rate as applied to the increases being made in pensions for totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen and to 100 per cent, disability pensions. I want you to bear in mind, Mr. Speaker, that for several years before 1954 returned soldiers organizations, with which I have been associated very closely, urged the previous government and this Government to remove an unjust anomaly in connexion with pensions for totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. I refer to the dual penalty that was imposed on pensioners. On the one hand, a means test limited the amount of income they might receive, whilst on the other hand they were penalized by the application of a ceiling rate provision. The combination of these two penalizing provisions meant that the family of a married totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner in many cases received less in T.P.I, pension and social services pension than did the families of other exservicemen who were on 100 per cent, disability pensions or even less, but who were also receiving social services pensions. After some pressure by the returned soldiers movement the Government removed that ceiling rate injustice in 1954 or 1955. This meant that a T.P.I, pensioner was placed in the situation that was proper to his circumstances.
I want to remind the House that when I came here in 1950, in the first speech I made on repatriation benefits and service pensions, I suggested that there was only one way in which justice could be done to pensioned ex-servicemen. The Government has not an inexhaustible ocean of money to draw upon so, when money is to be made available for pension increases, first consideration must be given to those to whom the pension is the sole means of livelihood. Then consideration can be given to those to whom a war pension is a compensation for war-caused disabilities. I suggested that the reasonable, humane and proper thing to do was to classify war pensions in two parts. One classification would be an economic pension; that is a pension payable to the T.P.I, man who has to live on it and is unable to earn other money. Those are the people who are justly entitled to first consideration if there is any increase in the money available for pensioners. The second classification should be a compensatory pension; that is a pension payable because of disabilities or injuries received during the war. That pension, because of conditions implicit in the Repatriation Act, has no relationship whatever to the capacity of the person to earn income. I suggested that the compensatory pension should be treated as a separate matter entirely. It was unjust, I argued and I still argue, to say to all pensioners, “ Here is an extra few shillings a week “, when, to most of them, those extra few shillings, would not be of material benefit, whereas those extra few shillings, doubled, trebled, or quadrupled, and paid only to ex-servicemen to whom the pension is the only means of livelihood, would be of tremendous importance. This Government has applied reasonable thinking and rationalization to the distribution of money to war pensioners.
– What about the ceiling?
– I have referred to that. Under the ceiling which applied when the Labour Government was in office, the 100 per cent, pensioner could receive more in pension and social service benefits than could the T.P.I, man who was limited to his T.P.I, pension and his social service pension and was not allowed to earn more. There is no limit on what the 100 per cent, pensioner can earn. There has never been any limit on what the man who receives less than the T.P.I, pension can earn. The pension paid to a T.P.I, man is assessed on the basis that he is totally and permanently incapacitated from earning a living or otherwise adding to his income. That is not a factor which is considered in connexion with the rest of the pensions. Therefore is the T.P.I, man not entitled to be lifted up as far as possible? There was a means test which meant that T.P.I, men, many of whom had family responsibilities, had to rely solely on the T.P.I, pension plus whatever social service benefits they could get. Yet the 100 per cent, pensioner, and others receiving a lesser pension, were able to derive, with social service benefits, a total income greater than that of the T.P.I, man. They were able to add unrestrictedly to their income. This Government removed an obvious injustice to the T.P.I, man. I am not saying that the pensioners get enough. I am not going to argue that point. As I have said in the House before, whenever we ask for money we never get enough. I do not think we shall ever be satisfied, no matter what we ask for or what we get.
But it must be borne in mind, as I said earlier, that the Government has not an unlimited ocean of money from which to pay benefits. Whatever the Government, in its judgment, believes the country is capable of paying, it has a responsibility to make certain that the additional benefits are distributed to the most deserving people. That is what has happened in this case and there can be no query in that connexion whatsoever.
I want to dispel an impression that the previous speaker may have created in the minds of honorable members and of those who may read his remarks. Far from placing a disability on the T.P.f. man, this Government has removed the disability which existed. It has provided him with additional benefits. It has made certain that those who most need help will get that help. That is the purpose of the legislation before us, and I cannot see how any member of the Labour party can possibly question it. Surely it is in line with their professed policy to help those who are less privileged and less able to help themselves. As Opposition members are reluctant to give the Government credit for believing in that policy and applying it, they should sit down, keep quiet and let the bill go through.
– The thing that surprises me, as a member of the Opposition, is that although we are dealing with pensions for returned servicemen and in spite of the fact that Liberal members of this Parliament have a lot to say at election time about how their hearts bleed for the returned servicemen, only eleven of them are in the House tonight. Just imagine; only eleven members of the Liberal party are taking sufficient interest in this debate to come and listen to the remarks that are being made by the members of the Opposition! [Quorum formed.] We nearly did not get a quorum. In fact we have a quorum now only because nearly twenty members are present on the Labour side. The people of Australia, especially the returned servicemen, will know from these remarks how much interest the returned servicemen whom they send into this Parliament have in their welfare.
Order! The honorable member will resume his seat. Honorable members who are in terjecting must come to order or I will have to deal with them. I refer to the honorable member for Forrest, in particular.
– Honorable members opposite do not like it when they are reminded of these truths. Here we are, discussing a matter vitally concerning the returned servicemen of this country, and one would have thought that every returned serviceman in the Parliament would be taking part in the debate and demanding justice for the ex-serviceman. But what do we find? Reluctantly, they are dragged into the chamber by the calling of a quorum, and then only a very small number of them. If it were not for the big attendance of members of the Opposition, there would not be a quorum at this moment and the bill would have been talked out.
One of the things that staggers me is that year after year when we have talked in this Parliament of the rights of exservicemen, the members of the Liberal party, wearing their ex-servicemen’s badges and pretending that they are the friends of the ex-serviceman, support the Government every time no matter how many injustices the Government metes out to exservicemen. The people of Australia can be assured that the ex-service Liberal members will support the Government in everything it does.
To-night, we will have another example of this. We will see the Liberal supporters of the Government voting for the bill that is now before the Parliament in spite of the grave injustices that I and my colleagues have brought to the attention of honorable members, and in spite of the fact that we have pointed out that this 10s. supplementary allowance which the Government is proposing to grant does not, in fact, apply to any totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner who is a married man and who is relying entirely on his T.P.I, pension. This Government says in one breath that it is going to give the exservicemen another 10s. supplementary pension and then retains the old ceiling of £15 15s. a week to make certain that the men who really need the allowance will not get it at all. What sort of nonsense do we have to listen to when this Government pretends to be the friend of the ex-servicemen and tells them, in an attempt to pacify them, that they will get 10s. supplementary allowance when, by the application of the pegged ceiling of £15 15s., the Government is able to give it with one hand and take it away with the other?
Of course, Government supporters say that this Government lifted the ceiling limit. The Labour government had a ceiling which was lower than the present one, so the Government is trying to gain the credit for having lifted the ceiling. But, of course, the Labour party never pretended that it had reached the ultimate in its social service benefits. This was one of the things that we knew had to be lifted and should have been lifted completely so that a man who was told that he was going to get a benefit would, in fact, get it.
I should like the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) to tell the Parliament the amount of income that an exserviceman is permitted to have in order to qualify for the supplementary pension; because I remember asking the Minister whether a person who qualified and who had ls. a week income beside the pension would be entitled to the 10s. supplementary pension, and the Minister told me he did not know. He said it was a question for the DirectorGeneral of Social Services to determine, or it was for that gentleman to use his discretionary powers. I do not know what the Director-General must think of the Minister when he gives such replies to questions. I would not be surprised if the Prime Minister did not sack the Minister and replace him with one who would answer a question instead of passing the buck to a public servant. There is no doubt that this Government does not intend too many people to get the supplementary pension because the Government has hedged the allowance round with so many qualifications, ifs and buts, that by the time they are applied, it will surprise me if more than 25,000 persons in the whole of Australia are able to qualify for the supplementary pension.
Before I resume my seat - because the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) who is an expert on these matters is to follow me - I want to refer to a great anomaly in the Repatriation Act which I ask the Government once again to rectify. I refer to ex-servicemen of the British Imperial Forces - to the men who served in the British Army after enlisting in the
United Kingdom and served in France or some other theatre of war. I notice that the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) is nodding in approval. When those British ex-servicemen come to Australia to settle they are told that they will not get the service pension at 60 years of age as do former members of the Australian Imperial Forces and other branches of our defence forces who have served overseas. I think it is proper that British exservicemen who come to Australia should be placed in the same category as Australian ex-servicemen.
I have written to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on this matter at least twice during the past few months begging him to re-open with the United Kingdom Government the question of reciprocal rights of British ex-servicemen, if this has to be done by reciprocal agreement. If the British Government is not prepared to give those benefits to British ex-servicemen by way of a reciprocal agreement, I believe this Government ought to do justice to them by extending to those men the benefits to which they are entitled. I believe that is another great injustice that should be rectified, but it will not be rectified if we have to rely on those who represent the Liberal party in this Parliament. Even the honorable member for Franklin, who occasionally does vote against the Government, could not rally to his side sufficient members of the Liberal party to bring about the defeat of the Government on this issue.
– He is a rebel, too.
– Of course, he is a rebel; and he is discredited by the Liberal party as a result. If the Prime Minister had his way, the honorable member for Franklin would never get promotion inside the Liberal party, because occasionally he has the courage to vote against the Government on issues such as I have mentioned. I was surprised to hear from the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) that the repatriation tribunal in Tasmania was working- to the benefit of ex-servicemen. If the Tasmanian branch of the Repatriation Department is acting as he has described - and the honorable member for Franklin confirmed his statement - Tasmania is the only State in the Commonwealth where it is working in the interests of ex-servicemen.
– What rot!
– The honorable member for Canning apparently is completely satisfied with the way the Repatriation Department operates in Western Australia, so Western Australian exservicemen whose applications for a pension have been rejected will know it is useless for them to go to him. He is perfectly satisfied with all the rejections so far and, therefore, he is, in fact, condoning all those rejections. I am not satisfied with the way the Repatriation Department is operating in South Australia and I know that other honorable members in both the Liberal party and the Australian Labour party in this House are not satisfied with the way it is operating in New South Wales either. The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) made it quite clear this afternoon that he was dissatisfied and almost disgusted with the way the Repatriation Department is operating in New South Wales.
We are not satisfied with it in South Australia at all. At present, there is only one member of the Liberal party from South Australia in the chamber or I would have asked Government supporters from that State whether they agreed with me. In South Australia, we have known the case of a man who died from lung cancer. Repeatedly, it has happened that an exserviceman suffering from lung cancer after being gassed in the First World War has applied for entitlement and has been rejected. In other cases, we have known exservicemen’s widows applying for a war widow’s pension and being rejected. If it is proper that tuberculosis should be accepted for war pension entitlement without any question of onus of proof - and that is the position now - cancer, especially Inn” cancer in the case of men who were gassed in the First World War, should be recorded as an entitlement without any question of onus of proof.
There is not one member of the medical profession anywhere in the world who can tell the cause of cancer. No member of the medical profession has ever yet been able to establish what causes lung cancer, and no one. therefore, can deny categorically that a person who dies from lune cancer and who was gassed in the First World War is not the victim of a war injury. Until the medical profession can isolate the causes of cancer and can definitely say that gassing in the First World War could not possibly have caused cancer which manifests itself 30 years later, it has no right to expect the onus of proof to be discharged by an affected ex-serviceman, as it now does. What happens is this: The medical profession, which cannot prove that cancer was not caused by gassing earlier in life, expects an ex-serviceman to prove that it was. Could anything be more unfair?
The Returned Servicemen’s League has, time and time again, asked the Government to place cancer, particularly lung cancer, in the same category as tuberculosis. However, this Government, which talks about what it has done for ex-servicemen and pretends to be so greatly concerned about them, has repeatedly turned a deaf ear to the claims of the R.S.L. in this connexion. I know that the R.S.L. in South Australia is absolutely disgusted with the way in which the Repatriation Commission is rejecting applications to have disabilities accepted as having been due to war service.
– That goes for New South Wales, too.
– And, as the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith reminds me, the same applies in New South Wales.
– It is not the commission that is rejecting the claims.
– Of course it is the commission. If the commission was completely sympathetic, there would be no trouble with war entitlement tribunals or appeals. I believe that if the commission did its job it would grant entitlement, without any test or inquiry whatever, to any exserviceman suffering from lung cancer, without asking any questions at all.
I believe, therefore, that it is proper that these matters should be looked at by the Government. It has been in office for nine years, and it is of no use for it to say that it has not had time to consider these matters. Instead of pretending to the people that it is handing out another 10s. supplementary allowance to those entitled to repatriation benefits, it ought to be truthful about the matter and say that in framing its proposal it has carefully taken very precise steps to ensure that no T.P.I, pensioner who has any other income, and who would be entitled to the service pension as well, will be entitled to one single penny of the 10s. extra allowance that we have been talking about.
.- It is most regretable that in discussing a bill dealing with repatriation the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) should have dragged the debate down to the level of party politics. We always try to keep repatriation on a non-party basis. However, as the honorable member has dealt with it in this manner and has made so many incorrect statements in relation to it, I feel compelled to give the House the facts. The honorable member not only brought party politics into this debate; he also suggested that there were many members sitting behind him and very few on this side of the House. He did not give the facts, which were that only eight or nine Opposition members were present, and that there were at least as many honorable members on this side of the House. [Quorum formed.]
Before the interruption, I was pointing out that it was unfortunate that the honorable member for Hindmarsh and other Labour members had dragged the debate down to the level of party politics, and that as so many incorrect statements had been made I wished to give the House the facts. First, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) suggested that there were very few totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen of World War II. That is entirely incorrect. There are 6,000 T.P.I, ex-servicemen of World War II. and 12,000 of World War I. Therefore, onethird of the total number of T.P.I, exservicemen are veterans of World War II.
A further suggestion was made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh that exservicemen had not been well treated by this Government. Repatriation has always been the proud responsibility of this Government, and we make no apologies for what has been done. We are, of course, continually endeavouring to get the best possible deal for men who have served their country, and particularly for the widows of those who gave their lives for their country. Let us now consider the position with regard to T.P.I, pensions under the Labour government. In 1949 the pension was at the rate of £5 6s. a week. To-day it is £11 10s. The wife’s allowance under the Labour government was £1 4s. Now it is £1 15s. 6d. Let us also consider the position of the war widow. In 1949 her pension was £3 a week, whilst to-day it is £4 I7s. 6d. The domestic allowance payable to a war widow under the Labour government was 7s. 6d. a week. To-day it is £2 7s. 6d. The allowance for the first child was 17s. 6d. a week in the days of the Labour government. To-day it is £1 lis. 6d.
I do not not suggest for one moment that the pension is more than it should be. Many of us would like to see it increased still further, and we will work in that direction. We must not overlook the fact, however, that this year the Government is facing a cash deficit. Any additional repatriation or social service benefits would have to be paid out of borrowed money. If additional benefits are to be provided out of borrowed money, the proper thing to do is to make the money go round amongst those most in need. That was the approach of the Government this year. Such money as was available has been used to give increased social service and repatriation benefits to those who need them most. In the field of repatriation, the benefit has gone to the war widows with children by an increase in the domestic allowance and to those who are totally and permanently incapacitated as a result of war service.
Do members of the Labour party suggest that the money should be used in any other way? Would they have taken it from the war widow with children and given it to the ex-servicemen who are able to work and who, in most cases, are receiving normal wages? Would they have taken it from the totally and permanently incapacitated men and given it to the fit and able? I suggest that the so-called attack by the Labour party on this bill is just humbug. We know that the Labour party intends to vote for the bill, unless- there has been another split in the party since this bill was in another place, because there Labour supported the bill. I venture to say from the speeches of those who have already spoken, other than the member for Hindmarsh, that we will see Labour supporting it in this House as well. If they are not going to support it, the war widows will be very interested to know that Labour has voted against an increase in the domestic allowance, and the T.P.I ex-servicemen will also be interested to know that Labour has opposed the increase in their benefits.
We have heard many incorrect statements made about the so-called ceiling. There is no ceiling in relation to war pensions. There is no means test in relation to war pensions or war widows’ pensions. There is no property means test in relation to T.P.I, pensioners. Before we came into power, there was a ceiling on the pensions that could be received by any person. This Government removed the ceiling, and that enabled people in receipt of a T.P.I, pension to apply for an age pension or a service pension, which is only an age pension payable at an earlier age. [Quorum formed.]
I was dealing with the ceiling for pensions. I pointed out that this Government removed the ceiling so as. to. enable many persons in receipt of a war pension or a T.P.I, pension to receive in addition an age pension or a service pension. Both the age pension and the service pension have a means test. If a person in receipt of a war pension, which has no means test, in addition to his war pension, desires an age or a service pension, it is subject to the same means test in relation to those pensioners as applies in relation to other citizens. But that does not say that a means test applies to a war pension or a T.P.I, pension; it simply means that if war pensioners wish to have a pension additional to the pension they already receive, they are subject to the same rules and the same laws as every one else.
I pointed out some of the improvements that have been made since 1949. Let us look at the amount that was paid by the Labour Government in its Last year of office, 1949, and the amount that is paid to-day to recipients of repatriation benefits. In 1949, under Labour, £18,000,000 was paid; in this year, 1958, £49,000,000 will be paid in repatriation benefits. For service pensions, £1,300,000 was paid in 1949, and the amount to-day is £5,900,000. Does any honest citizen say, in view of those figures, that this Government has not benefited ex-servicemen? One of the main reasons why Labour was thrown out of office in 1949 was because of its disgraceful treatment of ex-servicemen in that year and the previous year. They were not years of war but post-war years. In addition to the benefits that I have mentioned, a great many additional privileges have been given to returned men in the last few years. For example, widows have been granted remarriage gratuities. Cars have been provided for double amputees. Travelling expenses have been provided, in certain circumstances, for war widows. Air travel has been provided for next of kin of servicemen. Disabled members and widows have received training facilities. I mentioned before that the ceilings on two pensions have been removed.
It is impossible in a short address to detail all the advantages that have been given. But I do hope that subsequent speakers will keep to the facts and not try to make a party political issue of this bill. This repatriation bill deserves the unanimous support of every member of this House, because it will give substantially improved benefits to war widows and to T.P.I, exservicemen - those who need the benefits most.
.- The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) commenced his speech by taking very strong exception to some remarks made by my colleague, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). He considered them to be of a very strong partisan and party political character. The honorable member for Sturt then promptly proceeded along what one could consider to be very similar strong partisan and party political lines. But he did something even worse; he quoted figures in such a way as to create an entirely wrong conception in the minds of the people. I refer in particular to his comparison of the millions paid to war pensioners by a Labour administration with the millions paid by his own administration. Anybody who knows the facts knows that the numbers of pensioners to-day, by virtue of World War II., are infinitely greater than they were when the Labour party was in office. Everybody knows, in addition, that the cost of living to-day is almost double what is was in 1949 and that, in order to keep the purchasing power of these pensions equivalent to the purchasing power that they had in 1949, it is necessary for this Government to pay out twice as much as was paid out by a previous administration. And I have not even named the administration.
I have always endeavoured, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to keep to reasonably decent nonparty lines in debates on repatriation matters. Let me say to you, Sir, and to the people of Australia, that I welcome the fact that this bill will increase some pensions and give concessions to some of the people who most need help. However, I greatly deplore the fact that the honorable member for Sturt should think fit to tell the country that this Government cannot give the increases that are needed, and that the ex-servicemen and former service nurses are entitled to, because the funds would have to be provided out of loan moneys. What utter rot! What the honorable gentleman was referring to was the fact that the budgetary deficit for the current financial year is estimated at £110,000,000, and that that amount will have to be raised by the issuing of treasury-bills secured against the enormous wealth and industry of this country. In those circumstances, surely it is rather mean to say that the Government cannot provide the increased pensions and other benefits that the ex-servicemen and women of this country are undoubtedly entitled to, because it would be necessary to mortgage a few more million pounds of Australia’s potential and actual wealth!
As I have said, I welcome the increased benefits that are to be provided. But the plain fact remains that those benefits are confined almost entirely to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. No additional provision is being made for the man on the 100 per cent, incapacity rate, and, after all, a man who is classified as being 100 per cent, incapacitated is not very well off. He surely needs something additional to what he already receives, in order that his income may keep pace with increasing costs. And, what is more, he is entitled to something more than he has hitherto received, as is every other ex-serviceman, because the bountiful seasons that we have enjoyed over the last ten years, the application of science to industry and production, and the mechanization of industry, have infinitely increased our productive potential and made it possible for the country to be more generous to ex-servicemen than it has been in the past - and certainly more generous than this measure is.
In mentioning certain facts, I intend to keep completely out of the political field. I notice that it has been the practice of some speakers in this debate to compare the percentage increases in pensions given by one government with those given by another government, and invariably the comparison has been between pensions when Labour was in office and pensions during the term of this Government. Government supporters have alleged that the increases granted by this Government have been sufficient to enable repatriation pensioners to live according to the standards that they are entitled to enjoy. Let us have a look at the facts, at the same time keeping the matter right out of the field of partisanship. In 1954, 1 took out some figures comparing the pensions payable in 1939 with those payable in 1954, and the basic wage in 1939 with that in 1954. It does not matter what government was in office in 1939. I selected that year because it saw the outbreak of World War II. I have now taken out figures to take the comparison up to 1959, thereby covering a period of exactly twenty years.
Let us take the comparison between the figures for 1939 and those for 1954 first. In 1939, the ex-serviceman who was 100 per cent, incapacitated received a pension of £2 2s. a week. The increase granted by this Government in 1954 brought the rate to £4 10s. a week. It increased by 114 per cent, over that fifteen-year period. The basic wage increased over the same period from £3 18s. a week to £11 16s. a week - an increase of 202 per cent. There are no party politics in this. I am just pointing out the facts. In the fifteen years between 1939 and 1954, the basic wage increased by 202 per cent., but the 100 per cent, incapacity pension increased by only 114 per cent. Relatively, the position of the 100 per cent, incapacitated man is no better to-day than it was in 1954. I turn now to the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman’s rate of pension. In 1939, it was £4 a week. In 1954, it was £9 5s. a week, after this Government had granted the basic wage, which increased, as I have an increase. Between 1939 and 1954, the T.P.I, rate increased by 131 per cent., but said, from £3 18s. a week to £11 l’6s. a week, increased by 202 per cent. I remind the House that this was nine years after the waT had ended.
Let me now bring the comparison up to date by taking it to 1959, on the basis of the rapid calculations that I have made. I do not include the 100 per cent, incapacity rate in this later comparison, because it is not being increased by this bill. The T.P.I, rate, which was £4 a week in 1939 will be £il 10s. a week in 1959. The increase seems magnificent, but, when it is related to the increase in the basic wage in order to give us a measure of what it will buy, the picture is quite different. The basic wage, which was £3 1.8s. a week in 1939, will be £13 9s. a week in 1959. Over the twenty years to which I am referring, the T.P.I, pension rate will have increased by 187 per cent., and the basic wage by 245 per cent. Yet this Government tells us that, because it has to borrow money to meet its budget deficit, it cannot do any better for the T.P.I, ex-serviceman than allow his pension to lag so far behind.
I know that the Minister and other speakers will say that I have taken the rate that is applicable to the single T.P.I, pensioner or the man on the 100 per cent, rate. That is true, but his position is relative to the progress that has been made in the allowances for wives and children. If you compare what was allowed for wives and dependent children in 1939, it will be seen that there has been some improvement, but nowhere near enough to bring the purchasing power of the pension up to what it was in 1939, when Australia was infinitely poorer in resources and capacity to produce wealth than it is to-day. That being so, it is to be regretted that the Government claims that it is being most generous to the T.P.I, pensioners and that it cannot afford to find anything for the 100 per cent, pensioner or those who are receiving lesser pensions. The 1939 rate was not an adequate rate. I do not care what government provided it; it was not adequate.
One gains a false picture by comparing these pension rates with the basic wage, because that would assume that the T.P.I, pensioners, had they not been incapacitated through war service, would have been basic wage earners. The truth of the matter is that most of them would have gone into industry or professions. Some of them may have been able to resume practice as lawyers, doctors, or engineers, and earn a substantial margin above the basic wage. So, it cannot be said that we are being any more generous to-day than we were in 1939. I am not interested in what the government paid in 1939. I am telling the
Parliament that these men, and the widows, have missed out all along the line since the outbreak of the Second World War.
Rehabilitation of ex-servicemen has been magnificent in Australia. At the same time, this country’s wealth has increased tremendously, but 20 years ago it was unusual for married women to go out to work. To-day, we live in an era - some people might call it advanced - when women exercise their right to go out to work in the same way as their husbands do. It has become a popular custom. Personally, I do not like it. 1 think it should be avoided, but the women of this country have the same rights as men. If they are war widows, how can they manage a home and rear their dependants while going out to work? They have been deprived not only of their husbands, but also of the earning capacity that they would have had but for the ravages of war. I am appalled * at the proposal to increase the total pension payable to war widows to £7 5s. I do not care what government is responsible: A miserly increase of that kind brings no credit on this country.
The bill contains a proposal to increase the amount payable to T.P.I, pensioners by 10s. That is not a generous proposal. Most T.P.I, pensioners are in receipt of social service benefits. It is true that over the last few years there have been some improvements in ceiling limits, but in this measure a ceiling limit still operates and many of the people whom it is alleged will receive 10s. a week extra will, in fact, receive 10s. a week less in their social service pensions. In his second-reading speech, the Minister said -
It follows then that on an occasion, as happens this year when the T.P.I, pension rises and the means test limit of income remains unaltered, the amount of the means test pension will be decreased by the amount of the increase in the war pension.
So, it is no good babbling that there is no ceiling. Somebody pushes 10s. into your pocket with one hand, and takes it out with the other. That is no concession.
Another proposal in the bill is that a service pensioner who rents a house, apartment, or room will receive an extra 10s. a week. But a perusal of the bill will show that this will apply to a person if he is a service pensioner and the commission is satisfied that he requires supplementary assistance by reason of the fact that he pays rent and1 is entirely dependent upon his service pension. Well, if he has an income of 10s. from some other source, such as an insurance policy or interest from an investment, he is not entirely dependent on his service pension and he will get no rent allowance. It is all hooey to talk about being generous and providing for these unfortunates who have to rent rooms. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) spoke about the magnificent gesture of the Government. This provision means that only a small percentage of pensioners will receive this so-called rent allowance. The Opposition welcomes this provision insofar as it will assist some pensioners; but it is just nonsense to speak of it as liberalization on the part of this Government.
Let me look at the viewpoint of the Commonwealth Council of Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Associations of Australia. In a letter dated 25th July, 1958, the council informed me that at its congress in Hobart in March, 1958, it demanded medical benefits entitlement cards for wives of T.P.I, pensioners. Honorable members will remember that there was a time when invalid pensioners, service pensioners, and other pensioners could get medical benefits for their wives. Then, this Government said that if those benefits were not applied for prior to a certain date in 1955 they would not be made available. In other words, you win it, but you do not get it. The pensioner won this entitlement if he made application before a certain date in 1955, but if he delayed his application, his wife would not be entitled to medical benefits. The T.P.I. soldiers’ council said -
It will be recalled that in October, 1955, the Government lifted the Repatriation Means Test and as a result any of our Members who could pass the prescribed Means Test then became eligible for Social Services Pension up to, at that time, £15 per week, (man and wife).
That entitled them to Medical Benefits for their wives, but on 31st October, the same month, these benefits were deleted by an amendment passed by Parliament on the National Health Act.
What was the result of this? The more mobile of our Members who can attend our rooms heard of it, applied and got Medical Benefits for their wives, whilst the remainder, too sick in their homes to attend our rooms or residing in the country, did not hear of it in time and so were not granted this concession, although like the others they afterwards passed the same Means Test.
As a result of all this, Members who qualified for these benefits for their wives total approximately 50%, the remaining 50% missed out, yet they all passed the same Means Test.
It was a pretty mean and disgusting piece of work by the people who did it. As at a certain date some people were entitled to medical benefits. A couple of days later, merely because they had not made application in time, they were not entitled to medical benefits. I do not know the reason, but that was done, and it affects the wives of those people who, for a variety of reasons, did not get in before the shutter came down. Was the wife who applied a month later less deserving or less needy? Is there any reasonable answer to that? None whatever!
In addition, the organization asked that -
The rate of Commonwealth Pensions, £15 15s. per week, at present being paid under separate Acts to married T.P.I, men, be consolidated and paid under the Repatriation Act by increasing the special T.P.I. Pension to £13 per week and the rate for wives of T.P.I, men to £2 15s. per week.
In addition, the organization sought a clothing allowance for men classified as T.P.I, who have to wear artificial limbs or surgical aids, an increased funeral allowance, sales tax remissions, and so on. The main things the organization asked for were an increase in the pension rate, and medical benefits entitlement for the wives of T.P.I, ex-servicemen.
I think I have said all that I need to say about this matter. In 1943, I was chairman of a committee appointed by the Curtin Government to inquire into the adequacy of the provisions of the Repatriation Act. I confess that the members of that committee, no doubt because we were in the middle of a war, did not make a recommendation for a higher rate of war pension, as they would surely have done if the committee had operated during time of peace. I hope that this Government, or any other government assessing pension rates, will do the right thing and make the basis of assessment at least the rate operating in 1939. although the rate then was not as high as it should have been, considering that all sorts of amenities are available to-day that were not available then.
There should be an increase in pensions all round, and that increase should be very substantially in excess of the increase provided by this measure or by any other measure that this Government has introduced, or, indeed, by any other measure introduced by the Labour government in a most trying war-time period. At least the Labour government had some excuse for not increasing pension rates when the country was threatened by invasion and devastation. This Government has had the benefit of ten years of the best seasons that have ever been bestowed on this country. It has had the advantages of advances in science and the application of machinery to industry. Our wealth and our capacity to produce wealth have increased out of sight as compared with 1939.
– As a rule, you say that we are bankrupt.
– I do not say that we are bankrupt. The honorable member who interjects has always been bankrupt of ideas. He will never improve; there is no hope for him and I am sorry for him. He knows that I have never said the country is bankrupt. If it is bankrupt of anything, it is bankrupt of the capacity to extract from those who can well afford to pay, sufficient to pass over to those in this community whose needs are the greatest.
– in reply. - The speech we heard to-night from the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) was such a calm, factual, and reasoned speech, that it is not necessary for me to say very much. Considering the fact that the Labour party is going to vote for the bill, I think we can discount considerably most of what its members have just been declaiming with such heat. There are just one or two things that I should like to say. First, I want to correct the impression that someone who is not conversant with the facts of the situation might easily gain from the speech of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and from other speeches; that is, that a man in receipt of a 100 per cent war pension is therefore incapacitated from work. Of course, he is nothing of the sort. It is the totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner who is incapacitated from work. A great many 100 per cent pensioners are in receipt of at least the basic wage in addition to their pension and, as I say, those who are unable to work get the T.P.I. pension. Receipt of a 100 per cent pension does not mean that a man is incapacitated from work.
Just let me also correct this rather extraordinary idea that only a very few T.P.T. pensioners will get the 10s. increase. In fact, 75 per cent of them will get it. The slightest increase in the general pension rate will mean that the remainder will automatically get it. It is just as well to have these things straight.
The honorable member for Lalor quoted amendments to the act. Hequoted proposed section 98A, when he was talking about the 10s. a week additional assistance. He might as well have gone on to quote proposed sub-section (7.), which reads -
For the purposes of this section, the Commission may treat a service pensioner as being entirely dependant upon his service pension if that pensioner is dependant upon his service pension to such an extent that the commission considers it just so to do.
That means that the commission need not interpret the section very strictly and may extend it further.
I want to say only one other thing. The honorable member for Lalor quoted what I said in the second-reading speech. He forbore to quote the whole of it, and forbore to point out that the married T.P.I. pension” and his wife who have no other means and are able to get the service pension are getting at least £15 15s a week, and while all sorts of comparisons may be made with conditions in 1939, with the basic wage, and with this and that and the other, the plain fact remains and is apparent to every one in this House and in the country, that the repatriation pensioner is infinitely better off now than ever he was before.
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.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed (vide page 1640).
Dr. EVATT (Barton - Leader of the
Opposition) [10.1]. - The Opposition accepts and supports this measure. It is an unusual measure because, owing to the illness of the justice of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, Mr. Justice Simpson, it is necessary to take special steps to obtain a judicial officer to act for him during his illness. I should like to say how much we hope that he will recover quickly from his illness.
The steps being taken by the Government are unusual but, however, necessary. Under the Constitution, for a federal judiciary such as exists in the Territory, the judicial officer must be appointed for life, or for a period without any term. The proposal in this bill is to make eligible for appointment to that position other federal judges at present occupying other judicial positions in the Commonwealth service. That seems to be a convenient arrangement. I do not think it is intended by that provisional arrangement to do away with the obvious necessity of keeping the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, which covers civil law, equity and all Commonwealth statutes, distinct from the jurisdiction of the industrial commissioners who, of course, occupy judicial positions as well.
In the circumstances, the Opposition feels that a temporary solution has been found, but that a permanent solution will have to be on a different basis.
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 24th September (vide page 1563), on motion by Mr. Osborne -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition offers no objection to the passage of this bill as a measure to continue the bounty on the manufacture of cellulose, pending a report from the Tariff Board. In principle, the Opposition prefers a tariff to the payment of a bounty for the protection of Australian industries. But as the Government has indicated that a report from the Tariff Board can be expected at some future time, which we hope will be in the approximate future, there will be a chance, early in the new Parliament, we hope, for a discussion of the board’s report.
I hope that the Government will not hold up the report, or that it will do what it has done on a few occasions recently - send the report back for further consideration. If the board does recommend a tariff we hope that the Government will give effect to its report. Speaking of dates, we think that the Government has a date with destiny on 22nd November next.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 24th September (vide page 1564), on motion by Mr. Osborne -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition offers no objection to the passage of this bill. However, it is in a somewhat different category from the Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty Bill. We have had this measure before the Parliament on a number of occasions. The amount of bounty paid by the Government has risen from £55,035 in 1956, to £467,088 in 1958. Therefore, it seems to us that it is time the Government made up its mind as to whether it ought to have a tariff on tractors instead of helping to maintain the industry with a subsidy in the form of a bounty.
It is interesting to note that only recently the International Harvester Company of Australia Proprietary Limited has applied for a bounty under the provisions of this act. I have always regarded that company’s enterprise in Australia as being particularly efficient. I have always thought of it, in contrast to some Australian concerns, as an enterprise which does its manufacturing in an engineering shop as compared with the Australian interests doing theirs, as it were, in a blacksmith’s shop. This company has brought to Australia a high degree of efficiency and the know-how which we are always so anxious to obtain from Great Britain and the United States of America. Part of the bounty is being paid to Chamberlain Industries Proprietary Limited in Western Australia. Whether that enterprise can continue to manufacture successfully in a part of Australia so remote from the great centres of manufacture and commerce is a moot point. Perhaps it could manufacture oil machinery for the great plants that we hope to see some day in. Western Australia when oil is discovered there.
Chamberlain Industries does present a problem to the Government, and the enterprise generally poses a problem in the workings of our economy, but I should like to see it continue. I should not like to see it go to the wall. I do not want to see any enterprise in Western Australia, Queensland or any other of the far-flung parts of this great Commonwealth fail. I hope that if the Tariff Board does report favorably on the matter of a tariff to protect this -industry, the Government will not hesitate to institute that tariff. Up to date the board has not reported in favour of a tariff, but in the light of the increasing expenditures by way of bounty - and they have multiplied by two and a half times over the last few years - it would be a good thing if we did have a tariff for the industry. Then those industries that cannot exist under a fair tariff will just have to fade out of existence. We should not be maintaining any hot house plant industries in Australia. Every industry which gets the benefit of tariff protection ought to be able to survive under that protection. If if cannot survive the Australian people should not be required to pay, by way of taxation, a subsidy to maintain it in existence. I think that that is a fair proposition to put to the Government and to the Tariff Board, and I hope it will not be long before the Tariff Board reports on this matter. We offer no objection to the passage of the legislation.
.- I wish to say a few words on this measure. I still feel that the main enterprise that should be, and was intended to be, helped by this tractor bounty in recent years - Chamberlain Industries Proprietary Limited of Western Australia - is still suffering from disabilities due to the paucity of the bounty and certain other aspects of the bounty. I point out that this bounty was first given for the protection of tractor manufacturers in Australia away back in 1922, although it was given under another name then. The legislation was the Iron and Steel Products Bounties Act, which was designed to encourage the production of Australian tractors without imposing any direct cost or burden on the users, most of whom were farmers. In 1938 the legislation became known as the Tractor Bounty Act, and has since continued under that title.
The Minister said yesterday -
Bounty payments during the years ended 30th June, 1956, 1957 and 1958 were £55,035, £158,303 and £467,088 respectively, and the bounty claimants have been Howard Auto Cultivators Limited-
I had not heard of that group before -
Chamberlain Industries Proprietary Limited and International Harvester Company of Australia Proprietary Limited.
The Minister went on to say -
The first claim from the International Harvester Company concerned production during the year ended 30th June, 1957.
So we are really getting to the stage when the Government should consider what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has been stressing over the last two or three years, which is that tariff protection should be given to this industry rather than continue messing around with a yearly bounty measure which leaves the industry in ignorance of what is going to happen from year to year. The present procedure means that the management of this wonderful Western Australian factory, which deserves every assistance that the Government can give it, does not really know what is going to happen from year to year. That uncertainty means that the industry cannot plan with any confidence any future makes of tractors. I strongly support the Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s suggestion to the Government that when the matter comes up for review next year a tariff for the protection of the industry be considered.
The bill we are now considering fails to provide any increase in the bounty on the production of tractors, particularly by Chamberlain Industries. Any tractor of over 70 horse-power which that company builds is not covered by the bounty. The Chamberlain people will get £240 for each tractor they build up to 70 horse-power; but this company has produced a larger make of tractor, of over 70 horse-power, in recent years. Admittedly it produced only 100 of them in the first year. The Tariff Board rejected the company’s application for protection in relation to that make of tractor because so few of them had been built. But how can the company expect to increase its production of large tractors without the promise of bounty support? It is not prepared to lay out extra capital for the building of bigger tractors when it knows that it will not receive bounty assistance in respect of the manufacture of those tractors. We believe that the bounty system should be adjusted so as to provide assistance to companies that want to build larger tractors.
The next thing I want to mention is that no attempt is made in the bill to give tariff protection to this courageous Australian industry, which is at present employing about 800 men in Western Australia.
– Do you suggest that that should be done before the Tariff Board’s report is issued?
– No. I mention it now because we will not have a chance to raise this point until next year. In the meantime the board’s report will no doubt be issued.
– You are not suggesting that the bounty should be increased before the report is received?
– No. I am just saying that we will not have a chance to debate the report until next year, and certain things may happen in the meantime. It is good that you should know our policy on this particular matter. The Tariff Board’s report, unfortunately, is not before us during the debate on this bill, so we are in a field of uncertainty, as it were. However, that is the view of the Opposition on the matter.
I should like to say in conclusion that the Chamberlain company in Western Australia is one of the finest manufacturers that we have in Australia. It had a terrifically difficult time in its early days in competition with the great international combines. We on this side of the House condemn the growth, throughout the world, of cartelism and the growth of combines whose tentacles already are firmly gripping Australia. We feel that an industry which is almost 100 per cent. Australian - this particular industry imports English engines for the bigger make of tractors that it is now building, but it is more than 90 per cent. Australian - should get all the encouragement possible.
– Especially with our international trade position as it is.
– Yes, indeed! We are exporting tractors to Pakistan, India and Ceylon under the Colombo Plan. Our own Australian industry should have protection beyond that given to these cartels and combines that have their tentacles in Australia. The International Harvester Company of Australia Proprietary Limited shared in this bounty last year. That is fantastic. One would never think that a great industry like this would need a bounty. This bounty is meant to enencourage the development of struggling Australian industries. It will be realized from the very name of the International Harvester company that it is an international combine.’ It has done a great job for the farming industry. My father was wheat farming for 30 years in Victoria and I was with him and we know the variety of production of this great company. But we did not anticipate that this big company would ever be given a bounty.
The quality of Chamberlain tractors is indicated by the fact that their sales are extending throughout Australia. There is a good market in Queensland for these tractors, of which there are four different types. In Tasmania, we are already witnessing the great advantages of the technical skill of the Chamberlain people. Their tractor has been recommended to the Tasmanian farmer by the Tasmanian Farmers Federation, which has 8,000 members. It is the only tractor that they have recommended to farmers in Tasmania. It is a great credit to the Chamberlain organization that its Australian product is gaining ground so fast among the primary producers. On this side of the House we are 100 per cent, behind them as an Australian industry as opposed to an international combine such as the International Harvester company which, with the help that it receives from overseas, should be able to stand firmly on its own feet.
.- I have listened with great interest to the speeches of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) on this subject. They both said that the Australian tractor industry, fostered by the bounty, has been built up tremendously and that it is a great asset to Australia. Of course, I agree with that. But they also said that the time has come when the bounty should be discontinued and that a tariff should take its place. It is good to know the policy of the Labour party on this subject. With the bounty being paid for the Australian product, it can be sold at a more reasonable price. The bounty helps to keep the price down to the people who require tractors. They include a tremendous number of people who produce primary products. They are contributing to the wealth of the country and the Government has that fact in view in bringing this bill before the House.
The Labour party’s view, as put forward by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Wilmot, is that we should do away with the bounty and put a tariff in its place. Without the assistance of the bounty, it would be difficult for locally-produced tractors to compete with those which are imported. If the bounty were abolished and a tariff wall put up against imports the Australian product would go up in price because it would not have the bounty to assist its economic production. Also, competition from overseas products would diminish, because the imported tractor would be dearer.
Therefore, it is very good that Labour should state its case. As a member of a party that fosters primary production, I believe that the cost of tractors and other such equipment is too high. The price to-day is related to the year of highest income for the primary producer, 1951. Instead of increasing the price of tractors, we want to bring their price down. I think that every one should take notice of what has been said by those two members of the Labour party. It should be of great interest to those who are concerned with the economy of this country. I support this bill wholeheartedly. I view with dismay what would happen if Labour, by some miscarriage of justice, got on to the treasury bench and used the ideas concerning tariff that have been put forward, even in a mild way, by two members of the Labour party to-night.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 23rd September (vide page 1485), on motion by Mr. Townley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill deals with a matter which certainly requires action by the Parliament. It deals with the question of whether a member of the Public Service should be eligible to retain his rights on appointment as a member of the Joint Coal Board. In respect of that proposal, the Opposition offers no objection.
But this is a bill to amend the Coal Industry Act itself. Therefore, one question which arises is the performance of the functions specified by that act in relation to the coal industry. It seems to me that Parliament’s attention should be given to the present position in the coal industry in the light of the Coal Industry Act. It seems to me, without any exaggeration, to be a position of great seriousness. As a result of a dramatic increase in the production of coal, the position of the industry is one of great instability from the point of view of employment. Having said that, all I need add is that, in the industry in New South Wales, there has been a series of dismissals of employees amounting to well over 1,000. One could give the details of the mines affected. The result has been grave dislocation in many of the more important mining towns, especially in the South Maitland district.
The anomaly is this: The adoption of mechanization in the industry on a systematic scale has been successful in the physical job of getting the coal. At the same time, the increased output per man, because of mechanization, has resulted in the dismissal of this great number of employees, causing hardship to them. Their conditions and those of their families have become, and will remain, almost impossible until the situation is remedied. Over the last six or seven years, during which mechanization has occurred and concessions have been given by the Government to the coal owners, the mining.companies in New South ‘
Wales have made exceedingly large profits out of the change - certainly the greatest profits in their history. So we have the mine owners making great profits, production increasing and men being put off. The whole problem of mechanization has thereby been brought to the attention of the Parliament through the suffering of the coal-miners.
This is an example of the evil effects that can come from unplanned mechanization. I want to make an appeal to the Joint Coal Board and, of course, to the Commonwealth Government which is affected directly and to the New South Wales Government which is affected indirectly. 1 ask that the Commonwealth and State Governments should introduce joint legislation to provide that there must be careful examination of the position before mechanization can be introduced into industry, so as to secure employment for the employees, to prevent them from being disemployed through mechanization and, finally, to ensure that there is provision for their continuation in employment. All that can be done with planning.
In the coal industry, the changeover was not planned1. We had an extraordinary situation in which men had been employed in some of the mines for many years and then were dismissed on a week’s notice. It is said that they could get jobs somewhere else, but it is seldom possible to do that in fact. One of the great problems of the industry to-day is to see that action is taken to restore the employment situation. I do not propose to give figures in detail because attention has been directed to this matter on a number of occasions, but I wish to turn to the Coal Industry Act to show the duties that are imposed under that statute. The Joint Coal Board was appointed by the authority of the Commonwealth and State Governments, and section 14 of the act declares the powers of the board and its functions. That section states - (1.) The powers and functions of the Board are to include the taking of such action as, in the opinion of the Board, is necessary or desirable -
State in such quantities and with such regularity as will meet requirements throughout Australia and in trade with other countries;
State are conserved, developed, worked and. used .to .the best advantage in the public interest;
I emphasize now paragraph (d) of this subsection which gives this further function - to promote the welfare of workers engaged in the coal industry in the State.
So, the safeguarding of the welfare of workers in the coal industry is not merely a power but is really something approximating a statutory duty cast upon the board.
Sub-section (2.) of section 14 empowers the board to make arrangements not only for the efficient and economic use of coal and the development of uses or markets for coal but also the recovery of byproducts. It is quite obvious that in some of these areas, and in towns like Kurri Kurri, Abermain and Cessnock, arrangements should have been made for the use of the by-products of coal by establishing other industries in those and similar areas. Most of those towns are dependent on one industry alone. It has been very well known that there has been an expectation that other industries would be established and would be dependent upon the utilization of coal to obtain by-products in which the coal is very rich. Recently, an officer of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization discovered that the coal in the northern seam is very rich in by-products. Industries of that character could be built in New South Wales because that richness of by-products applies not only to the northern fields, but also to the whole of the State.
Power is also granted under the act to the board to deal with profits in the coal industry, and this tells the story in an indirect way. Under paragraph (j) of subsection (2.) the board has power with respect to - collaboration with other persons and authorities in the establishment and provision of amenities and of health, education, recreational, housing and other facilities for the communities of persons in coal mining districts. . . .
Stopping there, I must make this tribute to the board for the amenities in many of the towns, which the Joint Coal Board has’ either provided or helped to provide. In some cases they have been outstanding. The board has made provision for the welfare of the workers and their families. The towns are often centres of education, but the irony of it is that when the mines on which the towns are dependent close down everything is threatened. It is no use having these facilities if a miner is told, “ You will have to go and work at the other end of the State to stay in the coal industry “.
In some of these towns there are outstanding high schools and technical schools. Many miners, looking forward to their children having proper education with every facility, have planned to become the owners of their homes and to educate their children there. All those plans are disrupted by the dislocation caused by wholesale dismissals. In many cases, the dismissals are not gradual. Numbers of men are dismissed from the mines. My point is that when there are big changes such as mechanization, which is important for the increase of production, you must plan well in advance so that the effect will be cushioned.
Let me give one other illustration of what is happening. I do not want to elaborate too much. One of the features of the administration of this act by Mr. Chifley and his Government was the use of the opencut method of winning coal. That was very important at that time when production was such a vital matter in a period when every ton of coal had to be obtained, and opencut mining was possible. But that method has gradually been dropped. Attention has been drawn to mechanization in the deepmining coal pits, and the whole system intended by the Coal Industry Act has been threatened in this way. The Joint Coal Board has done a splendid job. It has had government assistance in providing amenities. To some extent, housing has been helped, but it is no good having housing for persons engaged in coal-mining districts when those communities are broken and shattered, as they tend to be, unless action is taken. The act contemplates town and regional planning. The key paragraph of sub-section (2.) of section 14 is this - the regulation of employment in and recruitment to the coal industry, including the control of the manning of mines and the promotion of stability of employment;
So, in a sense the doctrine of full employment is implicit in this section of the Coal
Industry Act which was passed by the parliaments of the Commonwealth and New South Wales. Somehow that has to be restored. I do not see why it is not possible with mechanization to increase production. There are markets for coal to be found overseas. Already a great deal of success has attended efforts made in this direction, but there is no reason why those efforts should not continue. Stability of employment is the key, of course, from the point of view of the attainment of the objectives contemplated by the Coal Industry Act.
A further provision in this act indicates that the policy contemplated is a policy of full employment. That very phrase is used in section 18 of the act. It says that the board shall, as required by the Prime Minister or the Premier, furnish reports, with respect to, amongst other things, programmes of proposed reorganization involving substantial outlay of capital, and with respect to proposals affected by and affecting matters of national policy, including defence. Obviously there is a defence value in the production of coal, as was shown so clearly during the war. The section then refers to full employment, and obviously it means full employment in this particular industry. Then it refers to price stabilization.
Those are the main provisions of the act which the officer to be appointed under this present bill will be assisting to administer as a member of the Joint Coal Board. I have told the House of the position of the industry at present. It is a very serious and dangerous position. It has caused intense anxiety and suffering, especially among people employed in or closely connected with the mines to which I have referred. There have been wholesale dismissals, and injury has been done not merely to the mining industry, but also to the various districts or towns which depend to a great extent on the coal-mining industry. Much harm has been done in these districts. The various amenities that have been built up over the years have been placed in jeopardy. The schools and other public services that have been provided by the State government at great expense are affected. We must not forget that the education of the children will be interfered with if the miners have to leave the districts in which they have lived and worked for so long.
It seems to me that a plan must be devised to meet this situation, so that production may be kept at the maximum. We must have full employment of the miners; in fact, the act practically states that this is to be the rule. It does not say so in express terms, but that is the strong and clear implication of its provisions.
Finally, let me say that in an industry such as this the profits should be reasonable, but the report of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and of the mining unions shows clearly that since 1951 and 1952, when the price of coal, was increased and tax concessions were made available in various forms, the profits have increased enormously. It is perfectly true that dividends are limited to 10 per cent., but this does not mean that profits have been limited to that extent. The profits have far exceeded an amount sufficient to pay the 10 peT cent, dividend. No one can object to reasonable profits being made in any industry, but any person is entitled to object to excessive profits and profiteering. We have the tragic situation that, with excessive profits being made, and with record levels of production - caused by the work of the employees, assisted enormously, of course, by mechanization - dismissals are threatening great numbers of men. Not only are they being threatened, but the threats are being carried out.
I am very pleased that this problem is to be looked at again by the Commonwealth Government. Speaking for the Opposition and for my colleagues on this side of the House, I sincerely ask for a new approach to the problem. I suggest that the Government should not go blindly along the road to mechanization without preparation, and without maintaining security of employment. There is a claim pending at the moment by the coal miners’ union for shorter working hours.
– And the claim is valid.
– Yes, I think it is in this particular case. My colleagues, the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) and the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), have been very deeply concerned with this matter, and in the Maitland district and the northern coal-fields my col league the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has become conversant with the problems that exist. I hope that the appointment of the new member of the Joint Coal Board will be the occasion for a review of the work of the board. In many respects, as I have said, it has done a good job, but I think that in regard to major matters it has been directed by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). His philosophy on such matters as this was stated quite frankly in the Senate when the late Senator Ashley was asking him about the proposed sale of one of the mines owned by the Joint Coal Board. The Minister was requested not to consent to the sale of a mine owned by the board, or by the State - a mine which was successful, maintaining high production and making reasonable profits. The Minister then said, “ But that is the very occasion when we should sell “. The effect of his statement was that the Government should go ahead, develop a mine and, when it is going well and everything looks profitable for the future, get rid of it. That is his theory and philosophy.
– And the miners understand that that is the Minister’s point of view.
– The miners naturally resent that. It seemed to me a particularly brutal approach to the question. I suggest that the whole matter needs reconsideration by the Government. I hope that the board, to which this bill will enable the appointment of a further member, will look at the matter and make a strong report to the Government to this effect - “Yes, mechanization is here; it is no use resisting the contention that mechanization and automation will make labour easier and increase production, but at the same time we should plan for the situation that will follow the introduction of mechanization “. The greatest tragedy in an industry such as this, and, indeed, in all industries, is that of unemployment. Unemployment can be avoided by carefully planning ahead. In the case qf this particular industry it is obvious, from the widespread unemployment existing, particularly in some of the areas that I have mentioned, that there has not been sufficient planning. The matter can be remedied, and even at this stage the effects of unemployment can be mitigated to a very great extent.
– The bill before the House is a very short and simple one. Its sole purpose is to preserve the rights of a member of the Public Service who has been appointed to the Joint Coal Board. That is the beginning and end of it. All sections of the House approve the terms of the bill, as has been indicated by the Opposition. But the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has taken the opportunity afforded by the presentation of this very minor and virtually administrative measure to make a survey of the current coal situation. In the course of that survey he has not merely made a plea - as he is, of course, entitled to do, and as he is to be commended for doing - for the coal miners of New South Wales; he has also tainted that plea with some very strong language used in relation to my colleague, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who is the Minister directly concerned with the problem of the coal industry. I feel, Mr. Speaker, that it is desirable in the circumstances to say something, not only of the current situation, but also of the manner in which this Government has faced up to the problems of the coal industry, of the way in which it has collaborated with the Government of New South Wales, which is the principal coal-producing State, of our present activities, and of what we are prepared to do in the future.
Let us take a short, quick look back at this industry as we found it when we took office. When “this Government came to office at the end of 1949, the state of the coal industry was a disgrace to Australia. There was not only irregularity of production, but also an incidence of industrial trouble, which has continued to the present time, out of all proportion to the incidence of industrial trouble in other sections of Australian industry. There was inefficiency in production and the output per man was low. Coal was losing customers because supplies were irregular, the quality of the coal produced was not consistent, and coal was not able to compete with alternative fuels which industry was able to use. Industrial users turned to those alternatives. State governments were being forced, although they would have been very happy, if they could have been assured of regular supplies, to go on using good quality New South Wales coal, to turn to alternative coal supplies produced by less economic production methods within their own borders. So, in South Australia, in Victoria, in Western Australia and in other parts of the Commonwealth, local coal production increased and. as I say, alternative fuels were used.
In that situation we found that, in order to get some stability and to enable us to go forward with a really constructive programme in regard to coal, we had to take positive measures in relation to the coal industry inside Australia, and we had actually to buy coal from countries outside Australia. We had to build up a stockpile of coal at grass so that the customer, the industrial user, could feel some confidence about regularity of supplies in the future.
The right honorable gentleman has asked for a new approach to the problems of the coal industry. I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that no industry in Australia has received more attention and consideration from governments, irrespective of their brand of politics, than has the coal industry. The Joint Coal Board itself was the creation of the governments of New South Wales and of the Commonwealth years ago. It has continued to function on behalf of those governments ever since. The fact that there has been, as a result of re-organization inside the coal industry, some displacement of labour, is not denied. There has been a substantial displacement of labour. My own department, this Government generally, my colleague, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), and the Government of New South Wales, all have given active attention to the problems which have been raised as a result of that re-organization. It is only because of the re-organization which has taken place inside the coal industry of New South Wales and the greatly increased mechanization which has occurred, that we can look forward to-day to a healthy future for coal, to an established and permanent place for coal in the economy of this country, and to the prospect that the industry will have scope for expansion as Australia develops.
Nothing that I shall be saying in the minutes during which I address myself to this matter to-night should be taken as expressing any lack of sympathy for the coalminer and his family. 1 say that quite deliberately and very emphatically. I have given as much thought and attention to their problems as any man sitting on the other side of this House, over the nine years that I have been a member of this Government-
– That is not enough.
– And long before that, when I was first a Minister, away back in 1940, when we first set up a Department of Labour and National Service. We were giving attention to the problems of the coal industry in those days. I go on public record as saying that the individual coal-miner is a very fine type of industrial worker. I say that he more than holds his own, as an individual, for character and capacity, with any counterpart in any other section of Australia’s industrial fabric. I make that point because I know how our remarks in this place can be twisted and misrepresented when we are not present to correct what is said against us.
But having said that, Sir, 1 go on to say that much of the criticism of the right honorable gentleman is, as he knows only too well, unfortunately attributable to the unhappy state of industrial relations which has persisted in this industry through so many years. He makes no progress in this matter by attacking the managements, which have had the enterprise, the hardiness and the courage to go on with their investment in coal during years when it looked to be a most unprofitable and unrewarding enterprise. I say that the coal industry owes a very great debt to its present leader, Mr. Ted Warren, a man for whom I have a great admiration, who has done more than any other individual to pull coal out of the doldrums in which it has found itself.
The right honorable gentleman says that this movement should be a planned movement, that if mechanization is to come in, there should be a planned arrangement in relation to the displacement of employment which occurs as a result. I think, in the circumstances, that it is appropriate to quote what Mr. Warren has said on this matter within the last few days.
– Who is he?
- Mr. Warren is president of a group of owners in the coal industry, the Colliery Proprietors Association. He is general manager of J. & A.
Brown and Abermain Seaham Collieries Limited. He is happy to enjoy the confidence of a number of electors in New South Wales and is a member of the Legislative Council. I do not think there will be many men on the other side of the House, with any knowledge of the coal industry, who will want to attack Mr. Ted Warren and what he has done for this industry. I have found, in my own departmental discussions with him, that he has had every consideration for the people in his employment and in the coal industry generally. But he made certain points, in a letter published in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ on 15th September last, after criticism had been directed against the shortness of notice in respect, of the latest displacement of labour at one of the coal mines in New South Wales.
– One week!
– Yes, one week. Mr. Warren referred, in the first instance, to experience in respect of the Wallarah colliery, which is well known to the honorable gentleman who has just interjected. In order to ease the problems of its employees at Wallarah, the company gave twelve months’ notice of a cavil. In consideration of the interests of employees who were likely to be cavilled out, the company gave them twelve months’ notice. Surely no one will suggest that that was an unreasonable period of time. Mr. Warren stated in the letter to which I have referred -
The employees at that mine appeared to do everything possible to prevent progress in the re-organization, including stay-in strikes, restriction of output, and so on. The capital cost of the re-organization was thereby increased by many thousands of pounds and trade was lost which still has not been recaptured. There is always an epidemic of sickness whenever a cavil out occurs, and Abermain No. 2-
One of the latest instances - is no exception. On Thursday last, before the announcement of the proposed closure, there were 25 men absent for various reasons. On Friday there were 49 men absent, and for the four days of this week the absentees have ranged from 96 to 104. This is almost one-third of the mine complement. There is little doubt that most of these men will present “ Certificates “ of sickness so that the employer will be obliged to pay their wages without, of course, any corresponding production. A month ago a serious heat occurred at Abermain No. 2-
This is the mine about which I am speaking - (No. 4 panel, 2 west district) and the lodge flatly refused to provide labour for emergency operations. The sealing off work that was necessary was carried out by members of the staff of Abermain No. 2 and staff drawn from other mines. The Miners’ Federation was apparently prepared to abandon the mine.
Colliery proprietors, in common with other employers, do everything possible to avoid dismissal of employees and the loss of business such action usually connotes. I am sure you will agree, however, that each case must be considered according to its own circumstances. 1 mention that fact because it is, unhappily, the case that what could have been a much more orderly re-organization of this coal industry-
– You are taking only one illustration.
– One illustration, but it is typical, and the right honorable gentleman knows it. I will give him one or two more illustrations, if he invites me to do so.
I was making the point that, although there has been all the goodwill in the world forthcoming from the government concerned, re-organization in this industry could have been much more orderly and satisfactory, if there had been a greater spirit of co-operation and team work between the representatives of this Communistcontrolled Miners Federation and management in the industry. The fact is, as I explained in a document 1 have circulated to all honorable members, that last year, the loss of working time in the coal industry through industrial disputes, although it is going through these admittedly difficult times, was 80 times the Australian average in other sections of industry. Does that suggest much concern on the part of the Miners Federation for the welfare of people whose future is being affected as a result of this process and who indeed have a great battle to sustain the coal industry against the competition of other fuels? Even in this year, when the position according to the right honorable gentleman has been accentuated, we find that in the six months up to June, 1958. with a total loss throughout Australia of 268,000 working days, in round figures, through industrial disputes, 117,000 were lost in the coalmining industry. That is about 40 per cent, of the total working time lost through industrial disputes, although the work force in the New South Wales coal industry represents less than 1 per cent, of the total Australian work force.
These things are said more in sorrow than in anger. I repeat that the coal-miner is a fine type, judging by what I have seen of him. But those who are now in control of his destinies, industrially, with this long heritage of industrial bitterness, have not been prepared to collaborate to see that there is the most effective and satisfactory re-organization of this industry. Despite these handicaps, the Commonwealth Government and the New South Wales Government have done what they could to produce better results.
I myself presided over the first meeting of a committee, representative of the Commonwealth Government and the New South Wales Government and including representatives of the Joint Coal Board, and the various managements and unions concerned in the industry. That committee has functioned ever since, with my colleague the Minister for National Development, who was also with me at the original meeting, representing the Commonwealth Government. In addition, we have had an employment committee established in the area. Again, this committee has been representative of the various interests concerned. It has functioned with great conscientiousness and with, I believe, remarkably good results. That does not say that there are not people still seeking work as a consequence of these displacements, but their number in relation to the total problem is relatively small. Those seeking work are being absorbed steadily as the economy is able to take them in. In Newcastle, in the south coast area of New South Wales, and in surrounding districts, that process has been going on.
As a consequence of this process of organization, it is true, as the right honorable gentleman conceded, that output per man has increased very substantially. Coal is once more becoming competitive with other fuels, particularly with fuel oils. Once more, instead of having to import coal, as was the situation when this Government first took office, we are now exporting coal to various parts of the world. In contrast with the import policy that we found necessary in the early stages, we are at present exporting coal at an annual rate of 900,000 tons.
– That must be pursued.
– The right honorable gentleman says that that must be pursued. Of course it is being pursued by the Joint Coal Board and by the managements concerned. They want to sell their coal outside this country as well as inside it. As a consequence, there was a record coal production in the last full year, 1957-58, of 15,640,000 tons. However, if the figures are analysed closely, it will be found that, whilst there has been a very significant increase in man-hour output where mechanization has occurred, in those mines where coal production is still on a manual basis, the output per man-shift has hardly moved at all - certainly not significantly. So, there has been no great response by the individual manual worker to the severity of the crisis, as it is described inside the industry.
I pass now to the current situation. The Government is still in active consultation with the various instrumentalities that I have mentioned. Only this week, we have had a communication from the Premier of New South Wales in which he has intimated that some £275,000 will be made available for a works programme in the area, and he has asked for some Commonwealth supplement to that amount. I have no doubt that his request will receive the speedy consideration of the Government, but I think it is worth pointing out in passing that the Government has already in its loan works allocation this year greatly increased the amounts available to the States, including New South Wales. This applies not only to loan account but also to the amount being provided for general governmental purposes.
If the crisis is of the magnitude described by the right honorable gentleman, he might very well take up with his colleague, the Premier of New South Wales, the question of priorities, particularly as the Premier of New South Wales can set aside at least £1,500,000 in this year’s Budget to extend annual leave from two to three weeks for his employees and to introduce the principle of equal pay for male and female employees. Arguments for and against these proposals can be advanced, but this is not the place to canvass them. However, if there is a crisis in the coal industry of New South Wales, with coal-miners unable to find proper, opportunities for work, how can the Premier of that State afford the luxury of an additional expenditure of £1,500,000 on these matters? The money could be devoted to other purposes recommended by the right honorable gentleman. In addition, of course, this is the one State persisting with quarterly adjustments of the basic wage in respect of governmental employees, and that is adding very materially to the Budget problems of New South Wales. I think that is fair comment when we are urged by the right honorable gentleman to do a good deal more than is already being done in respect of this industry.
One of the constructive proposals which have come out of the discussions is for greatly improved transport between Cessnock, the town hardest hit by the displacement of labour in the coal-fields, and Newcastle. Newcastle is a thriving, expanding industrial area. Cessnock could be a dormitory town for the expanding industries of Newcastle, provided that the time of transport of the worker from Cessnock to Newcastle could be substantially shortened. I was reading only this week in “ Common Cause”, the official publication of the miners’ federation, a statement, attributed to one of the commentators, that it now takes li to 2 hours to get from Cessnock to Newcastle, but that with good roads, good rail and bus transport, the time could be considerably shortened. In fact, my department has been looking into the practicability of shortening the time of travel between the two places. I suggest to the right honorable gentleman that this is one of the matters he might very well discuss, in his new capacity as the prospective member for Hunter, with his colleague, the Premier of New South Wales. Roads, rail services and bus transport come directly within the province of the State Government, and I hope that something practical and useful can be done along these lines.
– Say something constructive.
– That is something constructive, as the honorable gentleman would know if he had the capacity to understand these things.
I should like to refer to two other matters which arise out of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, and which call for some comment. He referred to excessive profits in the industry and apparently suggested that they were a factor in causing the dismissals. Any one who has studied the economic history of the coal-mining industry knows that for a long period the returns have been what any normal investor would regard as highly unsatisfactory. Does the Leader of the Opposition think that if even nominal profits could continue to be earned the coal owners would be shutting down mines that could earn such profits? No one likes to shut down an enterprise that, with some improvement in demand, would be capable of making greater profits. If the owners are shutting down mines in the area, it is because the coal produced from those mines is not able to compete - even on the most modest profit basis or on a break-even basis - with coal produced from other mines. It is unhappily a fact that Cessnock coal - that is the district which, I know, the right honorable gentleman is thinking of particularly - is high-cost coal. There is a responsibility, not only on the management, but also on those who have a responsibility to the workers in the industry in Cessnock, to see that the costs of coal production in that district are brought more closely in line with the costs of production in other coal-fields of the State.
Then, the right honorable gentleman spoke in very critical terms of what he called the philosophy, frankly stated, of my colleague the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). I believe that the Minister for Development has had a warm sympathy with the coal-miners in the predicament that has developed in their industry. I know that he has given as much time to this matter as any Minister could reasonably be expected to give. He has talked realistically to all concerned, whether they be representatives of management or representatives of the miners. Does the right honorable gentleman think that he is improving the prospects of successful development in these areas when he frankly expresses his philosophy in relation to this matter? The frankly expressed philosophy of the right honorable gentleman is the nationalization of the coal-mining industry.
I am not raising what I think the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) calls the socialist tiger or the socialist bogy. I do not think the Leader of the Opposition will seek to correct me on this, because I have in front of me an extract from “ Common Cause “, the journal to which I referred a little earlier. It is the official publication of the miners’ federation. The extract comes from the issue of 21st September of last year, a time when the Leader of the Opposition was being canvassed as the likely new member for Hunter and was making a tour of the district in company with officials of the Australian Labour party - who were there to shepherd him along - and officials of the unions concerned. A report in “ Common Cause” refers to this tour. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) was in the company, so he will know whether I am reporting the facts correctly. “ Common Cause “ reported Dr. Evatt as having said, at a meeting preceding a conference attended by his party, members of the Newcastle Trades Hall Council, officials of the. miners’ federation and of other mining unions and area committees -
The coal industry is crying out for nationalization.
The intention to nationalize the coal industry was expressed in formal terms - the other statement was made in the course of a speech at the gathering I have mentioned - in a document entitled “ A Labour Charter of Needs in the Coal Industry “, drawn up in the course of this tour by the right honorable gentleman and unanimously adopted by the conference.
Special significance, I suggest, is to be attached to this declaration on coal nationalization in this charter, when it is read in conjunction with the official printed federal platform of the Australian Labour party. The other night the honorable member for Hindmarsh said that I was not up to date in the platform which I produced. I have taken the precaution tonight, not merely to be up to date, but to have with me in one bound volume, not only the blue-covered issue which he talked about the other night, but the orange, the red, the beige and the grey issues of preceding conferences. In all of them, although there may be some sugar coating of the socialist objective and other items of that sort, the methods by which the socialist objectives are to be given effect have not varied. Under the heading, “ Paragraph 4, Nationalization “, there is a list of items, which I read out the other night. I do not think I need repeat them now. There is a list of the industries which it is the policy of the Labour party, to nationalize. The significant thing is that although the Labour party has there set out in specific terms the industries which will be nationalized, there is no mention of coal, lt is only a short list, so perhaps 1 had better read it. It is as follows: -
That is the list. There is no mention in that list of the nationalization of coal. That is rather significant. The right honorable gentleman made no public reference earlier to the nationalization of coal. He is the leader of the Labour party. He goes on to the coal-fields as the prospective member for Hunter and he adopts, as a policy, the nationalization of coal. Was he speaking for himself, or was he speaking for the Labour party as a whole? That is a very pertinent question.
-Order! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The statement made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) in reply to the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has taken him a long way, but we can see the enormous gap between the thinking of the Government and of the Labour party in regard to the coal mines. No matter how the Government lollies up the pill or pretends to believe that the miner is a good fellow, it obviously believes that he should stew in his own juice, and that what happens to him is the best of all things in the best of all possible worlds. Apologies notwithstanding, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has revealed a callous and extremely inhuman attitude to the miners on several occasions in statements that he has made, particularly in a statement to the late Senator Ashley.
The Minister for Labour and National Service professes suddenly to have fallen in love with the miners, but it is easy to see that he still thinks of them as Communist stooges and saboteurs. He attempted to give us a picture of the position on the coalfields. He talked about one of the lilywhites, one of the stalwarts of the coalminers themselves, and said what a remarkable fellow he was. He paid a public tribute to Mr. Warren, and then read a rather mediocre letter which appeared in the press in which an attempt was made to put all the blame for the sacking of miners on to the miners themselves. They do not want twelve months’ notice that the mine is out. They want jobs. They do not want to leave Cessnock and other towns on the coal-fields and go to live miles away, because their homes, their assets, and their feelings are at Cessnock and those other towns. They are basic workers in this community, and they feel that the Government is not aware of the fact that not only is a great industry perishing, but also great national resources that can never be replaced are perishing. Those resources are irreplaceable, but they are going down the drain because of the present situation.
The Leader of the Opposition rose to direct attention to the pathetic situation on the northern coal-fields of New South Wales, and to the fact that thousands of men were unemployed, that there had been too much dalliance with oil products and that there had been no genuine attempt to put the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization or any other body to work at the right time to conserve our great national resources. Simply because the miners were militant during the war years, they were treated toughly and given special terms which were derogatory, and it is said that whatever happened to them could be blamed upon themselves. There is a sort of middle-class attitude to the miner, and he is looked upon as a terrible man who wants conditions comparable with conditions enjoyed by people in other industries. For that reason, he is anathema to the middle-class, bourgeois minds in the Government. Government supporters say that all the heat should be directed at, and all the hatred should be piled on, the miners, because it is good electoral propaganda for the Government to take that attitude.
What the Leader of the Opposition did was to direct attention to a fact that the Government cannot escape. It is all right to talk about what plans are being made, but these are the irrefutable facts: As the Leader of the Opposition said, output in the mines has increased, we are exporting coal at a good profit, and high profits are being made in most of the coal mines. Yet men are daily being put out of work! Is this not an anomalous situation? Surely it is within the wit of the Government to do something about a situation such as this! The Minister for Labour and National Service talks about providing some relief work in the Cessnock area, and about making that centre a dormitory suburb of Newcastle - but it is 30 or 40 miles from Newcastle. The reason why people go from Cessnock to Newcastle is that they are desperate. They must go somewhere to get jobs, and because their assets, their little homes and their children are there, their whole lives have been spent there, and they are coal-miners, they desperately hang on hoping that the Government will have a change of heart and do something for them.
The Leader of the Opposition directed attention to the work of the Joint Coal Board and to the situation on the coal-fields, which has to be looked at. It is of no use for Government supporters to talk about what Labour intends to do in regard to the future of the mines, or to read extracts about nationalization, and so forth. I suggest that, at the present time, the real problem is to find work for the miners on the northern coal-fields of New South Wales. That is not being done so far. I have travelled up there on many occasions with the Leader of the Opposition, and with my colleague, the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths), and other members who represent coal-fields areas, and we all have seen at first hand the tragedy of a great industry and a great national asset being frittered away because the Government has not planned. The sale of a government-owned mine, after it has been brought to a peak of production by the expenditure of public moneys, is nothing short of scandalous. Yet the Minister for National Development, who is a liquidator in private life, sees nothing wrong with it. We are revolted at the very thought that public moneys have been used to bring a mine to efficiency and to make it ripe for selling to private enterprise. This is extraordinary, but it has happened throughout the coal-fields.
If the Minister for Labour and National Service went to the coal-fields at the present time, what would he see? He would see ghost towns. He would see the imminence of the disappearance of Kurri Kurri, which has been a coal-mining centre ever since coal was first mined on the, northern coal- fields of New South Wales. That town is in the process of disintegrating and disappearing. The mines that supported it are now closed down - cavilled out! There are high schools, clinics, olympic swimming pools and many other amenities with no one to use them, and they are a ghostly memorial to the futile efforts of the Government. Unless a Labour government, understanding the situation, can take over and do something, Kurri Kurri will become a ghost town. Cessnock is in a similar process of disintegration. Many of its workers travel to Newcastle and back each day. The journey is boring, long and tiring, and these unfortunate workers have no feeling of security. They have taken this step only because it is a dire necessity for them to get work.
We on this side of the House have argued in relation to this matter, not only now, but on many occasions previously, that there should have been some planning. If coal was to be a drug on the market, and if the coal industry had to go through the doldrums, preparations should have been made, as has been done with respect to so many other industries, and the payment of subsidies and other measures should have been adopted in order to support the industry until it could get on its feet again. But there is a peculiar kind of hatred reserved for the coal industry. It must for ever stew in its own juice. If it cannot stand on its own feet it must go down, because, for the present, this Government is in love with the oil interests. In so many industries, oil has been used without a full and proper investigation into the use of coal.
The Leader of the Opposition makes a valid claim when he says that the Government is not doing anything to rehabilitate a great industry and a great national asset unless it provides for the miners’ children some other kind of work in the mining communities. What has been done? Nothing! As a matter of fact, it has been said by the Minister for National Development, who is charged with the duty to do whatever should be done, or by some of his bureaucratic stooges, “ What is the good of establishing industries on the coal-fields? They are turbulent areas. The sons and daughters of the miners are likely to go out on strike. You can get better production at Bankstown, Burwood, or somewhere else.” What a shocking statement, and what a complete disregard of the urgent requirements of the coal-fields community! In any country, and in any circumstances, the whole of the community sows what it reaps. If there has been turbulence on the waterfront, it is because of the tyranny of the bosses on the waterfront, and if there has been turbulence on the coal-fields it is because of the treatment that has been meted out to the men who go down into the bowels of the earth to win the coal that has been so precious to us in the past, and will be precious to us in the future. The Australian coal-miner has been pitilessly exploited and deprived of his right to work in circumstances even worse than those on the English coal-fields about which we read as children at school. We have seen recorded in the annals of social progress before us to-day the improvement of conditions in the English mines.
The attitude of the Minister for Labour and National Service is typical of the attitude towards the coal-fields of people who have had no association with them. It is that the miners have not done much of a job, and that, during the war, they were turbulent. Now that the coal-miners are in trouble, the people who adopt thai attitude, including the Minister, have a sort of modified sympathy for them. To show what the position is, the Minister quoted, with some gusto, a letter from Mr. Warren, who does nothing but criticize the miners for not co-operating with the owners, and who says that the miners knew they were to be cavilled out. In twelve months’ time, these mines will no longer exist, and the miners who worked in them will have no stake in the northern coal-fields. They will belong no more. They have generally worked well, and I was shocked to learn that, on twelve months’ notice, they were to be cavilled out. The attitude of men like Mr. Warren is absolutely childish and is symptomatic of the differences between the owners and the miners. The miner is of the earth, earthy. He wins the coal from the bowels of the earth, and he knows the problems of his industry. He is continually and vigorously sending the coal up to the top trip after trip, but, somehow or other, the interpretation of his demands and the pro fits of the bosses can never be logically correlated and the two sides brought together. So we have this anomalous situation - this tragedy - on the coal-fields, where one has to be a protagonist of either one side or the other.
I close on this note. I have seen with my own eyes, not once, but many times, the things of which the Leader of the Opposition spoke. I went to the coal-fields as a journalist, and during my years in this House, I have been there on many occasions with various parliamentary committees and investigating bodies. I have been there in company with the honorable member for Shortland, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), and, recently, on two occasions, with the Leader of the Opposition. On each occasion, Mr. Speaker, the picture has been clear. But it does not matter what any one says in defence of the Government or of Senator Spooner. The carking necessity at the present time is to rehabilitate the coal-fields and give the thousands of men who have already been, or are likely to be, dismissed or cavilled out in the future a chance to stay in a community where they belong. What is the good of telling a miner that there is a job down at Port Kembla, if there is no house there for him? That is an absolute and aggravating futility. What is the use of telling a miner from Cessnock that if he pops over to the Macquarie electorate he may be able to find work in the Lithgow atea? There are no houses, amenities, or schools to go with it, for the time being. The miner in the northern coal-fields is a rugged and tough man, he has his roots in the soil of the northern coal-fields, and he will stay there and fight there for his own rehabilitation.
We have been submitting that there ought to be a more sympathetic and humane outlook towards the rehabilitation of the coal areas. We realize that mechanization has wrought changes, but we say that the new features, the new techniques adopted, have not keep pace with that mechanization. This practice of getting all the advantage out of new techniques and then throwing the workers on the scrap heap is as old as employment, as old as the boss himself. That is actually what has happened there. It is as simple as that and as ugly as that.
That attitude should be changed. There should be a re-establishment of values, and I do not see why the Minister should take such a defensive line on what is essentially a human problem which has nothing whatever to do with the practicalities of government.
As the Leader of the Opposition has suggested, the right approach is to look upon the coal mines, particularly those of the north, as a great asset belonging to the Australian people. Do not look upon the men as merely a bunch of miners whom you hate because they have stood up for their rights over the century. I say good luck to them for having done so. They win my admiration for their ruggedness and their intransigence, because they were fighting for themselves and their children. They are fighting for something different to-day; they are fighting for the survival of an industry that has been brought to a pretty pass by circumstances over which none of us has any control. This Government ought to be giving some consideration to the matter; it ought to be planning in the interests of these men.
I come to the third point made by the Leader of the Opposition, and I submit it is a completely valid one with which every member representing a coal-mining area in this House will agree. It is that alternative work must be provided for the children of the coal-miners. The Government must cease its continual cursing of the miners, it must discontinue its talk about mines that are cavilled out; it must stop all this talk about bleakness of the future, the dole queues and the prospects of unemployment relief, or something of that sort. It must do something substantial and permanent in the way of making provision for the employment of the children in their own district, in the coal-mining areas. The Government could have done so by the intelligent use of light industries dotted over the coal-fields of the north. There are many people coming to this country from overseas, but few of them are advised by the Government to seek employment in the coal-fields. On the contrary, they are told that there is a reserve of labour there, and that it is better to go to the suburbs of the great cities, or somewhere else.
The rectification of the present position requires planning. If the Government would only plan along the proper lines, it would do much to restore one of the greatest assets this country has, that is, an abundance of black coal in the northern coal-fields which has been part of our industrial history and part of our struggle. But there is more in this problem than what the Minister chose to call technological know-how and automation; there are human values, and the human values are what we are concerned about to-night.
There are other representatives from coal-mining areas who can talk of the practicality of this matter. I built my case on the basic, solid foundation that this is not exclusively an industrial problem. This is a human problem, the problem of providing work for the men in the area where they were born, where they have lived, where they have gone down into the mines, working to keep the wheels of industry turning and to keep our war effort going. These men have served us nobly as well, but this Government seeks to put them on the scrap heap because it lacks the wisdom required to do something for them. That was the burden of the complaint voiced by the Leader of the Opposition, and I support him to the utmost.
.- I do not like being unkind to the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), but I must say that I have never heard such unmitigated rubbish and humbug in my life. Any one who cares to read the report of his speech in “ Hansard “ to-morrow will not find one constructive point in it. Obviously, he was put up to speak to-night to try to counteract the effects of the damaging speech made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt).
The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) quite naturally protested about the conditions on the coal-fields, and sought to establish a case for the miners. He did so because he is the member-elect for a coalmining district, and- it is quite right and proper that he should speak in that vein. Everybody has great sympathy for the miners who are out of employment, but the important point is the fact that the coal-mining industry had lost its competitive value. It is the leaders of the coal-miners themselves who have created the conditions which make it impossible for our coal to compete with other fuels. The people who use fuel are determined that they will not be held to ransom any more. This is only another instance of how the Communists destroy an industry whenever they put their dead hands on it. This destruction has happened now in the shipping industry, the stevedoring industry and the coal-mining industry.
In his doctrinaire approach, the Leader of the Opposition had to bring in the profit motive. At these times he always mentions the profit motive because he is dealing with very simple men. Whenever the demagogue wants to obtain leadership of the masses, he does not seek to do so in areas where people have different values; he goes to places like the coal-fields where all the people are engaged in the same industry, where they all have the same points of view - a rather narrow industry point of view confined exclusively to coal. That is where the demagogue or the agitator finds the conditions that provide a following for him. That is the reason why the Communists have been successful in that industry.
I have had a lot of experience of coalminers and I agree entirely with the Minister’s statement that they are a body of fine people. Of course they are! I have had them in the Army. Any one who has had a coal-miner in his regiment always retains a warm spot in his heart for him. But the leaders are rotten! That is the cause of the whole trouble.
Why is the industry in its present position? It is simply because more coal is being produced for a limited market, and the answer to the problem, surely, is to reduce costs of production so that coal may compete with other fuels. But the leaders of these men say that the solution is shorter hours. In actual fact, shorter hours would increase costs, and we all know that in the long run the primary producer would have to bear that burden. As costs rise, the primary producer is called upon to bear most of those increases in the long run.
I recommend to the Communists that they read “The Harbour” of 1st August. In it they will find an article headed, “ Coal and Profit “, which sets out that Mr. M. R. Vickery, Fellow of the Institute of Accountants, made a summary of the financial trends of nine coal mines over 23 years from 1927 onwards. It discloses that there is no profit in the industry at all; indeed, it is a very sad and sorry story.
I have great admiration for the coal owner who has hung on to his shares. He has lost dividends on those shares, and suffered the effects of capital depreciation. He has not had the benefits which industries enjoy during a period of inflation following a war. It is only by his courage and tenacity that the coal-mining industry has been able to get where it is to-day. But the unions seek to destroy the industry! That is why we have this number of unemployed to-day. We hear much about unemployment on the coal-fields, but not one word about unemployment in country areas. We do not hear a word about the actions of the leaders of the miners, the men who are largely responsible for coal losing its markets to other fuels. These leaders should help to reduce the price of coal to a reasonable figure. They should help to make mechanization successful. Costs cannot be reduced by mechanization alone. The employees should do their part in reducing costs, because the cheaper the price of coal, the better it will be for the miners.
In my opinion, the Opposition’s assertion that the Government has been at fault in this matter is completely unjustified. The honorable member for Parkes bluntly suggested that light industries should be dotted over the coal-fields. After all, whose job is it to establish those industries? Is it the Commonwealth’s job to encourage decentralization of industry, or is it the responsibility of the New South Wales Government under the leadership of Mr. Cahill? I submit it is the responsibility of the New South Wales Government, but Mr. Cahill and his Government have failed to do anything in that direction. The Commonwealth Government cannot establish light industries on the coal-fields, nor can it do anything to encourage decentralization in that way. There is unemployment in the industry, and I point out that while there is unemployment, money must not be expended for improved amenities for the employed.
– What is wrong with that?
– The £2,000,000 that will be involved could be used to move industries to the coal-fields and thereby provide work for the miners, yet the honorable member asks why should not t he money be spent on making conditions better in other industries. What sort of a representative is he? I would fight tooth and nail against the introduction of three weeks’ annual leave, because that costs money while there is unemployment. How did Mr. Gair lose control of government in Queensland? He refused to introduce three weeks’ leave because he knew that it would destroy Queensland’s industries. But Mr. Cahill is not influenced by such considerations. He faces an election next year. The coal industry is faced with unemployment, yet Mr. Cahill is allowed to spend money that could be used to take up the slack in employment in the coal industry.
Let us see what Labour has done about this problem. Recently a protest march was held in Newcastle. Thousands of miners and sympathizers marched to the Commonwealth offices. No honorable members were present to meet them because they had not been able to get there from Canberra. But Senator Arnold met the marchers and told them that there would be mass unemployment in Australia unless Labour was returned to power at the next elections. That is his solution to the problem. But here, the leaders of the Labour party have no solution. The honorable member for Parkes made a speech to-night. If one analyses his speech it will be found not to contain one constructive statement. That is no solution.
The solution to the problem is to lower the cost of coal and thereby create new markets. This would provide solid employment for those already engaged in the coal industry and would enable many more persons to be absorbed into the industry.
John L. Lewis, the famous American coal-miners’ leader, did not care two hoots how many men lost their jobs as long as the men remaining in the industry were well looked after. They, in turn, had to make their employment secure by maintaining a high rate of production. We in this country could learn a lot from John L. Lewis.
There has been talk about nationalizing the coal industry. But what has been the experience in England? Nationalization of the coal industry in England has been a grim failure, as have all other attempts at nationalization. That is why the Labour party in England has swung away from socialism. There has been a split in the Labour party in England just as there has been a split in the Labour party in Australia. The extreme left of the Labour party is so close to the Communists that it is hard to distinguish between them. The right wing of the Labour party has swung away from socialism because it realizes that socialism is no cure for to-day’s problems. To nationalize the mines would make conditions worse than they were before. We must find new employment for displaced miners. The only way that the industry can survive is by increasing its competitive power against other fuels.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Griffiths) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 1645).
.- This bill provides for pension payments similar to those contained in the Repatriation Bill, which was passed earlier to-night. The Opposition does not object to the bill and will facilitate its passage through all stages forthwith.
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.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
Loan (Housing) Bill 1958.
Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill 1958.
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill 1958.
Without requests -
Wheat Export Charge Bill 1958.
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Bill 1958.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- The Parliament yesterday received the report of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, trading under the name of the Australian National Line. That report shows that the line made a profit in 1957-58 of about £1,250,000. That may sound commendable, but what worries me, and probably honorable members from other States that use shipping, is that the chairman of the line, Captain Williams, said in the report -
It is true that the charters of two overseas bulk carriers, which were extended to cope with the “ wheat lift “ some months ago, will terminate before the end of the calendar year, nevertheless, present forecasting suggests a surplus of some 80,000 tons of shipping to coastal requirements.
It is on that point that I wish to speak. The Opposition has from the outset objected to this national shipping line because it is not competitive with other shipping companies. It is doing a good job within the charter Laid down by this Government, but it is not sufficient to cope with the demand for lower freights on the Australian coast and for more intensive competition between the shipping companies.
There are 46 ships in the Australian National Line, totalling 288,044 tons. It is a very substantial line in numbers of ships. As an indication of the line’s lack of interest in competition or in reducing freights, last year the chairman said that the line would enter the Ceylon, India, and Eastern trade. The reason he gave was that the line could cash in on the high freights operating. That proved, as I said at the time, that the line is not designed to compete with private enterprise. It is only designed to be an adjunct to private enterprise. Tasmania, as an island State that depends for 95 per cent, of its inward and outward trade on shipping, has been affected by this set-up within the Australian National Line so-called.
I want to point out - I have not time to go into the matter in great detail - that because we have had no regular shipping from Tasmania to the mainland, in our potato trade - and I apologize for again raising the subject of potatoes - a very critical matter has come to the fore” as a result of this report. We have practically lost our trade to Newcastle through lack of ships. The Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand Limited promised to make shipping available regularly to transport goods from Tasmania to Newcastle, but it has not carried out its promise. We have had the experience of ships carrying our potatoes to Sydney where they have been transferred to another ship and then sent on to Newcastle. That is not direct shipping. I quote the case of “ Wanaka “ which went on to Newcastle after being worked in Sydney for about a week. Because the transport of potatoes by sea has been so slow in the past, produce merchants in Newcastle have telephoned their agents in Melbourne and have had potatoes delivered in Newcastle by rail on the following Wednesday. That is the kind of competition we have to face.
Another disadvantage in loading potatoes on ships calling at Sydney is that it restricts the already small space available to us for Sydney cargoes. Altogether, the system is most unsatisfactory. Exporters in Tasmania like the Edgell company, which exports canned vegetables of all kinds, and the cement interests which are exporting an increasing amount of cement to Melbourne on small ships, have been very well looked after, but the farmers are just being ignored. We are faced with the prospect of having the equivalent of 40,000 bags of potatoes left in the ground, not because the price is low, which it is, but because we cannot get adequate shipping at the right time.
It is ridiculous and ironical for the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission to state in its report for 1958 that 80,000 tons of shipping will be lying idle while the farmers in Tasmania cannot get ships at regular intervals to move their potatoes. If the Australian National Line lived up to its name, the Government would see that ships ran from Tasmania to the mainland whenever they were required. At the moment nothing of the kind is happening and Tasmania has been let down very badly indeed.
The merchants’ association in Tasmania is in league with the traffic committee in Melbourne and has no difficulty in getting space for the cargoes of its members, but farmers who are not members of the association have to take what is left after the requirements of the others have been satisfied. There is no freedom in the handling of potatoes from Tasmania to the mainland at present. The local manager of the Australian National Line allots the space. The merchants get the bulk of it and others have to take what is left. The big exporters have been looked after very well by the shipping agents. I shall tell the House the reason for that. About two years ago, a group of men in Tasmania tried to establish an independent shipping line of three ships. They circularized people throughout the island in an attempt to raise capital of approximately £50,000 to enable them to establish the line, but they were unable to obtain the full amount. They intended to run ships from Tasmania to the mainland, catering mainly for the farmers. The private shipping companies were worried about competition from the new line and they approached the large exporters and said, “ We will give you the space you require. We will look after you. We do not want you to have anything to do with this new shipping line.” The big shippers accepted the advances that were made to them, and are now getting an excellent deal while the farmers and potato-growers are in a very sad plight indeed.
How ironical it is that when the commission which operates the national line admits that 80,000 tons of shipping will be looking for cargo, Tasmanian farmers are unable to get ships to transport their potatoes to the mainland. The institution of a regular shipping service from Tasmania to the mainland is the only solution to the problem of the growers, but that is not available. One week 8,000 bags of potatoes may be moved to Sydney; the next week there may be 50,000 bags moved; and the week after that only 10,000 bags. The availability of shipping is completely unpredictable. We need the small E-class ships, five of which we built in the 1940’s. If those ships were available to us, we would have regular weekly transport to the Sydney market for our potatoes. But while we have a national line that is not operating in the interests of the people of Australia, we will never reach that happy position. The sole aim of the line seems to be to make profits. In the last financial year the Australian National Line earned a profit of £1,250,000. The five ships to which I referred, each of 584 tons, were “Edenhope”, “Elmore”, “Enfield”, “Eugowra” and “Euroa”.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to-
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.56 p.m.
The following answers to question were circulated: -
s asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. Since income statements are issued only by district offices or agencies of the Commonwealth Employment Service to persons who have registered for employment and submitted claims for unemployment benefit, their possession by an individual may be regarded as prima facie evidence of the fact that the person has taken steps to obtain employment and is, or shortly will be, in receipt of some income. The only notation made by the issuing office on the form is the date on which it is to be returned, which, in itself, would indicate whether the person was currently registered for employment.
Law of the Sea.
m asked the acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1 and 2. Of some thirteen basic proposals on the subject of the breadth of the territorial sea and many amendments and sub-amendments placed before the conference in the committee stage, only seven came to the vote, and details of these and of the voting are set out hereunder. In committee, a simple majority sufficed for the adoption of a proposal. In each case the figures are given in the order of those for, those against and those abstaining:
The result of the foregoing voting was that no proposal relating to the breadth of the territorial sea obtained a majority of votes at the committee stage. When the question was subsequently discussed by the full conference in plenary session the second paragraph of the original Canadian proposal relating to fishing rights was rejected 35 (Iceland) - 30 (Australia, United Kingdom. Japan) - 20, and three substantive proposals concerning the breadth of the territorial sea were introduced and voted upon. I should point out that in plenary session a majority of two-thirds was required for adoption of a text. The voting was as follows:
It will be seen that although the proposal of the United States obtained the greatest number of supporters of any of the proposals put before the conference, it did not secure the necessary majority of two-thirds.
d asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. Captain Milne has not approached my department, but I am informed that in June of this year, he visited the C.S.I.R.O. Division of Fisheries and Oceanography at Cronulla, and discussed the question of using an underwater sledge he had developed, for sampling the sea bed. I am also informed that no offer of data relating to the fishing potential off the Queensland coast was made by Captain Milne and that he did not ask for any financial assistance.
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has replied as follows: -
Papuan Apinaipi Petroleum Company Limited. -Kaufana- £18,730.
Associated Australian Oilfields No Liability. - Karumba - £10,000.
Clarence River Basin Oil Exploration No Liability. - Woomera - £4,000.
A statement on the administration of the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act 1957-1958 will be tabled before Parliament rises.
y asked the acting Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
In 1948, the Prime Minister’s Department purchased a number of British limousines and open cars for use on ceremonial occasions and to handle the visits of overseas dignitaries. These vehicles have now been in use for ten years and are no longer reliable. They are difficult and costly to maintain, due to their age and the nonavailability of spare parts. The Board of Management for Transport, after a thorough technical investigation, advised that reconditioning of the vehicles would be very costly and indeed on account of the spare parts problem not really practicable. Accordingly, the board recommended that for the purposes mentioned new Rolls-Royce cars should be obtained. Consequently, six Rolls-Royce cars are being purchased in replacement at a special price negotiated with the Rolls-Royce Company. Four are of the closed type and two are of the open type. The departmental policy is to purchase vehicles for the fleet having the maximum possible Australian content and practically all of the vehicles now held are predominantly of Australian manufacture. The very limited demand for ceremonial cars in Australia does not justify local manufacture and it was therefore necessary to obtain these particular cars from Great
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 September 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1958/19580925_reps_22_hor21/>.